Just shy of two years ago I released Fragments. It was my biggest and best album to date. I did more, and did it better than ever on Fragments. But I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t excited for the release and I didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment. It took me a while to figure out why – it was because I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again. Sure it was bigger, it was better; it featured awesome musicians and was my best work. But I felt like it wasn’t new; it felt like a better version of what I’d been doing for 20 years. When I realized that I decided that whatever came next would be really different. That moment was when work on Anhedonia began.
I thrive on limitations. For me, creativity arises out of the struggle to overcome challenges. I knew that if I wanted to do something really different I’d have to impose drastic limits on myself. I decided that the new album would be produced without software. That may not sound like a big deal, but at the time I made that decision I had no idea what that would mean, or if I could even do it. I’ve always made music with computers – I learned how to use music software before I ever learned to play an instrument – so, for me, that was just about as drastic a move as I could imagine. That started a long and difficult journey of learning, every step of which was filled with self doubt. I bought more than a dozen synthesizers, drum machines, mixers, and other assorted pieces of gear and comitted myself to figuring out how to make an album with all of those machines. For many months I could do little more than create repeating patters, and at great effort. There were many times I told myself “I can’t do this.” But over time it started to come together.
I decided to go further and make things even harder on myself. I took up practicing piano and singing with more work and dedication than I’d ever attempted before. I forced myself to work through it, plagued again by constant thoughts of “I can’t do this.” I also forced myself to compose in a completely different way. Rather than writing songs with a sequencer and some gear I wrote with nothing but a piano, my voice, and a notebook. For months I practiced and refined the songs, just me and the music. And over time, it started to come together.
The months that followed were a blur. These news ways of working quickly transitioned from something halting and unfamiliar to muscle memory. After months of practicing, writing, and learning the arranged and recorded songs came together in a flash over only 2 or 3 months. There were bumps in the road, times where things were hard, but for much of the recording and arranging sessions it started to come easier, and easier. This new way of working clicked. It felt right. “I can do this” became the new refrain, much to my surprise.
Anhedonia released today. It represents almost 2 years of my life. There’s so much more that went into Anhedonia than I can mention here, from artwork, packaging, mastering, mixing, vinyl production – on, and on, and on. All of it challenging, most of it new, and every bit of it a lot of work. But after all of that work I can look back and say without even a hint of doubt that I did what I set out to do. Anhedonia is truly different than anything I’ve ever done before. I set a challenge for myself that I didn’t truly think I could overcome, but I did; I am overjoyed to finally be able to share this album, borne out of struggle and self doubt, with the world. I hope people love it and that it might mean as much to someone, somewhere as it means to be. But even if that never happens, and 20 people ever hear it, I know that I did what I set out to do. And I am already thinking about what might come next.