Andy Miller quit after making it just past half way to his goal, but he has 28 new songs to show for it.
Miller, a Juneau musician, set out to write 49 songs in one year about the 49th state and officially gave up the persuit in mid September. But he’s released “Alaska in 28 Songs,” for free on Bandcamp and is considering what comes next.
“It’s kind of weird, I’d rather not write music right now, but it’s such a routine,” Miller said. “I have an idea for a project, but I’d rather not say. It might not happen, and it might be silly.”
But more Alaska-themed music can be safely ruled out.
“I don’t think I’ll have any more Alaska-themed projects — at least for a long time,” Miller said.
Miller’s expansive project began as an attempt to secure a Rasmuson Foundation Grant, which would be used to purchase better recording gear.
“Last year, I did an album, and I thought maybe I could get a grant for some equipment,” Miller said.
So he started recording songs in January of this year and made a proposal.
“I didn’t get it,” Miller said. “I didn’t have a resume, but I proceeded with doing it, because I thought it could build that resume.”
The songs came along quickly in winter and early spring, Miller said, and he was on pace for 49 in April.
“At some point, I started having many going at one time, which I think helped a lot,” Miller said.
But progress slowed this summer, and Miller decided to pull the plug on the effort and release the dozens of songs he had completed.
The spice of life
“Alaska in 28 Songs” was inspired by similarly sizable albums by the Magnetic Fields, works tied to a sense of place such as “Illinois” and “Michigan” by Sufjan Stevens and the lo-fi eclecticism of Guided By Voices.
Miller said he wanted to make sure there was variety in the album’s songs and the locales that inspired songs.
He said it wasn’t difficult to pick places to write and sing about.
“A lot of them just chose themselves,” Miller said.
But in some cases, additional online research was required.
Varying the Bandcamp album’s sound took some work, too.
Miller recorded the album himself playing keyboard and guitar using inexpensive equipment and software. Some drum tracks were recorded, but they didn’t make the cut.
“If I had better equipment, I might have tried weirder stuff,” Miller said.
To change things up, Miller would sometimes distort the sound of his guitar, add piano to a track or write in a different key.
“I was definitely changing the key,” Miller said. “That can change tone a little bit.”
Where to start listening
Miller said he knows the majority of listeners won’t sit down and listen to 28 songs, and he had a suggestion about where not to start.
Many locals may be tempted to dive in with “The Sensitive Men of Juneau,” but Miller advised against it.
“The Juneau song might actually be the weakest,” Miller said.
Instead, Miller said he hopes people will listen to things in order.
“Chronology is kind of the intent,” he said. “Start at the beginning.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @capweekly.