I am recording a 10 song CD called "Laughing Buddha." The tunes are steeped in African, Latin, and reggae rhythms, with versatile guitar parts, while the lyrics have Buddhist themes. I've recorded the basic tracks in my home studio, and now am doing vocal and drum overdubs at Skyline Studios, in Oakland, CA. The Kickstarter funding will pay for overdubbing, mixing, mastering, and making copies of the CD and rewards.
If I'm able to raise extra money I'll be able to create a music video to help promote the CD as well as a longer form video with the complete interview that the Kickstarter video was based on.
Though I'm best known for my books and retreats bringing Buddhism and the 12 Steps together, I've been a musician for most of my life, playing lead guitar in all kinds of bands. The CD brings together that devotion to Buddhism with my love of music.
I thought about releasing what I've recorded at home, but realized that I wanted the music to sound its best, so I decided to risk a bigger project. When I went into the studio to do vocals, I thought I'd get everything done in one day. Instead, I only got through two of the 10 songs. That's when I realized I'd need help paying for the project.
Up to now, I've played all the instruments, including lead and rhythm guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals. But now I'm excited that Russ Lawton, an old friend who records and tours with Trey Anastasio and many others, is scheduled to overdub the drum parts when Trey's band passes through Oakland in April.
Here is a little about the songs:
Laughing Buddha, the title cut, is a danceable Afro-Latin groove with playful lyrics and a rocked out guitar riff.
I'm Alive is a joyful, upbeat song about simply enjoying life.
Vipassana Blues, I wrote after my first meditation retreat, describing the rigors of silent meditation. It seems a lot funnier now than it did at the time. A slow, minor blues with slinky guitar licks.
Ajahn Chah, which was the name of a great Thai Forest Meditation Master whose main message was, "Just let go." His name seemed rhythmic to me, almost like a chant in itself, so I wrote this reggae-funk tune about him. The guitar solo is the wildest one on the CD.
Wake Up, is a reggae song I wrote for my daughter when she was still asleep at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center Family Retreat. I added doo-wop vocals and acoustic guitar to give it a more diverse and nuanced feel.
Metta Samba, takes the traditional words of the Buddha's teaching on lovingkindness and gives them a Brazilian lilt.
Refuge is another traditional chant put to reggae with folky guitar overtones.
Enough, Enough is a bluesy number that makes fun of consumerism. The guitar runs through a tremolo, while the bass line echos Sonny and Cher's "And the Beat Goes On."
Kabir Says was inspired by Robert Bly's "Kabir Book." These lyrics are about searching everywhere for a spiritual connection, only to realize that it was there inside me all along. I wrote this in 1982, and I think you can hear a few influences from that era in the guitar and bass lines.
Don't Know is a playful lyric expressing a key Zen idea: we never know what's going to happen next, so we better pay attention now and not makes assumptions.
Risks and challenges
This project has been several years in the making, and I've already faced and overcome some serious challenges. I've begun to work with a good recording studio and engineer, and I'm confident I'll finish it soon. I've put aside my other projects, including a new book, so that I can focus on this until it's done. I have a bit of a learning curve on mastering, production, and distribution, but I'm fortunate to have some friends who've traveled this road before and will help me to get it out once the recording is complete.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)