A friend sent me this video of Jason Mraz talking about his process for writing "The Remedy," which made me reflect on my own songwriting process. I often get asked about how I write songs. My songs have been written in all kinds of different ways--sometimes in dreams, sometimes as riffs that get stuck in my head and get developed later ("God don't make me choose, 'cause either way I'm sure to lose"
), as a therapeutic writing session, music first, lyrics first, all at once, in stages...Usually I don't have much luck when I set out to write a song on purpose rather than being grabbed by inspiration. Right now I am struggling with wanting to write songs for two occasions (I can't tell you in case they read this post), but no luck yet. For one I want to set a prayer to music, and my technique for that is more reliable (that's material for another post...). For the other one I am setting out to write both words and music, but I am struggling to come up with a theme that will capture the imagination and express how I see that person in a way that is compelling. For example, "Cornerstone" was written for an occasion, but once I got the idea for the theme, it all just flowed out when I sat down to write the words.Recently I sat down with my friend Mark Sorak (who also happens to be an amazing painter) and we co-wrote a song together, which was my first experience of that. I must say I'm pretty pleased with the result, although it needs a little fine-tuning. We were talking one day and he mentioned that there is an actual church called "The Church of Broken Pieces." I said, "That sounds like a song waiting to be written," and he said, "Let's do it!" It ended up being about the idea that many people walk around with a secret pain, but our burdens can be lightened when we realize we are not alone with our broken hearts. The meaning of the song evolved as we worked our way through the verses and chorus. In this case we wrote the words first and then wrote the music.
The process of getting ready to release my new album, and some conversations at last year's Baha'i Music Industry Weekend, really got me thinking about what my intentions are with this album and with performing the songs in public.
This album is more personal and less Baha'i-centric than Intone
, which is entirely based on quotations from the Baha'i Writings. So with what the fire is
, I have had to think, what am I doing with this? It didn't seem right to be out there performing just to promote myself and get sales. I have a full-time job and don't really need the money (although don't get me wrong, this album was very expensive to make, and I would love to recover some of those funds). I don't have time to do the whole indie musician thing of constant touring and promotion. At the same time many people who have heard the songs have really connected with them. So I feel like perhaps through these songs I can give people a gift, and whenever I perform, I can set some specific intention for what I'm creating for the audience. With that in mind, I have been reflecting on my intentions for my upcoming CD release party on February 16
. My hope is that you will walk away from that evening having been inspired and touched by what I have to share.
I haven't been that regular about updating this blog, but I do communicate regularly with my fans through Facebook
. Reviewing my Facebook posts over the past 3 years, I realized that I had a blow-by-blow chronology of my album development and recording in my Facebook posts. So I thought it would be fun to collate them here so you can see how the whole process unfolded.
January 3, 2010.
That boy is fast! I asked my friend Nabil Moghaddam if he wanted to try writing music to these
lyrics, and he turned out a demo in a few hours! Loving it. Thanks, Nabil! January 9, 2010.
WOOOOO! Guitar arrangement of "softness can be strength." Should I debut it at the CRG today???? Rockin' out! March 7, 2010. gleam May 9, 2010.
Worked out guitar part for this today. Now have to practice it! Straight-up rock-pop. gleam
Katharine Key music May 29, 2010.
Got set up to record at home! Big breakthrough. Now I have to learn how to use the software... December 7, 2010.
So excited! I just booked my tickets to Dallas for winter break to go record some of my new material with my friend Andy S
! He may be cooking up some performance opportunities while I'm there... December 25, 2010.
having a great time in Dallas with Andy starting to record my new material! December 25, 2010.
scratch tracks laid down for 3 songs; going to call it a day. December 27, 2010.
Andy recorded a rockin' guitar part to "softness can be strength" (see player below) this morning, and now Aztich is laying down some beautiful acoustic bass for "give in." Magic! December 31, 2010.
Katharine Key & Andy Sperandeo...what a team! Recorded basic tracks for 2 new songs & added bass to 3 this evening. Now to prepare for Saturday's concert... December 31, 2010. recording!!! January 3, 2011.
performing, recording, performing, recording... January 4, 2011.
getting ready to go home after a very productive week and a half of recording with andy...i am so excited about this new material! January 4, 2011
via Music Player.
rough mix of andy sperandeo's funked-out arrangement of softness can be strength [no longer available] January 7, 2011.
Thank you for breaking my heart. I got so many good songs out of it. Now on to write some happy ones! Look out. February 10, 2011.
my producer: "so when do you want to go over your tracks?"
me: "how about saturday?
producer: "i gotta work saturday and sunday. how about some night next week. how's monday night?"
me: "only if you're bringing chocolate and flowers." February 13, 2011.
spent the afternoon with producer Keny Ruyter drawing out plans for my new songs... April 7, 2011.
lightening up my load in other areas of life so i can focus more on my music. also wrote lyrics for a new song today. coincidentally my producer called tonight. getting back on track... April 18, 2011.
After a day's struggling finally got ProTools 8 working on my computer. July 6, 2011.
My producer Keny gave me ProTools 101 on Sunday. Getting back on track with this CD stuff. July 19, 2011.
recording session Sunday!!!! July 31, 2011.
back into the studio again today. hoping my voice isn't too tired. want to work on "give in," "softness can be strength," and "cornerstone." July 31, 2011.
narcisistically listening to new vocal harmonies over and over November 1, 2011.
I am so jazzed! Just got a hot guitar arrangement for one of my new songs from my buddy Andy Sperandeo. Can't wait to put the finishing touches so I can share it with you. This song is rockin'!!!! December 16, 2011.
getting my guitar chops up for my upcoming recording sessions... December 17, 2011.
another hot date with the guitar and the piano December 17, 2011.
practiced guitar so hard last night and today that i have a blister on my thumb. this has never happened. December 22, 2011.
got a little prezzie from my guitarist tonight..."softness can be strength" is getting there! December 23, 2011.
going into the studio today & tomorrow! woohoo! December 24, 2011.
I wish I knew an easy way to share mp3s on FB. I'd love to share some rough cuts from the recording session. FB took away the music player app. December 24, 2011.
some of what I was working on today...fancy guitar work by andy sperandeo
[softness can be strength on myspace.com, no longer available] December 24, 2011.
working on this yesterday with producer keny ruyter
[plexiglass on myspace.com, no longer available] December 26, 2011.
ever wonder what actually goes into recording?what happens in the studio? December 31, 2011.
going back into the studio on New Year's Day. hopefully all is quiet
. :) January 1, 2012.
Keny is laying down new drum & bass tracks for "Humpty Dumpty." January 1, 2012.
the fruits of today's labor. just a rough mix. listen now, as it won't stay up!
[humpty dumpty on myspace.com, no longer available] January 2, 2012.
today in the recording studio i am a punk librarian January 2, 2012.
the punk librarian strikes! again, listen now, for a limited time only. comments?
[gleam on myspace.com, no longer available] January 4, 2012.
wow, the end is actually in sight with this album. still much work to do, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. January 6, 2012.
listening to my rough mixes in my car. guy walks by my car in the alley behind my house and says, "what's that music you're listening to?" i say, "that's my music." he says, "it's good" and walks off. and this was a song i thought nobody would like.
January 18, 2012.
hoping today's wind will increase the size of the fire (recording "what the fire is")January 18, 2012.
[photo of sign that says "recording, do not disturb"]January 19, 2012.
1st 5 people to comment get a rough mix of "What the Fire Is" in its current state. If I don't have your email address, send it to me at http://www.justkat.com/contact.htmlJanuary 21, 2012.
I can now listen to my album all the way through. So exciting! Just need to collect a few cello, upright bass, background vocal, and other miscellaneous parts while my producer is away in Thailand for a month. Once I get the remaining parts, unless we decide to change any of the arrangements, the editing and mixing process begins...January 26, 2012.
glad my cold waited until after i was done with recording last weekFebruary 26, 2012.
New tracks from my friends for Cornerstone and Softness Can Be Strength. Best Ayyam-i-Ha gift ever!!!!May 4, 2012.
closing in on finishing the recording...those final touches can be so elusive! hopefully i have now found a cellist...May 4, 2012.
my uncle is going to do my graphic design! he's retired now, but he used to do print layout for books and such, including the benetton catalogue. woot!May 6, 2012.
confirmed with the cellist and djembe player, got kelly's WOW arrangement of "doubt" -- moving forward! just a few finishing touches on the recording, then we proceed to mixing and mastering...May 9, 2012.
things R moving forward with the CD & it's so exciting!May 12, 2012.
Great recording session tonight with my good buddy, djembe player Gustaff Besungu
! Thanks Gustaff!July 9, 2012.
just because i haven't been talking about it doesn't mean i'm not working on it...session with my producer today. need to record cello and bass & then we'll be done with the recording phase. then to mixing, mastering, cover design, and finally manufacturing!July 14, 2012.
who looks at lyrics in CD cases? i do, but i don't know how many others do. wondering if it's worth the expense to include them in the insert. i could put them on my website & put a pointer in the insert...what do you think?July 15, 2012.
sounds like most people are OK with having the lyrics available on the web. if you want to make a case for having them printed in the CD insert, speak now or forever hold your peace...July 26, 2012.
cello recording session on Monday--can't wait!August 11, 2012
via mobile. Recording what I hope are the last of the backup vocals tonight.August 11, 2012
via mobile. Ok ran out of steam. 2 more songs for next weekend.August 18, 2012.
'nite Facebook! Gotta get some beauty sleep for my 6 a.m. album cover photo shoot.August 19, 2012.
Got some great shots; will post a few later when I get them. Was up at 4:30 a.m. to do the makeup and hair; back to sleep now!August 19, 2012.
here are some shots from today's photoshoot. thanks, Evan Wilder!
[what the fire is album photoshoot (12 photos)
photos by Evan Wilder]August 24, 2012.
which will you most likely buy, a physical CD or a digital download? i'm trying to figure out how many CDs to manufacture.August 26, 2012
via mobile. Finished with tracking (recording)! Next mixing, cover art design, mastering, and manufacturing...then RELEASE!August 26, 2012.
that moment when you get a new part for a song and it finally comes together, and then you listen to it over and over again because you finally like it
thanks, kevin burnes!August 27, 2012.
DC peeps: ideas for a cool venue for CD release party?
must be in DC
fit 75-150 people
allow multiple performers and full drum kit
prefer if venue has own good sound system, good piano, serves food, but not absolute requirementSeptember 15, 2012
via mobile. I think I finally discovered the name for my genre. "Hard folk."September 30, 2012
via mobile. The mixing process has begun! Just listened to 3 new mixes from my producer...October 10, 2012.
listening to mixes my producer sent me...getting closer to the finish line!November 3, 2012.
I have a complete mental/emotional block when it comes to promoting myself. My whole being rebels and says, "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"November 4, 2012.
Great news! Planning my CD release party for mid January. Have found a couple of helpers, putting together the band so you get the full experience of the music, and may have found a venue. What do you think about this place? It can hold 150. Metro accessible, in DC, good price, serves food, good community vibe. I'll still look at other potential venues, but this one seems like it will work.Coffy Cafe
[note, CD Release party was eventually booked at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse
; see below]November 4, 2012.
Wow, so many confirmations coming in around my CD release party. Amazing! This is going to be really awesome and fun.November 10, 2012.
had a fun and fruitful afternoon checking out possible venues for my CD release party. some promising places! i'll let you know when it's booked & the date is set.November 15, 2012. draft of CD cover art!
photos by Evan Wilder
painting by Talia Segal Fidler
graphic design by Yaron Fidler and John CohoeNovember 18, 2012.
Here is one of the songs from my upcoming album, "what the fire is," set to be released in January 2013.plexiglass on soundcloudNovember 19, 2012.
Is it OK to have a CD release party a month after you release your CD?November 26, 2012.
Confirmed!!! Saturday night, February 16 at Ebenezer's Coffee House in DC
. Mark your calendars! More info to follow. This is a great space--you are going to love it! And I will have a full band so you get the full experience of the music.November 27, 2012.
w00t! http://ebenezerscoffeehouse.com/events/detail/katharine-key-cd-release/November 28.
mastering session scheduled! what's a mastering session? the second to last step before manufacturing! http://www.justkat.com/1/post/2011/12/what-happens-in-the-studio.htmlNovember 30, 2012.
Here's another preview from the upcoming album...humpty dumpty on BandPage December 6, 2012.
I've shared another track from "what the fire is" to my BandPage. Getting excited about getting this album out!lights and suns on BandPage December 7, 2012.
It wouldn't be an album without a little last-minute drama right before the mastering session.December 8, 2012.
Kelly Snook blesses the album by putting her fingerprints on the title track. ♥♥♥December 10, 2012.
On pins and needles to get Kelly's mix of the title track! Mastering session tomorrow! Woo!December 11, 2012.
Special preview, up for only 48 hours! Here's the title track from my upcoming album.
[what the fire is on BandPage, no longer available]December 14, 2012.
finally got the master files today! just a few tweaks & then we can send for manufacturing...home stretch!December 18, 2012.
just approved the cover art proofs!December 19, 2012
near Broadview Park, FL via mobile. Masters finalized. Manufacturing commenced.December 30, 2012.CD Release Party Posters (3 photos)
please "like" one poster (not all 3 posters) to vote for your favoriteJanuary 1, 2013.
Special pre-release copies of the album and downloads! Help me with the final push to get the album out and get cool rewards! This is like a Kickstarter page, except I pay lower fees & I get to keep all the proceeds regardless of the amount raised. Please share with your friends!"what the fire is" album - Kapipal
Music Industry weekend, October 2012, Bosch Baha'i School
This year I have had the opportunity to go to two Baha'i conferences I hadn't been to for several years. It struck me both times how different my experiences were this year compared to my experiences in the past with these same conferences. Clearly I had changed more than the conferences had.
I don't remember much about the previous times I went to the Baha'i Music Industry Weekend. It was always a wonderful experience, but I remember in the past being much more stressed and exhausted. I am constitutionally an introvert and have historically suffered from high levels of social anxiety. (People often wonder how I can be an introvert & love performing, but I contend that the two really aren't related.) This year the entire weekend was so uplifting, nourishing, restoring, and supportive. I learned a lot and enjoyed making new friends and hanging out with old friends. I wasn't as awkward this time.
The last time I went to the Rabbani Trust (formerly Social and Economic Development) Conference, I was very unhappy with how I was treated as a musician. I had just released my first album, Intone. I had tried to contact Jack Lenz, who was in charge of the music, months before the conference, to find out if I could get into the musical program. I didn't have much success contacting Jack and decided to go to the conference anyway. When I got there, I asked if I could perform and was given slots during the devotional programs as well as during one of the evening programs, and I sold lots of CDs and got good exposure. Still I felt as if I had been brushed off. I felt like it was degrading to have to beg to perform, and I thought there should have been a process for musicians to apply to perform, especially new musicians who needed exposure.
This year I paid my own way to the conference again. I had contacted the organizers, who said they thought I might be able to have a chance to perform, but the sets wouldn't be determined in advance before the conference. This time I ended up being able to perform every evening, including during the big music show Saturday night, and twice during morning devotions. So essentially the same thing happened as last time, except that this time I was able to be flexible and grateful for the performance opportunities and really enjoy the conference. It was wonderful to hang out with the other musicians, some of whom I knew and some of whom became new friends. Also this time there was a choir, which I joined, another uplifting and enriching experience.
Having been back to both of these conferences again after several years, and having such a different experience this time, made me stop to reflect about how I had changed. How was it that conferences that had been so stressful and in one case negative before were so uplifting and joyful this year? It's hard for me to really pull together all the experiences that have changed me, from maturing within the wonderfully supportive and loving DC Baha'i community, to taking the Landmark Curriculum for Living, to hours and hours of individual therapy. So many other Baha'i artists have been role models for me, teaching me through their actions to drop my self-centered diva demeanor in favor of an attitude of service, to be flexible and understanding of my fellow Baha'is. I think one turning point for me was when I realized that serving the Baha'i community through music was such a joy for me that I felt communities were doing me a favor by giving me opportunities to perform. It was at that point that I stopped being so rigid in my expectations of how I should be treated as a musician and started focusing more on what I was contributing to the event and to the people involved.
It has been a long journey, but such a rewarding one! I am grateful to everyone who has given me an opportunity to sing, and to everyone who has been kind, supportive, and understanding of me as a musician, and to all my mentors, most of whom don't even know how they influenced me simply by showing how it was done.
Well, we're in the final stages with preparing the CD for manufacturing. The mixing is almost done, and then we'll send the tracks off for mastering and then for manufacturing. I am so excited about this album, I wanted to share a few of the tracks with you, pre-mastering. I've posted one today and will add a couple others to this set.
draft of CD cover art!
photos by Evan Wilder
painting by Talia Segal Fidler
graphic design by Yaron Fidler and John Cohoe
we're in the final stretch now. w00t!
So I spend a month and a half in South Africa and somehow Texas manages to catch up with me. What happens when you play a country song backwards? "I got my car back. I got my girl back. I got my dog back..."
While I had big ambitions to do productive things like assemble the text and photos for my CD cover art, instead I ended up writing two country songs. WHAT??? Why am I writing country songs??? Oh well. The ideas just came to me, and I thought they'd be good songs. They're kinda OK songs anyway. I think they need some work, especially since they sound suspiciously similar, but nonetheless I wrote them, at least the first drafts, and spent time making YouTube videos of them for you instead of working on my album art.
People have asked me, "Why don't you write happy songs?" And I said, "I wrote a happy song once, I think. I can't remember where I put it..." Anyway, it's much easier to write sad songs, so I guess it's kind of a cop out. As Fiona Apple said in this interview on the Late Late Show
, when you're happy you don't want to stay home alone writing songs, you want to go out with your friends.
So anyway here are the new songs. What do you think?
"When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace." 11 years ago I wrote this song, which is based on quotations from the Baha'i Writings. This is what was on my mind. Our thoughts create our reality, even our world. Let our thoughts be thoughts of peace.
Where were you and what were you thinking on 9/11?