As artists, we spend hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades honing our craft, learning everything we need to build a body of work that is recognizable in the industry. But, there comes a time when we need to venture outside our creative disciplines to reignite that creative spark within. For 3D illustrator and animator Christopher B. Short, this meant exploring a childhood passion that has been with him for over 40 years. “It all started back in high school.  A couple of friends and I, like most teens in the 1980s, wanted to form our own rock band,” he shares. “The types of music and genres that inspired us were groups like Boston, Heart, Kansas, Styx, Van Halen, The Eagles and The Cars from the 1970s. Then later, the hair-band era of the 1980s had us listening to Def Leppard, Ozzy, Queensryche and Yngwie. I personally had a soft spot for the ballads and songs with a strong cinematic score, gravitating towards the female vocalists with a lower register like Karen Carpenter or Amy Lee.” Short was inspired to create the type of music that he wanted to hear. So he ventured out on a journey that he never expected would take so many twists and turns.

Since the group consisted of three guitarists that were not good at playing music by other artists, they each began writing original songs, comparing notes with each other. “Over the span of a weekend, I had written ten complete songs,” recalls Short. “But, the level of technology in those days (like the legendary Fostex 4-track recorder) did not allow me to properly transfer my work into a professional musical form that I had been envisioning in my head.” For the next ten years, the artist developed roughly one-hundred ideas and concepts for songs. He also performed at open mic nights with his friends and did solo gigs at high school concerts, although these were few and far between. As with everything in life, the demands and distractions of the real world shifted his focus and a career in music never became a viable option. The artist tucked his desire to communicate through music away deep inside. “I kept notes on my work, which I still have with me to this day, along with many precious cassette recordings,” he adds. “I didn’t write any new material for about fifteen years or so.”

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks. “A global pandemic was in full swing and I was in desperate need to find a more focused and creative outlet for my downtime,” recalls Short. “My wife, Lisa L Cyr, suggested that I get back into recording my music.” For the next year, the artist experimented with Digital Audio Workstations (DAW), understanding the inner workings. This new technology made it possible for him to finally revisit all his old song ideas, properly transferring the complicated orchestrations that were bouncing around for decades in his head into a professional format. What happened next was more than the artist could have ever hoped for or even expected.

Going over his vast body of work, the artist soon realized a major issue. “Most of my good songs were written with the skills and style of a 17-year old teen from the mid-80s. I need to do a serious upgrade,” says Short.  “Although a couple of songs were structurally and aesthetically good, I made the decision to cannibalize the rest of the songs, stripping their best parts and discarded the really bad stuff. Many of the songs had missing sections, where I just couldn’t find a part that fit, like a killer chorus, verse or melody. This forced me to dust off my guitar for the first time in over 30 years to create something new to fill those voids. Late one night, I was struggling with a song, trying to craft a new chorus line, and something unusual happened. I started to instinctively go off the beaten path with my progressions, playing chords in groups that I had never tried before. But, it just felt right and it worked!” While it was still fresh in his mind, Short quickly did a live recording of the new chord progression and a melody pattern soon followed. “An old muscle memory became awakened,” shares the artist. “I was able to tap into something inside, creating new material in a way that was so freeform.”

With lots of trial and error, the production of the long-awaited musical project slowly started to take shape. “With maturity and life experience, my retooled lyrics and compositions started to tell a story,” recalls Short. “I started with the very barebones, using a single instrument and vocals. As I move onto different verses or refrains, I would add something a touch different, maybe a harmony or a new instrument. Throughout, more instruments would be layered in. So by the time I reach the climax of the song, I would be in full orchestra mode and a three to four part harmony explosion would ensue.  In addition, I also created seamless transitions between each track: whether it was rain and thunder from an impending storm, the ring of a scary church bell or the howling from a bitter cold wind. ” With music and lyrics at hand, the artist soon realized another roadblock that was keeping the project from moving on to the next level. “Although my singing voice in my youth was decent enough, it just wasn’t professional, shares Short. “Taking cues from other musicians, such as Alan Parsons, Santana and, more recently, Hiroyuki Sawano, who would feature other vocalists,  I made the decision to hire professional vocalists to sing my songs. The best decision I could have made for this project!”

Debut Album Beautiful Sadness by indie artist and producer Christopher B Short. Artwork by Lisa L Cyr. The art for the album has recently won the 2023 Stevan Dohanos Award at the NYC Society of Illustrators.

The long-awaited album is entitled Beautiful Sadness. It takes the listener on a musical journey from heartbreak, devastation and sorrow to self-redemption and salvation. The tragic story reveals a parallel universe where two women, of different eras in time, experience similar emotional turmoil, as they travel down a deep, acrid abyss of self-doubt and depression. Haunted by malevolent and shadowy figures that emerge from a place of pure sadness, the women begin to converge. Tears of sorrow and regret drip down like acid rain, as the figure fades from a life once known. Through the melancholy mist, we experience a musical transformation from darkness to light, as the women connect in time. Learning to coexist with the sadness, a newfound strength is revealed, turning what was once a tragedy into a triumph. “The overall tone of the album leans towards the emotion of sadness, especially with the prevalent minor key with most of my songs,” shares the artist. “I decided on psychological horror, based on the emotional state of a girl after her failed relationship. The cover art for the album was illustrated by artist Lisa L. Cyr. “It is the point of the story where the ghost attempts to emerge from the shadows into the light,” shares Short.  “It truly evokes the visceral emotions that I was trying to achieve with this project.”  The art for the album has recently won the 2023 Stevan Dohanos Award at the NYC Society of Illustrators.

Emergence by Lisa L Cyr   17” x 12″  mixed media on paper

Photo taken by Tim Miller, Art Handler/Exhibitions Associate at the Museum of Illustration for the Society of Illustrators WIP exhibition

The first single for Beautiful Sadness will launch Jan 4, 2024 on most streaming platforms like Spotify. Other singles will be released every other week. The full concept album will debut around the end of March 2024 through crowdfunding. You can check out many of the music teasers on the artist’s YouTube Channel.  You can sign up for the artist’s mailing list here to keep updated on current releases. According to Short, “The process has been transformative for me. It has opened up different creative avenues to explore and with my art, animation and music. For me, what I am doing now is the ultimate form of artistic expression.” For Short, reigniting a childhood passion has become the foundation for something so much more. Consider venturing out from safe shores, seeing where the journey could take you!

 

Have a Wonderful New Year and may all your creative dreams and desires come to fruition! Check out my New Year’s message to all Creative Spirits! Click on the video below.

 

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