July 17, 2018
I was looking for a challenge. Beemo was in a holding pattern waiting for the final files for our full length album and we had been playing so much that we were in fighting shape on our material. I knew our repertoire backwards and forwards and some songs I could play on three instruments. I was sort of listless. Musically stagnant.
I started to work myself out of the doldrums when I began rehearsing with Amanda Lyn. She plays 50's style tunes with both originals and covers that I had mostly never heard before. I was soon in the thick of arranging Rockabilly songs for the mandolin which involved listening to a lot of Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Carl Perkins, and trying to assimilate enough of the vocabulary of the style to write parts that were (mostly) faithful to the genre but also made good use of the instrument.
This exercise awakened a sort of a realization of the flexibility of the instrument in a practical and accessible way; certainly I'd seen Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, and Chris Thile showcase the possibilities of the mandolin beyond folk / bluegrass but they were all masters of the instrument. But I started to see the potential flexibility in myself and thought: maybe I can tap into those possibilities too.
I started to think about something fun, challenging, useful, and edifying I could do with myself. For a few years now I have been increasingly plugging in to the Orlando music scene and now consider myself an advocate and appreciator of local music and the great musicians (and cool people) who created it. I half jokingly say that I run Beemo's scouting department. Most of my car ride listening these days is from Orlando artists, whose works I try to buy as often as possible.
Then it occurred to me: I should do a video series where I played the mandolin along with another local musician on one of their songs. I would get to write and arrange parts without having to worry about writing an actual song and I would get to do a deep dive into the construction of other people's works in a way that would force me to internalize aspects of their music. It would motivate me more than an academic exercise; I'd actually be playing these songs for public consumption.
I'd get practice and insight into other writing styles and they'd get content they could share. I could tie it in to some studios around town that I'd been wanting to work with and add another networking aspect to it. I'd get to work with other artists, we'd all get to work with recording engineers and videographers, deepening everyone's rolodex. Seemed like a win win win.
But would it work? Would anyone want to do this other than me?
So far it seems like a "yes." I've talked to around ten musicians who've expressed interest and already recorded Cat Ridgeway and Abigail Cline with Mike Walker of Dreamwalker Productions and videographer Cam Freeman. Getting to "yes" was easier and faster than I anticipated, leaving me scrambling to get my pterosaurs in a row, registering Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Wordpress accounts and figuring out what other content I'm going to include.
So this is going to be both a sharing of my affection for the Central Florida music scene, my affection for the mandolin, and a sort of documentary of my exploration of the instrument's possibilities. I'll also be working on experiments with different genres of music and hopefully forging myself into a more rounded player.
Ideally this will be fun, informative, and pleasing to the ear. I still don't really know what I'm doing or where this is going, but I'm looking forward to finding out.