Making music keeps me sane and balanced

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imageSinger-songwriter Lucas Miré’s debut CD was nominated for an Out Music Award in 2006. His follow up, “Never Regret the Nights,” produced by Clay Cook, is due later this year. A longtime blogger and Atlanta resident, he’s been helping local artists unblock by assembling peer-run Artist’s Way clusters since 2007.

I never really thought I’d be a musician, but I’d always loved music and especially singing.

I’d croon along with Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown until my mother begged me, sometimes with money, to stop. Speaking of cash, I spent almost all of my allowances, birthday money and paychecks on music for as long as I can remember.

Once it came down to buying a double-disc Tori Amos bootleg from Paradise Records in Baton Rouge or a week of eating gas station convenience foods. You can guess what I chose and now “Top Chef” Quick Fire challenges have made this practice en vogue, oddly enough. Somewhere along the way I stumbled across – dated? — several working artists, but never really thought I had anything of my own to contribute.

By the time I was 25, I was a graphic artist, producer and a working writer. I felt comfortable in these milieus, but after reading a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I became a little less content and a lot more fearless. Journalism was always something I did to make a living and the praise for my talents in that arena were immediate.

But singing or playing an instrument – stringed or otherwise – were never encouraged nor on my personal radar in any tangible way. Doing “The Artist’s Way” really shook things up and suddenly, in a bout of synchronicity, a friend loaned me his grandfather’s guitar. It was only collecting dust in his attic, so why not? I bought “Guitar for Dummies” a few days later and, suddenly, I was on my way.

To what, I had no idea.

Pistol Pete and a personal tutorial

I goofed around for a few weeks, not really knowing what was I was doing. My boyfriend at the time, Joey, was supportive and patient to a point, but the noise I was making couldn’t legitimately be called music. Unlike other hobbies, I kept at it, for reasons unbeknownst to me. The guitar was there, and week after week, I would pick it up and play the best way I knew how. Joey was as surprised as I was when I stuck with it after such little payoff.

Needing to make some headway, I called a local gay musician, Pistol Pete, out of the blue for a lesson. I admired Pete and caught a few of his shows, but we had never met and now I was asking for a personal tutorial. Surprisingly, he agreed to meet. He brought some red wine over to my Mid City shotgun apartment, and we talked guitar theory, but honestly it was all over my head.

Then the house across the street caught fire and we drank more wine as we watched the fire trucks invade Cleveland Avenue. We had a fun night, but I didn’t come close to cracking the code of my guitar. I still never thought I’d write a song, until one day several months later I was strumming my guitar and some words came along with the chord changes. I called my best friend Frances and said, “I think I just wrote a song.”

Keeping a beginner’s mind

Ten years, a move to Atlanta, and one independent record later, I can honestly say that making music is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s also been the hardest. Making music, like most art, is a weird intersection of talent, willingness, people skills, commerce and, honestly, a little bit of “look what I can do.” It keeps me sane and balanced.

Last fall I started recording my second CD with local musician and producer Clay Cook. In six days, we a finished record. (My first CD took two years of Monday nights to produce.) I thought I’d blog here to trace the recording and production, just to give a little peek into how independent artists make records these days. I also thought I’d talk a little bit about the creative process and what I’ve learned to keep my inner artist thriving.

When it comes to music, I believe in keeping a beginner’s mind. I have little idea of how all of this is supposed to work — how all of my experiences and willingness to fail come together and make something satisfying to both the listener and me. But I do believe in my art, and somehow, almost magically, it all works out. There is no plan. I’m just as eager as anyone to watch it unfold.

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