At the start of the year I had a pretty significant change in my other career, which is music, and it meant that I was going to have to get an album out or hang it up.
I am 42 now, and I’ve been playing music professionally since I was 17. Back when I started, I assumed by this age I’d be aging out of music and going on to some academic pursuit.
What I didn’t foresee is how much younger 42 turned out to be than I’d imagined. At 42, I’m finally starting to have a handle on music. I’m a better songwriter than ever, and thanks to much improved habits, such as quitting smoking and drinking and so on, (10 years January 3!) my voice is stronger than ever. I understand the business end of the music business better than ever, too.
Nope, 42 is a terrible age to quit doing anything. That’s right about when one is getting good.
So I wasn’t ready to hang it up, but in music, you either stay current or vanish, so record an album it was.
I started songwriting in March, and songwriting is hard. A four-verse song can take months of refining. The less words, the more work, because you are trying to cram a lot of meaning into a very small space. Musical arrangements are hard. The possibilities are literally infinite. It reminds me of what they say of sculpture; you start with a chunk of marble and carve away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.
So I was songwriting every minute I wasn’t doing something else like writing the paper or sleeping. Then, over the summer, we ran a month-long Kickstarter campaign in which we pre sold the album, t-shirts and so on to raise the money to actually make the album. It was an amazing experience, with many, many people participating, but it was hours of work each day, emailing, Facebooking, updating and so on.
Then it was on to the studio in the fall, and two weeks of 10-hour days recording, plus a ton of hiring musicians, seeing to graphic design, arranging mastering and reproduction and launch events.
In the middle of all of that, I was studying to take the GRE exam in order to apply to the University of Washington Ph.D program in communications. I am not particularly good at math, so many nights saw me sitting at the kitchen table late, relearning algebra. Then there was a 30-page research paper to write, and references to collect, and the actual test itself, and an essay and resume.
It all seemed to culminate this month.
I took the GRE Dec. 2, which seems like a lifetime ago. I did pretty well. Actually, I didn’t do very well on the math after all that, but my verbal score was perfect. I got the entire grad school application done and in at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 15. It was due at midnight.
I completed the album in early December and just got it from the plant last week, along with T-shirts and other merchandise. The day before Christmas even I sent more than 120 packages off to Kickstarter backers.
After that, I came home and found myself at a loss. For the first time in nearly a year, I didn’t have a pressing task. I stayed up until 3 a.m. for the sheer novelty of having nothing urgent to do.
It was a great year. I like having big epic projects to do, and I know I seek stress, even though I claim to hate it. I am proud of the album. And I’m hopeful about grad school.
It was a productive year, yes.
But I think I’d prefer to slack off a bit in 2014.