Riley Hawke

This Week - Feb 25, 2018

Introduction

To be completely honest, I didn't feel good this week. I get severe symptoms with my periods, and spent a lot of time this week dealing with pain, nausea and fatigue. It was all I could do to get my work done for my job.

Something cool I discovered this week though was that I'm what's known as a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP. You can take this test to see if you are one as well:

http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/

A friend of mine said today that she feels like she knows me better after taking that test, knowing that I got a 25 on it (out of 27 total, I believe.) Since I took the test on Monday, I've done a lot more research into it, and have almost finished reading the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron. It's been more validating than I would have thought. There is so much interesting research that has been done about the trait, and it comes with both negative and positive aspects, like most things in life. I enjoy a richness in both my outer and inner worlds, at the cost of becoming easily overwhelmed by them. I am creative and a great thinker, but it takes a lot out of me to use my brain. I hope that with the techniques in the book, I can learn how to take care of myself better. As it is, I don't feel well quite a lot. I get headaches, upset stomachs, intense mood swings, anxiety and depression, aches and pains, that sort of thing. I don't know how this new information will affect me in the long run, but I sense that it might be a bit of a turning point.

What I'm Working On

A whole lotta nothin'! Seriously this week I did nothing until like, Saturday when I tweaked the mix of Moment of Weakness. Then I released it this morning. I was really scared of this song! Sharing it with people. It feels like a rather bold step for me. It's my first original song that's not "inspired by" something in like...gosh, years actually. I was very anxious about it this morning, that nobody would like it. But I want to be bold. I want to give what I've got to give and let the cards fall where they will, you know? Be true to myself and just let people either like it or not. Easier said than done, but I'll keep at it.

What I'm Listening To

This week I started watching this awesome documentary called Soundbreaking. It's episodic. It's kind of about music production throughout the decades. I'm really enjoying it.

Next Week

I don't know. It's hard to be ambitious when I feel like crap. My job has to come first, so I will be happy if I have enough energy to work on music next week at all!

Have a nice week everyone. :)


This Week - Feb. 18, 2018

Introduction

So, I'm starting a weekly blog (Saturday or Sunday) entitled "This Week." At the very least, it will be fun for me to look back on my journey. And anyone who's interested is welcome to come along for the ride. :)

What I'm Working On

I ordered a Keith McMillan K-Board a few weeks ago on eBay for $50. It finally arrived this week! One of the reasons I bought it was so that I could have something really small to use to play around with all the MIDI instruments I have. So that I did, and it was fun! I have a lot of synths and sample libraries that I have barely scratched the surface of, and I'd like to explore them over time and figure out which sounds I like the most and would want to use in future productions.

Let me point out what my "studio" looks like right now. So, long story short, it is kind of like this:

And also this:

So... yeah. Not ideal. You can see why having something more compact would help for the time being. I had hoped that the velocity sensitivity of the pads would be a little more accurate, so that I could "play" my MIDI drum parts rather than program them, but I think I'll still have to program them to get the velocities I want. Other than that I love it.

I also spent some time trying to finish up my new original song called Moment of Weakness. I ended up rewriting the pre-chrorus melody and also adding one of the synth patches I discovered in Reaktor Prism to add excitement to the second verse, which it really needed. Still struggling with the transition into the bridge, but I'm about ready to just call it done and move onto something else. I recorded all the final vocals yesterday. I'm trying more vocal stacking than ever before, because I've been watching music production videos by Ill Factor in his Beat Academy. I did that thing where I signed up for the free month and then forgot to cancel, haha, but the content has actually been very useful. I really like his YouTube videos as well. I feel like...not everything he says is technically accurate, but the way he describes things tends to be relatable and useful. He also did a video where his example was literally Sia's vocals. So whatever, what he's saying obviously works  well enough for him!

So yeah check out how much freaking stuff is in this project. That's a lot of layers, for me anyway. But I get the feeling that's how people do it! I'll have to color code and organize this better before I start mixing. I kind of mix as I go, but once everything is done I'll probably make a copy of the project, bounce most of the MIDI to audio, and at least revisit all of the EQ.


What I'm Listening To

I discovered Brandi Carlile a little while ago, and have been listening to more of her music. I think her song The Story might be her most popular one, and it's the first one I heard. It made me cry so I wanted to hear more. She has an incredible voice--a ton of raw power which sometimes results in her voice breaking up as if it were a guitar amp, but also this beautiful vibrato. And she's a lesbian, which makes her more relatable (for me anyway!)

Instead of a song, I'm going to recommend this cool documentary. It's still got music in it.



Next Week

Next week I hope to completely finish up with Moment of Weakness so that I can start on something else. Ideally I don't want to spend more than 2 weeks on a song because it starts to feel stale, and I'm even prone to ruining it. I think I want to continue on this "music production" path. Keep playing with sample libraries, make cool tracks and just stick melodies and lyrics into them. It's completely different than what I normally do, and I think it's a direction that I want to go in for now because it's not fun for me to mic up instruments with my current setup. So MIDI it is!

See you next time!


Surrender

I, uh, tried.

I had a friend in college who often said that, "trying implies failure," which has its uses, but isn't entirely correct. There is so much in this world that we cannot control; in a sense all we can do is try.

It may be regrettable to spend my life working in a field that is not my absolute favorite thing, but I don't usually worry about regrets. I believe that regrets have less to do with the past, and much more to do with being in a state of mind to regret things. So I mostly trust that when I'm older, I'll be able to make peace with how I've spent my life.

I may feel jealousy--even a flash of hatred--when I see others garnering accolades for their creative work. There's a hissing snake in my head that spits venom in their general direction for their accomplishments. There's a plant in my chest that withers when the spotlight is permanently directed at someone else. And there's a small voice in my soul that wonders endlessly about trees falling in forests. About the artwork that exists only inside my mind, and the loneliness it brings me.

Whether I spend my life gritting my teeth at the universe, or laying in the field watching the clouds go by, I'm going to die. I didn't ask to be here, and no one gave me the rules of the game.

All this is to say that I'm giving up on trying to become a professional musician. I was happier and got more enjoyment out of music when it was just a hobby. My life feels unbalanced. I think I'd like to spend more time feeling the sun on my face and less time chasing the spotlight. You know? I can follow my muse instead of dragging it behind me on a leash, because I don't need to plan where we go.

I've written a lot of blogs over the past handful of months that I haven't posted because I was worried about what other people would think. But hey I'm not commercial anymore so whoop tea do!!

<3

Riley Hawke


The Story Behind the Fragile Reality EP

Please note that this post contains spoilers for all 5 episodes of Life is Strange.

I don't remember when I first saw the trailer for Life is Strange, but I do remember that my reaction was to immediately begin shipping Pricefield. All 5 episodes were already out, so I snagged the game during a Steam sale and played it with my wife over the course of a few days. The story has stayed with me in ways I couldn't have predicted.

This post serves as a brief look at what led to the creation of this album. I've listed the songs in chronological order (when I wrote them,) as opposed to album order, just to keep the text cohesive if you decide to read from top to bottom.

I Still Do

I was in love and I meant it for eternity.
And I still do.

On my first play-through I chose the Sacrifice Chloe ending, confident that I was doing the right thing, and then felt emotionally wrecked for like, a week. When I feel overwhelmed by emotions, making art is the only thing that helps. As I grappled with the aftermath of Life is Strange, I remembered a song I'd written a few years prior called I Still Do. (The song was originally about a girl who'd broken my heart that I still loved anyway, despite trying not to.) It reminded me of the game, and how I felt about letting Chloe die. I changed some of the lyrics to fit the new meaning and recorded it. Then I posted it on YouTube along with a video.

I probably would have left it at that, had I not discovered Koethe's music. I was blown away by how great it sounded, and especially that he'd done it all by himself. I'd never believed that I could achieve that kind of quality, but suddenly I felt inspired to give it a real try. I decided to write more songs inspired by Life is Strange; there's so much there to work with! I also felt that people might enjoy them, which is a huge motivator.

All That Matters

You're all that matters to me.

I knew that I wanted to write a song about choosing the Sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending. I remember that the chorus came to me in the shower, and it's unusual for me to write something so repetitive, but I think it works thematically in this case. I imagine Max up on that hill in the middle of a storm--a lighthouse serves as a beacon for ships that might otherwise be lost at sea, and a beacon's power lies in its singularity. If there were even 2 lights, the ship wouldn't know where to go--I believe that Max needed a beacon at that moment, and that it's completely understandable for her to choose Chloe.

I had no idea what I was doing when it came to the production. I was like, "okay, so I need drums. I want it to build. I want there to be a lot going on." I felt happy with how it turned out. Even though the chorus repeats a single phrase, the production as a whole has a lot of change in it. It's my experience that whenever I commit to something, that commitment gets tested. Some subconscious part of me decides to bring up everything that might go wrong; tries to scare the shit out of me or discourage me. I need a beacon, and the challenge is to hold onto that beacon through the storm. That's the only way I'll make it to the other side. That's what I wanted to represent in this song.

Fragile Reality

She makes me feel like someday we'll wake up and be happy,
But with you, I forgot that I'm not.
This could be a fragile reality.

I wrote Fragile Reality because I wanted to do a song from Chloe's point of view. This song went through so many revisions. I had a few false starts for the chorus before I got something that I liked, and it took me a while to finish all the lyrics in the verses. The lyrics in the chorus of this song are some of my favorites from the EP. And I liked the title so much that I named the album after it!

This song went through 2 rounds of production. I liked the first attempt when I finished it, but over time it felt stale to me. The song went on for too long, and didn't change enough. When I decided to make this EP, I knew I wanted to redo the production on Fragile Reality. I kept the vocal, but otherwise started from scratch. I tweaked the chords, added a totally new bridge and a new ending, as well as adding a lot of other parts to the arrangement. I added some sounds that reminded me of Life is Strange. I wanted this song to remind people of the game when they heard it, since it's the first song on the album.

It was hard for me to cut the outro from the original song because it was my favorite part, but it made the song drag on, and so I had to kill it. (Sad face.) I think that the new ending does a good job to set the stage for the EP. The whole song is rather delicately worded, like Chloe's being careful not to get her hopes up. In the ending, however, Chloe is too tired to rephrase her wishes into something reasonable, and she's just asking to please have something good in her life.

Oh, and the video for this song ended up being a real production as well. I had this idea to do a "Chloe's bedroom cosplay," and just went with it. That was fun. :)

Warpaint

I'm drenched in warpaint; alive with flame.
My words are scathing, but my breath's become your name.

This is the one song on the EP that has nothing to do with Life is Strange. It's meant as kind of a bonus track. It's actually my personal favorite, and it still has to do with a femslash ship: Clexa. I was reading a lot of Clexa fan fiction for a while, and I read this fic called this heart, fossilized and silent (once was tender and once was violent.) I really love that fic; it has some incredible scenes. One of those scenes went a long way in inspiring this song.

I'm a huge fan of Ben Howard, and his album I Forget Where We Were has a bunch of guitars with loud delays on them. I'd been messing around and trying to get a similar guitar sound when I wrote this song, and I think it turned out really cool.

Because I Tried

Am I to blame because I tried?

I wrote this song for a contest hosted by Life is Strange Fans. The challenge was to write and record an original song inspired by Life is Strange, and to do it in 2 weeks. My personal challenge also involved the fact that I was getting ready to move across the country, and had to pack up all my gear as soon as possible. Yikes! But hey I held it together and I'm really happy with how the song turned out.

I had expected that we'd be given a prompt to write from, to discourage anyone from starting early. That didn't end up happening, so I made up my own prompt. "Write a song about the moment of the game that you felt was the most powerful." I chose the scene where Max and Chloe dig up Rachel's body. That scene... it made me feel sick to my stomach. I felt like it was actually happening. Sure, this game made me cry a ton, (spoiler alert: it's not hard,) but that particular scene hit me in a place that games rarely do: my actual gut.

Chloe tried very hard to find Rachel, but she was already dead. Max tried very hard to save Chloe, but it just wasn't meant to be. (Alternatively, Max tried very hard to let Chloe go, but couldn't do it. I explore both possibilities in the video for the song.) I also think it's a great theme for all of us. Win or lose, there's a peace in simply trying. Case in point: I didn't win the contest, but I still feel good about having tried.

Overexposed

Give me something else to focus on...
Bodies on the coast of Oregon...

This song is directly inspired by a Life is Strange fan fiction called All Wounds. I got in touch with the author because they're working on a visual novel version of the fic, and I wanted to offer my music in case they'd like to use it. We talked more about it, and what kind of song they might like to have written specifically for the VN. That's how Overexposed came about. This song took a long time to write and record because it has so many different parts. It doesn't follow a typical song structure with verses and choruses, but rather takes a linear path which essentially goes from trauma to healing. The song is also a duet, which made it even more complicated to write. I'm fortunate that Dakota Crespo agreed to sing Max's part because she did a hella great job. :)

Since I'd spent so much time on the song, I thought it fitting to create a cool video to go with it. I bought RPG Maker and a few extra tile sets and went to town creating maps and sprites and planning out the video. It's meant to help demonstrate what's going on in the song, and also to parallel what happens in All Wounds. I also found it extremely cute to walk around with little Max and Chloe sprites, so there's that too. :D

Why an EP?

You cannot let go of that which you do not hold.

All of these songs have been released, so why did I decide to put them on an EP? There are a few reasons.

  1. I just wanted to. I've been making music for about 10 years, and I've always dreamed of having a real album out there. Now I do!
  2. Getting my feet wet. Something else I've often thought about is having a career in music. There's so, so much to learn in this space, and I figured that going through the whole process with an EP would be an excellent learning experience. I feel like I'll be able to do a much better job on my next album.
  3. Professional help. I haven't been mixing for very long, and I wanted to know how much better my songs could sound when a professional mixed them. I worked remotely with Jesse Rhodes from The Abstract LA studio to have my songs professionally mixed and mastered. I learned a lot during this process, and you can hear the end result for yourself.

Closing Thoughts

My favorite song is the cover art.

Thanks for being here with me. I hope you'll keep in touch, and let me know how you like the album!

Sincerely, as always,

Riley Hawke

 


So I'm Building a Website

Because I have an upcoming EP release, I decided to create a more legit website. I could make one myself, but $59 for a WordPress plugin that could basically do it for me seemed like a no brainier. I picked up the Uncode theme, chose NodeHost as an inexpensive and well reviewed host, and after a bunch of SSL issues, here I am.

I'm making this website for basically 2 reasons:

  1. A place to host my own music, and allow me to sell it directly to whomever might like to buy it. I'm planning to apply a "pay what you want" mentality.
  2. I wanted a blog. I often have a lot to say! I'll probably create posts to accompany new songs or videos, or to just talk about things that I think are valuable. I have a ton of experience with anxiety and depression, and I like to share what I've learned.

If you happen to stumble across this while I'm still working on it, well... *awkward wave.*