What I Learned When Making My First Song
'If you wanna become a famous musician, you might as well forget about making money.'
That’s what my father told me when I first let him know that I had interest in pursuing a music career. Music is and has always been a very big part of my life. Sounds cliche, but there isn’t a much better way to put it.
I remember when my parents got divorced and I was around the age of 12, I blasted Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon into my headphones on repeat.
I remember I sat next to a paramedic in ambulance D-12 as my mom was driven to the hospital for having a stress-induced seizure, and listening to The Smiths.
I remember when my best friend called me and was contemplating suicide, and I assisted him by suggesting he calm down, reach out to his parents, and listen to and embrace as many bands, groups, singers, rappers as he could.
Music has motivated me in my darkest moments, and has, at times, given me the courage to do things I couldn’t imagine doing.
So, once it became clear that I wanted to be a musician, the first question was how. I did the research, found out what equipment I needed and worked at a theater nearby to afford all of it. I was left with a laptop that could barely perform basic functions, a $25 condenser microphone I found cheap on Amazon, and a guitar.
The way I assumed most musicians conceived a song into existence, is by playing a few chords until they sound good in progression, add a few notes here and there, throw some semi-thoughtful lyrics on top, and hit a button that would magically put the song together. That easy, right?
It was hours, that made up days, that made up weeks, of me constantly trying different things and fitting one thing into another. The best way I could describe it is like one of those kids toys where you fit the shapes into the holes in the wood—except you don’t know what the shapes are and you’re constantly asking yourself if there even are any shapes.
It was borderline hell. Some would say, “Obviously it’s not gonna be that easy,” but I was, and still am a very naive 16-year-old with almost no grasp on how hard life really is.
Was it fun? Hell no. Did I like it? Hell no. Did I feel good doing it? Fuck no.
I started to think my dad was right. I thought, I can’t even get through one song let alone a career. But, I pushed through it.
After a few weeks I found a chord progression I liked. I started working on the lyrics, I wrote the entirety of the lyrics in one sitting, then revised and edited in another. I then got the recording program to run on my laptop, and the condenser microphone to plug in successfully. I recorded about 20 or so sessions to make sure the guitar was perfect all the way through, and then began on vocals. Vocals took way longer than expected. At least a good 30 or so recording sessions to get both layers of vocals to sound at least halfway decent.
After I was done, I had a bit of relief. Then that went away. I was down to the last step which was editing and processing. I did a shit ton of more research and found out exactly how to edit the vocals, how much reverb and normalization to apply. All of it. And so I was done. I paid an editor to put together a lyric video, and above are the results.
I haven’t shown either of my parents the finished product. I think it was because I was secretly hoping that it would blow up and I could rub it in their faces. At the time of writing this article, it is sitting at just above 800 views. Which I am extremely grateful. But it got me thinking...
Maybe there are others who work their asses off way more than I do to make it in the music industry, and don’t get the least bit of attention. Overshadowed by the saturated market, in which is filled with money-hungry labels, and people who aren’t people, but products.
I started to consider if maybe I should quit this “dream,” if you could even call it that. I still haven’t decided. I’m still waiting for some kind of sign to tell me what I should do (as stupid as that sounds).
What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts as well and give me feedback on the song.
Also feel free to follow me on Instagram: _mikea_