How to get your solo album done?

While I am working on the music for the final song of my album, I am currently looking over the tracks I have made during the previous year. I am amazed that while just one year ago I had no intentions of making an album altogether, I am now almost done with the production. I know many of you are working on their own music and have tried desperately for years to finally get a solo album together. Yet so few of you actually make it. I think these are the most significant reasons why that happens:

1. Making an album for the wrong reasons

Motivation is the key to success in life. Make an album only if that is what you really want to do and ask yourself why you want it. Do you just want to brag? To impress friends? Is it just something you want to tick off your list? I would say those are bad sources for motivation. They are what I would call extrinsic motivation. You are doing it for others, not for yourself. On the other hand if you love your own music and want to put something together an album is a great way to focus your energy and promote the album as a whole afterwards.

2. Having nothing to say

Do you feel you have something to say? Unless you want to make an instrumental album, you will have to come up with lyrics. Meaningful lyrics if you are like me and are actually trying to convey something. But even if you don’t use lyrics, an idea of which emotions you want to evoke with your music is important.

If you have nothing to say at all you might find it very hard to express yourself. If you are looking for things to say then gather experiences, leave your comfort zone, go out on an adventure, meet people, reflect, reflect, reflect. Read, listen, watch and reflect again. There is a lot in this world to express yourself about. You have to go out and find what works for you yourself.

3. Lack of tenacity

Writing songs can be hard for work. I know it is for me. That’s because my approach is to try to come up with something new every time and to create something at least I have not heard anywhere else before. Maybe you are satisfied with copying other artist’s styles, maybe you are content with the one song structure and style you have and repeating yourself. In the end it does not matter.You still have to think about all those songs, record all the tracks, mix everything and put it together. That is time-consuming work and it requires a certain amount of skill if the playing of an actual instrument is involved. If you lack the tenacity, the determination to really complete your album, you won’t get it done.

4. Obsession over detail, not being able to let got

This is probably the one most important reason for many artist  not to publish anything. In an attempt to create a state of perfection they keep working on their pieces until they get frustrated or lose interest and then they turn away and let it rot. While the notion of always doing your best and giving everything is something I entirely support, you also have to acknowledge that you can not reach total perfection. As an artist in particular you are always learning (at least you should, I think). As long as you learn, you will get better at what you are doing. That’s good. It is fun and deeply satisfying to learn new things. The flipside is that what you did in the past will always look flawed no matter how much love you put into it. For an artist it is impossible to reach perfection. It is the striving for perfection that makes his work so valuable. Perfection, in my opinion, is a process, not a product.

I know of at least a dozen flaws in the songs that I will put on my album. I knew of these right when I released them. Ten years ago I would have hesitated and kept them in my drawer to polish them later. I would never have released them. I would have put so much energy into polishing that I would never have had the time left to make an entire album.

I think the message, the soul of a work of art is the most important aspect. Of course it is nice when the execution, the technique is great. But not everything has to be perfect. The soul of your work is what counts. Make that perfect. Make everything else so that the story looks/sounds/feels good. Make everything else just so that it does not break apart.

I know a wonderful singer/songwriter who has an amazing voice and talent for songs. He wanted to make an album. He’s written all the songs. He can play and sing everything. Yet he failed at completing it because he got lost in the details of the production. Now the project has been hibernating for years and will probably never be finished.

Do yourself a favour. Do the world a favour: Release your work as soon as you can. We have more than enough technically perfect, yet soulless products. What we need is soul. Raw soul. Passion. Dedication.

Please let me know if this helped you and what you think about it. I am interested in hearing your take on this as well.

2 thoughts on “How to get your solo album done?”

  1. Great post! Yeah you really gotta pick which flaws you can live with and which ones you cannot. Nothing worse than making an album and looking back saying, “wow, wish I didn’t skimp on that vocal melody or bass part”. Production quality comes with time and experience. I just finished my fifth (!!!) album and I’m pretty happy with if. I haven’t received much feedback yet but hey – i did it for me. Well kinda. I got some other agendas too but at the end of the day if the Big Man upstairs and me are satisfied that’s all that counts. Thanks again for your post!

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