Aaron’s Blog

Stories and thoughts on life as a singer-songwriter.

Nail Guns

Imagine you work construction, framing houses. But what you really want to do is play guitar and sing songs for people. You’ve just recorded your first album and are releasing it in two months. Of course you know your fingers are important, so you’re as careful as you can be around dangerous tools like, um, nail guns. 

One summer afternoon you’re building a window header when the framing gun double fires. The second nail goes through your left-hand middle finger, and pins it to the wood as easily as a needle going through butter. You have literally fastened yourself to a 2×6. 

So many thoughts run through your head…  

Congratulations, you’ve just done the worst thing a guitar player could possibly do.

Looks like that whole singer-songwriter dream is done. 

Ouch, this really hurts. 

Apart from gory details and some permanent nerve damage, your blessed middle finger makes a full recovery. Without question it is immediately entered into your body parts hall of fame and obviously gets that year’s sportsmanship award.

But the point of the story has to do with what Doctor Bob says to you while bandaging your hand. And by the way, Doctor Bob is also your friend, believes in your music, and knows you’ve just recorded your first CD. 

“Listen.” He says. “I’ve met a lot of 9-fingered carpenters, but not many 9-fingered guitar players.” 

That’s pretty much all he says. 

But you know he’s saying it would be wise to think about what you really want to be doing in life. Are the things you’re doing now lining up with that? And are you protecting what matters most? 

As you drive home you think about this a lot. And your future self thanks you for making changes. 

***

Anyway, it’s just a story.

Love, 

Aaron

Homeless Singer Moves Me to Tears

I’m sitting in the living room watching TV when my phone starts buzzing.

It’s YouTube notifications, comments on a video I had posted more than a year ago. Almost all are from viewers in Sweden who have just watched a Swedish TV documentary featuring a homeless singer.

*** 15 months earlier ***

December. The air is brisk. I walk out of a Goodwill thrift store on Charlotte Avenue and get into my car. I begin to turn the ignition when I hear singing.

It’s Nashville, so that’s not uncommon, but this is different. The man’s voice is like nothing I’ve heard before. Somewhere between Hank Williams and a character out of a John Steinbeck novel. So much mystery and loneliness and complexity that I just sit and listen not knowing what to do next.

I decide to get out of my car and walk toward the voice.

The singing comes from an older man sitting on the sidewalk, leaned against the brick exterior store wall. He is strumming a black guitar. I stand listening and looking around. It’s just me except for a Goodwill employee in the distance on a smoke break.

He finishes the song, and I’m star struck, but muster the courage to ask his name.

“Doug Seegers,” he says and offers his hand to shake.

Then I do something out of character. I ask if I can record him singing another song.

Fumbling through my iPhone apps, I finally get the video rolling while he begins a song about going down to the river to wash his soul again. It is utterly gut wrenching.

Afterwards I realize I have no cash to drop in his guitar case. I’m embarrassed. I offer a ride and a bite to eat. But he says he’s already eaten at the Mission on Charlotte Avenue. He says he’s happy sitting there in the warm sun.

So we say goodbye and I speed home to show my wife the video. Later that night I post it on YouTube.

*** Back to YouTube notifications 15 months later ***

Names like Björn, Normark, Turgidson and Olsson keep showing up in my inbox. The comments describe the same feeling I had when hearing Doug for the first time.

“I heard his voice on the tv I just got tears in my eyes! It is so good!”

“I heard it too, my family heard it… and I as well got tears in my eyes. His voice has a sound of pain…I want to say a lot more but I am speechless.”

“Oh sweet lord what a story, voice and song…”

***

The obvious question is, So what happened between when I saw him and now? I’ll leave you to figure that out. It’s well documented (you can google “Doug Seegers” or start here).

For the sake of this blog post, I’m sharing this with you because, one, it’s such a strange thing that happened to me.

But two, I hope that in the future you trust the things that move you inside. I struggle with this a lot. Knowing what to do when something different is happening in my chest. Whether it’s an idea, relationship, or a homeless singer’s voice. But let’s you and I make a promise to each other to at least pay attention. On behalf of Doug Seegers.

Love,
Aaron

P.S. If you’re someone who enjoys reading the novel before the movie, listen to the audio I recorded of Doug, then watch the video.

How I Formed a Choir with My Fanbase

I wanted to form a choir to sing on my upcoming album, but I didn’t know how. Then it occurred to me that I could just ask my fanbase if they wanted to sing. And it actually worked.

People signed up and I sent them the music and instructions. They recorded themselves in their own DIY vocal booths (clothes closets ) using their smartphones. Then they emailed me their recordings and I arranged them at my studio here in Nashvhille.

We had a total of 49 singers.

19 women
29 men
One 7-year old girl (for the win!)

Here’s a map of where everyone sang from. You can click on the map to have a more detailed look.



Here’s what it looked like once I combined their recordings together.
Color code:
Pink – soprano
Purple – alto
Orange – harmony
Green – tenor
Blue – bass
* The different shades of each color represent voices similar in tone.



And here’s how they looked recording themselves in their DIY vocal booths (quite a good looking bunch, if I do say so myself).


Yes, I know you want to hear how it sounds, but I can’t share that QUITE yet. All I can say is that it’s sounding really cool, and you’ll be the first to know once it’s ready.

Love,
Aaron

P.S. If you’re interested in singing in the next Digital Choir, just subscribe below in the footer and check the box next to “Digital Choir.” I’ll let you know when the next session starts.

Want to Walk Out to My Studio with Me?

After I’ve taken Silas to school, after I’ve talked with Heidi about the day, while August is still sleeping and Lorentz is eating, I walk to my studio in the backyard.

Come walk with me (and see if I spill the coffee)….

Love,
Aaron

 

 

The Infancy of My Most Popular Song

Inspiration seems to hit at the worst times.

You’re sitting there minding your own business, but then you have a thought and a feeling, and a moment to react before continuing to, let’s say, brush your teeth.

For the past several years I’ve made a habit of at least trying to grab inspiration by its sleeve with my iPhone. Here’s an example (thankfully I was near a guitar).

 

What you’re hearing is the exact moment right after I had the idea for what would eventually become “Making All Things New,” my most popular song.

As of right now, it has been streamed on Spotify over 30 million times. I don’t say that to brag; I say that because, based on the iPhone recording, you wouldn’t have predicted that.

What would have happened if I hadn’t recorded that snippet of gibberish?

Nothing. Certainly not 30 million listens.

I’m hoping that knowing this encourages you to tag inspiration in your own way the next time you brush up against it. Whether for a song, novel, dessert recipe, business — whatever it is, write it down, record it on your phone. Just somehow get it out of your head onto something tangible, so you can take a look at it and figure out the next step.

Love,
Aaron