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.

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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

 

So Thursday evening I was all set to play a show with my band Kangaroo when I learned that the venue double booked the stage that night. They had recently moved their weekly drag show from Friday to Thursday and somehow that fact didn’t reach the ears of the guy who booked us to play. And apparently the drag show has a little more clout than four unknown Brooklyn rock bands because they got the spot. I wish I could say that this is the first time one of my bands got bumped for a drag show… but its not.

The good news is this gave me more time to work on my daily songs. Hope you enjoy them!

February 5 — Fine Wigs

February 6 — Space Peyote pt. 1

February 7 — Space Peyote pt. 2

February 8 — Postcard Shopping in Barcelona

February 9 — It Will Probably Be OK

February 10 — The Grand Sand Temple

A couple weeks ago I predicted that my biggest challenge as I tackle this goal of recording a song everyday would be to overcome the discomfort of sharing work that I’m not exactly proud of. Well, you can call me Nostradamus because my prediction came true. I flat out do not like two of these songs, one of which I considered playing completely in reverse, because at least that would be artsy and cool instead of bland and lame (but I chickened out of that). If I wasn’t so stubborn I wouldn’t share these with you. But I am stubborn, and so I’m sticking to this goal I’ve set for myself.

Luckily this week also produced two of my favorite songs I’ve made during the course of this experiment, so I think it all evens out in the end. Now I’m not going to tell you which songs I love and which I hate, because you might love or hate a completely different set of songs, and I don’t want to sway you in anyway. However, I do want to introduce a simple new element to this project of mine: I’m going to start naming the songs. Because who wants to listen to a boring old song called January 31? Not me. But do I want to listen to a song called January 31st — Bumpin’ Gumballs? You bet your britches I do.

January 29 — Faded Photos

January 30 — Snowy Forest Sunrise

January 31 — Bumpin’ Gumballs

February 1 — Impromptu Underwater Lounge Party

February 2 — Ichabod’s Return

February 3 — Vanillappropriation

I was at the Comedy Cellar over the summer when one of the comedians (I wish I remembered his name) told this joke: “So I saw a girl crying on the subway recently. Whenever I see someone crying in public in New York I always think the same thing… Why aren’t more people crying right now!?” I thought about this joke a lot this week. Because in addition to the usual high levels of rats, rabble, and rent, it was also just painfully cold. But come to think of it, the question “why aren’t more people crying right now?” is probably valid anywhere in the world. Life is hard man. It’s ok to cry about it. And at the same time, it’s ok to dance about it. So watch this video if you need some bodily inspiration, and be sure to check out week two of my daily song project below that! See you next week kiddos.

Daily Songs

January 8

January 9

January 10

January 11

January 12

January 13

 

 

Last week my roommate Anna came home and alerted me to a recent article in the New York Times column Modern Love. For despite my being a perpetual bachelor, Anna knows that I love to talk and gossip about relationships. In the article Mandy Len Catron (author of the 2015 viral article To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This) talks about her practice of drafting a yearly relationship contract with her long term boyfriend Mark. She writes that the contract covers everything from “sex to chores to finances to expectations for the future.” The contract even has an overarching mission statement for the relationship, which for her and Mark is to “aspire to help each other be more ethically-minded and generous friends, community members and global citizens.” While a relationship contract might sound like the antithesis of that spontaneous kind of love and romance that Hollywood likes to glorify, the author found it to be an incredibly helpful practice in her relationship, and one that helped her and her partner grow ever closer while protecting what was personally important to each as an individual.

Lacking a romantic relationship, I currently have no way of testing out this exact practice, yet even in my bachelordom this idea resonated with me. For a contract or mission statement is not only useful in our relationships with romantic partners, but potentially extremely powerful in helping us navigate our relationship with life at large. Without exactly knowing why, I have at times adopted a mission statement for my own life. Just look at my outdated About Me page on this blog site where I talk about practicing the Art, Craft, and Critique of music. For about three years, I have operated under the assumption that if I consistently pour my effort into these three endeavors, my musicianship would grow and my musical career would benefit. Luckily this has mostly been the case. Yet since starting this new chapter of my life in New York, I’ve become aware that my personal contract needs updating.

I confess that this move to New York City was not the byproduct of a crystal clear vision for my life. Instead, I moved here in large part because I felt like many elements of my musical and personal life in Arkansas were either stagnating or diminishing, and thus I needed a change. It has been somewhat uncomfortable to find that an obvious path to career success and personal contentment has not magically unfolded before my eyes since moving here. Overall I am happy to be here, yet I’ve often found myself drifting into self-doubt and confusion. Many a morning I wake up and wonder what the hell I’m supposed to be doing.

It would be great if someone would just tell me what I’m supposed to be doing, but one of the most beautiful and simultaneously uncomfortable things about my life is that I’ve largely been afforded the freedom to choose for myself what is right for my life. I’m aware that not everyone has this privilege— ultimately it is something I am extremely grateful for, and something I certainly do not want to take for granted. Lacking a magical spirit guide to tell me what I should be doing and also wanting to take full advantage of this freedom of choice, I’ve recently been interrogating myself about what it is that I truly want for my life. As a result of this process, I’ve come up with a three year plan for myself incorporating short and long-term goals I have.

Now I’m not going to tell you what my plan is. I’m a little self conscious about how lofty the plan might sound, and I don’t want to give my haters (do I have haters?) a chance to cast doubt on my goals. I’m not Tom Brady— I do not thrive on proving people wrong. I’m Lucas Murray— I thrive on encouragement from others.

I would also like to encourage you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to set goals for yourself and really go for them. I don’t think there’s any surefire, scientific, foolproof way for you to achieve your goals. This isn’t The Secret! And I’m not Tony Robbins (it’d be cool if I was though; I’d probably have a few more blog followers). The truth is, you might not achieve your goals. Yet the benefit of having a goal is immediate— it gives your life order and direction, and it gives you the personal peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are working towards something. Plus, hey, you might achieve your goals— and wouldn’t that be great.