north shore – week one

We’re nearing the end of week one of the North Shore Project. For those of you new to the game here, that’s week one of seven.

There are two aspects of this project that could reasonably cause some anxiety. The first is the “camping for seven weeks” thing, and the other is the “write and record an album in seven weeks” thing. Most people to whom I’ve given the project run-down this week (apparently, running around with a field recorder is liable to pique some people’s curiosity) have been most concerned about the first bit.

But yeah, see, that’s the easy part. Camping fills the same function for me as comfort food. It’s the second part I was more nervous about. I write slowly, methodically, agonizing over details. The last time I tried the “write a song in a weekend” thing, it worked, and that was what spurred this project into existence. But, I’ve had a year to second-guess whether I’d be able to replicate that shortened process eight more times.

Well, uh, turns out I can. It’s turning into a sort of dialogue with the environment. I’m committing to ideas faster, without second-guessing or searching for the perfect detail for every moment. When I have all the time in the world, the compositions start to look like a spreadsheet of options and probabilities I only half-commit to, like some big quantum music disaster. But here, decisions are immediate. The music is probably a little different, stylistically, and that’s exactly what I want. Don’t get me wrong, I love my usual format of endless alternatives and stacks of paper, but it’s so refreshing to try another approach.

There’s also the part where the thought process or the flow or whatever never really gets switched off out here. In everyday life we have different tracks that demand our attention, but out here, as long as you can cook and maintain camping equipment on autopilot, there’s never a switch-off and start-up period on the creative mindset.

Except for sleeping, I guess, but, that’s what coffee’s for. And oh, man, I made a point to stock up on St Paul Roastery beans before I left. I have priorities, you know.

You will never realize how really omnipresent “people noise” is until you wait for it to go away so you can record nature ambience. I mean, you can go someplace that isn’t a campground, sure, but, like … midnight rolls around, and I’m trying catch a loon call. But the quieter nature gets, the more it just unmasks how noisy people are. During the day you kind of tune it out, but at night when the air is still, if you’re waiting for dead silence, it’s not going to happen. Still air means you can hear someone clear their throat a kilometer away. And just when you think everyone’s asleep, an airplane flies over. If that sounds like complaining, it’s only to make an interesting point: people are noisy, and when everything else goes still, it just makes the people stand out even more. Little bit unsettling, eh?

Minor frustrations aside, things are going better than I could have ever expected so far. I like what I’m writing and it’s happening at a surprising pace, and those are two things I never thought would happen together.

On Saturday I move to the next spot, and I’ll try to update again next week.

Until then …

Oh, and my internet is so sketchy that this is the only photo I could upload to my site. There are a few more over on my Instagram if you feel so inclined.