Songwriting, Songstuff and Polar Bears

I only really got back into playing guitar about three and a half years ago, after a break that lasted about 13 years. The timing coincided with two major life events; becoming unemployed and becoming a father for the first time, both of which happened in the same week in February 2009.

I suddenly found myself in the situation of transitioning from a high-pressure consulting gig, to being a full-time father of a newborn baby girl. I’d done a part-time MBA before going into consulting, so I had placed my career at the center of my life from the beginning of 2004 until then. Five years of 60-70 hours a week grind. Well, probably more. Before the MBA I was a chip designer at that Big Phone Company that Finland is so famous for. That could be quite an intense job at times too.

Of course in February 2009, I was looking for a new job, but financially-speaking we had a lot of runway. So I wasn’t particularly anxious. Thanks to my unemployment insurance and Finland’s excellent welfare state safety net, we knew we wouldn’t have to sell the car until after the summer and we could afford the mortgage probably for the rest of the year.

This is a time of life I actually remember as being very happy. Although there was a lot of uncertainty, I’d got out of an unhealthy job situation and I could feel the stress leave my body.  I also had this incredible gift of a child and family to care for. Newborns of course sleep a lot, as do mothers of newborns. I was left with a fair amount of time on my hands in those early weeks.

It’s at this point that I dusted off the case with ‘Fender’ on the cover and reacquainted myself with my Stratocaster.

I bought this guitar, a Made In Japan sunburst model with a rosewood fretboard, as soon as I got out my first post-university pay cheque in 1994. On the same day I also got a Trace Elliot Supertramp combo (in British racing green) and a Tascam 4-Track Portastudio. My paycheque wasn’t big enough to pay for them all outright you understand, but I put down a deposit and paid for them in installments over the next 18 months.

Although I love guitars with a passion, my aim has never been to be a virtuoso, but really to write songs. I am fascinated by the creative process. Inspiration and craft. I get a rush creating original material. This is what motivates me to pick up the guitar.

I’d dreamed of owning a 4-track since I was a teenager, so getting that Tascam was incredibly exciting. After buying it, I had a brief burst of creativity, writing very few complete songs, but filling tape after tape with riffs and ideas. Then life intervened, and around the end of 1996 I put the guitar down, boxed up the 4 track and other things preoccupied me. I left the UK in 1998, without my musical gear and other things took center stage for over a decade.

By 2009 of course, Tascam four tracks were obsolete. But we had a Macbook and on every Macintosh computer there is a software package called iLife, which includes an application called Garageband. A feature rich, yet user friendly ‘DAW’ (digital audio workstation). A software recording studio. A Tascam on steroids.

Since then, I’ve continued to mess around with Garageband whenever I get the opportunity. Initially the same pattern of lots of ideas as in the 1990s, no finished product. But earlier this year I set myself the goal of completing one song a month and uploading a finished’ MP3 to a blog. I started in March and by the beginning of this month I actually had six tunes up there, so I was a little ahead. It helped that a friend of mine did a kick ass remix of the first track I uploaded to the blog, that really got me moving.

Then about ten days ago I started contributing to a forum called Songstuff. This is a place on the web where amateur, semi pro and pro songwriters come to share their tunes (often via Soundcloud). I signed up for this forum with the aim of getting feedback and advice from others on my material, but I find it equally interesting to critique and give feedback to others. It’s also just a great place to discover new music. The level of talent and standard of material you find there is staggering.

I’ve removed three tracks from the blog, because after joining Songstuff, I know I can make them better. I’ve become more aware of what is possible with home recording and now also I have something of an audience that I want to like my music. I want to raise my game.

If you are interested in hearing my music you can go to my Soundcloud page to steam the tunes

or the blog to download MP3s

http://polarbearsofarizona.wordpress.com/

I apologize in advance for the singing…

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