2011: My best year yet?

In my retrospective from last year, I declared 2010 to have been my best year yet.  I think I would have to say that this year topped it.  While some of my goals were met and some were not, it would be impossible for me to deny that I had taken huge strides in my music and in life that I wouldn’t have been able to at any previous year.

The biggest obvious accomplishment is the tour, which, despite some small setbacks and things to do differently next time, was amazing and incredibly reaffirming of my path.  In doing so, I met what was arguably my most ambitious goal of playing at least twenty out-of-town gigs.  I played twenty-four on the tour.

I succeeded in recording and releasing both a full-length album with the band, Holy Rock & Roll, and a solo EP, How To End The War.  While the latter was not a full-length as I had originally intended when I conceived of it last year, in truth I think I produced a better record than even I had envisioned, which was more of a B-sides/oddities/release-and-be-done-with-it effort.  Instead, the general trend has been that each release I’ve been as or more proud of than the last.  I also surprised myself by how much my voice has improved over the course of just a year from when we recorded The Once & Future Boyfriend (which I’m still totally proud of).

The most notable case in which I didn’t meet the goal I set–I won’t call it a failure, because I don’t think it is–is in songwriting volume.  I had set a goal of twelve songs, which is what I managed in 2010, and I only wrote half that.  However, I realized in May when I was planning the tour that the scale of my undertaking was such that if I wanted to be successful with it I had to put something else on the back burner, and from a practical point of view of having more than enough repertoire to gig with, I made a conscious decision to set songwriting to the side for a few months.  I got back into it in October on the train, and wrote a song for each of the last three months of the year.  Here are all the tunes I penned this year:

  1. You Don’t Have To Stay
  2. Tucson
  3. The Tenderness In Me
  4. Witness
  5. Ain’t Nothing Sweeter (Train Song)
  6. For The Rest Of My Life

Notable features about the songs I wrote this year:

  • Two of them, “Tenderness” and “For The Rest Of My Life” were purely diatonic, and “Tucson” almost was too, save for a little chromatic run.  I think the last time I wrote diatonic music was in high school, but it took a decade of songwriting to figure out how to craft a song with other thematic elements strong enough that chromatic color didn’t seem necessary.  At the same time, “Ain’t Nothing Sweeter” is as tonally interesting as anything I’ve written.
  • The last three songs of the year were all under three minutes.  As a writer who used to not be able to do it in under five, but has always admired concentrated brevity, I consider this a great accomplishment.
  • In “Witness” I had my first purely political song.  And in case you didn’t see it, Amanda Palmer retweeted it, which pretty much made my year.

Not least of all, this was definitely my best year for updating this blog semi-regularly, with thirty-five new posts, more than I published in all of 2009 and 2010.  This is largely due to being involved with the Occupy movement, which for all its complications has been nothing short of transformative for me.

Goals for this year, then?

  1. Tour the Northwest in the Spring again.  And maybe the Northeast in the Fall?  I have a three-quarters-baked idea about seeing how long I can couchsurf across the Eastern Seaboard.
  2. Play more high-profile local venues.  I’ve got the drop on this one, with my upcoming first appearance at Bottom Of The Hill on January 18!
  3. Record and release another album.  Because why not?  Release early and often, that’s my motto.
  4. Get the fuck out of debt, completely, so I can  quit my job and tour forever and ever.

Okay, go!

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