Album Profiles

A Broke Machine

Since it's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to write a song profile for The Breathing, I thought it might be fun to come back to you with a splash. So instead of writing a song profile this month, I'm going to write an album profile. From here on out, I'll return to talking about each song - but as I'm about to release this full album into the world, I thought I needed to do something really big. To prove to you that while on hiatus from these profiles, I was doing something worthwhile. Writing music. Creating an album. Trying not to feel each eyelash as it falls from my lids to the grass as these things often do.

This album, as a whole, is intended as an exercise of new ideas. To start with, when I recorded my last album (Entropy 29) I nearly didn't come out alive. What I mean by this is that the process of recording Entropy 29 was so deliberate that it wore me down. I became my own worst enemy. Since I'm a person who enjoys learning from mistakes, I knew that the creation of my next project would have to be radically different. And it was.

The story of this album really begins around the time I wasn't quite finished with Entropy 29. One day I had a conversation with one of my artist friends. She was secretly working on a new project, even though she only recently completed the previous one. I was instantly inspired by how prolific she was and remember standing in her driveway as the words stuck to me, "quickly and quietly". Quickly and quietly. I instantly knew that those words would be the mantra for my next project. I swore off blogging about the next album. And I decided to move as speedily as I could. The moment I was standing in that driveway is ridiculously burned into my memory because any time I needed guidance on this record, I would remember how decisive I felt in that moment.

"Quickly and quietly" was the seed for A Broke Machine, but Entropy 29 hadn't even been released yet. In Spring 2005, I finished Entropy 29 and it felt like a tremendous weight was lifted off my shoulders...however, I had a small breakdown. I started seeing a therapist and we agreed that my album release was like a teeny, mini post-partum depression. It was weird to think that I could stir up such dramatic feelings about an album, and that made me commit even more to the "quickly and quietly" idea in the future. But by that time, I was swimming with demons. I also lost my voice. I had been going through periods of intense stage fright that ultimately kept me from performing - but I also was in physical pain because of some strangeness in my vocal cords. It hurt to speak and I went for days without talking at all.

After some encouragement, I decided to find a vocal coach. All my life, I had hated vocal training. I wasn't any good as a singer, but I realized that someone needed to sing the words that I wrote, so I recorded myself. When I decided to take lessons, I thought I would work with a coach for 10 sessions, cure the problem I was having, and move on. But something strange happened and I actually liked my teacher. And I liked singing. It's been almost three years since I began studying with my coach, and it's changed my life entirely. It is the single most important decision I could have made for the betterment of my mental health, my music, and my satisfaction as a human.

By the time Entropy 29 was released, I was a different animal. I could hardly recognize myself in my old songs anymore. This realization really excited me about recording the upcoming project. Although the original intention was to tour after I released Entropy 29, it didn't feel right. I was already writing my next album, studying vocal performance like crazy, and feeling ready to move on. And somewhere in that time, I had my first of two life changing events.

My first life changing event was a personal epiphany that happened while I was dreaming. Non-dreamers (or casual dreamers) would shrug at my experience. But people who lucid dream, who meditate, who have felt a transformation after a moment of insight will know what I'm talking about. I had a spiritual experience, you could say. Terribly personal, poorly explained by words, and absolutely life changing. The second life changing event was that I had a near catastrophic traffic accident about a year and a half later, which would have probably killed me. Even though the accident was avoided at the last moment, the experience changed who I am and I've thought about it every day since then. Again, it's hard to put into words what came flooding into my awareness in that split second. But somehow, certain things that I had been clinging to, fell away. Like a wake up call.

Each of these experiences (wanting to create quickly and quietly, taking vocal lessons, my spiritual experience, my near traffic accident) formed what I wanted to pour into the next album. However, there were two last pieces of inspiration yet to come. One was when I realized the antidote for the sort of weight that I felt while recording Entropy 29 was "joy". So I made a mental pact with myself that I would only write and record if I was feeling joyful. As soon as I started feeling sad or depressed, I would stop my work, break the cycle, regroup, and then continue. The last inspiration I had for making this album was discovered after reading the book "The People of Paper" by Salvador Plascencia. Most of the songs were already written by the time I read the book, but for the last remaining pieces, I pulled from ideas and themes expressed in this novel. I read the "The People of Paper" three times in three weeks. Beautiful.

So, this is the groundwork that was laid as I worked on A Broke Machine. The title comes from a blog entry titled "broke machines" that I wrote in the heat of frustration with electronics. However, the album title refers to the mechanical nature of the human heart. I'll talk more about what I meant in this song when I feature it in an album profile.

Album stats:
The first song written for A Broke Machine: Back to the Start (11/20/2003) originally intended for the album Entropy 29.

The last song written for A Broke Machine: Diagram of Love (08/21/2007) originally intended as an instrumental piece for the Story of My Ghost side project.

Songs that were inspired by "The People of Paper": A Broke Machine (included on album), La da da (not included on the album), Chains of Andromeda (included on album), Capricorn (unfinished, not included on the album).

Number of songs recorded for A Broke Machine: 23

March 2008