Arts vs. Craft and the Songwriter's Dilemna 

What came first, art or craft? I would argue that art came first, that is, if art is described as human feeling expressed through a physical medium.  Craft is then defined as the dogma to which an artist ascribes to in order to express his or her creativity. 

So, are you an artist or a craftsperson?

I spent most of my teens pursuing a craft: guitar.  I had no intention of deeming myself an artist.  I just wanted to play my guitar and get better at it, as fast as possible.  I might have been a tad ambitious in those years, because that ambition quickly exploded into an artistic awakening, and my craft was soon forgotten in a pursuit of effortless artistic expression, songwriting. 

Songwriting, to many, is a craft.  To me, it is not.  Songwriting is pure art.

Living and working in Nashville, I hear so many songs that I have never heard before.  Some blow me away, and others just blow...

A well-crafted song is a testament to the hard work of the songwriter, he or she being diligently witty and forcing a fixed amount of expression into a fixed amount of time, so as to make it suitable for radioplay.  This is pure craft.  I respect it, surely, but the songwriter's artisitc merit very quickly dminishes when it becomes clear why the song was written in the first place.  It's just another shot to be played on country radio, or top 40, or what have you. 

Songwriting as art is an entirely different force altogether.  Examples include Bob Dyan's "Pawn in Their Game," The Beatle's "Long, Long, Long," and the countless Sebadoh songs that were written because Lou Barlow was feeling sad.  These songs are not desirous of anything, be that exposure, wealth, or another listen.  These songs were written because they had to be.  When it takes effort to write, there must be intention, and if the intention is worldy, what's the point?  Professional songwriting is a hard enough career to pusrue as is.  Why do it for the money? It's kind of like writing a book for the money.  I really don't see the point.

Is it possible to marry art and craft?  Yes, and that is where the masters reside.

It is important to always be discovering. This is the state of art. 

If this state is maintained without effort, then craft becomes a secondary outcome, a win-win.

What comes naturally? 

There lies your art.

Not Good Enough 

I think it's important to have somebody you trust to be straight with you, and tell you when something is not good enough.

If you are a composer and have a submission due, it is crucial for your trusted friend or relative to hear it, and give you honest feedback.

This way, a third person can judge your work, and you can move on from the there.

It's amazing how my music develops when I play works in progress for these people.

Percussive pieces become orchestral.

Ballads become groovier.

Lyrics always change.

Who do you trust enough to critique your music?

My Favorite Writers 

It's tough not to fall into the trap of information.
With the internet being the way it is, it's very easy to click links, go from here to there, turn corners and find new info to short out your attention span.

As a musician living in Nashville, I hear this phrase a lot, "Oh, do you write?"
The answer is always yes.
However, I am not the type of writer that will wrtie lyrics everyday, though most would say I should.
I compose everyday, but it's never strictly lyrical.
Currently I am composing trailer music for a new feature film set to be released next year.  It keeps me busy, inspired, and at times, frustrated.

But when it comes to real writing (I'm talking serious prose), I have got to give props to my favorite writers.

And here they are (in absolutely no particular order):


Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys)
Richard Adams (Watership Down)
Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five)


Derek Sivers (
Timothy Ferriss (
Seth Godin (

These guys have serious talent.  I've been in a Tim Ferris phase for a little over a year now, retooling his 4 Hour Work Week philosophy to fit my life more effectively, eating a high protein diet and pigging out on weekends, and structuring my sleep schedule so I remain alert as possible with the minimal amount of sleep necessary. Girls ask me if I'm crazy.  Again, the answer is always a resounding, "Yes." But who isn't.  I love experimenting, with music, with food, and with my lifestyle, so Ferris is a role model in that sense.  It's kind of like when I discovered Elliott Smith.  The dude was doing what I was doing, but so much more intensely, so he became a personal hero. 
Derek Sivers is hands down a great guy.  He responsed within a matter of 2 days when I asked for his advice on moving to Nashville.
Seth Godin seems to be the marketing guru for the current generation.
If you haven't had a chance to read any of the above writers, I highly suggest you do.

Starting a Business/Strapping into a Rollercoaster 

Today is Election Day, and we'll either be elated or downtrodden tomorrow morning, but for now I'm going to continue starting up my business.  Yesterday was a freakout day for me, but I was able to get through it with a lot of progress.  Starting a business is a lot like the first uphill part of a roller coaster.  It's a prolonged feeling of tension and stress, but you're committed so you convince yourself to go along with it and enjoy the ride. You don't know what awaits you, but you know you'll survive it, and you can always tell people you rode it.  I am looking forward to realizing this business regardless of what tomorrow may bring. key 

When I first read the 4 Hour Workweek, I got extremely excited, enough to the point where I changed a large portion of my everyday habits, from checking email and scheduling meetings, to designing products for direct response marketing campaigns, something I've never considered before.  The book has had a profound influence on many young entrepreneurs, musicians as well.  I never considered myself to be an entrepreneur until reading this book.  There seems to be a lot of romanticism about the entrepreneurial lifestyle in our culture: a rogue, do-it-all yourself mentality that is only adopted by a risky elite.  Needless to say, I was down for the task of entrepreneurship.

After a year of applied philosophy, I can see I am still prone to many bad habits I have yet to shake.  

The first would be...INPUT

Input, or information, or work for work's sake, is the poison pill of effectiveness.

I watch the Daily Show too's time to forget it, it really is a negative show when you think about it, even though Jon Stewart kicks ass.

I have relegated checking Facebook to Saturdays only, a huge win for me. If you are prone to checking Facebook daily, it'll take about a week or two to get used to a new lean social networking system, and you'll be far better off without the anxiety of keeping up with your "friends" or updating your status.  Believe me, the News Feed will not miss you.  

Second bad habit is phone conversations

I love catching up with friends and family, especially now that I have relocated to Nashville, TN.  It's comforting to know my friends are still the same, finishing up college or grinding through dental school, but sometimes these phone-calls can last the length of a good movie, and you could have been designing or composing or practicing or networking or meditating get the idea.  

It's best to schedule a day for all non-work related activities.  May I suggest the traditional day of rest, Saturday or Sunday.  For me, I schedule all non-work related pleasure for Saturdays.  This involves: phone-call catchups, beer drinking, sugar-eating, barhopping, mindless TV watching and Chinese food.  Come Sunday, it's back to business. 

Once you've scheduled your vices, it's easy to maintain focus during the week, knowing that you'll be able to do whatever you want in just a few days, six at the most.  Hopefully you've gotten so drunk, talked so much, and ate so much food that you won't even be considering that day until mid week, the earliest.  


After reading the Tim Ferris bestseller, I had an amazing abundance of business ideas, that never went anywhere.  I spent the majority of last year finishing up grad school as well as working multiple jobs.  I rationalized I didn't have the time to start a business.  To be honest, I didn't.  I spent the majority of my leisure time reading books on business and marketing and watching interviews with renowned film composers on Youtube.  Input to the max.  

I am now composing music for a film trailer and input has taken a backseat to productivity.  Hallelujah!  

Output leads to creativity

Ouput leads to flow

Output leads to action

Output leads to self-knowledge

Output leads to wealth

Output is a way of life

Keep putting things out there!

The trip down to Nashville 

I left New York on September 12, 2012 with a Nissan Maxima full of guitars, recording gear and clothes...not to mention my brother, Jon.

First stop: Charlottesville, Virginia.  Met a man named Bubba and won his Open Mic Competition.  I took it as a good sign.

Next stop: Greenville, South Carolina.  Visited a couple of spots I remembered checking out back when I was on tour with the Albert Rivera Organ Band

Third stop: Atlanta, Goergia.  Hung out with Paul Yaffe, the man who initially inspired me to teach myself guitar when I was 13.  I think I inspired him to visit Nashville.

Final stop: Nashville, Tennessee.  My new home.

Life is bizarre.  I quit my jobs in New York to come here and see what will happen. What's happened in the past 30 days since I've arrived has been nothing short of amazing.

The people and the talent are incredible.  

If you've never seen Nashville, it's a trip.  And now Megabus has a route here from NYC. How awesome is that?

Til next time...