You can’t get good without failing. A lot.

Ah, this explains everything!

You can’t experience greatness without enduring suffering. You can’t win without first losing.
That’s the painful irony of success.
The more you avoid failure the more difficult it is for you to achieve the change you want for yourself.
That pain [of failure] is what is going to turn you into a champion.
But only if you let it drive you towards greatness.
Sweat. Fight. Bleed. Cry. And fight some more.

I have been fighting with the same song for months now. I am trying to make it sound professional, like what I hear on the radio, like your favorite song by [insert your favorite pop star here].

And it’s really, really hard. It’s so hard that I feel like a failure. And I come back and face it again every day. And it’s still not working right.

And I fought with it again today. And it’s forcing me to learn some new skills that I need in order to move forward. And it’s exhausting.

And I’m going to win. I’m going to keep doing this until I get where I’m trying to go. Until I’m able to produce songs that sound like they belong on the radio.

Two years ago I quit my job to produce music full-time. I’ve been learning for two solid years now, and I’m not there yet. This is slow. And painful.

I’ve done some stuff that I love. Like “Never Again”. But I also have a bunch of unfinished projects. Like this one.

So I will take the advice to sweat, fight, bleed, cry…and fight some more.

When in doubt, do less

I have been fighting with the same song for a few months now. It’s been kicking my butt.

I’ve been working with a talented singer named Amy Alvarado here in Miami and she’s helped write a terrific song. My job is to make the instrumentation come alive, and this one’s been fighting me. For a while. Usually I can move more quickly than this. I’ve been through a hundred permutations and none of them feel right.

Amy finally brought another producer over and we had a great working session for three hours. And it STILL wasn’t working. I want it sound like Dr. Luke, and instead it just sounds like it’s in desperate need of a doctor.

(BTW: I’m always happy to work with other people, especially when things aren’t going smoothly. I think Amy was worried I might be offended but I’m always excited to bring another chef into the kitchen. Because they think differently than I do and that’s how I learn. It’s fun to see how someone else tackles a problem.)

Part of the problem I’m having is that there’s this really cool guitar line that I want to keep, but the track is mostly electronic. I’m having trouble making the guitar work with the synths. I turned to Miley Cyrus (or more precisely Dr. Luke) for inspiration in Party in the USA, but they actually keep the guitar completely separate from the synths. Check it. The guitar is in the verse and the synths are in the chorus, so no help there.

And that’s when I came across “Style” — a Max Martin / Shellback number with a guitar line over a synth bass. And that vibe is kind of working for me.

My guitar line is in the chorus, but I feel weird if there’s no guitar in the verse. It feels to me like the guitar just comes out of nowhere if it’s not in the verse (even though it’s the “reverse Miley” so it’s clearly OK). But any guitar part I put in the verse was way too complicated and was drowning out the synth melody.

And then I got into the car and James Brown came on the radio. Listen to the verse guitar part for “I Feel Good” — it’s just a single hit on the and-of-three. So the guitar’s there but it’s tucked out of the way during the verse. And then it can show up more forcefully in the chorus without sounding like it’s coming out of nowhere.

So here I am supatheefing someone else’s music again!

And the solution is to do less. Which I’m finding is the best solution most of the time.

Some of the best advice I ever got as a guitar player was to treat every note in a solo as if it cost me a dollar to play. When I think like that I end up playing less notes. Which is better.

Do less.

I met Moby once

I saw him in concert too, back in the 90s I think, in Las Vegas. He put on a terrific live show. I didn’t know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. He gave it his all. The audience always responds when performers are loving what they’re doing.

The worst concert I ever saw was Van Morrison. He played for 45 minutes and he was checking his watch the entire time. He was phoning it in. Then he looked at his watch one final time and walked off the stage. No encore. Ugh.

But Moby put on a (surprisingly) great show.

And then I met him a few years later in New York. Shorty and I had a weekly DJ residency at Norwood Club. They were always bringing celebrities around that place. I have a picture of the three of us somewhere but I can’t find it at the moment.

Side note: Shorty and I were the musical directors for Norwood when it first opened and we programmed the music for the different floors, with different playlists that were timed to change throughout the day. One day I’m there working on the music and they’re taking Michael Stipe on a tour and they introduce me as the musical director. That was a fun moment for me. I got to be not just another schlub meeting Michael Stipe. Sadly it turns out that no one under 30 has any idea who Michael Stipe is, so I guess it wasn’t such a big deal.

Anywho…Moby is hanging out in the DJ booth and we’re talking to him for a bit and then he disappears. I have some friends there, including a guy who brought his new girlfriend. Some time goes by and my friend comes up and starts complaining that Moby is stealing his girlfriend. Apparently Moby was upstairs putting on a solo show, singing and playing acoustic guitar, and surrounded by starry-eyed women including this guy’s girlfriend.

It’s good to be the king.