Imagine you’re putting together a basketball team. You’re the coach and the GM. Over the course of a year you hand-pick your players from the best schools and playgrounds you know of. Some are more talented than others. Some are a little raw but have potential. You don’t get every player you try to recruit, but you do the best you can to construct the best team possible.

This team means a lot to you, and you are dedicated. Throughout the year you spend every spare moment you can with the players. Usually you work one-on-one with them, spending hours and hours in the gym, on the playground, anywhere there’s a hoop. You make them do drills. You see them getting better. Sometimes they disappoint you. Sometimes they amaze you. Sometimes you practice for hours and you don’t make any progress at all. If anything, it looks like they’ve gotten worse.

You sacrifice time with your family in an effort to make these players the best they can be. Often the players confide in you, and in the role of counselor and friend you stay up late with them, giving them as much time as they need. You spend entire weekends with them traveling to exhibition tournaments.

In these experiences you laugh together. You cry together. You share moments and make memories. You become close. Each player becomes part of your life. Part of you. You love them. You want them to succeed more than anything.

Time passes and the season is now upon you and your team. One day someone hands you an official roster form to fill out. Team Name… Coach’s Name… easy stuff. You see that there are 12 rows on the form for player names.

But you have 18.

You knew pretty well who your starters would be, and who would probably be the first few off the bench. You knew some players would see less playing time – that’s just part of the game. In the back of your mind you knew there were only 12 on a team (this isn’t your first coaching job after all), but throughout the past year you’ve grown close to ALL your players. So close that you forgot that they can’t all make the team.

Now what do you do? How do you decide who makes the team? Do you exclude those with less talent and more heart, or vice-versa? The one who can’t make free throws but hustles like crazy? The one who can hit the 3 but doesn’t try hard on defense? Some people tell you that #7 is good. Some people don’t like #7 but love #3. #8 can rebound really well but turns the ball over too much. You have a special bond with #13 but deep down you know he’s not good enough. #5 had special circumstances and you had to spend more time and a lot of your own money on him. You brought in assistant coaches to help you with #9… and so on.

It goes deeper than all of that though. You’ve invested so much in each player that quantitative judgments can no longer be made. Every decision is personal. Every player you cut feels like cutting part of yourself away.

That’s how I feel about this album. It’s almost finished. As it has taken shape, it has become clear that some songs just won’t make it. I’m not the type that can walk into a studio and spit out a song or two or three in one session. Every song takes me many hours… weeks, months in some cases, and every song has meaning. After all that time and effort, it’s painful when a song just doesn’t turn out that great. I meant every word I wrote, and every note or sound was where I wanted it to be, but in the end it just doesn’t flow right or just doesn’t sound good. I guess it’s easier if someone else is making those decisions, but song filtering is the hardest part of being your own executive producer.

As the coach, you always hope the team you put out on the floor plays well, and you hope people enjoy watching them play. The crowd will never miss seeing the players that were there through all the rigors of training camp and preseason practices but ultimately didn’t make the team. But you will miss them.