I have horrible writers block and so I figured I'd see if I could write a blog instead. About what, I don't know. I figured I'd just write about life and let it lead me wherever it wished to.
My life right now is in a weird placement. I released LIVE three weeks ago. Every time I finish an album I always say 'NEVER AGAIN.'
When I put 'What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up,' into the world I was extremely proud. It felt like the strongest collection of music that I'd done up to that date. It was all very personal. It was all very raw. It felt like an incredible closing to a challenging start. Sadly, it was also a huge flop (well, in terms of sales). Like the album prior, 'Keys,' it had undersold expectation (Keys still remains the poorest of all sales, but 'WIWBWIGU' is a very close 2nd). I swore I would never release another album again.
On June 26th I released LIVE, a double CD featuring some fan favorites and some new compositions and sung by some of the greatest vocalists of our time (including Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway, two of my childhood idols) recorded LIVE at Birdland on April 30th during two sold out concerts. The concert itself was a mighty challenge on its own. I wanted to get every performer on the album on the cover, I wanted new arrangements and orchestrations of some fan favorites. I needed to re-write some lyrics so that I could change the gender on many of the songs. It was a huge undertaking but I was up for the challenge.
Thankfully, so were all the incredible people who helped put this album together, especially from Jesse Vargas who's orchestration and arrangements exceeded my expectations. Jesse and I have been working together for many years and he has done the arrangements and orchestrations on every album with the exception of a few songs on Keys and one song on WIWBWIGU. Joining us again as our engineer was Paul Vazquez, who's work I stand by over and over again. Listen to this LIVE album and tell me it doesn't sound like a studio recording. He brilliantly focused his energy on bringing out our incredible orchestra made up of 13 of the best players and some of the most brilliant vocalists i have ever had the honor to know, let alone sing my lyrics and music. Then, add on top of that the incredible cover photo by Nathan Johnson, the book art by Robbie Rozelle and I thought: THIS IS IT. THIS IS MY GEM.
Though the album has only been out for three weeks, it's already sold EXTREMELY poorly.
It's upsetting, to say the least. I really thought this would be a sure fire hit. The reality of the situation is very depressing. As strong of a collection as I think it is, there's really not much that can be done. I can't force performers to support the album and tell the world about it. They get paid to come, sing, and go back to their lives. I can only ask. As far as getting the word out from the press world, I have written emails to everyone. I have sent follow up emails. I have sent follow up emails to those follow up emails. Nothing. (If you know anything about me, you know another follow up email is already in the works). Word of mouth is essential for an independent release and after the first three days of its release that word of mouth slowed down considerably. Yes, I still see people tweeting "Just bought LIVE," but that's one person a day at most. I totally understand the album costs $19 and that price is expensive for a lot of my followers, so it's all turning out to be a very strong lesson. Of course, I say to myself 'NEVER AGAIN.'
With LIVE already out there, I at least was excited about HOME, a musical I've been working on for over nine years. I have given so much of my blood, sweat and tears to this show. It has seen three different playwrights, three different producing teams but only one songwriter. I have written over 70 songs for the show and if it continues to have a life, I expect to write more until we settle on the final version.
On the 19th of June we presented a reading of HOME. Christy Hall, the current playwright, and Jen Bender, our current director, and I had worked on the script to really tighten it and tell the best story possible. Did we succeed ? It really depends on whom you ask. I had conflicting opinions from friends who came to see it. I was proud of the work we had done. Some people thought we took huge leaps forward and some thought we took some minor (yes, only minor) steps back. Personally, I thought our script is in the strongest place it's ever been. The biggest argument we had was 'there are three hit songs back to back and it feels like three different endings.' Not the biggest issue and easily fixable (though, which song gets cut is a conversation that will take a lot of thought to decide upon). Either way, there was a momentum gained and even a press release that said 'Home aiming for Broadway in Fall of 2012. We went into the reading with high expectations and a lot of excitement. We have since come back to reality and await an update from our producers on what comes next, if anything. Christy is in LA and Jen is in Australia. I am in NY waiting for a call.
I will say this. HOME has broken my heart before, but it always fixes itself. I truly believe in this project or I wouldn't have spent the last nine years trying to find it's path to its ultimate home. I think it's unique and unlike anything you have ever seen before (the main argument I always hear is 'This is so different I don't know if it will be successful.' To me, that is an amazing compliment).
So, that's where I am in my career right now (Don't even get me started on taking care of a newly blind dog or my non-existant love life - oy!).
I wanted to be as honest as possible with each and everyone of you. I think it's important. I don't want to show you a fake ideal of what to expect once you enter this industry (today I am down, but tomorrow is a new day and who knows what it may offer. Maybe Celine Dion will ask to record 'Home.' Anything is possible). I also find so many of my contemporary composers expecting to profit in the way that 'Dreaming Wide Awake' was able to. I am learning that sometimes you only hit gold once and that is ok. That doesn't make me any less proud of the work that I have put out there in 'Keys,' 'What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up' and 'Live.' That also doesn't mean that they shouldn't put themselves out there and celebrate their work that way I did in 2007 and continue to do year after year. It just means to be truthful in why you are doing this. When I released Dreaming Wide Awake I only knew that nobody else was giving me a platform and I was tired of waiting for someone else's ok. I worked three jobs for a year (Starbucks at 4:30 - 8am; Lunch shifts at Paris Comune and 8pm - 4am at Stonewall Inn. No, I never slept but I believed in my work, not sleep), raised the money and put it out there in hopes that I would attract an industry in wanting me to be apart of their world. Instead I found an industry that distance themselves further away from me (that's a whole other blog) and fans around the world who embraced me for who I am. Each album since was not so much wanting to replicate the sale of DWA but to continue growing my empire around the world. Yes, I wanted to make a profit from the sales of each album (DWA continues to outsell every album every single month - even the months that a new album is released. Go figure) but I also wanted to continue giving my gift of music back to the people who have continued to support me. You.
I am totally in ramble mode right now. Some will see this blog as a man complaining that he believes his career is washed up. Others, I hope, will see the honesty of what I am hoping to convey (and yes, maybe my career IS washed up. If so, I had a great run).
In closing, I have no clue what tomorrow brings me. I guess I will have to wait until tomorrow to find out. As for today, this is me.
Xx - SA