Saturday, April 16, 2016

Love Letter from a Virgo

Well, folken, my hiatus from composing continues, though I think I'm feeling it drawing to a close. I still haven't gotten around to writing the companion story for "Nyctality" (possibly a companion for the entire EP Nyctanthous), but I haven't been entirely idle. As I stated in my previous post, it's about time that I let my existing songs work for me, and I've been concentrating heavily on promoting them. Now, it came to my attention while doing the promotion circuit for Revolutions that the YouTube uploads from my distributor, Distrokid, weren't available in all territories, so I've been uploading songs to my channel, a song a day, so that folks all over the world can enjoy my music on YouTube. If you've had problems accessing my music on this streaming service in the past, or just want to take advantage of free streaming while contributing to The Lady's revenue, check out the uploads on my YouTube channel. Subscribe to get notified of the frequent new uploads!

I've been using the release of a new Patreon-exclusive "best of" compilation album, Love Letter from a Virgo, as an excuse to upload and promote a song a day. Partly, this album is being used to tide people over until I start making new music again, and also to remind people that I have a lot of excellent music already available. On the commercially distributed albums alone, there's sixty-four songs. Somehow, for the purposes of this compilation, I managed to narrow the "best" songs to a track listing of twenty-two, as determined by the most popular on various streaming services, as well as my personal favorites. There's some jarring absences. After cementing the track list, I had the thought that I would really have liked "Darkest Dreams" (the instrumental version of "Sublime Like Swine") on there. Also, "Lily White" had held the most-popular position on Spotify for a long time, and it didn't make it on here. But as it is, this track list flows very nicely and contains tunes that I am extremely proud of. What it came down to is this:

01. No Introduction Needed
02. Fervens
03. Simplify
04. Momentum (Higher Gain Mix)
05. Overdrive
06. The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)
07. The Seventh Swan
08. A Most Resilient Snail
09. Matriculating
10. Wrong Pocket Kinda Day
11. The Nocturnal Dervish
12. Safe in Cars
13. Passage Through The Veil
14. Slowly Scooting Closer
15. The Ground Up (Rebuild)
16. Waltz with Lilith (Claim)
17. The Cloud Walkers
18. A Good Mourning
19. Solace
20. Cold Sunlight
21. Winter's Remix 2.0
22. The Tranquil Isles

I love this list. I've played it all the way through a few times since putting it together. It manifested quite organically, only needing a couple of songs to change positions before being set and uploaded. These really are among the best of my work, several of which are now being played on multiple radio stations. During this hiatus, I've also been at work exposing more stations to my work, and I've passed along links to download Love Letter to a couple choice record labels as a demo for Nothing Left To Lose, which I'm still hoping to get physical copies of distributed. I just had a request from a new fan in Japan for a physical copy of Love Letter and unfortunately had to inform this person that, as of yet, I still can't afford to make and distribute CDs or vinyl. For that, I desperately need more Patreon patrons! I've also tried to get set up with PledgeMusic, but they seem to feel that I am not yet popular enough.

Even during my break from composing, though, I'm still gaining followers on social media. The Lady is still (slowly but surely) gathering momentum. Royalties are still trickling in, especially through Apple Music! I was extremely skeptical about this relatively new streaming service at first. It definitely had its hiccups and hit quite a few bumps after its initial launch. Becoming a verified artist and gaining the ability to utilize Connect as yet another tool to interact with and share with fans and followers was a pain in the ass, but seems to have paid off. I'm getting more royalties from plays on Apple Music than on Spotify and YouTube combined! So, if you happen to have a subscription to this service, I urge you to add my music to your libraries and follow The Lady on Connect, where I offer some of the same exclusives that I do to supporters on Patreon and The League.

Speaking of The League, as an incentive to join (even if only for a one-time payment of one month), I'm not offering all four commercially-distributed albums (Instrumentality, Occultation, Jaded, and Revolutions) along with the recently released EP Carnivale and single Cold Sunlight to Leaguers. Normally $27 USD total when bought separately at the Snail Tunes store (where I've already severely undercut the price offered on Amazon, the second-cheapest route to go), they're now offered for only $10 when one joins The League! Set up as a monthly subscription service, you can nonetheless gain DMR-free downloads of all these in a format of your choosing (from standard MP3 to the highest-quality audio available) and have unlimited access to high-quality streaming on the Bandcamp mobile app.

However, as I said before, Love Letter is exclusive to Patreon, as are the Artist's Editions of the major albums, which a $10 pledge includes, along with several other exclusives, such as A Waltz for Giger - The Completed Collection, Vanitas, Erised, and The Occultation Sessions. Single downloads of sin palabras (without words) versions of "Mr. Douter," "The Between," and "Lily White" are also available. Several of these exclusives are included in a $1 pledge. This can be a one-time pledge, or you can pledge per-creation, which is usually a seven-track EP. Short stories are rare, but included. These days, since the restructuring of Snail Tunes, the seven-track EPs are Artist's Editions of five-track album-preview EPs. Since taking this vacation from songwriting, all but two of my songs are now publicly available, so I don't know when my next album will be released, but I'm hoping to have it completed before the renewal of my contract with Distrokid is due in late May. Writing that many songs in the span of one month is pushing it; I guess it all depends on my level of inspiration.

I am starting to feel like writing music again. A bass line is stuck in my head, begging to be recorded. A song lies finished but is in serious need of editing. Another song that I've decided against releasing has sections that I'm very proud of and wanting to salvage and work into something else altogether. There's work to be done. I'm currently at work on the promoting side of this business (my least favorite part, but a very necessary evil). I think the main reason for my little hiatus was to remind myself that there's more to life than this (cue the Bjork song). And now that I've loved and (it looks like) lost again, and flirted with disaster with alcohol yet again, and taken a step back to remind myself to pace myself and not be such a workaholic, it may be time to take refuge in songwriting.

However, I currently have more than enough material for Nothing Left To Lose. I really want to make this physically-and-digitally distributed album happen. I'm almost positive that fabulous artists such as Tyrone Webb and Cyril Rolando would contribute artwork, and I'm hoping that Matt Warface of (IAM)WARFACE will have his remix of "Sublime Like Swine" finished by the time I can work out the distribution, either independently or with a record company, as I believe it would be an excellent addition to the album (he sent me a short preview, and I was absolutely thrilled with what I heard!). But what I really need from you, dear folken, is more pledges and/or donations. I may not be able to get all of the songs professionally remastered for the album like I had hoped, as the cost of printing and distributing the record alone will be difficult to come up with, but the fact that I've had even one request for a physical album has me re-motivated to make this project happen! So hopefully I'll soon be adding a new tier to The Lady's Patreon that will include a physical copy of Nothing Left To Lose as a reward, once I work out some logistics.

Another possible new project has surfaced: having these songs performed live. I was recently requested to share the stage with an artist who will be performing in Kansas City in July, and unfortunately had to turn it down due to my neuropathy. However, my soon-to-be stepfather has been bugging me for a while to produce sheet music of my songs (which can be produced easily enough thanks to certain computer programs available) that he wants to pass on to the director of the band at the high school he formerly taught at. As my music is largely orchestral, it would work much better to have these songs performed by a band accompanied by recorded synths, rather than by myself alone at a synthesizer. This is a prospect that I've been excited about but putting off, but live performances could bolster pledges, and I could even put together a live album in the long run. And this could graduate from high school to the local never knows! I just have to take the first step, which is finding the right program to translate my songs into sheet music.

But I'm getting away from myself again. Nothing Left To Lose and live orchestral performances aren't in the cards for the immediate future. The immediate future is (hopefully) a short story companion for Nyctanthous and a follow-up to Carnivale, which will lead to a follow-up to Revolutions. In the meantime, I hope there's more Patreon pledges, as I honestly would love to have more people in the world listening to Love Letter from a Virgo, as it is a sort of love letter to my supporters. It is (most of) the cream of the crop, a mushy thank you, a way of saying, "Look at what you have helped me achieve!" I may have been recently sapped of my motivation, but for an entire year I worked almost non-stop thanks to the support of friends, family, followers, and (most of all) Patrons. And when folks listen to it, I hope that they do hear it as a demo of what Nothing Left To Lose could possibly be.

If you can't afford the $10 pledge, well, here's a private playlist from The Lady's SoundCloud. Of course, it doesn't have the individualized track art or the PDF booklet, but you get the basic idea:

Consider this my love letter to you, dear readers.  Just seeing that there is interest in my blog (which I also take as interest in my music) motivates me to keep on keepin' on, and is urging me to get back to the business of songwriting. So cheers to you, and thank you. That's all for now.

Your Lady,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Carnivale in Cold Sunlight

Artwork by William Bryant Mansell

Sorry it's been so long between posts, folken. Carnivale was released March 18th and Cold Sunlight was released March 23rd, and I've yet to blog about either. To be perfectly frank, I felt a bit burned out after producing what amounts to four full-length albums in one year and decided to reward myself with a hiatus, during which I went on a bit of a bender. Now, many of you know that I have an unhealthy history with alcohol and that I had successfully abstained for two years. But what better way to reward myself for a year of productivity than by having a beer? Unfortunately, a beer every couple of days turned into a beer every day, which turned into two beers a day, which turned into a six-pack a day, and then I started to realize that it was getting to the point where it wasn't any fun anymore, at which point I quit cold turkey and then suffered through nearly a week of withdrawal symptoms. 

I don't entirely regret it. It was during this time period (and partially thanks to the alcohol) that I broke free of my self-imposed isolation and started browsing gay hook-up sites again, and my second "hook-up" was with a man that it turns out I have a lot in common with, and who has become a good friend - the first friend I've made since being dislocated to the Kansas City area. He may even be boyfriend material. Only time will tell.

Anyway, I'm back to sobriety and, sort of, back to work. I use that qualifier because I'm still taking a step back from making music and waiting for the right inspiration to strike. I have some half-finished songs that I'm not entirely convinced of, and I feel that my muse has faded to a shade after overworking for over a year. My therapist says that, perhaps, I should learn to pace myself. Can we all say "duh"? My peers have called me prolific, but I think it's fair to say that I've just been a workaholic with no life. So I've turned my attention toward things that I enjoy apart from composing, and toward having a social life again. In baby steps, of course. I don't think I can handle any more real-life interaction than this one new friend at the moment - I'm too used to being alone. But I'm also rekindling my relationship with books, and I have a plot for another short story from Jade's universe floating around in my head, a sort of companion to the song "Nyctality." So I may be writing rather than composing in the immediate future.

However, I've been remiss in introducing my latest musical releases on this blog and sharing what's been going on with Snail Tunes, The League of Extraordinary Snails, and The Lady's Patreon for a few weeks, so without any further ado, I'd like to shift focus to my latest EP, Carnivale.

First, I'd like to draw attention the wonderful cover art, a piece called "Circus" by Cyril Rolando (please, visit him on Facebook), who graciously gave his permission for me to use his artwork. I'm quite pleased to say that Cyril was impressed with my work and has asked permission to use my songs in videos he makes of rendering his pieces. It's always wonderful to have a give-and-take relationship with other artists.

Carnivale is more or less an EP of straightforward trip-hop instrumentals, foregoing the darkwave and post-metal flavors that inhabit a lot of my previous work (with the exception of "Safe in Cars," which has a few metallic interruptions). This is the first EP to be released since the restructuring of Snail Tunes, so it is not a pay-what-you-will release, but I do undercut its price on Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes at the Snail Tunes store. It is available to stream from TIDAL, MS Groove, and Apple Music, for those who subscribe to those platforms, and can be streamed for free on YouTube and Spotify. The Artist's Edition on Patreon also includes two extra tracks - one is my rendition of "Every You Every Me" by Placebo, and the other ("Muddy Waters") has already been made publicly available on Cold Sunlight.

The decision to release "Cold Sunlight" as a single was motivated by this beautiful piece in colored pencils by one of my oldest and dearest friends, William Bryant Mansell, inspired by the song itself. I don't remember exactly how it started, but he had me send him the lyrics so he could meditate on the song and what the lyrics brought to his mind, and this is what came of it. I rounded out the track listing with previously unreleased material to make this re-release extra special. "Primordial Soup" originally appeared on the Artist's Edition of Revolutions, while "Muddy Waters," as I previously stated, appeared on the Artist's Edition of Carnivale. The sin palabras version of "Cold Sunlight" was previously a Patreon exclusive. I'd like to note that, while the words and verses of the song have been removed from this version, it's not entirely without vocals. It's easy to mistake the falsetto vocals in this song for synths, but that is, in fact, me singing - just a fun fact for y'all. Cold Sunlight is available for streaming from TIDAL, MS Groove, Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube, and can be purchased and downloaded from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and the Snail Tunes store.

Now, "Groove" (from Carnivale) was also originally from the Artist's Edition of Revolutions, and "Ideally" was from the Patreon edition of Progress Report - The Anniversary Spin, so aside from a couple sin palabras versions of songs and the "Every You Every Me" rendition, there isn't a whole lot of exclusive content on Patreon at the moment, and I'm currently not working on new songs. This will probably change in the near future, but I'm thinking it's about time to make another Patreon-exclusive compilation album, which will be very selective, and I'm hoping to make it my best yet. I'm figuring it will feature artwork by Cyril Rolando - among others who have generously donated their artwork in the past - and it will, as usual, have unique, individual track art and a nice little PDF booklet. Undoubtedly, it will have quite lovely digital packaging.

Meanwhile, at the Snail Tunes store, all the commercially distributed albums are now available...for cheap. I'm offering Instrumentality for $3 USD, Occultation and Jaded for $5 each, and Revolutions for $7. So, yeah, you won't be able to find a better deal on these albums.

Anyway, folken, that's all I really have to say for now. Don't worry, I'll undoubtedly be making more music soon enough, but for now, I need to rest and wait for inspiration to strike instead of trying to force anything. I may dabble at the half-finished songs (one is actually entirely finished, but a bit murky due to being overly complex) that I have, but for now, I need to recharge. Music doesn't just fall out of my holly jolly butt, ya know!

I hope this finds each and every one of you well.

Your Lady,

P.S. May your inner snails continue to be resilient and determined.