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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where to begin...

This year has been staggering.

I sang for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, every other week. 50 hours times 26 weeks is 1300 hours spent on The Smiths Project in one year. If nothing else, I have earned myself the award for the most time spent voluntarily sitting in a closet. Who knows, I may even have beaten some world record for the most a cappella songs recorded in one year? The only person to cover an entire catalog of music in one year? I'll have to see if Guinness World Book of Records has a category for me. But here's one thing I know for sure: I am the luckiest girl in the world.

It was exactly this time last year that I decided to stop being miserable and get back into doing the things that made me happy. I wanted to sing, and sing I did- in a much bigger way than i could have ever imagined. I could not have anticipated any of the events of this year. My lofty goal was to sing a single vocal track of each song, blog about it, and hope that someone would sample my voice into one of their songs. That was it.

This year has constantly reinforced a simple yet profound concept for me. Do what you love, and something good will come from it. Try it! I absolutely guarantee it's true. Even if it's just the personal satisfaction of doing something that matters to you, it's important to do it- and the best part is, your happiness will be automagically contagious to those around you.

It will say though, it was a challenging year. I noticed that my brain would play tricks on me a lot. For example, I would spend all day getting a song just the way I wanted it, one hour later I would completely forget that I did it, and then I was back to worrying, "what the hell am I going to do to make this song sound good?!?!?" Many times I'd open a song file and be completely surprised by what it sounded like as if I'd never heard it before. I'm sure that has NOTHING to do with the insanely fast pace at which I was working or the fact that I was generally always rotating between 10 songs in progress. There was no time to reflect or even bother to remember. Just keep going! After I posted a song, I would hi-light it yellow on my list and it would immediately be gone from my thoughts. As long as I saw the list becoming more yellow, I knew I was getting there. I put a completion date by every song and stuck to it. The pressure to complete this was self-inflicted torture at times (my eye is STILL twitching- it's been months!!) but there was no way I was going to give this story a sad ending. My Julie/Julia project would end on a good note and maybe, just maybe, members of The Smiths would put their own twist on it by NOT HATING IT, unlike Julia Child.

One thing that I'm very proud of is that my son doesn't even know this happened. Nearly all of this project took place while he was at school or sleeping. This meant that I haven't gotten much sleep or anything else done at all this year, but I wasn't an absent mom. Also, when my family is home, we're making dinner, playing, getting ready for bed, etc. so playing the music for him was furthest from my mind. But now my son listens to the music while commuting home from school with his dad, and he asks to sit in the studio and listen with headphones on. One night, I was putting him to bed and he was nearly out- then suddenly he turned to me and said, "Mom, I love your musics so much!" and he gave me a big hug. That meant more to me than any living thing on earth.

Many people have asked if any members of The Smiths have contacted me and the answer is no. During the project, I dreaded it for fear of having to complete the rest of the songs knowing exactly what they thought of it. YIKES. But now, contact from them would be icing on the cake. Whether or not I hear from them, I'm very proud of how the project turned out. It was amazing to get deep inside the music and get to know it from the inside out. I have even more respect for the music now than I did to begin with (and I started with A LOT). I'm in awe of Johnny Marr's masterful guitar playing at such a young age, his songwriting, the way he layers guitars, weaves melodies and harmonies together... Add to that Morrissey's lyrics and voice! Singing the music was emotional journey into the outskirts of Morrissey's mind. Plus, his vocal melodies are genius. Think about the background music without his voice- could you have come up with that melody to put over that? The music and lyrics are in absolute harmony. The Smiths are a magic moment in time. Their songs have saved and changed my life time and time again. I am forever grateful.

People are asking what I'm going to do next. First off, I'm going to enjoy the holidays as this is my first real break from the million little deadlines I have been under this year. But, next year's plans are taking shape. First, I'm going to be collaborating with Curt Smith from Tears for Fears. How awesome is THAT!!! Next up is an album of my own original material. I've had many songs kicking around in my head for years and it's time I release them into the internet-ether. Intethernet? (ethernet is already taken). I also plan to do many collaborations with people I have met online this year. In 4 months, my unemployment will run out and I'll have to get a day job but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the mean time, I'm going to cram as much music into the next 4 months before my music time is reduced. And you know I'm capable of getting a lot done.

The other thing I'll be working on is getting a 6-CD box set of the project made. Many people have been asking about it and how they can help. I have set up a Kickstart page to raise funds and make this a reality. One of the reasons this is is costly is because I need to purchase the bulk physical distribution rights to 71 cover songs. But I must do this the right way and make sure that The Smiths get their rightful royalties. The last thing I want to do is upset the people who have brought me so much joy. And they deserve every penny of those royalties.

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and cheering me on. There were many times I thought I really might not complete the music in time. Between the spectacular computer crashes, being laid off, owning a 4 year old and a family, and the often horrible 1st, 2nd, & 3rd versions of a song before I found a style I liked, I really was not sure I could do it. You guys kept me going. Every day people send me emails, facebook messages, tweets, comments on blogs... it was really overwhelming at times. People poured their hearts out about what The Smiths mean to them. One man said The Smiths saved him from killing himself a long time ago and more recently, my versions did the same. I don't feel worthy of the praise I received but I appreciate how profoundly music can change us. I personally believe that music is a form of therapy and healing. It can reach us and connect us in a way that nothing else can. Music is a time machine that transports us directly to the core of a time or feeling or place and allows us the gift of being able to relive that moment. This music has connected me to all of you and I am deeply honored to be a part of your lives and grateful that you have come into mine. We will always be connected through this music. I honestly expected a lot of fan resistance once the word got out about these covers but I was very surprised to be welcomed with open arms. People misread Smiths fans the same way people misread Morrissey and his lyrics. We're not all miserable saps! We openly relate to and express emotions that others would rather suppress BUT from this comes a lot of joy and humor. In my opinion, Morrissey's lyrics are witty and hilarious. Smiths fans are some of the funniest people on the planet. I've laughed SO MUCH this year from all of your comments, it's unreal.

I can't thank you enough. Anything I have given you this year is nothing compared to what you have given me. You didn't just watch my life change, you are the reason my life has changed.

Now it is time for me to sing my changed life!


  1. Long-time listener, first-time caller. I stumbled across your Project from some other music blog, I can't remember which to tell the truth, sometime around, oh, summer or so, and I've enjoyed the songs very much ever since. As a lifetime Smiths fan, it's difficult to pick a favorite, but I especially enjoyed your versions of "Please Please Please..." and "Asleep".

    Anyway, just wanted to say congratulations on finishing and thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow yo! You REALLY did it!!! Thanks for giving me such enjoyment throughout the year. I am so excited for you. Also, thanks for giving me some time to save up some extra cash for the Kickstarter project. I am a big fan of Kickstarter and an even bigger fan of yours.

  3. Awesome Janice. Awesome.

    I figured people would ask if anyone from The Smiths contacted you but my question would be: has anyone heard if any of the members of The Smiths or their camp (if they even still have one 25 years on) are aware of the Project? If so what have you heard?

    I'm sure we all know one of my absolute favorite jokes but I never tire of it: how many Smiths fans does it take to change a lightbulb?

    None; there is a light and it never goes out...

    Thanks for being that light Ms Janice :)

  4. This is so cool! I'm glad I was able to invest in your project. Here's hoping you get the rest you need!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate your post.