Act Like An Ant: How to Get Big Projects Done

There is excitement in the air, and it has been following me for at least two weeks now…

I said I was going to be posting here demos of songs that I have been considering for placement on my debut solo record, and I had full intention of doing so.  However, that plan has changed.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine stopped by the recording studio to share some of his first batch of home-brewed beer and get my opinion and feedback on it.  (It was delicious!)  We spent the time chatting about his brewing process and life in general, and then cued up some of the songs I had planned on posting here.  I didn’t know the order in which to play them, so I sequenced them in the order I felt may work as a 10-song album.

For those who don’t know me, or have a preconceived notion as to how I perceive my own music, I’m my own worst critic.  I absolutely hate playing my music for other people to listen to while I’m in the same room.  I’d prefer to give them a CD or send them a file to listen to at their convenience and get back to me.  Personally, when an artist is playing their music for me, I feel a pressure — likely self-imposed — to not say anything negative about their work, regardless of its merit.  I mean, when you get down to it, music and all forms of art are generally very personal, and songs are a musician’s creative babies — only the cruel would tell someone they have an ugly baby.

Sometimes it’s even hard for me to listen to the music that I produce myself!  Knowing exactly how it was performed, recorded and captured; how it was edited and mixed; where all of the “mistakes” are, all of these things are in my mind as I listen to a song I’ve created, and I can’t listen past them and appreciate the song.  I always know where I could have done better.  So, I’ll put on a song with the intent to listen to it and discover what needs to be done, get about 30-45 seconds into the tune and turn it off because I feel as though there are so many things that need to be done, and I’ve done so much already.  (“Maybe I should just start over…”)

OR, I’ll be listening to a song and doubt my skills on instruments that aren’t necessarily my forte such as bass, guitar or vocals.  I’ll question my arrangements.  I’ll question my performances, and the way they were captured.  (“Should I re-record this or that part..??”)  I’ll question the advice and wisdom of my musical colleagues.  I’ll question everything, because…there is no excuse to not make whatever you are passionate about as great as it can possibly become.

In light of this, I told my friend “Now, I need you to be perfectly frank about these songs, please.  If you think a song sucks, or something is out of whack, I need you to let me know so I can make it better.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” he replied, “We’re friends.  I know I can tell you the truth, no matter how painful.”

I pressed play, and held my breath.

45 minutes later, my buddy and I sat in silence and looked at each other.  He was just sitting there smiling at me.  I asked what he thought, and he said, “Other than the one thing I mentioned in the last song, and the ones you said still need to be mixed, I wouldn’t change anything!  It’s got a good flow, and I love how your songs just get bigger and bigger!

“The first side starts out chill and relaxed, and still has good, positive energy.  Then the album gets a little darker, but at that point in the album you’re ready for it.  Then you start side two with a cool love song, then that one big, epic track — I love that song!  Then you bring it back down a little bit before the big climax at the end of the album, which is awesome, by the way!  I think the whole thing is great, man!”

Out of some sort of sense of shame, I hadn’t listened to any of the songs the whole way through since I first gave them each a rough mix weeks or even months ago.

I knew the tunes I’d roughed out on my own needed work, and was fearful that upon listening to them that I would want to scrap and rework most of them.  I was lost in sea of songs and lyrics and melodies and choruses and arrangements and ideas.  I had everything there in front of me, and no clue which way to go next.

I needed someone else to sit in the room with me and listen to what I thought would work in order to see if my intuitions were correct.  Best-selling author and management expert Ken Blanchard has famously said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  Without honest, constructive feedback, you don’t know where your growth opportunities are, and if you’re not growing, you’re dying.  Based on the feedback I’ve received so far, following my intuition seems to be working positively.

But I don’t just go on the word of one person before I move forward with my endeavors.

I have a sort of guideline I follow regarding when to believe the opinion or conjecture of others: if one person says it, they may be full of shit; if two persons who don’t know each other say it, it may be hearsay; if three or more persons say it, it’s the Bible, and I run with it until it’s challenged later, if at all.

So, I had a client and singer-songwriter buddy of mine come over and have the same listening experience as my brewmeister friend, whose guitars we used to record my client’s previous album with his band.  Other than that, these two dudes do not know each other, and have varying musical tastes.

To my surprise, I received the near exact same feedback from each of them!

My fear was that the songs would sound disjointed from one another, due to having different genres represented throughout the catalog of tunes I’ve written in the past 6 months.  Once I was forced to sit through a listen of these 10 songs without stopping, without adjusting something in the mix in the middle of a song and starting again, without “fixing” the “mistakes” and hearing an objective first impression from two people whom I consider qualified to criticize music, I found what I had hoped would happen from the outset.

I have found that my album has essentially finished itself.  Yes, even before it’s mixed.

Think of an ant farm: when you first buy an ant farm, you essentially have a transparent box of sand.  Then, you add the ants, and they immediately get to work.  Each ant grabs a single grain of sand and marches it from one area of the farm to another.  One by one, grain by grain, the ants slowly build the foundation of their new home.  A few weeks later, after paying little attention to the progress of the ants, you look up to find an entire network of tunnels and caves; the ants have built a city in just a few short weeks, grain by grain, little by little, one day at a time.


Can you see how this principle can be applied to your life??  If you have a goal or task in your personal or professional life that seems daunting or otherwise impossible, start working on it just a little bit…today!

Act like an ant, and work at your task just a little bit every day, and before you know it, you’ll accomplish what you set out to do!

SO!  The final overdub sessions will be completed within the next couple of weeks; a photo shoot will take place on May 4, followed by a meeting with a music video producer to discuss locations and treatments for the video for the first single; a Kickstarter or IndieGogo campaign will be launched to raise the funds necessary for having the album mastered professionally and reproduced on vinyl, and rehearsals will begin for the debut show with a full band.

Over the next month or so, the wheels will begin churning…

There is excitement in the air!!

Thanks so much for reading.


Visit the archive:

Join the fan club: Become a Bullfighter

Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2018 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Your thoughts are welcomed here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s