Muscle and Skin
It's time to let you in my not-so-secret secret. I'm working on a new album.
It's a collection of 14 songs that explores the inner world vs the outer, and self-perception vs the perceptions others hold of us.
It also happens to have taken the shape of a musical memoire of sorts, for some of the songs date back as far as a decade, while others on the album were written only a hand full of weeks ago.
As different as the phases of my music career have been, I feel like this will be my most honest, most vulnerable work yet.
The album is also a reflection on our own mortality. I have always felt that most things come and go like the tide - money. belongings. relationships. success. confidence. creativity. fear.
It can be hard to create art for the sake of anything other than the urge to emote, to make something. Like for monetary value, for furthering your career..etc. For me, playing the piano has always been a place to emote. As a child, I would make up little melodies and play to myself for hours. I guess you could say, I rode the tides of my youth through the piano - always going back for something soothing and also, I guess some kind of validation through the instrument and my little creations.
This album is heavily based around the piano. For me, this has been both invigorating and terrifying. It feels like having a bunch of people over to my home and suddenly unzipping a wall that opens into a black and white film of the heartbeat of my mind. It's very exposing.
I have such an intimate relationship with the piano, and the push and pull over the years of guitar being more of a "front person" rock and roll type of instrument has left me shying away from my own heart instrument. I know what I have to do, and it's my biggest challenge yet as an artist. It's me letting some of my guts out, being imperfect, being raw.
The idea for Muscle and Skin sort of crept in slowly, like water trickling in through small cracks, eventually rushing faster and pushing away large chunks of clay.
The last album I put out three years ago was produced by Michael Wagener - epic human being and genius wizard of sound. The dude knows the science of sound inside and out, and we captured something between rock and pop and dance in those songs on "Bright Future" that we both felt really proud of, and also stepped out of both of our comfort zones a fair bit. I don't know that I'll ever record anything like it ever again. I'm super stoked at what Michael and I got, but as I've grown into myself as an artist and explored different areas of curiosity in music, I realize there is an infinite area of ground to cover. I feel compelled to explore so many sounds, experiment with different genres and styles of writing. I also feel that in order to explore those areas, I need to dig deeper as an artist; to challenge myself as much as I can.
"Muscle and Skin" came on recently, an echo of a familiar old feeling from my early days performing in New York. The opposite of "put on your fancy dress and make up". It came as the rebellious feeling that drove me away from capitalizing on early opportunities in the industry. A push and pull between image and imagination; perception and truth. Fame being teased at me, always at a cost. Music always being the main goal. It's something I feel always. I want to be successful, but I think the idea of success and what all it may entail can be scary. I never want to lose myself. I never want to lose those I love. I also never want to lose the music.
I would say I was not only a beginner in the industry at 18 in New York, but also an outlier. Maybe I was a lot more shy than I'd ever own up to, or maybe just a lot more awkward. I honestly don't know who I was then or who I am now. I could very well have tricked myself into thinking I've had a rich life filled with adventure and success. It's difficult for me, in here, to see things clearly as they are.
Now, as I breach this new work - this broad canvas I view almost as a tree being dug out, carried across land and time, and transplanted - I am inspired. Saddened, weightened by the sands of time, heavier but wiser. Something very honest will be inside this work. I have felt more somber about it than ever expected, more challenged by it than could have been fathomed.
The album photography was captured and brought to life by Dylan Estes, during the Tennessee bleakness of late winter, March 2019. We are working together to release some prints and videos leading up to and in conjunction with the release of the album.
Thank you for reading.