Song #51: Guy Capecelatro III – “Switch”

October 13, 2020
Song #51: Guy Capecelatro III – “Switch”

I am friendly with a gentleman who is the leader of an influential indie rock band that released four full-length albums over the period of ten years, and has been working on a fifth. The work is painstaking, the level of perfectionism and meticulous attention to detail keeping the record from completion for nearly twenty years.

I’m also friendly with Guy Capecelatro III. Guy has challenged himself with a personal project during the Covid lockdown, where he writes a new minute-long song every day, and performs it on Instagram. He also participates in an annual songwriter’s challenge where he writes and records several full-length albums during the month of February. He develops his own personal challenges to make it more difficult – writing an album of murder ballads, or a metal album, or persuading his friends to contribute songs with a given theme. He’s been performing live on Facebook once a week or so during the pandemic, never repeating a song. His catalog is massive, the most prolific songwriter I’ve ever met.

I was thinking of this recently, and how the artistic process impacts people differently. After his house fire, D. Smith was able to replace an entire catalog of music, rerecording everything in weeks. Doug from Cuppa Joe would write and record his songs on a four-track cassette recorder, adding percussion and overdubs and harmony vocals – and then he’d give the songs to the band to rearrange however they liked, knowing he nailed it “his way” on the cassette. The Mommyheads somehow manage to write and arrange music despite living hundreds of miles from each other, seemingly churning out full-length albums several months apart and then taking several years off. It’s fascinating to watch, and probably not much different for those of us doing work that is less overtly creative.

I was thinking recently of how the pandemic impacted my output, in terms of my personal relationships, my creative pursuits, and my career. For me, most of February was spent racing from one project to another, in case things got bad, because it is absolutely in my nature to look at far-off threats and worry about what could happen. I was thinking of Covid in January, and worrying and preparing in February. I felt like I had my shit together in March, and had anticipated the likelihood that things were going to get really scary and shut the world down.

None of that changed the fact that I completely fell apart in April and May. I basically went through life like a zombie, accomplishing the bare minimum of things I needed to do in order to earn a living and have adult relationships with the people closest to me. In June, my psyche had repaired itself to some degree, and by the end of summer I felt like I was completely scatterbrained, doing too many things at once, accomplishing nothing. We’re in October now, and it’s only now that I am beginning to organize the various parts of my brain and become productive. I’ve been forcing myself to write in this blog every day, under the guise of raising money for Swing Left – sometimes being careful to write well and tell a story, sometimes just vomiting out what’s in my head (like now). Doing it has helped crystallize some plans for what I want to do in the fall – I’m writing letters for VoteForward to try and help with the election, I’m releasing a few records on Dromedary from a few different bands, I’m working on some projects for my career that should be interesting and fun. It’s helping me compartmentalize the different things I need to do which, in turn, is helping me maintain some level of sanity in this maelstrom.

I would imagine that the scattershot way I’m assimilating the things around me and moving forward with life is similar to how different people I know approach their creative endeavors. Sometimes I’m prolific, sometimes I can accomplish nothing. Some days I get a ton done, some days I stare at the computer screen.

A person who can accomplish creative work of the quality and quantity of Guy Capecelatro III is a rare bird, indeed. I’ve said this before, and it’s not hyperbole, there will be a day that Guy is recognized as a national treasure, one of the great American songwriters. There will be a day that art and commerce are viewed as wholly separate entities, and music artists are not judged on their popularity but on their talent. When that happens, people will dig into Guy’s amazing catalog and realize there’s literally a lifetime of music and writing to absorb.

While I was writing this piece, I listened to Guy’s album North For the Winter. I released this fucking album in 2012, and I knew how great it was then. In listening to it today, I fell in love with it all over again, a brilliant and beautiful piece of work, eighteen amazing songs and stories in which you can get lost, the creative vision of one person realized by nearly 30 musicians. Even if you don’t buy it (which you should), you should spend an hour with it, getting lost in its beauty.

Here’s “Switch,” the product of an amazingly prolific and creative mind.

~ by Al on October 13, 2020.

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