So I have officially signed up for the 2015 RPM Challenge, which is something I’ve signed up for several times in the past, and which I’ve never actually finished. (For those not in the know, the RPM Challenge is the musician’s equivalent of NaNoWriMo – you have the month of February to write 10 songs or 35 minutes of music.) I’ve gotten quite a few demos and sketches and interesting things out of my previous attempts, but I’ve never actually finished anything.
This is partly because I inevitably run into technical problems that derail the whole thing, but mostly because I tend to pat myself on the back after coming up with something cool-ish, and then I slack off and fail to stay motivated. (See, for example, the fact that I haven’t done any recording since coming up with that loop from last week.)
What’s different about this year? A few things come to mind:
1. First and foremost, I’d already decided to make a new album well before I remembered that the RPM Challenge is a thing, so I’m already raring to go.
2. I’m going to do my best to limit my technological problems before they get started. To wit: in years past, I’d sign up for this thing and then decide to buy a new bit of software, and then I’d spend most of the month learning how to use it instead of actually using it. (In this particular case, there’s a part of me that really wants to buy the latest editions of both Reason and Logic, but that’d be setting me back almost $500 before I even record a single note.) I do need to buy a new external hard drive, but that’s it as far as purchases are concerned; the hard drive is (a) necessary and (b) does not require me to learn anything.
3. The last time I tried to do this in any serious capacity was in 2011. I don’t know what happened in 2012, and in Feb 2013 we were getting kicked out of our apartment while my wife was 7 months pregnant – saying that “the timing was bad” is putting it very, very mildly. Ironically enough, I did end up putting out Untrue Songs in May of 2013, which I did mostly because at that point my son was already born, and I’d started getting some sleep on a quasi-regular basis, and I felt like I needed to give him some sort of document of who I was, and what I’d done. None of the stuff on that album was technically “new”, even if nobody besides me had ever heard it; it was basically just the best stuff I’d recorded over the last 6-8 years. (Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that at least 2 or 3 of the songs on Untrue were originally intended for my previous attempts at RPM Challenges.)
4. I’m not sure if I’m going to be writing any lyrics for this thing (especially since recording vocals in my apartment is a very difficult thing to do with a toddler), but I do very much have some things I want to say, or convey, and that sort of thing carries a lot of weight. When I’d signed up for NaNo last year, I did it because I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it. For this year’s challenge, it’s not only about me finally having creative momentum; it’s about having creative intention and direction, which are things I’ve not had in quite some time. It would seem that I need to get some things off my chest, and this might be the best way to go it.
5. It’s too early to talk about this yet, but when this thing gets finished (not if, but when), something interesting might be happening with it. I’ll keep that cryptic for the time being.
Every time I’ve done this in the past, I hem and haw about documenting it; the RPM site has a blog function, and of course I have this blog and my Soundcloud page, and it’s always tempting to document the process (even if I know that nobody cares except me); but inevitably, once I post a demo or two, those demos become “finished products” and then I stop working on them. So maybe I’ll post some vague progress reports here or on Twitter, but it’s probably just for the best if I keep my head down and stay focused and not get sidetracked by feedback (or the lack thereof).