Squirreling yourself away in solitary confinement is a classic tactic for writing and recording an album. For some of this year’s RPMers, hunkering down with just their instruments and their hearts was the perfect way to turn another serotonin-depleting February into an intense period of quiet self-exploration and rejuvenation. And they didn’t even break for yoga class.

By Sarah Smellie.

Veteran musician and songwriter Al Drysdale describes his second solo RPM effort as a mix of metal, rock and experimental sounds. Some of his songs are inspired by true stories, exploring his feelings on subjects like the Ocean Ranger disaster. He says that the experience allowed him to “keep the spirit of music alive.”

“Now that it’s over, he says, “I feel like I should be making more songs.”

Displaced Newfoundlander Ryan Taylor recorded his album in Alberta, where he presently, and grudgingly, resides. “The sounds of an Alberta basement, two mics, and a homesick Newf on creative over-drive,” is how he describes his one-man project. He says that not having to worry about playing the songs live, or writing pieces for a band, was particularly liberating. “If a song needed 18 guitar parts, a piano and a shaker solo, it got it!” he says.

Steve Haley, of The Human Soundtrack, shook out the cobwebs with his folk-oriented album Two Steps in the Dark. “It’s very much a narrative album consisting of imagistic ghost and fantasy stories. The stories/songs are about witches, ghosts, dreams, dolls, wars and giant squid.” He enlisted Human Soundtrack bandmate Brad Lannon to help him out with a bit of the recording. After purging his ghosts this winter, the two are hoping to creative a more upbeat album for the summer.

If you can believe it, two of this year’s RPM solo artists found the experience of writing, recording, mixing and producing an album, all on their own, in only twenty-eight days to be … relaxing. “I didn’t feel a lot of pressure because I didn’t exactly have a band to let down or anything,” says Mike Minor. “It was a very selfish thing, I did it mostly for my own entertainment … relaxed and folky, with some jazz influence.”

(Of note: the picture of Mike handing in his completed album on rpmchellenge.com does show him gripping two bucket-sized coffees. He’s human after all.)

Brett Vey is another RPM conquerer who magically turned a potential melon-sized ulcer into a laid back adventure. “I personally found the RPM challenge to be the perfect ‘get away from it all’ experience,” he says. Normally a band-oriented type of guy, Brett let his love of music guide him through the process. His concept album, called Her Legacy, tells the story of a woman growing up, from her birth in the first song to her death.

“This sort of challenge really never ends,” he adds, “but keeps springing into other projects, and creates a chain of meeting new friends and writing new songs.”