December 9th, 2015
After recently speaking with a dear friend about the process of this album, something sparked inside of me. I was inspired to share the process of the crafting and making of The Popular Loner. I feel as though it might be helpful to other people and artists alike to journey along with me. Therefore for the next 15 weeks I will share the process and heart behind each song on the album. I will start this week on giving an overview about album’s process as a whole. I highly encourage you to listen to the entire album from start to finish before reading my thoughts.
The making of The Popular Loner has been a thought of mine for the past 3 years. It was in the fall of 2012 where it seemed like my life crashed right before my eyes. I hit one of the toughest spots I’ve ever had to go through in my life. It was in this darkness that my mind began to really reflect on life. I wondered if I’d ever make it out of hole I was in. Looking back, there have been many times where I’ve wondered the same thing, but this time felt different. For the first time in my life, I actually thought I’d never make it to the end of the valley. There were many competing voices both outside and inside giving an opinion on what my next steps in life should be. Some people even wanted me to move away and have a fresh start somewhere else. Although some of the opinions made logical sense, I didn’t feel convinced inside of me. Then for the first time I chose to run away from the darkness, but instead find light through the darkness. I told myself “No matter how bad it gets, don’t run away. You have to face the music."
I had to face the music... More than metaphorically, I literally had to face the music. See, for me music means many things. However, my music is an intimate thing. Writing lyrics more often times than not, feels like the only place where I can truly be. “Be what?” you may ask. Well, through my lyrics I don’t have to be anything, I can rather just be… Be me! To the canvas I write as it reveals pure. Sometimes, I don’t know how I am truly doing until I begin writing. It’s an unfiltered expression of my mind and heart. So during this time, back in 2012, I began listening to epic musical scores. Music not necessarily lyrically focused, but music that helped my think. Audible brain food, if you will. I did a lot of thinking during this time. I started to think of a conceptual album. An album simply referred to at the time as ‘The Project’. This album was to be real life concept taken from my life. It was to be a story about identity.
The original concept behind ‘The Project’ was “the album of why I’ve never come out with an album”. I’ve been writing for a little over 10 years and have done songs here and there, but never came out with my own project. Many people over the years would continually ask me “Where’s your album?” or “When are you ever coming out with an album?” and maybe rightfully so. Some people started doing music after they saw me doing poetry and rapping years ago. My lyrics however are very personal to me. People would say they wanted to hear from my heart, but would they really? I wanted to speak on that subject as a concept. Song ideas and lyrics started to come to me. Pieces of the album were forming and I had an idea the album would finish with me pushing past these barriers and truly finding freedom. But that was unfathomable to me and I didn’t want to write on something that wasn’t real to me. I felt convicted about making an album and ending it as broken as I was. So I shelved the project completely.
During 3 years from 2012-2015, I was writing less and less. It actually got to the point where I stopped writing all together. I just couldn’t write new material separate from ‘The Project’ and I couldn’t write to ‘The Project’ due to my drowned vision. I wrote one final piece and truly believed I’d never write again. It was an ambition lost through thoughts of inequity. Then beyond my wildest dreams I changed. Internally, the scales of my heart started to peel off like a cocoon giving way to wings of freedom. It was happening. It was what I’d always hoped for and never thought possible. I was free. An ever longing sense of loneliness was now filled in a way too great to comprehend. An undeserved grace poured over my soul so sweet even honey couldn’t compare. Alone in my room the title was whispered to me: The Popular Loner. I knew then that this was to be the title of ‘The Project’ I’ve so desperately wanted to share. I told myself “You have to put this album out this year”. In order for me to complete this album I knew I’d have to in a way obsess over it.
I spent roughly 1000 hours just listening and going over production alone. There were some instrumentals that I had from 2012 and even partial pieces that I’d written when I first thought of this concept that I held on to. Many pieces were taken out and things were rearranged, but the vision of this album was becoming clearer. I wanted to be creative and truly have my own voice and style. So, I decided to not watch any television and listen to any Hip-Hop/R&B during the entire crafting of this album. For 4-5 months straight I would only listen to instrumental mood music and music outside of my genre. I love Hip-Hop, but didn’t want my love for certain artists to influence me in what I wanted to accomplish. In the crafting and recording of this album I did 20-hour days for about 5 months straight.
I found an incredible artist/illustrator who lives in Australia by the name of Eevien Tan. I love her artwork and thought it’d be amazing if she was the one to actually do my album art. I didn’t think that she’d accept, but found her email and shot her an email anyway. I didn’t hear from her which is what I honestly expected. Then I contacted other artists and talented people wanted to do it, but something inside of me wasn’t fully convinced. A week later I went onto my computer frustrated. I opened up my inbox to 1 new email unopened. It was Eevien. She wanted to be my cover artist. Everything that she spoke of was exactly what I was looking for.
There were many ups and downs in the recording process which I will speak about in the following weeks. I spoke in an earlier blog post entitled “The Miracle in the Madness” about the day before the album was due for mastering. Finding the mastering engineer was a gift in itself. I was first contemplating about sending the album to Universal Studio’s to be mastered. Then the price came back and it was a little more than what I could do at the time. Next was a studio in New Jersey, but I just wasn’t fully convinced on the engineers. Then was a nice studio in Nashville whose price range was around what I was looking for. I then heard some quality samples, but I knew that we (my brother and I) could produce the same level as what I was hearing. I was back to square one. Then after some research, I landed on Justin Weis whose resume is impeccable and is located right in the Bay Area. His prices are easily half of what I would have paid other places. He was the guy.
The Popular Loner was then complete. When I heard it back for the first time after mastering, I knew it was right. It was something truly special. It didn’t matter if it sold a dime; it was what it needed to be. The Popular Loner is an album that I’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into in hopes that it might reach someone deeper than their ears. It’s a vulnerable album about me, but much larger than the confines of my mind. It’s funny because I barely slept enough to reach REM sleep in the crafting of this album. I barely slept in the hopes of a dream that I can share with the world. You never know… Maybe dreams really do come true.
Stay tuned for my motivation behind Intro to Infinity…