It all started with my friend Ryan McManus.
Ok, that’s not entirely true. It started many, many years before I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan; it started back when I was younger, with a silver Casio boombox, Lite Rock 106.5 (don’t judge me, I was in CLEVELAND) and a Memorex tape. I realized that I could save my precious allowance if I recorded songs off of the radio instead of going to the local record store to purchase my favorite Bon Jovi singles. Problem was: the DJs had a nasty habit of talking over the beginning of the songs. Assholes.
Being the particular (read: Type-A, borderline perfectionist) person that I was (am), I would spend hours waiting for the song to come on without any DJ interruption, trigger finger ready to press record to capture every note of the tune. It’s safe to say that I stayed up much later in the evening in Middle School than I did even in college.
By mid-high school, I was recording mix tapes, often from the CDs of the people I babysat (god bless you, Dr. Horwood, with your introduction to Bruce Springsteen & Cowboy Junkies), interspersed with a few radio dubs. This of course evolved into a Napster obsession; I remember my first job after grad school having a “secret” Music server for people to share their MP3s. Oh, crappy audio quality of “Hooch”, you’ll forever be in my heart.
But back to Ryan. A few years back, we became friends and I ended up on his quarterly Mix Tape circuit, where he would curate with extreme care and precision a musical journey reminiscent of his feelings during those few months. He’d design beautiful cover art, and staying true to the days of when there was autoflip from Side A to Side B, there’s even that sound delineating the two sides of the tape. It was perfect. I’d look forward to them every few months, not just discovering new music through his exquisite taste, but feeling like I got to know my friend a bit better after sharing the musical experience with him. I was hooked. Add the experience of reading one of my favorite books, “Love is a Mixtape”, and I decided I wanted to not just make these mix CDs for myself, as I had been for years, but also share them with others.
So at the end of 2007, I compiled – and shared – my first CD mixtape. I did the same the following year, adding a “B-Sides” as I couldn’t fit all of my favorites on one disk. Same with the next year. By 2010, I was attempting (and sadly, failing) of doing them monthly, but last year I accomplished my goal and created a different mix each month. You can find links to all of them here.
I loved doing these. I received lovely, friendly notes from people all over the world thanking me for helping them discover new music. I have compiled all of them into a single iTunes playlist, and put on shuffle, it reminds me of the ups and downs, the highs and lows of the past few years. The songs that make me happy when I was caught up in the glow of falling in love. The excitement for my friends when their new albums were released. The unfaltering obsession with every song from The National to help me cope through a breakup. These songs, they were the force behind decisions, the salve to a wounded heart, the inspiration to move on.
People often asked how I discover the music; during my time in San Francisco, I was attending a lot of live shows, often finding new music from the openers or through friends’ recommendations. I had a long commute for much of my time there, and SiriusXMU – Jake Fogelnest in particular – was my musical muse for many, many months. RDIO and Spotify, to some extent, have helped. But as I find myself in New York without a car and in shared spaces where people aren’t playing music – and also the challenge of writing while trying to listen to new tunes, which is really hard for me – this discovery has slowed down. I haven’t been finding new songs or albums as easily, and as such, I made the decision to halt the monthly mixtapes until the situation changed. This was done with a heavy heart, as they were as much for me as they were for you, but in my already overtaxed schedule, it just didn’t fit in anymore, at least not on a monthly basis.
So going forward, I’m going to suggest new music, just more sporadically; it may be a song on my other Tumblr, the mislabeled “Daily Tuneage” (since it’s anything but daily) or a shout-out on Twitter or Facebook, or a post here on this site. I’m certainly not a music critic but I do think I have a pretty good ear for tunes; I still want to share them with you, just in a different format. So stay tuned (Update: POSTED!), I’ll be posting one later today, one you won’t want to miss.