Dots and Dashes

by Tim Birchard

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about

All songs copyright 2012 Tim Birchard (BMI).

Special thanks:
Glenn Schindler, Jason Gabbard, Scott Kadera, Charlie and Tara Kiene, Katie Kisiel, David Kairis, Wes and Tracy Akers, and all my friends and family who have been so supportive through the years.
Deepest gratitude to Cheryl Birchard.

Q & A with Tim Birchard:

1) How did this album come about?
Like many independent musicians, I've been at this for awhile, saving, investing in new gear as I've been able, and writing/recording whenever the opportunity arises. In this case, I knew I had some vacation time coming up, and I just cleared my calendar, put my head down, and put in the hours in the studio. Got up early, made coffee, and went in to see what the writing/recording gods had in store. For me, no matter how exhausting, challenging, and sometimes frustrating the creative process can be, it's always worth it in the end.

2) Tell us about your gear.
I run a PRS Custom 24 through a Mesa Boogie Mark V combo. The PRS is stock, except for the addition of a Tremol-No system I had installed, because I really wish it was a hardtail. But other than that, I love my PRS. It's a '96, and it plays like a dream. I also have an original CA (Composite Acoustics) Guitars "Legend" acoustic, from before the company was bought by Peavey.

My preamp is a FocusRite Saffire Pro 40, and I'm running Logic. I've basically been doing what I can to copy my heroes... Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore are two musicians I really look up to, so I've taken bits and pieces from their studios and gone with that. I'm very happy with the results.

3) I understand you got an endorsement deal with CA Guitars for the Legend?
Yes, that's true. I was doing some work with Lance Keltner at his studio in Austin back in the early 90's. He was on the phone with the guys from CA Guitars that particular morning, so I had to wait awhile. Of course, there I was, sitting in the studio of one of my heroes, playing his acoustic while he was in the other room. I was happy as could be. I would have gladly sat there all day.

I guess he was impressed that I didn't cop an attitude... but honestly, how could I have? I was grinning from ear to ear, looking around, taking mental notes, and just trying to soak in the whole vibe while it lasted. He was incredibly down to earth, friendly, and patient. One thing led to another, and the CA Guitars folks were interested in supporting the arts-based diversity work I was doing at the time.

4) Let's talk about the album. The song "dots and dashes" is 16:09... what inspired that, and what was your writing process for that song?
Well, I never actually planned to write a song that was so long. It just sort of unfolded. I guess I had a lot of pent-up creative energy, and I've just been bursting at the seams for the chance to have the time and space to focus completely on writing and recording.

This particular song just kept happening in little sections. I was sitting on the couch with my acoustic and a little hand-held digital voice recorder, capturing ideas. The night before, while walking into the dining room to eat supper, I had a brainstorm, and I told my wife I'd be just a few minutes while I jotted down some ideas. Next thing I knew, I'd written all the lyrics to "dots and dashes", and it was an hour later. Thankfully, as a musician herself, she's very understanding. She knows what it's like when inspiration strikes.

So I was reading through the lyrics and just goofing around with different ideas and recording them in little bits and pieces as they came out. I would read a phrase from the lyrics and matching music would present itself. Later, I pieced it all together, recording it in sections since the instrumentation was so different between certain sections.

5) That song alone jumps from genre to genre, and everything from blues rock to prog metal to jazz is found on this album. When people ask you what genre of music you play, what do you tell them?

I've given up trying to fit myself into a box. When I first got some decent recording equipment and started getting serious about writing and recording, I was just in heaven, exploring all kinds of sounds and not worrying about genres or marketing or anything. Then, as I started to get a few albums done, I heard people tell me that in order to market myself properly, I had to have a target audience, choose a genre and stick with it, etc. And I tried to do that. But as time went on, I felt like I was trying to squeeze myself into a smaller and smaller box.

Finally, with this album, I just decided to forget all that and go back to what I love doing, which is writing and recording and exploring the endless world of sound. That's why you'll find so many different styles of music on this album. Things have come full circle, and I'm digging deep and setting aside the inner critic that likes to say, "Uh oh, you shouldn't do that... it won't be well received." Maybe not. But I'm happy.

The biggest catch-22 I've run into is figuring out who I'm writing for. I've heard musicians getting criticized for being self-indulgent in their writing, like having obscure lyrics, or stories that aren't readily understood by everyone. Steely Dan, one of my favorite bands, is a great example. On the other hand, you can write something very accessible and that can be seen as pandering to your audience. After awhile, I finally realized that no matter WHAT I did, there was no way to please everyone. So now I write what I love and roll with it.

6) I see that some of the songs on this album are brand new, and others are from 2004. How did that come about?
I have quite a back log of songs I've written over the past decade, but back then my equipment was comparatively crude, and the recordings I have from back then reflect that. Initially when I started this album, I set out to write new material and only record that. Then a dear friend happened to ask me about re-recording an old song from back in the day that he loved. I decided to go for it, just to see how it would sound, and I was really pleased with how it turned out. At that point I realized that I have a lot of really good songs that could finally receive the proper treatment they've deserved all this time. Bringing those songs back to life has been enormously rewarding.

7) Do you have fun recording?
Like Jim Matheos would say, "'fun' is a strong word." Writing and recording can be a very rewarding and satisfying journey, but it's certainly not without its frustrations. Some of the most beautiful music I've ever made has been the result of days, weeks, sometimes months of effort to get things just right.

8) How long does it take you to record a song, once it's written?
I've been following this pretty closely over the past six years, and the average for me is about two hours worth of recording time for each minute of music. The song "dots and dashes" is 16:09, and I can tell you that, yes, it did, quite literally, take me 32 to 35 hours to record and mix that song. Basically, four or five days straight of nothing but working on that song, for 8-10 hours at a time. Draining, but very satisfying in the end.

9) What is your dream?
I'm living my dream. I'm writing and recording my own music, on my own terms. I'm surrounded by people I love, I have food, clothing, and shelter... I have everything I need. Compared to so many people in the world who struggle just to eat every day, I'm the richest man in the world.

10) Any advice for musicians just getting started, or looking for their "big break"?
Just do what you love, and do it for the joy of it. Another one of my heroes, producer Ken Scott, says that if you do it for the money and you don't get the money, you'll be unhappy. But if you love what you're doing, you'll be happy either way. I agree with him. Whether I'm cutting a guitar solo or cutting the grass, if I'm doing it for the joy of it, then I've already won.

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released July 12, 2012

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Tim Birchard Colorado

Tim Birchard is a musician, engineer, composer, and producer who loves a good story. He loves the unorthodox.

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Track Name: Don't Tell Me I Ain't Country
They tell me being country takes more than clothes
They say,
“It's a way of life... as everybody knows...
It's helping others when the chips are down
It's never giving up when nobody's around”

But here we are fighting fires side-by-side
You say you're country with plenty of pride
I start to wonder if I ain't country too,
Because deep inside I'm kinda just like you

You just smile and you shake your head

Maybe my boots ain't quite right
Maybe my hat's all wrong
Maybe I get all excited
when the radio plays that 80's metal song

Maybe I don't ride horses
Maybe I live in town
But when push comes to shove, I've got holes in my gloves
and plenty of heart to go around

You can say what you want,
but don't tell me I ain't country

I may seem stubborn when my mind is set
I try to forgive, but I never forget
While this crazy world is full of cheating and lying
if you're true to your word, I'll help you out, or die trying

But here we are fighting fires side-by-side
You say you're country with plenty of pride
I start to wonder if I ain't country too,
Because deep inside I'm kinda just like you

You just smile and you shake your head

Maybe my boots ain't quite right
Maybe my hat's all wrong
Maybe I get all excited
when the radio plays that 80's metal song

Maybe I don't ride horses
Maybe I live in town
But when push comes to shove, I've got holes in my gloves
and plenty of heart to go around

You can say what you want,
but don't tell me I ain't country

I've made plenty of mistakes
but I don't run and hide
I'm doing the best that I can
and God knows I've tried

Maybe my boots ain't quite right
Maybe my hat's all wrong
Maybe I get all excited
when the radio plays that 80's metal song

Maybe I don't ride horses
Maybe I live in town
But when push comes to shove, I've got holes in my gloves
and plenty of heart to go around

You can say what you want,
but don't tell me I ain't country
Track Name: The Rings
Just a tile,
just a memory
Just a fading glimpse haunting me
I know there's no return

This is where I stood years ago
This is where I cooked,
"For here, or to go?"

This is where I made the rings
This is where I tried to sing
Tried to cook so many things
so long ago

I know there's no return
There's only waiting
to see what it looks like
when the walls come down

This is where I made the rings
Track Name: Dots and Dashes
Take Kingsway past the Gasparilla Parade
Through stucco gates, down to the pier
And watch the sunset fade

The dimming lights that call the night
to center stage
Follow them down, deep into the waves
And let the music play

Not even sure why I'm here
What was I hoping to find?
I thought if I could buy a ticket to that time
Navigate the maze of long-lost days
Somehow I might just reclaim what was once mine

Exactly what I want is hard to define

Let's just suppose for a moment
I finally make it to you
I'd love to sit you down
Share a thing or two
Provide a distant early warning
For when you're feeling blue

CH
I'm tapping dots and dashes out into the ether
Drumming deep into my heart
Sending a signal the only way that I know how
Trying to reach you in your 'here and now'

Something deep inside me started stirring
Something in me, I can feel it aching
Peach-colored stucco slowly breaking apart
A thin facade hiding cinder block hearts

(CH)

How will I know when I have reached you?
How will I find you in these waves?
The wind is blowing
I can hear it still beseech you
What might happen if you ever forgave yourself?

Drifting off, find myself in an old hallway
Eyes are watching and they are not mine
Once confronted, driven away
I make my way into the darkness of another time

Through a forest, children laughing
Up ahead, fire glow through the trees
So transfixed, fall right into a hole
that you helped dig
Dirtying my knees

I call your name
Turn your head, look my way
You sit there watching me
As if in a daze

The others keep on eating
They cannot see or hear me
Your face speaks volumes
You do not understand

I wave and say hello
You recognize me
Walking over
you take my hand

I try to warn you of the coming waves
So you won't be the one who never forgave
But you just stand there looking up at me
Smiling, filled with curiosity

(You say) "Why do you worry?
Where did you come from?
And who are you?

"Come on over... I'm pretty good at cooking hot dogs
My little brother likes to burn them up
And eat them blackened
I've got everything I need right here"

So here I sit on the side of the boulevard
Chipping stucco from the cracks in my heart
That's the deal we made
That's the deal we made

And when I reach the pier
Where heartglow torches call the night
to center stage
I'm gonna follow them down
I'm gonna follow them down

The smell of rain
Bicycle family goes rolling by
Seeking shelter from the summer showers
I send you blessings as I recognize

I smile and wave
You catch my eye and wave right back
Rolling onward into your adventure
Everything is right on track

And I recall the words of a friend:
"It's all unfolding just as it should;
Don't be afraid to see the Good."

And I recall the words of a friend:
"Beware those who would have you believe
the sky is falling. Beware."

And as you round the corner,
Just before you disappear from my sight
I see you looking back
And I can hear you calling:

"Take Kingsway past the Gasparilla Parade
Through stucco gates, down to the pier
And watch the sunset fade

The dimming lights that call the night
to center stage
Follow them down, deep into the waves
And let the music play

I'll be right here
Let the music play"
Track Name: Rumor
I'm starting a rumor about you
Telling everyone I meet on the street
that you're a being of love and light

That you're already good enough
just the way you are this minute
right now

I'm spreading the word
that you don't have to look for love
(you are love)
whispering to my coworkers
you don't have to search for light
(you are light)

I'm starting a rumor
that you're lovable, you're worthy
that all the wisdom, generosity and kindness...

All the acceptance and forgiveness,
understanding, hope, and courage
of the universe already live inside
the inner temple of your heart.

And when the darkness of fear
begins to appear at your door
You only forgot who you are,
You only forgot, and nothing more

I'm starting a rumor
in the hope that it will spread
to the corners of the earth

Until word gets back to you
and you realize
that the rumor is true

I'm starting a rumor about you
I'm starting a rumor...
Track Name: Jetlag
Jetlag, just got back in town
Baggage claim, no one else around
The echo of my footsteps, it's the strangest sound

Eternity, I just wanna go home
I notice that I'm not alone
Two of us humans passing through
Then I realize it's you

CH
I wonder if you saw me see you
I wonder if you saw me turn away
Someone up there has a sick sense of humor
It's gonna be hard to forget today

We shared some time, we shared some space
We shared a moment in this place
But please, God, tell me that's not your face that I see

I could laugh if it weren't so funny
I could laugh if I weren't about to cry
I could laugh if I weren't so busy trying to say goodbye

CH
Track Name: Entropy
I've read the books
I've said the quotes
I can spell "ephemeral"
I've heard the jokes

The sound of one hand clapping
The sound of one cat napping
Screwing in the lightbulb
Screaming in the dark

CH
Sit back, relax
And watch it all fall apart
Sit back, relax
And watch it all fall apart

How many times they'd warned me
How deeply I'd believed
How many hearts lie broken
How often we've all grieved

And this is not the first
No, this won't be the last
Old knots, they tend to loosen
And I can't hold them fast

CH

Don't think I ever imagined
Don't think I could have guessed
Scattering dust and hangnails
Struggling to clean up this mess

"We're either fools or heroes"
Playing this game, you and me
There is no road to follow
And the odds of survival don't look so good to me

CH
Track Name: Another Chance
Every bed sheet becomes a sail
in the heart of a child
Crazy sparkle in the eye
and hair growing wild

Only such a hero would dare
jump off the back of the slide
Break his leg, hop on his big wheel
and go for a ride

Another chance to be a hero
Another chance to be free
Another doorway to another galaxy

Beach towel is a cape
Bandanna's a mask
This combination, in the right hands,
takes evil to task

Another chance to be a hero
Another chance to be free
Another doorway to another galaxy

Bathtub becomes a race car
Doormat becomes a death star
Couch cushions become a cave
Clouds in the sky become something to save

Every bed sheet becomes a sail
in the heart of a child
Every day another race
to dream through the miles

A cloud of dust
as a minibike flies through the air
I'd like to think our superhero
is still out there somewhere

Another chance to be a hero
Another chance to be free
Another doorway to another galaxy