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