The Big February 2020 Project

Every year, the RPM Challenge encourages musicians to write and record an album from scratch within the month of February. Start with nothing on February 1 and turn in a completed album on February 29. I did this once before in 2012. It was fun, intense, constructive, informative, and rewarding. And yes, I’m gaming the system by only participating in Record Production Month in leap years.

Unlike 2012 when I did all of the writing, performing, and recording myself, I am adding the personal challenge of involving as many other people in the process – the fun – as possible. I posted a message to Facebook last week asking if anybody would like to pitch in. I figured I’d get a few guitarists and singers which would’ve been welcome. Instead, over 20 great friends raised their hands! To make things more interesting, a few of them aren’t even musical and a few others don’t live in the area. They all just want to help. How cool is that!?

Like any adventurer about to set off on a quest, one starts by taking inventory:

  • Drummers (1)
  • Percussionists (a few)
  • Bassists (3)
  • Guitarists (6)
  • Ukulelists (3)
  • Violinists (3)
  • Flutists (1)
  • Wind & Brass Players (1)
  • Electronics (1 or 2)
  • —–
  • Male singers (8)
  • Female singers (4)
  • Voice actors/improvisers (8)
  • —–
  • Writers (3)
  • Lyricists (many)

So then the question became, how do I utilize the skills and passions of two dozen people into a single album project within one month? It took me a few days to sort through all the possibilities, make a list of everybody and what skills they do have, and find a path that had the potential to intersect with as many of them as possible. Here’s the plan.

I gave the three writers a prompt for a 300-word (give or take) short story a few days ago so they can start thinking about it. Tomorrow, on February 1, they pick up their pens (or mouses and keyboards) and write them up in the first few days.

Over the next 10 days or so, the songwriters among us will find a few places within each story that could be expanded on through song. A lot like a musical in that sense. I already scheduled writing sessions with some of the songwriters who live in town. I’ll be in touch with the remote participants for some online collaborations. Greg Skillman and I have done this several times with great success.

Then onto recording. I’m picturing the voice actors and improvisers will narrate/perform the three stories. Additionally, I’m hoping (but not totally sure) that I can find spots for some improv theater to happen that could further flesh out the stories.

Then I bring in the musicians and then the singers. That part will actually be fairly traditional album production-type stuff. I had a few guest musicians on the last Elephants of Scotland album and I really loved the broader palette that additional musicians brings. So why not multiply that by ten.

Every stage of the whole project will be inspired by the previous stage. Makes perfect sense.