Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Last night I was driving back from Fresno (Target training) and a song came on and I realized, "This adventure, it was never about me, it was You" was true. That my life is is not about me, it's about God. And I didn't understand it. I couldn't figure out why or how. I turned off the music and drove the next hour in silence, talking with God. Asking, "So if you're there now... explain this to me. Beyond the cliche 'God made everything so it's about him.' Beyond the standard Christian answers."

And it took a while, but eventually He brought to mind the verse, "You are not your own, you were bought with a price." (I just had to look it up exactly to find it was 1 Cor 6.) But I realized it was true. If Christ bought me with his blood, if he ransomed my life from eternal damnation, then "technically" he owns my life here on earth too. But I've got some sort of lease/rent on my body here on earth where I can choose whether or not to follow him and his words. Where I can choose to live out this salvation (yay for Duzik's Romans) or not.

The best analogy I could come up with was like how a lot of truck drivers don't own the trucks they drive, and they certainly don't own the products in their truck that they are transporting. They get directions from their dispatch where to take the product and when to get it there. They choose whether or not to follow these directions and their orders, cause they're still driving the truck themselves.

In the same way, we're still living in our own bodies and choose whether or not to follow God's directions. A lot of the time though, I think we fail at this. Could you imagine what the trucking industry would look like if more often then not the drivers didn't follow their directions? Maybe that's what's going on with our world and why everything is so messed up here on earth? Because no one follows God's directions? *shrugs*

I'm still trying to understand this. And this is a new feeling for me (lately). Because I haven't felt like God has been speaking much to me lately. It could change my life... this realization that my life's adventure is not about me but it's about God. Now I'm present with choices. Do I want to follow this new thread of thought down the rabbit hole and see where it takes me? If I do follow thought thread, do I choose to act on the conclusions and reality that comes from it? And every day, ever hour, every minute... I have to choose to continue to follow these directions, this new way of life that the adventure is not about me, it's about God.

I'm mean, sure, I've said before, "I'll live my life for you God. I'll do anything for you." And I meant it. I think I still do. But even focusing my life on God, it has always been MY life. What should my life look like if I lived life as an adventure about God? I don't know. I hope I find out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Finished! (But you want to know the rest of the story?)

You see the runner in the above picture? That's what I feel like. (Spoilers Warning!) This is going to be a long one, so if you just want the highlights... here they are: (1) I finished my RPM project today, (2) I got it mailed at 5:59 PM Pacific Time. (Spoilers Over!)

After spending most of the past three days furiously recording and mixing (mostly recording, not much mixing) I am nearly exhausted, but so glad to be done. I have gone through a mix of emotions, everything from anxiety, excitement, pride, humility, disappointment, and elation. Now I'm just glad the pressure is over (and that my butt was kicked by it) so that I can record on my own pace. I don't think I would have actually started were it not for the RPM Challenge. Now I can go back over the next few weeks/months and re-record all the tracks that I felt I could improve on... *counts*... uhh... yeah, that's all of them.

But that's okay. I wanted to create a raw, unrefined album for this project... and with the time that I had, that's what I got. I didn't have any choice in the matter. Ehh, there's always next year. Here are the details on the album. Take copious notes so that your ID3 tags are correct. I wouldn't want to be miscounted on last.fm.

Artist: Bradley James
Title: Acoustically Magic HP
  1. From You
  2. Passion
  3. Can We Dance
  4. Redemption
  5. Wise Men Still Seek Him (When I See You)
  6. As The Days Go By
  7. Jane
  8. Lullaby
  9. Noah An Dah Flood (A White Boi Rap)
I didn't actually write any of these songs during this February, as most of them have been in development over the past 4-6 years. "Passion" and "Noah An Dah Flood" got the most work as "new(ish)" creations. I worked the hardest on "Passion", just working on getting the music how I wanted and creating space for the song to grow as it is re-recorded into an electric song. But I'm getting ahead of myself. If I'm going to tell a story, I should start at the beginning.

January 2007, I saw a post on Slashdot about RPM Challenge, a personal challenge to get off your duff and record an album in the 28 days of February. No excuses. Just do it. I tried. I failed. I didn't record a single track. Rather than making excuses due to my 30 unit course load at Life Pacific College, or worship pastoring at Country Life Church, or trying to maintain some semblence of a social life... who am I kidding? Those are darn good reasons... but I still left with an unfulfilled feeling.

January 2008 rolls around. I'm getting excited. A chance to redeem myself! And not to mention record all those wonderful song ideas that have been kicking around in my head, my notebooks, and my hard drives. I was determined to try to make due with what I had, rather than go out and spend a bunch of money on equipment I may never use again. At this time I voiced my interest on the RPM boards in the possibility of putting down a rap/hip-hop track. I got a ton of awesome suggestions, the best of which I found to be Hydrogen and Hammerhead. Hydrogen scores points for the slick interface, options and configurability. Hammerhead scores points for fun, simplicity and its ability to "just work" (tm).

Working 3-11 PM at the hotel had begun to turn me into something of an insommniac, so on days that I worked I usually ended up sleeping in until noon, which basically rendered my day fruitless for all intents and purposes. I was resigned to working on the project on my two days off each week.

Week one saw me restring my guitar and mostly get out the material and look at it a bit. I went down to Guitar Center to find out what was available as far as equipment goes and ended up just buying strings.

Week two was my first attempt to actually record with what I had... and it was frustrating beyond belief. I have an Audigy Pro soundcard and an old mic I swiped from a computer monitor 3-4 years ago. After having worked with real equipment at college, I could not stand the hum/buzz that was coming from my computer. I couldn't take how easily the microphone peaked even at normal vocal levels. I knew that next week I would have to get back to Guitar Center and buy the equipment I was looking at.

Week three I took the plunge. I bought a very nice condenser mic (Sterling ST55), a USB audio interface (M-Audio Fast Track Pro), a mic cable and a boom stand. The only thing I didn't buy was a pop filter, as that would have run me $50 and I wanted to check out alternatives first. I got home and was all excited to set up shop and try it out... only to find I could not connect my microphone to my boom stand. Fail. Epic Fail Brad.

Of course... I realized the next morning (after stressing all night about having bought the wrong mic? the wrong stand? wasted money because of no returns? etc?) that I just had to take out the metal adapter on the connector and it fit perfectly. How lame. Whatever. It worked now. So I spent the next few hours trying out various configurations of microphone, 1/4" line in and guitar and it sounded GREAT! Even my pop filter fashioned out of a coat hanger, nylons and one of this mini american flag sticks was going to work! I was so excited. I was going to record. Except I ran out of time...

Week four. This is it. The last stand. February 28. I had nothing down, and everything (10 tracks or 35 minutes of material) to go. I set to work like Rambo... with a vengence. I started with some songs I was less familiar with. "From You" and "Can We Dance?" (I'll save the stories for a later entry, lucky you... something to look forward too. :) I sent one to Tim and he LOVED it. He called me up and was like... "LISTEN BRAD! LISTEN TO THIS!!! I LOVE YOUR SONG THIS MUCH!!!" And then he played me one of the sickest guitar leads I'd ever heard. Seriously. I'm going to get him to record it for me for "Can We Dance?" when I fill it in with electric stuff.

February 29. I worked and worked, recording scratch tracks for guitar for the rest of the songs. And would you believe it... I came up short. I only had 27:30 and 6 songs. I still needed 8:30. Where was I going to get that from? I had an idea... but I was scared. I went to bed without finishing the vocals on any of those tracks.

March 1. Technically, today doesn't count. Everything was supposed to be finished and I'm just supposed to mail it off today. I voted extenuating circumstances on myself and cut myself some slack. I then used it to tie the aforemention pop filter/nylon-coathanger-flagpole to the boom stand because it kept falling off. Then I realized that I had a perfect clamp in an unused capo! Dun duh DAHHH! Captian Random to the Rescue!

My guitar scratch tracks became the final tracks (under the auspices of "raw, uncut, real"... it works, yeah? At least that's what I keep telling myself). My vocals got one take on most songs. Audacity 1.3.4 reminded me again why it is beta as it kept crashing in the middle of recording "Jane". Looking at the clock I realized I wasn't even going to come close to finishing. So I called into work.

How lame is that? I mean... here I am, my last day at a job I've worked at for six months, which I've never missed even once, and I call in... "Hey, would you hate me if I asked you to work the full shift today instead of just the half shift?" "No, of course not Brad, I could never hate you..." (See, the key is in the way you phrase the question. It's all in the asking. ;) "...why, what's going on?" "Well, I'm not sick, so if you can't do it, it's fine and I'll come into work, it's not really a big deal... but I've just got this project that I'm working on and I really want to get it done and in the mail today." "Oh, okay... well that's fine." "Sweet, thank you so much. :)" (She could hear my smiley emoticon on the other line, I'm sure of it.)

So I kept working. And when I had scratch vocals (which again, became the real vocals... I'm not "One Take Bradley" because I'm good) I still had the same dilemma as last night... too short. Not enough material. So I pulled out an older song that I'd written that I'd stashed away four years ago until my musical and vocal skills had progressed enough to do it justice (or until I could sell it to Kutless to do. This was before they had sold out to CCM.) "Passion" is a very emotional song and the music and performance had to be just right. Well, I guess today was that day. I actually spent most of the day on that song, and as excited as I am that I was able to "bring it to life" (Mwuhahahaa!!!), I'm more excited for what it has the potential to become. I seriously think it could be REALLY good. Really.

But one song wasn't going to take me to 35 minutes. No. Something even more drastic was necessary. I decided to follow through on my threat... erm... idea... to do a rap/hip-hop song. Hammerhead is my new best friend. It was soooooo easy to upload the "human beatbox" sound bank, click random parts of the measure and BAM! New hip-hop groove created. I'm sure there's a way to have it alternate grooves, but I didn't have the time to play with it that much and one was good enough for my purposes. So I pulled out an old rap I'd written (again, saving the story... hahahahaha) and practiced it... and practiced it... and practiced some more. You know, I've decided to give rappers some more credit. I mean, maybe it's cause I'm white... but that was actually harder for me to do than most songs that I've sung. Anyway, it was worth a laugh, an worth the last two minutes that I needed to meet the 35 minute quota.