Skip to content

Category Archives: trio

Trio is the original and longest-running single-artist podcast on the internet.

Trio Season 6 – Suite #6: Instants

This Trio almost wound up being titled “Primer” because of the following three quotes:

On being primed:
If you’ve ever read an interview with a songwriter … you’ll hear a repeated theme: that you have to constantly be writing, and constantly be revising and playing. It seems sortof counter-intuitive, because at some point you’ve written a certain amount of material, and you feel like you should be playing or rehearsing that material. But … when you have a new idea it’s much more easy to capture that idea.

It’s funny that you can apply any kind of science to songwriting. You spend a lot of years as a songwriter thinking it’s just lightning that strikes you, but there are things you can do to make yourself more of a lightning rod.

All This Time
When the chorus came in my head I literally walked to the piano and played the entire song in one go and wrote the lyrics. It all happened in 30 minutes. … Effectively the whole song came at once. It was because I was primed. That’s the challenge, you know? You have to be working on songs to have other songs that work.

Will It Ever Come?
Much like “All This Time,” it came at this point that I was very primed, in the summer of 2000. I wrote a lot of what are still my favorite songs at that time … songs that I really still play very frequently. And this one was kindof in the middle, and it just got ignored. It was at the very beginning of Crushing Krisis and I blogged the lyrics. [Ed note: Literally; I wrote them out in nine minutes in the Blogger window. They were my 81st post.]

The next year when I went into the recording studio … I can honestly say I don’t know that ever played it before. And we did it in one take.


Lyrics and chords for “Time Is Running Out” are behind the cut. Read more…

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, grab the single of “All This Time,” or listen to a previous Trio:

Trio Season 6 – Suite #5: Morning Light

Trio: Season Six, Suite #5: Morning Light
Excuse, Tempted (Squeeze), Not Tonight

Some comments that got cut from this chatty Trio, and chords for “Tempted”…Read more…

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, or listen to a previous Trio:

Trio Season 6 – Suite #4: Good Bones

Trio: Season Six, Suite #4: Good Bones
Something Real, 22 Steps (Andy Stochanksy), What It Is

A sample of what I had to say in this Trio…

Something Real
I’ve really learned a lot about my own songs, and about having some confidence in sometimes doing something different. There are many songs of that nature – many of which are about Elise – from throughout the years that aren’t in one of my “normal genres,” whatever they may be. And the song gets sidetracked.

22 Steps, by Andy Stochansky
It was one of those moments that you sometimes can have at a concert where the whole room went silent. Afterward everybody knew they had seen something major. It’s a wonderfully crafted song – I hold it up against “Every Breath You Take.”

What It Is
It’s from the complete opposite end of the spectrum of our relationship than “Something Real.” It’s unusual in that it never quite feels finished … it came all in one shot, but when I play it it’s never quite right.

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, or listen to a previous Trio:

Trio Season 6 – Suite #3: A Confidence Game

Trio: Season Six, Suite #3: A Confidence Game
Unengaged, Tangling, Wonder

A sample of what I had to say in this Trio…

It wasn’t the lack of confidence in doing that thing, but the lack of confidence that came in the wake of that – like, “Oh god, what have I gotten myself into?” … It’s also about [lack of] confidence in performing it: I wrote that melody almost just as an exercise in getting it up into falsetto over and over again. I didn’t ever think I was going to perform it that way. … If it’s your song, and you wrote it that way, then there must be a reason it’s in falsetto.

It was the anchor of this set … Somebody moves out of your life for some period … and you think, “wow, we’re so connected.” And then they get back and you don’t feel that connection immediately. And you wonder – was that connection so tenuous that it dissipated with the distance? … People change over a period of time, and you have to take some time to retune that connection.

I think anyone can identify with that walking down the street – or, in the case of this song, in a train station – and you see somebody, and in your mind you have a whole fantasy about them in a split second … and then they get on the train. Or, maybe that’s just me?

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, or listen to a previous Trio:

Trio Season 6 – Suite #2: Transparency

Trio: Season Six, Suite #2: Transparency
Deadweight, Save Your Day, Secret Queen

A sample of what I had to say in this Trio…

Re: Transparency
All three of these songs are about the same thing: a person that wouldn’t ordinarily impact me so much that I would write a song about them, and having one moment of unusual insight into that person – where I really saw through all of their opacity and outside intentions to what they were really about at their core.

At the time, actually, I thought it was just a throw-away. I had written another lyric on a page in my notebook … and I wrote [“Deadweight”] on the upside down of that page. … Now I have to turn the poetry notebook upside down every time I go back to check something.

Save Your Day
One of my readers sent me an email [to say that] she listened to it and just cried … because it was describing her. … You don’t think I’m going to write a song describing somebody’s life. Those songs suck. But, if you are just writing something true people find themselves in that.

Secret Queen
Oh, that secret queen. I’ve got some opinions about her. One day I just thought to myself, With all of that negative energy, you could just be the biggest black hole in my galaxy. And then “Secret Queen” arrived.

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, or listen to a previous Trio:

Trio Season 6 – Suite #1: Within

Trio: Season Six, Suite #1: Within
Icy Cold, Love Me Love Me Not, Nothing To Say

A sample of what I had to say in this Trio…

Re: Within
To me [the theme] is equivalent to internal monologue. It got me thinking about blog as internal monologue, because you have no idea if anyone is reading it. In fact, when you start it it’s not often you have a guaranteed audience … I didn’t start my blog knowing anyone was ever going to read it. It was almost equivalent to my internal monologue.

Re: Voice Lessons
So, I’m taking these voice lessons, and she’s all like “it’s breathing, it all starts with the breathing. All singing starts with breathing” And you can say “bullshit” as long as you want (whether that’s one lesson or, you know, four months), but goddammit when you’re in your room and it’s two hours before you have to get this shit done and you can’t get through a phrase it all makes sense: it’s the breathing.

Re: Love Me, Love Me Not
[Love Me Not was] written over a period of several months. It wasn’t one of those things that came fully formed. I’ve read interviews with songwriters where they say, “oh, the good songs come fully formed, all at once, just popping into your head all at once. … But, you know, there’s nothing wrong with trying. There’s nothing wrong with teasing something out and perfecting it. … It’s the difference (to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell) between precociousness and practice.

Re: Trio
Trio – as far as I can tell, or anybody else can tell – was the first podcast by a singer songwriter. I just turned on my computer and recorded three songs. It was 2000 – I didn’t think anything of it. So, I never patented it.

Nothing To Say
It came pretty much all in one shot, but I had never played it in front of people, ever, until last week. … It was alive over seven years without being played for anybody.

Trio – the original singer-songwriter web session – returns for its sixth season featuring my original music, recorded live and DIY in my bedroom. You can download this Trio, or listen to a Trio from Season 5:

(This post currently features an 11/6 remix of Trio. You can also hear the original version, which includes a more “acoustic” mix of “Love Me Not,” plus two minutes of extra commentary.)

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #1 – Up & Down / So Hard (from Trio Season 3, #5)

My favorite Trio tracks have documented many memorable musical moments from 2000 to 2004. Songs made their debut, found their fans, and were gradually refined or radically transformed.

However, sometimes the best part of Trio is playing a song – old or new, well known or obscure – and playing it very, very well. This became my mission throughout all of Season 5, with outstanding results, but up until then a specific pair of Season 3 tunes were the best example.

I remember very specifically burning them to CD and listening to them on the train ride to Elise’s house, and as soon as I arrived pushing the disc into her stereo, ignoring that one of the tunes was a touch explicit and Elise’s 10 year old brother was sitting on the floor playing video games. Not to mention that the cover in the middle of the two songs was “Untouchable Face.”

(Little did I suspect that years later I’d take him to a Dresden Dolls concert where backup dancers would pantomime giving each other back alley abortions, alternating the Charleston with pulling doll parts out from under their dresses. That made me feel so much better about blasting “Untouchable Face” in his living room.)

Check out “Up & Down” and the debut of “So Hard” from Trio Season 3, #5. And, tune in next week for the first Trio of Season 6.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #2 – Granted (from Trio Season 4, #2)

While surveying my Trios for this list of favorites tracks I decided against including the fully-mixed songs from the middle of Season 4. Though they appeared in Trio they didn’t adhere to the spirit of Trio – I built them piece by piece from a click track rather than recording them live.

Except for “Granted.”

“Granted” came to me in the middle of the night. I awoke, bolt upright, crying, and reached for a piece of paper. The next thing I remember was crossing out a line in the final verse, and the next thing after that was getting through a guitar/vocal version of the song in a single take.

What could be more quintessentially Trio than that?

After hearing the guitar/vocal I realized that a lot more had come to me than just the basic structure of the song. Without even thinking about it I added a lattice of background vocals and guitars around the original demo, replacing some of them in the coming days with more polished versions. The end result was one of my most professional-sounding tracks of all time, which wound up as the opening track of Trio Season 4, #2.

As a song “Granted” exists across opposing worlds – awake and asleep, alive and slipping away. Now you can hear it two different ways for the first time – fully polished and completely naked. At the core of each is my voice, hoarse at 3am from waking up crying, singing words straight from a legal pad pockmarked with arrows and crossouts.

I love this song so much that I’m afraid to hear it any other way.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #3 – Wings of the Ragman (from Trio Season 3, #6)

Cover songs are a tricky business.

Many songs – especially pop songs – are distinct because of their arrangement, or their production, and when they’re stripped down to just an acoustic guitar they are entirely unarresting. As covers those sorts of songs are only as effective as you know how to make them; you have to bring your own strong sense of interpretation and inertia to the song to keep it interesting for the listener.

Peter Mulvey‘s “Wings of the Ragman” is a different creature, maybe because of its aerobic, alternately-tuned guitar or it’s rapid, flowing melody. Or, maybe it’s something else. No matter what, my version of it from Trio Season 3, #6 is very nearly my favorite Trio recording of all time.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #4 – Are You / Relief (from Trio Season 4, #4 / #1)

I’m straying from the script here – being indecisive. So, you get two songs instead of one.

Originally you were meant to get “Are You” from Trio Season 4, #4. However, listening to it tonight I was compelled to alter a flubbed change – editing it out in favor of a seamless transition.

The result sounded good, but that’s not what this highlights series has been about – I haven’t done any digital work to these recordings other than restoration, and occasional touch of reverb.

The irony is that “Are You” was intentionally imperfect – it bucked the trend of huge mixing projects that had overwhelmed an aborted Trio season that had began over a year before. “Are You” truly is a folk song – perhaps my only one – and at the time I resolved to keep it folky and untouched.

The endeavor of bringing mixing to Trio began 53 weeks earlier with Trio Season 4, #1. Actually, you’ve heard an earlier recording of the song in question – “Relief” – already during this series. I recorded this particular “Relief” in a single take, but then decided to add just a touch of harmony. And then just a touch more.

Really, I don’t know much in the way of restraint when it comes to harmony.

I haven’t heard the guitar/vocal recording without the harmony for almost four years; hearing it tonight I find myself wondering why I was so convinced it needed any harmony to begin with.

Which is the purer representation of Trio – my recovery from excess (in mixing and in perfectionism), or my first step into it (sans the excess)?

Up to you, I suppose.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #5 – Lost (from Trio Season 3, #6)

Songs start with something at their center – an experience, a feeling, a great line, or a snippet of melody. Yet, once they’re fully formed they wind up attached to other contexts and meanings.

From that perspective I can understand why some songwriters personify their songs; Tori Amos, for example, refers to them as her “girls,” and ascribes assertive opinions and stubborn tempers to each one.

I don’t know that “Lost” has ever talked back to me, but it’s certainly a character. It came to me in a single blast in the middle of a Journalism class in Randell hall on May 16 of my Freshmen year, scribbled straight through on a single sheet of lined paper.

The guitar arrangement came later, but in the same lightning bolt fashion – so perfect in my head that I recorded it four times in a row before I felt like I captured some part of it on tape.

Then I promptly forgot it.

Really it was a little more complicated than that. I was writing so many songs at the time that “Lost” didn’t really stick out, and then I broke my collarbone and was forced to go on a brief hiatus from playing. And, when I had healed enough to play again I had a backlog of lyrics waiting to transform into songs.

By the time I returned to “Lost” it was months after it was originally written, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to play its chorus. The chords sounded simple on my four recordings, but I couldn’t quite get the fingerings.

It took the better part of the year for me to suss out the secrets of my guitar part, and as soon as I did I recorded a quiet-but-determined take of “Lost” – exactly the way it had been playing in my head for half a year – in Trio Season 1, #11.

I adore that recording, but it’s not quite one of my favorite tracks.

Over the years “Lost” has stuck with me through ups and downs. Playing with cellos, in different keys, segueing into “Lucky Star,” and changing from 3/4 to 4/4. Recently I feel like maybe we’ve parted ways … at least for a little while.

Somewhere in the middle of that journey was another take as quintessential as its first Trio appearance – a recording that remains one of my all-time favorites over four years after the fact. It originally appeared on January 13, 2003, in Trio Season 3, #6.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #6 – Wicked Little Town (from Trio Season 4, #5)

I’m not known for having a knack for spot-on cover songs, especially when they involve any sort of specificity in guitar playing. I’m a much more approximate kind of guy.

I’m also not known for controlled use of vibrato, or willingness to commit my falsetto to record.

It’s the presence of all of those elements that make my relatively off-the-cuff cover of Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s “Wicked Little Town” in Trio Season 4, #5 one of my favorite Trio performances, despite some quibbles re: flatness.

(I bet some of you Googlers would love to see some chords here. Unfortunately, I haven’t played this in three years and I have work in the morning. I do recall that I’m capoed relatively high – perhaps seventh fret? I’ll come back with a transcription as soon as I’m able.)

I often remark that I’m not much of a musical fan, but I freely admit that one of my lifelong dreams is to play Hedwig. That said, I’m actually a much better vocal fit for his other half, Tommy Gnosis, as voiced in the film by Hedwig co-originator Stephen Trask.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #7 – Will It Ever Come (from Trio Season 3, #1)

I’ve now exhausted my favorite tracks from Trio’s first two seasons – their lo-fi production values and still-developing vocals bar them from the apex of my favorites list.

Tonight’s selection is the first song of Season 3, and thus the first ever “hi-fi” Trio recorded (and preserved) as a high quality wav rather than a crummy real audio file.

The song in question is a raucous, improvisational, up-tempo take on “Will It Ever Come.”

After I built my top fifteen list I was a little puzzled at the placement of this track on the upper half … it’s not nearly as definitive as some of the songs that I’ve highlighted so far. Yet, every re-listen proves its place: I wish every Trio could stay faithful to the framework of a tune while remaining this carefree and spirited.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #8 – Icy Cold (from Trio Season 2, #15)

No matter how premeditated or rehearsed Trio has become over the years, it often yields surprising results – even in the control-freakish Season 5 I nailed a reinvention of “Other Plans” in single take.

When I had my tonsils removed in 2002 I had no way of knowing how it would impact my singing. I waited, impatiently for my throat to heal enough that I could sing.

As my first sans-tonsil week ended my voice started to return to normal. At first I sounded weird and too-open – like Bjork. Higher notes were less constrained, lower ones more boomy.

I decided that I had to document my altered vocals with a Trio, but with my singing handicapped my song choices were limited. As a result, on the few songs I could sing I spent more time rehearsing my guitar parts than vocals – my voice wouldn’t stand up to repeated tries at each song, so my fingers had to deliver their peak performance.

That’s how I arrived at this fantastic version of “Icy Cold,” from Trio Season 2, #15. The fingerstyle passages at the beginning and end were played exactly as arranged – I didn’t ad-lib at all (highly unusual for me when it comes to intricate guitar pieces).

At the time the addition seemed like a lark, but over the years it’s held up as one of the best all Trio performances – a one-time-only reinvention of one of my favorite original songs.

My Favorite Trio Tracks: #9 – Typical (from Trio Season 2, #13)

Trio can act as a snapshot, catching songs as they transform from one form to another. That’s certainly the case with this recording of “Typical,” from Trio Season 2, #13.

At the time the song was a year and a half old, and it still hadn’t truly found its niche, but as soon as I ad-libbed my first staccato between-verse riff while recording this Trio I knew I had found the way “Typical” was meant to be played.