JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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Album update. Or why execution is the perfect name for getting something done.

I haven’t written much about my album of late, but the reason is simple: I am in full-on execution mode, only the album is not all that’s being executed  — because this process is killing me. God, execution is hard. I love creation, I live for when songs come into being. There’s that moment you get the idea, maybe it’s a riff, maybe it’s a line, maybe it’s both. You think to yourself, “Hey, that could be a tune.” Then you work on it. The riff flows into chords, the lyric tells you a melody, the part reveals a song. In every case, the process is the same, at least for me. I sit on the couch and I play and mumble and hum and play and hum and play and humble some more. I use a scrap of paper and a mechanical pencil with ridiculously fat lead to scrawl out phrases, notions and chords as I work. When I hit on something I like, I play it over and over and over and over and over. Maybe I’ll record it, but I believe the best ideas can survive a night’s sleep, maybe even get better with the ruminations of R.E.M., so I trust the survival instincts of the idea and turn in, leaving little more than scrawled phrases and crumpled cushions as notes. Once I reach a point where I can hear the song in my mind — the guitars, the drums, the bass, the vocals, all of it, sometimes as though I am wearing headphones and listening to a stereo system — I go to the computer and start making my demo. This is where the first hints of the agony to follow make their appearance, because the shift has begun from creation to execution. But creation still prevails as I try take after take of the guitar part or burble out a bushel of bass lines or warble the vocal line. When things work as I expected them to, it’s glorious. Mostly, though, whatever ideas I had at the outset evolve into something better, as I hone the way the parts fit together and nail down a song structure. At some point, though, the song must be declared done and ready for execution. No longer am I in total control, no longer is every last bit up to me, no longer is the song pure potential, now it must become reality, be locked down, set in stone, perfected. And as others join the process to make this so, nothing, and I mean nothing, ever sounds quite right as it’s being played or sung by someone else for the first time. I compare it to my internal stereo track and it’s not the same and therefore not right and so we put the demo on the monitors and honestly it’s not that different so we hit Record again and my brow stays furrowed and while I do my best to stay positive on the outside on the inside I’m asking myself why I bother with all this and telling myself I should just go home and wow is that a headache coming on damn I’m dizzy and I hate being dizzy why am I doing this again who am I kidding oh great that drum hit was out of time or was it the bass etc. In the end, after the execution part, usually a few days or so, I am almost always stunned at what the players who have helped me have created. Without fail, so far every song on my album smokes the demo version and far surpasses whatever my internal stereo system was playing. But for some strange reason, all of this evidence that things are going to work out fails to convince me that they will work out next time. And so, as I near the finish line with a mere two songs left to go, it’s not getting easier, it’s getting harder. It’s murder, in fact.