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The New Journey, Reflection Part 4

Summer of 2015, I’m a graduate student at UF and going to spend the entire summer doing research at a lab a few hours outside of Gainesville (Shalimar, FL to be exact). After a week or two adjusting to the temporary living situation, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Inspired by the incredible music a friend of mine was recording, and finally with a little extra cash to spend, I bought some recording gear and decided I’d take a serious crack at music. Armed with a Scarlett Solo audio interface, a Shure SM-58 microphone, my beloved Gretsch Electromatic guitar, and a Macbook I started work on my first EP.

At the time, only the songs “Whisper of The Wind” and “Snowfall” were completed, so those were surely going on the EP. I didn’t want to make it feel like an impossibility, so I set a goal of 5-6 songs in total. But for the entirety of summer, I didn’t manage to write any new songs. I just recorded the two existing ones. Thankfully, by the end of summer, I finally realized why I never succeeded in my attempts at songwriting at will. My approach was all wrong. I kept trying to write the guitar parts and lyrics simultaneously, that’s what songwriting meant in my mind. I thought that anytime I had something on the guitar, I had to stop immediately and put words to it before doing any more on the guitar. This method didn’t allow me to ever “complete a thought” musically or lyrically. I thought about what a friend once asked me, “When you write a song, do you write the lyrics first or come up with the guitar piece first?”. At the time I told him, “I don’t know man, I have no idea how I’ve written anything to be honest”.

After reflecting on his question, I realized the key to my prior lightning-in-a-bottle songs. I had a complete thought with the guitar before I ever even tried to think of any lyrics. When I wrote “Whisper of The Wind”, “Snowfall”, and most of “Pocketbook”, I never did it by sitting there and ‘writing a song’. I would come up with a guitar piece, marinade in the music for some time, and then let the lyrics flow. I know it might sound insane because the difference between writing a song and writing a guitar riff then writing lyrics comes down to semantics, but it was a very important change in my way of approaching songwriting. Once I allowed myself to be comfortable with writing an entire song concept on guitar before writing any lyrics, and more importantly with the idea that I may never write lyrics to some guitar pieces, I found my groove. Said another way, when I accepted that success did not have to mean a new song every single time, I was free from the songwriter’s block that plagued me for years.

In the Fall of 2015, I was finding repeatable success with completing new songs and I caught the recording bug. I was always recording something new or re-recording something to try and make it better. I was sending out ideas to friends every other week. By December I wrote four new songs for the EP and at least five guitar pieces that I intended to later become songs. I was getting positive feedback and it felt like I had finally found my identity as a musician. With the help of a close friend, I added drums to each track and right before Christmas 2015 I released what I thought at the time was the definitive EP of Austin Brockner (I’ve attached a link to the album at the bottom).

A lot of people don’t know that this music exists because I don’t share it nowadays, and it was released under a band name. Looking back, this music was a pivotal step in this journey and incredibly important to shaping how I write music. These songs will always hold a soft spot in my heart, and I still like to listen to them every once in a blue moon. But if you listen to even one of them, besides Snowfall, you’ll notice that they sound nothing like my music now. There was still much more growth for me musically. But as life would have it, I’d finish 7 straight years of college education soon and have many changes come my way in rapid succession. Once my job started, I felt it best to focus less on music and more on engineering for the foreseeable future.

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