The last mix day.

On Thursday of last week, as a late afternoon rain fell across San Francisco, I drove over to Hyde Street Studio C to check out the final mix of the final song for my first album, a project I started as 2006 faded into 2007 — and my severe traumatic brain injury was barely a year old. I stopped at a favorite coffee shop on the way, and while waiting for my espresso, Jaime Durr, the engineer I’ve been working with since day one of the project, texted me to say he needed another hour. And so, to pass the time, I did what I have done on so many occasions in so many cafes over the past few years: I worked on some lyrics. The hour vanished in what seemed like minutes, and I was on my way.

The mix sounded great, as I knew it would (Jaime is aces and I have the best musicians this side of Saturn helping me), so all we had to do was make a few tweaks and we were done. Sort of. Truth be told, there are several more hours of mixing tweaks to be finished up, but we’re done in that the rest of the process is just a checklist. Jaime figures he’ll have everything ready for mastering in about a week.

Given the low stress nature of the session, we talked a lot. Jaime showed me some photos and video of the Chickenfoot project he’s been working on with Michael Anthony, Chad Smith, Joe Satriani and Sammy Hagar. We reminisced a bit on how long my project had taken and the twists and turns along the way. We spent a little time on a few other tunes, songs that will be on later albums. And suddenly it was seven o’clock and I had to go.

I walked out of Hyde Street into the rain that was still falling, got in my car and headed home. I was far more reflective than elated. When I started this project, I was naive, I admit that.  Or maybe I was just caught up in the moment. MySpace was rolling, Facebook was opening up to non-college folks, iTunes was becoming the new Tower, and everywhere was the sense of possibility, possibility that an independent, DIY musician like me could get his music to the masses and maybe have some success without having to be signed by a label first. Gone were the days when the gate keepers at major labels manned their velvet ropes and who got in was a mix of stuff that made sense and stuff that did not. But one thing hadn’t changed, will never change, and that is that the music business cannot be breached with talent alone. No... blood, sweat, tears and luck all remain at the top of the criteria pantheon and with my inability to give my project my all in a concentrated amount of time, well, the odds were against me.

Further, in 2006 it wasn’t simply that the music business had changed, it was that it was changing and still is. Faster and faster. I’ve struggled to keep up, I’ve been reading Hypebot, The Lefsetz Letter and countless other blogs, but it’s hopeless. And even if I were to wake up one Monday morning and have it all figured out, no matter, by Tuesday, I would once again be behind.

The imminence of becoming a parent finally got me focused on all that truly mattered: the music. Starting around September of 2010, I dug in, I got organized, I finally picked the songs that would be on the album and set to finishing them, making them as good as I could make them, rewriting some lyrics for the 100th or even 200th time, completely re-doing demos, having long talks with guitarist Tim Young about what was needed, seeking out some new vocalists, spending countless hours mulling over arrangements and rhythm parts and bass parts and drum parts and vocal parts. I all but quit freelancing in adland to give me time to get the music right. I even bought a new computer -- a dual Quad Core Mac Pro -- to increase my productivity (it helped a lot!).

And in the end, that’s what I have: music. And I’m proud of it; hell, I like it. (Yes, I confess, I listen to my own songs just because I like them.) My marketing plan remains half-written, my networking activities to try to meet folks who could help me find a market for my songs are as moribund as ever. I have no idea what’s next, besides some vague notions about gaining exposure and trying to tap licensing opportunities. But I do have music. Good music. And when I do find opportunities to get some exposure or earn a buck, I will have a shot, I believe that. More important, no matter what happens going forward, I will be able to write on my tombstone “Here Lies A Dreamer for Whom at Least One Dream Came True.”

It’s time to begin the real begin. Stay tuned.