The Project

December 2018

Well, we made it! It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I decided to resurrect this project. It was a tough decision as I most certainly didn’t want to repeat myself, or spend my time trying to recapture the 2011 project. However, it was the best tool I had available to me to get myself back into writing songs, putting content into the public, and making my own music a priority. I think this project did just that, and I end the year in a much different place than I started.

I have so many people to thank for their generosity, time, and encouragement. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge some of those who helped make this year a successful one for me:

Sean Boyer – Truth be told, I would not have done this again if Sean had said no. He is my partner in this project and I share it with him in every aspect. Not only did Sean mix the songs every month, but he acted as a sounding board, collaborator, and at times, critic. Even on months when the process became a burden, I looked forward to getting together with Sean every single time. Thank you, brother.

Jordan Stewart – Not only did Jordan build this website for me, but he was able to recover the 2011 content and bring that back to life. What a treat it was to read the old blogs and have a context for the new project. Not to mention the endless e-mails asking how to do this or that (sorry, Jord!). Thank you for your efforts and for giving my music a home.

Bill Preeper – Bill played on several of the songs from this year’s project, co-wrote one, and even did a mix of another. He lent me microphones, let me record parts at his studio, and suffered through numerous phone calls asking for his advice on how to get a sound. Bill’s talents are greatly appreciated and I am grateful for his contributions to the songs. Even more so though, I am grateful for his tireless encouragement and friendship. My sincerest gratitude to you.

Adam Kierstead – For my music, Adam is an obvious choice. Not only is he one of the best musicians in the region, but we have a history that goes back almost 15 years! I’ve often referred to Adam as my best musical friend, and that holds true to this day on multiple levels. I am sincerely grateful to have him as part of many of this year’s entries. Thanks, Adam.

My sincerest gratitude to Chuck Teed, Grant Heckman, Chris Fudge, Sandy MacKay, Chris Braydon, Jessica Rhaye, Alex Thorne, Jason Vautour, and Colleen Charlton for their contributions as well. It is an honour to be amongst such talented company and I am proud to call you my friends. Thank you!

Finally, my thanks to those of who checked out the songs every month, commented on the blogs, or made a contribution. Having an audience is an essential piece of this puzzle and I am forever grateful to those who lent me their time.

so without further delay…onto The Last Song!

Just as with the 2011 project, this month’s song came with its own set of pressures. I think it’s only natural to want to end a project like this with some sort of grand statement. I’ve never been good at writing to a theme and consequently, this month’s song only came once I let go of that idea.

Before The Bruises started as a simple piano melody that offered the opportunity for long, tender vocal lines. Each time I sat down at my keyboard it was this simple idea that I kept coming back to, and consequently decided to pursue for the final entry.

I layed down a part with my Yamaha CS2X synth that I knew I would replace with a real piano when I had the chance. I then set to building a beat to support the melody and built a multi-part syncopated rhythm using a combination of my Roland R-5 drum machine, some TR-606 samples, and a new-to-me Korg Volca Beats. I followed this up with a simple synth-bass part before recording a vocal melody through a GemSound Digital Echo unit.

I was then offered the opportunity to use the freshly tuned Baldwin Baby Grand at the Sanctuary Theatre, and eagerly set to replacing the keyboard part (my gratitude to Interaction School of Performing Arts for allowing me to use such a beautiful instrument). Finally, my friend and frequent collaborator Chris Braydon came over to my home studio to lay down a beautiful ambient guitar piece and loop that brought the whole thing together (thanks Chris!). I added a little LP static and a drone to compliment Chris’ loop with a Korg Monotron.

Lyrically this song is about new beginnings while accepting the mistakes of the past…maybe a new year’s resolution of sorts.

I hope you’ll enjoy

Before the Bruises
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer for the mix.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

November 2018

“when the light of day is laying shadows on the ground”

One of the advantages of a project like this is that I can take risks I might not take if I were making an album proper. The 2011 project featured experiments like the Great American Songbook influenced ‘The Last Dance’, or the one-microphone country-infused ‘Never Gonna Let You Down’. It’s a freedom I might not have if I were concerned with continuity, tracking-order, or making a singular statement as one would when creating an album. This month’s song takes advantage of those liberties.

‘(I’ll Be) Waiting For You’ is my first foray into creating an electronic synthpop piece. It’s a genre I enjoy listening to and something I’ve wanted to try my hand at for some time. Elements of the genre have made their way into many of the songs on this year’s project already through my use of synthesizers, drum loops, and ambient soundscapes, but this is the most obvious example yet.

The idea for this song came early in the month, and was the first time I actually did pre-production by creating a one-minute demo to make sure the idea I had was something I could actually create. The piece was born from playing around with a new guitar effects pedal I purchased that allowed me to create harmonies and pitch shift them. The pedal played well with my acoustic guitar and the sound worked well for the idea I had. The riff that the song is based around persisted and I decided to lay it down over some rhythms I created with my Roland R-5 drum machine, and a hand-clap sample borrowed from a TR-808. I played some padded strings and a broken, glitchy synth part to support the melody and bring out some more aspects of the genre. I added some melodica to provide a more organic feel and then split the lead lines between a piano and another, more aggressive, synth patch. My long-time pal Chuck Teed layed down a funky bassline that I think suits the piece perfectly.

The vocal melody came relatively early in the process but presented its own challenge, as the short lines and repetitive nature did not lend itself well to long metaphors and consequently, the lyrics were the hardest part of writing this song for me. I stuck with a tried-and-true subject matter and did my best to avoid being overly cliche with the words. I’m pleased with the results.

As always, this song was mixed by Sean Boyer at his home studio (after a long shift and while fighting off a cold no less).

So without further delay, I present to you….

( I’ll Be) Waiting For You
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Chuck Teed for lending his talent.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

October 2018

“we’re caught up in the cadence but we’ll take our time”

Well, we’re in the home stretch now. It’s hard to believe that it’s fall already and that we’re nearing the end of this project. My thanks to those who have been visiting the site, commenting, or making donations. Your support means the world to me.

October’s song was a really enjoyable piece to put together. The melody came early in the month after thumbing through a chord book and messing about with some suspended chords on my guitar. I liked the melody so much that I set to work on the music before even writing a single lyric, deciding that my non-sense syllables might tell me what they wanted to say later in the month.

While the song is in B flat, I am playing out of the G position on the third fret. The song is built on top of a drum loop that I made from a discarded recording by my folk-trio Bonnett House, from the sessions for our debut album. The acoustic guitar I used on this track is a new-to-me Alvarez AD60K that has a very even string balance and a strong mid-range presence perfect for sitting in with other instruments. I coupled the acoustic guitar part with a banjo before adding some drone with an autoharp played with an e-bow, through ridiculous amounts of reverb and delay. I added some percussive accents with my Roland R-5 drum machine before overdubbing some cymbals at my friend Bill Preeper’s studio in Hampton. While I was at Bill’s I took advantage of his talent and had him record an electric guitar part that suits the song perfectly. That same evening, our bandmate Sandy MacKay played a beautiful piano part and some upright bass that pulled the whole thing together.

(I love that a song built from a discarded Bonnett House piece ended up with the members of Bonnett House performing it. There’s something poetic in that).

The only thing left to do to complete the track was to write some lyrics and record the vocals. I admit I may have gone overboard with the musical metaphors in this piece, but I am pleased with the words overall. I had initially intended to have Sandy sing a vocal harmony but because of a delay from being sick, I had to rely on technology to play that role, and ended using some Roland VS20 effects to enhance the vocals in the chorus (thanks Roland!)

As always, this song was mixed by the uber-talented Sean Boyer at his home studio. Sean has been my partner in this from the get-go and I owe him a debt of gratitude for his dedication to the project. Thank you, brother.

So without further delay, I present to you….

The Turnaround
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to my bandmates Bill Preeper and Sandy MacKay for lending their talents.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

September 2018

“…but slowly we’re learning”

I feel like a broken record but I have to say it, what a busy month! I know I start every blog this way, but it’s a pretty common theme in my life. Between my son starting school this month, obligations to my bands, and a hectic work schedule, I haven’t found much time to write, let alone record. So, in typical January Through December fashion, this song was completed on the same day as I wrote this…the last day of the month!

This month’s song started with scouring through some old demo recordings where I found an acoustic guitar part that I liked. I took the best bits and looped them before building a beat to accompany it. When making the beat I realized that the guitar loop was not perfectly in time. Most people would fix that but I liked it, and consequently had to play the drum loops manually. This gives the overall feel a sway that I think lends itself to the song. I piled on some synth parts and a piano before adding some ambient-noise tracks with my monotron and an e-bowed electric guitar (the jarring noises in the intro).

After finding a decent vocal take and adding a harmony part, I had taken the song as far as I could on my own. So, I brought the tune to my friend and bandmate, Adam Kierstead, who added two beautiful electric guitar parts and some bass. I had Sean Boyer reverse one of my guitar licks to use in the intro while he was mixing, which I think turned out wonderfully.

Lyrically, this song deals with being in a place you know is not right for you, but being afraid to change. Something we’ve all dealt with at one point or another, I’m sure.

So, with 17 minutes to spare, I present to you….

Any Direction But Home
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer for mixing the song, and to Adam Kierstead for lending his talents.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

August 2018

I’m a guitar nerd. There’s no way around it. I have a sizeable collection of acoustic guitars of various shapes and sizes that keep me inspired on a rotating basis. I’m constantly experimenting with new tunings, trying out new guitar gadgets, or just noodling for hours in front of the television. Almost every song I’ve ever written has come from messing around on a guitar until an idea presents itself. This month’s song is certainly no exception.

Last Day At Cathy’s is the first instrumental I have done on this year’s project, though you may remember that the 2011 project featured two (Autumn On Sherbrooke St. and Sleeping Molly). The song was born out of spending time with my 2006 Avalon AS100ce that I had recently outfitted with medium gauge strings on the recommendation of my friend, Bill Preeper. It is in a DADGAD tuning with a Kyser Open G capo on the fourth fret, effectively turning the tuning into DAF#BF#D (a modified D6). I recorded a snippet of improvised fingerings and found a melody that I used as the main theme of the tune. From there I arranged the piece and set to work on the hardest part, trying to play it perfectly.

I attempted to play the piece with finger picks as the tone of flesh on the strings (how I usually play)
wasn’t giving me the shimmer that a piece of this nature called for. It became apparent that the learning curve for finger picks was too steep for the few days I had left to record the song and decided to have my daughter put on some gel nails for me. While they looked a little odd alongside my other chewed-to-a-stub nails, they worked like a charm.

I recorded the song through a Blue Spark condensor microphone directly into my usual Boss BR800. After several takes, I decided on the best of the bunch and that is what I present to you this month. Here are a few observations from the process:

– Recording acoustic guitar is hard. I did my best but I can certainly appreciate the sound of a well mic’d acoustic guitar a little more after this
– Microphones are unforgiving. I was struck at the gaps in my playing upon playback (and maybe a little embarrassed). I suppose that’s what I like about recordings though, they’re a snapshot of where we are at a certain time in our lives.
– Loud can be gentle. Maybe my biggest takeaway from this process was the realization that you don’t have to get quiet to make a gentle sound. That might sound obvious to some but for me, that was a real eye-opener.

The title of this song is in reference to a big change in the life of my little boy. He starts kindergarten this year and recently left his daycare (Cathy’s) where he went every day for the past four years.

I hope you’ll enjoy

Last Day at Cathy’s
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer for mixing the song.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to


My little girl got married this month! I could not be more proud of her and am over the moon with the young woman she’s become. For our father/daughter dance I decided to record a song I wrote for her when she was only 3 years old. I enlisted some of my favourite musicians to play on the song with me, and earlier this month we assembled at my friend Bill Preeper’s studio, Bonnett House, to record it.

This song features Bill Preeper on electric guitars, Sandy MacKay on double bass and piano, Jessica Rhaye on harmony vocals, as well as myself on acoustic guitar, drums and vocals. A 7 year old Ashley even makes an appearance at the end of the song.

I’m extremely grateful to my friends for doing this with me and was so excited to get to dance with my daughter to it on her big day.

This one is for Ashley Italia Marie Charlton….enjoy!

How Do I Write A Song

July 2018

“the wind is too quiet as if it’s been tamed”

What a busy month! As most of you reading this know, I play drums in several local groups as well as performing solo. This past month I found myself either travelling to play a show or making my way to the studio to record. I’m not complaining though, I’ve been very fortunate to be part of some great music. The downside though, is that often times it does not leave much time for my own music. This month was one of those months.

As the 31st crept closer and closer, I decided that this would be a good time to try a strictly acoustic piece without much accompaniment, something that mimics the way I perform on stage. Also, this seemed like a good opportunity to try out a pre-amp and large diaphragm condensor microphone that I purchased a few weeks back. So I set up a pair of microphones in my music room to capture a performance, and once I was pleased with the sound, set to work on writing a song.

I’ve been going through a minor obsession with Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album as of late and I think its influence crept into the piece I wrote for this month, both in theme and style. Will You Remember My Name was written on July 30th in the early evening, after my work day was done, while I struggled with very little sleep from a show in PEI the previous night that saw us get home at 3am. I ran out of steam before I could hit record, and decided to put off tracking until the last possible day (a far too common theme in this project).

I’m pleased with the results however and look forward to putting this song in front of an audience. One of the advantages of rushing to finish a song for month’s end is that I don’t get a chance to over-think it. My tendency is to clutter up arrangements with textures, but time kept me from doing that this month. I think that might be a good thing.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Will You Remember My Name
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer for both his mix and his dedication to the project. Thank you, brother.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

June 2018

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the year, it feels like we just started. My sincerest gratitude to anyone who has been checking out the songs, sending messages, or commenting on the blog posts. Your encouragement means a lot…Thank You!

June was a busy month! Between work, shows, and recording for some musical projects that I am part of (including upcoming albums from Jessica Rhaye and Debbie Adshade), time was tight. As is often the case, my commitments took priority and it was the last week of the month before I got a chance to sit down and start building this month’s song.

With only five days to complete a piece before month’s end, I decided I would revisit some tracks I laid down from previous months to see if any of those scrapped ideas had potential. I found a bouncy little number that I had struggled to find a vocal melody for in February and started stripping away instruments until all that was left was a padded synth track, some finger snaps (featuring my wife Colleen Charlton), and a tympani drum. I tried singing some free-form words and syllables over this to see if a melody would present itself. After some truly embarrassing attempts, I walked away from my home studio panicked and defeated.

The next morning while working, a melody (complete with lyrics) popped into my head and persisted itself until I tried it over the synth track. Much to my delight, it fit and provided a good starting point for this month’s song. I stuck with the initial five lines that presented themselves to me and spent the next evening trying to find more lyrics to make some sort of cohesive story. After hours of forcing pen to paper, I realized that those first five lines said everything I needed to say with this piece.

With the vocal complete, I started layering other instruments (including a recently acquired mid-70’s Roland RS-202 strings synthesizer) onto the track until it started to feel like a completed song to me. Then a happy accident happened. My recorder has a looping feature and I had unintentionally engaged that feature when I recorded the initial synth track back in February. While listening back to what I thought was the completed piece, the synth track began playing again as the other instruments faded out. Perhaps a little self-indulgently, I started layering more instruments on this “B” section (complete with sampled drums from “Small Hours” by John Martyn).

By Thursday I had a clear vision of what this piece should be and I reached out to my friend Grant Heckman to help me complete it. He played a wonderful electric guitar part and some bass guitar to compliment the tympani part (thank you, Grant).

By Friday evening, Sean Boyer and I sat down and mixed it all together (while Sean was suffering from the flu…thanks, my friend).

All this leads to what I present to you now. I’m including two versions of the piece here. One in its full version, and the second with the aforementioned self-indulgent “B” section edited out (I recommend the full version).

This Heart
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

This Heart (edit)
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Grant Heckman, Colleen Charlton, and Sean Boyer for sharing their time and talents.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

May 2018

“there were ghosts in the lyrics, there were ghosts in those ancient streets”

I love highway songs. You know, those timeless classics about hitting the open road and leaving it all behind. It’s a romantic notion that has been the subject of countless epics through the years. It’s possible that no-one does it better than Bruce Springsteen, with songs like Thunder Road, Born To Run, or Racing In The Streets all finding salvation in the blacktop. Since this month’s song was inspired by hitting the highway in search of a new life, I thought it necessary to reference The Boss, and more specifically his song The River.

Given the subject matter, it’s only appropriate that this song features a whole host of Saint John transplants. First, my friend and former bandmate Jason Vautour (HFX, NS) played a pair of electric guitar tracks on this month’s song and helped me to flesh out the chord arrangement as well (thank you Jay!). Next up, my buddy Chris Fudge laid down some drums all the way from Sydney, Nova Scotia (and did a bang up job). Representing the West Coast, my longtime pal Alex Thorne sang a harmony vocal before heading off to start a new job in Victoria, BC. Finally, hometown-boy Chuck Teed played bass, while I finished things off with a 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, organ, harmonica and the mandatory tambourine. As always, Sean Boyer mixed this song (on the last day of the month!)

‘Something About A River’ was inspired by my friend and fellow songwriter Michael McDonald, who moved to Montreal a while back to start over. I thought it so brave that he shed his old skin and started over in a new place with only himself for company. This one’s for you Mikey….

Something About a River
(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer, Chuck Teed, Alex Thorne, Chris Fudge and Jason Vautour for sharing their time and talents.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

April 2018

“there’s so much to do to get ahead, and I’m done with sleeping”

Well, my friends, spring has finally sprung. It’s the time of year when things feel new, fresh and hopeful. For me, this is the real new year. It’s when I start to make mental lists of what needs to be done, whether it’s house repairs, shedding those winter pounds, or just trying to slow down and enjoy life. I think this month’s song reflects that mood in both the lyrics and the feel.

So Far From The Truth is a first for January Through December, as it’s the first time I have co-written a song for the project. This song started with an acoustic guitar riff that Bill Preeper sent to me with a note attached that said he thought the playing sounded like me. I immediately had a melody in my head and decided to pursue the idea with Bill’s permission. With my recorder in tow, I headed to Bill’s place where he layed down acoustic guitar and then assisted me with recording some drums (thanks Bill!).

Following that, I took the song to my friend Grant Heckman who layed down some lap-slide at his home studio before tracking electric guitar. I love the country-infused licks that Grant pulled off for the session and I am grateful to him for being part of it.

Next, I put down some sparse piano chords and brought the song to Chuck Teed, who layed down his bass part in a single take. Finally, I finished the lyrics and sang the song at my home studio (immediately after a quick set at Quality Block Party!). Bill popped by while I was recording and ended up singing some harmony vocals to compliment the chorus.

As always, the song was mixed by Sean Boyer. I’m thrilled with this song and am excited to present it to you now. So without further adieu…So Far From The Truth

(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to Sean Boyer, Bill Preeper, Chuck Teed and Grant Heckman for sharing their time and talent.

Thanks to everyone who has been visiting the site, commenting on the blogs and just generally being encouraging.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to

March 2018

March started off strong with lots of ideas. In fact I have four new songs started that all have a lot of potential. I tracked several ideas and had more than enough options to sort through before I settled on what would be this month’s entry. I knew the end of the month would be busy with shows and Easter weekend, and felt very inspired to get an early jump on recording.

Then I got sick! A good old-fashioned spring cold tore through our household and left my wife and I talking like characters from a gangster movie. Mine settled into my chest and stayed there for the better part of three weeks. Gone was my buffer and once again I found myself scrambling, not only to complete a piece but to sing it without sounding like an outcast from The Godfather. I suppose it’s true that recordings are a snapshot of time!

For the sake of time, I shelved my more ambitious ideas and recorded this simple acoustic piece that I fleshed out with some ambient synths, subtle percussion, and a bassline courtesy of my friend Chuck Teed. Sean Boyer added a last-minute harmony before mixing it down on the last evening of the month (Sean’s mix only).

Lyrically this song feels hopeful to me. I haven’t decided exactly what I am saying in this piece yet, but each playback makes me think more and more that my father’s memory is most likely at the heart of this one. Fitting given that April 1st is the anniversary of his passing.

I’m presenting two mixes of this month’s song. One by the ever-present Sean Boyer and another by my friend and bandmate Bill Preeper.

With further adieu, Quiet Nights:

Bill Preeper Mix:

(to download, right click and select “save as”)

Sean Boyer Mix:

(to download, right click and select “save as”)

My sincerest gratitude to both Sean Boyer and Bill Preeper for their time and mixes.

Thanks to everyone who has been visiting the site, commenting on the blogs and just generally being encouraging. We’re at the quarter-mark now and I have no regrets about re-visiting this project.

Note: This song is also available in both .WAV and FLAC formats. If you’d like a copy in either format, please write to