Category Archives: Misc

Still Here in Hero Falls, June 2022

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?

State of Hero Falls, March 2021

It’s been an interesting two years of working on this project. I’m not done but I am…shifting gears. The identity of Hero Falls is changing, and I think for the better. As a result, the first batch of songs has been bundled into an album called Hero Falls: Origins, and it’s still free, but it sort of represents the 1.0 milestone to me. The 2.0 idea is a little different but builds on the characters and places and ideas in my head — and it offers a better way to get those ideas out of my head and into the ears of other people.

I came to realize how vague I’d been about everything, and how the only people who even had a glimpse of the story I was trying to tell were the people who directly collaborated on it. The vocalists all got character dossiers with full histories and context for the story they’d be helping to tell, plus some insight into what happened next. I thought it would be fun to let everybody else guess. It was not fun for anybody else to guess. So when Kat came up with a really plausible idea about how to tell this story in a more compelling and interesting way, why wouldn’t I listen to her? I’m moving forward with her vision.

So, no releases for a while, probably. I’m in songwriting mode at the moment, which is a scattered process involving guitars in various tunings, a small digital recorder for capturing ideas that might be terrible, and a text file on Dropbox. I am currently bouncing between two songs as inspiration strikes, which is fun. It’s still moving by inches when I would love to be the kind of songwriter who sprints. But I’m learning — and if nothing else, Hero Falls has taught me that I’m always learning — that songwriting, for me, is more difficult than that. Maybe it’s this difficult for everybody. But for now, I am not giving myself a deadline — I’m just holding myself to continue thinking about it and work at a natural, slow pace. I have that luxury since I have no other constraints on this project, so I might as well enjoy it.

State of Hero Falls, October 2020

Last month I talked a little about my motivations around HF and how things felt a little off. Getting Blythe’s track done and starting on the next song is good for me, but I’ve also started to look at why I have not gotten the reception I had hoped for. I think Kat’s observation that “finding an audience for original music is hard” is true, but I also am starting to think I have not given my potential audience enough information to get emotionally invested. I know the relationships between the characters; I am making a certain amount up as I go, but I do have some connections that I take for granted that the audience has not made…because I have not given them enough information to make them.

Part of the fun of this for me was giving people a puzzle to solve — listen to the songs, seem if you can figure out what’s going on with just a few clues. Those clues are too vague; there’s not enough revealed to make anybody care about who these people are, who they love and hate, and what they have done or might do. The only thing I’ve said about the backstory is here and it’s admittedly super light on details.

So, that’s pretty easy to solve. I am going to start a section of the site where I offer character bios. I have these all written on my end as part of the development and songwriting process, so they are easy enough for me to share, in full or in part. Basically, I guess I need to start building a wiki for Hero Falls so there are points of reference for the characters, the history, the timeline of events, and the city itself. I know the names of businesses and which characters live in which neighborhoods and all kinds of fun stuff that might make the place more real for listeners, in the way that it’s becoming real to me. It would also give me more opportunities to post on social media, announcing there’s a new page of backstory posted.

Oh, yes — social media. I talk about HF on my own Twitter account, but I had the idea to talk about it in-universe from @hero_falls on both Twitter and Instagram. I had been writing as the city’s social media interns for a full year before releasing any music, thinking “wow, people will be so impressed!” They were not — nobody noticed! So I’m dropping that schtick and I’m going to use those channels as standard promotional avenues, announcing new songs and info and whatnot. Every YouTube video I’ve made points to them, so I think making them less creative and more informative is probably a good idea. I can always revisit it later if people get invested.

So. I have never set up a wiki before, but I guess learning how (or if it’s even the right way to go about this) is the first step. Then, cut and paste! 🙂

State of Hero Falls, September 2020

August came and went without a track being released, which broke my streak. It’s not the end of the world, but you know, it kind of feels like the world is ending, and that’s part of the reason I’ve slowed down considerably on Hero Falls output.

Actually, let me break this down.

1. As I’ve been working from home, I have seen a sharp decline in my creativity and interest; it’s been difficult to remain productive, even though I have ideas for more songs and more characters. As COVID-19 drags on and the world feels very different from just nine months ago when I started releasing tracks, I have not taken refuge in this project. I would rather just spend my time doing other stuff, like playing games. My daily commute was actually a great time to work on lyrics or listen to snippets of songs and refine ideas. As soon as I lost that compartmentalized space, I lost momentum

2. My collaborators are dealing with the same pandemic issues in their own lives, which affects their speed and interest as well. Things that I thought would be quick turnarounds have dragged on weeks and months instead. There’s been some hurry-up-and-wait to this, because I am relying on their kindness. This stuff takes time and energy; I’m not going to demand either from my friends.

3. I can’t lie that I had also hoped more people would be listening to and talking about the songs by now, so the soft reaction hasn’t helped my motivation either. Original music is always a tough sell, but I’m giving it away for free, you know? I really thought the comic-book hook would help it stand out, but when I post about it, those posts are rarely shared. I appreciate the few bucks here and there, but I actually want to be paid in exposure. (I am considering buying some Facebook ads — just as friends are leaving the platform in droves!)

So, it’s been easy to back-burner this. I was mixing the next track tonight, so something will appear before too long, and I have another song partially written that I would like to invite several friends to play on. After that, I’m thinking I might revisit some of the characters I’ve introduced and tell a standalone story with them. So far all the songs have been origin stories or moments in time; Kat suggested I try writing stories first, then translating them to songs, and I’m not sure if this is what she meant, but it makes sense to me to do, like, a three-song EP that works like a three-issue comic arc. Dunno. I’m kicking that around.

So I’m not done with Hero Falls, but it’s been hard to want to create more of it right now. I’m expecting this funk to pass, so stay tuned.

State of Hero Falls, July 2020

I record everything in Logic Pro X…and my Mac died this month. I have since had it repaired, but it did put me a bit behind schedule on the next song. I have the core instrumental track with vocal now, and I’m doing early mixes while I add a few solo instruments and embellishments here and there. I realized today that it’s a product of multiple influences — it’s sort of Barenaked Ladies by way of Tom Lehrer.

It’s coming, eventually.

The Release Plan for Hero Falls

So, I originally thought HF would be an EP because I only thought I was capable of writing four or five songs. Then I realized, hey, maybe I can stretch it to 8 or 9 and make it an album. Then my long-time friend and much more experienced musician friend Joe Iadanza said “Dude, albums don’t have impact anymore. You should release singles.”

But…that was my whole plan, for two years! I’ve got most of these songs close to done! I have go fever! I want to tell the world! But he’s right. Singles are how people discover music now, and having a constant stream of new content will help new people discover the thing — more opportunities to share socially and increase the chance that it appears in new people’s feeds. Plus, I’m doing a comic-book thing; what’s more on-brand than the idea of monthly issues?

So I’m planning to keep writing and recording steadily, with a release cadence of a new song every three or four weeks. I have various weird story and character ideas that span a bunch of different musical styles, different vignettes from different times in the history of Hero Falls, and relationships between songs and characters that may or may not be evident — but they’re in my story bible. Also, I’m thrilled that more and more of my vastly more talented friends are agreeing to contribute to tracks.

I am very excited about this year, and it’s hard for me to keep such a deliberate pace. But it’s for the best. Thanks, Joe.

Greetings from Hero Falls

Hey there. Welcome to a project I’ve been working on for the better part of two years.

Hero Falls is my first venture into original songwriting. I grew up loving “story songs” — songs that were more about characters and situations than mere professions of love or longing — so I wanted to write something in that tradition. These songs represent moments in time for different characters who have inhabited the town over several decades.

It’s not a musical, but there is a non-linear narrative at work thanks to Katrin Auch‘s skill at worldbuilding. Some of that backstory will come out as listeners connect the dots. That’s part of the fun for both of us.

This is the start of Hero Falls and I hope you like it.