I’m continuing with the process of studio mixdown for my album, In a Circle. So far, I have three songs mixed with only nine left to go. For those of you unfamiliar with mixing, it’s the most unglamorous part of recording an album. You might think of it in terms of housecleaning. I don’t enjoy vacuuming the carpet AND it’s nice to have a clean house to share with friends when they come over for a visit. In other words, mixing an album is necessary for everyone’s recorded musical enjoyment! And speaking of that, enjoy this recently mixed version of It Ain’t Natural by clicking here:
If you want to read more about how this song came about, click here.
I’m not referring to that popular 80’s New Wave band from Australia here. No, I’m talking about men’s groups. Back in the summer of 1979, I had just moved to California. I was a new father living with my infant son, wife, and step-daughter in the town of Davis. I had read some of Robert Bly’s early writings about men becoming more conscious and connecting with their true masculine self. As a result, I was very intrigued with this notion. While living in Davis, I joined my first ever men’s support group and experienced something totally new. In this group, I witnessed men who were being honest and open with other men about themselves and their life journey. For me, a powerful seed was planted that day and I wanted more.
Over the years, I have been in various men’s groups. I’ve also been part of several different men’s communities. One of those men’s communities has trainings and chapters around the world in different countries. Around 2006, I became involved with a mentoring organization that works with young men from ages 12 through 17. Along the way, I have also participated in or staffed many different workshops and weekends for men and young men. I currently sit in a men’s group on a weekly basis. I have found this to be a very useful and empowering resource in my life.
If you’re thinking that all this men’s work stuff is always a serious matter, I offer you this tongue-in-cheek song. You may see a reflection of yourself here or a man that you know.
This poem came about from my experience at an event called Rumi’s Caravan, an evening of poetry with music. I found myself outside during the break enjoying the evening when the Muse paid me one of those unexpected visits.
Written by Marshal Jon McKitrick 9/7/14
After words flutter about
followed by proclamations of “Ahhh!!!”
I step down off the back porch
into the mystery of evening
Standing on bare dirt
making out moonglow
just over the roofline
there she is in her glory
for the last full moon of summer
And over there
the old church’s cathedral spire
is fully lit like a rocket on the launching pad
aiming for an unknown destination
that has already been reached in moonlight
The moon says:
There is nowhere to go
that cannot be found here
the journey and the destination
are one and the same
So, I will enjoy the fluttering
followed by “Ahhh!!!”
and savor the dark drive home
Sometimes I am haunted by songworms. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for hours or days on end? I have a close musical compadre’ who has coined the name “songworm” for this phenomenon. Some researchers use the term “earworm.”
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm: sticky music, or stuck song syndrome, which is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing. For full article, click here.
As I’ve described to my wife, I have an internal jukebox that plays back any song I remember. While this may save on my CD purchases or downloads, it backfires when I can’t seem to “get it out of my head.” I’ve read of at least one psychological study that states this is more common for musicians.
Most of the time, I find that a songworm that’s got a hold on me includes both music and lyrics and it usually has an upbeat rhythm. Sometimes, it’s a catchy lyrical phrase that gets my attention. Here’s a classic example.
I’m now on the last leg of completing my album, In a Circle. This past week, I began the mixing process. I’m learning that when a drum kit is involved, it takes longer to complete mixing the song. Due to the nature of drum kits and microphone placement, it’s necessary to edit out the “bleed through” that happens during recording (ex., between the cymbals and the toms). Since half of the songs on the album have drum tracks, the mixing process will go more quickly after those have been done.
I know it’s important to get the sound I want, so I’ll be satisfied down the road. I look forward to listening to a completed album much later and being happy with a job well done. While it’s a tedious task, the mixing process is what can make or break an enjoyable listening experience. Since my songs are strongly based on the lyrics, I need to pay attention to make sure the vocals aren’t buried by the instrumental tracks.
An important part of the mixing process is playing the mixed song on different audio devices (car stereo, PC, tablet, and boom box). The folks listening to the final product will appreciate the ability to play the album in different environments. And, I definitely want listeners to enjoy and connect with the music. So, hang in there, everyone! I will keep you posted.
Last week, I made my way back to the recording studio. I had to take a break from working on my album, In a Circle, due to financial reasons. Ed has been very supportive of my first time out as a full producer and I appreciate him for that. I had a productive session and now all the song editing has been completed. Hooray! Also, I recorded a new piano track for Familiar Strangers. To hear a sample of the latest recording, click on the player below.
Next, I’ll move on to the mixing process to complete my time in the studio. If you’re wondering about the expected release date, that will be impacted by post production costs and logistics. At this time, I’m hoping to release the album by either May or June. I’m grateful to everyone who has been encouraging and supportive of me through this studio journey. As always, stay tuned!
I wrote this poem while I was part of a local men’s group. We called ourselves Men at Work. I continue to seek balance with my own ego, as a musician and songwriter.
Written by Marshal McKitrick/ Copyright 1995
My ego is a funny beast
If I ignore him or try to lock him up
He comes in howling at just the wrong time
And I say things that make me wonder
Who’s really in charge
My ego is a funny beast
If I entertain his notions or just give in to him
He struts around the room like a peacock in heat
And this time I’m the prisoner
Folks who like my music and are serious students of album liner notes may have already heard Morning Lake and read about it on my website. You’ll find it included in my liner notes for my last CD, Older and Wiser. I recorded it near the end of my time at Bender Studio in Sacramento. If you haven’t heard it yet and are curious, you can listen below. To read more about it, click here.
This song, Sequoia Dreamtime, was inspired by a trip Dena and I took in the spring of 2016. We took a long drive south of Fresno to attend a family reunion. I learned that the reunion location wasn’t far from Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park.
After the reunion , we drove up into the hills, located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. Along the way, I appreciated the view of the valley with its blue oak woodlands and chaparral grasslands.
Upon entering the park entrance, I felt anticipation and excitement. Furthermore, I recalled the childhood joy of experiencing the wonder of the natural world. Although, I had seen pictures of these giant sequoia trees as a child growing up in the Midwest, I had never been in their midst. I was amazed to find out that the giant sequoia forest is part of 202,430 acres of old-growth forests. And, I was looking forward to seeing the General Sherman tree, considered to be the largest tree on Earth.
When I got out of the car to walk through the Giant Forest, I started to connect with the huge trees. As I gazed high up at their lofty crowns, I was humbled by their sacred living presence. And, I imagined what they must have witnessed over the centuries. As I ambled near these grandfathers, rays of afternoon sunlight fell among their majestic trunks. I smelled the subtle incense of their rough bark, as they seemed to glow reddish gold.
This evoked a creative response within me that day and inspired the following poem. Afterwards, I submitted my writing to Dena and asked her to post it on the Daily Napkin. I’m happy to share that with you here.
After seeing this powerful image/word collage, I was compelled to set the words to music. And, voila, I was blessed with another new song! Afterwords, I decided to capture the feel of it in a video. With Dena’s assistance, I shot the following video in a friend’s garden. I really like the visually appealing backdrop of the honeysuckle vine behind me. And, I was surprised by the bird happily chirruping along with me in the song’s beginning. Enjoy the song!
I’m a huge fan of James Taylor. In fact, he was one of the main singer-songwriters of the early 1970’s who greatly inspired me. Back in the early years of my guitar playing, I spent time learning Taylor’s hit tunes of the day like Fire and Rain. I even learned a cool version of The Blues is Just a Bad Dream by using a TAB chart.
O.K., now, wait a second! This artist spotlight is all about Livingston Taylor, one of James’ younger brothers. Livingston is one of five siblings in the Taylor family; along with Alex, James, Kate, and Hugh. Livingston and James both write songs, play guitar, and sound and look similar to each other. However, they are definitely two different individuals. I remember hearing Livingston’s first album back in the 70’s and appreciating it. Still, I have to admit that I was strongly attracted to James’ musical offerings. Therefore, I never really gave Livingston a fair shake back then.
Last year, during one of my frequent YouTube musical exploration sessions, I came across this interview that Livingston did with Living Legends Music. I was very impressed with the honesty and humility he carries around living in the shadow of his legendary brother. Most of all, I appreciated his statement that, “Nothing is better for you than the success of people you know and love, even when their success is painful for you…”
Finally, I’ve come to learn that Livingston has had an enjoyable and fulfilling musical career of his own. His discography begins with the simply titled debut album, Livingston Taylor, and extends to his upcoming 2017 release, Safe Home. Furthermore, Livingston is a full professor at Berklee College of Music and has taught a Stage Performance course there since 1989. And, he’s even written a book, Stage Performance, based on his years of teaching experience. The book offers singers and musicians support in delivering a rewarding performance for both the performer and the audience. Hence, I found Livingston’s passion for delivering the message to others via music to be brightly apparent in this video taken from his classroom sessions.
I love this spoken word song. In it, Livingston displays his sparkling wit and agile guitar playing. “He stuck it!” Thank you, Livingston, for hanging in there all these years and sharing your music and your soul with us. Life, indeed, is good!
Last weekend, Dena and I went to hear Raffi in concert at the lovely and classy Crest Theatre located in downtown Sacramento. His concert was billed as “Raffi – 40 Years of Singable Songs.” I’ve been an adult fan of his music for children since he was popular back in the 1980’s. I’ve always appreciated his sense of play while being mindful of the magical spirit of children around the world. When I lose touch of the playful little boy that lives inside of me, Raffi’s music helps me come back around to what’s really important to me. Mostly, the experience of feeling safe and loved in the world while connecting with the joy that lives in me and sharing that joy with others around me.
As expected, I saw a lot of young folks at the concert accompanied by parents and a few grandparents at the concert. Dena and I were holding space in the grandparent category since we have two grandkids, Amanda (5 and a half years old) and Kyle (2 and a half years old). Now that Raffi is in his late 60’s, he seems to be holding a special kind of grandfather spirit. However, he’s still able to tap into his own inner child and be silly and playful while sharing his music with young folks and those folks who are young at heart.
At the concert, I was surprised to hear that Daniel Lanois had been a recording engineer for Raffi’s 1977 release, More Singable Songs. Lanois went on to produce records for artists such as U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan. I was happy to be reminded that many talented folks in the music business have their start in humble beginnings.
Also, I heard Raffi share a story about meeting one of his longtime folk music heroes, Pete Seeger, at Seeger’s home in upstate New York. According to a blog post on Raffi’s website, it was “on a fine spring day with trees in soft green bloom.” It was towards the end of Seeger’s life. Raffi had gone to thank Pete “for all that he had given me over the years.” Raffi sang a few songs for Pete and Pete even joined in singing the chorus of one of Raffi’s best known songs, Baby Beluga.
Here’s one of my favorite songs by Raffi. And, yes, he introduced the song in the concert by holding a banana and sharing a few silly comments (example, “it’s a phone with a-peel”). One phrase of this song (“… I’ll call the White House – have a chat”) took on new meaning for me that day. Thank you, Raffi, for all the fun songs and for helping me to stay connected with my joyous little child within.
In my explorations this week, I tried out one of my Liberty Flip capos on an old tune by the Jefferson Airplane called, Somebody to Love. If you know this song, you may hear a few different words here and there. I did “spirit-size” it a bit to give it an uplift. To hear a simple demo recording with guitar, partial capo and voice, click here.
And, just for fun, check out this YouTube version of the original Airplane tune. Enjoy!
Last weekend on Saturday, January 21st, the Women’s March happened around the country and the world. Although I had the intention of going in support of my sisters, known and unknown, other personal commitments took precedence. However, my beloved partner, Dena, headed downtown to the Sacramento capital with a few of her friends and about 20,000 others. I understand that a number of men and children also joined in.
According to its official organizers, the Women’s March was not primarily an anti-Trump effort rooting for him to fail as president. And, its mission was to stand up for equality. The Washington Post stated that 500,000 folks attended the march in Washington, D.C. I’ve heard there were near 1,000,000 marchers across the country, and even more worldwide.
It was encouraging to see so many individuals express themselves and take the time to lend their voice and presence to a peaceful demonstration in support of equality and justice. I’m aware that the grand tradition of marches, rallies, and demonstrations goes way back in this country. The roots of that tradition goes all the way back to the beginnings of American history, starting with the Boston Tea Party, the American Revolution, and the Abolition movement. The size expanded in the 1960’s with the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-War movement during the Viet Nam war, and the Women’s Liberation movement.
After seeing some photos and videos on social media the day after, I was reminded of the Great March on Washington in 1963. For those of you who don’t recall, that gathering included the well known, I Have a Dream speech, by Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, it was estimated that 250,000 folks showed up with the majority of marchers being black. As you may know, this march was the catalyst to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The music soundtrack for that event was a combination of folk music (Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul, and Mary) and Negro spirituals (Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Odetta, and the Freedom Singers).
As one of the best known folk artists from the 60’s (and beyond), Joan Baez has always considered social justice important which has included a focus on civil rights (nationally and internationally). In the early ‘60’s, she helped spark the folk music revival. She was one of the first artists to use their popularity as a vehicle for social protest while singing and marching in support of social issues.
Along with singing at the March on Washington, she sang at Free Speech Movement rallies in Berkeley, CA and at Woodstock in the late 1960’s. In her later activities, she sang at Live Aid in ’85 and on an Amnesty International tour in ’86. This month, Joan turned 76. Happy birthday, Joan! Thank you for all of your musical inspiration and blessings over the years.
I was deeply moved by one particular young artist, MILCK, who organized a flash mob with a group of other women to sing at the Women’s March this month in Washington, D.C. You can hear her and her flash mob cohorts singing her original song, Quiet, in the video below. Also, I have included her official video of the same song.
I challenge you to watch these videos and not be moved deeply like I was, especially by the full version of the song. According to the bio on her website, MILCK is an abuse survivor who’s also battled with depression and other issues. I respect all artists who have the courage to express creatively with focus and purpose, as a path to heal their personal pain. At the same time, it’s great to see the torch of social activism through music being passed on from elders such as Joan Baez to young artists like MILCK. There is power in the music. “We shall overcome…”
I’ve had a vague knowledge of partial capos for awhile, yet I had never used one. Last autumn, I was enjoying a live show by Carrie Newcomer at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, Ca. I noticed she was using two (and sometimes three) different Kyser model capos at the same time on her guitar. This inspired my musical curiosity. So, I decided to do some research about it. After a bit of online searching, I discovered a new website: PartialCapos.com. It belongs to the illustrious Harvey Reid.
Mr. Reid writes about his experience as a guitar player. For him, it’s been a long journey of exploration in the world of partial capos:
“About me… I have been using various kinds of partial capos for both songs and instrumentals in my music since the mid 1970’s, and I am probably the first modern person to write, publish and record music for the partially-capoed guitar. I won the National Fingerpicking Guitar Contest in 1981 (without using one) and have recorded about 200 different songs and instrumentals in dozens of different capo configurations. I have studied this idea very deeply, and I want to be your guide to this fascinating musical world. I hope to show you what they can do for your music. There is a surprising amount of misinformation and confusion about partial capos, and many a great guitarist has failed to see their musical value right away.”
I spent some time reading and studying the copious information provided on his website (He is very generous with his information). Afterwards, I was compelled to purchase both models of his Liberty Flip capo. At the same time, I bought both volumes of his Liberty Flip Capo IDEA books.
Wow! I found myself entering an alternate universe on my guitar. When you use a partial capo on guitar, you can play in open tunings without de-tuning and re-tuning the guitar. Furthermore, it gives you access to many guitar chords and sounds that just aren’t possible in standard tuning, or even traditional open tuning. If you’re a guitar player, I hope this is getting your attention and piquing your curiosity.
After working with the IDEA books and the capos for a week or so, I contacted Mr. Reid. I sought permission to write about my personal experience with them in my weekly music blog. He graciously agreed. And, he thanked me for my interest. Apparently, he is on a mission to spread the word about using partial capos. He says, “Partial capos are tricky to understand, and these books are the definitive manuals for a remarkable but invisible musical “hyperspace” that only partial capos can unlock.”
So far, the Liberty Flip capos seem simple to use. Additionally, they have a nice streamlined feel to them. I’m enjoying the clear explanations and presentations of all the new guitar chords in the IDEA books. Also, I find that the back stories and musical anecdotes provide a friendly context. One of my favorite anecdotes is about a new chord that sounds like the beginning of the Beatles’ classic tune, Eleanor Rigby, when it’s played in arpeggiation. I have to say that proved to be true after checking it out on my own guitar. Cool stuff!
I appreciate all of the hard work and time Mr. Reid has put into exploring this alternate guitar universe. And, I really appreciate the effort and expertise he has invested to develop these elegantly designed partial capos. Additionally, I’m grateful that he chose to write about and share his musical adventures with other guitar players and the world.
In my book, Harvey Reid is a guitar pioneer and a visionary.
Great work, Harvey! I’m happy and honored to support you in your mission. Additionally, I will be recommending the Liberty Flip capos, along with the IDEA books, to all my guitar playing friends.
*[Disclaimer: I am not a sales agent for Liberty Flip Capos, Liberty Guitar books, or Woodpecker Multimedia. Nor, have I received compensation for this blog post.]
And one more than 25 things – I wrote this song in January 2016. It was posted on my YouTube channel. I think it’s timely to share it again here, as we begin another new year of possibilities. I look forward to living more of my dreams in 2017! Happy New Year everyone!
That’s a wrap. I’m very curious to see what new musical adventures await me in 2017. Happy New Year everyone!