Hi my name is Lucas and I’m a music producer. Don’t believe me just watch. 

If you made it :08s in to that video you probably you heard me give a nice little soundbite. You see, Philadelphians are clamoring for my nice little soundbites, because I recently co-produced the new music for Philadelphia’s oldest news radio station (one of the oldest news radio stations in the world in fact), KYW Newsradio 1060. In fact if you turn your internet radio dial right now to this station, you’ll probably hear some music I produced within five minutes of listening— I’m talking headlines, I’m talking weather, I’m talking sports, I’m talking traffic… you got a news segment? I can produce the music for it! Or more accurately, we (at Man Made Music) can produce the music for it.

Quick sidenote: If you made it to :54s in that video you heard me give a not-so-nice soundbite. I mean the sentiment is nice, but the delivery? Oof. I don’t like it. Basically I was just riffing, and I came across this phrase “This piece has got soul to it, because Philadelphia has soul!” And I guess I didn’t say it cleanly, or clearly enough the first time, so they made me say it again, and then I got all self-conscious, and it felt like I was acting, and frankly, I’m a bad actor. So I delivered it all weird and self-consciously. But they kept it in anyway. Look people, don’t make me repeat myself. I’m good at improvising and saying things spontaneously, but I am not good at delivering lines. Maybe I should take some acting classes? That sounds fun…


Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. I’m a music producer! But what the heck is a music producer? Well, broadly speaking, a music producer is someone who helps facilitate the creation of recorded music. This helping facilitate can encompass a wide range of different activities. It can be a primarily directorial role — with a producer coaching singers and musicians during the recording process to achieve their best performances. It can also be more of a project manager position —  with the producer planning and budgeting for the entire process of writing, hiring musicians, recording, mixing, mastering, registering, and releasing music. A producer may also be the writer or co-writer of a piece of music. In fact Webster’s dictionary defines a producer as… just kidding.

It is a big catch-all term, and there are as many different approaches to it as there are producers. You might be a Rick Rubin, who, among other things, acts in part as a meditation coach for the artists he is producing. Or you might be a Timbaland, who, among other things, creates tracks from scratch for artists to sing or rap over. Or you might be a Lucas Murray, who, among other things, flies by the seat of his pants, communicates with composers, sends emails to clients, arranges recording sessions, books musicians, records guitar parts, edits the music, and ultimately gives clunky soundbites to Philadelphia radio stations. That’s how you know the project is coming to a close— when you’re in that clunky soundbite stage.

Here’s a soundbite (or textbite?) for all you armchair philosophers out there: You can’t possibly know what era you are living in. This is true in any field. Its up to historians to define your era long after you and all your friends have died (easy on the looming mortality talk Lucas! Jeez!). Beethoven wasn’t writing his fifth symphony, all smug, thinking to himself “I truly am ushering in the romantic era.” But music historians often point to that symphony as the inflection point for a new era in music (or was it Beethoven’s 3rd? It’s been a while since I took a music history class. Look it up, dear readers, because you have a lazy writer who doesn’t care to fact check himself). The point is, I don’t know what musical age we are living in, but if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on this being the age of the producer.

This is a vain proclamation. Its pretty convenient that right when I become a music producer I take to my blog and tell my tens of readers that we’re living in the age of the producer, isn’t it? If someone had asked 19 year old Lucas what era we are living in, he’d probably be all like “the age of guitar, man!” Luckily no one ever asked me that. Plus the difference between 19 year old me, and me now, is I’m right and he’s wrong. I’ll go out on a limb and say unless you’ve developed a drug habit, this is true in almost any discrepancy between one’s 19 year old self, and one’s 30 year old self.

Quick side-note: I’ll look forward to my 50 year old self treating my 30 year old self with this same flippant dismissal.

Anyway, instead of just dunking on him and walking away, let me go back in time and try to prove to little 19 year old me that this is the age of the producer. Ok, so, 19 year old Lucas (I’m going to call you young Luc— obviously that’s pronounced “Luke” — read it that way). Young Luc, I’m going to ask you to do something you’ve probably never intentionally done in your life. I want you to listen to the Spice Girls’ hit song “Wannabe.” Now I know everyone overdosed on this song back in the late 90s, but they did so for good reason. This song is pure ear candy from front to back and take my word for it that it still sounds great in 2019. But why? The melody, harmony, and form are good, but there’s nothing revolutionary there. The incredibly energetic performance from the girls in this song also shouldn’t be understated. But the special sauce is the production. It is the result of people paying attention at all levels (from performance, to recording, to mixing to mastering) to the sound of the sounds.

Let me get a little professorial on you young Luc. Pull up a chair.

For almost the entire musical history of mankind, how music sounded boiled down to some pretty simple questions:

  • who is playing it?
  • what instruments are they using?
  • what piece of music are they playing?
  • where are they playing it?

Correct me if I’m missing something, but that’s pretty much it. Then with the invention and continued advancement of recording technology, the influences on the sound of music have expanded exponentially. In addition to the questions above, we now must ask: what kind of microphones we’re using, are we recording digitally or analog, are we replacing or augmenting any sounds, do we use auto-tune, how are we going to equalize this, how much compression do we use on each instrument, are we using any samples, how much and what kind of reverb do we use, are we adding effects and which ones, does this need any editing, etc… etc… etc… Oh and who is going to do all of this? Well, young luc, the producer is the one who is going to at least need to have a vision for all of this, if not outright do it herself.

Now I’m not ready to say that production is unequivocally the most important influence in making a song great. Called me old-fashioned, but I still believe you need to write a good song (ya know, one with a good melody, good harmony, good form, good groove, and good lyrics). However, I believe that most if not all of the musical elements that are new in our era, fall broadly under the domain and responsibility of the producer. And that is why this is the Age of the Producer. What do you think about that young Luc?

He’s speechless.

There are many reasons not to keep a blog. A shortlist includes:

  1. Your friends don’t think it is cool.
  2. You have to blog about something interesting, and lets face it, you’re not that interesting.
  3. Think of all the other things you could be doing with your time. A short sublist includes:
    1. Watching the Simpsons ( I mean, you love the Simpsons!)
    2. Practicing Guitar (you haven’t done that in a while)
    3. Making/Perfecting your Tinder profile (true love awaits)
    4. Taking a nap (you’re tired bro)
  4. Its an outdated medium (now its all about the snaps, tweets, blogs, and tizzles bro).
  5. Who cares about your blog.

Thank you, self doubt, for that lovely list. Now I’m not going to try to argue against every point on that list, because frankly, some of that is true. But I will take issue with the last item on that list and say this: who cares who cares!!

Yeah I said it. Who cares who cares. If I wanted people to care about what I was saying I’d be tizzling out my Game of Thrones season 8 re-writesMy motivation for writing a blog is not that I want people to care about what I say. Although quick side-note: Of course I do like it when people care about what I say. I’m as addicted to this social-media driven world as everyone else is in 2019. I love those likes, comments, shares, subscriptions, and tizzles. But no, my true reason, is that I find this activity personally rewarding. It isn’t necessarily fun or easy to do — its always easier not to — but I find that I just feel better and live better when this is part of my life. Fundamentally, I do this because I believe that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and this is my way of publicly examining my life. 

Now, basing your actions on something Socrates said might sound like a very freshman-in-college thing to do. And yeah! It is! I first read that quote when I was a literal college freshman taking Intro to Philosophy, and it has stuck with me ever since! But I’d like to take a moment to petition for the idea that most of us could stand to act a little bit more like college freshmen sometimes, and a little less like old floppy-jowled fishy-smelling cynical curmudgeons (I’m looking at you fill in name of hated politician here). Because college freshman have a whole expanse of time, space, and opportunity before them, and from that perspective they are often free to choose to do the right or beautiful thing, rather than just the practical thing. 

Now I’m certainly not saying that it is hopeless for all of us olds (I’m 30— am I allowed to start calling myself old yet? I can’t wait for that day). The good news is that there is in fact a way to recapture this spirit of youth. You could take Lord Henry’s advice from The Picture of Dorian Gray:

“Ah! Lord Henry, I wish you would tell me how to become young again.”

He thought for a moment. “Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?”

“A great many, I fear,” she cried.

“Then commit them over again,” he said gravely. “To get back one’s youth, one has merely to repeat one’s follies.”

Now, granted, this quote comes from a book in which the main character spirals out into an ever-escalating tornado of depraved, immoral acts, so let’s think about reworking this quote a bit shall we?

To get back ones youth, one has merely to reclaim one’s ideals. I know, it is not as sexy as the original quote, but here’s the thing, no one wants to be the grandpa getting sick on the subway from one too many shots of fireball (newsflash: one shot of fireball is too many shots of fireball). That’s a folly that should not be repeated. No. Instead of repeating follies, let’s reclaim our ideals.

So here I am, channeling my inner freshman, and still believing and acting upon things that Plato’s imaginary friend Socrates said. And damn it feels good to be a freshman.

Oh, wait, shit. I forgot this was a music blog. I thought it was a free-form, stream-of-consciousness motivation blog. It sure was this week wasn’t it? Next week I’ll tell you why I’ve been on a blog hiatus. Long story short, I got a job as a producer at a company called Man Made Music, and I’ve had my head down, working hard getting rolling there. There ya go — music stuff!

I contradict myself a lot in this blog. I doubt anyone has noticed or cared about it. I’ve noticed, but I don’t care about it. You see, I’m of the Emersonian mindset. He once wrote that…

Ok, wait—before I quote Emerson, I just have to say that I’m completely distracted right now. I’m journaling a draft of this blog post in Central Park, sitting on the rocks by The Lake, and there are a group of rowdy, shirtless teens across the pond who are cheering loudly every time someone rows a boat by them. All of these poor, pond-ridden tourists are limply rowing by at a snail’s pace while these teenagers cheer them on like its the Olympics. It is incredible. I want to go join them, but that would not be cool. I’m not a teen anymore, even though sometimes I still feel like one…

And I’m going to pretend that was a smooth segue into the topic of teens—the source of my blog’s most recent contradiction. The contradiction occurred when I made this statement a few weeks ago:

“The difference between 19 year old me, and me now, is I’m right and he’s wrong. I’ll go out on a limb and say unless you’ve developed a drug habit, this is true in almost any discrepancy between one’s 19 year old self, and one’s 30 year old self.”

That was a pretty good line. And I suppose I stand by it. But the problem is that literally one week prior I was sincerely arguing that we all need to be acting more like freshmen in college. Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas…you can’t have it both ways, bro.

Except yes I can. You see, I’m of the Emersonian mindset. He once wrote that…

Wait! Hold the phone—you know what? I don’t have to quote Emerson to justify my contradictions. I can contradict myself because this is a hobby-blog—a hoblogby, if you will—and I can do whatever the hell I want. Proof: click this LINK! See? I can do whatever I want.

Yet, there is something even more important than my inalienable right to hoblogby-freedom that allows me to be so confident in my contradictions and rogue hyperlinks. It is the idea that something doesn’t have to be factual to be true. You can contradict yourself and still be telling the truth both times. Please note that this reasoning will not hold up in a court of law, and my lawyer friends do not appreciate me invoking their profession for clickbait purposes. However, I’m not a lawyer. I’m an artist, and this reasoning will hold up in the court of good art.

May it please the Court (of Good Art) to submit for the record, exhibit A:

“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”

-Pablo Picasso

Woooohooooohooooooooh, that’s a strong argument for the defense. I rest my case.

Now before I go on and celebrate my recent court victory, I just want to note that you can use quotes by Picasso in the Court of Good Art, but the same cannot be said about the Court of Good Behavior.

And now for the celebration. Woop woop! We did it! We won! Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty, and that’s all y’all need to know!

Anyway, having freed itself from the need for facts and consistency, art becomes both easier and more difficult than that other great search for truth: Science. It is easier because the initial bar for creating art is very low. Look, here’s some art. That was really easy to make and bad art is still art. However, the bar for creating good art is much harder to find.

Conversely, in science the initial bar is much harder to clear. There is a more vigorous and demanding method to follow. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? However, once you are conducting replicable experiments with accurate measurements, you’ve pretty much hit your mark for doing good science. Interestingly enough, if you are conducting bad science (i.e. not following the scientific method), that’s not actually science! It’s actually closer to bad art. So congratulations! You’re an artist!

I actually used to think I wanted to be a scientist—an astrophysicist, to be precise. But I realize now that I was more interested in the spiritual and aesthetic implications of certain theories of the universe than I was in actually doing a bunch of advanced calculus. Like, the multiverse? Great premise for a science fiction film. Or like, the big bang+big crunch? That’s just the universe breathing in and out. I know—like, far out, man.

It is pretty clear to me now that I was way more interested in being a bad artist than a good scientist. So I’m happy I chose the path I did. Rather than constantly trying to fit a scientific peg into an artsy hole, I’m free to just arrange those pegs into a model of a pterodactyl, string some rubber-bands across that hole, and start strummin’ a pterodactyl tune. Or, like I said earlier, I can do whatever the hell I want!

Now, I recognize that I still haven’t really talked about what it takes to make good art. And I don’t necessarily think that doing whatever the hell you want is always the right path to get you there. Frankly, there is no one right path. However, I do believe that in art (and in life), ridding yourself of useless hang-ups is vitally important if you are going to find a path that is right for you. So if fear of contradiction happens to be your personal impediment, congratulations my child—you are free. Please imagine me making some vaguely religious gesture with my hands as you read that last sentence.

Postscript:

Did I really have an Emerson quote to share? Well I had one in mind, but I actually could’t find it. But here’s one by Walt Whitman that basically says the same thing:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large. I contain multitudes.)”

We had a wild party yesterday. When inviting my friends to this party, I told them to show up anytime between 3pm and 3am. They thought I was joking. Even I thought I was joking. Apparently I was not joking. By my clock our first guests arrived at 3:05 in the afternoon and the brave and final few left at 3:45am.  Over the course of those 12-plus hours, we hosted roughly 45 people. Friendships were formed, romances blossomed, animals were grilled, guacamole was made, beers were consumed, vodka drinks were invented, disco was danced, and the cops were called… twice.

I shall not name names, but some of my friends also got a citation for drinking on the train on their way home (it was a small fine, and the cops even let them finish their beers for some reason). So that’s a total of three cop encounters, all stemming from the same party. This all may sound like pretty juvenile or degenerate behavior, and I suppose it may be. However, the revelers at last night’s party (myself included) were neither juvenile nor degenerate by any outward, superficial measure. These are managers at huge financial institutions, marketers at social media companies, editors at literary magazines, producers at music studios, and even a state senator. These are people who at least appear to have their shit together.

This is emblematic of a very Manhattan phenomenon. People here are somehow the most adult, responsible, competent, capable, powerful people while simultaneously the most free-wheeling, indulgent, pleasure-seeking, silly people. New York encourages this dichotomy — its in the city’s DNA. This place wasn’t settled by those prudish pilgrims after all. This is New Amsterdam baby! The Dutch came here because they thought it looked like a fine place to make some dang money. And unlike those austere, wet-noodle pilgrims, once they got a little money in their pockets, the Dutch weren’t afraid to spend it on a little bit of fun! And thus, bars, arts, and parties proliferate here to this day.

Now, that’s surely a gross and possibly inaccurate oversimplification of the history and sociology of this place, but I hope you didn’t come to this alleged music blog for any history lessons. No, I hope you came and are here now because you want me to get to the point. The point is, there are only two rules here in New York:

  1. Be good at your job.
  2. Try to have a real good time.

It’s a simple set of rules, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to follow. Because no matter how good you are at your job, it often feels like there’s always going to be someone that is better at it than you (and probably someone younger, and better looking to boot). I came here two and a half years ago thinking I was going to be a performer. I showed up to get a masters in jazz performance at NYU, but I’ll be honest, I looked around and heard my “competition” and pretty well threw out the idea that I was going to be a jazz musician by the end of my first semester. I did finish the program, and I do now have a master’s in jazz performance, so yes, if we are counting chickens, I am a master of jazz (eat your heart out Coltrane). However, I quickly shifted my focus at NYU to film-scoring and music production classes, and most fatefully, in my final semester, I got an internship a lovely little company called Man Made Music.

I think it took me about a week of interning to decide that I really wanted to get a job there. The musical work being produced was amazing, the space was incredible, and the people were all so competent and cool. So I showed up early every morning, stayed late if I was needed, and remained bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and willing to do anything and everything that was asked of me. As it turns out, it was the right fit at the right time, and I was offered a job there last July. I remain incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work there, and I’m not just saying that because my supervisor might be reading this right now (waddup Amy).

For a number of reasons (lack of qualification being chief among them), jazz musician just didn’t feel like the right job for me. And while the waves of imposter syndrome often come a-crashing, I do feel like Producer at Man Made Music is the right job for me. I now need only follow the rules:

  1. Be good at your job.
  2. Try to have a real good time.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to tune in for next week’s blog entry: What the hell is a producer?

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.16.15 PM.png

So if you’ve been a truly consistent reader of my blog (and I’m not sure I’m talking to anyone outside of my immediate family here), you’ve perhaps noticed a few reoccurring themes. For instance, one of my favorite things to do is to set super ambitious goals for myself, fail or fall short of those goals, and then rationalize my failure. In fact, I’m trying to trademark that as a tagline for my website: “Lucas Murray Music, rationalizing failure since 2013!”

Its got a nice ring to it no? Now let me show you how its done.

A couple of weeks ago I started a paid internship at a wonderful music production company called Man Made Music. I’m incredibly grateful for this and excited to learn from the many friendly, intelligent, and talented people that work there. The trouble is, on the days that I work there (Monday and Thursday), I’m left with very little time to fulfill my goal of writing and recording my daily songs. So this week’s post, which actually represents two weeks of songs, has only 8 songs instead of 12. Don’t worry too much about the math— the point is that I’ve come up a little bit short.  However, I think its reasonable for me to give myself a break on the days that I need to commit to working at Man Made Music. Don’t you?

And that’s how its done.

Overall, between my final semester of grad school, performing and recording with my band Kangaroo, and now my new internship, I simply don’t have the time and energy to keep up my original pace of six songs a week. Having thus failed at my original New Years Resolution of writing and recording a song everyday (except Sunday), it is indeed tempting to just scrap the whole project and move on with my life. I would certainly have more time to watch Breaking Bad if I did.

Yet I’m not letting myself off the hook. I don’t ascribe to the all-or-nothing philosophy. Personally, if I can’t have it all, I’d still like to have a little something. The practice of writing six songs a week was meaningful to me, and it would have been a wonderful feat of willpower if I had made it the whole year. Yet the practice of writing four or five songs a week (if thats all I truly have time for) will still be meaningful, useful, and satisfying. So instead of quitting, I’ll just adapt.

 

Enjoy the songs.

March 27 — Beaver Creek 

March 28 — Picking Up the Pieces 

March 30 — Bleepin’

March 31 — Hard to Be Human

April 3 — Dream State

April 4 — Cartoon Quest

April 6 — The Great Wave

April 7 — Cyber Woods

Hey gang. So I didn’t post my songs last week for no other reason than last Sunday I was like “nah, I don’t want to.” I was thinking I’d do it mid-week, like on Thursday or something because that seems like a better time to post things on the internet based on a vague memory I have of an article I once read about peak social media posting times. But then Thursday rolled around and I was like “nah, I don’t want to.” So here I am again posting on a Sunday. Only this time around, I’ve got two whole weeks of songs tailor made for your ears to enjoy! See you next week.

March 12 — They Grow Up So Fast

March 13 — Glyter Musik

March 14 — Elephants Rolling Deep

March 15 — Cupcaking in Los Feliz

March 16 — No Sleep (Don’t Listen)

March 17 — You Can Change the Words

March 19 — Accidental Compliment

March 20 — Night Driving

March 21 — Neptune’s Ferry Ride

March 22 — Nerdquest 2000

March 23 — Pleased to Meet You

March 24 — Saturday Slipping

 

Commercial Mondays

Happy Monday everyone! In honor of everyone’s least favorite day, I’ve come up with a musical gimmick to help me through this long year of daily song production. Because I’ll be honest with you, I’m 10 weeks in with 42 more to go, and this is already starting to feel like a chore. Yet it’s not the actual act of creating the music that is the hard part. The hard part is getting started recording the music when watching just one more episode of Breaking Bad would be so instantly rewarding, or missing out on fun social activities because I have to push my nerd glasses up on my face and make music in my lonely room, or recognizing that I’m putting a whole lot of hard work into a project that isn’t making me any money.

So in an attempt to make my life easier and hopefully ameliorate some of the difficulties I just mentioned, I’ve decided to turn Mondays into “Commercial Mondays!” What this means is that on Mondays I am going to attempt to create a piece of music that could be used in a television commercial. The parameters of this are that the piece will be 30 seconds long and easy to digest. So on Mondays, I’m not trying to create groundbreaking musical art (I’ll leave that for Saturdays), I’m just going for something that sounds nice and somewhat familiar. My hope is that these Monday songs will be easier to begin (because I have more clearly defined parameters), take less time to create (because the song is shorter and usually simpler than other days), and will potentially make me some money down the road (yes you can use this song in your toothpaste ad, let’s draw up a contract).

So all of that was the backstory to my Monday, March 5th song aptly titled “Selling Out.” I hope you like it. But if you’re looking for something a little more artful or substantial, I’d suggest looking to March 9th or 10th. Enjoy.


March 5 — Selling out

March 6 — Teenage Tears

March 7 — Reception

March 8 — I’m on Fire

March 9 — Determined

March 10 — Languidly Leaving the Library