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|Paleo: Living in the Day|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 02:36|
Among the 365 songs written, recorded, and released by Paleo over 365 consecutive days, "This Is the Life" is David Strackany's favorite. "It resonates with me on a personal level more than the other songs," he said. "That song seems to speak to me as if it was written for me."
The irony is that Strackany is Paleo, and that he wrote it. But that's not unexpected when you take on the task of creating a song a day for a year, a project that Strackany finished on April 15. "Because they were made so quickly, it almost feels that I didn't write them at all," he said last week.
"When I started out, I fooled myself a little bit into thinking that I could just spend a couple hours every day on it, and that would be it," he said. "I don't think on that first day I had any kind of sense of how completely consumed I would become."
The first song took an hour. The second song, half an hour. The third, four hours. "And from there on out, it became more and more and more, until the point where it was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning, and the last thing I was thinking about before I fell asleep," he said.
The songs amount to a career of work for most artists - 17 hours of music from start to finish - and it's all available on his minimalist Web site (http://www.paleo.ws) for free. A DVD of all 365 songs will be released in January. ("I don't really fit into the rubric of how music businesses typically operate," he said in an understatement.)
"It's sort of like a novel, I guess," he said. "It'd take about as much time as a novel takes to read to listen to the whole thing."
The artist said he can play part of 250 of the songs at any given time, that he can perform 100 in their entirety, and that he actively plays between 40 and 50 of them at shows.
Strackany said he can't conceive of any way that the endeavor could have been more commercial. "If I had not put the songs up for free, I'm not sure anybody would have listened to them - at all," he said. "That's a lot of songs. I think people are doing me a favor in the first place for listening to it at all. It's something that I needed from people, not that they needed from me. So it makes sense that it was free."
It's the kind of project that most people would abandon within a few weeks or month, but Strackany made that difficult for himself with daily postings.
"It created accountability and helped keep me on-task," he said. "It became very important that people were listening and keeping up ... ."
He said he had about 1,000 people downloading each day's song. "To write a bad song became a mortifying experience," he said. "It created the kind of pressure that you need in order to keep up that kind of creative output and make it worthwhile. ...
"I felt despair a lot, and it became overwhelming a lot of the time, and there were days when I wish I never would've started ... ."
He said the songs became the driving force of his life. "For the last few months of it, I sort of felt like I was always in a kind of dream state," he said. "Everything that happened to me became an abstraction. Nothing mattered except the writing of songs ... . Everything that happened became part of the song that would happen to me later. I got pretty confused about what was real and what wasn't."
That state of mind is reflected in the songs that I've heard - mostly acoustic, spare, and lonesome, intimate to the point that many don't seem intended for public consumption. "This is the Life," for instance, is sung in a falsetto that seems best suited to a bedroom. On the other end of the spectrum, "Murdering Crows & God" has vocals that bend in anguish that resemble street-corner mourning.
The Brooklyn-based songwriter said he's slipped back into something approaching normalcy in recent months, and his writing has returned to more conventional routines. "Now that I don't have that deadline, I'm not going to turn into a pumpkin at midnight anymore, I take my time, I take advantage of revision, and ... let things sit and stew and ferment," he said.
And Strackany - who's in his mid-20s - said the song diary didn't exhaust his creative reserves. "There's still a lot to say. ... I'm just getting started."
Paleo will perform at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 1, at Mix Tapes, 830 15th Avenue in East Moline. Brooks Strause will also play. Cover is $5.
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