So 15 months later, where are we? Only slightly further forward, but forward nonetheless.
Kat’s big idea for Hero Falls was one that she had suggested to me at the start — as did Brian McCune, for that matter: Why isn’t this a stage musical? I had a linear narrative in my head, or at least most of it. I had distinct characters, many of them female, and I’d written full character backstories on them. I had comedy, I had pathos, I had heroes and villains and some characters who were both, so plenty of conflict. I had flashbacks, secret histories, crowd scenes…everything but a clear structure.
I had always intended that Hero Falls be a puzzle that the listener would put together, piece by piece. There were links between characters and songs that I’d hoped curious listeners would connect, or at least ask me about. I wrote cryptic taglines for each song, and while I was pretty overt in telling the story of the moment in each song’s lyrics, I didn’t divulge the backstory or even a lot of character details.
All of that was a mistake.
I didn’t give people enough bread crumbs to even consider there might be a trail. Nobody was given the chance to get invested in this world that I’d built because I simply didn’t explain anything.
So a musical makes a lot more sense. Kat, herself an excellent storyteller, knew all the backstories and said, “Oh, well, start with this, set this up, do all this in Act I, then resolve these subplots after intermission, and oh yeah, you need to write five or six more songs, so start doing that.”
As usual, she’s right.
I have dragged my feet because I just haven’t been motivated. I had intended to release one song a month and I did…except the year of those months was 2020, when everybody was scared literally to death of COVID-19 and the escapism they were seeking was apparently not my music. As the lockdown ground us all down, I found myself less and less interested, and I was getting very little feedback or any sort of reaction to my Big Idea. So I came to resent the project rather than refine it.
I’ve also been busy — new job, new house, that all takes time and attention — but we’re settled now. All I have left now are good intentions, half-baked ideas that need to be cooked up, a slightly bruised ego, and a collection of serviceable demos that I can use as story beats. And they really are demo quality; I listen to them and then I listen to professional tracks, and I’m embarrassed. But hey, that’s why they’re free to download, right?
But the songs themselves — I still like them. It’s been so long since they were recorded that I am now listening to them with some distance and, harsh as I may be on myself, I still like the turns of phrase (I have found exactly one lyric I’d like to change) and the moods I was trying to create. I got to work with some really talented and professional friends. I just hear these tracks now and go “wow, if I worked with professional producers, this could be something.”
I am now conflicted about how to move forward. I am using my train commute to reassess the material as well as write new stuff — not just songs that serve the now-clear narrative, but also a first draft of the libretto, based on Kat’s outline. It will no doubt change a lot later, but it has to exist in some form to start that process. But it has occurred to me that I might get a little of that attention I’m craving if I try to create some of this on a livestream. If I finally invite others into this world and tell people this story, maybe they will buy in on how I’m now trying to tell it.
I know these characters and I believe in these songs, scrappy and crappy as they may respecfully be. I want to keep pushing forward. It’s just easier to play World of Warcraft right now, and since my job is creatively fulfilling again, leisure activities are a siren’s call. Writing songs is hard work. Who knows how hard writing a musical will be?