Runnin

Years ago, I used to listen to bands like DC Talk, Audioadrenaline, Nirvana, Tom Petty and Relient K and I loooooved them all. I loved growling guitars, strained vocals, double kick-pedals, soaring choruses and poppy hooks. To be honest I still do. My musical tastes are not sophisticated. I like four-on-the-floor. I like Katy Perry. I can’t help it. I just do.
Playing music and writing songs has expanded my horizons some and I appreciate a lot of music now that I used to turn my nose up at. I can sit and listen to jazz now. I can tell the difference between a great drummer and a good one. I get joy from music that would have left me unmoved twenty years ago.
But to be honest, I still get really happy when I hear a straight forward rock and roll song. I still love a great pop song. I don’t even think about who the artist is when I hear something I like. I don’t think about genre. I don’t wonder where the hook is. I don’t think about how many songwriters and versions the producers went through before the polished, radio-ready version I’m listening to happened. I just hear it and I like it.
In the world of popular music, artists tend to live in their work clothes. The public image is a carefully crafted thing and it includes everything from hair and wardrobe, to personality and attitude. Social media being what it is, the public image has expanded way beyond show-time and the stage. It’s become a 24/7 responsibility and it’s exhausting.
Personally I never thought that much about my public image. I tried a few times but I resist constraints more effectively than I heed the importance of them. Consequently I have no real public image. From a marketing standpoint, I am a disaster. I still can’t quite answer the question, “What kind of music do you play?”
But in spite of my reticence to be any one particular thing, I have tended in my later years to write sombre, folky, acoustic songs. The minor keys always seemed to be where I wanted to dwell. The less energetic, picking and strumming seemed to suit my disposition. So that’s mostly what I created.
But back in the day I really wanted to play happy punk songs or something like that. I wanted to play guitar solos and power chords and I wanted to be singing as loudly as I could when I did it. I wanted it all to appear to be effortless. I wanted the guitar to be an extension of my arms and the melodies to be flawless and I wanted it all to be very loud and happy and fun.
Needless to say that never really happened. But I did write a few songs during that phase, most of which are thankfully stored on a hard drive on my dad’s computer (and possibly on a myspace page) where he can listen to them and love them, but where they are safe from ever being heard by anyone else in the world (barring those few who still visit myspace on the reg). 
Recently I revisited one of those old tunes. Since I had my friends Les Paul at hand and since I didn’t have anything else to do that night, I recorded it. I know it’s a little weird to admit it but I’ve been listening to it consistently over the past couple of months and it’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to the original vision I had for the song…and it’s fun…and it makes me happy. So I’m gonna let you hear it.
This is “Runnin” and the last time I remember playing it live was at Zack’s in Hillcrest, KZN, South Africa sometime around 2004/2005. I played it as loudly as I could on an acoustic guitar, all by myself. 

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TALES FROM THE TINY TOUR

 

IMG_1302Last week I started the first leg of the first solo tour I’ve done in many years. It’s a modest tour of coffee shops, open mics, and pubs. Some shows pay and others don’t. Sometimes I’m playing to 30 people and sometimes it’s closer to 3. I started the tour uncertain of where I’d be sleeping on a few of the nights. I’d left those nights open as a way to build in adventure. I’m not great with uncertainty or adventure or even with meeting new people, something that happens daily on tour. So touring can be a little uncomfortable for me.

After a few days, while running in the rain, on an island just north of Sarasota, Florida, I suddenly realized that although I’d experienced some discomfort already, I felt strong. Only a few consecutive shows in and I felt completely at ease with the idea of being “on the road”. The low grade anxiety I feel in my day to day life, at the thought of the life I am wasting not playing music or writing songs or recording, was gone. It simply wasn’t there.

There were new worries that had taken it’s place, the main one being “Is this tour going to pay for itself?” I don’t know the answer to that yet. If I’m honest, It’s unlikely. But that worry is accompanied by a resolve that I need to finish what I’ve started. I need to see it through. It’s accompanied by the knowledge that something really good is happening every time I play a show. I can’t describe what that is yet. It’s something I feel. Every time I set up my PA system while the coffee drinkers continue their conversations I feel it. Something valuable is happening here. Each repetition changes me just a little.

I’ve had people ask me, after shows, how they can book their own tour. I tell them what little I know and wonder why they think my intel is valuable. I’m no expert. I’ve been doing this for a half a second. But this thing I feel is real.

It sounds really stupid and I don’t want to type the next thing I’m going to type. But here it is: It feels like I fit here. It feels right. It feels like I’m doing something I’m supposed to be doing. Even though the money is crappy and the couches leave me with a sore neck sometimes. Even though I’m not experienced enough at this yet to say anything concrete. Even though it’s a really tiny tour. In the middle of discomfort and uncertainty, both of which I dislike a great deal, I feel right.

All of that leads me to what I really do want to say, which is a thought I had while driving at some point last week. What we DO matters. For years I’ve been scared to book tours. Tours are scary because of uncertainty and because of discomfort and because of how to pay for them. So for years I’ve talked about making music and I’ve written songs and learned how to record them. I’ve played shows here and there of course but it has always been done “when I had time” or “when the money was right”.

I can’t really afford to be on the road right now. It’s not practical. In the middle of the most uncomfortable day so far, I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t be doing this! But I have to be doing this!” Because if I don’t do this, that thing that I feel happening out here will stop happening. If I don’t do this, I’ll go back to feeling that low grade anxiety that I am wasting my life. If I don’t do this, I’ll go back to feeling like I simply don’t fit that well in the place I’m trying to fit. What we DO matters.

That’s all for now.

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Running Into Gold


This year a relationship ended and another one began. Shortly before that, towards the end of 2015, I decided once again to switch career paths and follow my heart to Atlanta, GA. Initially, I was content to just live and I guess I avoided looking for a job right away. So this year I’ve had a luxurious amount of time on my hands and with that time I took up cycling, went to Alaska to play a festival, booked a summer tour, finally finished a book I’ve been writing for the past 5 years, and spent what amounted to, probably, too much time sitting in my little bedroom studio recording and mixing songs for the album, “Running Into Gold”.

This is my fourth self produced album and, based on the performance of the previous three, I had no great expectations of this one at the outset. I wanted to make an album and I hoped that it would be better than the past efforts. Not that I’m being critical of the previous ones, but I always hope that I am improving rather than stagnating or going backwards creatively.

As I finished up the tracks and sent them off to be mastered I felt a little underwhelmed. I felt that maybe the songs needed more work or something. I felt that I was bound to be disappointed by the finished product. I listened to masters as they came back and didn’t really think much of anything. Then I left the songs alone for about two weeks and listened again and that’s when it occurred to me that whatever else these songs may or may not be, they are very personal in every aspect. The great downfall of self-producing is also it’s greatest benefit. Every strength is just the flip side of a weakness usually. In the end, you haven’t had other voices to tell you when you are making “mistakes” or “poor decisions”. You haven’t had other voices to suggest interesting melodic or instrumental ideas, so what you’re left with is something that is unequivocally your own.

There is something about that, that I like very much! As you listen to, “Running Into Gold” you can picture me at a small desk desk in front of a computer, surrounded by a couple of guitars and a very tiny keyboard, probably with a cup of coffee, sloshing around somewhere, very nearly spilling on the mic pre-amp. Creating these songs has been a kind of journal entry for me. Every note and and even every wrong note, is just me working out the details of the life I’m living.

Now that it’s done, my greatest hope for this album, is that you will listen closely and that you will FEEL. I hope you will feel happy, or sad, or pensive, or gushy, or something! I hope that these words and these melodies will make you remember your past or envision your future. I hope that they make you feel.

 

Here’s are some links so you can find the album on Spotify and iTunes:

Spotify: Running Into Gold by Tim Pepper

iTunes: Running Into Gold by Tim Pepper

Video produced by Anthony Simpkins, resident of Nashville, Tennessee and lover of music, dogs, visual arts, warm fires, and the great outdoors.

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SUMMER TOUR

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be hitting the road in just a couple of days to go play a bunch of shows. I’ve been playing music for many years but this is the most ambitious tour I’ve planned in a long while. It’s an experiment really. A way to learn the ropes again. Hopefully I will see you out there!!

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

Today I got a tripod for my phone so I can take some videos from the road. I’ll share however much of the trip is worthwhile and feasible. Here’s a little taste.

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Boredom And Sobriety

boredom and sobriety

About ten days ago I heard a Q&A session with Charlie Peacock, a Nashville based producer/songwriter/musician/author. I was in Nashville at this session because I didn’t have anything better to do. My girlfriend and I had broken up a few days before and I wanted to get out of town. So there I was and I wasn’t sure why. My ears perked up when Charlie was introduced and walked onto stage with a Switchfoot (one of my favorite’s) song playing over the PA system. I didn’t know it until then but he produced Switchfoot’s song, “Dare You To Move” and signed them to their first record deal. So now I wanted to listen closely to everything Charlie had to say. He didn’t disappoint.

He seems like a really intelligent and thoughtful and hardworking guy. I say thoughtful because it’s apparent that he hasn’t just had years of experience in the music industry but he’s clearly thought about what it all means and why it matters. I was impressed with so much of what he said but one thing really stood out. It’s something I haven’t been able to get out of my head since. He talked about connecting with humanity as a songwriter. He said that what he’s interested in is music and/or artists that are taking risks and connecting with humanity.

He had me at humanity. The more I thought about it the more I realized that not only was that concept blowing my mind but it was also a huge relief. For the past twenty years I’ve been writing songs. Some of them are good. Some of them aren’t. For a lot of those years I’ve been attempting to get better at that and that quest has led me to add numerous slashes and titles to my descriptor; “Hi… I’m Tim Pepper, singer/songwriter/artist/audio engineer/social media guy/video editor/web page designer… You get the picture. I’m getting better at some of the things on that list but, it’s a really long list. I’m probably not going to get my 10 000 hours in for all of them.

Then you hear a guy like Charlie Peacock talk about how jazz musicians employ an economy of notes in order to make great compositions. They aren’t playing every note they can play. Instead they are play the right note at the right time and maybe they aren’t playing at all sometimes. You hear him talk about that and you hear him talk about humanity and suddenly all those titles seem like a lot of unfocused activity. Suddenly you remember that you love the music of The Milk Carton Kids because it’s pretty and simple. You remember that most of the music you love touches something in you that has nothing to do with tones or beats or walls of sounds. You remember that maybe it’s possible to touch people with a voice and a guitar and a few well written words. And it’s a relief because it gives you a really definite thing to focus on and get better at. Just write real stuff and write it well. Connect with the one thing in you that is common to everyone…humanity.

For the past few months I’ve been doing tutorials online so that I can make better mixes of songs in Pro Tools. I love it but it’s enormous. There’s just so much to play with inside a modern recording software program. I’ve been working on a song called “It Ain’t Easy Falling Apart” and it’s horrible. I kept playing with the mix because I kept trying to make it better. At this point the mix is decent but the song is just a piece of crap. I hate it but I know I’ve been wasting my time with it. I know….I know….nothing is wasted…

When I got back home from Nashville I started the process of learning how to live in a new city, suddenly without a girlfriend. Suddenly without a friend at all it seems. It’s lonely of course. It’s quiet. I’m sick of Netflix. I want to talk to people. It’s weird because I keep reaching for my phone to tell my person about some dumb thing I’m doing that day. But I can’t. It’s boring. To top it all off I have high blood pressure so I’m not supposed to drink. Not that I want to go get drunk all the time but it just seems like that might at least be fun. Throughout all of that I kept thinking about humanity and realized that the best thing I could do would be to get back to writing. I decided that I’d forget all the studio tricks and just record this thing quickly and simply and let it be what it is.

This post is already long so I’ll just post the lyrics below and be done. Enjoy!!

Boredom and Sobriety – Tim Pepper

Another line on this face.
Another track for the tears.
But it isn’t what you think.
It’s not the stacking of the years.

My distress is caused by silence.
A room so quiet I can hear.
Every creak and every crack in this house;
Each heart beat drumming in my ears

I wish we had fought like lions,
Or wrestled with the Deities.
Our passion burned like an ember dying.
We parted ways so peacefully.
Now the only things that I’m left fighting
Are boredom and sobriety.

Since you’re gone I hardly know
A single soul in this town.
I guess folks would understand me
if I turned to drink to wash it down.
But I prefer to sit in silence
and wonder, “What should I do now?”
I know things will get better
But good God I don’t know how.

I gotta be honest. There’s a part of me
That likes drinking whiskey straight.
Cause it’s more fun and a little easier
Than this here skinny, narrow gate.Share on Facebook