RPM Challenge: Looking Back & Looking Forward

wsBallLast month, I took the “RPM Challenge” and wrote / recorded ten new songs in twenty-eight days. In my first blog post about this, I mentioned an experiment done by a pottery teacher. To recap: the teacher told half his class to take the semester and make one perfect pot, while the other half was told to create as many pots as possible using 50 pounds of clay. The group who consistently was producing created much better work, whereas the ‘perfectionist’ group had completed little of any value.

I’ve always considered myself to be a perfectionist. I’ve always thought I had to be ‘inspired’ to do great work. The February challenge has totally remodeled my thinking about how I create. I did end up with 10 songs, and despite my fear of a clunker or two, all ten songs are indeed fit to be released with minor tweaks.

The challenge had other effects too. Throughout the month, I felt I was really on track. Doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my time. The work kept me positive, upbeat, and for lack of a better word: happy!

Similar to someone accomplishing any feat they didn’t think was possible, I find myself looking forward and asking “so… what else would I like to do that seems difficult?” Inspired especially by the last few (pretty rockin’) songs I completed, I’ve found myself wanting to get out there and promote this material. In the past, I’ve spent thousands on radio promotion and press coverage. From Roadstar (2001) throughout Romance of the Spaceways (2007) my songs were on more than 350 non-commerical radio stations worldwide, and garnered a decent amount of press. Despite all this coverage, I still sold very few albums. The missing link has always been playing live shows. This is what I’m aiming to do now. Back in 2009, I played a handful of shows around Chicago to support the Love and Armageddon cd, but when the lineup hit a snag, I chose to disband rather than replace the missing bandmate. I’ve resolved to get back into the game and start playing live in 2015.

I have so much momentum from February’s recording sessions and I want to keep it going. I’ve located a good practice spot and a few players, and have been busy transcribing songs for them. If all goes according to plan, our first show should be in June or July. If schedules allow (these guys are involved in more than one project) I’d like to be playing out at least twice a month.

I also have been translating my songs into a single acoustic guitar format so I can keep myself busy with open-mic appearances, which I plan to start this month. This in some ways is more challenging that putting a band together. In all my years I don’t think I’ve ever stood up with an acoustic and sung by myself. I’m so used to hearing my songs that have 20 or 30 different parts, and have to appreciate the “fun-strum” versions of simply chords & voice. I know my songs are strong enough to be presented this way, but it’s going to take some getting used to as this very stripped down presentation sounds so different from the recorded versions. I have to remember that most people have never heard the full versions of these songs, so they literally don’t know what they’re missing.

So that’s that. RPM Challenge was awesome. Getting a band together to take this show from my headphones and on to the stage. Building up calluses, and doing open mics. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and extra thanks to Maureen Boyle for telling me about the RPM Challenge in the first place. Expect more news soon!

-WS

Addendum: I’ve taken all the RPM Challnege songs offline. They’re in the final stages of retouching and will be officially released throughout 2015.

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