hiking in monrovia the other day after some rain!

hiking in monrovia the other day after some rain!

I’m getting ready to head to Oakland in a few days to finish a song with Greg.

Today, I remembered a moment that I am grateful for, a moment that made me appreciate what making music is about to me. I was reminded of my last recording sessions with Greg in March. I had been staying with some friends in El Cerrito. One morning on my way to the studio, I stopped at a cafe for a very tasty espresso drink and some oatmeal. When I arrived at the studio (a little behind schedule), Greg had already been working on some new ideas. I remember walking in with my oatmeal and hearing a really awesome synth lead idea that he had written. I don’t know why, but this moment was special to me. I felt like I was in my element. I think maybe a few factors played into it. a) I love the bay and it was a beautiful spring morning. I was so happy to be back up north. I really liked the cafe I stopped at, and I was just enjoying myself. b) It felt really good to have someone appear invested in my song. Maybe this is just an ego thing, but to walk into the studio where your engineer is already drumming up ideas… tremendously cool for me. Small detail for sure, but cool. c) The third element I can think of is that I was feeling improved as a songwriter and I was really excited about this new song. I felt that I was tapping into a space I hadn’t been before and that was really great to wake up and continue working on a tune so full of mystery and excitement.

That was over two months ago. As of now, I am less excited about the song, and less excited about my music in general. But I am trying to remember the things I love about writing and producing. I guess my feeling is that I wish I didn’t book these upcoming sessions in the first place. It will be fun to finish the song, but I’m not racing to release it. I also feel like I’m in a groove down here, and I hate taking work off and stressing about money and driving seven hours north. Once I’m there, I’ll be fine. But I’m stressed a bit right now. As far as the diminished enthusiasm about my music, I think I’ve just been exploring a lot of different music lately. In doing so, I’m realizing that I’ve never once written anything even close to innovative. As the reader, this all may appear quite negative. It’s not. I honestly feel really good about where I’m at. I’m just growing a lot in my understanding of myself and also really learning how to appreciate music that’s out of my comfort zone. So much so, that it’s throwing me off. It’s affecting how I look at my own music.

If someone asked me to describe this song I’m working on, I would just say it was really generic. An easy listening, semi-catchy acoustic tune reminiscent of Mac DeMarco, Elliot Smith, John Mayer, etc. WHO NEEDS ANOTHER SONG LIKE THAT? TELL ME WHO! nobody. (BTW I’m not implying that my music even comes close to those artists, I’m saying that it feels ripped off of those artists.). But I’m not upset about this at all. No I’m serious. I love writing and I love this song too. I just see my music for what it really is a little more clearly these days and it’s hard for me to be proud of the actual finished material. What I’m proud of is that I continue to grow and learn and write. I’m proud of who I am as a musician and writer, but also aware of where I am. I’m proud of my commitment to the process. I’m not proud of the music per se. That would be ridiculous.

Someday, many years from now. Many thousands of hours of writing and playing and practicing from now. Someday, after so much hard work. Someday, after consuming 100x the amount of music I have already taken in. In the far future, I will someday maybe release a body of work that is actually innovative and interesting. I will make music solely because I love music. I will write something that isn’t inspired by traditional top 40 pop.

Until then, I will continue to practice guitar. I will continue to drive to Oakland and write and produce with Greg. I will continue to work. I will possibly get a degree. I will possibly move to Berlin. For now, I’m staying humble and focused. Away from social media, aware of my ego, enjoying the small things and being present. I love being able to log on here and just rant. If you read this whole thing, you deserve a cookie.

Ashton York
sarah and i weren’t able to get up north this winter. my grandfather’s condo near donner lake will always be one of my favorite places. i’ve been wanting to be in nature lately. LA really makes me miss the quiet woods. i miss the fresh air.

sarah and i weren’t able to get up north this winter. my grandfather’s condo near donner lake will always be one of my favorite places. i’ve been wanting to be in nature lately. LA really makes me miss the quiet woods. i miss the fresh air.

I’m in Santa Barbara right now. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sarah lately. I think I’ve needed to be with her. I’m processing a lot. Last night, as we were walking around the harbor, I finally became open to the idea of letting go of my music project. For weeks now, I’ve been tossing this idea around, and it finally feels right to actually let go. It’s never seemed so obvious that my musical pursuits have been rooted in ego, insecurity, and the desire to be extraordinary. I know that in order to move forward in my life, this is necessary. I don’t want to go into debt anymore for the purposes of chasing the spotlight. I’m so tired of using my music in order to feel like I have worth. I’m a songwriter and I always will be. I love recording and producing. And when the opportunity presents itself to build an album, then I’ll take it. But this year, I just can’t see how spending everything I make on music is going to set me up for success. I just can’t understand how that’s healthy. And I’m realizing that my intentions aren’t pure. They’re clouded.

So, this summer I will be releasing one song. And then I’m going to move on with my life. I’m letting go of the songs I’ve written over the last two years. I’m going to stay in LA. I’m going to keep going to shows and making friends. I’m going to keep practicing guitar and taking lessons. I’m going to keep writing. But I’m going to make better decisions and spend my money in more practical ways. I’m going to be more responsible. I’m going to continue being honest with myself and building my self-awareness. I’ve done a really good job of asking myself “why”, and it hurts sometimes. But the pain doesn’t last. It just leads to a better life experience.

I know in my heart that I need to put this project to rest. And it’s a huge relief. I feel as though a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I feel content. I feel like good things are in the works. I’m so tired of fighting and stressing. There is a healthier, and more natural course, and I am ready for it.

I’m going on a hike today with Sarah. And I’m going to look out over the ocean and remember just how small and meaningless my life is. I’m going to remember that we’re here and then we’re not. Life is short and it’s not guaranteed. I want to enjoy the present and feel apart of this universe. I don’t want to always be reaching. I don’t want to be distracted and discontent.

I love this blog because I’m so bad at organizing thoughts and delivering them with tact. This is basically just a jumbled monologue. But I think I’ve done an okay job of painting the right picture of where I’m at right now.

I hope the reader knows that this blog was written in such a happy state. It’s really hard to let go because letting go requires grief. But it’s all necessary and it all leads somewhere better.

Goodbye for now. Not sure when I’ll write another one of these. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next year.

Ashton York
spring is here and the sun is shining!! this is potential artwork for an upcoming single release. shot by the one and only sarah bailey ( https://www.instagram.com/sarah_diann/ )

spring is here and the sun is shining!! this is potential artwork for an upcoming single release. shot by the one and only sarah bailey (https://www.instagram.com/sarah_diann/)

I’m off work today and I have no where to be, which is quite nice. Typically, having a day off with no plans gives me some anxiety. I tend to stress about money because I don’t have a lot of it, and then I start to feel idle with music because I’m not accomplishing the world in one day. But today is different. I’m not worried about anything. I mentioned this in my last blog post, but I’ve been letting myself off the hook. The bottom line is that I’m playing, I’m writing, I’m attending shows, I’m out and about, I’m performing on the peer, I’m working, I’ve got a project going.. I’m taking the opportunities I can and not stressing about whatever is beyond my reach. All I really want is to improve in every aspect musically. I’m not stressing about the rest. On my days off, I used to submit my music to all sorts of blogs, playlists, music licensing companies, etc. Then by the end of the day, I’d be checking my emails every five seconds waiting for the “no’s” to come in. And when those '“no’s” did come, I would think “well that’s proof that I’m not good enough” or “why do I even try?” or just really egotistical and immature shit. I don’t send my music out much anymore, and I rely more on personal connections to book shows, etc. I’m just happy to be off work today. I’m looking forward to listening to some new records, performing on the peer, and hopefully catching a show this evening.

On an unrelated note. There’s this really cool Louis C. K. interview that I wanted to link here in case you were interested. He just talks about his newest projects and how he looks at his career thus far. This interview came out just weeks before the sexual allegations came out against him, so it’s probably one of his most recent interviews. I guess as an aspiring creator, I really appreciated his approach to creating, his wisdom about the industry, and also his transparency in general. I just think it’s great. So there you go.

Another unrelated note. After my performance at the house show the other night, a very kind gal approached me and said that she felt fairly confident she could get me booked for a Sofar show in LA if I was interested. We’ve already exchanged emails since then, and she’s sending a recommendation email to the director at Sofar. This would be a really fun gig for me, and probably great exposure. I’ll keep all three of you readers updated on what happens. If it doesn’t work out, that’s cool too. Either way, I connected with someone new which is awesome, and one way or another, I’m sure I’ll book some fun things this year. No expectations. That’s the key.

Last update. I start guitar lessons tomorrow! I’m looking forward to sharpening my playing!

Oh, and here’s what I’ve been listening to on Spotify lately.

Ashton York
the act before me last night. they were really groovy and jazzy and just a blast to watch. reminded me of moses sumney except more raw and less conceptualized.

the act before me last night. they were really groovy and jazzy and just a blast to watch. reminded me of moses sumney except more raw and less conceptualized.

Last night, I performed at a house concert and it was a really cool experience. The audience was really responsive and respectful. It was really refreshing to finally perform my songs in the type of setting they were made for. I loved every second of performing and it had been quite some time since I had played through some of those songs.

The highlight for me last night was seeing how some of the hard work I’ve done on myself has truly paid off. I’ve really learned how to take the pressure off of myself and just appreciate the moment. When I finished my set, many audience members approached me and expressed their compliments. It seemed like my music was well received which is really nice. I think what surprised me was when a few people were very expressive and intense about how much they enjoyed my set, it made me sort of uncomfortable. I’ve been really working on my mindset lately and it seemed like just being able to sing my songs for people was enough for me. I didn’t really need verbal affirmation or anything. I truly love connecting with people via songs and I honestly just enjoyed my time performing. In the past, I relied heavily on audience reaction and I would pick apart my set and be obnoxious on stage on purpose and so on. I’ve just grown up a lot this year and it was cool to actually see that in myself last night.

Another highlight was meeting a musician named Felix from Argentina. We played guitar together and I asked him about his experiences as a touring musician. He had a very beautiful way of looking at things. He seemed very wise to me. After my set, Felix approached me and I think he said something along the lines of “you love writing music and performing, just focus on that!”. Perhaps he picked up on how conflicted I feel about pursuing music, I really appreciated his words of wisdom.

The other night, I went to see Mark Kozelek in concert. He is one of my song writing heroes and it was truly amazing to see him live. He is a true professional. He was dressed in an all black suit and he sang his new songs and he had such a refreshing demeanor. He was just himself. No bullshit. He told the audience “this is what I want to play and I couldn’t care less if you don’t like it. But I hope you do. But I don’t care if you don’t.” Then he proceeded to perform ten minute songs with little to no vocal melody and it was so cool. Mark will go down as one of the great songwriters of all time. I know that for sure. A true artist in every sense. I can only hope to be as committed to songwriting and pure art as he is.

Speaking of commitment to craft. I realized something really cool the other day. For a long time, I was focused on the wrong things. It seems like life has slowly been inching me towards what really matters. Basically, I’m pretty sure I’m on the brink of falling in love with songwriting in a very new and different way. It makes me laugh to remember how I used to think about music and how amazing I used to think I was. It’s almost like I was using music to feed my ego. Actually, that’s exactly what was happening. My relationship with music was sort of fake. But I just want a real relationship with music and songwriting. One where excellence is all I care about. I’m so excited about my current mindset and how far I’ve come and I can’t wait to keep making progress and continue to develop as a songwriter. I just had to get to the point where nothing else matters. I think I’m here now.

I can’t help but feel grateful to Sarah for walking me through so much this last year. She has really been a crucial part of personal growth and I’m so lucky to have such a wise and beautiful companion.

Ashton York