The DIY Musician: Music Videos

I'll be the first to admit that I have a problem. It's a serious problem. I have a constant need to be creating things. If I'm not creating something, I'm thinking about creating something, and I'm usually in both of these processes simultaneously with various types of projects. So it's probably not a huge surprise that I became interested in creating music videos to go along with some of my recordings. Given my interest in photography and visual arts, I suppose it's a given that I might start to have "visions" for adding another dimension to these songs. 

I know that videos are usually meant to be a promotional tool, but all of my art-making comes from an "expression-first" kind of a place. I'm not really sure what I'd be promoting, anyway. But there are a lot of wonderful DIY musicians out there who should definitely be using every possible avenue to lead people to their music, and they need to be a little bit creative about getting things done. The internet is a wonderful place for sharing all kinds of experiences... so here are my experiences with creating three self-produced videos for the music from Twilight Songs.

1. Sanctuary -- filmed at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM

Much like the way I hear music before it is written, I could "see" images that could be strung together to make videos for both this song and "Rain." My hope was that the landscape could be the star, and that I could make a few rare appearances as a curiosity, mostly from far away. I took my camera out to Ghost Ranch on a March afternoon, set it on a tripod, and wandered around doing various things. My inspiration for the approach was some of the videos or vignettes that Tori Amos did for her Welcome to England album. In those videos, there was no lip syncing or choreographed performance; rather, she just appeared in various scenes, be it walking through a garden or through the streets of the city. Instead of the typical music video, these short films had a sort of impressionism about them that I thought would be an appropriate accompaniment for these songs.

I ended up on the Matrimonial Mesa trail, which lacked any sort of need for real hiking and gave some great panoramic views right off the bat. The decision to take off my shoes and run around barefoot came almost immediately, since any shoes but hiking shoes really were not an option on that terrain. I love the sequence of running down the trail in slow motion- one of those random shots that I took just to see how it might turn out, but it ended up being the perfect accompaniment to the song intro and to the first strains of the cello. I filmed the intermediate views of all of the breathtaking scenery of Abiquiu. The result is a somewhat dreamy vignette that doesn't really tell a story, but just adds a visual dimension to the song.

2. Rain -- filmed in the Ojito Wilderness, NM

For "Rain," I knew I needed a landscape that was as dusty and devoid of water as the lyrics indicate. I drove out to one of my favorite spots, the Ojito Wilderness, outside of Bernalillo, NM. In true Marrolli fashion, I was actually trying to do too much at once. I was trying to shoot an informational video at the same time as the shots for a video for "Rain," so I was getting a hodgepodge of material. Also, because spring in NM, it was super windy. Heavy cameras on tripods in the desert in spring can be a serious health and safety hazard. Needless to say, at one point the tripod blew over. I grabbed it to save my camera and proceeded to rip open a finger, which brought out the Irish-Italian in me. I got mad, threw everything in the car, and proceeded to bleed all the way into Albuquerque where I could find a brewery.

I began putting together a little bit of a video, which survives as the first 20 seconds or so, and thought it was really cool but figured I did not have enough shots from the session. I always thought I would re-attempt it at a later date. But, as you may know, life became crazy and suddenly I was getting ready to move to Alabama. I tried taking some additional footage, but realized that it was just not right for the song stylistically. More on that later. I realized that the first little bit I had done really was in the right spirit for the song and decided to put my creative thinking cap on. I spliced together various pieces from the hodgepodge of videos that I took on that spring day and came up with something that I think is really interesting, despite the fact that I am on screen much more than I originally would have liked. Some additional leftover shots from the day that I shot in Abiquiu, along with one still photo, rounded out the video. I like the result. It's rhythmic and, I think, creative, with some nifty editing responsible for me appearing and disappearing in various spots of the desert landscape.

3. I Know the Angels -- filmed in various and sundry places

So, that redo footage that I shot that absolutely did not work for the "Rain" video? It became the impetus to do one final video as I was leaving NM. This video was shot entirely on the iPhone 6, which I would highly recommend for indie musicians. I think the quality is really quite nice, and it also can be attached to a tripod. The shots are from Cerrillos, various places around Santa Fe, and on the road as I was driving out of the state. The song was originally one that was written with absolutely no intent in mind, but it came from a time where I was writing a good bit about endings and moving on. I know what and who I was writing about even though I didn't set out to do it at the time. It's an extremely simple song about wishing someone well on the journey of their life. What better way to draw the curtain on my time in NM than to set all of these images to this song?

All in all, I'm really pleased with the way these came out and I'm glad they exist, however anyone else would like to receive them. I would encourage any indie musicians to be really creative with how you get videos done. If you have the budget to hire someone, by all means use their expertise, but we all know that's not an option in many cases. Don't be afraid to try it yourself! Use the landscape or interesting settings. If you want to lip sync, cool, but if you don't want to there are other options. Try out the iPhone for shooting video. And if it doesn't feel like your visual component is in harmony with the song, don't be afraid to go in a different direction. Be creative, and have fun!


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