New Song! The Solo Project – Eternal Reverie

My dear goblins and gentlefey, I announce my first official release since Mine to Love came out in 2013!

Eternal Reverie is my first ever released piece of instrumental Fairy Trance. It’s free to listen to, and buying it helps me bring you more music (The next song is in queue and will go up as soon as I’m done poking at the vocals and the mix).

This is part of the ongoing Solo Project. The Solo Project was originally meant to be just an album, and as the name suggests, is entirely by me. Well, mostly. I’m recording vocals in Dara’s studio and she’s running the controls, and any mastering will likely be done by someone else because it’s generally prudent.

The songs are mine, the compositions are mine, the playing is me using GarageBand, the editing and mixing and album/song art are all mine. This is what I come up with when I don’t have (or let) anyone else help me. It got started on the bus (I do a LOT of commuting), and I kept discovering more that I was capable of. I stepped it up a notch to prove that I can be awesome all by myself, mostly for my self (Honestly that’s a thing for a lot of us creative types).   I still miss live in-studio collaboration, but it’s a pretty great feeling that I made something cool all by myself!)

Before I knew it I was writing music related to the 80’s, Fairy Trance, and complicated vocal harmonies. Clearly an album was happening, except that rather than stopping to polish the songs off I kept going and realized the Solo Project might be less a single album, and more a new band (Two new bands if you count The Solo Project +). Further more, it’s becoming more clear that even under The Solo Project I have multiple styles, and it might be nice if they were to match on an album…

Rather than keep dithering about what exactly the next album will have on it, I’m trying something new. I’m releasing songs from The Solo Project as singles for now, with a plan to bundle them up into an album (or two) down the road.  I’ve got a release date in mind, and a concert slot booked.  I just have to buckle down, get these vocals done, and get over my nerves about performing what essentially amounts to Karaoke for you to showcase the album.  (But really, how else do you perform something when you wrote almost everything using instruments your friends don’t play? …And how do I show off an instrumental piece? Clearly the answer is to dance!)

As a side note to any of my musician friends reading this: The Solo Project + does in fact feature real people besides me on top of (or replacing some parts) the new music. If you think of fun ways to reinterpret any of the songs in our usual acoustic configuration (or other ways), I’m all ears! Attempts to reinterpret into Ragtime will see me laughing too hard to sing. You have been warned.

Studio Fail #1

That moment in the studio when you realize you really need to record something else before this instrument layer.

Now I have to teach myself to think “percussion”. This? This is not my strong point people. I’m a dancer, percussion lives in my feet not my head.

(Working with GarageBand for the drum kit. It’s totally got an assistant for the percussively impaired. I’m not entirely sure if it makes things better or worse…)

For those who don’t understand how multi-track studio sessions work, your foundation track is your rhythm track. Usually percussion, but you can have rhythm guitar, bass, piano… even vocals if you’re an acapella group.

Now I knew this, and thought I had my rhythm instrument set (Irish bouzouki if you’re curious). But then I realized that song really did need the drum kit. And if I was being honest, so did that other one. Cue a screeching halt as we discover that my scratch GarageBand version is incompatible in several places with the Zouk pattern.

Now I have homework. Make a pattern that suits an acoustic version of the song. Get it to Dara so she can alter her playing pattern if she needs to. Hope it sounds good enough to use. THEN record Zouk.

(Hand drums ought to go first too, but it’s a little easier to cheat and add those later if you have to. Not good studio practice mind, but they work better as a last minute add than a kit generally will.)

Secondary homework. Re-analyze every other song for whether they need percussion and recruit a talented hand drummer if so.

So glad I haven’t set a release date yet (just a personal target goal).

Walk With Me in Beauty – Subscriber song

©2018 Starlisa Black Photography

June’s Subscriber offering is up, this time a meditative song that loops seamlessly. (Or it does in GarageBand anyway.) I wrote it this time last year, so it seemed an auspicious time to share it. 🙂

Walk with me in beauty

Walk with me in peace

Walk with me in silence

Or when looking for release

Walk with me in beauty

Walk with me in grace

Take the time for what we have

Before we leave this place

As always, it can be heard by becoming a Bandcamp Subscriber

Thank you so much for listening!

Witness at the Gate – Subscriber song

For my second offering this month I bring you Witness at the Gate. It was written and recorded last night in response to… well, a great many things really. Its about being the witness, the one who watches the descent into darkness, but also the possible climb back into light. Its about being unable to intervene in any way other than being a beacon to guide the way home. Its about a role that is often overlooked in stories, and about choices always being there, even when it seems past the point of no return.

It was fed a bit by a discussion I have going strong on my Facebook page about laws of power and ethics and happiness.

(Apathy, action, friendship, greed)

(Compassion, power, knowledge, need)

And I can hold the line

(but it does no good, does no good, does no good)

If you’re happy where you are

And I can light your path

(If you cared to see, cared to see, cared to see)

But I won’t be a falling star

If you want to hear it, head over to my Subscriber page at $3 gets you four Subscriber only songs thus far, with more soon to come.

The Left Behind – Subscriber song

I realize I’m only now posting about this in the middle of the month. Day jobs have been keeping me rather busy I’m afraid.

The Left Behind started from a place of anguish, but I was stuck trying to finish it for quite a long time. It was only when I realized that I was also writing a song sung by The Velveteen Rabbit and several other childhood toys and imaginary friends that either faded away or became Real that I was able to finish the lyrics. The tune (other than the chorus) wouldn’t come until I remembered something terribly important. The Velveteen Rabbit never blamed its boy, but simply loved him. It is a sad thing to be forgotten and left behind, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot live on and become Real ourselves. Or realize that we always were real, if only we could see it.

CHORUS: Who are we in the absence of the other?
What keeps us having form if not belief?
I won’t fade silent into shadow without fighting
Though I know defiance barely covers grief.

On the technical side of things, I’m particularly happy that this song finally had me coming up with true four part harmonies that are rich and full and beautiful. That’s always been a particular weak point of mine.

One of my early beta listeners had this to say of an earlier, rougher draft…

“I cannot stop listening to it. It’s haunting, sad, loneliness, dangerous, daunting, truthful, beautiful and enchanting all in one single blow between the music and the lyrics combined it is a harrowing call from those left behind in the imagination and the life given to them.”

If you want to hear it for yourself, it’s available to subscribers at my bandcamp page

Uh oh… She figured out key changes. Run!

I am guilty of cruel and unusual treatment of musicians. Part of my album is in Bbm and Cm, and I have songs with key changes that include Cm and D#minor. You literally can’t make several of those chords on Irish bouzouki. Sure, that’s what capos are for, I just have to figure out how to fix all the keys in a song with one capo. I am a terrible human being. It sounds good though!

On the flip side, there’s a song where I use about 5 different sus2/sus4 chords (which can be a pain on Zouk), and somehow I managed to pick only the ones that are super easy to play.

Also, in the vein of: if it’s applied well, more key changes are better (also known as channeling my inner Andrew Lloyd Webber), I have updated the subscriber version of Bigger on the Inside. I am much happier with it now. 🙂

Bigger on the Inside/Strip Me Down – Subscriber song

Okay, first of all, I have been fighting with this song over the tune since August. Its part of that big batch of songs I wrote in a month. Given how much this one meant to me, you’d think I’d have been able to pin the tune down sooner, but in all honesty I think that was part of the problem. I needed distance, and to replace anger with determination.

Also, the key wanders like you wouldn’t believe. Sure I’ll borrow interesting chords for my usual songs, but I don’t tend to write actual key changes. (Lest you point to Fragile Dreams for a rebuttal, that was all Alec’s doing. I just gleefully went along for the ride.) This song and its predecessor both called for it, and I think I pulled it off well.

I decided to include it as a second song this month, because it’s much simpler. This is a reasonably well done first draft with just vocals and guitar. If you think it would sound good as a solo project song, I’ll put the extra effort in to make you a fancier version. Also, there’s such a sense of triumph finishing this that I wanted to share. 🙂

This song started with a spark, but that spark landed in a aged supply of ready fuel. How many times must we be told that we are too much, too bright, too alive? How often are we faced with the choice to be less or lose someone we care about? Sometimes it’s time to say “Enough is enough.”

BRIDGE: I’m tired of being half of who I am
And still it is too much, I make you drown
So I’m throwing out my dimmer switch
Because you never stick around
Even dim I am too bright
So what’s the point of hiding all my light?
Take me as I am or walk away
But don’t demand that I be less for you to stay.

To listen, head over to and subscribe for as little as $3. Subscribing at any point will get you all subscriber offerings, and you get to keep them even if you stop subscribing.

On to the Tokyo Zoo

The walk up to the zoo was lovely and lined with cherry trees. I saw signs indicating there was a panda cub and got super excited… right up until I found out that you had to get a special viewing ticket, and they were sold out.

Most of the large animal exhibits were closed for maintenance and animal care, but we saw a whole bunch of birds. My inner cat was convinced about half of them were snacks, but they were pretty snacks and fun to watch. The raptors are never food, no matter how tiny and bite sized they are. They convert size into a paralyzing cuteness attack.

We didn’t have time to catch all the animals, and I wasn’t able to get good photos of the otters or kangaroos. Honestly this is one stop where I’m pretty sure Paul got better photos than me with his ability to change lenses. The iPad Pro isn’t bad, but it has its limitations.

I did have to wonder about the missing swans when I saw the sign. With all the other birds on display, were they saying there was a concern that the swans were sick? Or just that they were at higher risk? The reminder that this is part of the region bird flu came from had me cautious about actually trying things like sparrow on a stick. Also, while my cat would have loved it, it looked like a mouthful of mostly bones for a human. Perhaps I missed out?

Altered my Bandcamp Subscription

After some thought, I realized those of you most likely already have my albums. I removed them from the subscription and dropped the price down to Bandcamp’s minimum of $3 to make it more approachable.

I am pleased to be able to thank my first sign up, who has apparently been spamming Breathe on repeat. 🙂 At least that’s what I’m assuming based off how many times they said they’ve played it so far. I’m delighted that it’s being enjoyed!

The link? That’s

(I will continue with the travel posts shortly.)

Spring in the Imperial Garden

This should be a stop on everyone’s list, it’s beautiful and restful. So much so that the grounds are scattered with rest houses where you can sit and rest out of the cold and eat your packed lunch.

Mostly I’m just going to let them speak for themselves.

Birthday Space Boats

We started my birthday (actual birthday? Second birthday? Tokyo birthday – I am living in the future now after all…) with a walk along the river. Along the way we saw the Tokyo Skytree from a distance. Its one of the tallest buildings in the world, I believe it ranks #2, and is much, much taller than the Space Needle. We looked it up and I think it was around three times as high? Tall, anyway. Going up sounded neat, but I was hoping for a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji and it was still decidedly damp.

There was also a space boat on the water!

The Space Boat gives tours, but I never worked out where to get on. Also this way I can totally imagine it was crewed by aliens or robots or something. The truth was only bound to disappoint.


Our first tourist destination of the day was the Imperial Gardens. Which meant exiting at this nifty station that totally reminds me of King Street station in Seattle, and seeing swans.

Sakura, Snow, and Ravens on Ostara

Given the day was too wet for good photos we headed over to Akihabara to look around the area and find the Kit Kat Chocolatary. Plans were immediately derailed as falling from the sky in fat fluffy flakes as we came into the station was SNOW!!! I immediately declared that my birthday was today instead of tomorrow (Mom went into labor on the equinox, that counts, right?)

After that I took off wandering random directions outside in the snow. Paul considered his promise fulfilled. “It may have taken several years” he said, “but look! I finally took you to play in the snow!” Given that the snow in question is in Japan, I think we can agree that even if it isn’t going sledding, it definitely counts. Even if it was an accident. 😀

The raven? Was sitting in that Sakura tree. I wasn’t sure at first, but it had an awfully deep voice for a crow or craven, and then it finally shifted so I could see its beak. And then I realized that Japan is positively filled with ravens for at least as far south as Kyoto.

The snow was starting to die down when I saw it. The Book Store. At least ten stories that felt like it rivaled Powell’s. I felt like I was in a never ending mage’s tower of books. If I could read Japanese, I’m not sure there would be much to tell about the rest of the trip. Though Paul might’ve put his foot down once they kicked us out at closing and refused to let me go back.

See the thing is, it wasn’t just filled with books, it was filled with books I’ve never read or seen before!

As it was we did leave, after being severely tempted by some art books (so pretty!) And checked out other things like game arcades, the Square Enix Cafe (all full sadly), figurine shops, PS4 games I can’t play because a) I don’t have a PS4, b) wrong region, and c) it’s hard to play an rpg if you can’t read the language. But there were so many awesome games the US doesn’t have and will probably never be ported over. Is playing a game in Japanese a good way to master language comprehension? The fantasy vocab may not be useful in conversation, but as a storyteller/Songwriter? I passed for now because I think I would also need a Japanese console to play on. If I’m wrong please correct me, and I’ll grab something neat looking next chance I get.

There were cosplay and maid cafe’s (we didn’t go in, apparently many of them are designed to part you from all of your money before you realize.)

I was amused to find that even in Japan, you can drop me in a city with no directions and I will find a Lush. Found two on the same day even! I noticed the store lacked some of the harsh scent edges the US stores have, and the scent was lighter over all. I found myself wondering if the formulation was different or something. Or perhaps there’s more thought given into what sits next to what?

As we headed back to the hotel…