It has been a while since I did a blog post like this but it feels like a good time to be reflective following the release of my new album which was released a couple of weeks ago.
Let’s start by rewinding the clock back to June 2019.
I was in the middle of making my third album ‘Those Stolen Moments’ and was watching the news about the Extinction Rebellion protests taking place around UK. I felt inspired by what was happening and spent an evening in my shedio working on a track. That track was ‘The Great Dying’, a song that didn’t fit with where ‘Those Stolen Moments’ was heading and was very much about what was going on at the time. I hastily released it as a raw single. I didn’t realise at the time but ‘The Great Dying’ would become the opening track of my fourth album ‘Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance’.
Skip forward a couple of months and I had finished the nine tracks that formed ‘Those Stolen Moments’ and in the background I was preparing it for release in November 2019. It was my first album in seven years and it felt good to be releasing music again. It was a digital only release and I put a reasonable amount of effort into getting it reviewed, listened to and promoting the singles.
Meanwhile, I was still tinkering away with more new material. I love the word tinkering, it means ‘an attempt to improve something in a casual way’ and I was very much feeling casual about the new ideas I had floating round.
It was August 2019 and I recall an evening where a massive storm was on the way. I was in the shedio and working on a new track. The weather inspired the title ‘Before The Storm Hits’. Again, at this point I still did not know what would happen with these ideas I was working on, they were just loose tracks floating around without any real purpose. It was fun and exciting to be making music again and I had re-found my sound and was feeling totally inspired.
As the months went by I was juggling the release of ‘Those Stolen Moments’ and building up a collection of new tracks. ‘Those Stolen Moments’ was very much a ‘pure electronica’ album. No human vocals and lots of samples and pieces of music that allowed me to revist my earlier influences. It was very much the way I used to make music in the past.
I already knew that for my next album I wanted to do something which was more ‘song’ based and that I would need to get some guest vocalists involved. On my first two albums I had 3-4 guest vocalists on the albums but it was always balanced with electronica and sample based songs. For this new record I wanted it to be all (or almost all) vocal led.
It was in the Autumn of 2019 that a work colleague sent an email asking for sign off on a proposal, they ended the email with the line ‘your silence will be assumed as acceptance’ and at that point I had my album title and instantly knew what I wanted the theme of the album to be. I started to reach out to a few musicians and it felt like the fourth album was properly underway.
Time moves on and at the start of 2020 I felt like things were picking up traction with ATPLP4. I had around half a dozen tracks in progress with some more that were already out with vocalists and then COVID-19 hit. The world suddenly felt different and I was balancing a full time job with home schooling, feeling trapped and not having any time to work on music. Unlike other people who were filled with creativity at the time, mine was lost but I kept tinkering.
I remember in April 2020 I finished ‘Can You Manage? Do You Understand?’ which was inspired by Dr Li Wenliang. He tried to warn the Chinese government about the impending pandemic but was silenced and later died trying to save his patients in a Wuhan hospital.
Then in May 2020 the world was shocked by the horrible death of George Floyd and it fulled my desire to get the album moving again. During the whole pandemic the Conservative Govenment kept fucking up, treating the arts with disdain and the idea for NVOD was born. I kept working on my album in the evenings and was starting to get some of the vocals back from the artists I was working with.
By August 2020 I had finished a first ‘draft’ of the album. I had 12 tracks in various states of completness and I recall listening to it by the fire whilst camping for my birthday in Dorset and thinking ‘this is starting to sound good’ but I knew I had a long way to go in order to finish it.
In Autumn 2020 I was still waiting on some of the vocals to come back to me and I started mixing the completed tracks. This was the stage where I was no longer ‘tinkering’ I was properly polishing what was there and it took a long time. I really struggled in the latter part of 2020 to finish the album. It was 90% complete but that final 10% was bloody hard work. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t even fun most of the time. I was constantly questioning myself and my mixes and asking ‘are these songs even any good?’. No one was listening and as a self-releasing solo musician it is very hard to get perspective on what you have made. I am sure some of you reading this will totally understand where I am coming from.
By December 2020 I had mixed eleven of the tracks and was just waiting on the final set of vocals to come back to me. They arrived a couple of days before the end of the year and I managed to get the album ‘finished’ by 31 December 2020. Overall to even get to that stage took 18 months and an incredible amount of hours.
The new year rolled in and at the start of 2021 I got underway with planning the album promo and sent the album over to my friend Ed to get it Mastered. During that time Ed suggsted a few mixing tweaks so I was ocassionally dipping back into the tracks to make further changes.
I was also working with Ella on the artwork for the album and thinking about the physical CD release. I was documenting my ideas which Evan from 138 Design really brought to life. My wife also had the brillaint idea to get some mugs made up with the album artwork on them so I was looking into that.
I spent the evenings writing press releases, going through my promotional contacts list and moving away from making music. The admin side of being a DIY musician is relentless. You are constantly worrying about whether you have done enough and researching more and more people to send the album and the singles to. I was lucky that I got a few good reviews and interviews around the release but you always want to reach more people. Especially after working on something so hard.
I would love to get a PR company involved at this stage but being totally honest here, I can’t ever afford to do it. I am lucky that I have my own studio and can work on my music without any cost. In fact, up until the end of 2020 I had hardly spent any money on ATPLP4 but all that changes once you start to release things. The cost of mastering, artwork fees, design fees, CD pressing, mugs, badges, etc all quickly adds up and that doesn’t even account for the hours I was putting in working on promo in the evenings.
It is tiring. Especially when you work a full-time job, spend time with your family and try to keep a healthy balance and not hit burn out. I created a series of ‘adverts’ for the album and made some promo videos, scheduled tweets, posted photos on Instagram etc etc. It all adds up and takes time.
In April I put the album up for pre-order and things shifted again. You have to keep pushing the album, trying to sell copies and get people excited to listen and buy the physical items you have made. I hate this part of being a musician.
I value what I have created but don’t like being that person who keeps asking people to buy it. It is a strange thing to have to do. I do it but I don’t like it. I want to be making music. playing gigs, not trying to come across as a used car salesman. And I have nothing against used car salesmen, we all have to earn a wage.
I was very lucky that so many people supported the release of this new album and to date I have just about covered the costs of making and releasing it.
Then the album was released two weeks ago! That was exciting, there is a brief buzz when people’s CDs arrive in their homes and people message you to say they are enjoying it. But pretty soon it gets forgotten.
You try to keep promoting it but with music these days, you have one chance to make an impact before the world spins and you are last weeks news.
After 18 months making the album and 4 months of behind the scenes promo you suddenly feel lost. You have peaked and it is then onto the next thing. Again, I am sure many readers will appreciate this but I don’t think it gets talked about enough. It leaves you, well certianly me, feeling very flat. It is like a massive comedown after a long build up and it takes time to process that before you can move on.
It’s a bit like the old computer game Lemmings. You work so hard, only to fall off the cliff edge at the end of it all.
I don’t want to bring people down by writing all of this and I am certianly not complaining. Nobody makes me do this. I do it because despite the hardwork I want to be creative and share my outputs. I want to keep releasing music until the day I die and playing shows to people. I want to challenge myself and keep making each release better and better. I want to grow my fanbase and reach new audiences.
I also want to be open and honest about what it is really like for musicians releasing music and breakdown the way we really feel when releasing an album and highlight just how emotionally draining it can be. I gave ‘Silence Will Be Assumed As Acceptance’ my all. I was joined on that journey by some incredible artists and I feel as an album and as a message it has more to give … but I am not sure if I do at the moment.
I still have about 20 copies of my album left on CD which you can order from my BandCamp page here.
I’ve love to sell them all. It would go someway to being able to invest back into the next couple of songs I am working on and I also love the idea of it selling out so that it becomes something even more special for the people who own it.
I am starting to move away from the promo of the album now and planning the rest of the year. There will be another single from the album out in July. Then a ‘alternative’ version of the album with remixes, acoustic versions and outtakes. Beyond that there will be a brand new single which will be released as a VERY limited edition 7″ and then further still ….. more new music.
I know what ATPLP5 will be called, I know what it is about, I know roughly how I want it to sound and am hoping it will again challenge me, push me and keep me on my toes.
In the meantime if you are reading this, if you have got this far thank you, knowing there are people out there who care about what I do really does mean the world to me and to quote Placebo ‘without you I’m nothing’.
Peace & Feathers x