Should I Release An Album Or Just Shut the F*ck Up?

Photo by Julian Howard on Unsplash

Alright, I’m on the fence here; ambition is playing metaphorical tug-a-war with fear. I want to share something I’m really passionate about, but I’m scared of the potential backlash. I’m worried I might stain my reputation forever…

Notice, I’m not asking should I make an album (most of it’s finished actually). The question is should I release the album—a small, but salient, angle here.

Think about it.

You and I both know we proudly perform every fun song when alone in the car, no problem. You sound great too, don’t you?!

But what if you had to record that then send it to all your family, friends, and coworkers?

How does that make you feel chief?

See, it’s a terrifying thing. You’re vulnerable in that moment when you’re belting out Ed Sheeran lyrics driving home at midnight. Your guard’s down and to let people hear you in that moment is stomach-wrenching.

So I’m at a crossroad:

Laugh and Die

My releasing of an album is comparable to someone performing at a talent show—it’s the moment of truth. It’s time to see what you’re really made of. Some of the most dreadful thoughts that come to mind?

What if no one shows up?

Holy shit, what if they do show up, but they think I’m a joke?

Maybe they’ll just beat my ass.

It’s like a marriage proposal, but instead of Prince Charming holding up a shiny, encrusted diamond, it’s me extending an earphone asking “will you listen to me?”

The following response means everything.

This album is that proposal.

And what about my resume?

Uhm, does “produced and recorded full-length album” go on my resume? Accounting firms gotta be keeping an eye out for that!

And you’d think anything that requires out-of-pocket energy, devotion, and high levels of creativity would always count as a plus regardless of the profession…

I love hip-hop—I like to rap myself, I think it’s fun. Rhyming words off the top of your head in a “cool” way will always be a fun thing to do (if you can actually do it).

Also, I like big ole 808 drums that shake the freakin’ floor. Yeah, I cuss and say stupid stuff sometimes.

Whoops.

*gasp* 😱

My point, I highly doubt this rap-album thing is gonna bode well for me as a “business professional.” I can only imagine what a 50-something corporate manager envisions when they think of millennial rapper.

I just hope I don’t ruin any future opportunities; I want people to see this project for what it really is.

“Screenshot GarageBand iOS” Source: My Instagram

What This Project Really Is

I’ll say this: it’s really difficult to produce an entire album by yourself without any practical music knowledge; it took me over two years to make this happen.

I dedicated hours, upon hours to understand the production software (mind you, this was all on my own time). It took tons of studying. Oh, and trial and error… a crazy amount of trial and error.

So if it’s “so hard,” why did I do it?

Because I love a challenge.

This project is here and alive because I knew it was going to test my drive and ability. I knew the idea that I could produce a high-quality album seemed ludicrous. I knew I could potentially look like a real idiot, too.

I chose to take that chance.

Outside of groundwork and technicalities, there’s an “X factor” I should address:

Music requires an intense and intrusive creative process... maybe more intrusive than any other medium of creation.

If you don’t know by now, I love to make stuff. I have to. Music is just another outlet, but an outlet like no other.

I put all that AND SOME into this project.

This transformation from clueless guy with an iPad to mildly competent producer has been one of self-discovery. I know myself better—I’ve come to terms with the hunger that lives inside me I simply have to feed.

Two summers ago when I stumbled across GarageBand (the music software), I remember absorbing the potential behind it; I felt like a kid experimenting with elements I didn’t fully understand. I became infatuated with smashing together two simple sounds and making a slightly bigger one.

It started there.

No lie, I still had absolutely no clue what I was doing. The idea of making a real song still seemed completely absurd. But, I liked the creative process and I was curious to see what I could eventually make.

So, I kept forging and exploring.

My aptitude grew by the month; I slowly picked up the bits and pieces I needed. The more subject matter I understood (e.g. reverb, compression, semitones, gain, time signatures), the more my creations started to feel like the “real deal.”

Then, before I knew it, I’d made my first complete track. It had everything it was supposed to have: intro, bridge, chorus, verses, transitions, and outro.

But it was missing one last defining element: a voice to go with it.

This would be the hardest part.

Speak Up

I know it seems like everyone these days can rap or sing or make music — this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I once read people are more afraid of public speaking than they are death. As human beings, we are inherently scared to speak out. We don’t want to say the wrong thing, or look stupid, or step on anyone’s toes.

I’d say social media plays a part. Just look all the crap that offends people on a daily basis; people are flat-out outraged on the reg, man.

This makes it risky to speak up...

And for the longest time, I was scared.

I didn’t want to be made fun of.

I didn’t want to say the wrong thing.

I didn’t want to fail.

But eventually, I got to the point where I literally said “fuck it.”

This is the most powerful switch—not only for me in music, but for anyone in any realm! If you can break down that daunting wall of fear, skepticism, and doubt, you’d be surprised what you can do.

This enabled me to fulfill my vision.

I finally started recording.

The album? Officially underway.

Worth noting, my friends are/were extremely supportive of this weird, offshoot hobby of mine. They were the ones who heard all my random beats before anyone else. They gave me the motivation.

I will always love my friends for that.

Go Time

Fast forward a year and we’ve got an album. 16 songs, 40 minutes of content, and it’s happening.

Of course I’m going to release it.

I don’t care about the outside criticism and reception. Ultimately, I made this for me because I know the mental obstacles and long hours it took to bring this creation out of the depths of my soul into existence… 😅

And listening to it makes me happy. No one’s going to listen to the album more than me, believe that!

But, if other people like it too?

Well, that’s just gravy.

- AZ

My album is titled Play on Words and will be coming out in August ‘18. If you’d like to know more about my music, follow this Instagram.

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.