Brother Jack’s Soapbox

I have been wanting to start a podcast for a long time. I always seem to get stuck on a project before I get it off the ground. The details seem to overwhelm me before I can get started. I don’t know why, I am by no means a perfectionist. I am totally great with mediocre, good enough, and satisfactory.

I get stuck wanting to have my ducks in a row. I like to know the overarching concepts. I need to understand all of the in’s and out’s before I undertake something. These are the lies I tell myself. The truth is that I am afraid to start. What if it sucks? What if nobody listens? What if I build it and they don’t come?

I will never have a podcast if I don’t get started. Sometimes the best way to get started is to just start. So, I am releasing my first official podcast. It is recorded straight into my phone, no edits or effects. It isn’t earth shaking or ground breaking but it is a start. Now I have to keep going and continue improving. I want the next one to be better than this one. I know I am not changing the world, yet. But hopefully, if I get incrementally better, it will be good enough to make a difference.

You can listen to Brother Jack’s Soapbox right here. For the first couple episodes, we will focus on getting started.

life Process

Something Old Again

All of the details pertaining to the reissue of our old album, Princess and the Hero, were just finalized. If everything goes right with the distributor, it should be available for streaming on May 24, 2019. We are nailing down the details to rerelease a CD version as well. To correspond with the reissue, it felt appropriate to use this old post as this week’s update. This was originally posted on February 8, 2017

I used to be romantic.  We were young, in love, and full of unrealistic expectations.  My muse didn’t require grandiose gestures, but she deserved them.  I headed to the laboratory where I concocted an 18 song album detailing in fictional format my imagined notion of our very real relationship.  It was a manipulative, she will love me or else, fairytale version of the story of us.  There would be a corresponding live performance that would culminate with a public declaration of love.  I bought a ring and planned every detail of this epic proposal.  She didn’t have much of a choice which improved my odds. By the way, she said yes.

Our most recent date night included Grandma watching the kids so we could get our taxes done. Originally 2017, not much has changed since then.

Originally released in 2003, Princess and the Hero, has become a definitive part of our story.  Our favorite song is “Old Vinyl,” it’s about dancing in the living room. 

I recorded an updated version with a new verse that fits our current life situation. This was released as part of the weekly Sound Cloud project from 2017 and can be found on Stomp Your Feet.

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Big Projects

The Grand Canyon was carved by a relatively average river over the course of millions of years. Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve. The United States spent 10 years to complete the Panama Canal. France had started the project 19 years prior to the U.S getting involved. The King of Spain had started discussing the potential project 347 years prior to France beginning the operation. Massive and world changing projects get done a little bit at a time.

If you want to get in shape, start by doing one pushup everyday. Consistent, daily practice is the best way to see improvements. Massive projects get done a little bit at a time.

I have tried to implement daily and weekly disciplines to my art. It works to an extent. I try to write everyday, at least a couple words. It’s a grocery list, or a blog post, or the verse of a song, or a short story, or a script, or novel, or another long to-do list of things that I want to write. I also try to read everyday because that is the best way to become better at writing,

I have tried this approach with my musical productions. It doesn’t really work. I tried a project that involved a new recording every week and pumped out somewhere around 16 new recordings. You can read about it here and here. It wasn’t sustainable. The time requirements for this approach don’t allow for anything else, including sleep or food. I spend small, daily chunks of time in the studio. As soon as the microphones are set and everything is ready to go, I am out of time. I have enough time to get ready. Before I get started, I jump straight to the try again tomorrow phase. Small nibbles can be great for cookies and specific aspects of the Artist’s Life but you can’t actually finish a project with nibbles.

There is nothing more satisfying than achieving the magical flow state and running with a project for hours. It can seem like minutes. That is what I miss most about my current time requirements. I need to carve out more time for larger chunks so that flow state can happen.

I have a lot of big projects that I want to do. They aren’t massive undertakings but they are projects that can’t be done in small daily chunks. I have recently realized that I am going to have to choose what to do first. I can’t do them all right now. I have to use my best judgment and pick something to do next. Then I must trust myself and finish.

You can stop reading, the good stuff is over. The following is a list of projects, purely for my satisfaction, to help me define my options. If you choose to read my self indulgent list, don’t judge me. I have no idea what will be next.

Rerelease all my old albums: I guess this isn’t a new project but I have been obsessed with getting the old stuff out of the way, to make room for the new stuff.

Make a record with the Lost Cause: I think I have been working on this project for three years. When I say, “working on this project,” I mean that I have not started yet.

Start a new video series: Video is the new audio. I have two ideas that I am working on. 1) I want to start with a five episode series showcasing storytelling and songs. It is similar to Breakfast with Brother Jack but a different character. 2) A cover song series would be a popular, crowd pleasing choice. I could incorporate all the amazing musicians that I know. This is more about community building than anything. Both of these projects require me to learn a lot about video and probably invest in gear.

I have always wanted to write a novel. I started a couple times but never got very far.

Write a musical: I am currently reissuing my Princess and the Hero album. When I initially wrote it, I intended it to be a visual, physical production. I have always wanted to turn it into an actual musical. I don’t know the first baby step to take on this project.

Play more live shows: This might not sound like a new project but I don’t get out much. Honestly, this is not an easy endeavor for me. It is really important and I am working on it. If you want me to play in your living room, let me know.

Start a new podcast series on songwriting: Podcasts are still popular, right? There is very little overhead and it would be easy to get off the ground. It would be cathartic to discuss the evolution of specific songs and how the soup gets made. If I include the other songwriters that I know, this could be another great community building project.

Start a jam: This would be a self-satisfying weekly hangout with the local scene.

Make records for/with other people:

I am pretty sure I am forgetting something. I will check my other lists and get back to you.

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Let’s Talk About Me

If I were being honest, I would have to admit that I am superficial, vain, and completely self absorbed. I am an artist and performer, it comes with the territory. Surprisingly, the necessary part of being an artist that is hardest for me is writing a decent biography. It has always been tough. I have experienced a range of pain during my life and nothing compares to the excruciating extraction of a one paragraph summary of me.

There are a lot of instances that require a couple of sentences about current projects or influences or guitar style. This should be easy. Nobody knows me better than me.

Maybe, the issue is that I feel artistically claustrophobic when I try to define my sound. By writing a paragraph about myself, I am metaphorically painting my work into a corner.

I wrote a new biographical blurb last week. I was in serious need of an update. It is good enough for now. At some point, I need to write a longer version. Perhaps, I should pay someone to write beautiful gushing prose about my genius. I will never be able to write it. Anyone, up for the task? Just make sure you mention that my guitar playing is incendiary.


Hope for Humanity

I recently posted on Facebook regarding an event we are planning. I post a lot of stuff on Facebook. This specific post focused on a real life event with actual face-to-face interactions. It got far more “engagement” than any other recent post. This data says a lot but I am not sure what to do about it.

Despite being constantly plugged-in, we are still interested in and searching for opportunities to interact in real life. Maybe, in order to find ways to unplug, we have to be completely plugged-in. I have some rather pessimistic views regarding the deterioration of our communities. Maybe, healthy communities still exist and are as vibrant as they ever were. They are just different than they used to be. Social media is the newspaper, radio and the television all rolled into one. This monopoly of information allows abuses but it still facilitates connection. We can easily find out when things are happening in our local areas and we still desire to show up.

Social media is a great tool for delivering information. Maybe, social media is simply a new iteration of old fashioned marketing. Maybe, the whole thing is a scam to bleed dry every musician and artist that is stupid enough to try and promote their art on the platform. There are a lot of predators and bad guys lurking in the shadows but we have always had bad guys in the world. Maybe, it can be an efficient vehicle for talking about all the stuff on which I am working. I think social media is essentially a curated collection of all the things that are important to us as a global culture.

As an introverted hermit, I don’t get out much. This is far from the best approach to being a performer. I deliver most of my work to the virtual world. I have justified my methods with the notion that because people are so plugged-in, the virtual approach is the best way to reach the most ears. This might not be a valid argument. I am the one that needs to unplug. I need to show up, in the real world, more often. Look out sunshine, here we come.


Beard Pigtails

Not too many dudes are man enough to wear the beard pigtails. It’s a bold statement. It happens when you have daughters.

I love making lists. Below is a list of the projects I am currently working on.

  • I am a stay at home dad. It gets easier every day but everyday I have to work harder to be a better husband and father. The most time consuming aspect of this project is food preparation and laundry.
  • In an attempt to strengthen my written language abilities, I am blogging once a week.
  • Breakfast with Brother Jack is a Saturday morning, live streaming show. Video is the future of audio.
  • My studio to-do list is loaded with tracks that need to be recorded. We have been slowed down by minor health concerns in the Lost Cause. Don’t worry, it’s all good. We are chipping away at the sounds that can be achieved without the full band.
  • I am playing a lot with Ride the Song and we are also working on a demo project.
  • In my ongoing and obsessive pursuit of web design, the website has been completely overhauled, again. We realized a need to sell stuff and we are trying to figure out how to implement a store.
  • Coinciding with selling stuff, Mrs. Brother Jack got a new vinyl cutter and is making all sorts of great merchandise prototypes. I am sure you will see some of them soon.
  • We are also delving into teaching through the development of beginning songwriting workshops. This is completely out of my comfort zone but it has been an amazing experience putting it all together.
  • I am trying to learn more about Instagram. Also, I am trying to learn how to do more with Facebook, while constantly questioning if we should be using it at all. It’s a constant debate for me. Is Facebook a great tool or the sole reason why society is deteriorating?
  • We are trying to migrate the breakfast show over to YouTube. I think it makes sense to be in both places. We are spending some time developing several other show concepts that might eventually be popping up on YouTube as well. Stay tuned.

This is a “now, now, now” page.


Why Am I Blogging?

I have decided that I need to hold myself accountable to weekly blogging. For what purpose am I writing this weekly blurb? I do not have a dedicated audience. There aren’t a lot of readers clamoring for more of my ramblings. I am not writing researched essays about specific topics to help educate or inform. It is not philosophical. My writing is all stuff about me and what I am doing. It’s completely self indulgent. Who cares?

I guess it doesn’t matter if anybody reads my posts. No offense. If you are reading this, you are very special to me and I am glad you are taking the time to read my work. However, I didn’t write it for you. I wrote this for the purpose of improving my writing. Writing a good sentence is an important skill that impacts everything else I do.

The best way to practice writing is to write more. I know that I could practice writing without blogging at all. I do a lot of writing that never gets posted. But, I need to post at a regular frequency in order to gauge if I am getting better.

If I decided to do pushups everyday, I would have to write down and keep track of my daily progress. Without writing it down, I would come to the end of the day and not remember if I had done my pushups. A better man than myself, in this situation, would simply do the pushups again. I can’t be trusted. If I didn’t remember, I would assume I must have already done the pushups and call it a day. Also, writing it down is the only way to know if you are doing more or less pushups over time. You have to keep track of a thing, if you want to measure or even be aware of improvements. Blogging for me is like writing down my pushups. I know this isn’t must read material but I am doing my reps.

I will try to find a clearer voice for my work as I move forward. I will try to find a topic or a style that makes it worth your time to read, or makes it more obvious when it isn’t worth your time. The worst kind of art is when you can’t tell if something is for you. I love it when the intended audience is obvious. There is a relatively popular book, about a dystopian future, that was recently made into a series on a popular streaming network. I will leave the title anonymous to protect the guilty, but you might be able to guess. I tried to read it. I really wanted to like it, but I didn’t. This does not mean that it is not a good book. Lots of people love it, it is just not my cup of tea. The best thing about the book was that I did not have to read very much until I found out that the book was not for me.

If you can’t tell wether or not this blog is for you, I am sorry. I will try to do better. For now, it is mostly just for me. I need to learn how to write better sentences. If more people worked on writing sentences that were clearer and more to the point, we would have a lot less conflict in the world. Please practice writing. I will read it, even if it is not for me.

life soundcloud

A rock in my pocket 

There was a time when I carried a small flat rock in my pocket.   We all have stuff that we carry with us everyday.  At that time, I always carried a lighter, knife, pencil, and this pinkish brown rock. My current everyday carry is not much different.  Swap the tiny rock for a package of baby butt wipes and I am good to go.  I carried this rock because it was supposed to be a reminder of someone important.  I don’t remember the details about who, why, or how this rock ended up in my pocket. Sorry, to whoever you are, the rock itself proved more memorable than you.

I still have the rock.  It’s in a little wooden box inside a bigger box in the attic. It is part of a collection that includes my employee ID from my first job, a car cigarette lighter from a wreck I walked away from, a special $2 bill, and a hospital bracelet that reminds me of a different event from which  I was able to walk away.

How do we determine what random things we should classify as sentimental? How does any detritus ever make the cut to become treasure? Why do I continue to keep a rock when I can’t remember for what it was a reminder?  I can remember specific conversations with friends when I explained why I carried a rock in my pocket.  I can remember a college professor who also carried a rock in his pocket.  Maybe there is a small club for people like us.  That would be a strange meeting.  Maybe my memories about carrying the rock make it more valuable than the reason why I had the rock in the first place.

There are many symbols we use to remind us of special people and events. Accoring to Wikipedia, wedding rings have been used in some fashion since ancient Egypt and now they are the foundation for a huge jewelry business.  I have a dish on my dresser that houses an ever growing collection of jewelry that was made by my kids.  Every piece in the collection means something to me and I try to cycle through wearing all of these treasures.

Here’s a song about a locket that served it’s wearer by keeping someone close.  Spoiler alert: there is a surprise ending.

I wrote this song a really long time ago and had never been able to find a use for it. I was really glad to be able to include it on the Stomp Your Feet project.  We might include a new version of this song on another random collection of Brother Jack songs that will be coming out later this spring.

What are the odds and ends that you have hidden away in your trinket collection?  Where do you keep your treasure?  What is the weirdest thing that you consider sentimental?  Like Brother Jack, do you keep crap and you can’t remember why? Let me know all the juicy details about your most intimate, sentimental treasures.

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Taking a Break

I can be a little obsessive regarding the minute details of life.  I have a habit tracker app that I use to monitor certain lifestyle choices that I want to tweak.  I use another app to keep track of when I eat during the day.  Daily fasting is really important.  I never count calories, that would be crazy.  I have another app that I use to monitor my sleep.  It’s nothing invasive, just turn it on and place the phone next to me when I go to bed.  It tells me how long I slept and how deeply and how much I snore.  Recently, I got burnt out on keeping track of everything.  It was making me crazy, so I stopped all of it.  Living free.  A couple days later, I realized I was totally exhausted.  It was newborn in the house level exhaustion and I didn’t know what was wrong.  I was going to bed at the same time, and getting up at the same time.  Nothing was different.  The problem was the missing sleep data.  There is something reassuring about waking up to the knowledge that you were in bed for 7 hours.  It gives a percentage grade based on how well you slept. Using this tool lets me know when I am succeeding with sleep.  When I started using it again, I miraculously felt better.  It’s a mind trick.  The data convinces me that everything is good and subsequently, I feel great.  

Data can be difficult.  I have been doing a show on Facebook in the mornings.  When I started doing the show, I would really pay attention to the number of views each show got and it felt really important.  If you are going to put on a show, you want people to watch and enjoy it.  You want it to serve a purpose.  I don’t look at the numbers anymore.  I didn’t start doing the show for the purpose of “growing an audience.”  It doesn’t matter how many people are watching. I want any single individual who watches to enjoy what we are doing.  I am not everyone’s cup of tea.  I am not most people’s cup of tea.  But, some people love what we are serving.  In case you were wondering, it is coffee.  

I recently took a break from doing the show.  Don’t worry, I am not quitting.  I just needed a break.  I had gotten to a point where doing the show was like that sleep app.  Because I was getting up and doing something, I had convinced myself that I was doing enough.  I am learning so much from doing the show.  But I can’t allow it to trick me into thinking that the show is enough.  There is so much more I want to be doing.  It’s hard to make the time for everything.  It’s even harder to make the time, when you are convinced that what you have already achieved in a given day is all you need to be doing.  I think the most important thing in life is showing up every single day.  I started the show with the intention of holding myself accountable to daily work.  Maybe it is not the only daily work I should be doing.  Maybe showing up everyday can mean different things.  Doing a daily show is a great tool for improving my performance skills and for learning new songs.  The show is important but now I need some additional tools to help me stay focused on all the many other things I want to be doing.  

In rereading this, it might all sound like I am contradicting myself.  The sleep app is a great tool to tell me how well I slept.  It is a great gauge to help control one specific aspect of life.  Doing a daily show is a great gauge for some of my daily work.  It doesn’t gauge all of my work.  When you are doing anything, you have to have a gauge that provides some feedback.  It is imperative that the gauge be measured daily.  If the gauge is reading “good,” it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be pushing for “great.”  You get the idea.  Thanks for being a part of what we are trying to accomplish.  Thanks for being part of the small circle of people that are holding me accountable to daily work and to getting better at my craft.  Thanks for steering this ship in the right direction. 


Making a Decision is Hard

My time is limited.  I know that there are 24 usable hours in a day.  Using them all is not a sustainable long term approach. There is an intricate balance between getting enough sleep to function well and giving up sleep to accomplish life’s work. I may cheat sleep tonight with the intention of making it up tomorrow.  Inevitably, something unexpected happens and I am at a double loss. You never recover from those choices.

My mom says I am bad at making quick decisions but I think I am a great decision maker when it matters.  Menus can be overwhelming for me.  I know this won’t be a popular pronouncement, but I am not a foodie.  I love tacos but I hate to order them from a fancy place with lots of options.  I never met a taco I didn’t like.  Just give me a taco. I know buying brand name cereal is dumb because it is the most expensive.  However, walking up and down the aisle looking for the cheapest option also comes with a cost.  It’s quicker and easier to grab the Cheerios and move on.  We have so many options for every aspect of life, we are so inundated with choice, it can be paralyzing.  

I have so many projects on which I want to be working.  I started a podcast last year about the importance of getting started with a project.  I should have learned from that process. Once again, I find myself mired in the same project cycle, struggling to get started.  It’s so easy to get stuck choosing what to do first.  I might have inadvertently abandoned the podcast.  I have several LP’s worth of songs that I want to get recorded with the band.  I want to do a songwriter series that is going to require a ton of groundwork. I should be playing more live gigs.  The morning show requires time, but fortunately it is already started.  It is much easier to maintain an ongoing project than to start a new one. I might attack one of the studio projects because the time demand should be the lowest.  Cross it off the list and move on.  

I have this notion that as an “artist,” I am supposed to follow my artistic whims.  I should follow where the breezes blow to find my next project.  I should trust my instincts and do what feels important at the time.  I don’t work this way.  My time is limited.  When I carve out some time for creation, I have to force those artistic instincts into action.  It’s hard to get in tune with the creative flow and to know how to best use my precious time. I think I will try to be more quiet and calm during the day.  I will spend time listening to where my art is leading instead of stressing about prioritizing the most important or easiest option.  I will try to follow my art. I will let the song take the lead, instead of obsessing over an elaborate plan that I never start because it isn’t perfect.  It all comes back to picking one project and getting started. Just give me the tacos.  

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