The First Weekend of the New Year

Here it is, the first Saturday of 2015. Are you doing anything different? Anything to reach those resolutions? Are you even the type who makes resolutions? I’m not, and haven’t been for some time, but that’s not to say that I don’t set short, mid, and long term goals, start making plans and implementing them. I learned early on that, for me, a resolution lacks resolve without the planning and implementing portions.

I’ve been wanting to become a better guitarist and vocalist for a while now. To some, that sounds silly, as I play fairly well within my genre already. To others, ‘it’s about time’ might cross their minds, as I’ve been coasting as a guitarist, placing more effort on writing better lyrics, performing more, becoming better at marketing, and showmanship. With so many hats to wear as a modern independent musician, mostly full time employee, and family man, the whole music industry becomes a juggling act, where priorities are constantly in flux.

My family band, Sentimental Value has been on a slow burn for a few years now, while the skill levels of the rest of my family improved. Now, my son is a pretty darn good bass player, and at 18, can get into bars to perform with less headache. My wife’s health is slowly improving, so she has returned to practicing singing, and guitar. As her guitar playing and confidence improves, that frees me up to challenge myself with lead riffs and additional parts that weren’t possible with just one guitar. This means that I have to improve now as well, and can no longer coast.

My daughter is still young, at 12, and is interested in returning to the drums, but the next few months of rehearsals will be telling. I’ll either have a drummer, or not, but I have options for percussive sounds while playing, so it’s not a deal breaker, and I’d rather have her truly wanting to practice and perform, rather than force the issue and have her hate music. Once summer hits, we’re usually playing out most weekends, and my goal is to wow people this time out.

I’ve set another musical goal. One that incorporates music into another past time, and is a very niche market. I’ve been writing geeky songs and arranging them, in the hopes that I can drag my son along, and start performing at conventions later this year. My interests are very sci-fi and fantasy oriented, through film, television, and books, with a background in games of the video, board, and role-playing varieties, and a broad Anime base. My son puts my interest in Anime to shame, with a huge viewing history and expansive knowledge base.

At first, I was worried, because I usually write from the heart about the lives around me, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to transition into lyrics about things I’m interested in that aren’t actually real. Turns out, I’ve been having a lot of fun, and the songs are flowing. My son’s dismayed response, these sound like your songs, dad. I suppose he was expecting my sound to change along with the subject matter. Time will tell, but I’m having fun trying something new, yet familiar. We still haven’t come up with a group name for that project, but ideas have been tossed around on Facebook.

We sent out a challenge, looking for names, with bonus points given to those that hinted at either Doctor Who, or Firefly, our personal favorite shows (damn you, FOX Network). A lot of suggestions came of it, including some very obscure options that most wouldn’t catch. For example, I had to look up a word, only do discover that it was the name of the initial mechanic, fired when Kaylee could fix the engine in moments. Yup, pretty obscure, being in less than five minutes of one episode, and a Firefly reference.

If you have any thoughts, by all means, toss them into the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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6 responses to “The First Weekend of the New Year

      • Sure. I haven’t scrounged up the scratch for an album, but I’ve got a couple of songs here:

        http://www.nimbitmusic.com/stuartbenbow

        I have a pile of acoustic one-take demos on my soundcloud page, if you’re interested. Warning, these are posted for songwriting challenges in February, and July-October, and recorded shortly after the songs were written.

        These will be taken down in another few weeks to make room for this year’s challenge material. Some are likely going to be recorded properly and end up on an album, then there’s the one’s I wouldn’t play in public if my life hung in the ballance. πŸ™‚ I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • Ok. The music sounds great, I feel like your lyrics are a touch scattered and unpolished. Understandable if we are talking about songs that were written and then recorded without a lot of preamble and practice, which is most likely the cause for the unpolished feel. Please understand that this is constructive criticism and not at all meant to be taken negatively. I feel like with certain songs your on the cusp of awesomeness. Smoke and Mirrors would be great with some additional work…as would I will stand beside you…basically I love the direction your going.

      • No worries on criticism, thanks for listening and providing your thoughts. With my social circle, I usually just get comments like “that’s nice”, or “I like that one”, but rarely a why or why not, or what still needs some work.

        Rushed is a fair description. In February, the goal is to write 14 songs in 28 days, a few one week to write and record challenges, and starting on July 4th, 50 songs in 90 days. I’ve never managed that one, but did get 35 new song drafts for it last year, despite a busy summer schedule.

        It’s rare that I have the time to sit back and edit, and rarer still that I have a quiet place to record, so songs often languish in a state of first pass acoustic demo for some time before they can be edited, polished, and eventually, hopefully recorded.

        Thanks again,

        Stuart

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