Good news everyone! Today I offer you the blog equivalent of that school day in which you got to watch a movie in class! Ooooh you thought it was a real treat to get to watch a documentary about the civil war instead of reading your stuffy old textbook. The truth is, your teacher was just giving himself/herself a break. And that is exactly what I am doing as well.

All good movie days include something at least a little bit edifying, so I’d like to begin with jazz master Bill Evans expounding his views about music, learning, and creativity. I think this should be required viewing for any young musician attempting to learn how to play jazz, but there are also plenty of nuggets of wisdom here that apply to any creative endeavor. The Bill Evans portion doesn’t start until 6:25 in this video, so skip ahead if you want to, but Steve Allen gives a pretty charming introduction that won’t hurt you to watch either.

Ok, that was all well and good Mr. Murray but can’t we watch something fun? Why yes you can, because I’m actually that cool substitute teacher who let’s you do whatever you want. Here’s a bunch of famous singers (and Tyra Banks for some reason) taking spills on stage. My personal favorite falls are by Beyonce, Madonna, and Shakira.

And Finally, I’d like to leave you with Pharoah Sanders playing saxophone in an abandoned tunnel in San Fransisco. Sanders was born and raised in my hometown of Little Rock, AR, and I’m not sure why we don’t have a statue of him somewhere— he’s an all time great saxophonist and a true artist who pushed the jazz language to new creative heights. If you didn’t know Pharoah, you’re welcome, now you know.

Three months ago, I told myself and the public that I would release one blog post and one song every week for nine months. So far I’ve been able to stick to my guns because, as I’ve stated before, this project is not about quality— it is simply about quantity. It is a personal quest to get better at the crafts of blog writing, songwriting, and recording simply by putting in some work. However, I’ve run into a problem this week. I had a song to record, and have been working on it all week, but I had no idea what I would write my blog-post about. I casually assumed that I would eventually think of something to write and would be able to knock it out in time, yet each day passed, and I still had no idea what I would write. Even today, the day that I will post this entry, and even now as I am writing this sentence, I still don’t fully know what I am going to write in this blog post.

Yet I’ve got a start. I took a creative writing class my freshman year of college in which we had to write poetry, and my professor told the class that if you don’t have an idea for a full poem, just use fragments of other poems. I was the only one in class who took his advice and I got an A on the poem. It pays to listen to your teachers kids. Well there are no teachers to grade this, but I am hoping that if I just piece together some of my current thoughts on musical things (the phrase “some of my current thoughts on musical things” is best read with a southern accent), it will make for a passable blog post, and we’ll all feel good about Lucas continuing his outpouring of quantity work. Let’s begin with some confessions.

These are my confessions:

  • I haven’t listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade. Why not?! No reason, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve been told it’s “a masterpiece,” that it’s full of juicy references to Beyonce and Jay-Z’s marital turmoil, that it’s the “best album of the last two years,” and that she’s not only going to win the Grammy for best album this year, but the Grammy committee is also going to go back in time and give her Beck’s Grammy from 2015 as Kanye tried to do at the time. But yeah, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps I’ll celebrate the fourth of July with some Lemonade.
  • I’m fairly certain I started playing guitar to impress girls. Now, granted my memory is hazy on this. I’ve always loved music, and I took piano lessons from age 8 to 10, but right around the time I became aware of girls, I insisted on switching from piano to guitar. Coincidence? I think not. I know that by the time I was in high school, I definitely thought it would help me “get girls.” It didn’t, but I stubbornly continued to play, and practice until, by the time college rolled around, I just fell in love with learning the instrument. I’m now (mostly) free from my early ulterior motive, but if it weren’t for my naive misconception that girls would automatically fall in love with me because I played guitar, I might not be the guitarist you see today.
  • Guitar is not my favorite instrument to listen to. When I listen to music, I tend to prefer the timbres of the voice, or an organ, or a horn section, or a nice flute, or even the humble oboe. I play guitar simply because it is the instrument that feels the most natural and comfortable to me. If I am going to contribute to the creation of beautiful music, it’s going to be with a guitar. I do love the guitar, I just like the sound of some other instruments a bit more.

Brief announcements:

  • I have a couple of Rev Room shows coming up soon. The first is with Jamaal Lee on July 3rd for the Drummers in the House event. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure Little Rock has the highest dope drummers per capita of anywhere in the world. This Sunday is a showcase of some of these guys including Paul Campbell, Jonathan Burks, Stephen Bailey, and Jamaal Lee, with whom I am playing a short set. I don’t want to give anything away, but we are going to play a song that is going to make you say out loud “what the duck just happened?!” Except remove that auto correct from the word duck. The second show is July 9th, with Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe for The Legacy Project release show. It’s going to Blow. Your. Mind.
  • I’m going to go in the studio and record an album at the end of July with some of the best songs I’ve written during these past few months. There, I said it. Now I have to do it.

The last album I listened to in full was:

Mr. wonderful by Action Bronson. I got this recommendation yesterday from a special someone— thank you, you know who you are! This album is so incredibly enjoyable. The samples are amazing, the production is great, and Action Bronson’s voice is perfect for his humorous, feel good, braggadocious lyrics. Any album that open’s up with a Billy Joel sample and ends with someone riding “the harley into the sunset” is alright with me.

Something Deep:

Throughout the inevitable ups and downs of a long life, it helps an individual to be at peace and content if he or she is connected to an eternal principle. I am comforted that I get to play, teach, learn and listen to music, because Music is eternal. I’m not talking about any one piece of music, I’m talking about the big, abstract, capital “M” Music that holds all of the various musical works and activities throughout the universe in its embrace. Music is forever waiting and willing for us to touch it’s surface, and is always open to letting us pry it’s depths.

Next time you listen to something, don’t think “I’m listening to Taylor Swift.” Just turn something on, and think “I’m listening to Music,” and then stop thinking, and just let it hit you. As much as we like to glorify our favorite artists, they are not the point— the point is Music itself. No one invented Music, we’re all just channeling it.

Something Shallow:

It helps to be hot.

BeyonceyoungelvisNow listen to my new song. Peace!

PiphpicThis week at Lucas Murray Music, I’m doing something a little bit different: I am entering into world of Big Piph (aka Epiphany Morrow). I’m not talking about just hanging out with him— I’ve had the pleasure of performing and hanging with Piph countless times. I’m talking about taking a step into the vast universe that he has created for The Legacy Project, the world’s first “living album,” which he is releasing tomorrow. This is Piph’s magnum opus, tying together an album of new music, enough videos to rival Beyonce, and an interactive app for your smart phone. For the past four years I’ve witnessed Piph grow this ambitious little pipe dream into a full blown reality. He has likened executing this project to trying to jump the grand canyon on a moped, and if that is the case, I’ve been a captive audience member eating popcorn on the sidelines, waiting to see either a miraculous landing or a terrible crash. Well everyone, it appears that he is going to make it, and because of that I get to give you a tip of the iceberg peak into the project. Today we are going to take a musical look at one of the characters in The Legacy Project. Enjoy.

Ellie V BackgroundEllie Evans was an extremely gifted student and athlete. In spring of 2006 she graduated salutatorian of historic Little Rock Central High School at age 16; that fall she began attending Princeton University and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during her stay; at the end of 2007 she qualified for the Beijing Olympics in gymnastics. Yet after a string of personal tragedies, Ellie inexplicably left school and Olympic glory behind, moved back to Little Rock, and began a transformation into the mysterious woman we see today. Ellie V (as she chooses to be called now) is a modern renaissance woman: one part martial artist, one part computer programmer (or hacker as some have claimed), and one part punk rock icon. She granted me this rare interview on the terms that it would only be about music. It seems she does not want to address the rumors that she has become a consultant for L.E.S. in their “special outreach” division. So, ok. on to the music. Here is Ellie V in five songs:

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Ellie: Let’s Get it On— Marvin Gaye

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Ellie: Nothing Compares 2 U— Prince

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Ellie: You’re With the Wrong One— Fried

4. You are an olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Ellie: Bring Your Whole Crew— DMX

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Ellie: Bull in the Heather— Sonic Youth

Finally, Ellie has also granted me the exclusive privilege of pre-releasing her brand new single “eat your heart.” You heard it here first kids. Thanks Ellie!

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Music is everywhere. No I’m not talking about the song of the birds, or the gentle hum of the breeze—I’m not being poetic. I’m talking about that REO Speedwagon song playing at the gas station, or Tears for Fears at the grocery store, or the Spoon album playing at the coffee shop while I’m writing this blog post, or me tuning out the Spoon album at the coffee shop with some Lamont Dozier in my headphones. With only a few rare exceptions, it appears that where there are people, there is music playing. This is great right? I love music, you love music, so it is only natural that we would want it playing everywhere.

No, this is not great. First of all, music is often playing at the supermarket, and liquor store, and restaurants to make you spend more money— this isn’t a conspiracy theory, the effects of music on purchases have been studied, tested, and verified since the 1960s (here’s a layperson-friendly article on the topic if you care to read it). The fact that corporations are using music to affect our purchase habits is certainly alarming. Yet as a musician and lover of music, I am disturbed by a more general fact: when music is playing constantly, we tend to value it less.

Music is perhaps the single richest human endeavor. Interchangeably or all-at-once music can provide a means of communication, an expression of emotion, a spiritual devotion, an ecstatic experience,an affirmation of one’s culture or group, a catharsis, a way of healing or countless other things. Music activates neurons in more areas of your brain than almost any other activity (and that’s a nearly un-paraphrased sentence from this article). Music should be revered for the all-consuming entity that it is. Instead we offer it up like free mints at the end of a Tex-Mex meal.

Before the proliferation of recorded music and stereo systems,respect for music came more naturally. To experience music a person would go to church and hear the mighty organ and choir, or go to the symphony, or meet in the town square for an after-work jam, or listen to a family member play piano, or sing songs with your friends (I”m certain that this is an over-simplification of musical activities in the past but you get my drift). Music was the most captivating form of entertainment and a relatively rare treat by today’s standards. Today we have constant access to music through computers, smartphones, radios and stereos and many of us wield this power like drunken kings, constantly bombarding our ears with a schizophrenic onslaught of tunes.

Furthermore, I think that there is a direct correlation between the ubiquity of music and a decline in dancing. In some African languages the word for “music” and “dance” is the same. In American English, perhaps we could use the same word for “music” and “driving.” Today music turns up in places that are not appropriate for dancing just as often as places where dancing is encouraged. There is probably some up-tempo music playing at the grocery store right now, but you won’t see anyone dancing to it. This socially forced denial of dancing carries over even to places that are deemed appropriate for dancing. I’ve been to (or performed at) too many live shows where the band is laying down some clearly danceable grooves, and the crowd is just motionless, cerebrally listening. I think that this is just what happens when you’ve been listening to music all day but haven’t busted a single move— you didn’t dance during the day when you were listening to Beyonce so why break the seal at the Big Piph & Tomorrow Maybe show? (shameless plug number one)

However, there is still hope for music. One arena in which music is still respected and fully enjoyed in our culture is at weddings. During the ceremony, music propels the movement of this still sacred ritual, and people are quite often moved to tears when they hear the first notes of the bride’s processional. Even after the ceremony, music still sits on it’s rightful throne; through some magical combination of booze, feel good songs, and joy for the newlyweds, wedding receptions still manage to get people to really cut loose on the dance floor. I absolutely love weddings for this reason, and I am extremely excited to get to travel to Eureka Springs this Saturday to play at a wedding reception with my band That Arkansas Weather— we’re available for hire by the way (shameless plug number two).

Yet you don’t have to wait for a wedding to start respecting music. Unfortunately you can’t turn off the music at the grocery store or Starbucks, but you can turn it off in your car; and you can take your headphones out once in a while; and you can turn it on in your room and really let it grab you by the bones; and you can come to the That Arkansas Weather show Friday at the Afterthought and dance til you feel better (shameless plug number three and I’m out).

For those not yet privy to it, this blog is part of a nine-month long project in which I release a blog-post and a new song every week. So below is this week’s Opus if you care to listen, and even further below are links to posts from past weeks. Enjoy!

Week 1—Nine Months of New Music

Week 2—That’s Masturbation

Week 3—Oblique Strategies

Week 4—A Conversation with the Wolfman