Making an EP From Nothing

I am so excited that our EP is releasing on Wednesday; and release is a great word for what will be happening. I’m not just releasing the music to you, but I’m releasing it from myself and my controlling, worrying grasp. It’s my first “baby”, the first of hopefully many. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on why I started Zoetic, and this post will be a blog post on how I started Zoetic.

It was almost a year ago that I first felt that God was compelling me to write Christian music. Shortly after my 22nd birthday in November, I started writing songs and digging up other songs that I had written in high school. Many songs were written and considered, but only four were chosen for the final EP. I chose “Only You” and “A Close Distance” from my high school days because those were the two strongest songs both musically and lyrically from that time period. Part of me didn’t want to use any songs from high school, but I also knew that if they didn’t go on this EP, they would never be released.

During that December, I wrote “Hourglass” (the working title was “Be Brave”) and “Secret Pharisee”. I wanted to fuse interesting musical concepts that I had learned about in college (odd time signatures, displaced motives, jazz harmonies) with traditional songwriting formats. I wanted to write stuff that was progressive but not completely in the prog genre: stuff that would be accessible yet interesting, which is a hard line to tow. But writing the music was the easiest part of this whole process, and was also the most enjoyable. Lyrics were a different story.

If there’s one thing I would do differently on future releases, I would approach lyric writing differently than I did. Early in the process, I brainstormed a bunch of topics ranging far and wide on everything from divorces in the family to the perils of technology to blatant worship songs. I then picked a topic and tried to write lyrics around it and stick that to my already-formed music. This was awkward and not organic. I realized through this process that it would be better to write an entire album based off of one topic that I know personally well than it would be to write ten different songs about ten different topics I don’t really know. Recently, my lyric writing has been much more personal and much less forced, and I think regardless of the topic, this is the key to becoming a better lyricist.

I wrote and arranged until the beginning of the new year, and then looked to my next challenge: drum programming. I didn’t have a drum set, and didn’t have the money to pay to go into a studio to do drums, so I bought some drum samples online and through youtube, taught myself to drum program. Drum programming is basically going into the studio you have on your computer and entering in data that will be translated into drum sounds that the computer plays back at you. (For any nerds who are interested, this was the video I used: This took most of the month to do, but I’m expecting it to go much faster from here on out.

The tiny bedroom where this album was recorded.

February and March were used to record all of the other instruments. Everything was done in my 500-square-foot apartment, in our bedroom. I purchased less than $500 of recording equipment, and used youtube to teach myself how to use it. Recording guitars became the biggest issue: I tried recording actual rhythm guitar under the keyboards but for some reason, I couldn’t find a way to make it sound any good in the mix. So-- embarrassingly-- I ended up just using a “distorted guitar” sound on my yamaha mx49 synth, playing simple sustained chords underneath everything, and just putting it low in the mix. This means that other than the actual guitar solo on “A Close Distance” there’s no guitar on this EP. Guitar is an instrument that often commands center stage, and will steal the spotlight from keyboards. Because I wanted keyboards to command attention, I had to limit anything that sounded too much like a guitar. Looking back, I actually think this was a good decision.

Around April, I started recording vocals with Brianna, again, in my bedroom. This was the most intimidating of everything I had to learn to do. I had never recorded vocals myself, and definitely had never edited them. For the next five months, we embarked on this new, challenging, and extremely exciting process. I know five months sounds like a long time, but we had to learn as we went; now I am confident that the process will be easier and go much faster in the future. As difficult and as frustrating this process was at times, we also had a blast. If you’re gonna spend five months with a vocalist, I definitely recommend it be with one of your best friends. We did many takes of every line, making sure it was perfect, making sure it sounded like the song was intended. I’d spend hours listening to take after take, splicing takes together, and picking the best ones. We were able to emerge from the process not having killed each other, and actually very proud of the work we had done together. For me, this was an absolute win.

The last couple months have mainly consisted of me working with a professional mixer and masterer to get the songs ready for release. If I can sum up what I’ve learned through this process, it’s this: if you can learn how to do something in a short amount of time, learn it and do it yourself. If you know that no matter how much time you spend learning something, you will suck at it, outsource it. For example: through the help of adobe spark, I was able to put together some rudimentary album and single covers. They don’t look like the greatest things known to mankind, but they aren’t terrible. This was something that through trial and error, I was able to learn to do. But I know that I hate mixing and mastering, and didn’t have the time or desire to do it well, so I outsourced it.

The next part of the journey will be marketing the album past our circles of friends and family. This is something I’m trying to learn to do myself. I may make a lot of mistakes and eventually have to outsource this too, but God has brought me this far and I have learned so much. I fully believe He will give the knowledge and tools to promote these songs for His glory, and that many people will be impacted by them in the future. Thank you to everyone reading this for your support of a dream that is no longer just a dream. My friends, family, and husband have supported me with their time, their talents, and even their finances to make this dream start to become a reality. I couldn’t be more grateful, and to God be the glory.

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