Tag Archives: The Vol. 2 Project

A Garage Full of Nouns

I have been reading Rob Bell’s latest book, “Love Wins”. Enjoying it a lot. Many fresh perspectives. One thing that struck me:

There’s nothing wrong with possessions: it’s just that they have value only when we use them, engage them, and enjoy them. They’re nouns that mean something only in conjunction with verbs.

That’s why wealth is so dangerous: if you’re not careful you can easily wind up with a garage full of nouns.

Continue reading…


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CD Release Concert!!

YES! I am most pleased to say that we have a date and venue set for my CD release concert. Hooray!!

Get out your calendar: It is Friday, November 18th at Fremont Abbey Arts Center. Doors open at 7:30 PM and the show begins at 8 PM. Get set for an evening of great music, beverages, and snacks–all in a place with great ambience.

But wait! Not one, but two concerts in one! We were most happy to get Fremont Abbey as it was top on our list of places to hold the event. To get the venue, we teamed up with our good friend and fellow recording artist Jessica Ketola who was also planning her CD release party around the same time and checking out Fremont Abbey herself. If you haven’t heard Jessica’s awesome debut release, it is called “Sea of Tears” and available for previewing/purchasing on her website.

This will be great fun to celebrate two CD releases together, especially for the many fans and supporters we have in common. (And you know who you are!)

We are also pleased to feature the paintings of two local artists, Scott Burnett and Julie Nagel.

Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 in advance where you can purchase here.

CD Release Concert
Fremont Abbey Arts Center
4272 Fremont Ave N, Seattle
Nov 18, 2011
7:30 pm doors open
$8 advance / $10 door

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I Still Want You to Know About My New CD

The title of this blog post says it all. My latest CD “Passage” is available from a variety of outlets–links below. Here is a video of the first few minutes of my cover of “Whom Have I But You?” by David Ruis. I have always loved this song and have performed it many times. Early on, I added my own hook to the “B” section which later became the basis for the “Distant Shore” theme on my CD. I also added an instrumental bridge.

I just love the way this recording turned out. What you’re missing from this edit is an additional three minutes of us jamming on the Em, D/F#, G progression that then transitions into the following piece. The jams at the end of a lot these songs is where a lot of  music magic takes place.

Playing on this song are: Scott A. Burnett/acoustic guitar, Brian Thiessen/electric guitar, Darcy White/bass, Calum Rees/drums, Erika Kobewka/violin. I played the Yamaha C7 grand piano up in Vancouver, and then re-recorded the piano for the first part of the song here at Avondale, playing my Fandrich & Sons piano. I did all of the pre-production sequencing using Ableton Live and then brought it into ProTools along with the session tracks for post-production. Erika recorded her violin from her home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Tom Hall mixed it.

“Passage” can be found at any of the following links:

  • My Website kellycarpentermusic.com – both physical CD and downloads
  • CDBaby – both physical CD and downloads
  • iTunes – downloads
  • Amazon – both available, although they want a lot for a physical CD
I was browsing around Amazon looking at what they have for my stuff and I found it quite amusing about their various retail partners. I will have to do a blog post about it.

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Passage Liner Notes

I have been fast and furious working on the CD package design for my upcoming CD “Passage”. Here are some of the liner notes… 

It all started with a dream… a dream that practically all studio musicians share… warming up for a session with some impromptu jamming while the studio engineers finish their setup… 15-30 minutes of the sheer joy of making raw music, getting in the zone, playing whatever we feel like… everything sounding terrific in the headphones… the thought would land: what if we could just go into the studio one day and record this?

It was summer of 2010… I was part of a house band at a conference in Canada enjoying many a good jam together while providing afterglow music for the end of each session…that’s when I knew: I should bring these chaps into the studio and just do this… this will be my new record… I already knew I wanted something different than my last instrumental album, mostly piano and acoustic guitar… so this is it: a full band jamming over some pre-arranged chord progressions… let’s see what happens…

We’ll record this in Canada… I wanted to record this with the “back line” of the Canada band: Brian, Calum and Darcy, along with my musical buddy over the years, Scott Burnett… Calum recommended the studio: Mushroom Studios in Vancouver, Canada… the Mushroom that is part of music legend…Heart recorded their first there…The Supremes, Led Zeppelin, Loverboy, BTO, Sarah McLachlan…

We’ll keep this simple… With date and location set, now it’s time to write some material… I figured I’d come up with several chord progressions… just keeping it loose enough for the band to be spontaneous… yet, as I was writing, something different began to take shape… distinct musical pieces started to emerge… I kept reminding myself: “keep it simple”… then the realization struck me: I was no longer in control… I’m not really writing this music, this music is writing me… and a story line is forming… something about a journey… what is happening?… something wonderful…

The story unfolds… The project becomes a story about a journey… the making of this album a journey unto itself, new ideas around every corner… oh, how I love the creative process!!…somehow, this evolved into a soundtrack of sorts… certain thematic elements, or “leitmotifs“, are introduced and then recur throughout… can you pick them out?… you will have to listen all the way through to find them… so what is this journey about?… you, the listener can provide the script…who are the main characters in your story?… where did they depart from?… where is the journey taking them?… or you?… be still… close your eyes… and let your imagination soar…

passage \’pas-ij\ n … the action or process of passing from one place or stage to another … a continuous movement or flow … a way of exit or entrance: a road, path, channel, or course by which something passes … something that takes place between two persons mutually … a brief portion of a written work or speech that is noteworthy … a detail of a work of art … a phrase or short section of a musical composition …

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Who Do I Sound Like?

Okay, the new record is almost done. It has taken a little over six months but we’re finally getting there. Light at the end of the tunnel. I SO wish I could say right now that it is finished and packaged and manufactured, but it’s not. As is the case with most things, this has taken longer than I thought. But we’re almost done mixing!! Yay! And then it’s on to mastering, package design, and duplication.

Meanwhile, I am in a dilemma. I need someone to help me answer the question: Who do I sound like? (Or what?)

Why do I need to pin down a description or a reference to another music artist? I need it to effectively promote and market my music. So before you respond right away, read on. I am asking you to describe my latest instrumental music. The stuff on the new record.

If you recall from previous posts, this project has taken on a life of its own, and it bears little resemblance to what I thought it was going to be when I started. At the time, I figured this would safely fit somewhere within the downtempo, chillout, post-rock, dream pop milieu. Perhaps you have no idea what some of those labels mean. That’s okay. Back when I started last summer, I was listening to a lot of Coldplay and some Sigur Ros (which is the current “post-rock” band) and I was thinking of a having a chilled out group jam. The “chilled out” part was to keep this in the “relaxation” music category. Why Coldplay? I just thoroughly enjoy listening to Viva la Vida. It’s ear candy to me. Sigur Ros because it is so minimalistic and chill.

Now that all the parts are done, no one would ever suggest that this was inspired by Coldplay or Sigur Ros, and really it wasn’t.

If anything, I would say this is cinematic ear candy, but what the heck does that mean?

I was thinking perhaps this fits within the New Age genre, and when I think of “cinematic” and New Age, I think of artists like Yanni and John Tesh. I really haven’t listened to those artists very much, and I can definitely say my music doesn’t sound like them. Back to where I started: I am stumped.


If you sign up to my newsletter list with your email address, you can get a free download of a sampler of songs from the new project. I would appreciate it if you give it a listen and then get back to me with what you think this stuff sounds like. You can use adjectives or you can refer to other music artists. I’m looking for something, anything.

Why do I want your email address? A couple of reasons. First, I want to follow up with you directly to ask your feedback after you have listened to the sampler. Second, those on the list will be the first to know when the new record is ready. If you are in my local area, I would also love to be in touch directly to get ideas about one or more album release parties later this spring.

Here’s the link to my email signup:


If you are already on my list, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you a link to the sampler directly by email.

Sound like a plan? I value your feedback.


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Is The Album Format Really Outdated?

[Note of explanation: It occurred to me that the term “album” can mean different things to different people. Here I am not referring to the vinyl LP media, but rather the grouping of songs into a collection as opposed to songs sold and consumed individually, regardless of media. So, an album can refer to a CD, vinyl LP, an “album download”, etc.]

An old, dear friend of mine recently signed up for my newsletter mailing list, and since the list is managed via Fanbridge.com, there is a place where people can ask me questions. He asked me what my favorite all-time Chicago song was, as he remembers I was really into Chicago back in the day. (Some of you may remember the Seventies.) Tongue in cheek, I replied that my favorite song was “The Death of Rock and Roll”, which was not by Chicago, but by Todd Rundgren. My friend–I’ll call him A.J.–was really into Todd Rundgren and introduced me to his work. To this day, I consider Todd as one of the top influences on my songwriting, so thanks be to A.J.

One of my all-time favorite Todd records was the quirky “A Wizard, a True Star”. This was his second release, a year after his highly successful “Something, Anything” which served up his most successful hit, “Hello, It’s Me”. With “Wizard”, Todd shattered any preconceptions that he would be a conventional music artist. Back in those days, primarily due to the fact that artists were given a lot of leash by their record labels, Todd managed to evade any critical commercial success throughout the rest of his career. Instead, he survived, along with his band Utopia, as cult artists, with an occasional bottom of the charts hit.

His work is, for the most part, jarring and spectacular. And one of my faves is “Wizard”, the first side of which is one continuous medley. Since he pushed the bounds of how much material one could fit on a side on an LP, unfortunately, the sonic quality of the album is lacking. But, for me, despite some disturbing bits, the whole record is a joy to listen to, and as such, really should be experienced start to finish.

There have been other truly groundbreaking records that need to be listened to all the way through: Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt. Peppers, the rock operas by The Who, the second side of Abbey Road, and all the many more “concept” albums.

Yes, I am sounding sentimental. Sorry. Actually, not sorry. The point is, there are musical works that are meant not only to be listened to, but listened through. Yet, recently I ran across a blog post stating that the album format is pretty much a goner. You can read about it here. Apparently, people don’t listen to, or even buy, full albums anymore. People consume music by the song. This is no surprise. I too have to really be into somebody before I’m going to shell out a paltry $10 + tax to download their entire album. And then I am truly committing myself when I purchase an actual CD at $12.95 + tax. But I am old-fashioned enough to want to buy a full album, as in, please let most if not all of the songs be compelling enough that I will want to purchase the whole thing for about the price of a burger at Red Robin. (And yes, I believe it’s a good idea to actually pay for music.)

Why am I spending any time thinking about this? Well, it turns out that I am coming out with a new album that evolved into something more than just a random collection of songs. It can be experienced as an entire piece.  Not that it has to be of course, but it will be more rewarding if it is. Yes, I am lobbying that it be consumed as a whole, for less than the price of a combination plate at a Mexican restaurant.

I am hoping that people are willing to listen through the album. Be warned, it is not a small bite to chew. It is about 70 minutes long. (Yeah, what was I thinking in this ADD-saturated age?) It still works well as relaxing background or “soaking” music even if one is not giving it their undivided attention. And you don’t really have to listen to the whole thing. My last instrumental was 66 minutes long and also featured an 11-minute song, so I am not breaking my own mold here. Hopefully the music will be compelling enough to keep you listening. I think it is.

So, in my own best interests, I am hoping that the album format has not completely gone extinct. In fact, I am betting the farm on it.

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During this particular phase of my life, I have been on quite the journey. This journey has so many layers, it is difficult to write about–not emotionally, but due to a lack of language. How do I find words to describe it? But write about it I must–I feel compelled to–and maybe it will make more sense as I do. I hope this doesn’t sound overly dramatic, and perhaps that is why I have been reticent to journal about it. I also need to overcome the internal pressure to write perfect blog posts, as if there was such a thing. So here goes…

This blog is aptly subtitled: “A journal about life interrupted and a new coming of age.” I feel like I have pretty much gotten through the life interrupted part, (although life has a tendency to continue to throw you curves).  A new coming of age? Definitely there.

This journey is full of RISK. Launching into a full time music career: RISK. Suppressing the inner voices demanding I chart a course of financial security: RISK. Putting out a new record without any clear sense of who to market it to or how it will sell: RISK.

I am either brave or foolish. Only time will tell. And maybe you need to be a little of both to get anywhere.

I’ll write a little about this upcoming record (album, CD, or whatever your particular generation likes to call it). As soon as I started writing material for it back in August, I have been in an internal conflict. My original vision for this was to continue in the trajectory of my first instrumental record “Draw Me Close”. That project consisted primarily of me on piano and one or the other of my best musical buddies, Scott Burnett and Andy Park, on guitar. Some of the material was premeditated and some was improvisational, but it was all improvisational from a playing standpoint. None of us worked up and practiced what we were going to play in advance. We just went for it. The result was something very relaxing, something you can fall asleep to. Call it soaking music, relaxation music, or whatever.

On this new project, I wanted to continue that approach but do it with a fuller band: piano, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and drums. I wanted it to be nothing more complex than us jamming on some preset chord progressions and keep everything very chill.

Like I said, I set out to write material for it. But pretty quickly I discovered that I was no longer writing this project; it was writing me. I really can’t describe this adequately. Here I was trying to compose a loose collection of song forms that we could do some chill jamming to, and instead these songs emerged. Songs with a direction. Songs with progression, contour, tension, climax, denouement. Like a story.

And if that wasn’t enough. This turned out to be more than a collection of song stories. The whole thing is a story. It has trajectory. The evolution of this project turning into a story has unfolded over the past few months, a story unto itself.

The question is: what story is this telling? I have a few ideas, but I’m not telling. I’m not trying to be mysterious and intriguing, but I believe I am not supposed to tell you the story, even if I had a clear idea what it is, which I don’t. Rather, I am pretty sure this is something waiting for you to put your own story in. We shall see.

So not only is this idea of putting out a record a big RISK, (because it is so hard to make money these days selling music), but eschewing the safe course of creating another collection of relaxation songs by doing something more adventurous is a big RISK.

And you are now part of the story. Let’s see how it unfolds.

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Longing (Record Player Rain Mix)

Here’s a fun edition of a song from my upcoming record. It’s yours free to download when you sign up for my monthly newsletter. Close your eyes and imagine a rainy day wrapped in a blanket sipping hot cocoa and mournful piano on the record player… Feel free to share this with your friends.

When I set out to do this record, I never intended it to tell a story, yet that is what has evolved. This song called “Longing” arrives early in the record and precedes a song called “Waiting”. The story arc seems to be about a journey. The process of making this record seems to be a journey. It is still unfolding. What an adventure!

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Yes, I’ll be the first to admit I have been rather non-ubiquitous on the social network lately. Truth is I have been holed up in my cave, heads down, nose to the grindstone, pedal to the metal, and other useful figures of speech meant to convey my total immersion in the quest to finish my upcoming album. But, so as to assure many that I have not fallen off the edge of the earth, gone AWOL, flown the coop, and other likewise useful terms referring to my lack of ubiquitousness-ness: here I am coming up for air.

The air here is rather moist given that I live in the Northwest and it is, after all, January. And yes, short of showing a photo of me holding a newspaper with today’s date, we all have to trust (myself included) that I have not been kidnapped or abducted by malevolent aliens intent on performing medical experiments in order to find out the location of my soul. (Have you been watching V? Can’t they think of something more original than that?)

The project is coming along nicely. I have been in weeds, of course, doing what is called “post-production”. This is where little edits and overdubs are performed. There were a few songs where I was so busy preparing the arrangements for the recording session in Canada, that I didn’t get a chance to practice the piano parts I composed for the main parts of the song. So I have been re-tracking these parts at home with my piano, a 6’1″ Fandrich & Sons. This doesn’t sound like a Yamaha C7 (what I played in the studio), nor do I have any of the same recording gear (different mics, different pre-amps, different A-D converters). So, given that all of the variables have changed, it has taken a while to find a reasonable combination of mic positioning and EQ to get the piano to have at least a passing resemblance of the same tonality.

I also have some additional songs to record that are mostly piano. Brian Thiessen has provided me with some additional electric guitar parts, and I have some other surprises in store for the overdubs. I am really enjoying the way this sounds, although I get a bit burned out at times with all the details. That’s what taking breaks are for.

To give you a little preview of what to expect, here are a couple of snippets from my cover of the song “Whom Have I?” which is written by a good friend of mine, David Ruis. Please enjoy!

From kellycarpentermusic on SoundCloud

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This upcoming Saturday, I will be playing “cocktail jazz” with a small combo at a fundraising auction for a non-profit called “Turning Point”. This organization partners with various community services in the greater Shoreline, Washington area to serve the working poor. One service they provide is after-school programs for children of immigrant families where parents have to hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. If you are interested in attending the auction, you can find information at http://turningpointseattle.org.

Kelly Carpenter piano handsBut the event is not what I’m writing this blog post about. It is about the music itself. Playing jazz is something I have never been real comfortable with, especially when it comes to improvising over jazz changes. These auction gigs come around twice a year, one for Turning Point and the other for an organization called “Go the 2nd Mile”. I prepare for these gigs with some intense practicing of good ol’ jazz standards, picking songs out of the “Real Book” and working up some licks.

Due to my insecurities about jazz improvisation, I usually go into these gigs with a certain amount of anxiety, but I always do better than I think I will do, and I realize that I have to stop being so hard on myself. One fellow musician went as far to tell me that I was “full of crap” when I would say that I can’t play jazz.

On the other hand, I am quite comfortable improvising in my chosen instrumental genre, which is similar to “new age” style piano. I am so comfortable in this style that my recorded output to-date has been mostly improvisational. Playing within my comfort zone has worked quite well for me. Until…

Until I started writing pieces that I can’t play. Meaning to say that I can’t just wing it. I arrived at this point in the midst of working on my next album which will be released early next year. Many of the pieces on this project evolved into something more than simple “beds” that I can improvise over comfortably. These are pieces that have required me to compose an actual piano part, learn how to play it, and then record it. No winging it.

There is a part of me that is a little embarrassed that I have composed material that I just can’t play by the seat of my pants anymore. But I realize that this is nothing to be embarrassed about at all. This is actually a crucial step in my growth as a musician. It means I get to stretch myself musically by listening to what’s in my head and then figuring out how to play it. Premeditated.

This is no different from most recording artists. Apparently Frank Sinatra would practice for months leading up to a recording session. George Harrison composed all of his guitar solos before playing them on the Beatles records. I remember once a long time ago when I realized that the keyboard solo on Toto’s “Rosanna” must have been thought out beforehand. As if this was unusual. Funny how one gets strange ideas in their head that can take decades to deprogram. Premeditated solos on recordings are the norm, not the exception.

All these years, I have expected myself to just magically deliver these beautiful solos improvisationally. I have been way too hard on myself. I have come to the end of what I can do by just winging it.

It may seem ironic, but now I feel liberated.

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