That Time I Used PowerPoint to Design My First Album Cover

I bet you didn’t know that I created my first album artwork in Microsoft PowerPoint, did you?

I bring this up to say I didn’t know what I was doing. I also didn’t have any money in my Wells Fargo checking account to hire a graphic designer.

I did, though, have one of those old white Macbooks installed with Microsoft Office.

So I just started trying different colors, filters, fonts (Helvetica Neue Ultralight) until I ended up with what would be, if you now think about it, the start of my visual identity as an artist.


On the one hand it seems silly, maybe even irresponsible. After all, I’d just spent a LOT of money recording the music, so why would I suddenly get cheap on the packaging?

But on the other hand, I was just too excited and close to the finish line to know any better. And if I’ve learned anything in life as a working artist, it’s that done is often better than perfect, as they say.

Even though you might look at the “My Whole Life” cover art differently now, my hope is that it reminds you that you don’t have to know everything to get started on whatever it is you’ve been holding out on, just because you don’t think you have enough money, skill, knowledge, etc.

Look around you (and inside yourself). Whatever you have will work just fine. And remember that the only reason you know my music or are even reading this is because at one point I decided to do the same.


P.S. This was almost the album cover…yikes.

I Hate to Namedrop, but Taylor Swift…

…said she loves my music, so how do you expect me to keep that to myself?

Because seriously, talk about a strange day.

I wake up, check a few emails and one is from the head of my label, forwarding me this playlist Taylor Swift put together on Spotify called “Songs Taylor Loves.”

I don’t really understand. But then I keep scrolling and there I am “Aaron Espe – Making All Things New.”

At first I think, no this can’t be right. But then I think, well who knows? At the very least I will tweet her a thank-you.

A little while later all of her fans start posting and liking and retweeting my thank-you tweet.

Wow, I should tweet about Taylor Swift more often, that’s the trick to tweeting. I’ve cracked the code!

I didn’t crack the code. The trick I found out was that Taylor Swift had “liked” my tweet which meant that the tweet became viral because that’s how much power Tay’ (if I can be so bold now) exudes in one tap.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how my life has changed since that day, aren’t you?

You probably think I’m currently lying sideways on a velvet covered pillow made of European goose down, typing with one hand and sipping a cocktail in the other while people stand outside in a line waiting for my autograph.

Perhaps you think I’ve now won the attention of every music executive in Nashville and they’ve made multiple competing offers on the worst song I’ve ever written (about a dog running over my shoulder and my refrigerator—I was 6, ok?).

I bet you maybe even think that my kids don’t cry or whine any more and they brush my teeth and tuck me into bed.

Well, no.

What is true is that I impressed a few people for a few days. Even got a couple “OMG!!s” from people I haven’t heard from in years.

And honestly, as a creative person, that stuff feels so good. Taylor Swift putting me on her playlist really means a lot and I truly am thankful. I feel like I’ve been validated by one of the most successful people in my field.

But do you want to know what’s interesting to me about this whole thing?

It wasn’t enough.

The feeling went away.

And I was reminded that the only thing that doesn’t go away is the work.

I don’t know what I’d do if that wasn’t my favorite part about music. Writing, creating, collaborating, figuring out how to get something so abstract that pulls on your heart onto a piece of paper, four chords and melody.

And I’m making a sort of pact right now…

…if I ever don’t love the work anymore, that’s when I’m done. That’s when I fill out a Home Depot application.

The day it isn’t about a song anymore will be a sad day for me, but I take comfort knowing almost absolutely that day will never come.

So God bless you, Taylor Swift, but it’s time for me to get back to work.


I Grew Up Without a TV, so One Year My Dad Rented One So We Could Watch the Olympics

We got it from Frank’s TV and Repair. It looked like the kind science teachers would wheel into classrooms on days when they showed videos about corral reefs.

I don’t really remember watching the Olympics so much as I remember having a TV. Because honestly, it was kind of unbelievable. We were a family known for not having a TV. In a small town, that kind of thing is attached to your identity. Kids would make fun or ask questions like, Have you ever seen a movie?

Looking back, I wonder what sort of sales gymnastics my dad had to perform in order to persuade my mom to let a TV in the house. I’m pretty sure she was anti-TV because she was anti-worldly influence. With the Olympics, she let every country right into her own living room.

Actually, technically speaking, the TV was in the dining room, propped up on a wooden chair facing the living room. My guess is that my mom didn’t want to rearrange the furniture. Didn’t want to let that TV get too comfy. Didn’t want us thinking there was a chance we’d transition from a TV-renting family to a TV-owning one.

My sisters, the Molines, and me watching TV.

All this reminds me that the Olympics isn’t just about athletes achieving seemingly impossible feats. To me it’s also about regular folks like my dad doing some pretty impressive stunts themselves. I mean, the odds were pretty much zero that the 1980 US ice hockey team would beat the Soviet Union.

But they did.

And to get a TV past my mom and into her own living room (slash dining room), the odds for my dad were pretty much the same.

But he did.