The Mountain & The Path
"And so I reckon that I am now at the beginning of the beginning of doing something serious." - Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo (1881)
Eight years is a long time. It's a long time for anyone, but it's an especially long time for someone like me: my longest relationship to-date was just over two years; my longest stay at any job was about a year and a half; my longest lease on an apartment was two and a half years; I onced leased a car for about four years; I moved to Portland when I was nineteen and it only lasted a couple months; my last band was together for just under five years; I ran my own company for three years before quitting to pursue music again; and I lived in Los Angeles for just over six years before putting my stuff in storage to commit to... whatever it is I'm doing now. In the past (nearly) two years, I've lived out of a suitcase and storage spaces longer than out of my own closet. I've toured the United States four times, toured Canada twice, moved to a new city, bought and got rid of one car, had my heart broken more than once, moved in and out of three different apartments, started and quit one day job, and -- now -- recorded one new album.
I'm sitting on a plane headed back to Seattle from Santa Ana, CA, listening to the songs that were born in the past three weeks, which I started writing at the beginning of this year. Some of them have gone through several phases before ending up in their final form. Some of them came to me in a matter of hours or even minutes. One of them didn't even exist when I got to the studio. This is the first time I've written an entire album's worth of songs in a concentrated amount of time, with the intention of making a full-length album out of them. My last album was a collection of songs I had written over the course of six years, with the help of a couple different friends, some of which had been recorded at least a couple different times. And after that album came out -- a retrospective collection of everything I'd been tinkering with since the end of my last band -- part of me assumed that would be the end of that. Given my history with commitment, I sub-consciously prepared myself for the probability that whatever "Gardening, Not Architecture" was, it would probably go dim after those songs had run their course.
In the past, any time that I encountered something bigger than a molehill in my life that I deemed too scary to scale, I would bail. I'd forge a new path and head in a new direction. When things started to slip out of my control, when the stakes got to be too high, when I was too much at risk of getting hurt, being disappointed, or worst of all -- failing -- I would simply shut down and squirm and wiggle my way out of the clutches of whatever was scaring me. I've figured this much out about myself in the past couple years, but I didn't know when I would encounter another seemingly-insurmountable wall.
I think the reason I've been able to stay committed to making this music for eight years is that I hadn't hit that wall yet. I have always been careful not to make a big deal of what I was doing. It was a "project" and an "experiment." It was a way for me to apply the tenets of my own "earn it yourself" philosophy. It was a way to travel. An adventure. My cabin-in-the-woods escape from society. It was an excuse to set off a bomb in my life and start over, from scratch. I gave myself a deadline, and told myself I had to either make it work or get it out of my system by then. That was all fine and dandy, and it worked, and everything was going well. I was on the right path again. This nonchalant approach helped me get things rolling without having to face any fears or look too far down the path. I've been plodding along and staying the course. Sure, I've hit some bumps and encountered some snags, and I've certainly had to push through a few barriers in the past couple years. But it wasn't until the beginning of this year that I started to see something coming up on my path ahead, something that appeared to be much, much bigger than a molehill. The Mountain.
This year has been an incredible, internal battle for me. Me against myself. Aside from the great, deep, and vast realizations I've made about myself and the way I've been interfacing with the world all my life, I also realized I needed to truly understand why I was so adamant about playing music and being poor and allowing myself to struggle when I could so easily get a good job, make a decent living, settle down somewhere and have a normal life. I knew I had to make another album if I was serious about playing music, but the overwhelming fear of failure, and that voice telling me I was crazy for trying to make this work, made me sabotage my efforts. I ran myself out of money touring and putting out my first album. On a whim, I moved to a new city where I had no friends, no job, and no family. I spent the first half of the year focusing on the Earn It Yourself website and tour, and made zero effort to book any shows. I got a day job and rented an apartment that I couldn't afford. Throughout all of this, every time I would pick up a guitar to start working on ideas, I would almost immediately put it down, practically scolding myself for thinking I could write any more songs. I could barely get anything recorded, which only made my fear grow bigger and stronger, as the clock continued to tick and the question "What are you doing?" got louder and louder in my head.
But somewhere in there, deep inside, some part of me was fighting. Some part of me saw the looming mountain in the distance, and knew that this was my chance to learn how to climb over it. This part of me also knew that I wouldn't be able to do it on my own. And almost with my even being conscious of it, this is the part of me that launched my Kickstarter campaign in July. That brave part of my inner self knew that if I could just send out a distress signal, I would get the help I needed to do this impossible thing.
And that's where you came in. With whatever you could give me -- a dollar or an email or a video testimonial or a check to help me pay my rent -- you reached out and pushed me forward, held me up, and told me to keep climbing. I didn't know what I was doing or what would happen when I got to the top, but I had no choice. So many people came out to meet me on my path that I couldn't turn and run. You gave me the courage I needed, and you blocked my escape route, which I never could have done on my own. I had to finish writing the songs, I had to schedule the time in the studio, I had to get on the plane, I had to face my demons, I had to climb The Mountain and I had to stay on The Path.
And the thing you gave me, the thing you placed for me on top of the mountain as my incentive and my reward, was an incredible plateau: three weeks of creative hibernation, meditation, and productivity. Three weeks away from my bills, my job, and my empty fridge, to simply be immersed in my art. YOU afforded me that luxury. YOU made this album happen, and everything I do from here on out would not have happened without YOU, pushing me up and over that mountain of fear. I would have procrastinated for another year, two years, five years. I would have talked myself out of it. I would have waited until it was too late. I was dangerously close.
So now it's time to climb back down the other side, and continue on the road ahead, with renewed purpose and energy for this thing I'm doing -- and also with some new strength that I didn't have before. I feel less worried about the future and more excited to see what happens next. The uncertainty that had built up over the past year is gone. I remember what I was doing, I remember why I started doing this, I remember which direction I wanted to head. Even though I'm eight years into it, I feel like I'm just beginning, like anything is possible. I'll never be able to thank you enough for giving me that gift.
"You might say, but why didn't you go through with university, continue as they wanted you to? To that I can only reply that it was too expensive, and besides, the future then looked no better than it does now, along the path I am now taking.
- Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo (1880)
seconds to go
Pledge $1 or moreYou selected
Official Sponsor status and private blog access: Your name will be added to the list of "Official Sponsors" on the G,NA website, and you'll have access to my private Kickstarter blog detailing the progress of the new songs, planning for the studio, and in-the-studio exclusive daily updates even after the Kickstarter campaign has ended!
Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
Official Sponsor status and private blog access, PLUS: Digital download pack of G,NA music and extras: "First LP", "Remix EP", "Live at Hotel Cafe", both G,NA music videos, and some new wallpapers for your computer and phone!
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, PLUS: A digital advance of the new album before it's released, with an exclusive B-side track that will not be available on iTunes or on the CD.
Pledge $35 or moreYou selected
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, PLUS: Handmade shirt featuring new stage design! If you've seen G,NA photos or live shows, you know that I wear a hand-painted shirt on stage. For the second album, there will be an entirely new "stage shirt," and you can be the first to own one!
Pledge $36 or moreYou selected
14 backers Limited (86 left of 100)
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, PLUS: "The Collected Demos" limited pressing CD in hand-sewn paper sleeves, numbered and signed! I did not always go by the name Gardening, Not Architecture, and in fact I recorded several demos between 2003-2007 with my friends in their living rooms, bedrooms, and closets. I even posted the demos on Purevolume under two different band names over the years: We The Living and Alma. Now, for the first and last time ever, I'm going to release these demos in a limited run of 100 CDs. Hear the original pre-2007 versions of songs like "Buried in the Basement," "If You Only Knew," "Jabberwocky," and "Great Unraveling" -- plus long-lost demos! The CDs will be manufactured, but the sleeves will be handmade and numbered/signed.
Pledge $37 or moreYou selected
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, PLUS: "The Gypsy Life" photo zine. Experience a year of traveling, sleeping on couches, and looking out car windows on the hunt for fulfillment through twenty pages of photos taken during my year on the road. Along with each photo, each page will include some of my favorite quotes and lyrics that inspired me along the way. I'll be making the zines myself, by hand, and will sign each one.
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
16 backers Limited (9 left of 25)
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, PLUS: Limited edition 18x24 silkscreened poster, on eco-friendly chipboard French paper, designed and printed by Verdilak and numbered and signed by both Verdilak and myself. This was a popular item in my last tour fundraiser, but we still have a few left!
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
7 backers Limited (93 left of 100)
Official Sponsor status, private blog access, digital download pack, limited edition poster, digital advance of the second album with exclusive B-side track, PLUS: "First LP: Instrumentals" the mastered, but never-before-released, instrumental version of the first album! I created this version of the album to have on file for soundtrack and other uses, but have been holding off on releasing it until I had good reason to. This is definitely a good reason! I'll be pressing the CDs through a manufacturer, but creating hand-sewn screenprinted canvas sleeves that are the inverse (black on white) of the original hand-sewn screenprinted canvas sleeves for "First LP," which you can view here: http://www.gardeningnotarchitecture.com/shop/first-lp-limited-15-00. Experience the first album in a whole new way!
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
6 backers Limited (94 left of 100)
The Everything Pack: Get one of every single thing on this page, until the limited stuff runs out! HOLY SMOKES!
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
Come up with your own reward item(s) and email the idea to sarah at gardeningnotarchitecture dot com. If I approve the idea, you can claim this reward! Please don't be foolish and claim this reward without running your idea past me first... duh.
Pledge $10,000 or moreYou selected
This is my Dream Amount, which would not only allow me to go to California and record my second album, but would also allow me to cover all of my living expenses AND put out an exclusive Kickstarter-only release of the second album on vinyl for everyone who donated! This version would have its own artwork with its own liner notes including the names of every single person who donated to this campaign, and would be available for only those people!
- (50 days)