Archive for the ‘Kickstarting Creativity’ Category

Anthony Natoli sent us a first music video called Solution shot entirely on his iphone. We were so impressed by the exuberant results that we asked him to share his process with Luna fans. Here is Anthony’s guest post:

Original Impulse This whole project began just as a New York winter was about to settle in and a Luna ukulele was given to me as a Christmas gift from my Aunt and Uncle.  I found it incongruous to have such a beachy and summer sounding instrument making it’s introduction to me as snow was starting to fall. Not to mention I was on Long Island and not a tropical island. I thought it would be cool to write a Winter song on it so I learned a few chords and before I knew it this little riff came into being. I sent a voice note to John Secolo, my writing partner and band mate for over a decade, and we started to brainstorm ideas melodically and lyrically.

At this point music and visuals began affecting each other. We had worked on some commercials last year using story and vision boards, which I found helpful in finding sounds while considering feel and tone. I decided to make a Pinterest board, to help paint a more precise picture of the mood of the song.

Pinterest Board

Pinterest Board

The video wasn’t really something I thought of when the Ukulele riff started, but as this song was coming together I bought a new iPhone. I realized that the quality of video and photo I could get with the iPhone was really impressive, so I used the Pinterest board as a visual outline for the resulting video, and started exploring photography and video clips that conveyed the same feel.

iphoneShooting Visual Content  
It started snowing the day after I got the phone, so I took the opportunity to start a quest to capture what I saw in my head.  I thought I would be shooting preliminary photography, but what wound up happening was most of that first day made it into the video. It was a magical moment where the possibility of this actually looking awesome was real. I would shoot ten seconds of footage at a time. A theme started to come together. The evolving song started to be strongly influenced by the visuals. I would ask myself questions like, “If this frozen lake could make music, what would it sound like?” Or I would look at a photo and say, “This is what I want to feel with this tambourine part.” It fueled me to wake up at 5 a.m. almost every day of January to catch sunrises. It made me take a rear wheel drive 1967 Dodge Dart out in the middle of a blizzard. The shots were taken very organically. I woke up one day and drove to Montauk, then found myself in the heart of New York City by sunset. It was really cool to push myself and inundate myself with the project. Early on in my study of photography, a couple of my friends told me that the best camera is the one you have with you, which is a lesson I took to heart.

1 AN dog 2 AN sunset 3AN long island 4AN rearview AN - NYC Writing the song I laid down an idea of what certain elements could sound like and shared it with John. I believe that anything you put your attention to will grow and, because of the thousands of hours we’ve spent in the studio together, John and I have developed a symbiotic songwriting relationship. As we bounced ideas back and forth, the song wrote itself. Even though our process is generally quick and fluid,  there is also a lot of attention to detail. Just as every note matters, every word matters. The riff actually started out in 6/8, but John felt it would be better for his melody to do the song in 4/4. From early on we wanted a second verse from a female perspective and had a talented singer, Sydney Sahr, in mind. I’ve been a big fan of her voice over the years since her first high school band. We reached a point where there was nothing else we could do until we had Sydney come in and record vocals. I sent her an email with pretty much everything we had up until that point hoping she would connect with the material. We were delighted when she responded immediately with a lot of enthusiasm, which really helped boost our confidence. There were many points where I was doubting the video or the song, but something kept us moving, whether it was the response from friends seeing a few shots I had thrown together or hearing the demo vocals John put down. The anticipation for its release was building.

Sydney Sahr

Sydney Sahr

Music Production The song was recorded completely in my home studio on Cubase software.  It was very much based on great performance rather than being “perfect”.  The first take was often the most authentic one so we just went with it even if it wasn’t flawless. Sydney came one afternoon and completely knocked it out of the park with her honest voice. John Nolan was actually a last minute addition to the song. When he saw the video he was blown away that it was shot completely on an iPhone. He jumped in and sang the bridge vocal and led the vocal chant. That was a really special moment. John has been an influence on me even before I met him. His band, Taking Back Sunday, was hugely influential in the scene we grew up in on Long Island so it was an honor to have him on our record.

John Nolan

John Nolan

The gang vocal was recorded at a friends coffee shop in Valley Stream called Sip This. I crashed an open mic night one evening, set up a few mics and taught the room how to sing along. Within two listens everyone got the melody and words which really surprised me. I brought the audio home, dropped it into the project file and it worked perfectly as a chorus with John’s vocal.

Video Production Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.“ ~ Goethe Sometimes there are advantages to not knowing what you’re doing. I started by placing all my clips in folders and watching them over and over again to pick my favorites and figure out how to piece them together. Then I dragged them into Adobe Premier to edit. At first it was a mess. I made a lot of mistakes, but I read an article on film making that encouraged me. It said “don’t worry about it…keep cutting,” which made me persevere until it began to take shape. So I would encourage others to do the same. Don’t be hard on yourself. Although I wasn’t sure of what I was doing at the beginning, I learned a lot along the way. There’s beauty in everything if you know where to look. Honesty carries itself. Though fear protects, one should be fearless in art. Be your own soul. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

All the people in the video are friends or family we know and love which lent an intimate feel to the film. Even the dogs (and cat) were beloved pets.

Many thanks to the band.
John Secolo – Lead Vocals/ Guitar
Anthony Natoli (myself)- Ukulele/Guitar/Bass
Nick Carbone – Drums
Sydney Sahr – Lead Vocals
John Nolan – Bridge Vocal

And to all the others who contributed their knowledge or words of wisdom along the way.

Anthony Natoli - The Force

Anthony Natoli – The Force

Nick Carbone - The Force

Nick Carbone – The Force

John Secolo - The Force

John Secolo – The Force

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Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones…Freeing the Writer Within” is a remarkable book for all kinds of writers. Aspiring or established songwriters can get lots of inspiration for lyrics and develop their craft by following her no-nonsense, informal advice.

Here are some inspirational quotes from her book that you can apply to songwriting or to life:

“We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important. Otherwise, if they are not, we can drop a bomb and it doesn’t matter. . . Recording the details of our lives is a stance against bombs with their mass ability to kill, against too much speed and efficiency. A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It is not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.” Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.”



“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.”


“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.”


“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.”

Just lie down!!!!


She urges writers, above all, to keep a notebook and write every day.
The process of writing in a book is a different process than writing on a keyboard. Find a pen you like and choose cheap spiral notebooks that aren’t intimidating to write in. Recording your thoughts, no matter how mundane or how wild, will give you lots of grist for the mill. You can start with 10 minutes and increase your time each week. The time doesn’t matter… just do it. And here are 6 powerful rules to help your practice:

1. Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)
2. Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to. Leave it.
3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page)
4. Lose control.
5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.

Keep at it. What you don’t use now could be inspirational years from now.

Intrigued? Find out more at nataliegoldberg.com/ Definitely worth the read!

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I was really taken by this blog courtesy of J. Michael Dolan, founder & former CEO of Music Connection Magazine. Enjoy!

Lady Luck

So perhaps you’re thinking if you’re “lucky” enough, some day you’ll make it. Really? Do you really think that? Still, after all these years? After all the times she’s let you down, you still believe that Lady Luck really cares about you? I’m not sure. She’s never around in the beginning of a project when you really need her; yet she’s always there to claim the credit AFTER the prize has been won. People always say, “Boy, were you lucky,” or “Man, were they lucky,” or they walk away in a huff and proclaim, “Some people have all the luck!” Our hard work and dedication seldom get the credit, because “Lady Luck” always grabs the perk AFTER the fact. Heck, she even shows up at the Academy Awards and claims the credit right on TV, saying “I feel so “LUCKY” to be among such a talented group of nominees.”

So it’s time to let her go. I know, I know she’s been there (hiding in the shadows) all your life, but she’s too elusive and unreliable—she’s a flake at best and the truth is she only exists when you say she does. Plus, (need I repeat myself) she’s never around in the beginning of a project when you’re the one busting your ass doing all the work! It’s time to cut her loose, give her the boot and slam the door behind her!

Your Muse

I want to introduce you to a new flame. A real hottie! She’s sharp, count-on-able, reliable and someone you can really trust. Plus, she’s always on your side, no matter what, without ego. She’s also someone who’ll come through for you time after time and she will respectfully step aside and allow YOU to take the well-deserved credit. Her name is “Muse” and you’re gonna love her. She’s your creative spirit, your inspiration, your intuition and your bright ideas. She’s the stand you take, the word you give and the 10,000 hours you’ve put into your career. She’s a lover, a giver, a partner and a best friend, and her only request is that you silence your inner critic, and heed her soft whisper of wisdom. 

Get to know your Muse, embrace her and honor her. With great respect and love, she patiently dwells deep in your soul, waiting to be expressed, eagerly anticipating your acknowledgement and anxiously awaiting her call to action. She’s so intelligent, so brilliant, that some great sages insist that she knows EVERYTHING! She wants to help you write that music, finish that book, sell that script and splash paint all over that canvas. She’s there to help you make executive decisions and there to help tweak your website. Heck, Lady Luck hung around your neck like a noose and did nothing but watch you hang! What have you got to loose? Why not give your “Muse” a chance?

Someone once said: “Jump, and the net will appear.” I suggest that you simply TRUST your own judgment, your own intuition, your own creative spirit and your own talent. Then follow your Muse in the direction SHE wants to go. 

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Hugh MacLeod’s book “Ignore Everybody” is about marketing, but its advice is good for kickstarting the creative process in any arena of life. It’s honest, authentic, and (fair warning) NOT politically correct.

I related to it because when Luna was founded I was advised to “study the competition”, but my instincts told me to “ignore everybody” which is exactly what I did. My advice to songwriter’s is the same……ignore everybody and draw on your own experience. Authenticity can’t be achieved any other way.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom from MacLeod’s book, along with some provoking “cube grenades” from his website . Enjoy! Yvonne

1. The idea doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be yours.
2. Put the hours in.
3. If your business plan depends upon you being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.
4. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
5. Question how much freedom your path affords you. Be utterly ruthless about it.It’s your freedom that will get you to where you want to go.
6.Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.
7.Part of understanding the creative urge is understanding that it’s primal. Wanting to change the world is not a noble calling, it’s a primal calling.
8.Diluting your product to make it more ‘commercial’ will just make people like it less.
9.You have to find a way of working that makes it dead easy to take full advantage of your inspired moments. They never hit at a convenient time, nor do they last long.
10.Put your whole self into it, and you will find your true voice. Hold back and you won’t. It’s that simple.
11. Keep your day job.

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I was taught in martial arts that energy follows intent and it was a powerful exercise to settle down and spend time imagining how I wanted to move before begining practice. Olympic trainers do the same before each performance. In this clip from http://www.artistshousemusic.org – Classical guitarist and teacher William Kanengiser discusses the benefits making musical decisions without having an instrument in hand.

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Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

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(courtesy of Gerald Klickstein, The Musician’s Way )

Do you ever dodge your creative work? Say, your practice time arrives, and you race off to do some chore. It might be a chore that you detest, but now it calls to you. Then, instead of refining your music, you start cleaning the house or doing whatever.

If that scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Artists of every sort contend with avoidant behaviors. Why do we sidestep doing what we love? The answer often stems from the nature of creativity.

When we practice, write, or otherwise innovate, we stretch our limits. We strive.

But striving takes us into the unknown, and that brings uncertainty. We question whether a lyric will fly, a promotion will succeed, or a solo will be ready in time for a show.

If the uncertainty of creating unsettles us, then, to escape the discomfort, we might seek refuge in a mindless task: “This really needs doing,” we’ll congratulate ourselves as we reach for the mop.

Fortunately, there’s an antidote to avoidance.

First we have to notice an avoidant thought before we fall under its spell. Next we must act to do what we intend.

For instance, not long ago I was heading home to practice a demanding piece, and as I neared my front door I spotted some overgrown bushes: “I should put on my boots and cut those back,” I reasoned. (By the way, I loathe yard work.)

A moment later, as one part of me was sizing up the shrubbery, I caught myself. I recognized the avoidant thought for what it was. I then renewed my passion for the music I was tackling and dashed to my studio and tuned up my guitar. Avoidance avoided.

As I see it, we’re all going to have avoidant thoughts, so we need to keep countermoves handy. Here’s my anti-avoidance formula:

Counter Avoidance
1. Notice an avoidant thought.
2. Dispute it. (Laugh at yourself or just say “no.”)
3. Replace it with an affirmation: “Music feeds my soul.”
4. Act with full intention.

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