All Songs Project

In the spring of this year I finished six months of work on my first CD, Eat What You Kill. I felt proud of what I had accomplished, but also knew that it was merely a first step, and that the future held a mountain of work to make sure that people heard (and, hopefully, bought) the CD. It was a serious “What next?” kind of moment, and a big part of the answer to that question involved promotion, and networking, and booking gigs, and etc, etc, etc. ⎯ the kind of odious tasks that really have nothing to do with making music. But, I also realized that, while the CD is wildly diverse, and shows several different facets of my musical identity, it still represented a small window into the years of work that led to its creation.

So, I set myself the task of attempting to record every song that I’ve ever written, at least the ones that I could remember (and there are probably almost as many that are lost in the ether). The motivation for this was at least two-fold ⎯ 1. It would stand as a testament to my songwriting ability for other people, either to simply listen to, or to take up and cover, and ⎯ 2. It would be a kind of catalogue from which I, and whoever is playing with me, could draw and learn material.

I knew that this was going to be a big project, and that the amount of time it could take to record all of these songs could easily balloon out of control. So, in order to keep it under control, I set myself a number of rules:
1. everything would be one take ⎯ no overdubs.
2. (an obvious result of the first), one instrument and one vocal per song.
3. I wouldn’t obsess over trying to get everything perfect. If I messed up, or if there was some small pop, unless it completely wrecked the song it would stay.
4. I would use only acoustic instruments, and (of course) I would play everything myself.
5. There would be no instrumental music. I wanted this to be a showcase of songwriting, and in my universe that has strict literary implications.

As will become obvious if you listen to enough of these songs, I eventually broke all but one of these rules. But I think that there is enough adherence to the formula to create a cohesive aesthetic. The unavoidable technical restrictions of my home-recording setup also contribute to the stylistic cohesion of this set of songs. Two mics were used for everything, either singly or as a pair. No external effects are used, although I did take the opportunity to play around with different reverb settings, when it seemed appropriate. In the past I have always hated the reverb that ProTools offers, but in this setting it’s nice to have something to differentiate one song from the next. About halfway through the songs I switched venues from my bedroom to the living room, and I think the different acoustics of the rooms have a noticeable influence on the sonics, as well.

This project is about songwriting, and one of the happy coincidences of recording in this stripped down manner, is that it also seems to be the clearest way to communicate the strengths of the song itself, unobfuscated by arrangement and production. I wish I could assert that the performance of the songs is neutral and will not affect your opinion of them, but the truth is that I sing some of these songs better than others. In some cases the performance doesn’t live up to the songwriting, and sometimes the performance is good enough to mask basic deficiencies in the songwriting. Occasionally, I think there is a golden match between how the song is written and how it is performed, and these are some of my favorite moments in the project.
Which leads to an important admission ⎯ Not all of these songs are created equal. I personally think that some of these songs are just not as good as the others. Maybe it’s a matter of taste, maybe it’s a matter of time gone past, maybe it’s just a matter of how I felt when the song came into being. Generally, I think it’s a result of artistic maturity and skill – naturally, I’ve become a better songwriter as I’ve gotten older. But, I really made an attempt to give each song its due, and to find a way to perform the black sheep of the bunch in a way that highlighted their strengths.

The early part of this project was very research heavy. I spent a while digging through old notebooks, and listening to old scratchy tapes. There are definitely songs here that I would never ever have thought about again if it hadn’t been for some afternoon ten years ago when I sat down with a slimline tape recorder, or some wild scrawl in a tattered notebook from 1999. And I know there are songs that have been lost. I remember writing them, I know what they were about, in some cases I remember the tuning that they were in and a vague outline of how they felt under my hands – but, the melodies and the words are just gone, and, short of a session in hypnosis, I think they are going to stay that way. Which is probably fine.

The oldest of these songs was written in the summer of 1996, while I was in my first of three summers as a camp counselor in northern Minnesota. The most recent was completed last week, about ten minutes before I sat down and recorded it. I will say that one of the oddest revelations that came from digging up and relearning all of these songs, is that I can remember vividly where I was (physically, temporally, emotionally) when each of them was written. They each have a very distinct location and feeling.

Many of these songs are grouped together in my mind, whether it be two songs that were written during the same period when I was experimenting with a special tuning on the guitar, or 11 songs that were written in one despair-driven day. I toyed with different ways to group and present them, but in order to try and level the playing field, I’ve ordered them alphabetically, rather than chronologically, or Joshologically.

This is a big group of songs, and while I don’t expect my friends and fans (I like to fool myself that those are two different groups) to listen to and study everything here, I do hope that people come back periodically and discover something new, make connections between songs, etc. Just experience them. I definitely find myself in moods where some songs sound better to me than others. One of the drawbacks of this blog format is that each song stands alone, and doesn’t segue into the next without you clicking on it. While this is kind of a pain in the ass, the bright side is that it may provoke you to bounce around and make some decisions about what to listen to, to mandate that you stay involved and not drift into the next room to start making scrambled eggs.

Ultimately, none of these performances are meant to be definitive. I think that, in many cases, I could do much better versions of these songs, and more often someone else could give these songs something I can’t. Here they are, though, out in the world standing on their own two feet. Some of them wobble, some of them stride, and some sprint. As a songwriter, which is what I think I am at my core, I hope that everyone can find at least one song that they love, and I’m very curious to hear what can happen to them in the hands of other artists. Enjoy.

A Bracelet and A Ring




Atom Bomb


Boat and Dog

Bohemian Ideal


Call My Name


Civil War

Come In Out Of The Cold


Dolly On The Rubicon

Earlham Rd. Idyll

Every Morning

fire, fire, fire

Flagstaff, AZ

Flying Is Easy

From A Secret Source

Fuck You


Goin’ Out West

House Made Of Stone

I Don’t Know How I Feel About That

I Don’t Want To Be Your Man

If I Was A Horse

In Outer Space



Lake Nyos


Lohengrin and After

The Loon Song


Mother’s Song

My Favorite Lullaby


Never Gonna Wait

New Career

No Planes

Once A Cheater



The Smiling Dead


St. George


Sugar Momma

Superhero’s Lament

The Street

Swallow Your Pride, Mr. Give-In

Take Me Away

The Talk

To The Bear



The Truth

Valentine’s Day

Veteran’s Day

Waiting To Say Goodbye


What Do You Love

What’s That Sound?

When I Rule The World

Where You Need It

Without A Peep


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