Unexpected Lessons

Balance and Creative Outlets:

 
    As some of you know, my family and I went to Lake Tahoe for a week of much needed vacation. We packed up our Volkswagen TDI Jetta and hit the road. No cargo box on the roof so it was “cozy” inside this little car.
     With a pregnant wife and a two and a half year old in a car seat, there wasn’t much room inside the car, which is where I keep my guitars on trips since the climate is regulated. In Flagstaff it was a balmy 74 degrees, 110 degrees in Las Vegas and the highs of Tahoe were 68 ish.  Not what you would call “ideal” for instruments during travel. So, I opted to leave the guitar behind. Good call I would later find out!
     I felt so inspired while I sat and reflected on the surroundings and the conversations that Shaila and I had. The time with Noah was just amazing. It is really nice to spend the week with the family, uninterrupted and undistracted, although I feel like my mind and soul are on sensory overload from all the things we saw and experienced. The desolate bad lands, crystal clear blue water, fourteen thousand foot peaks, rushing water falls, beaches and the constant interactions with my family, just to name a few. I really have a hard time expressing my thoughts in voice but I am learning that a pen is sometimes just as mighty as a guitar.
   When I do not have a creative outlet I begin to become a bit frustrated, impatient and antsy. Think of a volcano just before the top gets blown sky high because it has nowhere to vent its lava…. ..
Ok, so it’s not that bad; I completely exaggerated there! Haha The first day or two were the hardest for me without my guitar, but then the opportunities to write became available and the pressure began to subside.
     I am usually so focused on one thing that everything else gets blurred out. Sometimes that is not a bad thing, but the word “balance” came to my mind many times throughout the trip and in my writings. I think that was one of the focal lessons from this trip and something that I am really going to explore these next few weeks.
    All in all, this trip was a great time “away” from my distractions. No car failures, no major blowouts with the family and a ton of laughter at the expense of myself, my wife and my son.
 
What’s your creative outlet for things inspire-able or challenging? I would love to hear how you express yourself!

I’m busy….

There have been a lot of things going on in my life recently that have really made me stop and evaluate my life. Questions like, What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What really motivates me to do what I do? How do I balance work and calling? I ask myself many times, “How far am I willing to go if I am called out my comfort zone and into something that others might deem crazy?”

   For the longest time, I have been super busy at work and not just work, but church too, as well as this artist expression I call music. Truth be told, I have enjoyed telling people how busy I am. But as I really sit back and think about busyness, what does that actually mean, and what does it communicate to people in my life? There is a difference between being busy and being productive. What is my real motivation in telling people how busy I am?
    Maybe the answer is that I make a habit out of being busy and telling the world how busy I am so I can indulge in self-pity and show people how important I am.
  Wow! That last sentence sounds horrible and reeks of arrogance. ….. But it is a part of me that I cannot keep locked up. This is what I am wrestling with.
 My wife told me something the other day that really challenged and convicted me: “stop the glorification of busy”.
    “Wait, what?!” I said. Then it hit me…..
 How often do I say that I am so busy and it is really a cry for people to look at me and validate my own pride and accomplishments so that people think I am valuable?….
Hhhmmmmmmm…..
I think I need to stop complaining about being busy. It’s one thing to tell people that I am busy and need some help, but its another to say that I am busy in order to seek the validation of others.
   Of course, not all busyness is bad, but I wonder what is our motive to be busy and what is our motive to tell others.
I don’t have the answers to all of this, but I write of these things because I want to think through it, and I don’t want to go through life day after day blinded by what is really inside of me or around me.
   What are my motives behind what I do and say? Do I want to encourage and speak life into those around me, or do I want to validate my own selfish desires and feed my ego?
What do you think about this? I would love to hear your thoughts!!!

The Anticipation of Arrival.

Back up two and a half years, and you have my wife and I anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first son Noah.

   So it’s the weekend before my first son’s arrival into this world. My wife is full term and then some at this point. We had just come from the hospital since her midwife said to go to the hospital immediately to get a few tests because she was past her due date at this point.. We were planning on having a “natural childbirth”, which meant no drugs, no epidural and no labor induction.
    While at the hospital, the nurse said, before even receiving the results of the tests, “well, lets get you ready, we will induce you and get this thing going.”
Aaaahhhh, excuse me, NO!
     So the doctor came in and he could tell that we would have no part of this and allowed us to go home for a few more days, but with strict orders to be on bed rest. Which meant, no getting up unless you need to go to the bathroom.            Humph…. well, at least we were giving this boy the time he needed to “get ready” to come into this world. So home we went. My wife did as she was instructed and rested, I did the husbandly duties of fetching what ever she needed. But in the off times, i.e. her naps. I went into the studio and began to work out a song.
    I was so freaking nervous but at the same time extremely excited to meet this little guy. So I prayed, A LOT and played my guitar, equally as much. As I was working out this progression of notes all I could think about was getting to hold this little guy and I was imagining the tears of joy that I would surely have. I also had a massive wave of fear of becoming a father and the responsibility that goes with that for the rest of my life.  I was on edge, and these notes and chords really calmed me down.
    A few more days hours passed and we were off to the hospital to s-l-o-w-l-y welcome this little dude into the world.
    This is the first song that I have written for him, and I hope that it will not be the last either. It is also the first song he ever listened to. He would be fussy and just upset, and I would bring him into the studio and he would nestle in my arms and just take a deep breath in and a deep slow breath out, and listen. Even to this day, every time I play this song for him, he calms right down and listens intently.  It is such a blessing and a huge joy to share this with him.
  This is my Anticipation of Arrival.

My sister Lisa

 
She is one of my older sisters and she passed away a few years ago from cancer. It ravaged her body something fierce in the months before she died. But from what I can remember of all of it, she had some of the strongest faith I have ever seen. She was in pain, and was scared, but her faith was just incredible. Not something that man can conjure up, or learn on their own. The way she handled the whole thing really impressed me. Maybe I didn’t see the whole thing, because I was not with her every hour of the day, but from my perspective, her strength and faith is what I remember.
 
 
 
 
 
 
     Lisa is probably the main reason I got into playing guitar, or music in the first place. I have this picture of her sitting in the grass somewhere in Willmar and she is holding her guitar with her legs crossed. She could play really well! She studied classical guitar, but could fake her way around just about any style. We grew up in Minnesota in a blended family. When I was born, she was already fifteen or sixteen, so I was the runt of the family, and she was already planning her escape! Not to say that our family was bad, but it was the early eighties and she wanted something more than farm life in a rural town. She joined the Army and worked her way up the ranks, ending with Major before her death.
    I had lost other people through the years, but this was the first death that really left a void in my life. She was my sister, she was way too young, she wasn’t supposed to die! This was the first death that would change the course of my life. I awoke to a realization that life is short and relationships are way more important than personal gain. That family, blood or not, is important and I needed to wake up to the fact that there have been some amazing people in my life.  I still have to remind myself of this daily.
    Lisa was a pivotal point in my own spiritual life, not just after her death, but before it too. She had faith that couldn’t be learned by books, it was divinely imparted. It was her gift, and she shared it willingly, lovingly and gracefully. Even up to the last day, she knew, and not arrogantly, that she was going to have peace after all of this. Peace that surpassed all understanding, and that inspired hope within me.
    I still miss her a lot, but when I listen to this song, I can remember her and what she meant to me, and the impact that she left on my life.
 
     Thanks for taking the time to read this!

The Patter of Little Toes

I was playing a series of notes in a drop D tuning about a year and a half ago. I really liked the natural progression of the notes and just couldn’t get the melody out of my head.
    I remember playing with my son one day while my wife was out and about. Noah and I were in the living room and he was not quite mobile yet. He was able to roll over but not able to crawl.
     As we were in the living room, he was laying on his back looking up at me with this drooly smile and giggling quite a bit. I was playing this particular song but I didn’t have a title for it yet. I had all the rhythm parts down and an idea of where I wanted the song to go with all the different parts but it was still “under construction”.
    Noah loved to spend time on his back with his feet and hands stretched up in the air. Something he still enjoys doing I might add.  I would take his feet and make them clap like a pair of hands and he would just laugh and seemed to really enjoy the strangeness, craziness, and goofiness of his dad.
    So as I was playing this particular song for him, he had his feet out-stretched upward towards the sky, his toes were wiggling like crazy and he was smiling and shrieking like a  pterodactyl.  So it seemed to fit the moment and it stuck.
    The real inspiration for the song came one day as I just became overwhelmed with emotion as I looked at this little guy sleeping in his crib and thinking about what interactions would be like once he became mobile. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my childhood, and if any of you know me, you know that I have always had two speeds, ON and OFF.  Which Noah has now received from his dad. Hahaha.
    I was really laughing at some of the things that I did in my childhood, like chase my parents around the house with a hose just before we had to go to a wedding. My parents were less that thrilled! I can’t remember if I actually soaked them or not, but imagine my folks enthusiasm while their child tried to ruin their really nice clothes on a hot Minnesota day just before a big wedding. Not the best decision I ever made! My mom reminded me of that story many times growing up and we could laugh about it. So I expect to have many, MANY experiences that we can laugh at down the road.
    But now that he is mobile and running around our house like a wild man, I will enjoy hearing The Patter of Little Toes, but also the screaming helps announce his presence too!
    Thanks for taking the time to read this!

The News of Another Son

This song title came from the fears, excitement, joys and hopes that come from expecting a second child. In some ways, I am not as freaked out about what is coming, but in other ways, I have no idea what to expect. This particular song was written as I thought about the joy of what is coming.

    I am so stoked that we are having another boy. Truth be told, I was really hoping for a velociraptor, but a boy works too! Hahaha! My wife on the other hand was hoping for a girl, but we knew that we would not be disappointed either way. As we were watching this little guy on the monitor at the Dr’s office, I was just amazed that we could really see this little guy moving around and all of his different parts. Which I have to tell you, one of the first things we saw was his “boyish” features. We both new right away before the technician told us that we were having a boy. Just the fact that we can see this human moving around inside the womb of mommy is pretty incredible. I mean think about it, this lil dude is swimming around right now and we have the ability to watch him do what he does in there. We could see his lungs moving, his blood flow, his heart beat, his hands move and toes wiggle. Just incredible!
    To be a father is kinda scary, but it is the biggest blessing and I can’t imagine life without out my son. Don’t get me wrong, parenting has its challenges, but to watch them grow and figure things out is just amazing. Every day they learn new things, say new things, and do new things. I anticipate that there will be much laughter in our house with the interaction of our first son and his little brother.
    This song is really written from my anticipation of watching this little guy grow up. To see what he will do to test things, how he will learn things, and those really amazing sounds that newborns make, like the shrieks of pterodactyls flying in the sky, or the joyous smiles that have not been tainted from the outside world. I have absolutely no idea what this little guy will be like, but I know that no matter what, I will love him more than I could ever explain. So as I process the reality that we are about to have another child, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with a unexplainable joy for the arrival of this little guy. This is a glimpse into the inspiration of this song.

Microphone syndrome

Microphone Syndrome

I had a gig this weekend for a benefit run for The Forgotten Foundation, which is a great group of people doing some really great things!
   A friend asked me to play some music for the event and I gladly accepted! I practiced my songs and threw in some hymns that would be familiar to many people, but I did not think about what I would say during the breaks between all these songs.
   I have this thing about me, if you put an instrument in my hand, I cannot stop playing it. But, if you put a microphone in front of me, I clam up and struggle to say anything.
    I wonder sometimes if other musicians have trouble with what to say, or how to preface a song before they sing it. With instrumental music, a song may have a particular meaning to me, but to someone else it may be quite a bit different. This makes it difficult to know what to share before I play it.
   I think that deep down, even though I want to share my music with people, I have a bit of stage fright. It’s not bad or wrong; it’s just something I have to work on. I have always really enjoyed smaller venues, because I like the intimacy of those types of shows, but being so close to a person who is right in front of you and is watching your hands move and your feet touch different pedals makes me focus too much on the perfection of what I am doing, that I ultimately mess up. It is something that I need to work on; I really enjoy playing, but the pressure that I put on myself is hard for me set aside sometimes.
   I really enjoy playing the guitar and writing music, but interacting with people live is one thing that I will have to work on in the coming days. My goal is to connect with people and make them feel like they are a part of the event. I don’t know if it will get easier, but I want to be better at it, and the only way I know how to do that, is to do it. So that means booking more gigs and trying things out as they happen to come.
 Have you struggled with this?  How have you overcome it, or worked through it? I would love to hear!

Some of my favorite instruments.

This is the first in a series of posts about some of my favorite instruments:

 
 
A Martin HD-28E Retro 
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 I really enjoy the warmth, tone and feel of a good acoustic guitar. They just have this organic, natural sound that really speaks to me. I love the way that a player can really articulate a feeling with how hard or how soft they play on it, or if they play with a pick or the tips of their fingers.  
    My goal through this is to hopefully help you see and understand some of the tools that I use, and for my musician friends to give you a detailed look at the gear that I use. So I will start with my Martin HD-28E Retro.
    It is based off of a 1941 Martin guitar. Now, I have never played an actual 1941 guitar before so I have no idea how close it is to the original, but it looks nice and sounds amazing. I would probably be truly freaked out and super nervous if I had the chance to play one though. 

 The head stock is that signature Martin Guitar Company which I really like because it is very simple and clean.

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    I use this guitar a lot for most of my hard strumming and driving rhythms since it stays really clear and crisp at higher decibels. I will tell you, IT IS LOUD!
     Being a full bodied guitar, it projects the sound very well. You can wail on this thing as hard as you want and it doesn’t muddy the sound. It has a great feel and is not too big or too small. 
     The neck of this guitar is based off of Martin’s performing artist series. My hands don’t hurt after an hour or two of playing like it has on various other guitars.  It’s super comfortable to play, and hard to put down.
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   It took me a while to decide on this particular guitar. I had a check list of things that I wanted in a new acoustic. One being a dreadnought, which means that it has sort of “D” shaped body, the right combination of tone woods, a slim neck, and a comfortable feel in my hands. Not too big or too bulky.  Looks were not that important to me because I don’t really want a guitar that is super flashy. Shiny is okay, but I don’t like busyness on a guitar. I guess the word I would use to describe it is subtle or possibly vintage. 
    The guitar’s top is a Solid Sitka Spruce, which is kind of a standard for most acoustics. It is pretty strong but also has very good elastics which allow the guitar to sound good whether played lightly or hard.
 
    The back and sides of the guitar are made from East Indian Rosewood, which has a really broad range of sounds. It delivers good bass, mid range and treble for almost all styles of music, plus it has a gorgeous pattern and a beautiful and rich color.
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  One of the many reasons I love this guitar is its sound, not only unplugged,  but plugged in as well. Truthfully, thats where this thing really sings. While going through an amplifier or P.A. system, it just sounds amazing to me. It still has that warm, unplugged feel. Some acoustics sound terrible plugged in, but the Fishman Aura Plus system is incredible! Now, it has taken quite some time for me to dial in the tone that I really like, which is important to do because you don’t want your sound too trebly or too bassy. If it has too much bass, the sound gets really muddy and the guitar is not clear, and if it has too much treble, it can pierce the ears and be offensive. It’s a delicate balance, and one thing to keep in mind, tone is subjective. 
   So in short, I really enjoy the ease of playability, comfort of holding it and the sounds that come from this guitar. All in all, it is a very versatile guitar that I hope to be able to play and bless others with for years to come. 
   This is one of the tools that I use to create, write, record and play music on. The guitar has always been a great way for me to communicate without messing it all up with words. 
 
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
 
What is something that helps you to get your ideas out? I would love to hear from you!

Mistakes

Mistakes….

So, I haven’t been around a long time, but I have played with some really amazing musicians and bands. Or at least I think they are. Song writers, to folk bands, and even gospel choirs. What we all have in common is our capacity to make mistakes.  No one is immune!
Let me start this off by painting a picture for you. I was leading worship at church a little over a year ago. It was just me and my guitar and a back-up vocalist. I started the worship service, thinking that it would be really cool to start the song out acapella and then come in strumming hard. Yeah, well, that didn’t go so well, I started the song in the wrong key and it got all messed up. We quickly got back on track, but I was less than thrilled to start the sercive out like that. Then halfway through the second song, I got a bit lost and started hitting the wrong chords all together. I got so lost that I had to stop the song all together. I spoke into the microphone, and laughing, said, “well, this is just a perfect reminder of how imperfect we are”. Oh, it was a mess! We just started the song over. But after that, I was completely loosened up and the rest of the service went pretty smoothly.
This might sound weird, but I think Mistakes are good! Im going to say that again,  MISTAKES ARE GOOD! Here’s why:
 I am not saying that we shouldn’t take the time required to prepare, rehearse, practice and polish our chops. But what I am saying is, don’t let a mistake stop you from doing what you enjoy and love to do. It’s easy to get really down on yourself and be tempted to quit altogether when you make a mistake, but that in itself would be a BIG mistake! Here’s what I mean:
  If mistakes don’t happen, then you can’t get better.  We learn from how we mess up.
Who reading this is perfect?………. Oh thats right, none of us are…
Here’s a challenge for us both:  What if, one person in the audience saw your performance, watched you mess up one song so bad that you had to stop and start it over again? What if they needed to see that to be reminded that we all mess up? What if one person is encouraged by that one indication of your humanity?
Again, I have to emphasize that we SHOULD practice, prepare, rehearse, etc. However, even when we practice till we are blue in the face, some days are really good and everything clicks, but some days are really brutal. In music, as in life, accept it, reflect on it, but then move on!
 I say this as much to myself as to you:  Mistakes are not defeats!
    They are fantastic tools to push you to better things.
I can say, that I have seen some pretty bad performances, and have listened to some really bad recordings and songs. But, I will say this, I respect the person who gets up after a defeat(mistake), collects his or her thoughts, rethinks his or her approach, spends some more time working things out and tries again.  It reveals character and perseverance.
Yes, our egos might be bruised after big mistakes, but we really need to learn to drop our pride and let people see our imperfect and real selves. In my experience, you can actually have a deeper connection with a musician (or vice versa, with a  fan) when your imperfection has not been covered up and hidden away.
I hope that this helps you, and maybe gets the creative juices flowing again.
As always, Thank you for taking the time to read this and be a part of this!
How have you used mistakes to help you or to grow your art in some way?  I would love to hear your stories!

Ideas, Thoughts and Goals

Ideas, Thoughts and Goals…..

As I sit and think about what it means to be an artist/musician and also some of the things that I really enjoy about other artists/musicians and what they are doing, aside from making music. I come to my second blog. And in the name of transparency, I want to dive into what I really hope to accomplish through this blog and my music, also, I am hoping to set myself some “obtainable” goals through this process, and put my thoughts out on paper.
So I recently asked a question on my Facebook page, it said :
“What do you like about artists aside from the music they make?”
 I received a whole bunch of different answers, some of which I agreed with, like a connection with the lyrics, and music that touches the soul, live performances, ect.  But some took me off guard. As I think about where I would like this to go and the future of all of this. There were two answers that really stood out to me. They said,
Their collective personality
and also
That they are decent people off stage as well as on, not in the news for trashing hotel rooms, beating girlfriends, etc.”
which I also agreed with. But, as I thought about it again, it really struck me.,… “What does that look like for an independent artist or solo musician?” I most certainly do NOT want to be known as a “rowdy” guy off stage. At least not rowdy in the sense of destruction, pain, hurt and beatings or any other types of destructive behavoir.
Those comments really solidified my thought process of being transparent, to let people in to what I do. I have no dreams of becoming a massive star or making millions of dollars. I just want to create music that comes from my heart, and I want to share it. I also want to be able to interact with anyone who has a question and be able to help those that may want it. I’m just a normal guy who puts his pants on just like you. One leg at a time. I have struggles and fears, temptations and challenges, desires and dreams, the list goes on! And I hope to share a lot of that with you.
   Now let me just say this, I write music for me! Not to sound conceded, but let me explain my thoughts. For me, if I am writing music solely for the purpose of making a million dollars, then the focus of the music is on a broad range of people, and may or may not be written from the heart.  Some would call this “mainstream”. I am not saying that it is a bad thing, and not all artists who are in the mainstream media are like this. I am also not saying my ego wouldn’t love it, if by some chance a song of mine was heard by millions of people and I was on a huge tour. I will admit that I have day dreamed about that, but truthfully, out of all the concerts that I have been to, the ones that are the most memorable and the most enjoyable, were the ones in the small venues, with a couple hundred or so people.
Maybe even less than that.
   I have a HUGE taste for music, and it covers a broad range of genre’s. I like Classical music all the way to Screamo. And a lot thats in-between. A friend of mine told me a long time ago, that
Even bad art that asks good questions is good art
I am not saying that there isn’t some really bad music out there, but my mind set shifted a bit when I started looking at things that way. And so it opened me up to a lot of different things. I think that we need to be careful what we feed our minds and souls, but, if questions are being asked, and its making us really understand what message is being conveyed, then I think that is a good thing.
   So that brings me to what I think I would like to see accomplished through this. I think that it is a sliding scale of goals, because ideas change, and long term verses short term, but I feel like it is important to set some goals.
   First:
I want to get the  songs that I have written and rehearsed for the last two years onto a downloadable form with in the next 2 months…
And also to have all the inspiration behind all of those songs here on my blog. Now since I don’t write lyrics, it can mean what ever you want it to, but, I would really like to share some of the struggles and joys that I was going through during the song writing process.
    Second:
Would be to begin playing live in different venues. I am not a bar guy, so I think that I would like to play outside more than inside. I have always enjoyed seeing artists perform outside, provided that it is not raining and I didn’t forget my rain jacket. So that is making me look at lots of different venues. I have a few things lined up for the upcoming months, so stay tuned. I don’t have the ability to “go on tour” and I don’t think that going on tour is something I want to do. But who knows? I don’t want to look to far in the future, short term goals are easier to accomplish and less overwhelming than “Bigger Picture Goals”.
     Third:
 Would be a website that has links to everything. News, Facebook, this blog, Bandcamp, contact info ect. I have never built a website, so this should be a good learning experience!!! I will explain more about Bandcamp later in the upcoming weeks once I have music up on that page that you can download. But in the meantime, If you are not familiar with it, PLEASE check it out. Go to Bandcamp.com. It is a great site for exploring different music.
    Fourth:
Another one of my goals is to let people see  how music is created and recorded, what gear is used and some of the tricks that I use, and to put some videos together on Youtube to demonstrate to you these things. I want you to see some of the chord voicings that I use, and that good music can be created in a normal every day ol bedroom. You might be surprised how many bands/artists have been able to make beautiful music from their bedroom.
     Fifth:
Interaction. I know that is a weird goal, but I hope to be able to communicate with you. I want you to be able to ask questions, and not feel like you are not a part of this. Because if you are here, you are! I like the word “community”, I believe that it is one of the things that is “wired” with in us.
So, this is more of my story and some of my thoughts and goals.
Thanks for taking the time to read this!! If you have any questions or want to share your story, leave a comment. Lets talk!
Jonathan.