Monday, May 28, 2007


So, Sarah and I have the blessing to be able to take a little vacation. Finally. I've been saying since I got voted off that we were going to take a vacation, and we finally get to take it. And I'm excited.

A few weeks ago, we were contacted by a lady who owns a house in beautiful beachy location who was a huge fan of the show. She and her husband go to the same church (in a different location) as we do, and they offered us the use of their house for a vacation for free. We just had to pay for plane tickets. So, we of course took them up on it and Friday we'll fly down for a nice trip away. We'll be down there for about 9 days, hopefully recharging my batteries for the tour.

We had a huge tour meeting and I'm even more excited now about the tour than I was before. Obviously I can't give you guys specifics quite yet, but know that the tour is going to have some really, really great moments. I can't wait for everyone to see what Simon, the tour producer, has put really is a freaking great show. And the stage set up is bad to the bone. And this year will feature something that has never been done on the idol tour before. Yes, I'm giving you a teaser. You need to get tickets to is going to be awesome.

Anyway, back to my vacation.

Sarah and I are going to take some much-needed time away to recharge our batteries and spend some time alone. We need that. I've been sharing my life with the world for a few months - we understand that it comes with the territory, and we're both excited that we get to share my life with the world, but at the same time, Sarah and I need some time to recharge. The next few months will not be easy. The tour is going to be awesome, but we will have to be apart most of the time, once again, so that will be tough. She is going to travel to several shows here and there, but she'll be at home most of the time I'm on tour. So, this is our little fling before being apart.

I can't wait.

I'm in Laguna Beach now till Friday. We get a little vacation here, too, so that's nice.

Anyway, I'll try to keep up the blog as best I can, but I apologize in advance if I don't get to comments quickly. This is my time away, after all. Hope you all understand.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Finale Night

Finale night was incredible. It was an incredible, incredible show to be a part of. I didn't get to see it because of press and stuff after the show, but it was awesome to see from backstage and the group performances had an energy to them that they never had during the regular season...might've been that there so many more people at the Kodak than at CBS.

All the celebs were incredible. I love Kelly Clarkson and her band - in fact the keys player used to be in the original version of Sonicflood (one of the first rock worship bands to be popular). I hung out with those guys for most of our wait time (it was a long day). Her bass player Einar (I think is how it's spell) was the bass player for the Dan band I saw on Saturday night...he was really cool, too. Kelly was really, really nice, too - always taking the time to stop for the Idols and talk when she could.

Carrie's band was really cool, too. The guitar player's name was Ed and he was freaking awesome. We talked for a while about me moving to Nashville and writing songs, etc. I find myself having more fun hanging out with bands than I do with singers...don't get me wrong, I love singers, but my heart is with the band. I love bands.

Anyway, all the celebs were cool. The show ran really smooth. The group numbers were really fun. We all gave Sanjaya a hard time for forgetting some dance steps in the Smokey Robinson was hilarious, Chris Rich and I were doing out little dance routine and we look up and Sanji is just standing there smiling. I almost broke out laughing but remembered the rest of my dance steps, thankfully, then we all died laughing off-stage. Sanjaya was a great sport about it - and we all laughed about different moves that we forgot. As a side note: I just watched the performance over at and you can barely tell (unless you're looking for it) that anyone missed the steps, so the gaffes happened at the perfect times with camera angles.

I guess that's the cool thing about being in something like that is that you know all the little things that happen that no one else even notices or cares about. Missing dance steps was funny to us...most people wouldn't even notice it.

I have to say that, honestly, I was a little jealous of Sanjaya to be able to perform with Joe Perry. I have been a huge Aerosmith fan since I discovered rock and roll. But as Phil and I watched Sanjaya, I turned to Phil and said, "Dude, that guy has turned into the best performer on the show." It was a really cool moment to be able to realize that you've seen someone grow from a kid to a great performer. He's not Blake yet, but man he knows how to work a crowd.

The dressing room was a lot of fun. We got some cool clothes to hang onto, and we all had fun hanging out. Phil, Chris, Blake and I all bought PSP's and several games each so our 19 rep was making fun of us all sitting and playing video games every chance we got.

We pretty much watched the whole show from backstage. It was interesting watching Blake and Jordin running around back stage to change clothes.

My favorite moment of the night (outside of the group numbers) was watching Blake and Doug E. Fresh beatboxing off each other. I thought Blake outdid the legend, but I guess I can't admit that. He was incredible though.

The Beatles number was a lot of fun and I was so thankful to have gotten some solo parts...the vocal coaches were very kind to me. The Beatles are in my top 5 favorite bands of all time, so British Invasion was tough without them. But it was really cool to be able to do the medley, especialy some of my favorite songs from the Sgt. Pepper record. Anyway, it was great.

Anyway, the next few days are busy, so I don't know how much I can write, but know this: all is well and it's been great. I am having the time of my life. Thanks so much to all the fans who got me to the top 10. I am so thankful to you all for voting.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Okay, so I'm a fan

Before I talk about last night, I have to admit something. No matter how famous I ever get, if I ever get any more famous than now, I will always be a fan. I have people that I respect and love and I've gotten to meet some of them. When I meet people I still am a fan. What's crazy is when famous people know my name.

Last night was really, really cool because I was able to meet some really really cool people of whom I am huge fans.

After rehearsals were over yesterday, I rushed back to the hotel, took a shower and got dressed for a night on the town. Gina, Haley, Phil, Rich, Brandon and I had the chance to go see the Dan band, which is an awesome comedy band. Basically they do a bunch of cover songs (and a few originals) and do them with cheesy choreography and a really tight live really is incredible. Anyway, we saw them at the Avalon.

As we were walking into the Avalon to get to our seats, Gina, Haley and I got asked by some fans for photos, so we stopped. One lady didn't have her camera ready, so as we waited, I see Kyle Gass (KG from Tenacious D) walking in. He stopped and called me by name! I was blown away! Then the lady with the camera turns to KG and says, "Can you take our picture?" I just about laughed, but held it in - I mean, she's asking KG to take our picture. The lady got her picture then Gina, Haley and I got our picture with KG. More on KG later.

We walked to our table and talked to several people in our area...we took a lot of pictures and then the show started. It was freaking hilarious. The band was super tight and Dan can really sing. The background dancer/singers were dressed like nerdy businessmen, but the dance routines and bgv's were awesome. It really was a great show. Gina is a huge fan of the band, so it was cool watching her get excited about stuff she had seen before (she's seen the band 4 times).

After the show, we were all able to go hang out backstage with the band, so that was a ton of fun. While up there, celebrities started to pour in. I got to meet Anthony LaPaglia (one of my favorite actors - you might know him from Without a Trace) - he was really cool. Dan is married to Kathy Najjimi (you might know her as the cute chubby nun from Sister Act or from Hocus Pocus), so we talked with her a good bit. Helen Hunt came up and knew our names! It was crazy. Gina went nuts because What Women Want is her favorite movie. Then KG came up and we hung out with him, just talking and hanging out while the Dan Band met everyone. KG suggested jokingly that I should form a Tenacious D tribute band and he'll come and be the guitar player. I thought it was hilarious to think of a tribute band with 1/2 of the original band. Then I told him he should break up his band and then hire me as his lead singer. He said he could probably do that. It was awesome just to joke around with KG. I am huge fan, so that was really freaking cool.

We left the Avalon and we were all invited to go to Ryan Cabrera's house for a party. Gina, Haley and I took a taxi to Brandon's house because Brandon took the guys to go pick up Blake. We met Brandon's roommate Steve, who apparently is a fantastic standup comedian. We hung out at the house, then Blake and the guys arrived. They proceeded to play several rounds of guitar hero as we all sang along to the songs as loud as we could. It was awesome! Then we loaded up the cars and headed to the party.

I'm not a big party person - I love to hang out in small groups of close friends and with low enough noise to hear each other talk. This party was not that. It was like 200 people with music blaring. Ryan's house is awesome. You walk up his very steep driveway to the house and you walk up these steps at the top to reach the back yard. The back yard is simply one huge pool and jacuzzi area, complete with a huge tile paved bar. He has a ping pong table and a pool table out there, as well as a lounge area. The pool, by the way is heated and the jacuzzi waterfalls down into the pool. Seriously, I was in awe of the house.

I'm not a huge fan of Ryan's but I always thought he was a really good songwriter with a great voice...his music just isn't my cup of tea. I remember thinking, though, while he was on the Ashlee Simpson show, what a cool guy he seemed to be. He didn't disappoint. He was awesome. And hilarious. Brandon and he are really good friends, so there was connection there that superceded any awkward stuff.

I got to meet the bass player (Bryce) and guitar player (Ben) from Lifehouse. That was awesome - they were really freaking cool guys. I hung out talking with them for like 30 minutes. Phil and I then met the lead singer of Yellowcard. That was awesome, too. He was a really cool guy and super nice. Side note here: it's so freaking cool to meet really famous people who are actually freaking cool always wonder if someone's gonna be a butthole, but they're just normal people like you and me....they just happen to be more famous than you and I. Tony Romo was there and I got to meet him - he actually knew my name (that is freaking crazy!). He at one point was actually bartending...that was hilarious. Jesse McCartney was there, too...we said hello. He seems cool....I didn't get to talk to him much.

The best moment of the night, though, was meeting Gavin DeGraw. I'm a huge fan so meeting him was awesome! I think he is seriously the best songwriter to come out in the last 5 years. He's amazing. I can't wait for his next album - I know it's going to be great. He was super nice, too, so it was nice to see him in that light.

One of the things that was really cool to watch was how people reacted to Chris and Blake especially and even Phil. Those guys are stars and people love them. And you know what I can't wait to hear records by all 3 of those guys. I am a huge fan of all 3 and all 3 of them do different things and I can't wait to cheer them on. It's a weird thing to have friends who are stars and knowing that very soon they are going to be the hugest stars in music. It's a really cool feeling.

Anyway, the night was incredible. It just solidified in my mind, though, how much of a fan I still am.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dinner with friends

So, we rehearsed most of the day yesterday. It was exciting and fun. It was new again, so that was great.

After we got back home, Phil, Gina, Haley, Stephanie and I decided to go grab something to eat. We started to walk up to Sunset when one of the AI cars screeched to a halt next to us. We looked up and in the car Sanjaya mashed his face up against the back seat window. We all chuckled. That kid is crazy. Anyway, the driver offered to drive us up to a restaurant, so we took her up on it since we're all lazy. We piled into the car and we start driving and I notice that Sanjaya is holding his mouth. I asked him what was wrong and he said that when he pressed his face against the window, he bit his lip. We all laughed really hard.

Anyway, we decided on a restaurant called Merabelles. It's this quaint little restaurant that has been there for like 40 years and the food was really good. We all piled into a table and ordered drinks. The group that hung out last night hadn't gotten to see Sanjaya and Jill, so we caught up with what was going on in their lives...obviously big things are coming to Sanjaya.

The food was really good and we all talked about the upcoming tour and how great it was to be back together. It is unbelievable how great it is to hang out with contestants when we are no longer contestants...stuff doesn't get read into and it's just cool because you can be just friends. That's the best part about being back - just hanging out and doing music with friends. Phil bought two entrees because he wanted to try both of them. So, naturally, I helped him eat his 2nd was this pasta dumpling stuff that was freaking incredible.

Apparently, the restaurant's owner's wife was a big fan, so they let us know they were giving us some free desserts, so that was really cool. Stephanie was tired, so she decided to walk back. Sanjaya being the gentleman that he is offered to walk her back to the hotel, so when the desserts came, Jill packed up one to take back to him. Sanji really is a great kid, as I've said about a hundred times - but for real, he really cares about other people.

After we finished eating, it was a nice little jaunt back to the hotel. I had eaten too much, so it was good to walk some of that off. We came back to the hotel said goodnight and I promptly went to bed.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

In Rehearsal

So, I'm in rehearsal today. We're actually on a small break as I write this. Obviously I can't tell you guys details of what's going on, but it has been awesome to get together with everyone.

I got in last night and actually got to the hotel about the same time as Phil, Richardson, Gina and Haley. So, we all got settled into our rooms, then watched the show. Melinda went home. I don't know that I would be any happier for anyone going home than the other two...but it was awesome to watch how she has handled it - she seems really okay with not having the pressure on anymore.

Phil, Richardson, Gina, Haley and I went out last night and saw Storm Large at the Viper Room (our hotel is near Sunset, so we walked a little). Then we decided to go with Richardson to a club. Well, one club turned into 4 clubs. That was interesting. I've literally never been into a club and we were at 4 of them last night. It's a very interesting scene. I doubt I will ever do it again, but it was great to get in to a bunch of places for free.

Anyway, rehearsals are going great...we're doing some really, really cool stuff that I think people are gonna dig. It's really different for me in some places and really close to what I do in others...and all of it is great! It's fun to go a little outside my comfort zone on some stuff.

All I can say is this: getting back with all of my friends has been incredible. Everyone is excited to be back and excited to see what everyone else has been up to. Blake and Jordin are doing great - Blake is still as hilarious as ever and Jordin is just awesome. Whichever of them wins - well, they both are incredibly deserving and awesome. Anyway, off that rabbit's kind of nice because with the pressure of competition off, everyone can just be themselves and hang out and have fun.

It is great to be back.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The next phase of this blog

So, there were more posts here that I have decided to remove just for my own peace of mind. No, the producers of the show did not ask me to take anything down. I have taken stuff down of my own volition.

Over the last week or so as I've taken some time off from blogging (I had someone else administer the blog for a while) I have tried to figure out what the next phase of the blog is. Here are some thoughts.

When I started this blog, I was a nobody who no one knew. My blog was just a place for me to write and express myself and be stupid and attempt to be funny for my friends and family. I love writing, and am admittedly not incredible at it, but I love to simply write about life. As I came back from the show, I took the same attitude I did before, not realizing how many people were actually coming to the blog every day. So, I was writing for family and friends and instead ended up writing for a bunch of strangers who don't know me and don't know where I am coming from. It was naive and a little stupid on my part to write the same way I did before. So, over the last week it's been impressed upon me that I really must deal differently with my blog than I have thus far. I know, I can't win for losing - fans are gonna be upset that it won't be the same, and I'm really sorry for that, but I'm trying to make the best decision for me that I can.

The blog will still happen, mind you, but the content will be very different than it has been.

One thing, too, that has been impressed on me is this: I am writing about life. The contestants on the show and the show are a huge part of my life right now. However, as I talk about my friends, I have been accused of name-dropping and fame-whoring. To most people, they assume that the world has ended for me because I came in tenth place of American Idol. I want to laugh at those people because they don't know what's going on behind the scenes and they don't know me and the determination with which I lead my life and career. But at the same time, I have to stop and think.

A wise man once told me that perception is reality to the person who is perceiving it. I think it's hilarious that people think I'm name-dropping when I mention Phil or Gina because they are some of my closest friends in the world...but then I realize that they are famous, more famous than I, so if a person is trying to read into something it would be easy to read into that. However, in regards to this decision, I will not stop talking about life because of some people's screwed up misconceptions. Truth to those people is sad, but untrue. If I wanted to name drop I'd talk about the celebrities by name who freaked out when they met me. But those stories are not for the blog, they are for close friends, because they understand who I am in real life....not on blog life.

Another thing I've thought about is this: negative things that friends and family understand will not be understood by thousands of people reading it. It was my bad to assume that people would get my heart, but then I stopped and realized this - most people who are reading my blog have never met me and never will. They've never gotten to sit down and talk about life and love and people and just hang out. They don't get that bitterness is something that I overcame 7 years ago when I dealt through some stuff that had happened in my life. They don't know that my heart beats for friendships and relationships and connecting with people. And it is arrogant, in a way, for me to assume that people get that. So, this will change - I don't dwell on a lot of negativity, but I have been negative and it has been taken in a way that I didn't desire...but I realize that that is my fault not anyone else's.

Finally, I realize this about myself. For a long time, I could care less what people thought about me, except for fans. In fact, my whole life has pretty much been one long "I don't care" to a lot of people. Before the show, if you came to a HPF show, after the show, I would hang out for hours talking and hanging with fans. The fans are the most important thing...if I can connect in some way, then those fans are going to make it to the next show possible and they'll buy the next record and they'll tell friends about me. So, on a very small level, I worked hard to please every fan I could - I realize fully that fans are who make a difference...they are the difference to making dreams come true and me working at BMW. So, I've always gone out of my way to do what I could to win over people.

What I didn't realize as I went into the show is that I was taking the same attitude with now millions of fans that I took with hundreds (and I use the term fan loosely to define anyone who came across my blog or commented on me anywhere). I took the attitude of trying to win everyone over. It has been impressed upon me lately to simply go back to being myself and people can simply choose whether to support me or not. But me trying to win people over does nothing except waste my time and theirs. They will make their choice, hopefully, based on the music. Hopefully the music will be great. At shows, I will still work my tail off to hang out with fans afterwards and make them know that they are the difference.

But chasing down every bad comment about me is stupid, arrogant and just plan dumb. Thankfully, I haven't commented on every one, but I've commented on too many.

So, there will be some changes, but the next phase of this blog will be better and exciting.

Once again, thank you to the real fans for the support and love. I am undeserving.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Felt Kinda Bad. But I Felt Kinda Good. (i.e., I'm Back)

Well, I weathered a great week and a tough week at the same time.



Now to our regularly scheduled programming:

The last coupla days were tough for reasons I can't share...but trust me, I'm wasted emotionally. Lots of stuff got cleared up over the last couple of days with business type stuff, but it wasn't without some hard emotional toiling. Thank God things are finally taken care of. Not much more I can say about that - it's a little vague, but know this: I had a rough coupla days.

On to better things:

Nashville was great and a lot of doors are opening very quickly. Without sounding weird, God has opened up more doors for me than I ever thought possible.

Here's a couple of stories: the other day I was meeting with a guy from a major label, eating breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Usually, no matter where I am I get at least 10-15 people who ask for autographs (please don't take this as me bragging, I'm just trying to tell a story), but that day I had a little respite. Until I finished eating. Suddenly, I had about 20 people all at once. I was thankful they waited till I was done eating, but a little overwhelmed. As the crowd started to thin, a lady walked up and said that she didn't know who I was but her boyfriend was crazy about me, but the boyfriend was emberrassed to come over, so she came over to get my autograph. I laughed because I thought it was hilarious. Then, after I signed the autograph, she slides me a card and says, "I work for x label as an A&R coordinator and we have a pop side to our label...I'm on the country side, but I called the pop a&r guy and we want for you to come in and talk with us."

As I'm sitting with an A&R guy from another label. I felt kinda bad. But I felt kinda good, too.

I went to a party for the Grammy's in Nashville (check out this website: that happens every year and met the president of a label group. I wasn't talking to his label group just because no one had contacted me yet. When he found out no one had contacted me yet, he freaked out, and actually called his a&r guy, had the guy come down to the party to set up a meeting with me, then leave to go back home.

I felt kinda bad. But I felt kinda good, too.

Finally, at the same party, a certain president of a label not based in Nashville happened to be in town. At first he didn't give me the time of day, and I was okay with that...he was kind of a big deal. He had heard my song "Know" somehow and thought it was pretty good, but apparently not good enough to really blink at. No biggie. Well, then he noticed me taking pictures with some big stars and the big stars were the ones coming up to me to take pictures - I had no idea they were big stars because I know nothing about country music, but people were telling me they were - you know, I'm an idiot. So, he comes over and gives me his card. Then he sees label heads coming up and giving me cards, so he comes back over and tells me to call him next week. Then I take more pictures, and he comes over and writes down his cell phone # for me and tells me to call him the next day. More pictures, then he brings over his a&r person and tells me to meet with them the next day.

I felt like I was the unwanted toy that got some attention and then the kid who owns the toy decides he really wants it after all. The label guy is the kid who doesn't give a crap about the toy till other people want it, then he decides it must be worth something, so he snatches it back up. Anyway, I felt kinda bad. But I felt kinda good, too.

I'm looking forward to spilling all the beans, but I am, at this moment, being pursued by 9 labels - literally 9 labels have contacted me now, some more serious than others, obviously, but all very interested. Some mainstream, some Christian, some indie, some major. I mean, it's incredible. Honestly, I never thought it would be like this. I mean, it honestly has to be a God thing...and I say that very, very rarely...I mean, this kind of stuff is just out of my hands and it's turning out better than I ever imagined.

So, basically, I'm putting together the dream lineup of label, publisher, manager, booking agent, all I have to do is make a great record. Will people buy it? Well, that remains to be seen. But the way I see it is this: with as many doors as are coming open at this point, if I can't make a career out of it, I'm an idiot. By August 23, when my contract with the show is over, I will have a dream team around's crazy. Literally crazy.

Crap. I might be in trouble...since I'm an idiot.

Anyway, discuss away...I won't give you topics, since apparently in my topics I name-dropped (I found a blog that claimed as much). So, you can discuss what you want.

P.S. I will take this down later today, just because I do want this specific post to be simply for the fans, so by lunch today this will be down. I do this to simply re-iterate that this is for the fans.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bigger and better things

While things in my personal career are going incredibly better than I could've planned, it's time to focus on what will happen between now and when I get to be on my own outside of American Idol again.

The American Idol Tour!!!

I know, I know - I've caught a lot of flack from certain segments of the population for actually wanting to be a part of this. I've been told it's cheesy. I've been told it's humiliating. Look, the way I look at it is this: anything can be cheesy if you allow it to be. I know nothing about the American Idol tour. I've never been to a tour date, I've never seen video except of Chris Daughtry singing "Wanted Dead or Alive" on last year's tour. I'm literally walking in with a blank slate for the tour. So, in my mind, this year's tour will not be cheesy. It's all in the mindset.

Plus, I happen to know a little bit of how production will be. And it's going to be really cool.

Will I do things that I normally wouldn't do (i.e., choreography)? Yes. But I actually enjoyed the choreography (not much, but a little) on the show. The only reason I didn't enjoy the choreography is simply because of time constraints. I'm chubby, so I'm not a natural dancer, so only have a couple of hours to work out a dance routine was a little scary for me. A lot of poeple thought I was hating on the dancing while I was on the show, but actually when I watch back the tapes I wasn't angry or pissed about doing choreography, I was just thinking really hard of what came's hard to smile when you're thinking hard about "dance moves". Hopefully the several days of rehearsal we'll have before the tour will solidify any choreography in my mind. And it will be as fun as choreography for a non-dancer can be.

Honestly, from what I've heard from the production staff, this tour is going to be so different than past tours and the changes that are being made are going to make for a really great show.

Plus, you won't be able to see Blake or Chris, Cake fans, except for the tour.

So, c'mon out, people!

Tour dates are on

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How to deal with celebrities

All right, so as a semi-F-list celebrity, I get recognized and mobbed a lot by people. Here in Greenville I can't really go anywhere without getting mobbed. Because of my experience as the "celebrity", I have come up with some rules that you should put to good use, are you to ever actually meet a celebrity. Like for instance, when/if I meet Dustin Diamond (Screech), I will put these rules into action.

(I decided to not focus on the negative btw, so the wall of shame is no longer)

#1 - Do NOT ask for an autograph while the celebrity is eating the following items: Baby Back Ribs, Buffalo Wings, Fried Chicken, Pizza, or anything where they use their hands to eat. Seriously, it's tough to have to wipe your hands 10 times during a meal to sign autographs. I'm really anal about my hands being messy so restaurants never give me enough napkins anyway. If I have to sign autographs, I make sure not to leave a rib juice mark underneath my sig. If you must ask for an autograph, how about bringing over a bunch of napkins for the celebrity? Actually...go ahead and ask for the autograph but bring napkins., wait till they're done eating. Crap. Never mind....just do what you want.

#2 - If you want to take a picture with a celebrity, and they are eating something messy, make sure to let the celebrity know if they have something in their teeth or buffalo hot sauce ringing their mouth. Believe me, the celebrity doesn't want a picture on your myspace page that makes him look like a crappy eater. Crap. Hey, I like messy foods. What can I say?

#3 - If you ask a celebrity for an autograph, please at least know their name. If you don't know their name, then they probably aren't famous enough to deserve you asking them for an autograph. For instance, I have people all the time walk up to me and say, "Aren't you the American Idol guy?" To which I usually reply, "Yes I am the team mascot! Do you want to rub my belly for good luck? Go team!!!" And then I run off. If you don't know my name, don't ask for my autograph, because my autograph is unreadable and you'll never know how to prove you met me to your friends if you don't even know my name.

#4 - If you want to take a picture with a celebrity, please have your camera ready. We all roll our eyes when our mothers try to take our picture and can't get the digital camera to work. It's no different for celebrities. We don't want to sit uncomfortably with our arms around someone we don't know personally while the photo taker takes 7 minutes to figure out he's taking video of you and the celebrity with their arms uncomfortably around each other. And for goodness sake, save the freaking picture to your phone if you take it on your phone! Just hit save! I know you're excited, but rational thinking saves lives!

#5 - Finally, don't feel as though you have to tell a celebrity your life story. It's not that they don't care, but they don't care. I meet hundreds of people, literally, a week. I'm sure that most celebrities meet even more than I do. We are glad to meet our fans. We love to sign an autograph. We love to sign 5 autographs. We love to hear that why you love us. It boosts our ego. However, when I'm walking through the mall or trying to have dinner with friends or my wife, I honestly don't have time to hear you story of what you've always dreamed of and how I can help you get there. Now, I should note, that I have set up this blog to have a little different vibe than real I have time to sit and think. In fact I've gotten to meet some of the posters and it's nice to have a connection. But honestly, when I'm walking through a mall, it's not the time to give me your life story. I promise I won't remember. I'm a reader. I memorize and remember by reading. So, save your breath and save the celebrity's time: tell them what you like about the music or the movie then let them go on.

NOTE: In case you didn't get it, there's a bit of sarcasm mixed in here...maybe a lot of sarcasm.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Let's talk music

Over at youtube, a "fan" calling himself JohnnieFab left this nice comment under Half Past Forever's "Know" video:

"This is exactly the kind of generic, effortless, meaningless faux-rock that keeps talented musicians, performers, and composers from getting main stream exposure. As long as this kind of music is being played by mtv and radio stations, kids will be robbed of the opportunity to hear music with artistic integrity. It makes me cringe."

This one actually made me kind of laugh. But then it made me kind of think.

What music will still be around thirty years from now? What is it about this music that made JohnnieFab have such a strong reaction to it? Is my music really robbing people of the opportunity to hear music with artistic integrity? Well, it's an age-old debate. Do you have to make music that sounds like crap in order to have artistic credibility and intergrity? Or do you simply try to write great songs? I would contend for the latter.

Radiohead is in my top favorite bands - admittedly I don't listen to them all the time because that can get boring very quickly. But, across the board, Radiohead is one of the most inventive, chance-taking and experimental bands of our time, maybe of all time. But as their albums have gotten weirder and weirder, fewer and fewer people listen to them. Some bands seem to brandish this about as a badge of honor, but is it really something to be proud of?

The very nature of music is that it is a language to be enjoyed by others. From the very beginning, composers wrote music to be enjoyed by the people they wrote it for. From the dark ages on really through the twentieth century, the whole art of composition was a wholly commercial endeavor. Composers worked for rich people and wrote music for their parties. Rich people were the original publishers and record companies - the rich people owned every song their composer wrote. The composer was, in return, paid handsomely for his efforts, but if he didn't play the political system, many times great composers would end up penniless and dying young (i.e., Mozart).

Now, jazz music was where things started to change. Jazz was a free form of music where, originally, African-Americans would get together and simply play. It grew from the Spirituals that were sung during the slavery days, and from "tribal" beats. Jazz is and was a free form - there were no barring rules as there was in classical music. In jazz, whatever comes and happens and feels good IS good. Suddenly instrumentalists were actually straying away from written music and "riffing" - of course classical musicians thrashed against this new form of music because it went against everything they had been taught. But jazz stayed and stayed and became more and more popular.

Soon, pop music (short for popular music) was jazz and off-shoots of jazz, and the revolutionaries like Miles Davis then became more and more experimental in response to jazz now being the pop music of the day. Then rock and roll came in. Elvis, Cliff Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more took pop jazz one step further and mixed in a little blues and a whole lot of backbeat. Then along came the Beatles and their incredible ability to write a pop ditty. But with the Beatles a lot of things changed, aside from the sugary sweet sounds of "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

The Beatles were one of the first artists to write their own songs. In the early 1960's an artist writing their own songs was relatively unheard of - everyone did covers of each other while Tin Pan Alley writers (like, surprisingly, Neil Diamond and Carole King) churned out cheesy hits for bands to sing ("I'm a Believer" anyone?). Not only did the Beatles write their own songs, but soon even they became bored with their success at writing hooks, so they became experimental.

And this is where I think the rub lies. If you listen to the "experimental" Beatles, and break the songs down to just the song themselves, they are simply pop songs. "A Day in the Life" or "Strawberry Fields Forever", though surrounded by interesting elements, they are simple pop songs.

The Beatles gave life to a whole lineage of bands that seem to lose the song and focus on the experiment - Pink Floyd (though I love a lot of their stuff, it sometimes is hard to find the song) on down to Radiohead. And somehow, this music is considered artful while a band who writes hooks is not artful.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love experimental music: I listen to Radiohead on a regular basis, I listen to Sigur Ros a lot, bands like Muse and Mutemath and Starsailor have littered my CD player for years. I love the experimental and off-the-wall, not-so-marketable stuff. It whets my appetite and makes me long to be a better musician, and to understand how the experiments were put together.

But as I kind of moved from being a simple songwriter to what I feel like is a genuine musician (no, I don't put myself in the class of some of these people I am speaking of), I started to wonder - do I want to make experimental stuff that wil never sell, but will make me very happy? Or do I want to make a living doing music and still create great art? And when I looked at the example of especially the Beatles, I understood that great art and marketability are not mutually exclusive.

So, here is the process of how I write songs.

#1 - I find a great tune. Usually, I'll sit around with an acoustic guitar (sometimes electric, if Sarah's not around) and just play around until I find a cool chord progression that I like. I try to challenge myself to use different chord progressions and, as my guitar playing skills have bettered, I try to mess around with riffs. Once I've found a great chord progression I will then begin to fashion a melody around it. I'm odd, I think, in that I usually write words at the same time as the music - many times it's just jibberish that I'm singing over the chords...sometimes the jibberish ends up in the song, sometimes I completely re-write the lyric.

#2 - I find a great subject matter. Wierdly enough, usually, the subject matter is decided by how the tune is coming together. I'd say over half the time, the jibberish that I sing while I'm riffing or jamming ends up being the lyric of the song, or at least the general idea of the song. I try hard to paint word pictures with my music, so the music and lyrics work very tightly with me...or at least I try to make them work very tightly together.

#3 - I then find the right setting. I am somewhat odd as a songwriter (at least the songwriters I know) in that as I'm writing a song, in my head I can hear how the production will be put together. With the album that is out now, I knew how nearly every song was going to be produced before I got into the studio...I just heard it in my head. This makes it easy for me, but tough sometimes for my band - but I think it worked out great. Some songs are just simple pop songs that don't need anything more - "Tunnel Vision", "Waiting", "Rise" and others are the kinds of songs that just need a simple arrangement (with flourishes I'll talk about later). Songs like "Convenience", "Naive", "Gone" and others needed complex arrangements. I always try to go where the song takes me - I do not like to force something on a song that it doesn't need.

#4 - Finally, I add as many layers as possible. All of my songs are pretty basic pop songs - verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo or bridge-chorus-out. What I do to try and make it more interesting is adding in interesting elements that get stacked. For instance on "Know" the song that JohnnieFab had such a violent reaction to, we started off with a pop song, but added in a keyboard line on the verses and the bridge that fleshes out the chord progression (which is actually not a normal pop chord progression - 1 to minor 5 to 4 to 1). We added a contrapuntal string line that takes up a lot of space. And in the background, there is a tinkly pad that we surrounded with reverb to create space in the back of the mix. All of these things took what could've been a boring production to what we felt like was an interesting production.

Now, do most of my songs take risks from a songwriting standpoint? No...I'm not writing "Bohemian Rhapsody" here. I write pop songs. I usually have a general rule that if I sat down and played these songs to a crowd with just an acoustic guitar and vocal that I could pull them off. Is it as interesting with just an acoustic? No. But the songs have the ability to stand on their own.

Are most of my songs commercial? Yes. But my process in writing commercial songs is no different than my process of writing more experimental songs. The day I sell out is when I "sit down to write a hit". Up until now, I've just written the best I could and what comes to my heart and mind. Hopefully that will never change.

So, to conclude, I'll say this: I don't think that my music is robbing kids of the opportunity to hear real music with artistic integrity. I hope, if anything else, my music is a gateway drug to bands like Muse, MuteMath, Sigur Ros and Radiohead - cause, man, they're great, too.