FAWM Madness with Denys Gareau – Part 3

It’s been two weeks since our last talk.  Welcome back to the spotlight.

thanks, eric … yikes, two weeks already?

Scary, isn’t it?  We’re almost to the finish line.  I’d like to talk a little about your interaction with the community this time.  But first, the important question: Are you going to make it to 14 and a half?

that’s looking grim, man…. on the plus side, i got the half-song done last night. but i’m cutting it really close. i have only 8 completed songs, and there are just 5 days and change left before official event cut-off… ok, let’s say YES. yes, i will make it to 14. but take that with a big grain of “i hope.”

I have faith in you.  Your writing, to me, seems to be getting stronger and more confident as the month goes on.  Is that just my perception?

well it’s interesting that you should say so, cause any changes you might see in my writing over the course of this month stem from a complete deficit of confidence.

i keep having ideas that are about 10 x more ambitious than my skill on any given instrument, and end up feeling so awful about the whole thing that i’m really stripping it down to basics. of the last 5 songs i posted, 4 have had simpler arrangements than anything i’ve done before

that might come across as me being more confident in the songs themselves, or my voice, or whatever, but in the spirit of full disclosure, i’m arranging within my instrumental prowess.

that being said, i’m becoming more enamored with the stripped down isaac sound, and i just may carry on in that vein after this torturous month is over.

It’s funny you should mention the simpler stylings.  I challenged you earlier this month to produce a stripped-down song, and was surprised to see not 1, but 3 far simpler arrangements.  Did I cross a journalistic line?

hahah i’m so totally your bitch

well as you saw on the site, i originally wrote a piano and vocal piece based on your challenge, although i did put in some sound effects. after that, i found that things just seemed to work better with the bare-bones instrumentation. i do have a song in progress that’s in-your-face loud and elaborate, so i haven’t given up on that aesthetic…. but yeah, i’d say your challenge opened me up to what i’ve been doing over the last week for sure.

but you were my friend and an artistic inspiration long before you became my interviewer anyway. if anything, this journalism gig is crossing a friendship line.

Touche, and thanks for the segue to community involvement.  What effect does the feedback from the community have on your writing?  In such a compressed time frame with such a small social circle it must carry a different impact than normal critique.

indeed it does.

comments on one’s early FAWM songs can really inform the creation of future ones.

last year, i set out to make a bunch of pop songs, and it was people’s response to my branching out that led to fawm 2007’s output being a mishmash of genres and mood experiments.

this year, i’ve found that the feedback has influenced me in slightly different ways.

i’m not so much striving to capture more sounds or more styles…. but rather i want to write more honestly.

i never noticed how many people comment primarily on lyrics.

obviously lyrics hold a place of supreme importance in music, and have differing value to every music listener.

but it’s almost like i didn’t discover until fawm 2008 that i could use lyrics to actually move people, instead of just making them laugh or roll their eyes or whatever.

some people in the community picked up on the poignancy behind some lines in my first few songs, so that kind of drove me off that cliff of “too much information”

and i posted this ridiculously revealing song about my relationship with my father. well there was no turning back from there. i’ve still been posting a mixture of fictional songs with autobiographical songs, but i feel like everything has been more raw and emotional.

(hopefully without being trite or cloying…. feedback thusfar looks like i pulled it off, knock on wood)

How about other people’s music?  Do you find that’s an important influence as the month stretches on?

in some ways it is. to be completely honest, commenting slows to a crawl at this time of the month. basically, you have hundreds of fawmers desperately hurrying to reach the quota of 14.5 songs, and the total number of streamable demos has grown so large (2,428 as i type this) that every individual song starts receiving less and less attention.

but up until that turning point where people stop listening as much and focus primarily on writing (usually mid-week 3), people take tons of inspiration from others’ music.

i know that for me, hearing another person do something unexpected is the most inspirational for me.

i mean, there are lots of amazing songs posted by some very talented people… but when someone breaks free from their creative comfort zone and does something risky or reckless, that’s when i look over at jackie t (that’s my electric) and start wanting to write.

Do you have a tight circle within the community who you keep in contact with?

i wouldn’t say it’s tight. you see the same names recur on the same FAWMers’ songs a lot, mostly because of the way they have the site set up with a “watchlist” of your favourite songwriters.

there’s a few people on there whose music i appreciate so much (and it seems to be mutual) that we interact a bit more personally than with others. and a handful of FAWMers have ended up on my chat software.

your question actually shines a light on the biggest thing i would want to tell an outsider about FAWM… and that is, the community will give back to you whatever you put into the community. someone who joins FAWM, posts a bunch of songs but never comments on other people’s songs, and the only time they post on the forum is to put up a whiny message like, “how come [name]’s songs have 20 comments apiece, but nobody’s even listened to mine?” well, that guy isn’t going to be too welcome.

but if you’re there to have fun, and you’re sharing your thoughts on other people’s ideas and music, they’ll listen to yours. it all sounds very obvious, but every year i’m surprised to see that some people just don’t get it.

You mentioned you were planning on collaborating this time.  Has that happened?

it has! i had a collaboration planned out with elaine dimasi, the FAWMer from new york who covered my “nisku” song. but i ended up begging off until next month because of the tight deadlines, etc.

then last night, i received an IM from burr, the guy who runs the site (the “founding FAWMer”), and he invited me to contribute to a song he’d written.

it’s interesting, i’m actually quite self-conscious about the creation process itself. i very rarely let anybody hear anything until it’s in a state i consider presentable… so for my very first collaboration to be so spontaneous, and for it to be with the guy who runs this whole shebang… well, i’m impressed that i didn’t get all flustered or flake out.

it’s a good song! he had a killer riff to begin with, and after i added my verses, he went back and put the whole thing together. so while my contribution was minimal, it was a great introduction to the world of collaboration.

now i’m itchin’ to do more…. after FAWM, of course.

Does a collaboration count for both of you?  How does that work?

only one person is supposed to put a collaboration up (so it only counts towards one person’s “total” ticker), but they put the collaborator’s name in the song title so it comes up in searches.

so our collab shows under burr’s songs, as “talking in code (with Isaac Quatorze)”

but we can both count it as our half song

How about your non-FAWM life?  Is it surviving the month?

it’s surviving. i can’t remember if this came up during our last interview, but there’s a term on the site for the spouses / significant others of those participating in the event: FAWM widows. it’s sadly appropriate. i’ve been seeing my honey for brief 3-hour visits on saturdays, and i can barely focus on work these days.

Are the loved ones understanding of what the month does to your relationship?  Any tension?

well my family has been annoyed but they put up with it. and my very own best beloved FAWM widow has been nothing but supportive through it all, even offering to play any instruments for me while i carry on to writing the next song.

the biggest tension would be with work.

the timing is just so unfortunate. i was put on a new special project from february to april, which is very brain-intensive and requires frequent interruptions to meet with the group and share information, so i constantly have to fight the urge to start writing lyrics at work, and if i do fall into that trap, then my work suffers as a result.

Is it worse this year than last?

it is worse… much worse, for some reason. last year i had days and nights where i could sit at the piano or guitar for hours without anything coming to me. this year, i’ve had 3-4 day periods where i didn’t even want to see an instrument. it’s strange, i made a conscious effort not to let myself feel pressured by FAWM this year, and instead i’ve probably felt more pressure than i did in ’07. AND i’m further behind by far.

I don’t want to keep you from your final sprint, so let’s wrap things up with this:  How bad is he last week of February going to be?

only time will tell…. i did, however, have the foresight to book off work on the 28th and 29th, so those will be two long days of the mad sprint. thanks for your encouragement eric, and for these thought-provoking interviews

And thank you for humoring me. Good luck!

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