You Are My Sanity

You Are My Sanity is dedicated to my lovely Sarah. You have brought a joy to my life that I didn't know existed. I love you. 


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As much as I may reach and dream and complain, there are benefits to being a small, unknown artist. In this case: one meeting. One meeting at Blackwood Coffee on a January afternoon in Hollywood is all it took to plan the release of my under-budget-ten-song-debut-album. And really, beyond throwing a few dates and details around, I was looking to Veronica for an ear and some sound advice. She and her girlfriend Amy started their own label called Crescent Heights Records and signed me. 

Veronica and I went to high school together, she was a class above me. We shared a handful of mutual friends and a drama class. Neither of us waited long after graduation to move to Southern California in search of a music career.

 It made me feel important to do "business" with an old high school friend in an artsy cafe in LA. We talked about me and my album and what I might accomplish. I love being in LA, it excites me. It helps me remember that I'm an artist. 

There is no money, promotion, or buzz behind this record. Veronica and I talked about whether I might be able to land a blog spot or an article. She says it's probable. She asked me if I was able to get "those live videos together?", to which I responded, "Maybe, but it's expensive... I'm not counting on it". She comforted me with "it will be okay either way" and we discussed a few other items. Before I let her get back to her real day job, I needed to vent about how the album might be received. 

I was worried that my friends and family back home might not hear and understand the work I put into the album. "I don't want five friends to share it on Facebook telling everyone to 'check out my friend's fire album.'". I explained that I'm not trying to sound like an arrogant asshole, I just think specificity speaks volumes and I'm worried that organic promotion (the only PR I have), won't accomplish much if friends and family don't have specific things to say about it.  She understood and recommended I write something up to tell folks how to talk about it. She was right. And here we are. 

Several songs and ideas on this record date back five years or more. My life has changed drastically in one year, let alone five. It's difficult to be excited about an old batch of songs, when you've got 25 new ideas/songs that are better than those which were recorded. So why put all the time and effort in? Because I needed to get a body of work together and establish my sound. These ten songs were the best and most "put together" when I began mapping the whole project out over a year ago. You've got to finish what you start and work with what you have.

This batch of songs and the process of seeing them through has stretched me in an unbelievable way. If I had to sum everything up with one word, it would be humility. Not that I have mastered this quality, or ever did, but rather that the music and the process required it. The project began with me asking for money. I didn't want to do that, but there was no way I was going to release even a decent record without a little help. So I began an IndieGogo campaign. 110 wonderful friends and relatives donated 5k to me. But in the middle of my 30 day campaign, my father died suddenly in a bike accident. (More on that on album #2). My life was turned upside down over the span of a phone call. So, the funding came to a halt. My mind and my heart were devoted to the loss and the funeral. No donations came that week for my project, though the campaign remained live.

About two weeks after Dad passed, my uncle took me out to lunch. "You've got to finish what you started. That's what he would want," says Uncle Chris. We both had tears in our eyes. I asked him if folks would think me greedy or insensitive and he told me it didn't matter. So I re-devoted myself to the campaign, and because of the 2 week hiatus, I raised a little over half of my goal of 8k. Humility. 

It was around this time that I became discouraged. My budget was too small. I understood that the road ahead was not ideal. I wasn't going to make a perfect sounding record and the process wasn't going to be very "fun" or stimulating. Additionally, I felt intimidated. I was going to have to perform everything myself because I couldn't afford musicians. Still, I knew I was in good hands with Greg, and deep down the challenges excited me. With the help of Sarah and some other friends, I took the discouragement and fear and allowed those feelings to morph into motivation and excitement. If not for that drive and encouragement, this album would never have seen the light of day.

The remaining 3k never came. But alas, my engineer, Greg, and I were at least able to begin. Sessions were spread out, according to when I could afford them and when I could take time off of work to accommodate my engineer. Mid way through, I moved to Santa Barbara with Sarah. The move didn't help to expedite anything. And in many ways, at the time, it felt foolish and impulsive. But now, all these months later, I can say I am glad we did it. We're both better off. It was never going to be convenient. 

By October or November, we had finally transitioned from recording to mixing. Greg had guided me through a confusing process with patience and excellence. His input was invaluable and he made me feel that he was invested in making this thing work. Initially, he was just going to record everything and help me comp the tracks, and then I would send the songs to a mixing engineer. But, by the time we finished tracking, I didn't feel comfortable sending the songs to anyone else. I felt that Greg really understood what I was trying to do and I knew he'd be up for the task of mixing.

Today, I have final mixes of 8 out of 10 songs, and we are set to release the record in February. Everything sounds awesome. Thanks Greg!! (I'm unable to afford mastering, so Greg will apply a digital mastering plugin to the songs and we'll call it a mastered album. I can't say I'm type A or conventional when it comes to production anyways.).

One word I've used to describe the music is unassuming. Nothing's going to blow your mind. I wrote these songs with a guitar and a piano. They're blunt and they're young and they're cheesy. But they're true to a past self and they're well structured and the melodies are strong. The songs are not accompanied with a thousand layers or impressive instrumentation. Thanks to Greg's creative direction, we did a great job of allowing the songs to dictate how they're crafted instrumentally. 

You Are My Sanity isn't going to beg you for attention. It's not going to compete with the trends of today's music. My voice is right up front in the mix, relatively dry, and sometimes off-pitch. There are no solos. It's not overproduced, but it isn't impressively raw either. You just hear the song and little gets in the way of that.

But I can tell you what I'm proud of. I'm proud of the songwriting. It's honest and truly agenda-less. Not one song started with "I should write this type of song with this type of vibe". Nothing is wrong with that approach, and I'm sure I will write like that in the future, but I am just trying to highlight how natural and organic the writing process was. They're all just stories. 

I'm also proud of my decision making. Some songs took on several personalities before landing on just the right one. I didn't have a team (a band, a manager, a producer) to help me decide on drum parts, layers, and mixing decisions. And I didn't want one either. I dreamed every part up, aside from a few great textures that Greg added. It's an intentional body of work. If a layer wasn't necessary, we took it out. I spent many months and hours pouring over every second of the album. Everything is there for a reason.

I'm proud of my bass playing. 

Some of these songs really have the ability to take you on a journey and capture you, while painting a clear picture. And they're accompanied by melodies that are truly great. Melody is my strong suit. 

Finally, I'm proud that I finished it. I faced all the challenges. And though an overwhelming number of you helped me along the way, it took everything in me to navigate this journey. I've shed a lot of tears over this. I've hated the songs. I've hated my voice. I've hated myself for thinking it'd be more than it actually is and letting myself down. I've felt embarrassed, ashamed, indebted, and defeated. But it's done now. And whether its reception is positive or negative, it's beautiful to me. I am very proud to say that.

In conclusion, I express my gratitude to all of you who made this possible. Thank you. I am truly grateful. Overwhelmingly so. It brings me to tears to recount all of the support and encouragement I received this last year. I hope you enjoy these ten songs, they came from a true place. 

You Are My Sanity // Available Everywhere February 2018

Ashton York