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

 

 

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It’s New Years Eve and I’m sitting at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. At my current perch, the Starbucks at the end of gate H, I’ve witnessed one impromptu wrestling team practice, two adorable psychiatric service dogs, and about 17 people who resemble Larry Bird in some meaningful way. I’m familiar with this land of a thousand Larrys— a decade ago I spent a semester of college at nearby Lake Forest College and I remember believing for a time that Chicago could be my permanent home. Now its just the middle point between Little Rock and New York.

I wrote that a week ago today, thinking I was going to post something that day, but I quickly got swept up in the New Years eve festivities as soon as I landed back in New York. I really enjoyed being back in Little Rock for the holidays— it still feels like home. While it used to be the place where I worked hard to patch together enough gigs and lessons to earn a musical livelihood, now it is a respite of relaxation. It is always replenishing for me to come back and eat home-cooked meals with my family, take hour long baths, watch an enormous amount of NBA basketball on TV, and get properly drunk at least once with my friends. Yet there comes a time during every trip home when the relaxation has turned into stagnation, and I’m ready again to hustle in the bustle of the big city. Thus, it was from the warm depths of my parents’ comfortable couch that I hatched this ambitious New York City sized New Year’s resolution:

I will write and record a song* everyday*.

I know what you’re thinking (because I can read minds). You’re thinking “Lucas, you doofus, you’re not going to record a song everyday— that’s crazy! I bet you only last like four days….”

First of all, there’s no need to call me names. Words hurt, man. Second of all, you’re a hater. Third of all, I’ve already lasted more than four days so you can go suck a lemon.

Next, you’re thinking, “why are there asterisk next to the words song and everyday?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with the word song. The traditional definition of the word song is a piece of music that is meant to be performed by the human voice with or without instrumental accompaniment. That is, songs are meant to be sung (of course there are famous exceptions to this rule such as Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words). Instead of the traditional definition, I’m using the word song in the way 99 percent of Americans use it, simply to mean any standalone piece of music. For instance, the 1999 crossover techno hit Sandstorm by the Finnish DJ Darude isn’t technically a song by historical standards, but people the world over still call it a song whenever they exclaim “I fucking love that song!” or “I fucking hate that song!” Similar to Sandstorm, most of my musical works will be instrumentals that aren’t necessarily “songs” per se, but I’m calling them songs just like your iTunes library would. For I’m not quite pretentious enough to call this project something like “Daily Opus” (although I am clearly pretentious enough to write a long paragraph demonstrating that I know what a song is).

Yes, there’s also an asterisk next to the word “everyday” you noticed. I think we all know what everyday means (define everyday: every day). That asterisk is there because around day six of this adventure I realized that I needed to heed some old testament advice and take a day of rest if I want to sustain this level of output. So here at Lucas Murray Music, everyday actually means everyday except Sunday. I make the rules!

Anyway, it would be easy to write and record these songs, just tell you I did it, and then pat myself on the back. In fact it would be even easier to just straight up lie to you and say that I’m writing and recording these songs, when I’m really just on the couch watching the show Big Mouth over and over again. But for better or worse I’m going to share these songs with you every Sunday. Just check them out on my homepage or at the bottom of this post. I hope you like them! Also, if you want to use any of them for your personal projects please let me know! We can work it out.

Happy New Year!

January 1

January 2

January 3

January 4

January 5

January 6

 

 

So I beat my roommates in a great game of Settlers of Catan last night. In your face Anna! In your face Elisa! In your face Monty! Monty isn’t really one of my roommates— he’s a cute but horrible Chihuahua who is occupying our apartment right now (and I don’t mean occupying in the benign sense, but in the sense of invasion, annexation, and subjugation). My other roommate Paul was at an annual ball for Marines at his alma mater Columbia, but if he was home I would have beat him too and said “In your face Paul!”

I’m being a completely ungracious winner and gloating all in jest of course. It is fun to win the game, but the real prize is that I have truly wonderful roommates whom I sincerely enjoy being around, whom I can talk to either jokingly or seriously, and whom I get to play board games with from time to time. Yes, I confess that I do love to win, whether it is a board game, or basketball game, or music competition, yet the joy of winning anything is short-lived. It feels great for about five minutes and then it’s back to my perpetual sense of existential angst.

Sad Arrested Development GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now I don’t mean to worry you dear readers— I realize that perpetual sense of existential angst is a pretty heavy turn of phrase, but the reality of it isn’t so bad. Fundamentally I am a pretty happy, optimistic person. I am just also acutely aware that we’ve all been hurled into the world and are now just basically winging it. We didn’t get to rehearse beforehand for this role of human being and we have no real idea what the future has in store. Acknowledgement of this leads me to a difficult question: well, what do I do now? This question summarizes what I mean when I say perpetual sense of existential angst. When faced with a bewildering and mysterious life with no clear path outlined: what do I do now?

The good (and bad) news is that for the most part we get to (and have to) decide how we are going to answer that question for ourselves. Let me share with you some of the more momentous ways I’ve answered that question in my life.

Spring 2007: “I don’t know, go to college I guess.”

Winter 2007: “I don’t know, drop out of college I guess.”

Spring 2009: “Go back to college. Work really hard.”

Fall 2013: “Take every musical gig you can get, teach guitar lessons.”

Fall 2015: “Apply for grad school in New York City.”

Summer 2016: “I don’t know, move to New York, go to NYU and study jazz I guess.”

And here I am now. As you can see, some of these answers were more resolute than others. There’s nothing inherently better about a more resolute answer— an unsure answer or a confident one could lead to either beautiful or terrible results. But I will say that it does feel better to have a confident, crystal clear answer.

So in the spirit of feeling good, I’d like to offer another crystal clear answer to the question at hand. As you know, (or will know by the end of this sentence), today we have a new moon. During this lunar phase cycle (from now until the next new moon on March 27th), I will write, record, and arrange for a band, four new pieces of music. I’m using the moon cycle simply because I love the moon, I think it is a consistently beautiful sight, and it gives me a definite span of time that is tied to a natural phenomena. It’s a slightly less arbitrary, slightly more exciting measure of time than a calendar month.

Being in school, I seem to have some obvious answers to the existential question “well, what do I do now?” I just do this assignment, I turn it in, and then I go to sleep satisfied right? Not exactly. I’m not here in school solely so I can earn a master’s degree. I’m going to school so that I can learn from true musical masters, enhance my musical skill, and thus increase my likelihood of having a vibrant career in music. Yet if I do want to have this vibrant musical career, I need to also take many steps outside of school. My goal for this moon phase represents one of these many steps. So readers, mark my words: on March 27th I will release four new recordings for your listening pleasure. Ok, I know what to do now. That feels good.

Last Thursday I went to 55 bar to see my teacher and guitarist extraordinaire Wayne Krantz perform with Michael League (bass) of Snarky Puppy and Josh Dion (drums) of Paris_monster. Like every Thursday night at the 55 bar, Wayne grooved, funked, rocked, and shredded his way through a fresh creative stream of unique modern music. I’m ever impressed at the fact that his playing is both technically precise and supremely spontaneous. Wayne’s music carries on the spirit of jazz (highly creative and centered around improvisation) without exactly sounding like jazz (Wayne rocks and grooves, he doesn’t swing). Although he told me afterwards that it felt like a bit of an off night, to an outside observer he, Michael, and Josh were in top form, demonstrating the height of musical possibility. I left the show extremely impressed and feeling like I urgently needed to go practice so that I can reach such a high level of musicianship.

On Friday I joined a new friend at Rockwood Music Hall and saw my first true rock show since I’ve moved to New York (wow, it had been far too long since I’d seen a good rock show). They are an L.A. based band is called Veers and my friend described them well as “smart rock.” They combined intelligent chord changes, tasteful instrument/vocal tones, and interesting song-forms over rhythmically precise rock grooves (i.e. “smart rock”). I’m sure the lyrics were thoughtful as well, but you know, it’s a live rock show in a relatively small room— to my ears the lyrics invariably get drowned out in these situations. After the show I met the lead singer and also chatted with some other musicians in the local NYC music scene. I heard casual talk about people jetting to Australia to play shows, or potentially doing an arena tour, or being music director for an up-and-coming indie rock songstress. I left the show happy to have gone, but feeling like I urgently needed to go immerse myself in the scene and meet the right people so that I too could have cool opportunities to travel and perform.

Urgent is one good descriptor of Manhattan (sidenote: it’s also a great Urgent). This city buzzes with an energy that sometimes seems to scream: “WORK HARD, PARTY HARD! You’re tired? DON’T SLEEP!!! THAT’S WHAT COCAINE IS FOR!” Kids, don’t do drugs. Also friends, family don’t worry, I never touch the stuff either— I hear it gives you double vision (I wish I could say that that is the last Foreigner reference in this blog post). Furthermore, whether you live in New York City or not I think most of us are victims of the sense of urgency created by the technological age that we live in. We walk around everyday with these little handheld super-computers giving us access to countless text messages, contacts, emails, songs, pictures, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, news stories, and social media accounts (not to mention the entire rest of the internet). We see pictures of our friends and family going on fancy vacations, or winning awards, or getting job promotions, or getting married, or having babies, etc. and it’s easy to think: oh my god I need to do that! I need to get married now! I need to have a high-powered job now! I need to be rich and famous now! Our sense of time and possibility is shaped by our setting, and personally my setting seems to be telling me that time is running out and I need to move quickly if I want to accomplish anything.

Yet there is another perspective on time housed right in my back yard. Saturday I took a solo stroll across Central Park on a beautiful sunny day in route to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon arrival, I instantly remembered how much I love going to art museums by myself (an activity I hadn’t done since my first semester of college at Lake Forest College when I would often take trips to the Art Institute of Chicago). It is a fine thing to go to a museum with friends, but I am never able to fully immerse myself in the experience of the art unless I am alone and free to roam at my own pace and let my own sense of taste guide me. During this intimate communion with the museum my thoughts slow down and I can get in touch with a different experience of time, for the mere act of taking time to gaze at a piece of art is a meditation.

Yet the art itself often also points to a story about time that is different than our prevailing cultural view. Take for instance this statue of Ugolino and His Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux created from 1865 to 1867.

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This work is a visceral depiction of angst and desperation and an incredible technical feat of expert marble sculpting. It also represents a feat of patience and diligence which is rare in our culture today. The work is telling us: “yes it may take you two years of your life to create something this great— it may very well take you a lifetime, and you may be working on a single pinky toe for a decade— but you are taking this time because as an artist, you are attempting to create something that is timeless.”

Sure, there is no art that is literally “timeless”— every human creation is tied to the time in which is was made, and everything material will sooner or later deteriorate, yet somehow I do believe that the attempt to create something timeless is still a worthwhile pursuit. For viewing and creating these works of art does indeed expand our normal sense of time and let’s us touch something meaningful that extends both far into the past and far into the future.

If you are at all inclined, I encourage you to treat yourself to a solo date at your nearest art museum. I am certainly spoiled in that I’m a mere walk away from one of the greatest collections of art in the world, yet I think that any art museum will do. I strongly believe that the act of taking time to appreciate a painting or a sculpture in its every minute detail will make you a better person. The constant motion and rapid pace of our age (especially in a place like New York City) presents you with one hypothesis about time: time is running out! Days, months, years, and lives are short so let’s get to work, and then part hard! YOLO! Yet the art museum presents a different perspective: nothing great is made overnight. Greatness is made through slow, deliberate steps towards your goal. Furthermore, you don’t only live once (YDOLO!)— your physical body will perish, but your great work may live on throughout the ages, being born again and again for each new generation to appreciate and interpret…for to them, it feels like the first time.

Yes I just ended this blog post by jamming in another completely uncalled for Foreigner reference! BOO YA!

After a month long hiatus, I’m back to blogging. In the past, after having taken a long break from blog writing, I’ve always come back to it with some grand declaration and a clear goal to enact (e.g. I’ll blog everyday, release a song every week, etc…), and I am tempted to do this yet again. We are after all still within the window of opportunity for me to tell you all about my multiple new year’s resolutions! I’ve asked around, and it seems like most of my friends are not as enthusiastic about the idea of new year’s resolutions as I am. Personally, I love to make resolutions. It feels great to set big goals, and dream of what my life will look like when I’m living as my peak self.

I’m also certain I could squeeze out a whole blog post simply by talking about the what, why and how of my new year’s resolutions. I’d feel great about myself and all my ambitious plans, and yet you the reader might actually feel a little bit worse. The best case scenario is that you’d get bored and just stop reading. The worst case is that you would think “Wow, Lucas sure is going to do some awfully cool stuff this year! What am I going to do? Not much. I suck. I hate myself. You know what, I hate Lucas too.” Look, I don’t want you to hate yourself, and I especially don’t want you to hate me, so instead of talking about all of my goals and (hypothetical) future achievements, I’m going to try the opposite approach and talk about some of my past shortcomings. Because a little dose of schadenfreude does a body good— it’s my New Year’s gift to you! You’re welcome.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve carried two (mostly subconscious) desires that have motivated much of my behavior: the desire to be liked, and the desire to be the best. In many ways, these desires have served me well in my life. I think I’ve generally behaved in a well-mannered, somewhat delightful way, and a lot of people have liked me because of this (or in the least, they’ve not disliked me). Additionally, I’ve put a lot of effort into being really good at things like music, sports, and school, and as a result I’ve been a relatively high achiever in these fields. And yet, for the past decade or so, as I’ve sought to create, sustain, and grow a vibrant musical life, I’ve discovered that these motivating desires have provided more hindrance than help.

Consider this: one of the best ways (if not the very best way) to improve at playing music, is to play with musicians who are better than you. Here at NYU, and in New York City as a whole, I am surrounded by musicians who are more experienced than me. I have ample opportunity to play with them in both impromptu and organized jam sessions all over town. And yet last semester, I consistently avoided these opportunities, because I have this desire to be one of the best in whatever realm I enter and it feels very uncomfortable for me to be one of the very worst. But if I really am serious about improving as a musician, I’ll quit ego-tripping right now and start getting comfortable with playing with people who are far better than me.

Ultimately I also wish to compose my own music and release it in to the world, and it would be a dream come true if I could earn a living by writing original music. Although it is a relatively rare livelihood, I don’t even think it is all that far-fetched. I know that I can write music that sounds pretty good, and I see numerous outlets for original music: movies, TV shows, video games, advertisements, live performances, or sold directly to an audience (who knows, maybe even old-school aristocratic patronage will come back into fashion). Yet success in any of these realms requires at least one common thread: the willingness to put my music out into the world. Sure, I’ve done this on a small scale— I’ve written some original songs, made some home recordings, and put them up on sound cloud. That counts right? No, not really. The stakes are too low. I’ll never truly know if people like it or dislike it, and that is the hurdle that I am hesitant to jump over. For I have this crippling desire to be well-liked and approved of, and I am afraid that if I put my music out into the world and really try to sell it, people just won’t like it. Yet the fact is, no matter what, some people will not like my music. It’s impossible to write universally loved music— go ahead and try; you’ll end up writing elevator music. If I really am serious about making music my livelihood, I’ll accept that many people are not going to like my music, and just put it out into the world anyway.

Yes, I’m a scared little piglet everybody— I’m afraid of not being the best and I’m afraid of not being liked. Yet I have some virtues as well. In the least, I have an awareness of my fears, and the gall to confess them to you all. I’ve shared these shortcomings with you because I want to move beyond them. As Louis Brandeis said—guys, wait, listen, I’m not going to act like I knew who Louis Brandeis was before I wrote this, I was just vaguely aware of this quote and so I looked up who said it. Anyway, as Louis Brandeis said, “publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Well, this blog is my publicity, and you readers are the sunlight, here to help me clean up my act. Thanks for reading.

World's Smallest Studio
World’s Smallest Studio

Before arriving in New York City I was excited about the prospect of turning over a new leaf in such a lively place. I was convinced that I was going to work harder than I ever had before— I would write, record, play gigs, excel in school and promote myself ceaselessly. For I knew that if I did these things that I would grow musically, enhance my career, meet some incredible people, and learn countless lessons that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. Yet as anyone who has ever set a new year’s resolution knows, it feels great to dream up a grand new life, and it feels bad when you inevitably fall short of your goals. Thus, I was feeling blue last week because (in addition to America electing it’s first cartoon super-villain president) I felt like I was falling short of my musical and personal goals for my time in NYC. Sure, I’ve been going to school, doing my work, and paying my bills— there’s no reason for anyone else to be upset with my behavior here, and yet I am disappointed in myself because I know in my heart that if I truly want to succeed in music here or anywhere else, there is much more that I could be doing. So I did what I always do when I’m feeling down on myself: I made a list of things that I could do to make myself feel better.

1. Seek out gigs. Why? Because performing has been such a large and positive part of my life for the past nine years and I’m sad to say that I haven’t played a single gig since I’ve been here. I yearn to perform, and I absolutely have to if I want to become a part of the New York City musical community.

2. Talk to David Schroeder, the director of the NYU jazz studies department. Why? Because I’ve had something on my chest since I enrolled in school here—namely that I do not think that I am a “jazz musician.” I absolutely love learning from the many jazz masters who teach at NYU, but I needed to bring it to light that I am interested in playing a great many other genres and that it is likely that I am not going to make my millions (or thousands, or dozens) strictly playing jazz.

3. Play music with someone. Why? Because I’ve been spending far too much time cooped up in a small room practicing music, and not enough time actually making music with other people. As I’ve written before, playing music alone and never doing it with others is merely masturbation.

4. Call the producer of a short film that I am scoring. Why? Because I wanted to clarify some of our goals and deadlines, and it is better for me to be proactive than to passively wait on her guidance.

5. Go play pickup basketball. Why? Because I love pickup basketball. It’s fun, therapeutic, social, and there’s no better sound than a crisp swish.

I am very proud to say that in addition to fulfilling my usual school duties, I achieved all five of these goals this week. I booked a couple of gigs for mid-December, I had a wonderful heart to heart with David Schroeder, I played music with a couple of classmates, I got in touch with the producer, and I played pickup basketball. Each achievement momentarily infused me with joy and confidence and yet, on Friday after I had accomplished all of them, overall I still felt low. The good news is that I’ve lived long enough to learn that sometimes my sadness is not a result of outer circumstances, but just part of the natural ebb and flow of my spirit. You cannot have happiness without experiencing sadness, and I’m likely experiencing a natural low after the incredibly exciting high of being a New York City newcomer. I’m oddly at peace with my sadness, for I know it will pass and give way to joy again. Such is life.

So Friday night I was feeling sleepy and sad as I was taking the Subway home—I got off of the A train in order to transfer to the C, when I was suddenly face to face with a vivacious young subway performer wearing a red tie prancing around singing Holly Jolly Christmas along to a backing track. Now I’m generally uninspired by the song Holly Jolly Christmas (especially before Thanksgiving), but there was just something so enjoyable about watching this little dude sing it. He followed up Holly Jolly with his final number of the evening: a highly dramatic dance routine to a high-energy club song. It is comical for me to write this, but I sincerely mean it— that little guy’s sparkling dance routine brought me back to life. I felt intense joy at watching him so freely and spontaneously express himself. Coincidentally, if you go to his instagram page (@masterblasterg) you can actually see video of this exact moment. Scroll down to the video titled “Dance because you can” and you’ll see me in the background, first languidly looking at whatever distraction I have pulled up on my phone, and then by the end, flashing a huge grin.

As he was packing up his gear I went over to slip him a tip and talk to him. His name is Gabriel Angelo and he is 17 years, and he had the same effervescent personality in conversation that he does while performing. I asked him what his musical goals are, and he told me (with a dramatic wave of his hands) that he wants to do more shows than anyone ever has in the world, and to heal people with his music. You’ll have to suspend your cynicism to read this (as I have to suspend mine to write it) but he did heal me that night. I cannot describe it any other way than to say that in watching him sing and dance, he transmitted his pure joy directly to my heart and soul. As if that gift was not enough, he reminded me that I did not fall in love with music for any practical purposes. I fell in love with music because of it’s mystic ability to transmit feelings beyond words. Certainly it is good to set goals for myself and achieve them, but I should remember that practical goals may have very little to do with love, happiness, and music.

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Well, I live in New York now. So far I’ve spent most of my time lazing in Central Park, exploring the NYU campus in Greenwich Village, or piecing together my tiny bedroom in my Upper West Side apartment (pictured above). All summer I’ve been excited about this move and proud of myself for taking this leap, but I confess I didn’t (and still don’t) know what I was getting myself into. I suppose a naive part of me expected that I would arrive and immediately begin walking down a clearly paved road to musical success. In reality, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to properly feed, clothe, shelter, and transport myself in this enormous city. I’ve been here for just over a week, and every day I oscillate between being a giddy tourist and a homesick child. I walk around stupefied by the iconic streets full of hip beautiful people, I constantly screw up on the subway, and I miss my family and friends to the point of tears.

And still, I’m so happy to be here. I know that eventually I am going to figure out the subway, I’ll learn where/when to go to the grocery store, I’ll make great new friends, and I’ll start to feel like my tiny closet of a bedroom is a cozy home. Many of my now effortful actions will change into natural routines. What will not change is the fact that I am living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, surrounded by rich culture and a talented, driven, diverse population. I have every resource I could hope for to help me fulfill my dream of musical success: world renowned instructors, innumerable venues, plenty of talented collaborators, and a potentially vast audience of music fans. I have a sense that if I am not successful here, it will be my own fault. This city is full opportunities for me and I believe that I’m going to be rewarded if I only work hard and consistently choose to step out of my comfort zone. Frankly, my dream is to write, record, and perform music all over the world, and I think I’m in the best possible place to make that dream a reality.

This is where you come in precious reader. I’m going to document my musical life and thoughts once a week in this blog, and I need you and everyone else to read it. Sure I could try to hold myself accountable to my goals on my own, but I’d likely end up frequently binge watching any of the brilliant shows available in this golden age of television instead. I wish I were entirely self-motivated, but the fact is, if I know I have an audience, I’m going to try a lot harder. In exchange for your readership, I’ll offer you delightfully useless observations (e.g. New Yorkers won’t make eye contact with you until they are slowly rolling out of your life forever on a subway car— and then it’s nothing but blazing eye contact), as well as priceless nuggets of wisdom (sometimes). You’ll also have a candid look at my life as I rise from Lucas Murray levels of obscurity to Kanye West levels of international superstardom and egotistical delusion.

Finally, I’m going to cap off each weekly blog post with a playlist. I’ve adopted the city-wide habit of walking around with my headphones in— I put all of my music on shuffle, and am consistently delighted by the synchronicity of the random song I’m listening to and my outside environment. Thus, the songs that I’ll include in each playlist are the songs that were most significant or enjoyable to me that week as I roamed the city. And like New York itself, this playlist is going to be diverse, including both old and new songs from a variety of styles. You can find each playlist at the bottom of my blog posts, or follow me on Spotify and find the weekly playlists there if you’re interested in hearing the songs but don’t want to read the blog (you lazy so and so), or if you you like, I can even burn it on to a CD and mail it to you because I’m cool like that (just shoot me an email).

So if you believe in me like I believe in me, please follow this blog, share it with your friends, family, and rich patrons, and don’t be afraid to contact me with any questions, comments, or words of encouragement. Also, if you don’t believe in me or just plain dislike me, please follow this blog, diss me often in the comments section, and judge me as I shamelessly try to pursue my foolish dream of musical success. Whether friend or foe, WordPress user or not, if you would, please go push that follow button at the top right of this post, drop me your email, and then tune in each week for a new post. Thank you!

And here is this week’s playlist: