Dalton Sutton Musician. Software Developer.
  • And lately, I think we can all agree that 2020 was no one’s year. I had started the year with optimism. I knew it was going to be a year of learning and struggling, I wasn’t sure how much of that was going to be learning, and how much of that was going to be struggling.

    In January, I moved into a new house with my dog, Brava. I had lived with my brother and his roommate for a short time before moving out of state, so moving into a house that was completely ours was new and exciting. I wanted to make sure I had a big backyard that I could play with Brava in, and I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a place that had that.

    I had plans in April to travel with my work to Nashville, Tennessee to help set up a fair that my company puts on in different locations across the US every year. I had helped out at our local one in October of 2019 and had come to enjoy it. It gave me a sense of what I was working for and why it mattered. I was able to meet new people and get a sense of how people in the midwest were. I enjoyed it a lot so I was bummed to hear in February the fair had gotten canceled due to the Coronavirus.

    When March rolled around, I had found out that my parents and brother were planning to travel to Kansas to surprise me, but had to cancel the trip. It was a huge bummer and it had hit me that I wasn’t entirely sure when it was that I was going to see them again. I had planned with the rest of my family in Kansas to visit NY for my Father’s 50th birthday in May to surprise him, and we had to end up canceling that as well. It was a sad realization that traveling wasn’t in the books for 2020. This was already the longest I’ve gone without seeing my family in my entire life. My work had informed everyone that we would be working from home until further notice as well.

    April and May kind of seem like a blur to me. There were days I would feed my dog and then couldn’t remember if I did or didn’t a little bit later because I was confused with the previous day. And if you know my dog, she likes to pretend you didn’t feed her even when you definitely did. I mainly just worked from home and spent as much time with Brava as I could. She was super happy I didn’t have to leave the house and we got to play outside quite a bit. Around this time I also bought a Raspberry Pi and went down that rabbit hole learning some cool new things like setting up a web server and using your router to route it to the internet, how to make a VPN, etc. That was neat.

    In June, I had decided it was time for a new MacBook Pro. My 13-inch was awesome, but I was ready for something with more power, more kick. I wanted something I could code on for work, inside or outside the office, but also make albums with and have the luxury of doing that anywhere I needed to. I ended up taking my Mac Mini I used for audio production with me to places more often than I thought and it ended up getting real old, real quick. I bit the bullet and purchased a MacBook Pro 16-inch. I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. My productivity went up almost immediately. I was ecstatic to get away from the butterfly keyboard fuckery that Apple burdened us all with. Side note, I had purchased the 2020 iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard with it and fell in love with it. So when Apple announced the 16-inch MBP with the Magic Keyboard AND a physical function key, I was sold. I’ve been using that as my main computer for the last half of this year and absolutely love it. I didn’t love the price, but for what I do, it made sense. Little did I know, buying the 16-inch MBP was my best move in 2020. Which, is why I totally dedicated this entire paragraph to it. I don’t even care.

    At the end of June, my friend Quory Soluri, who I had last played in a band with before I moved, was dealing with some things and I had reached out to see what was up and if there was anything I could do to help out. He found himself in a situation where he felt he needed to get away from the other members of that band and go his own separate way but was unsure how. Being in the band with him and knowing the other members, I knew how hard he worked and contributed compared to the other members. I mean, he came up with the name and had such an overwhelming influence on the music, I considered it his band. The members had started to hijack the band’s Facebook page, which had over 10,000 likes and followers, something Quory work very hard at achieving, so it was rough seeing that happen and him having no way to deal with it. It was creating drama and a divide between people in the music scene.

    Quory had learned that he was removed as an admin of the Facebook page, but was added back for whatever reason. He researched as much as he could and learned that he couldn’t remove the other members or any of the posts for one week. When that one week was over, he would have the privileges to do so. So he came to me with the idea of writing an entire EP and releasing it as soon as he got the page back. I thought the dude was nuts, but it was a killer idea. What a comeback that would be after so much drama. So that’s what we did. Quory is someone who is 9 times out of 10, always writing new music. He has no stop. I’m not sure how he does it, but he does and it’s pretty incredible to watch. While talking and catching up with him, we had both mentioned how much we missed working on music together. We came up with the plan to work together on an EP. I had authorized his computer to use my Logic Pro X years ago, so it was perfect that he could record all his parts in New York and just send them over to me in Kansas to mix. So he started writing and recording as many songs as he could within that week. He would send them over to me and within a couple of hours, I would send him a nearly completed mix of the song. After getting the first song mixed and right where he wanted it to be, I created a template and within four days, we had six songs. I’m not even joking. A day or two later, he sent me two more songs we had ended up adding as a b-side to the EP.

    Quory had timed the exact moment that he would gain access to the page again, and as soon as he did, he took it back and made the changes to it that he needed to. I had already uploaded the EP to our distributor, and on June 24th, 2020, Jumping Ship by My Manic Mind was released. We even made physical CDs with all eight songs on it. Within a week, we had eight songs, from nothing, to fully mixed and mastered and submitted to online stores. We enjoyed working together so much that we decided to make My Manic Mind the two of us. He writes the music, and I produce and mix it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. Quory then decided that he was going to release an album every three months on the 24th of that month for a year. No exceptions.

    In August, I had started to go back to the office one day a week. Usually on Fridays. I did this for a while and was enjoying it. I’m now returning to work up to two, sometimes three days a week. I like being able to have the choice of working at home and hanging out with my dog, but when I need a change of scenery to focus on something, I do like being able to dive into that routine of driving into work, stopping for a coffee, sitting down at my desk, and saying good morning to a couple of people. You know, actually seeing other people and being a human outside of your house. I kind of missed it.

    Also in August, I was able to mix Quory’s cousin, Bella’s debut EP. Quory’s whole family is pretty talented when it comes to music. His father, Tony, for those who don’t know, had been my music instructor/guitar teacher since I was 15 years old. I have a very deep respect for Tony and Quory for the knowledge of music, and friendships they have both given me. So I was happy to be able to work with Bella on getting her first EP out there into the world. For those interested, you can find it online anywhere under “Letter in the Lion’s Mouth” by Mirabella Phinney.

    I also celebrated Brava’s 6th birthday in August. I still can’t believe she’s 6 years old.

    September finally rolled around and I started getting notifications of when I was saying goodbye to all my friends before I moved to Kansas. It was sort of nuts to realize I had lived on my own, in a different state, halfway across the country, completely on my own. I had proved to myself that I could do it. As a kid, I got scared of things fairly easily, so I am very proud of myself for where I’m at now. It’s not easy being away from people you’ve known most of your life, and especially family, but it was a reminder that it’s important to know how to be self-sufficient and learn to live not dependent on others. It also proved to me that I’d be alright if I had to pick up and move somewhere new. Kinda eyeing South Dakota maybe at some point? I’m happy in Kansas at the moment and that’s all that matters to me at this point.

    In mid-September, Quory and I had finished “Floating By (Revisited).” This was a completely re-recorded and re-worked album of the same songs we had first worked on together as a band back in 2018. It was fun to revisit some of those songs and re-work them to fit the style Quory has drifted into. I prefer it over the original album. The original Floating By album was the first album I’ve ever worked on, so there’s a ton of things I would have done differently to the mix now. Floating By (Revisited) was released on September 24th, 2020, exactly three months after Jumping Ship.

    A week later, Quory sent me 15 songs, completely finished for his first full-length album that would be released in December. I’m mentioning this now because I circle back to this later.

    I feel I need to mention the fact that I also redesigned My Manic Mind’s website and thought it would be super sick to design it as if it was 2007 and we were on Myspace at the time. So I looked up screenshots of the old school, nostalgic profile layout everyone knows and loves. I sat down and re-coded everything using Tailwind CSS. You can check it out at https://mymanicmind.com/

    In October, I had gotten the itch to write some songs of my own. I’ll be honest, last year when I wrote my end-of-year post, I came up with the goal of challenging myself by writing a new song/idea every month. And I failed at that. Well, kind of. I was doing good until June-ish when I started working with Quory on Manic stuff, so I’m going to blame him for that even though it’s really just me being lazy and didn’t want to throw myself into too much at the time. But I had sat down and written a new song that I hope will see the light of day in 2021. That’s all I’m gonna say right now, but I’ve got some cool ideas on what to do with it and a couple more songs I’ve written this year as well.

    November was rough for my family and me. We had to say goodbye to our family dog, Rommel. He had been apart of our family for almost 13 years and was starting to deal with getting older. I felt really bad for not being able to be in NY during that time, but it might have been better that the last time I saw Rommel, he was still in his prime.

    In mid-November, I had decided to try my hand at working with a new web framework, Next.js. Next.js is built on top of React.js. I’m a PHP developer. I have been for the last 10 years. I’ve never really fully dived headfirst into anything Javascript-first before but I started seeing some of my favorite developers on Twitter using Next.js. And so naturally, I started looking into it. And at first, I was overwhelmed with how much I had to learn if I wanted to use it. It had so many impressive benefits to using it over PHP. So I started watching Next.js tutorials every night as I fell asleep. That sounds weird to do, right? But I did that so I could see how other developers would do when they started using Next.js from scratch on a new project. After a week or so, I decided I’d give it a try. So I decided I would redo my personal site and use that as a test. I didn’t know if I was going to use it for real or not but just wanted to try it. I couldn’t get the thought “I built this using Next.js” out of my head. For some reason, I was obsessed with learning it. So I did. I opened up the documentation and struggled my way through a finished site. For my first time developing something completely outside of PHP, I was damn proud of how it turned out. I was pulling in data from my database through an API in real-time and everything. I should mention I did use Vue.js inside Laravel a few times, but Next.js feels more detached and it’s own thing. I think because it’s built on top of React that I feel that way. Long paragraph short, I was hooked and I now use Next.js for everything. I’m not kidding. I switched like seven sites over to Next.js within a week or so, maybe? It’s nuts how much I’m in love with using it.

    In late November, Quory, Bella, and I released a Beartooth cover of “Afterall.” That was something completely different and new that was fun to work on. For those interested, it’s available to watch and listen to here.

    December 2020 was absolutely, hands down, the craziest, busiest month of this entire year for me. The first week of December, I got the itch to redo my Closures App. I had been wanting to redo it for a long, long time. Every time I learn a new framework, I almost always use Closures App as a guinea pig so that I can say I’ve used such-and-such before on like a resume or something. It gives me that real-world experience with whatever I’m learning at the time. Last year, or two years ago (can’t remember), I built Closures App in Laravel using Vue.js as the front-end. It was also my first time using Tailwind CSS and Closures was my guinea pig for that as well. It was sloppy. Things worked, but it loaded slowly. As I said, it was due for an update. So I redesigned and re-coded everything using Next.js. Now it is even simpler than what it was, but faster and provides users with Covid-19 info in their state. That was overdue. So, overall, I’m super happy with how that turned out. You can check that out by visiting https://closures.app/

    As I was working on Closures App, it was dawning on me that Quory had sent 15 completed songs to me back in October and I haven’t started on them yet. And it was set to be released on the 24th. So, I went to download all the songs he sent and start on them. I went to download the first song and realized I had waited too long, and the link had expired. So I sent him a late-night text saying I suck and let it expire, and he would have to resend me everything. He woke up at 2 am to use the bathroom and had seen my text and sent me the first song so I could get it started. I didn’t expect him to get back to me that night but I ended up having that song mixed and to him before he woke up again. And after a week, we had 14 songs done. We ended up scraping one. It was funny because I had booked a flight to New York on the 19th to spend Christmas and New Years with my family. And he had wanted it finished before I got on the plane. So he did a great job of pushing me to get it completed before I left or I would have waited until the last minute. “Chasing Stars” was released on December 24th, exactly three months after Floating By (Revisited).

    As I mentioned, I booked a plane to New York from Kansas City so I could spend time with my family for the holidays. I cleared it with my work and told them that I’d still be working remotely. I got approved and up until I was sitting down on the plane, I had every doubt that I wasn’t going to see my family this year. 2020 has been the year of “everything that could go wrong, went wrong” and I wasn’t so confident in the likelihood of actually seeing my family.

    I was fortunate enough to have my Aunt and Uncle watch Brava for me. I owe them a lot for their help. On the 19th, my Aunt drove me to KCI and I flew for the first time since I was 2 years old and we flew from Hawaii to California. On the first plane, I sat next to this gal that had to have been my age and noticed she had the hardest time staying awake. I noticed this because she would fall asleep sitting up and then I’d watch as her head would fall and she’d catch herself. Watched this happen like 2 dozen times. I felt bad because I assume she didn’t care for flying much if she was that drowsy. She ended up accidentally falling asleep on my shoulder a few times. It was all good though. Had a three-hour layover in Philly. Then took another plane to the Watertown airport. Not too bad. Landed a bit early, but eventually was able to finally see my family after 15 long months.

    I was able to see my two best friends, Quory Soluri and Nathan Kennedy. Went to a small Christmas gathering and saw a couple more buddies. Had an awesome Christmas morning and dinner with my family. Spent New Years with my family and played a ton of card games. This was probably the best Christmas I’ve ever had. Honestly. After such a terrible year, I’m so happy I was able to end it on a high note.

    On New Year’s day, I was able to link up with Quory one last time and we recorded something we think is special but not sure exactly what to do with yet. So we’re gonna sit on that until the time is just right to release it if we decide to.

    To wrap up this very long update to a very long year, this year could have been a lot worse for me as it has been for many others. People lost their jobs, lost loved ones, and had their entire livelihoods changed and flipped upside down. My heart goes out to the many people who suffered in any way to how Covid has affected them. My main hope in 2021 is that we can get a handle on this situation we’re all in and get back to whatever normal was again. I, like many others, miss being able to take my mind off life and go to something as simple as a concert and let it take my stress away for a few hours, or go see a movie and laugh with other strangers for a while and forget our worries for a bit. Things like that are healthy for people’s mentality and it’s worrisome we haven’t been able to experience that and we’re unable to know when we can do that stuff again. All that was nearly impossible to do in 2020. So I hope we can get a little of that back in 2021. I also hope that we don’t go as insane as we did in 2020.

    There are a lot of things happening in the country and around the world. We should be treating others the way we would like to be treated, without exception. We all need to think twice and act once. I feel like that alone would solve a lot of the root issues we’re having in society. But I’m just a dude typing things on the internet. What do I know? We are all human. We are all imperfect. But it’s not always hard to know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. Let’s be nicer to one another this year. We’ve all just been through a lot.

    Respect, take care, take chances. Happy New Year.

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