What’s Next?

There’s a classic series of commercials that features, for example, winning Super Bowl athletes. A narrator asks these athletes, after their big game wins, “what are you going to do next?” The athlete then answers that he’ll be going to a certain theme park where it is not unusual to see people wearing rodent ears. Since finishing my pop album just over a month ago, I’ve been considering that same question.

In my case, the question isn’t one of celebrating a milestone. That’s not to say that completing the album doesn’t feel like a milestone or something worth celebrating. I actually did go out to hear some friends’ band the night of the release, and I had an opportunity to hang out with a close friend at the show, so that felt a bit like a celebration. But it was back to work with a bunch of follow-up administrative work that holiday weekend, and I’ve been at more of the same quite a bit of the time since that point, though that activity is finally winding down now.

I’ve also had multiple opportunities to listen to the album in its entirety since the release date. I’ve had some of my musician friends tell me they’re so sick of their albums by the time the release date rolls around, that they really don’t want to hear it again anytime soon.  I haven’t gotten to that point, though, even a month after the release date. I’m still quite happy with the album in its mix of songs, performances, and production. To put it simply, I enjoy listening to the album. In fact, in some senses, I made the album because I wanted to be able to listen to it. Listening feels like its own form of celebration.

Rather, my question about what is next is looking to a next project, or series of projects. At some points, while still working on the album, I was pretty sure I knew what would be next. In particular, I was thinking about starting another album project, this time going in a more rock-oriented direction.  There were a number of songs I’d considered for this project that didn’t quite fit the musical style and/or the lyrical theme, and some portion of those songs were harder-edged than this batch of songs. In fact, I’d started making a list of album candidates, and the starting list had well over an album’s worth of songs. Perhaps I could use the same sort of model I used on this album, where I announced the project a month shy of a year in advance, then doubled down working toward completing an album?

The more I thought about it, though, and about the level of discipline that went into this project, and a level of sacrifice, in the sense of saying no to activities and opportunities that would be likely to risk my schedule, the more I felt I was not ready to take on a similar project just yet. It’s also worth mentioning that, though the rock project was my top candidate of that sort, it wasn’t the only possibility. I’d also been thinking about a country project, a project leaning more in a Christian music direction, an instrumental project, and a few other possibilities.

The other thing was that there are a number of “one-off” songs that don’t necessarily fit any of my project ideas all that well, or where they might fit some project idea but I don’t have enough material at this point for an entire album, and I’m not likely to write enough additional material along such lines, either. Of course, there is the possibility of EPs or singles, but, if I were to start an album, especially with a deadline a year or less out, the likelihood of fitting any “one-offs” in would be extremely low.

Then there is the notion of other types of efforts, perhaps even non-musical efforts. For example, I took a Central California coastal road trip back in June, and I still haven’t had much time to sort through the thousands of photos I took during that trip. I don’t even know what specifically I’d like to do with those photos, beyond, for example, sharing some of them on Facebook, but I’d like to at least take some time to go through them and do something. And the road trip photos are only one example.

Of course, there is nothing saying I have to decide right now what will be next on the musical front. However, I feel some compulsion to put some stake in the ground, if for no other reason than to avoid letting it slide too long, thus risking getting “lazy”. Having publicly (at least to the degree anyone reads my blogs) stated my intentions on the pop album project around this time last year, I felt a strong sense of direction and commitment, and I like the results that emerged from that.

Perhaps a compromise is in order? My thinking at the moment is that I am not ready to commit to another album project at this time, nor do I want to pigeonhole myself into a year’s worth of producing recordings in a specific style. At the same time, I don’t want to spend a lot of time deciding what is next or waiting for some lightbulb to go off. I’d like to at least put some stake in the ground.

So, what’s next? I do want to take some time to consider things outside the realm of recording projects, but, in parallel, I will also commit to one thing on the recordings front. Next up on that front will be to put out some smaller projects, probably at least some singles, but perhaps even some EPs at some point. My thinking is to disregard musical style and lyrical themes for now, just putting out some songs I really like, where one song may not easily fit alongside another.

At least for the moment, I’m not going to make any commitments with respect to quantity or frequency, other than to say I expect to release a minimum of two additional tracks between now and the end of the year. I’m also not going to impose any stylistic constraints. Rather, I will pick each song in turn according to whatever I may be motivated to tackle at the moment. I think I do know what my next mini project will be, but I’m not going to let on at this point (and I reserve the right to change my mind).

This brings me to one final point. When I started my album project last year at this time, in addition to announcing my intentions on the album, I also indicated I’d provide periodic updates on the status of the album, some of which I did in blog form and some of which I did on Facebook. This time, I will explicitly plan not to do that.  That is, I will only announce a project once the results are available. (“Surprise!!!”) I’m thinking this may help motivate me to get recordings out more frequently, but we’ll see…