Challenges, Rules, and Elephants

During the wrap-up gathering for 2017, I was challenged by Derek Greenberg to try writing music in 2018 that I wasn’t comfortable doing or had never tried. Rap. Country. Whatever. I took up this challenge and added a few additional rules and guidelines for myself:

  • Never write the same style two days in a row.
  • Use every piece of gear in the studio over the course of the month.
  • Focus on songs. Instrumentals only if inspired or absolutely necessary.
  • Play more guitar.

I feel like I was largely successful with this. The variety is definitely there. In 2016, I had several ideas floating in my head and didn’t start grasping until about the third week. In 2017, it was roughly the same; I didn’t have specific song ideas, but I had general styles I wanted to explore. In 2018, I ran out of ideas and hit “weird” on the third day.

There are a few complete embarrassments, but I’m putting them here because that’s the spirit of the challenge, and the spirit of Song-A-Day in general. There was an elephant in the studio, however.

The death of my grandmother was a somber ending to the previous Song-A-Day. That wouldn’t come close to the devastation I experienced with the loss of my youngest brother to cancer in December of 2017. I had only been back home about two weeks when Song-A-Day 2018 started. I both looked forward to, and feared, the songwriting process. I needed to process, but didn’t want to think about it. Everything was raw and nothing made sense.

As it turned out, there was less music about him than I thought there would be, and the things that are about him aren’t the things I expected. I now think it was because I needed some processing time. (The challenge and self-imposed rule also helped.) I wrote more about him in 2019, albeit sometimes obliquely.

This was the first year I succeeded in writing all 28 tracks for the month, and resulted in some new favorites and interesting experiments, including the first improvisational live performance that I would let anyone hear, a rare love song (sort of), a song my dog hates, and my first ever (gulp) country song.


  1. I Wanted More Ray Toler 2:38
  2. I Like to Go Fast Ray Toler 3:32
  3. Something to Do with You Ray Toler 4:27
  4. Waiting Patiently Ray Toler 3:02
  5. POKE 53280,1 Ray Toler 3:02
  6. The Orrery Ray Toler 3:23
  7. Sidie Ray Toler 11:00
  8. In My Dream Ray Toler 6:19
  9. I Know It's Five O'Clock Somewhere Ray Toler 3:16
  10. Canardic Cacotopia Ray Toler 3:47
  11. I've Never Written Her a Love Song Ray Toler 1:50
  12. I've Got a Tub in the Basement Ray Toler 2:05
  13. Lacuna Ray Toler 5:42
  14. Churika Cherry Bomb (Excerpt) Ray Toler 1:03
  15. I Tried to Feed Her Kale Ray Toler 3:48
  16. Gammognostic Ray Toler 4:01
  17. Into the Black Ray Toler 3:38
  18. Ode to the Car Alarm Outside My Window Ray Toler 2:38
  19. Doesn't Matter Ray Toler 4:12
  20. Cascade Ray Toler 3:13
  21. Radionic Ragdoll Ray Toler 3:15
  22. Splat Rat (Duane Gayle Cover) Ray Toler 2:35
  23. Proton Donor Ray Toler 5:35
  24. Diaphanous Dervish Ray Toler 4:25
  25. Corona Ray Toler 8:58
  26. Battus Ray Toler 1:48
  27. You Can't Make Me Love You Ray Toler 3:21
  28. Crazy and Holy Ray Toler 1:58

Production Notes, Lyrics, and More

Coming soon…ish.