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Hey guys, as 2012 is coming to a close, I hope that this stretch of road has been kind to you. This year, as have been the last 10, I am continually blessed to be able to tell stories & make music as my job. And it seems like every year opens more doors for people to engage new artists & enjoy the music that they love; which, on this end of it, is incredibly exciting. Figuring out ways for the creators of music to get financially compensated (so they can keep on making music & not have to find something else to do to pay rent) continues to be tricky, but the fact that the art that we create in our basements can reach so many corners of the world is amazing. I just saw this morning that a song my friend Christina Perri & I wrote last summer in my living room has been viewed on YouTube over 57 million times! That really is nuts to me.
This year, personally, has also been a real blessing. My wife & I had our third little girl, and our house is completely overrun with castles, dolls, & princess dresses. The artists that I work with have come to expect having to clear a path through the madness to get from the front door to the studio. I’ve done a lot more producing this year than in years past (from Avril Lavigne to Christina Perri to Tyler Hilton etc..), and it’s been great to start an idea from nothing & be able to carry it all the way to the finish line. I can’t wait for you to hear the stuff that Avril & Chad Kroeger & I have been working on all year, and i’ve loved hearing what people think of the Christmas EP Christina & I did over the summer.
I got to see Jason Mraz & Christina play the Hollywood Bowl a couple of months ago, and to hear them both sing songs that we made together on that stage was something I’ll never forget. Also Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away album has already sold 1M copies this year! I have rarely come across a more kind, talented, & hardworking artist as Carrie; she’s great.
Recently Tristan Prettyman came out with an album called Cedar + Gold that I could not be more in love with. Tristan & I met about 18 months ago and she & Steve Miller & I (and Zac Malloy on 1) wrote 4 songs that I am so proud of. C+D is such a raw, open, beautiful album (thanks to Tristan & Greg Wells in the studio) and it’s probably been the thing i’ve listened to the most all year. Love that girl and love that album (this is the time where you stop reading this, go to iTunes, listen to the previews for the first few songs & then realize that I’m not just trying to sell you something, that this really is a beautiful record, & that we are better friends because of it).
As a quick note, I will also say – Holy smokes, I never would have guessed that A Thousand Years would have meant so much (even though I really do love that song & CP sounds amazing) to the Twilight franchise & it has been incredible to see it have a second life this year with Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. This week it just passed the 2M mark for downloads. So crazy.
Finally, there are a couple of things I’ve been working on with Sleepwalker Records. A few years ago (years, mind you) I had this idea to put a collection of covers together (which isn’t really my bag since I’m known more as a writer than an artist). The criteria was to take songs that I love from a certain era & recreate them in a completely different context. Some of the first songs I remember hearing that really moved me were songs from rock bands in the mid 90’s. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Creep, Black Hole Sun – these songs made me FEEL something more than just tell me something. So in between helping other artists chase down their muse (and making babies), I have been quietly chipping away at this project. The series will be called Passengers & this first EP is called Weapons. I am really proud of it; it’s coming out next Tuesday & can’t wait for you to hear it. And yes, ever since I released Vol. 1 of The December Sessions I’ve been thinking about Vol. 2. Can’t wait to get started next week.
Thank you all for your kind words & patience and a special thanks to Andrew Messenger for making this website continue to be awesome. Talk to you all soon (unless the Mayans were right).
Hey guys, wanted to check in with everyone. Hope your year has been going well so far. I must say, I’ve been in good spirits recently what with the music I’ve been a part of making, the music that’s been released in the last month that I was a part of making, & the current state of the industry itself. From last to first, like them or not, I love that bands like Fun., Gotye, & Foster the People have been ruling the Top 40 radio charts. And watching Adele clean up at the Grammys & continue to sell something like 8 million albums a week (I think 21 is close to 1 billion albums sold worldwide…don’t listen to me) is awesome. Why, you say? Because as Top 40 has become so homogenous in the last 5 years, having such different sounding songs & artists do so well is a good sign for all of us.
As far as music that has come out – I spent a lot of last fall writing with & recording Tyler Hilton’s solo album with Tyler & Steve Miller. We had such a great time creating these songs & I am in love with his album. From start to finish, I think it’s great; and knowing Tyler, I think Forget the Storm is such a perfect picture of Tyler as an artist. Also, in December I started what I hope to be a yearly album called The December Sessions. I wrote a blog earlier describing it; but in a nutshell, once a year I want to put out an acoustic set of songs I’ve co-written that haven’t been released yet. I’m really happy with how this first volume turned out, and the feedback from everyone has been really inspiring. I love what Joey Phelps has done with the artwork on the album, and since it doesn’t come with the download on iTunes, we’re going to put a downloadable PDF on this site soon (lyrics, credits, artwork, etc.).
Also this week Jason Mraz is putting out his new album Love Is A Four Letter Word, and we wrote a song together on it called The Woman I Love. He is amazing. And May 1, Carrie Underwood’s new album Blown Away comes out. The song See You Again is one that she & Hillary Lindsey & I wrote and I love it. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of these 2 songs (and albums) coming up. There’s also a bunch of great stuff coming up (Avril Lavigne, Tristan Prettyman, Haley Reinhart, etc.) that I’ll tell you more about soon, but suffice to say this has been a very inspiring few months.
Thanks again for being with me on this journey. I honestly still continue to be floored that I get to make music with such amazing people & actually get paid to do it. You guys rock.
tell her tunnels end in light,
A couple of years ago I came to the end of a chapter in my career: I was in the middle of being released from my 3rd major label record deal (the last 2 of which were a complete bust), yet I was writing more music than ever before with what seemed to be increasingly fewer places for those songs to go. The current model for most “professional” songwriters is that we write & co-write anywhere from 40 to 200 songs a year (I usually write around 80), find some means to record most if not all of these songs (I produce about 2/3rds of the songs I write while other producers I work with record the others, which usually takes about twice as long as the writing process), & then submit these songs to managers & record labels for different projects.
In the last 10 years, record sales have dramatically decreased (less than half of what it used to be, even with the advent of digital downloading). This has led to a couple of things: 1) record labels don’t put out as many albums as they used to, 2) because of the long tail of e-business, platinum albums are almost extinct – in 2000 there were sixty three albums that went platinum (selling 1,000,000 copies in the US), in 2011 there were seven, 3) because of the desire to be more involved with the creative process (and supplement a loss in record sales through publishing), the majority of artists that used to be open to cutting outside songs (songs that they didn’t have a hand in writing) are now co-writing most if not every song on their album. These & other factors simply mean that to make a living as a songwriter, there are far fewer opportunities than there have been in the past to get the music we write & love to an audience.
I have been very blessed by the opportunities that i’ve had as a writer, but only about 20% of the songs I write a year ever get released. With the exception of only a handful of writers, the vast majority of us get less than 25% of the songs we write cut. I’m not complaining from a business sense – being able to make music for a living and having any of it be heard by people outside of my living room is amazing. But from a creative standpoint, that’s a lot of stories & songs that I care deeply about that will never see the light of day. Now I don’t think that every song I write is amazing; let’s say that the bottom 20% are not worth ever being heard again. And the “top” 20% (I’m often surprised by which songs make it on the album or which songs are successful at radio – they are just as often as not songs that I wouldn’t have picked over others) is already out there; but that leaves this middle 60%. It was these 40+ songs a year that were keeping me up at night. Surely there’s got to be some way outside of the current model that these songs can be heard. And it was out of this dilemma that Sleepwalker Records was formed.
In the past 18 months we’ve put out (including The December Sessions, Vol. 1, which will be released in early 2012) 4 full length albums, and this project is at the heart of what Sleepwalker Records is all about: every year I plan on making an acoustic album in December of 8 songs that for whatever reason haven’t been heard. I hope you like them, because I love these songs & love where they’ve come from. An affirming side note – while I was putting the songs together I emailed all the co-writers to see if they were ok with me releasing the songs (part of the hangup with this idea is that record labels tend to think once a song is released in any form to the public, it can’t be recorded by their artists), to the last one all of them were very excited about the songs being heard & couldn’t wait to hear how the album turned out. So I’m not alone in this. More details soon, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads up on what’s coming.