As you may know by now… I’m a musician. Yes, you heard it… one of “those”. I take my guitar with me on the road wherever my travels take me. As my teammates can tell you, it’s a bit of an obsession. So, for what it’s worth, here’s some of what I’ve been working on these days. If you’re interested in hearing some of my material, go to http://www.myspace.com/lowellbailey and now, http://www.reverbnation.com/lowellbailey.
Song Writing and Reverb Nation
Dec., 7, 2008
I’m in my hotel room and just finished up mastering a song I wrote out here on the road in Sweden called “Won’t You Help Me Come Around”. It’s funny but I’ve written a fair amount of my most recent songs, sitting in front of this laptop in some corner of the world. There’s only so much you can do with your down time as an athlete. Everyone always tells me, “Hey man, isn’t it cool that you get to go to all these amazing places! You must see some crazy things in your travels?” To which, I can honestly reply that, yes, I do see some crazy things, but they aren’t necessarily what one might consider your good-old-fashion “tourist attractions”. Not museums, famous artwork, historic buildings, etc. The stuff I see are things like weeks where you never see the sun and the great lengths to which an World Cup organizing committee will go to prevent a crowd from realizing that fact. I was just told today that the Ostersund organizers paid 9 million Swedish Kroner (about $1 mil US) for the lights in the stadium here! These are some serious lights! It is definitely brighter than any stadium I’ve ever seen… And, when you’re skiing around at 3pm and the sun has already gone down, you almost get the feeling – when you ski down into the stadium – like it has come back up, but only in that one small part of Sweden.
Ok. Enough of Swedish lights and lack of sun. I am out of here tomorrow and headed for Middle Europe and Hochfiltzen, Austria. So, getting back to what I was intending to write about. As I said before, I just finished mastering a new song I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks during my down time. It’s nice to get song ideas down even though the quality of my computer mic isn’t the greatest. I have a tendancy to come up with something I really like, play it for a few days, and then forget it. This way, I can flesh out the idea, add some effects, a drum track and some harmonies, and it’s almost like a real recording.
Right now there are a lot of cool sites for aspiring musician to post there work on. I have my stuff up on a few of these, namely, myspace.com and now reverbnation.com. I like the reverbnation site a little better because it seems a little more versitile. So, I have the new song up there as well as a couple of other things I’ve produced in the last month or so. Click here to go to that page.
As they say… “The beat goes on!”
5/4…Nov. 23, 2008
Just before I headed over to Europe I spent the final days playing as much music as possible in between my training sessions. Last week I had my friends Fritz and Any come over as well as Jimi(james) Upham. It was a fun jam and, as with most times you play with different people, you come away with a bunch of new ideas. At some point in the evening, The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” came into play and we ended up playing that for about a half an hour (after a quick tour of wikepedia I learned that the original composer of the song was the Quartet’s saxophonist, Paul Desmond). For anyone who knows music, “Take Five” is one of those great songs that just has this rhythm that seems to stumble along… it’s not quite within the box. Da-da da-da duh duh, da-da da-da duh duh, etc. That’s the beauty of 5/4 – it throws a kink in what you think you should be hearing, what we’ve been conditioned to “like”. A wrinkle in time?
The human brain wants to hear nice, tidy rhythms like a 4/4 rock ballad, or a 3/4 sweet waltz, or a 2/4 punk anthem. Why wouldn’t it? I mean that’s what we’ve heard for centuries, as long as your talking about a Western “we”. Nevermind the Eastern and African rhythms… They’ve always been all over the map. I’m just talking Anglo-saxon-influenced culture. All the classical titans – Mozart, Bach, Chopin – they all stayed within the box and wrote some amazing stuff… and it laid the foundation of Western music. Just read about modern Western music history and you inevitably come up against classical music as the driving force of evolution. So when Churchill needed a rousing march in WWII, or FDR needed a campaign song to lift America out of The Great Depression, I’m sure the composers involved weren’t offering up 5/4 time signatures… no way! Just imagine the first go-around of a 5/4 war march. The band starts to play, and entire battalian starts off… “1,2,3,4,… 5”? Imagine the drill sargeant forced to lead in 5/4 instead of 2/4: “I don’t know what I’ve been told, This beat’s getting really old… uh… wait… when do I start repeating?”
Ok, enough. Anyway, 5/4 is a really challenging time signature to play and improvise over. It’s like you have the ghosts of Mozart, Bach, and Chopin routing against you everytime you hit that 5th beat – a bunch of guys in whigs saying things like, “How dare you alter that which is sacred! Thou shalt not insert extra beats in a time signature! Sinner! Blasphomy!” You can empathize with the musician who has to compete with that everytime he comes to the fifth beat of a phrase in “Take Five”… Well maybe it’s not that apparent, but there is a hiccup that occurs where your Western-musically-programmed brain wants to go one way while the music wants to go another. Here’s to Dave Brubeck a
And what – as in “what kind of guitar am I playing?” My Seagull Parlor guitar, with a custom split spruce/Russian packing tape top. And how did I get such a one-of-a-kind model? The backpack strap on the case broke when I walked off a plane in Russia in 2003, shortly after I purchased the guitar. At the time, the packing tape seemed like a quick-fix to keep the top together until I returned to the States. But now, out of a combination of laziness and not wanting to mess up a really good sound, the tape is still there and the guitar sounds better than ever. I’ve played and compared newer, un-taped parlor guitars over the years and I still think this one sounds the best. Anyway, that’s what I have on the road, and because I’m on the road almost half the year, it’s probably the most-played of all my instruments!
So, that’s why I’ve been playing “Take Five” all week and what I’ve been playing it on… What’s everyone else playing? Drop me an email or comment.