Here we are at the end of February and the RPM Challenge album is complete. I'm very happy to introduce Ursa Verde.
I had very mixed feelings about this project until the last day or two, when things really started to click. I've posted all tracks to the RPM jukebox, but I am planning to polish them up a little more before an official release. I really expected this to be a "practice album" that I wouldn't release, but I'm feeling proud of it and shooting to put it out this Spring.
I am so grateful to the insanely talented Christine Mitchell for the cover art (ewww dude!). Thank you to my amazing wife Sarah for the steady, loving support and for putting up with me being holed up in the basement every evening for a month.
Here are some quick notes on each track:
Aditi - this song grew out of a conversation I had with our 2 year old son. He likes to pretend we're in a boat a lot. I'll sometimes ask where we're going, and he usually tells me "Nana's House" or the "Chicken House" (which is a house we stayed in on Block Island). One time he told me we were going to "Aditi" which, as far as I can tell, is somewhere he invented. We had a pretty detailed conversation about it, and it planted the seed of this song in my head. In filling it out, I was thinking a lot about what it means to be a father, and whether I actually know enough to give any kind of useful guidance to this tiny human.
The Standing Song - I have a lot of songs based in dream-like escapes from everyday life (Go North is about choosing to just keep walking North, for example). The Standing Song is one of these. I started to think about what it would mean to just kind of "check out" and find true stillness and just kind of be reabsorbed into the earth and the natural system.
11 at 11 - This one is for the NPT crew, circa 2003-2004 😉
Crescent City Limit - the chorus to this one came to me right after our first trip to New Orleans in 2014. The city is just intoxicating. In our time there I started to trace these threads of all of these inspiring cultural pieces of my life (jazz music, spicy foods, parades, laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez) and they all traced back to New Orleans. I started to feel like the city was the source, the original point, of something essential (and wonderful) in modern American life. This song is kind of about that.
Holler - the first two lines of this song have been floating in my head for years. I finally filled it out with a few verses. The names in the first verse are all pets that we’ve had over the past few years. I recorded it in about five minutes using layered claps, my wedding ring against a coffee cup, and one of my son's toy drums.
Mossy Faces - I've had the chorus to this one for a while. Originally I had written more of a rock song about creatures that lived in an old stone tower, but it morphed into being a little quieter, creepier, and swampier (this could be some of the Louisiana influence). The song is literally about swamp monsters, but the chorus (to me) is also about resisting all of the frightening, horrible, awful things that can take up residence in the back of your mind if you're not vigilant.
Tell Me - I had the chorus to this song a while ago, and I wrote the rest of the lyrics on a plane ride last year. This song is really about trying to break free of a monotonous existence however we can, and finding the courage to express yourself (no matter how scary it is).
Matter - This song came out really quickly. The first verse came to me in the shower last week (I'm learning to always keep my phone close by so I can jot down ideas) and I wrote the rest of it later that day. I'm still figuring out what this one means to me, but I think for now I'll say that it's about finding a way to resolve the tension of finding meaning in an often incoherent and overwhelming world.
Quinn - These instrumental songs just kind of happen (Braggadoccio, Islands II, etc.). Quinn is the newest in that line, and the sections emerged from noodling around a few months ago. The noodling grows into sections, and these songs tend to evolve a lot over time (Quinn likely has a long way to go). This song is name for Matt Quinn, my first jazz piano teacher (he passed away a few years ago). Jazz lessons changed my life, I wouldn't have kept going without them. Thank you Matt.