Wednesday, April 17, 2013

new CD project

I promised the what why & how... :-)

What I'm doing - recording a CD.

Why - though my music is available via ReverbNation (note to self - I need to get SoundCloud updated with the newer material...), I have people that ask for a CD. Plus when I play somewhere it's a common question. Not everyone is on the Internet and not everyone downloads music. There are even people that prefer something they can hold, plus people still use CD's in the car, etc.

Then there's the times that I would like to submit songs to a publisher or artist for consideration. Though some will take a download link, there are others that NEED a physical copy so they can play it at a meeting or share it with someone else, etc.

How - I'm recording via GarageBand on a Mac laptop using a Snowball microphone. I am trying to recreate what you'll hear if you come to one of my shows. It's me and an acoustic guitar and not a studio full of musicians. You will hear some minor overdubbing (I'll add some "picking" or acoustic bass - occasionally mandolin to a song, but still very much acoustic) to add some depth, but the intention is for someone to be able to "take home" what they experience live.

Now let me clarify something here... I'm not knocking those that choose to go into a studio and do the full blown "Nashville CD." That's great and I think it has a place, but my primary 'show' is an acoustic one. If you come to a house concert or a songwriter's round or even an open mic, you're going to hear me do an original song with as much feeling as possible put into it. The accompaniment will be my acoustic guitar. If you like the songs and want to hear them again, or to hear other songs of mine, I want you to be able to take a CD and pop it in the car on the drive home and continue the experience. If instead you hear drums and a steel guitar, it's not the same show...

And the converse is true as well... How many times have you heard a song on the radio or the CD over and over and it's hooked into your brain, then you go hear that performer live. It's just not the same thing... First, the studio musicians are NOT the same musicians you see on stage with the performer, so the feel is going to be different. Second, studio tracks are generally poured over and over and processed and tweaked to the point that they are as close to perfect as you can get. We all know live music is far from perfect, but to me that's part of the charm.

So again, I want you to be able to have heard me from a friend's CD and then when you come to a show you're not shocked or disappointed by what you hear. Instead of your first impression being, "this isn't what I heard" I want your first impression to be, "wow - this is so much cooler in person." :-)

I have a couple of tracks already "fleshed out" from when I first recorded them, and I recorded Lower Broadway again last night and added a "picking" acoustic as well as an acoustic bass. I'm going to do at least a 6 song EP and I plan to have it ready when Relay for Life comes around in just over a week. I'm happy to mail one to you - just contact me at any of the methods below. And of course I can take PayPal and I also have a square reader if you want to use a credit card.

One last thing - I'm WAY overdue for a StageIt appearance, but I want to do it at a time that the majority of my friends can attend. Please let me know if you're willing to "attend" and what the best night of the week is for you...

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

fear of writing

Had an interesting Twitter post come through this morning, and it started me to thinking... I was thinking WAY more than I could reply in 140 characters, thus this post...

First, the tweet -

@kevinmontgomery RT @undertheneonsky: Its not the fear of writing that blocks people, its fear of not writing well; something quite different. Scott...

My first thought was to say that I agree with this, but only to a certain point, which of coursed caused me to look deeper inside myself and figure out if *I* have a fear of writing. I don't.

Let me take you back to December of 2011. Vanessa and I were headed to Nashville for a few days of relaxation. I had only been songwriting a few months and only had a very few songs under my belt, but felt like I 'had the gift.' Through another Twitter post we found out that Don Schlitz had some seats open for Bluebird that very night. First, I must admit that I didn't know the name, but a quick Google made us say "WOW" and we bought a couple of seats online RIGHT THEN.

In case you don't know, his biggest claim to fame is writing the Grammy winning song The Gambler, made famous by recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Rogers. That's impressive, no doubt, but when I looked at some of the other songs he had written (or at least co-written) we were both VERY excited to be going! Two in particular - On The Other Hand (a staple of mine over the years, which has a specific point in time that that song takes me back to) and When You Say Nothing at All.

So we get to the Bluebird early and we take our seats and this guy takes the stage. The first song he performs? I Heard it All (On My Radio). I don't know that it was a tremendous hit, but it was a song I knew well and could remember listening to at night while lying in bed (very much like the protagonist of the song did). He went on to do a ton of other songs, of course, and he talked about writing and performing at the Bluebird, etc. A top rate show, to be sure!

But to point I'm trying to make is that he did NOT just do "the hits." He did a good cross section of songs he'd written that you have heard on the radio and several songs that were recent compositions. He told humorous stories as he went and when he did I Feel Lucky he really made people laugh. Again, a great show.

So, do I have a fear of writing? Not at all. Do I have a fear of not writing well? I don't think so. I got to meet Don after the show that night and I intentionally made sure I was LAST in line for an autograph so I could hopefully get to talk to him for a couple of minutes. Well we did, and he was VERY open to talking and giving me "tips" and "pointers" on writing and I've not forgotten anything he's said. One particular question I had for him was (paraphrased here) "should I be writing as much as I can or just write what is going to be the best?" And though he didn't give me a "yes or no" answer, he gave me a great answer nonetheless - "write what YOU want to hear - don't try to write for what you think the radio wants or the publishers want - write what YOU would listen to."

So really the only person I MUST please is myself. Sure I'd love for an artist to want to cut my songs, and sure I'd cash the royalty checks if one or more were to become a hit, but my purpose is NOT to "write a hit song," my purpose is to write, then write some more, then write some more. As long as *I* am pleased with the results that's all that matters in the long run.

Now let me clarify something... I'm a singer-songwriter and I carry my own tunes out to the world (and am working on a homemade CD as well) and I want people to enjoy them, but not every song I write is going to be enjoyed by everyone. I love listening to live acoustic music and I'll admit I don't "care for" every song I hear, but I see other audience members having a response and I realize that beauty really is in the eye (ear) of the beholder.

So if you're reading this because YOU have a fear of writing (or writing well), then I say go for it! Put pen to paper (or type words on a screen, like I do) and create something! Satisfy yourself first and it will ALL be worth it!

Here's my autographed Hatch from that night. It hangs just feet from my desk at work. :-)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing music first

I was about to post this to twitter, but the thought is too long. :-)

I finished a song yesterday by finally coming up with a chorus, but something interesting happened in the process...

I usually write lyrics first, then either come up with a fitting melody, or at the very least I have a melody in my head BEFORE I start to work it out on guitar. Usually it will change slightly from what I'm hearing, so I'm still composing after the lyrics.

A few weeks ago an aunt passed away and I had a song idea during the funeral (a real Dewey Cox moment). Within days I had the first verse worked out along with the melody. A few days later I had the second verse (shout out to Vanessa for coming up with a key rhyming word!) but no chorus. I had just hit a block, but I did go ahead and come up with the melody for the chorus. Over the next few days it changed slightly, but still no words.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. Vanessa is driving & I have my travel guitar (little Epiphone Expedition). She says "why don't you write a song for Colton's wedding?" I replied that I had tried, but couldn't come up with anything to get started. She said, "I'd like to hear it say..." & gave me some ideas. I started strumming & picking Wildwood Flower & "sang a line" hat she gave me. Boom.

I immediately set the guitar aside & grabbed my laptop, typing ideas as fast as they would come, the way Adam Levy taught me. I hadn't gotten very far when we pulled into Colton's driveway. Knowing I have to have a quiet mind & not chatting while trying to write, I set the laptop aside & grabbed my guitar. While we are talking in the yard, my fingers came up with a chord progression. When we left, I played it for Vanessa and hummed a melody.

"Have you heard that before?" I asked, wanting to make sure I had not just copied something from the past. She had not, so I put it aside for a future song & grabbed my laptop - back to writing.

We were headed to Jackson to shop. While she went in the store I stayed behind. Got a verse & realized I was using the melody I had just come up with. It was slightly different, but unmistakably the same basic progression. Another verse. A chorus. Another verse. Another chorus, building on the first.

I went in the store with red eyes where I had teased up. When we got back to truck I shared it with Vanessa & we both cried.

Then yesterday I'm humming the melody to the chorus of "Betty's Song" (working title). Later, while driving between schools, I hum it again and this time words come to me. I had to keep repeating them over and over until I could get stopped and text them to myself.

So - in less that 48 hours I had TWICE come up with words to fit a melody. While I was fine tuning both songs last night (you songwriters will know what I mean... Working on phrasing & such) I came up with a little melody in Am. I've used minors but haven't written a song in a minor before, but after these other two I knew better than to ignore it... I grabbed my computer and using GarageBand I recorded it while playing and humming. Can't wait to see what my subconscious comes up with for that one...

As always, thanks for reading and comments and shares are ALWAYS welcome!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Validation - Part 3 of 3

Part 3 of 3

In another segment, Marie was talking about the song "Live Like You Were Dying," which was co-written by Craig Wiseman. She points out the "Nashville No-No" in the song when it starts, "he said I was..." and the song never tells you who "he" is. She pointed out that NSAI's eval service would most likely point this out and it goes to show you why you don't ignore your gut to follow the textbook way of doing it. Again, a point of validation to me personally, as I've said this all along.

My song Fireproof - - was one of the ones I sent in to NSAI toward the end. He didn't get it... First he said that I repeated statue and should have used a different word. He also said my line "into the furnace bound" was wrong - it should have been "bound for the furnace." He missed the fact that they were "tied up" and not "headed for." SMH Guess he didn't go to Sunday School. ;-)

I'm actually proud of that song in that I told the same story of the Hebrew guys, but used rhymes that were NOT the standard ones you hear in songs on that topic. I think the song is unique and a good bluegrass song, but he didn't think so. But I'm not changing it for him... :-)

Marie points out later in the episode that's "it's a really good organization." I must stop here and concur. I have "met" via the forums people from other parts of the country and had good conversations with them as well as gained at least one co-writer. I say "at least" one because there's a song we worked on together called Wandering Eyes - We have others in the works and there is a lady I "met" there that I'm also collaborating with, but we've not finished anything yet due to MY time constraints.

Steve and Marie both mentioned their own - um - lack of enthusiasm with their experience with the song evaluation service. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that feels that way. Wandering Eyes, for example, was sent in for eval by the other co-writer and he was told "ebb and flow" is not conversational English. That's for Americana, not country, and it should be changed. Well I happen to like Americana and I enjoy being "labeled" as such.  --- do third graders know what ebb and flow means? ;-)

I will say that I had one GREAT eval from lucky #13... I sent in Reflections of You - - and he gave me encouragement as well as some GREAT ideas. The link above is actually where I re-wrote it based on some of his suggestions, and I do think it's a much stronger song. His particular eval would probably make a good checklist of great writing tips. The other eval's I got, though not necessarily "bad," were not helpful as they didn't give me anything to help me convey the message, but instead were filled with what I did "wrong."

I've also decided to stop calling myself an aspiring song writer. That makes it sound like I'm "not there" yet. It's true I don't have a cut - or a hold - or otherwise made any money, but that does NOT take away from the fact that I *am* a songwriter. I have written songs. Period. I don't tell people I'm an aspiring musician, but that I *am* a musician, and have been for years.

Steve addressed me in a later part of the show when he mentioned writers like us will "keep on keeping on" and our audience will find us. Six or twelve months ago that would have been harder to believe, but with the recent "Old Farts and Jackasses" movement, I have faith that "my type" of traditionalistic music is actually in demand. Maybe not the high demand that Kountry radio inspires, but demand nonetheless. Again, a point of validation.

(And no, Steve, that's not what I'm into - LOL)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Validation - part 2 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Later in the show, Steve and Marie talk about the song evaluation service offered by NSAI. I joined for one reason and one reason only - to be able to audition at Bluebird and somehow be discovered there. If you live more than 100 miles from Nashville they will not let you audition unless you're a member. They say it's to make sure you are committed to your practice, etc. That may be the case, but it's also a way of getting dues paying members.

One of the "benefits," and I use that term loosely, to being a member is their song evaluation service. I sent in Lower Broadway -  - and the evaluator said it was too long (I know that - it's built in such a way you can cut out the last verse and/or a chorus refrain and it will still "work") for commercial radio and that none on the radio today would sing it because it's too sad. He suggested I put SOMETHING positive in there so it's not so sad. The purpose of the song is to be "real"and I think sad is the way to go. I've performed this song in public and it ALWAYS gets a great response, and I've had other artists come up to me and talk about how "authentic" the song is. That's a better evaluation to me anyway. :)

I was hoping the eval service would lead to what they call "pitch to publisher." They say that if the song is "ready" it will go higher up the food chain, and I had hoped this song would be recommended. I realized that unless it's something THEY like it would never go further, so I decided not to use the service. Once I had auditioned at Bluebird the third and fourth time and nailed it in my opinion, I realized I'm too "traditional" and I'll never be what THEY are looking for. I realized I had some "free" evals left, though, and I was going to lose them anyway so I sent in a few songs. I pretty well got back what I was expecting. One even told me, "this is not country - this is Americana." I took that as a complement. :-)

Back to Craig - one quote I loved - "it's all about the journey." He mentions that you MUST excite yourself with your own songwriting. If you're not excited by it, how is the world going to? He also said , "life is obstacles - are you focused on your goals or on your obstacles?" That's an encouraging reminder.

Come back tomorrow for Part 3...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Validation - part 1 of 3

This blog post turned out to be so long that I decided to break it into thirds...

Part 1 of 3

I just finished the latest episode of The Commercial Suicide Songwriting Podcast and felt such a validation of my thoughts and methods...

I am currently listening again as I really want it to soak in, and I want to mention a few specific things... Here's the link -

And I am referring to Episode 11. If you are an aspiring songwriter, you should listen. Even if you are not but you are interested in the process, you should listen. :-)

First - as a direct reply to the topic of Immersion - I would be willing to give that a try... In my daily writing, I am much like Steve in that I wait for inspiration to hit. Whenever I do sit down to write, though, I can usually coax something out, but I don't like it to feel forced...

Next, there were some very wise words shared from Craig Wiseman. The first thing that jumped out at me was his comment about not regretting writing any song. You might notice the name of this blog - Life So Far. That's from the great song line "life's been good to me so far" and also refers to my belief that we are who we are today because of everything that's happened to us "so far."

So - he doesn't regret and neither do I. The songs I've written had a purpose - whether it was to work out a personal issue (therapy) or just to work past one idea to get to another. They all mean something to me and probably others as well, once they hear them. ;-)

I find it interesting that Craig "cautioned against being involved in 'the songwriter groups or organizations that are into tearing your stuff apart and making you rewrite it.'" This validates a feeling I've had for a while, but thought I might just not know what I was talking about. :-)

When I first started visiting Nashville as an aspiring songwriter, I saw 'getting a cut' equating to success. Now I was 44 at the time and not the fresh kid in from the farm. I had lived enough and been around enough people in various businesses to recognize marketing when I saw it. Well I saw it right away...

I realized that there is an entire industry built around the wannabe. I don't mean that as a derogatory term... I mean the aspiring artist and/or songwriter that just wants to be or write the next big hit. It seems like everyone has a workshop or master plan. "Come to my workshop and learn the right way to do it" or "join us and have an inside connection with the people in the biz."

Is there anything wrong with this? No, but as a mature adult I recognized it for what it was - a music business that thrives on people wanting to be in THE music business. They are not the gatekeepers, and they are not the key holders to the real gatekeepers, but they market themselves as such.

Why have I never said anything before? Two very strong reasons... First, I didn't want to sound jaded. I didn't want to sound like I'm bitter because I "failed," when I don't really feel that way at all. And second, because I didn't want to spit in the eye of people that MIGHT actually help me some day. A "commercial suicide," if you will.

Now I realize that it doesn't matter how close to the circle you dance, it doesn't get you IN the circle. And at the same time it doesn't matter how far AWAY from the circle you dance, if the right person sees or hears then they will bring you in.

More tomorrow in Part 2...