Tom Petty wrote “the waiting is the hardest part.”
Just as important: “every day you get one more yard.”
I think Petty’s right (of course – who would argue Tom Petty lyrics?), but not for the reason you may think.
I’ve never released a solo single before.
Every other time I’ve recorded music, someone else has done the legwork, and I’ve helped where needed. I was assigned work, and I completed it.
That’s not to say I released “Break My Heart” without any help. I had great producers (Kieran Kelly, Keith Sigel and Joel Turner), studio musicians I could trust (Keith, Joel, and Jon Epcar), a very understanding and supportive wife and two kids who kept (and keep) asking when I will be on the radio and/or play Red Rocks.
After recording “Break My Heart,” I had files in my hand, and it was on me. I played it for some friends and family members, and then I waited. I sat on the recording of “Break My Heart” for almost three years before I put it out in the world. Why?
The last time I released music (“That Will Be All”), I was so exhausted from the recording, that the release and promotion took a back seat. I put out an album, shared it with some friends, sold a few CDs and moved on.
I knew I wanted to do more, it just seemed a little silly.
(Voice in my head): “Really? You have kids. You’re in your late 30s, and this is what you do with your spare time? Who wants to hear another 30-something with an outdated sound and a DIY music video? This isn’t good enough. You’re not good enough. Get a real hobby like golf.”
(Me): “You’re right, weird head voice. Best to just keep these files locked up tight. No sense in sharing things I like to do with others.”
Then I had a realization.
While discussing the merits of musicals with some co-workers at lunch one day, I was surprised to learn that one person in particular didn’t like musicals because she thought they were too unrealistic for people to carry out their lives in song.
“Alex was literally just singing a song about making his sandwich in the kitchen,” one person pointed out.
It was true. It’s true at probably any part of the day. I’m usually making songs up about whatever it is I’m doing.
-Driving to work
-Going to the restroom
There’s a song for all of it in my world.
Even if I don’t vocalize them, songs bounce around my head. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are political. Some are fun. Some are sad. Some come and go. Some won’t leave me alone – they won’t get out.
Those are the tricky ones.
At the ripe age of 37, I finally realized I have voices in my head.
They’re not like the scary, disturbing voices a lot of people think of (phew). They’re songs. Everywhere. Every. Thing. That. Happens. A melody pops in my head and I sing about it.
I live in a damn musical!
Its like a short-run mid-90s sitcom. Its funny. It’s sad. It’s maddening! It’s an adventure. It’s frustrating!
If I can’t get the song out on paper and at least recorded into my phone, I will go a little bit crazy. I can’t focus on work (sorry, boss), parenting (good luck, children), doing the dishes – anything. A song will rattle around in my head and render me incompetent until I can get it out.
A few years ago, “Break My Heart” became one of those songs. I got it all out on paper, recorded a demo, got with some friends and fine musicians and recorded it. It took some time and planning, but it was easy.
Then it was done. All recorded, produced, mastered and ready.
Then it sat. And sat. And sat.
I was waiting, but for what?
I mean, I’ve run B2B marketing departments, Kickstarter campaigns, Shark Tank promotions, managed big marketing budgets and published tons of content in my “day job.” I’m never fearful there. Nor do I lack confidence. There’s no time. Things must go out. We must meet the deadline. We must meet the numbers.
But those are products – someone else’s products. This is me – literally me. Sure, the song is the product, but I am part of that product.
When a blogger writes a nasty review (“vocals are a little shaky,” “‘Break My Heart’” has to be the most unoriginal song title ever,” etc), they’re commenting on more than the song, they’re commenting on me. (Yes, that’s real feedback I’ve received.)
Some of that stuff hurts. Sure. It sucks to be told you’re not that good or original. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I am. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I care. Maybe I don’t…okay, usually I care.
“Every day you get one more yard.”
So, what’s the point? Why did I spend days writing and refining “Break My Heart,” travel to NY to record it, pay studio musicians to play on it and go back and forth through production edits?
It was easy when I was doing it. It felt right. It felt good. Songs, music – that’s stuff is in my head all day. Pffffff, got it. No problem. Why wait?
Maybe I was trying to make it hard.
Work is hard. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Making any money from music is hard.
Recording “Break My Heart” seemed so easy.
The self-doubt, self-criticism, and worrying about what other people thought…the waiting – that was the hardest part.
Maybe all that waiting was the next yard. If so, good! I got there.
“Break My Heart” is out in the world, and 50+ people have streamed it. While that pales in comparison to Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and other artists my kids hear on the radio, and I’m not opening for Jason Isbell, Josh Ritter or Wilco at Red Rocks (yet), it’s easy for me to enjoy.
Tomorrow there is another yard. I will be working on the release of “Bridge Across the Ocean,” set for August 14.
I am not waiting anymore.