Terry Eason wraps up year-long 'Song-a-Day' project
St. Paul singer/songwriter and guitar-wizard sideman Terry Eason has two big landmarks to celebrate this week. Not only is he turning 50, but he will be completing his massive "Song-A-Day" project that he has successfully kept up this past year.
When we last checked in with Terry he was just four months into the insane undertaking of writing and composing a song every day and creating a YouTube video for each. Since then he has created an impressive line of 362 songs and videos that he will wrap up as the calendar turns to 2012, which the Eason household as a whole is more than looking forward to.
Representing a variety of genres, creative impulses, and quality that ranges from the absurd to the sublime, Terry's reached a pinnacle in his body of work. Though he's never short on ideas, what he calls a "creative exercise" has become much of the center of his existence this year, and he has welcomed it as inspiration has pulled him in so many directions.
Having most recently incorporated some of his friends into the mix, including Dylan Hicks, Chan Poling, Willy McManus, and even myself, Terry is rolling out some collaborations to help tie a nice bow around the project as it nears its end along with 2011 this weekend.
Terry Eason and Chan Poling "Fall" 12/26/11
With a hint of urgency in his voice, Terry stepped away from his studio and various tools of craft to look back on the past year and talk about what the project meant for him, as well as some of his favorite pieces in the line.
So Terry, it's been amazing seeing your videos and what you've come up with this year. But I'm wondering, in your words, what was really the point of the project?
Terry Eason: Well I was at an art opening for Brock Davis, his "Make Something Cool Everyday" project, and it made me think and inspired me to attempt to do that for songs. Since having kids, I got away from writing and composing since I wasn't making the time in my life for that. So I thought to force myself to do everyday I'd have to make that time. In hindsight it's been more a self gratifying thing and I sometimes feel kind of selfish. On a personal level it really did take time away from relationships and friends. My wife has been supportive from the get-go but she is equally thrilled for me to finish the series.
Of course, I'm guessing everyone is happy for your accomplishment as much as being happy for the release from not having to do it. Well, you can soon take a deep breath and relax. So, how would it work? Did you always have ideas?
Terry Eason: I would always have an inspiration and as you go looking for things for a future song you always know you're going to have to do. Some days it'd take a lot more time fleshing something out. I would become more perfectionist with something I really liked. Keeping track of everything, it forced me to be more organized.
Right, you're keeping track of a ton of stuff -- files, gear, images, and video. Jesus. So when you had something going you could really breeze through it, but when you look at some of them later do you still like what you did?
Terry Eason: Sometimes I would really be in a zone, on autopilot and you don't know what's going to come out and I'd get into that place and think, "This is really fricken cool!" and that I didn't know I had that in me. I would surprise myself. On the other hand I'd listen to something a couple days later and wonder what was I thinking? That was stupid. But I'd already moved on from it.
That had to be really rewarding.
Terry Eason: For the most part it was very rewarding. Seeing what happens. What if I plug that thing in to this? I'd wake up in the middle of the night from a dream and it'd become a lyric.
It had to have been fun for your daughters to be involved as well?
Terry Eason: Yeah, the whole family was involved with one or more at some point. The kids were a part of it but at this point are a little tired of it. There were times the wife and kids sometimes wanted me to read a book and they'd be like, "Mom, why does daddy have to write a song everyday?"
That's cute. I think eventually as they get older they'll understand. Did you ever feel blocked?
Terry Eason: Yeah, it'd be down to the wire, it'd be like midnight and I'd be like what am i going to do? Or there'd be technical problems, so I'd just use my iPhone to record and it'd force me to come up with something with that limitation. I would say those are the "phoning it in" ones. So some are better. I had no shortage of ideas. It was always more of a time challenge. I do have other responsiblites than playing guitar so it was a lot of juggling.
So what was the criteria? Did you have rules for yourself?
Terry Eason: Well, the video and the music would be two separate things. But basically, each song had to have a vocal track, something to recite would at least make it a song. Some are improvisational. But with words you would be able to recreate it using the same words. There had to sort be a beginning, middle and end, some sort of structure would allow someone to recreate it.
I suppose you were really able to stretch out from like being in a band or playing gigs by giving different genres a try?
Terry Eason: I did quite a few genres and I thought of compiling them by genre. I'm not a real jazz guy and don't always know how to wrap my brain around that.
I would imagine your brain would do pretty well with jazz. Your brain was made for jazz! I know you can do great pop songs though.
Terry Eason: There's some straight-up pop songs. Darker, experimental stuff. There's one way back in January that's like that "Broiled Fish Ankles," no melodic structure.
Terry Eason "Phonin' it In (Broiled Fish Ankles)" 1/16/11
It seems you dive into the acoustic folk world quite a bit.
Terry Eason: Yeah, there's folk songs and acoustic based stuff. I like those a lot. They just come about and sound nice in my head and are easy to put down like "(I'm not like those) Other guys."
Terry Eason "(I'm not Like those) Other guys" 6/8/11
Are there any recurring threads or themes you go back to?
Terry Eason: Pat O'Brien, you know him right? He played drums on one of the songs, he had been following it the whole time and kept up with my videos and left a lot comments. He suggested I do a concept thing and have each be one part of story for a while. I got as far as three days with that but then other ideas kept coming. I'd link some together and have parts 1 and 2 at different times and out of order and that sort of thing.
I was reading this book to my daughters, "Mysterious Benedict Society," and was inspired and took some of the ideas and characters out of it. I would love to do a whole album on that book acutally.
Terry Eason w/Dan Boling "The Mysterious Benedict Society" 8/4/11
Then there's the hard rock catagory, because I'd have a day where I just felt like I really wanted to rock and busted out the distorted guitars. I go electronic a lot with prerecorded drum loops and do some vocals with Ableton Live. I love that toy.
So were your videos pretty popular? I mean did anything really catch on more than others?
Terry Eason: I really wanted one to go viral. There's a lot with only five views and i'm like, "Why aren't more people watching that one?"
Yeah, but maybe one will someday. They will always be out there and you're just planted a lot of seeds.
Terry Eason: That's what's cool about it, because it'll be out there. Occasionally I'd get a comment and wonder who'd it'd be from. There's the occasional viewer on each one. It's all been positive. There was one song on the day Osama Bin Laden died that got a lot of views because you know, it was everywhere on YouTube. For me it was one of the stupidest videos I did and it got a lot of views.
Terry Eason "Osama Bin Laden is Dead" 5/2/11
So now that you're almost done would you ever consider wanting to do this again?
Terry Eason: Looking back I would say I wouldn't want to do this again. I'm glad i did it. There's a significant body of work there. The ratio is pretty good as far as hitting good ones. People say to me all the time, "There might be a good album in there." I think there's probably more like 10.
I suppose you still stumble on some you forgot about doing and would consider building on.
Terry Eason: I forget about some of them and rediscover them and I'll think what is this one? I'll find some good ones worth reworking.
It's a ton of work in the first place. That's a big investment of your time. You think you'll miss doing it everyday?
Terry Eason: To sacrifice the year, there's certainly some issues that came about I'm not going to miss. I'll be glad to be back to a normal life. I was talking to someone the other day and they had a day off and told me they were going to just watch football and read books. I couldn't believe that's what they had time for.
Do you have any mega fans or followers?
Terry Eason: I would just always thank god there's Pat O'Brien because I knew he was out there. My daughter Eleanor one day was all, "That one only has 35 views, no one likes you!" For some they told me it inspired them to write songs or do something similar.
Technology made it really amazing in a lot of ways. Cora Sadowy was one of my Facebook friends and commented on some of the videos and said she was inspired to write poetry everyday. So I approached her about being one of the collaborators and she wrote the poem and said do whatever you want with this. I just read them as I started playing a chord progression.
Terry Eason "Lily" words and images by Coral Sadowy 12/21/11
That's awesome. You have a bunch of collaborations going into the home stretch of this thing then?
Terry Eason: Yeah, would you give me something to record to?
Sure, would love to. I could send you a video file of my cat and some beats or something you can chop up.
Terry Eason: I call these home stretch collaborations. There's a lot of people I want to be involved but it's always a time thing. I wanted to see what cool and interesting people would bring to each one. I could make the music and use their words or melodies.It's been bringing it to another level. It helps me to have a framework to hang the music on. The new one with Chan Poling had some pretty guitar and then I rocked it out a little and he added the vocals and was quite beautiful and touching.
It's really something special for sure. I love the one with Dylan too because it's been a while since I've heard him sing anything new and always loved his style and you guys playing together. That's a typically sweet Dylan Hicks lyric.
Terry Eason and Dylan Hicks "What I Want" 12/20/11
Terry Eason and Willie McManus "Billy's Adventure" 12/22/11
So I turn 50 Thursday and my wife insisted on having a party for that and for finishing up "Song-A-Day." It will be informal. I didn't want to have a party. But on the other hand I am pretty happy in my life and lucky to do what I do. So it'll be a party for the last song a day project. People are here and want to take part I'm setting up mics so there'll be drunken merriment for the last song. Maybe it won't be a song it will just be 10 minutes of noise or something. Who knows?
Terry Eason and Danny Sigelman "Attics 12 and 13" 12/28/11
Easons "Princess Pony Tail" 3/7/11