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Favorite CDs: Receiving End of Sirens–Between The Heart & The Synapse

Favorite CDs: Receiving End of Sirens–Between The Heart & The Synapse – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

favorite cds, the receiving end of sirens, between the heart and the synapseThe Receiving End of Sirens are one of those groups that were amazing for one album, mediocre for the next, and then went away. I was first introduced to The Receiving End of Sirens through MTVU my senior – or perhaps more appropriately fourth – year of design school. The single “Planning A Prison Break” didn’t actually make a big impression on me at first, but I had a tendency to let the music videos roll in the background while I was working; I’ve discovered that having a narrative visual distraction while I’m working is actually helpful, as it disconnects that portion of my brain and stops my mind from wandering overmuch. After the 30th time around, I found myself singing “Warden’s calling for a lockdown, baby…” as I walked across campus, and soon discovered I had other friends doing the same. So I picked up the record.

This is one of those albums where the songs all blur together into one, big ongoing composition, and I believe that was intentional – there are melodic threads that wind their way through the entire record, reappearing multiple times, binding the whole thing into one big hour-long composition. While the progressive post-punk compositions can seem a little samey, in this case it doesn’t bother me at all. The three vocalists provide intricate interwoven melodies, counter-melodies and harmonies, with Casey Crescenzo’s earthy bellows and screams stealing the show.

For my money, it was Casey’s departure from the group to focus on his project The Dear Hunter that led to the downturn in the quality of TREOS’s music, an their eventual breakup. But Between The Heart And The Synapse still stands as easily one of my favorite CDs, and one that’s well worth taking an hour to listen to.

One way you can see The Receiving End Of Sirens’ influence on my music is that I always try to make my records to be cohesive whole – in the case of my most recent release, “A Failed Breakup“, I chose the set of songs based on the story they told – that of my loneliness upon moving to Asheville, North Carolina, and how that led to reconnecting with the girl I’d left behind in Ohio.

-MMcF
———————-
Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Favorite Albums: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

Favorite Albums: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

Jimmy Eat World, ClarityThere have been a few times where I’ve happened across a record that has some element that affects me so profoundly, I find myself attempting over and over to emulate it. The ending of Clarity by Jimmy Eat World, easily one of my favorite albums, is a perfect example of this.

The final track of Clarity, an album which is widely considered a landmark in the post-punk (call it “emo” if you’d like) genre, is called Goodbye Sky Harbor, a title whose meaning I only understood while driving into Phoenix, AZ on tour last year, and seeing the signs for Sky Harbor airport. Jimmy Eat World are from Mesa, AZ, which, from an outsider’s perspective, is the same city as Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Gilbert, or Chandler… which I’m sure is heresy to a local! Regardless, the realization that “Goodbye Sky Harbor” meant getting on a plane and leaving your hometown was one of those “aha!” moments. But I digress.

Goodbye Sky Harbor is sixteen minutes and twelve second long – a track length which, unless you’re Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or another group that makes habits of painting extended musical pictures, sounds absurdly self-indulgent, but here it works, because of the structure: Two minutes of tightly arranged, emo-pop songwriting – par for Jimmy Eat World’s course – followed by a long, flowing, slowly shifting set of looping parts. It eventually meanders its way into a spacey techno beat, which I swear is the inspiration for every Postal Service song.

I first heard this record when I was 17, and from that point onward, I tried to make sure that every release I put out had a sense of finality in its closing.

On my latest record, “A Failed Breakup“, you can see that same desire for a sense of closure, and even a little bit of that first movement/extended second movement structure in the closing track “Lighthouse”.

-MMcF

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Artist Profile: Beth Goldwater

Beth GoldwaterArtist:

Beth Goldwater

Sounds like:

A dark and beautiful voice that could stop traffic a cappella, elevated by songs that are both artistic and frighteningly catchy.

How I discovered:

I saw her play at the Singer-Songwriter Cape May conference in March of 2013, and while I was impressed with her entire set, I fell in love with her song “The Letter”. On my last tour I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her in Philadelphia, where I sang backing vocals for her on that song, and we turned my song “Remember Me” into a duet!

Favorite tracks:

The Letter
Soar
Collide

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Best 2000s Albums: Our Lady Peace – Gravity

Best 2000s Albums: Our Lady Peace – Gravity – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

best 2000s albums, our lady peace, gravityA while back, I started a series of blog posts on my top 20 albums. As so often happens with things like that, life got busy with recording, touring, and the other non-music-related things (they do exist, astoundingly) took up my attention and these posts fell by the wayside. However, this series is now back with a vengeance, and I’m no longer limiting myself to just 20 albums.

In the process of pre-production for my new record in February 2013, the issue of my favorite albums of all time came back into focus. When Jason Rubal, my producer, arrived in Asheville, the first step in preproduction was not listening to my songs, discussing arrangements, track orders, or anything of the sort – we spent an entire afternoon just listening to music. Anything that was influential to me, important to me, or I just really liked. Before we began with working to shape my music, Jason needed to understand where I was coming from. Comparing the songs I shared with him to the old list of top 20 albums I’d put together, I realized, unsurprisingly, that they were almost identical. Since those albums are pertinent to the music I make, it struck me that it only made sense that I should wear those influences on my sleeve.

And so, onward with one of the best 2000s albums!

Our Lady Peace – Gravity

I’m the first to admit that there’s a lot of 90s alt-rock in my music. It was where I began my journey into modern music (up until I discovered 107.9 The End in Cleveland, my musical experience was mostly limited to Classical and 60s Folk), so trying to hide it would be absurd. This album actually came out in 2002, so it’s slightly outside that range, but I still lump it in with the genre – Our Lady Peace first emerged on the global scene with Clumsy in 1997 – but I still consider this to be their best work, and easily one of the best 2000s albums.

From the hard-hitting opening track “All For You” to the soaring, sentimental “Somewhere Out There” to the stirring but somewhat overplayed “Innocent”, Our Lady Peace manage to blend a finely honed melodic sensibility with hard-edged production. Raine Maida is perhaps at his best here as well- a little of the whining tone his voice had on previous recordings is gone, without sacrificing his unique vocal character.

I’m pretty sure most of my songwriting career I’ve been trying to match the anthemic quality of Innocent. With the closing track “Lighthouse” on my new record, I think I’ve finally made it into the neighborhood.

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Clan McFarland Profile: Rob Branscome

Rob_Branscome-cropped1. What’s your name?
Rob Branscome

2. Where do you live?
New Castle, PA

3. When/where/how did you first hear Michael McFarland’s music?
God, it’s been almost five years… While he was in Aviatik, I found them on MySpace… ha ha ha

4. What’s your favorite Michael McFarland song and why?
Man this ones hard… I really dig Remember Me

5. Have you ever seen Michael perform live? If so, when/where?
Yes a few times here in New Castle. He did a couple acoustic and a couple full band shows, for me and, with me, and I loved it every time.

6. What toppings would you like on your pizza?
Bacon, banana peppers, and cheese.

7. What’s your favorite movie?
Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back. (First Pokemon movie). I still get teary eyed when Ash turns to stone, ha ha!

8. How many fingers am I holding up?
3 [Close! It was 4]

9. Apart from Michael McFarland, who’s your favorite musician?
Five Iron Frenzy

10. Rock, paper, or scissors?
Scissors

Michael chose Paper this month, so the victory goes to Rob!

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Musical Collaboration, Improvisation, and Tour Stories

Musical Collaboration, Improvisation, and Tour Stories – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

musical collaboration, improvisation, tour storiesEvery time I go out on tour, it’s an entirely different experience. Even visiting the same towns, the time of year, the venue, the day of the week, the weather, and who else is on the bill on any given night can drastically change what kind of show it ends up being. The best changes this time, however, have been in the form of musical collaboration; some of these collaborations were planned ahead of time, but almost all were completely unrehearsed, and in several cases the result of pure improvisation. In other words, pretty risky, but they’ve turned out awesome.

The first musical collaboration of the tour, and the one that was entirely unexpected, took place in Norfolk, Virginia. I was playing at a coffeehouse called Borjo, where I’d played last year while I was on tour, and I knew that I was going to be sharing the stage with another band who was on tour. When I walked in, I saw a gentleman sitting at the counter with his laptop, and a hand drum sitting on the floor beside him. I inquired if he was in the other band, and he responded that he was not, he just didn’t want to leave his doumbek in a hot car. I half-jokingly invited him to join me on stage later, and much to my delight he did, and joined me for the majority of my set. His playing was stellar, and added an entire unexpected dimension to the music. His name’s Greg Lee, by the way, and that’s a picture of the two of us up there.

The second musical collaboration was at my show in Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Beth Goldwater, an amazing singer-songwriter from the area. We’d never played together, but had heard each others’ CDs, and decided we’d like to back one another up on a song apiece. I joined her for her song The Letter (a favorite of mine), and she joined me for Remember Me. We liked the duet version of Remember Me so well we shot a video of ourselves playing it the next morning, and have some additional schemes cooking for this one!

60011_10101682819343574_2084735580_nThe most recent musical collaboration was with Phil Freeman of The Lone Wolf Project. When I was mapping out my tour route, I decided I wanted to come through the Harrisburg, PA area (where I’d recorded my most recent record with producer Jason Rubal). Phil’s latest record was also produced by Jason, so though we’d never met, we’d be internet-introduced. I asked if he could be any help getting me a gig in the area, and he said that had a show that night, and suggested that I might join him on stage – playing equal parts his songs, my songs, and originals, backing one another up. We both thought that sounded like a phenomenal suggestion, and we had so much fun that he asked me to join him again the following morning for another show! That one we did completely without a net – no set lists, nothing – and again it was way too much fun.

I’ve had a few days off from tour to recharge my batteries, and hit the road again tomorrow. I can wait to see what other tour stories and musical collaborations come my way the rest of this tour!

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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First Albums: Third Eye Blind – Self-Titled

First Albums: Third Eye Blind – Self-Titled – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

A few years back, I noticed that, when discussing music, I had mentioned that this album or that album was on my “top 10 of all time”. I started running a mental count, and quickly realized that my count had at least 12 albums on it. I blame the fact that I’d been doing some reading about Nepal (What? Sherpas are cool.), and the Chepang language has a duodecimal system… but I digress. I went through my music library, and found far more than 12 standout albums, worthy of an “all-time” award. I plan to continue to write about them, in no particular order, on no particular timeline. So, to quote The Joker,

“Here… we… go!”

Third Eye Blind – Self-Titled

first albums, third eye blind, self-titledIf you’re looking for where I began my musical career, this is ground zero. I’d heard several songs (Semi-Charmed Life, Jumper, Graduate) on 107.9 The End, the Alternative station out of Cleveland. I can credit that station with introducing me, in my teen years, to many groups that have been my greatest influences. In those pre-napster days, the best way to get free music was the infamous BMG Music Club – buy one CD, get 12 for free! Looking through their catalog, I found albums by 12 bands I recognized from the radio, and so this happened to be one of the first albums I ordered. A few weeks later, a big brown truck delivered a box of goodness to my door.

This album was certainly the standout, especially since I don’t remember what any of the other 11 discs were. Put succinctly, that was when I discovered the difference between a band that writes singles, and a band that writes albums. On this album there is no filler, no throw-away songs, just 14 tracks of painfully catchy alt-pop about suicide, heartbreak, drug use, and car accidents.

A few months later, I decided to learn to play guitar. “How’s It Going To Be” was the first song I taught myself. At one point I could play every song on this album, and with a guitar in my hand and a gun to my head I could probably still give at least half of them a good go.

I’ve had a few people compare the vocal style of some of my songs to Third Eye Blind (most recently referring to “Stay” from my latest record). I couldn’t think of a nicer compliment.

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Artist Profile: The Lone Wolf Project

Artist:

The Lone Wolf Project (Philip Nathaniel Freeman)

Sounds like:

A dude with some incredible pipes and some nasty blues influences dealing with his demons while doing dirty things to an acoustic guitar.

How I discovered:

The Lone Wolf Project’s latest record, “Old Words, New Chapters“, was produced by Jason Rubal, who also produce my latest record. In the pre-production process, Jason and I were discussing the polished-yet-organic feel I wanted to aim for, and he told me to check out the work he’d done with Phil. He pointed me towards this video:

I was immediately hooked. You have to watch the whole thing, if only to make sure you catch the vocal leap at the 3 minute mark.

Favorite tracks:

The Arrival
The Right to Remain
The Bridge

Find’em online:

http://www.thelonewolfproject.com/
https://www.facebook.com/LoneWolfProject
http://www.youtube.com/lonewolfprojectmusic
https://twitter.com/lonewolfproject

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Music Competitions, Battles of the Bands, and Hoping For the Worst

Music Competitions, Battles of the Bands, and Hoping For the Worst – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

Title/alt tag: music competitions, battles of the bands, hoping for the worstA few weeks back, I posted a link to a video answering the question of “what would happen if John Lennon had done a blind audition on The Voice?” He sings “Imagine”, and is selected by none of the judges – they give him “helpful” advice about changing the key of the song to better show of his range, song selection, etc. The video ended with a “next time on The Voice” showing a clip of the judges cringing while Bob Dylan sings. That video has since been pulled down due to copyright infringement claims (due to the use of live footage of John Lennon’s performance), but it got me thinking about everything that’s wrong with music competitions and battles of the bands, and why I decided about a year ago that I would no longer participate in them.

I’m not referring just to competitions like The Voice, The X Factor, American Idol, or any of those, though I certainly won’t be auditioning for any of them – I’m referring to any event that pits musicians against one another. Whether it’s battles of the bands, songwriting competitions, open mic contests, or “vote for me to play this festival” online popularity contests, I’ve discovered that all of these twist my perspective in ways that cause me to dislike myself in the mirror.

See, I’m a pretty competitive guy. When I compete, I like to win. And that means that in any competition of this sort, I’m always hoping for the worst for my fellow competitors – that they’ll have an off night, that they’ll play poorly, that they’ll forget the words of their songs, that a string will break. Hoping for the worst, especially when the people I’m competing against are friends, is one of the last things that I want to do.

So here it is – I pledge to not participate in any music competitions. You will not see me asking for your votes for any competitions. If you want to support my music, ask a friend to check out my new record, or check to see if anyone you know lives near any of my tour stops.

Let’s make the future of music be about building up the things we love, not hoping for the failure of others.

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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All Time Favorite Albums: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

all time favorite, tom waits, rain dogs

All Time Favorite Albums: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

Sometimes an album catches you at exactly the right moment. If you were to hear it on any other day, in any other situation, you might not care for it, but given the proper set of circumstances, it can become one of your all-time favorite albums.

“Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits is a perfect example of this sort of album, that not only made me fall in love with the CD, but led to me becoming a fan to the point where if anyone asks my favorite musician, I will without hesitation reply, “Tom Waits”.

This collection of songs sat dormant on my Macbook’s hard drive for the better part of a year before I heard it. It was late 2006, and towards the beginning of that year I had visited my sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was an innocent time, when young people freely swapped mp3 files without a thought to copyright infringement lawsuits, or perhaps just to piss off Lars Ulrich, and so when I left New Mexico my iTunes library just happened to contain a number of previously-not-present albums, and this was one of them. I knew nothing of Tom Waits – I had heard the name mentioned a few times, and in retrospect I recall hearing a few of his songs, but if you asked my opinion of him as an artist you would have been met with a blank stare. I mentally filed the album under “listen to it when I’ve nothing better to do” and forgot about it.

Fast forward to December. I’m working on finishing up my BFA in Visual Communication Design at Kent State University, pulling my third all-nighter in a row. I know I can’t allow myself to be anywhere near anything resembling a bed, so I’m at the Art Building, in the Glyphix Studio (Glyphix is a student-staffed, on-campus design studio). It’s 3:00 in the morning, the only light is the bright glow of my stations’ PowerMac display, supplemented by my MacBook Pro. As I work feverishly on a now-long-forgotten project, Thursday’s “War All the Time” album keeps me company. The last chord of the song Tomorrow I’ll Be You fades away to silence…

…and the most jarring sounds start emanating from my laptop. Clanking, rattling and stomping, held together by a drunken upright bass. I hear a voice made of crushed gravel croaking out what sounds like a demented song from a Disney cartoon. “We sail tonight for Singapore. We’re all as mad as hatters here!”

“This is it,” I thought. “I’ve finally pushed my body and mind past the point of exhaustion, and now I’m hallucinating.”

It took me a few minutes to regain my balance, mentally, and by that point “Singapore’ had given way to the creaky dirge Clap Hands. From there on out I was hooked, and it quickly became one of my all time favorite albums. There are 19 tracks on the CD, and I won’t skip a single one of them, but Jockey Full of BourbonGun Street Girl, and Walking Spanish are some of my favorites.

Though Tom Waits is one of my favorite musicians, his influence may not be obvious in my music, but I’ll let you in on a secret – the use of the mbira (African thumb piano) in Remember Me was directly inspired by the clanking and clinking noises in Clap Hands.

 Track 3 from my record “A Failed Breakup”: Remember Me

Check out my whole record here, or Tom’s here.

-MMcF

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

 

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Clan McFarland Profile: Melissa Bode

What’s your name?
Melissa Bode

Where do you live?
Wooster, OH

When/where/how did you first hear Michael McFarland’s music?
When he started advertising for the ‘Failed Breakup’ preorder, I started listening to all the songs on the past cd’s through his website and instantly liked the style of music as well as the lyrics.

What’s your favorite Michael McFarland song?
A Failed Breakup – …because it is unique, well written, the music is catchy… and i love it a lot.

Have you ever seen Michael perform live? If so, when/where?
I attended some of his shows in college, but more recently, the show at the Outpost in Kent, where the songs I already loved sounded even better live and I got to hear a few of the new ones.

What toppings would you like on your pizza?
Ham and Pineapple

What’s your favorite movie?
I honestly can’t say that I have a favorite movie. There are several comedies that I will watch again and again, but my favorite genre is mystery, and those get boring if you know the endings. But really there’s no movie that I don’t find entertaining.

How many fingers am I holding up?
31.
I’ve watched his counting in binary video blog… figured it couldn’t possibly have been 10 or less…

Apart from Michael McFarland, who’s your favorite musician?
The Lumineers, Hunter Hayes, David Cook

Rock, paper, or scissors?
Usually rock, with some scissors thrown in on occasion.

Michael threw Paper this time, so we’ll call it a draw.

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Favorite Music Video – My Creative Inspiration

Favorite Music Video – My Creative Inspiration – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

favorite music video, creative inspirationI love making music videos – starting with a concept, taking creative inspiration from a song, building a visual representation or augmentation of a sonic idea. At this point I’ve been involved in the creation of six music videos (four of which were for my own music, or projects I’ve been involved with) and am currently in the planning phase for two more. I’ve never gone into a music video project with the idea that a video will magically “go viral” and the associated song will become an overnight sensation, but rather with the idea that a well-crafted video can greatly enhance the appreciation of a piece of music. I arrived at this idea from my favorite music video: “Warning” by Incubus.

Every time I’ve started developing a concept for a music video, I’ve had this one in the back of my mind. The creative inspiration for the video isn’t hard to surmise – it’s derived from the lyric, “She called out a warning/Don’t ever let life pass you by”. This one line was expanded into an entire narrative, which, after watching the video, is impossible to divorce from the song itself.

For every music video I’ve had a major part in creating, that became my aim – to create something that forges such a memorable connection to the song, that once seen, the two can not be separated.

Sit and Wait

My most recent music video project – the creative inspiration for this one came from the line “So I’ll sit here ’til the morning/Yeah, if that’s what it takes/’Til the sunlight meets my silence/In the dawn as it breaks”. It was conceived of, shot and edited in the course of three days. The reverse time-lapse idea hit me at about 2:00AM, just 4 hours before I started shooting – and yes, all the timestamps are accurate.

 

Bottle Rocket

The concept for this music video actually preceded the song. On new years eve, I was shooting bottle rockets off my front porch, and the idea that each rocket represented something I wanted to let go of hit me, and I couldn’t let go of it. I wrote the song as a vehicle for the idea, and put together an event where my friends could share in this wonderful catharsis.

 

Start to Begin

The script for this one was written by my good friend R.L. Shaffer – I’d presented him with a basic concept of two timelines diverging and re-combining, describing it to him as “A little bit of Sliding Doors, a little bit of the split-screen scene from Rules of Attraction, and a little bit of Terminator. Because, no matter what choices you make, you can’t stop judgement day.” He came up with a script that hit far closer to home with what the song was written about than I’d anticipated, which, it turned out, was exactly what was needed.

 

Hail, Hail (The Bride’s In Jail)

From my now-on-geographical-hiatus band Aviatik, this video was the first I helped put together, pulling creative inspiration from the line “Shotgun wedding while your best friends hang”, and the idea that places hold the echoes of events that happened there in the past.

 

I plan to start shooting (and collecting!) the footage for my next music video this coming week, while on vacation in Cape May, New Jersey. I’ll let you guess for which song off my new record it might be…

-MMcF

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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