Monday, June 28, 2010
Hey everyone, as you know I am interviewing friends and colleagues for the 'Acid House Interview' series - I am posting the Can Con interviews up over HERE, and the International ones here (somethingorother about funding). I hope you enjoy my chat with Troye - he's lovely!
We've just begun our second album project with Troye and I can't think how many times I have praised him and his work! He's a real pro and is a joy to work with, just ask Mr. Mellencamp or Corey Cox. Troye is one busy musician, but I was lucky enough to grab him coming out of Nashville sessions for a quick bit of advice for 'up and comers'.
ja ~ Troye! I know you don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to chat with you about the music business and your experiences in it. First, can you tell us a bit about your music background?
tk ~ Hi Jenn, sure thing. My background is in music theory. Not so much classical, but how it's used in jazz, pop, and rock songs.
Understanding scales and chords really got me past just reading music and took me more down a path of playing by ear and coming up with my own arrangements.
I took piano lessons from age 8, but by the time I was 11 or 12 I was noticing how chord extensions worked. My teacher didn't teach me how to build chords, but did teach scales. For example, I would read some sheet music of a pop song that would have chord symbols and I remember seeing a Bb13sus4. I had no idea what that meant, but I played the notes that were written out on the sheet music and noticed the extensions from the Bb major scale. I loved the sound of that chord so much, I started transposing it to hear it in different keys!
Some people get "bitten by the bug" and dive into a certain artist or transcribe solos or whatever, but for me, it was understanding chords and scales.
ja ~ I have been talking to artists about wearing a lot of different hats these days, where in the past a label would take on all the work, and now it is up to the individual artist. Are you a jack-of-all-trades?
tk ~ Yes, Jack-of-all trades and master of one! I'm really just a piano player, but that has led to audio engineering, composing, singing and arranging background vocals, playing organ and accordion.
Whenever a young musician asks me about the biz, I make sure to let them know how flexible they will need to be. Yesterday I had to learn (re-learn) Bohemian Rhapsody to play with a violin soloist. Tonight I am playing with a country artist, and my next project is to chart some jazz tunes. I love all kinds of music, so being a session player is great for me. I would get bored with just playing one genre.
And yes, marketing is important, but that can be part of every gig you do. For example, if you get a call to play with a band, be a pro by being prepared, and then perform your best. You'll meet other musicians that will notice how professional you are and will call you again, that's easy marketing. Try to really listen and play what's appropriate for the artist. If you can change styles by the way you play and the sounds you use, your chances of getting work will increase.
ja ~ I know the Internet has changed the music business in lots of negative ways, but is lots of positive ways as well. For example we work very well together over long distance, can you maybe talk a bit about working over the Net and add some key points that can make it successful?
tk ~ Yes, thanks to the Internet collaborations are now happening all over the world and it makes clear communication is more important than ever. You have to have a good understanding of what the artist wants. Having some musical references is a good idea since you'll be working in separate rooms. For me, I'll listen to the references, but always add something of my own. If I get an idea that takes me down a little different path, I'll go with it. Fortunately, even if I think I've gone too far, I'll send it off and usually get an overwhelming approval! Even if you have to redo something and dial it back a notch, the artist or producer will appreciate that you are invested in the project.
ja ~ Ok, now for emerging artists, do you have any advice on working in the industry today, new strengths that would be beneficial, it's not like the old system where you just go out and play sessions or with your band and that's it. I wonder if young people today even have that 'rock star' dream, or if their expectations are different?
tk ~ The "Rock Star Dream" has changed because of technology. We used to look at liner notes and wonder what these band members were like, and now we download songs, and if we want to see the band, we'll go to our phones and see them in action, either in a playing situation or not.
My advice for a young artist would be to always bring your "A" game. Just because you don't have a record company coming to a gig on a certain night doesn't mean that someone won't record your performance and let the rest of the world see!
ja ~ Ah so true! Not only their 'A' game, but their professionalism, even when starting out, I have seen and heard of some things new bands have done, and I know there will probably be some regret down the road!
And speaking of new and young bands, do you have any tour or advice from the road? I think you are one of the busiest artists I know, and have a really busy road schedule!
tk ~ Haha yes!
As far touring tips I would say, don't get 'numb' or 'complacent' when you play shows night after night. Remember that the people out there probably bought their tickets weeks ago and are expecting to see a concert, not just a band. You left home for a reason, don't get distracted and make each show special.
ja ~ Wow, yes, ' You left home for a reason', that's a really good line, and great advice. Thanks for your time on this Troye, I know you're busy!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
My first interview is with Jason Wilber. We have known Jason here at Rave On for a few years now, and he has played on 4 of our album projects. He is a talented artist, multi - instrumentalist and all-round super nice guy!
ja ~ Jason, thanks so much for participating! Can you tell us a bit about yourself to start things off?
jw ~ Sure, I was born and raised in Indiana. Live there still. I started playing guitar in local bands when I was in my early teens and progressed from there into playing with regional traveling bands and then in my mid twenties I started playing with John Prine, which lead to playing guitar for other singer-songwriters in the folk/rock/country vein. I'm a singer-songwriter myself and have released 7 records of my own.
ja ~ I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about how in today's
industry, you really need to be a business person, marketing expert,
social media pro and jack/jill-of-all-trades..can you talk a bit about
all the different things you do?
jw~ I think that has always been the case really. The idea that you can just
play music and someone else will take care of all the business and marketing stuff is a mostly fallacy.
When you get to the point that you can afford to have other people working for you to do that stuff, you still have to understand how the business works so you'll know if they are doing the right things. Although, sometimes it's hard to know what the "right things" are!
Being an independent musician is much like running any other small business. You have to do bookkeeping, marketing, keep inventory, pay taxes, etc. and of course play music. I read a Herbie Hancock quote that said,
"You should spend about 50% of your time on music and 50% of your time on business".
I think that's a pretty good guideline.
ja ~ I am guessing that the emergence of the Internet and social media has made the business of music a lot easier...
jw ~ The Internet has definitely been a game changer. Much of the way I operate business wise today would be impossible or much more difficult without it.
ja ~ For emerging artists, do you have any advice on working in the
industry today, new strengths that would be beneficial, it's not like
the old system where you a) have loads of talent b) get signed = c)
you're off and running (I wondering if young people today even have
that rock star dream, or if their expectations are different?)
jw ~ I would say, never stop learning as much as you can about your art and the business surrounding it, work harder and longer than the next guy or gal, learn about your own strengths and weaknesses and how to get the best out of yourself, and put yourself in an environment where you'll come into contact with the people you need to meet to further your music career. If you do all of those, you'll probably develop an understanding of what else you need to be doing to succeed.
ja ~ People who read this may be anyone from emerging artists all the way up to industry professionals, is there Anything else you think is important to talk about? Anything you think is helpful or info to get out there would be great - you really have your foot the door to both worlds, as you are both artist and business person, and so it is interesting, to hear your thoughts...
jw ~ Sure, I would say first of all, only try to play music for a living if you can't stand not to. Because it's really not a great business to be in if you're a musician, for a whole variety of reasons that I won't go into here, but mainly because of too much supply and too little demand.
However, if you're going to be playing music all the time anyway, and you don't mind working really hard for very little money, possibly indefinitely, and you can handle endless boatloads of rejection punctuated by occasional moments of encouragement, then you might like playing music for a living. That may sound discouraging, but I think it's pretty accurate. Ask some other working musicians if you want a second opinion.
All that said, I sure can't complain. Music has been good to me and I feel very fortunate to make my living playing music I love.
ja ~ Thank so much Jason, we're happy to know you, and it's great working with you, we're very fortunate!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I met Skulastic through an artist that I was working with who had just collaborated with her on a few songs (mrdc-music.com check him out). I myself had never worked on hip hop, or really knew anything about the genre, but after the first song, I actually began to think and write in hip hop (stanza's?) - so cool and very poetic. With the perfect balance of drive and talent, I predict Skully is going to make it to the big time.
ja ~ Hi Skully, can you tell us a bit about and a bit about yourself as a singer/
s ~ Sure! I was born and raised in Vancouver BC, and moved to Nanaimo about 7 or 8 years ago. So far the only job I have been able to hold has been music, apart from that I excelled in academics (hence the name skulastic ...lol) and have a business degree. I enjoy teaching and learning about everything this world has to offer.
ja ~ When did you start writing and playing and becoming serous about music?
s ~ As a child, I grew up playing classical piano. My mother is an opera singer/piano player, and her father is a piano/harmonica player, also, my dad's father was a violin/voice instructor. So, I come from a very musically rich family.
I started to write random poetry towards the end of High-school. Someone exposed me to rhyming, bars, and flow, and I took that and my poetry, and already had a natural passion for music, so I just put it all together and went with it. I was very lost, not knowing what I was put here for, and when I discovered it was music I had this big "ahhh...that's what I'm here for" type of moment.
ja ~ That's awesome, I love those moments. Where are you at now in your career?
s ~ I don't think I have even begun to scratch the surface. Right now, I'm still out to define my sound, explore my possibilities musically and what not, I want to grow as an artist, and have my listeners/fans and even critics grow with me, and vise versa.
If I could use a couple words to describe myself as a mc/producer/singer/songwriter it would be "versatile, multi-facited, and re-inventive". Recently, I have been involved in a lot of great collaborations. I am very thankful and feel blessed to find people I mesh so well with musically. I don't want to limit myself to just rapping, I want to involve myself in producing and song writing for other artists as well.
ja ~ Being an 'emerging artist' in today's world (and female artist in your
genre?), what challenges do you face or...has social media helped you solve any of those those challenges ie: remote recording etc??? Connecting?
s ~ Being a "female" pursuing hip-hop has not posed any problems at all. My take on that topic is that if the music is good, people will look past gender, race, religion or whatever it may be. I face the same challenges that everyone else in the music industry faces or has faced.
As far as working remotely, I recently started working with more out of town artists, and we do what we can, but I still think that nothing compares to working with someone in person.
ja ~ How do you find it working n the industry right now, with the sheer volume of artists out there? How do you get noticed, or is that what you want out of your
musical career? Or do you do if just for you and what happens - happens?
s ~ The Hip-Hop industry is highly over-saturated. Getting noticed comes from hard-work, good music and the right marketing. I really feel all those things are essential.
ja ~ Do you feel your specific genre makes it easier for you to get out
there? I mean, I lived for years on Vancouver Island and never in my wildest dreams would I have thoughts that would be a place for your hip hop to take hold! So maybe it's a rare thing on the Island and so easier for you to be 'one of a kind'?
s ~ On a certain level, having a good local scene can be very beneficial for up and coming artists. If the local scene digs it and you have made a name in that respect then you know you can take your music further and expand geographically. Local scene is kinda like testing the waters so to speak. Locally, I have a name established. I see no end to my music and its capabilities.
ja ~ Do you find that your business degree helps with your music career?
s ~ I'd say it does to a certain extent, some of the very basic concepts I learned in business could be applied to the music industry for sure, but on the other end of the spectrum, the music industry is so different, that I am still and always learning.
ja ~ guess that's an important point, no matter what you 'know' you still have to be open to learning and changing. Thanks Skully!
Monday, June 14, 2010
I admit, I have judged more than one book by it's cover. But I do try hard not to. I also try hard to play devil's advocate and to support the underdog.
Cliches aside, I try to be the best version of myself, most of the time.
I have run into a few walls since I've been a professional in this industry, because there are lots of stereotypes out there.
I know negative stereotypes start somewhere, and are probably perpetuated by some, in order to maintain themselves...but wow it feels awfully bad some days when you get hit with them.
I like to put my energy towards perfecting my work, and not thinking negatively about people...I am only writing this to empathize with people who have been in these ill-fitting shoes, and to remind people to always take the higher road if they run into this situation.
There's lots of room in the sandbox for everyone kids, play nice.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Well, we're still down with flu, so I borrowed Bob for the day - Enjoy!
Subject: Be So Good They Can't Ignore You
Sounds simple. But most people don't heed this advice.
Practicing the piano for ten years does not make you creative. It just allows you to replicate what's been done before. But writing something new?
People put in the effort and wonder why they're not famous. The world is filled with journeymen, skilled at their jobs, just check out the band in the lounge, frequently those cats can play. But they're not famous. Because to be famous you've got to make jaws drop, people have to forgo other activities to see you, people have to want to tell others about you.
In order to succeed, you've got to innovate. In such a way that a large percentage of the public cares.
There's always someone who is breaking so many rules that few can get into their music. You know, the lead can't sing, but that's intentional, why be like the guys on Top Forty radio? And the time changes are there to demonstrate they've got chops, not just anybody can play this music. And the noise represents anger... Why is it so many unlistenable acts can write a complete thesis on why their music sounds like it does but you don't want to listen to it?
Conversely, there are those who insist on playing by the rules, taking the easy way out. You might make it, but it's going to have little to do with your talent. It's gonna be about your relationships and your marketing, and your spot in the firmament is always at risk, someone may steal your thunder, whereas nobody's gonna steal Springsteen's thunder.
Bruce's way out was the live show. In an era where bands were four or five pieces, the E Street Band was huge. And they were honed and practiced. To the point when you saw them live, you were blown away, even if you didn't know the material.
This is the essence of Phish. With a few additional elements. A sense of humor, a willingness to take risks, the choice to not do it the same damn way each and every night.
Then there's Elton John. A nobody one day, everywhere the next. That was the power of "Your Song". Furthermore, when you bought the album you found out Elton wasn't a one hit wonder, and that NOTHING ELSE ON THE RECORD SOUNDED LIKE YOUR SONG!
You never know when the audience will get it. I keep talking about seeing Prince at Flippers Roller Disco. I liked "Dirty Mind", but I had no idea this guy took his music this seriously, that he was this good a guitar player, this good a performer. I went home and played the album incessantly, and am still testifying about this show DECADES later!
It's an incredible challenge. To employ a classic art form, pop music, but come up with something new. But it's this new thing that excites us, that not only makes our blood boil but makes us tell everyone. Kind of like "District 9". My inbox is filled with fans. People saying it was their favorite movie of 2009. The establishment didn't get it, they'd rather fawn over "Avatar", but "District 9" got inside your system and affected you much more than James Cameron's opus. "District 9" had allegory, had humanity, felt real even though it was science fiction, the film could not be denied.
Too much of today's music can be denied.
You can play it for a friend and he can ignore it.
But you could not ignore Jimi Hendrix... Nothing else sounded like "Are You Experienced"!
"Like A Rolling Stone"? Like nothing else on the radio.
And my go-to track from this decade, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". It sounded like a late night gin-soaked romp, you heard it once and needed to hear it again and again.
We're in the era of marketing. Because it's so damn easy. You can just go online and tell your story. And isn't it interesting that as more people are selling, fewer albums are moving...both sales-wise and emotionally. (Album Sales Plummet To Lowest Total In Decades: http://bit.ly/92jZnd)
The key is not to find a way to get your music in front of people. The key is to create music so good that it builds its own audience. You've just go to put the track online and people find you!
This is so hard. It not only requires perspiration, it demands INSPIRATION! And inspiration comes in a flash after tons of hard work. It's not about coming up with a track in service of your image, that's the Pussycat Dolls, which have the lasting power of a popsicle. It's about having a song so good that people need to play it not caring what you look like.
The basic tools have been denied. No one wants to work on songwriting craft, they'd rather come up with something alternative and different. But Hendrix was a very good songwriter. And as out there as Dylan was on record, his songs went on to be hits for numerous people. Hendrix did a great job with "All Along The Watchtower". And Rod Stewart did a great take of Jimi's "Angel".
These songs had verses, and choruses. "All Along The Watchtower" had lyrics that could not be written by Justin Bieber. "Angel" had an innovative intro and changes that hacks would not even risk.
Don't throw out the verse, chorus, bridge paradigm. Refigure them in such a way that your music is still appealing, even though it's slightly different. And great vocals never hurt.
That was the Beatles' genius.
That is your challenge.
Inspired by: http://calnewport.com/blog/2008/02/01/the-steve-martin-method-a-master-comedians-advice-for-becoming-famous/
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