Thursday, 27 June 2013

We've Moved...

All of us here at ATWN want to thank our readers for making the first six months of All The Write Notes so much fun! But with such a great response from authors, artists, and bands, we decided a change in address was needed.
So stop by our new digs at...

ATWN Interview: Arlo Aldo's Dave Manchester

Alt-folk. Alt-country. The new Americana.  Some of my favorite recent music finds have been dancing around somewhere between those labels.  Neko Case, The Avett Brothers, The Low Anthem, and The Lumineers to just name a few.

A new discovery is Arlo Aldo hailing out of Pittsburgh.  We were lucky enough to get in touch with David Manchester to get to know a little about the band and to catch up on books and music.

Arlo Aldo's album, Zelie, was released this past February and you can buy it (and give it a listen) right HERE.

First things first, tell our readers a little bit about Arlo Aldo.  I'm certainly getting a taste of the new Americana upon listening to Zelie.

Well… we're a down-tempo, melodious, extremely attractive, intelligent, and modest band based out of Pittsburgh, PA. We like long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and can easily be bribed with bottles of good whiskey.

Give me a book that lines up well with the themes/stories that you're speaking to in Zelie.

That's a great question. I don't' know if I can come up with just one book. Perhaps "Welcome to the Monkey House" by kurt vonnegut? Our songs cover so many different themes involving love, loss, growth, birth, hope, and a man walking across a high wire in New York City. I feel like Vonnegut's collection of short stories does the same? 

Let's get right to the nitty-gritty, if we are snooping around your house (or tour van) and start to peek at the books you have lying around, what are we going to find?

I'll be honest, you'd be way better off snooping in our drummer, Brandon's, house. He's way more literary and is a writer himself. I'm terrible at reading. It's one of those things I wish I had more diligence for. I love Haruki Murakami and have read almost all of his books. I went through a Nick Hornby phase, Tom Robbins was a popular one on my night stand, too. My largest collection, though, would be by Joeph Loeb and Tim Sale. They collaborated on several Batman graphic novels. Yup… I'm a comic nerd.

If there were an author that you could collaborate with on a song, who would that be and what would you hope that they'd bring to the experience?

Haruki Murakami, hands down. His depiction of depression in Norwegian Wood was one of the most accurate and beautiful things I've ever read. Havingstruggled with depression myself, it seemed to reflect my own experience amazingly. I'd really hope that he would bring his ability to capture emotion and a person's internal struggle. Those are pretty universal themes throughout a lot of my songwriting.

As aspiring writers, our readers are always looking for people to commiserate with through the struggles of telling stories.  Can you give us some insight into your writing process and then how does that eventually translate into a finished song?

Writing lyrics has always been a source of pride for me. Probably because I can't write anything else worth a damn. My poetry is abysmal, and I don't think I could even comprehend what it would take to write an actual story. As for my lyrical process, though, I usually start with singing along to whatever chord pattern I'm fiddling with. I find the notes themselves help guide me as to what the theme of the song will be. Once I get an idea of my subject, I just sing. I see what comes out, what feels right, and then when something seems to click, I frantically search for any kind of scrap to write my ideas on. After I have a first draft, I give it a day or two and then look at what I've written. That's when I really start to think about what I'm trying to say. What words are better suited? What sounds more intelligent, less obvious? Is there a better way to say what I'm trying to convey to the listener? That's when things really get flushed out and perfected. Sometimes this happens quickly. Other times, the process leads me to realize that it's just a bad song.

What are some of your struggles as a songwriter?

I'm constantly afraid I'll run out of songs. I'll run out of chord patterns, transition, and nothing original will come out anymore. I'm worried about my lyrics being trite and obvious. But I think those are normal concerns with anyone involved in any kind of creative endeavor.

For our readers who are working on writing books for younger readers, what is a book that really stands out for you from your childhood?

Honesty time… I was a horrendous reader growing up. I was "that guy" that was too lazy to even read the Cliff Notes and just fudged my way through tests in junior high and high school. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to suck it up and read. He'd be better off for it.

What was the last book that you bought?

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. I'm a stay at home dad, so my reading priorities have shifted a bit.

Who is an author that you find yourself consistently going back to?

Haruki Murakami, hands down. For some reason, his style and quirkiness just appeals to me.

What do you think that aspiring writers can learn from musicians such as yourself/yourselves?  And, to piggy-back on that idea, what do you think that musicians can take from writers?

What can writers learn from me? Hmm… Do it because you love it. Don't worry about how many people have read your piece or how many places you've been published. If you enjoy writing, write. Don't' take yourself so seriously and don't necessarily be too focused on the end goal. I'm on my 6th album and have yet to receive my phone call from Sub Pop, but playing and writing music is too much fun, and too much of a passion for me to stop just because I haven't hit the "big time." As far as what I can learn from writers, that's easy. Read more. Learn from other people's writing and experiences. I've been trying to do that more with my song writing, but I believe that there is so much more out there that I can glean, and I respect writers that can really get into someone else's head to create a story.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Setting the Stage with Music


I think a lot of people forget how important setting is when writing a story. Not only is it where and when the story takes place but it can also be personified, as if it's a character in and of itself. The setting is also a foundation, a place to ground our characters and a jumping off point for plot. And sometimes, the setting is the antagonist, is what evokes the most emotion out of characters. 

Listening to music that echoes the ambiance of the setting helps me create a more believable story by infusing the feels from the music into my manuscript. It also helps me create a more authentic response from my main characters thus making my readers FEEL. And that's what it's all about - making a reader feel something.

So, I thought I'd share with you a few songs that have been helping me create different environments, whether I'm writing or outlining.

** indicate the video featured

Setting - Mysterious, questionable: **Dots and Dashes by Silversun Pickups and 
The Lightning Strike by Snow Patrol

Setting - Enemy territory: **Supremacy by Muse and Skin to Bone by Linkin Park

Setting - Traveling: Bright Lights by Thirty Seconds to Mars and (older but still good) **Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters 

Psst...if you haven't seen this video for a while you should watch'll make you smile.

Setting - A new, exciting location: Diluvia by Freelance Whales and **We Are the Tide by Blind Pilot

This band is AMAZING live. If you don't know them, you should. Great chill tunes and mega talented.

Setting - Close, comfortable quarters with the main characters love interest: Closer by Tegan and Sara and You and I by Paper Route

What current tracks/albums are listening to as you create or think of setting in your writing?
Keep writing! Cheerleader out, yo! 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Lost Art of The Mix-Tape

I'm going to date myself here and tell you, I'm a child of the 80's. There were many great things about the 80's and none of them include mall bangs, wearing two pairs of socks at the same time or biker shorts. The list of good things is long, but at the top of it for me is the mixed-tape.

For those of you youngins that read this blog, a mixed-tape is one of those marvels that is a lost art. Nowadays, you can make a playlist 500 songs deep with a general theme and then hit shuffle for the perfect blend of songs anytime.

A mix for moods - Blue, happy, angry, love, fun. A mix for occasions - running, driving, cleaning, sunshine, rain, party. A mix for people - Mom, Dad, Kid one, two or three.

But this all began with the mixed-tape. So what makes the mixed-tape such an art form?

First, you had to have the right equipment. Either a tape to tape or eventually a CD to tape and then eventually you could make a mixed-CD. Second, you didn't have a hundred songs to get your point across. On a tape, five to six, sometimes seven per side if you got the long playing tapes. Twenty or twenty-two on a CD. You had to not only find the songs with the right sentiment and lyrics, but also you had to consider the length of each song and how they fit together to maximize the amount of songs.

You weren't just making a statement, you were making an audio scrapbook, a moment in time. A music album is called that for a reason. It's a set of pictures you can hear.

Then there was the order in which they were placed. And you had hard choices to make over which song really conveyed what you wanted to say, what you needed to hear. I mean one Led Zeppelin song, while conveying the right thoughts, would take up the place of two or sometimes three songs.

Lastly, the cover art. Did you list out the songs? Draw a picture and let the recipient be surprised as your genius was musically revealed? Use all the colors in your scented marker pack? So many choices.

Now of course, I make playlists for all my books and characters. I have all those playlists listed above. But once in a while, I long for the days of the perfect mix of ten or fifteen songs.

What does this have to do with writing? What finally makes it into your book is your mixed-tape. You'll have a hundred ideas and side plots and little things that go through your brain and maybe even into your first draft. But in the end, you revise and whittle it down to just the perfect mix of words, thoughts and ideas to convey the perfect story. Then you put it in order and find the perfect cover to hold it all in.

While the art of a literal mixed-tape is soon to be completely lost, at least writers are keeping those ideas alive with their stories, their playlists and the influences music will always have on the written word. 

Until next time, love and music notes, Angi

Monday, 17 June 2013

10 Questions with...Tripwires

With Tripwires fantastic debut album, Spacehopper, out today in the U.K. and hitting North American store shelves June 18th, we are ecstatic to have the U.K. psych-rock band on A.T.W.N.

10 Questions with...Tripwires

What was it like, being from the small town of Reading in England, recording your debut album in Brooklyn?
Recording in Brooklyn was great for us. We wrote the album in the comfort of our homes, but recorded it in an alien environment. Sometimes it’s easy to get too comfortable recording demos in your own practice space. I would definitely say going to a crazy new place influences the way you approach things. When recording this album we wanted to make a little world, stepping out of a place that you are used to into a new environment certainly helps this process.

What are some of the lyrical influences that show up throughout your debut album Spacehopper?
There’s a lot of snapshots of youth, growing up, songs built from little experiences. In terms of themes, loss and the feeling of being lost appear quite a bit.

One book, and one band…
Book – The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky.
Band – Aphrodite’s Child

Favorite Neil Young track?
There really are too many. They change every week. Currently I would say ‘I believe in you’ off of After the Goldrush.

Does what you read have an impact on your songwriting?
Photo Credit: Carl Sagan
I can’t say any particular book has ever had a direct influence on our songwriting. It’s nice to appreciate a different way of expressing emotion though. I wouldn’t say lyrically we are much of a ‘story telling’ band, perhaps a little more self-conversationalist.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Neither. Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ everytime!!

What was it like working with Nicolas Vernhes, who has produced albums for Animal Collective, Bjork and Dirty Projectors?
It was pleasure to work with Nicolas. He has recorded some amazing stuff with Deerhunter and Animal Collective previously, and the opportunity to work with him was something we couldn’t pass on. All of his stuff has great texture to it, and like us, he is a sucker for adding weird noises over the top of quite nicely constructed pop songs.

 What are the reading habits for the band like on the road?
I’m currently reading ‘The wind-up bird chronicle’ by Murakami.
When we were away earlier this week, I had it in the van and it started getting read by two others. You could say that book currently has 3 bookmarks in it.

Is there an author/musician you would love to see at one of your gigs?
Neil Young and Thurston Moore. Hand in hand, that really would be something.

Is there a band that played the Reading Festival that really inspired everyone?
I guess the Nirvana performance in ’92 still gets talked about today. We hadn’t even started school then, so didn’t see it. The DVD looks quite something though!

Thanks to Tripwires for taking the time to stop by ATWN this week. Tripwires debut album, Spacehopper, can be ordered through Frenchkiss Records, or iTunes.  If you would like to connect with the band, check them out on Twitter and Soundcloud.

As a treat, the band is offering up a free download of their atmospheric track, ‘Catherine, I feel sick’ from their debut album which you can buy from the links above.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I'm a Bust A Move Kind of Writer

I'm one of those people who's wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to understand what it meant. Throughout my childhood, I wrote story after story and shared them with everyone I could. 

And then I stopped.

I mean, I wrote all sorts of dramatic emo journal entries and some pretty terrible, angst-filled poetry throughout my high school years. But stories? No way. 

It's not that I didn't have ideas. Characters, plots, and settings were constantly tumbling about and weaving themselves together in my mind. But nothing seemed big enough. I was convinced that if I was going to write a book, it had to be amazing. It had to be absolutely life-changing for every single person that read it. People would read my book and WEEP. They would share it with their friends. It would be studied in schools and quoted in daily conversation. Hemingway? Steinbeck? Faulkner? Chumps. 

Whatever I wrote had to be a masterpiece, and if I couldn't achieve Nobel Peace Prize Level Greatness, I was wasting my time.

I quit creating stories for years. YEARS. I kept reading, of course, but I gave up on writing completely. Why even try to live up to the kind of pressure I was putting on myself? 

Then one day, it hit me--sometimes, it's enough just to be entertaining.

Think of it this way: 

Does anyone think Young MC was trying to create life-altering art when he was writing Bust a Move?

It's a song about a guy who tries and tries to get a girl and fails because he can't dance. There's no deep,  hidden message there, but come ON. It's Bust A Move. It was a huge hit. Young MC won a Grammy for it and and people still love it, over twenty years after its release. 

Compare that to John Lennon's Imagine.

This song challenged listeners to imagine a world "with nothing to kill or die for." It was a message of peace, asking all of us to look past our differences and come together as one. It's listed as number three on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

One is fun and light, the other is a poetic, political statement. The two songs are different in nearly every way possible, and people loved them both.

There's just as much value in writing an entertaining story that the reader can escape in as there is in writing the Next Great American Novel. Every book should be entertaining and engaging, but not every book is going to make the reader feel all the feels and end world hunger.

That's it. That one, simple realization changed my life, you guys. I gave myself permission to tell whatever kind of story I wanted to tell in whatever way I wanted to tell it, and BETWEEN was born.

Trust me. BETWEEN is of the Bust A Move variety, not Imagine.

Writing is hard enough without putting unreasonable expectations on yourself. Whether or not you're the next J.K. Rowling, your writing still has worth. You'll never know if readers will connect to your world, your characters, or your prose until you finally take the plunge and commit to your story. Don't give yourself excuses to quit--look for reasons to keep going. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Island Tunes

Ok, y'all, I've been on vacation for a solid week. Out of cell and wi-fi range (it was spotty at best) in the islands. Specifically, the Abacos.

And it was awesome.

Here's a visual:

Yup, it was as gorgeous as it looks.:) It was our first family getaway in years (since the birth of boy #4), and it was all we could have asked for--and then some.

As we chilled out on the boat or on the dock, we played tunes. Our main choice? Jack Johnson. We've seen him in concert, and he's AMAZING live. And we listen to him all the time around our house.  His music was a perfect island fit.

Which got me thinking...what are the tunes that perfectly capture that summer vibe?

Classic summer island tunes call for Jimmy Buffett--like Cheeseburger in Paradise, Margaritaville, or Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.

More recent tracks (by an artist with country roots but channeling Buffet's laid-back vibe) are Summertime and No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem by Kenny Chesney. (Kenny rocks in concert too, btw. I've seen him take a huge venue and turn the whole scene into an island party.)

Other picks? Summer Vibe by Walk Off The Earth, Waves by Blondfire, and La Mar (The Ocean) by The Beautiful Girls. All strong contenders for a sweet summer song.

I could go on, but I'll stop and turn it over to you.What tunes would you add to a summer tunes playlist? What song--or artist--best captures the feel of summer for you?

(For more tunes, check out my Island tunes playlist)

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Super Obsessive Playlists and Welcome to the Medicine Tribe

If you don’t recognize me at all, it’s because I’m new to All the Write Notes. (When this post is over, you can thank--or blame--Jay Spencer for my arrival) I’m so totally not new to music and writing, though. In fact, they’re just a few of my favourite obsessions (you might recognize part of that last line—just a friendly nod to Frank N. Furter). I was going to do a playlist as my first post. Then I realized it wouldn’t quite work out. Then I thought, maybe I could do an interview. But that will have to wait for another day.

You see, I’m—in a word—swamped. Funny I should mention that word. One of my musical obsessions just happens to be Swamp by Talking Heads.

But I digress. I’m not here to talk about the Talking Heads.

By now, you might be asking yourself, “Why can’t he do a playlist?” Well, It’s because the playlists I create for novel writing mostly consist of ONE SONG. Yep, that’s right. I’m so obsessive that I will listen to just the one song—over and over again ad infinitum—for an entire novel. Don’t try to do the math, it will boggle your mind. 50,000 words x 3 minute song divided by 15 chapters…let’s see, carry the 4 and multiply by the number of years…yeah. Fugetaboutit.

There is a catch, though. I don’t spread my novel writing over years. I write my novels in 48 & 72 hour marathons. So, although it sounds like madness to listen to the same song on repeat for the entire duration of a novel…it really only amounts to 72 hours at the most. That’s only, like, 1,400 plays. That is NOT obsessive. I do a little thing called the Muskoka Novel Marathon every July. It raises needed funds for the local literacy network, but it’s also an amazing retreat wherein thirty writers barricade themselves into a room for 72 hours and attempt to write complete novels.

I’m an addictive personality. If you know me, you know this. So…for my first marathon, I listened to Anthem by Leonard Cohen for 48 hours straight. What came out of the marathon was a finished novel called Sebastian’s Poet. Now I could create a playlist link here for that marathon, but I don’t see the point. Nothing is sadder than a one-song playlist. If you were to scan the pages of Sebastian’s Poet, you would probably notice that the boy’s ‘poet’ is a reincarnation of Leonard himself. I mean, it’s ridiculous. Anthem is just such an incredibly awesome song, though. It drove me to write that novel non-stop for 48 electrifying-ly amazing hours.

After that marathon was over, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s people. I wish I could say I had my people contact his people, but I’d be lying. I received permission to use, ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ (Anthem lyrics) as the epigraph to the novel. To go one step further, I then got it tattooed on my arm. Yeah, I’m not obsessive.

That novel also has a real-life celebrity in it. Gordon Lightfoot shows up in the last chapter. One of the last orders of business that Lightfoot’s agent, Barry Harvey, did before his death was provide me with permission to use Gordon as a character in the novel.

I should let you know right now that my tangents are so wide and chaotic, they require a bus route. So, you’re either on the bus or off the bus (my nod to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). This post is actually about my favourite NEW obsession. Let me introduce you to Medicine for the People (and the song I will have on repeat during this July’s Muskoka Novel Marathon!)

 (click on the album covers to go to MftP's website)

I stumbled upon Medicine about a year ago, and from that point on the obsession has slowly taken over my life. After I obsessed over their first album ON THE VERGE for several months, they were kind enough to recently release their second album DARK AS NIGHT. This band, and their peaceful reformative vision, really pumps my blood. They are FolkMusic2.O Or, rather, 11 on the volume knob of my obsession scale. Before I totally lose you, I’m going to leave you with something from their new album. ALOHA KE AKUA will inspire you to sit. To write. To marathon that next novel. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly writing Hawaii in as the novel’s setting.

Here’s a challenge for you. As a writer, can you pick just one song? Choose the definitive one-song soundtrack for your work in progress. And spin that puppy ad infinitum until you keystroke THE END on your novel. It’s transformative. Really.

You can follow NAHKO, the lead singer of Medicine for the People, on Twitter: @NahkoBear

 Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People

When you become a fan of MftP (and you will) you will call yourself #MedicineTribe on Twitter. And it will be good.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Are You Trying to be the Singer, Songwriter and Producer?

When I was little, I had this idea that singers always wrote their own songs. I thought it was incredible that one person could write, sing, arrange and produce a song or a whole album. 

Of course, I grew up and learned that was not how it worked.

It takes a whole team of people, normally, to write hit songs–or any song, for that matter. You have the artist, the songwriters, the musicians, the producers, etc.

When people collaborate, great creative product is produced.

As an introvert, I say that cautiously. I like owning my own work. I like sitting in front of my laptop, writing my own story for hours and hours without interruption. But there always comes a moment, when I've created a problem in my story that I can't solve on my own.

For example, I've been working on a story that is set in more of an ancient Rome setting. I came to a point in my story, where I wanted to collapse a structure. But I wanted it to be the only building that collapsed and I didn't want any kind of natural disaster to have anything to do with it. If my story was set in a modern era, I'd have just had a character blow it up–but that wasn't going to work for this story. 

I happened to be explaining this dilemma to a friend, who isn't a writer but has always been patient with me when I start talking about my projects, and he said, "What if there was an unstable catacomb under this building and it collapsed, causing the building to collapse?"

I had been thinking about this scene for DAYS and here he was, he'd listened to my problem for all of five minutes, and he had a solution!

Needless to say, I have a catacomb in my story now.

Talk to people about your work. Let them read it too. I've always been painfully shy about letting friends read my work–not because I think they'll tell me it's great when it isn't. They won't. But because they'll think it's so ridiculous, they'll never be able to look at me the same again. 

But that's foolish too. 

An author does not have to write, sing, arrange and produce their book all on their own. It's a team effort, but only if you let it be.