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Song In Progress

Freshly colour coded tracks

First you throw sound at a wall, and then you find the song.

Yesterday I had a two hour session in the recording studio with a friend. We managed to track 27 new vocal takes which brought my total up to about 94 takes for one 3 minute song.

I like colour coding my tracks based on what section of the song or instrument they are.

I’ve also been editing the track names, importing them into Logic and then individually placing each new track into the matching part of the song. And what do you know…after a few hours of editing I’m down to 52 tracks!

Labelling tracks before import
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say yes to something new

Image from Bandcamp

“And when I see people coming here from overseas who just do what they already know, you get stuck doing only one thing. You learn by saying I’m going to try this thing I don’t know.”

~Jalene, Chapter 1, Middlevale High

Since getting back from holiday, my eyes have been reopened to a sense of possibility.

Being on holiday was a brain bender and head clearer, but what I noticed most – other than the pretty buildings of London and how sunshine really does improve any city – was how great it felt to try new experiences and meet new people.

I landed back with twenty four hours to get over my jetlag and maybe this was the fuel for spontaneously booking a coffee roastery tour and a dance workshop for my first week back in Melbourne .

“Disrupt yourself.”

This week I’m saying yes to: putting my hand up to share at a storytelling night, beginning a collaborative music project (with someone I met last week at the dance workshop!) and taking a tour to see three potential opportunities for the new year.

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taking a breather

I overheard someone talking about having a “sea change”, meaning they were going to move to a house by the ocean for a while.

Though I’m not living by the sea, I have moved to a house closer to nature. The air is cleaner, the streets are tree lined, and the magpies warble at four in the morning outside my window.

This year has felt like a tsunami wave of change but I’m beginning to see dry land again. New mountains to climb, firm ground to build on and a cluster of people I love gathering in the distance.

In the coming months I’ll be more consistent with this blog writing (by which I mean I’m gonna schedule this shit in my calendar and get it done), but first: a holiday! I’m off for a break and some fun adventures before I dive right into the next chapter of creative work and life and day job. ‘Til then,

Jo Elise

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Creating a daily loop

Since buying my first laptop nearly ten years ago, I’ve been obsessed with making tracks on Garageband and Logic.

I’ve always found it hard to finish songs or release them but I really want to finally get some songs onto Spotify!

In an attempt to get serious about finishing the singles I have sitting half-done on my hard drive, I googled how to produce and finish tracks. Most of what came up was super unhelpful but then I discovered Pheek and his blog about non-linear music production.

He encourages people to create a loop everyday for more than a week, and even though I was a bit skeptical about it working, three days in I’m totally hooked.

With only four bars to fill and the opportunity to play with sounds without pressure, I’ve created a whole bunch of mini tracks that I really love and I’m already learning so much.

Listen to my track “you don’t mind but I do” to hear what I recorded tonight (while reheating dinner no less).

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Another planet

A scene from Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

“My mom asked the librarian, who told us to try InterLibrary Loan. I was also obsessed with all things outer space, and InterLibrary sounds a lot like interplanetary, so I was excited.” Nick Ripatrazone

I still remember the first time I saw Star Wars Episode 1 as a seven year old, crammed into our family friend’s lounge with a swarm of other children, staring up at the wall where someone had used an old projector to make a large enough image for everyone to see.

Combined with the many books I grew up reading about sea voyages and expeditions, watching a movie about space exploration and new worlds gave me an insatiable itch to be a space explorer, navigating unchartered territory and sailing through the stars.

As an adult I still love to read books about people who go to wild, unexplored places or watch movies about space exploration like Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who. Staring into the unknown lights up my imagination and terrifies me.

And the best and worst part about being creative is how much of the unknown you face everyday.

When I start a new piece of writing or a song, I never know where I’ll end up. Even if I know where I want to go, getting to that outcome is never a linear or guaranteed process.

Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, has this to say about uncertainty and creativity: “The butterflies [of uncertainty] are there for a reason. They are signposts that what you’re seeking to create matters. Rather than hunt and kill them by default, spend some time learning how to listen to them, then if it makes sense, train in the skills and processes that’ll allow you to harness and ride them to greatness. “

Just like Anakin learning to drive a podracer, I want to learn to ride the uncertainty better and find a new way to be creative in the midst of uncertainty. Time to saddle up those butterflies!

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Map of the world

Hallith Bates drew this and I liked it a lot.

I was homeschooled for most of my school years and all my schoolwork was done sitting at the dining table each day. When I got stuck on my work, I would stare at a huge map of the world pinned to the wall.

My mum taught me how to draw treasure maps and then stain them with coffee or tea so they looked ancient.

I also used to draw maps of the neighbourhood with friends houses and places like “the fairy garden” sketched out in fine detail.

Right now my life has changed course – it feels dramatic but it’s been a slow and steady turning of the wheel – and the map I used to have for my life has been thrown out entirely.

It’s time to find a new map and plot a new course. Who knows where I’ll be one year from now!

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Sail away

A still from David Gray’s music video for ‘Sail Away

Crazy skies all wild above me now
Winter howling at my face
And everything I held so dear
Disappeared without a trace

This week it’s been hard to wake up and get out of bed to face the cold.

Melbourne winters are something I could do without.

Even with layers of wool and scarves and a huge coat I scavenged from a jazz bar’s lost and found box, my hands are turning as white as the clouds of breath steaming out of my mouth.

I would love to sail away to a mediterranean island and spend my time in a place like this description of living on Corfu from Gerald Durrell in his book ‘My Family and Other Animals’:

“Each day had a tranquility, a timelessness about it so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of the night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us glossy and colorful as a child’s transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.”

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Drawing with thick black lines and colour

An illustration from Marie Neurath’s book ‘Seashore’

There is something about block colours and clean lines that fires up my brain like nothing else.

This afternoon I read an article about Marie Neurath’s incredible books for children. Easy to read, clear diagrams about science made in collaboration with a team of writers, illustrators and researchers.

The bold reds and use of lines reminded me of two other illustrators I love: Al Hirschfeld and Steven Guarnaccia.

Al Hirschfeld

My obsession with black lines began in high school when I first discovered Sharpies and calligraphy pens. Playing around with ink, filling in the lines with watercolours or felt tips and writing in thick black chunky letters became my modus operandi.

Steven Guarnaccia

It’s inspired me to draw again and I’ve been sketching houses I like from my walk to work.

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Get off your ass

I wrote on a piece of paper yesterday: create.

create.

Don’t do admin, don’t reshuffle excel columns, don’t alphabetise the charts: create.

Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, Youtube – all of these are just ways to share something you’ve made. But if I never make anything, if all I do is consume and use and watch what other people have made, is it any wonder I wake up in the morning wondering what I’m doing with my life.

Routine surprises this week:

  • Police on bikes in the inner city!
  • Pre-poop toilet spray called “V.I.Poo”. Not surprisingly it was reduced to clear.
  • A giant fake bread keyring. I’m talking a literal fake slice of white bread on a keyring. I was so tempted to buy it because anyone who knows me knows I love bread.
  • I was also surprised by how many Ariana Grande songs I know – about half of her essential playlist on Apple Music apparently!
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The element of surprise

Illustration by Youline Dessine

“I wanted to surprise my wife with a routine dance.” 

One of my workplaces has a hall regularly hired out for dance classes, Zumba sessions and, as overheard last week, surprise routine dances.

Functioning as a human being requires at least some routine – we generally need to eat, sleep and hydrate ourselves around the same times each day – and our work revolves around a week with a set amount of hours and days.

At some point though, the routine can turn into auto-pilot and details and surprises get lost in the glazed eye commute or the quick march through supermarket aisles.

This week I was surprised to find:

  • Mint Tim Tams taste exactly like a Mint Slice (both Australian brands of biscuit). I don’t know why I expected a mint and chocolate combination to taste different, but I did.
  • The most compassionate people are the ones who have “boundaries of steel”, heard in a podcast where Russell Brand was talking with Brené Brown.
  • Mario Kart is addictively fun. I’d never played it before and after a few rounds at a friend’s house on Sunday afternoon, I’m hooked!