There's something weird, and cool, and incredible about music. I've been a musician for a long time. I took jazz and classical piano as a kid, never realizing it would pave the way for me to create in the future. In middle school, around the time I got an iTunes account for a first time, I started to discover the vast world of music that existed. Everything from alternative rock to hip hop found its way onto my iPod, and I started to really form my tastes in music.
Those tastes have changed over time, but fundamentally consistent is my love for creative expression through music. The analytical side of me began to wonder how sometimes the same few people could create so many "hit songs." Was there a science to it? Were people being given something they had no idea they wanted? I believed so. Fast forward to a research project I did on the psychology of music; it was a fairly inconclusive project, because there is so little still truly known about how music effects us scientifically speaking. We all know it does, but there aren't many ways to show just how it does.
For a lot of musicians, it doesn't matter. Their music and expression of music is a way to tell stories, it's a way to deal with problems; sometimes it's a way to teach, and it can just be a way to have fun. In all of these situations, the creators don't necessarily think how a certain sound is going to hit a certain part of your ear drum; they don't necessarily think about what frequencies are going to sound better in one audio system vs. another. But I do.
I believe as a person I tend to operate in a fairly weird balance of both creativity and logic. I write for all of the reasons anyone writes, but I balance that with an analytical approach to the way it will be perceived. Perception isn't always subjective, however. There are ways to create something beyond a level of recognition that makes people feel something, something they have no true awareness of, and that's always fascinated me.
Maybe that makes sense; maybe it doesn't, but that's a short version of why I started creating music. I created music for the reasons anyone creates music, but I wanted to see if I could capture something that I felt with other music. Sometimes that means trying to emulate a kind of sound, but sometimes is just means creating a "feel." I would write songs and melodies; some good, but most pretty average. I kept on going.
In early 2014, I was a part of a committee that was in charge of selecting original artists to perform in a showcase. We could usually predict the kind of submissions we were going to receive. Let's just say it consisted of a lot of John-Mayer soundalikes, and singer/songwriter coffee-shop vibe kind of music. None of this was a particularly bad thing, by the way, but when you're in charge of co-producing a showcase, ideally you want to, well, showcase, a variety of acts, not 2 1/2 hours of the same thing.
I went to put in the next CD, a submission from a girl named Jojo (aka JONAVI). I had met Jojo not long before this, but I had never heard her music. iTunes loaded the song, and then, it started. I heard the beginning of "If I Were"... then her vocal... then the kick drum... Anna (one of the other people in charge of this selection process at the time) and I looked at each other in a state of surprise/shock. "It's good!" Anna said. I said nothing. I was impressed, to say the least. The vocals continued to shine as the track progressed, showing a sign a true artistry and composition. Was it a demo? Yes. But it was a demo of a very well-written song, it had all of the elements you look for in a good pop song. It was familiar, yet clever; it was catchy, yet progressive.
The showcase came and went, and Jojo gave a stellar performance. I knew we had to try collaborating. Now, collaboration is tricky. Some people hate it, some people love it, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Fast forward to that summer, and we met in the studio to try to co-write something. I had been working on several demo tracks of ideas I'd had here and there, and when Jojo came in the studio, I had just finished working on something that I thought could potentially be a really cool song. I had scribbled down some nonsense, scratch-lyrics, so that I could remember the melody I had come up with, and I showed her the track. We started to brainstorm ideas, and after weeks of tweaking, we had the framework for "Not for Me."
I won't go into all of the details of the process, but working with Jojo was and still is incredible. It's not everyday that you meet an incredibly talented musician who's also a good songwriter, who's also humble, who's also a nice person, etc... I started to talk to her about doing a more complete project, about assembling an album. It was a daunting idea, but we began to sift through her numerous compositions and choose what we both thought were the best. The refining continued, and we even wrote a few new tracks that complimented her style and personality.
Through this entire time and to this day, I haven't asked to be paid, because I really see this as a collaboration. We both have invested time and money into this project, and it's been a great investment. I really believe we're on the verge of something great. We decided to move forward with the album, and to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money necessary.
Now, depending on your background, you may not know how much an album costs to make. Many artists spend around $40,000 - $60,000 to make your typical album these days, with some spending much more than that. Given the resources we did have, we realized that we could make a top quality album for about $10,000. That's already a lot less than the numbers you see above, but it's still a number we don't have. We turned to Kickstarter to ask for $7,500, as we've already covered some of the costs ourselves and will continue to do so as much as possible. The $7,500 is purely for the costs of high quality mastering, CD duplication, instrumentalists, photography, graphic design, copyright and other fees, website costs, and marketing costs. When we first drew up the budget for the album, we ended up with a number close to $16,000. I knew it wouldn't be doable. So we started to trim the fat, but without sacrificing quality. I want everyone to know that neither myself, nor Jojo will be keeping any of the money raised from this campaign. It will all be wisely spent on creating something that will be a landmark in both of our careers for a long time to come.