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Chris Baron / Blog

Pro-ism

Some musicians take umbrage at being called "hobbyist". After all, they have played and performed and practiced their instruments for many, many years. How can they be a "hobbyist" if, whenever they touch their instrument, they impress everyone for miles around with their pomp and classy skills? Here's my take. Once you have: - - - mechanics - ability to replicate - some catalog of memorized original pieces/riffs/sections - - - Then you can Begin to work towards "being a Professional." You can begin to work towards marketing/auditioning your material. You can begin to work towards a "more perfect stage presence". You can begin to work towards a more "professional studio-time presence". You can begin working towards obtaining your own paid contracts. And only then, at this last point, can you honestly call yourself a Professional Musician. It does not matter "how many years you've been playing"; " How expensive or cutting-edge" your gear is; "How great your attitude is" every week at practice; "How creative" your friends tell you that you are; "How creative" that you FEEL you are. These all help make you a "good musician"…but there is that literal aspect of the definition: a Professional Musician secures paid contracts. You can play in a band that gets paid to play, but if you are not the one that obtains a contract, you are a "hired hand", a "studio musician", a "backing musician"…you can't say that you are Real Professional. In that instance, to say that you are is an insult to the hard work and risk that the real Professionals make and take. Another important aspect, more important than gear and weekly attitude and praise from friends: A Professional Musician will always strive to be Better...strive to constantly identify faults or failures; strive to create new and interesting methods; strive Constantly to achieve new personal goals. Like a professional athlete. The best of the best of the best would be the most personally humble and self-critical, and more interested in elevating the level of their band or teammates (in the interest of "succeeding" or "winning") than in personal credit or accolades.

ROLE-Play

How do you tell someone who is extremely talented and full of themselves on their instrument How to play their instrument in a particular song? Its very, very tricky. Almost impossible. Its a skill I've been working on for close to 15 years. I am not especially great at it, and don't really know anyone who is. An effective way of communicating this seems to vary by the person. Some people are easy to direct, others are not. If you say something wrong, maybe even with the wrong inflection, you plant seeds for problems down the road, Even if you can convince that musician to "play it the way you want it to be played" in that particular instance. A very challenging thing, to Lead a Band. In my experience, successful music projects come to fruition when each band member gets an opportunity to fully explore their chosen instrument and exercise their Role. ESPECIALLY at the Beginning. If you want to be a harmonic or melodic player in the band, bring harmonies and melodies, and make them ready-to-go, and communicate them clearly to your bandmates. OWN it: its Yours. If you want to creatively contribute, and you are the percussionist: bring rhythm ideas, like for example "this beat" into "that beat", or just simply: "How about THIS beat, Uh!". The bass player; the fiddle player; the keys player...should just write sweet, signature riffs. Bring it on! I suppose if you really want to be a lyricist, but are uncomfortable with melody and don't want to sing, you can try to bring in poems, and see if the melody and harmony Roles need that extra help; but this might be a hard sell. Having roles defined is not boring or restrictive: its Efficient. Likewise, having a "formula" for your band's sound is not boring or restrictive: its efficient. And ultimately, it allows everyone to take as much creative control as they are comfortable taking, without stagnating progress in petty arguments over "how fair" everything is. I think that each band member sticking into a Role at the beginning of a creative music project is extremely important. I am speaking only from personal experience here. There are probably social and group-psychology theories on the subject, but I will not reference those. There is a recent documentary by/about Chris Theile, a bluegrass songwriter and performer, called "Building A Band." There are plenty of ideas and lots of realistic and practical information there. But, I will only offer it as a footnote that you are welcome to explore, should you not already be fast asleep by this incredibly boring and presumptuous blog entry.

Artichoke Music, reflections on Oct 25 show

Traditionally, the day after a Big show like Artichoke Music on a Saturday, words and wiles will fly out of me into a blog. This writing is coming 2 weeks later; after having listened to the audio recording a few times through; and seeing a few raw video clips courtesy of K8. I have been in and around Artichoke Music since Richard and Jim first bought the place in 2005. By attrition, on their honored stage, I confounded many with my various twists and antics; transitioning from a Rock&Roll artist to a funky-folk storyteller. I also found a home ("…this must be Artichoke…") to express my temperamental compositional whims. Joe Bass and Steve John Waters performed at Artichoke for the first time on Saturday October 25th. Joe had been in the building only once (on a "scouting mission" for our concert-to-be). Steve had come to see The Tummybuckles in October 2013, but other than that was unfamiliar with the scene there. I was proud to introduce them to the community. We three played a pair of sets that were a little more on the "rock arena" side than the room was used to…but ultimately, after 2 months of preparation, Joe and Steve and I were able to fit our honest sound into the confines of the established culture. We were joined by my trusted friends Woody Moran and Karma on a few numbers. It was an Honor to have them as special guests. Thanks to Russ (capturing the audio!), and K8 (3 cameras!), we have a way to mark this concert as a launching point for future success with this project. A DvD to come, and potentially, an original new album. This weekend, Saturday November 8th, this same trio will be bringing our Hard Rock Set to Ash Street Saloon in downtown Portland…a vastly different musical set will be witnessed there, a contrast to our Artichoke presentation and a glance at another side of our collective wide-ranging personalities. Looking forward to seeing you around the bend, thank you for reading.

The Canopy

I have been lucky enough to see quite a few amazing live shows in my life. Its actually pretty hard to pick a top five. Sometimes the bands are simply tremendously memorable performers, like Wolfmother, or The Deftones, or Live. Other times, however, they are sharing something else, something MORE. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Avett Brothers, 311, Floater, Incubus, Victor Wooten, Dave Matthews Band, Rage Against The Machine…these groups go way beyond the music itself, the albums themselves, the classic lyrics and riffs even. There is Wisdom in their craft. A ageless element that does not depend on "The Times". A universal attitude that, without particularly knowing each other, they all tap into collectively. They bind the souls of generations together. CULTURE. My #1 most favorite show I had ever seen was the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Rose Garden in Portland, a huge arena show for the album "By The Way" (2002). I went with Joe Bass, and The Flaming Lips opened. I had actually not been a fan of that Chili's album so far…the songs that made it on the radio as singles to that point were just "ok" to me. Once we got there, though, the thing that struck me about RHCP was that the whole band, all four of them, were so Completely Invested in the music and the moments. Watching them was inspiring, because you KNEW that there was no backup plan. There was no going-through-the-big-arena-tour-motions. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis was actually sick that night; a big part of the magic of the show and the drama was him just simply overcoming it for the sheer love of performing and singing. It was the way a live show should have been, and it has been firmly entrenched in my mind as a defining moment in my budding dream of being a real, living songwriter. And now, I LOVE THAT ALBUM (pssst: buy it). Last weekend, I saw The Avett Brothers at the Britt Amphitheater in southern Oregon. It was the best show I've ever seen in my life. Absolute Tops. They overtook the Chilis, after a decade of other shows by hundreds of bands big and small. Again, I was not a fan of their new album coming in, "Magpie & The Dandelion" (2014), as much as their others. Now, after seeing it live, I LOVE IT. Again, the Avetts and their backing band were all so completely enveloped and invested in the music and the production that it was awe-inspiring. They have a way of connecting and involving the community of fans in a way that I have not seen other internationally famous contemporary bands do. They remind me of my development as a fan of live music with early 311…The Avett Brothers sell a Mood with their show, and whether or not they play "your favorite songs" on any given night, you leave completely satisfied…because its really all about THE CULTURE, not the songs or the lyrics or the skill of the members (original or guests) or the music itself. I mean, it IS all of those things…but…its the Family of Fans & Band that is the most resounding. I figured out that THAT is what I want to see in an artist in the live setting. I don't want them to just write a song or two that speaks to me. I want them to craft a canopy under which we can all gather at our leisure.

I.Love.This.Song. All of a sudden.

Cole Porter. Bing Crosby. Roy Orbison. Willie Nelson. David Byrne. The Killers. These guys were onto something. And now, for no particular reason I can discern, other than I woke up with it one day in my head, and then for the next three days could not get it out...I'm onto it too! Recognize it? "Oh give me land, lots of land under starry skies above...don't fence me in...let me ride through the wide open country that I love...don't fence me in...let me be by myself in the evening breeze, listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, send me off forever but I ask you please, don't fence me in...Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle underneath the western sky...on my cayuse let me wander over yonder till I see the mountains rise...I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences, gaze at the moon till I lose my senses, I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences...don't fence me in..." And we're OFF!

Brand New Website, Soon.

About 2 years ago, Kris Farm had an idea for a website system that was dynamic, bright, and easy to update using simple social media apps. We had www.SearchlightsInMexico.com set up for this purpose. Generation #1 Looked very impressive, with bright full-color photos and lots of information. However, the initial coding idea turned out to be limiting in a few key areas. With "Light Up The Sky" out now, and the website www.searchlightsinmexico.com printed on the packaging as the place-to-connect, the second generation is going to go live very soon! Check back periodically for the slick new generation!

Band Names, Part 1/6

Whats in a name? Fate will explain…I've had enough pain, and my thoughts I just can't contain. I have a professional goal with music: to "make it" into the greater public sphere with a full band.  I am willing to reach this goal as a solo artist...but I would greatly prefer a "band sound."  To me, this concept is no different than any corporate worker having a goal of a series of promotions at their day job.  However, a corporate worker is generally not surrounded by co-workers who are hobbyists.  I don't want to be held back by hobbyist-mentalities dominating my music projects, any more than bandmates with their respective careers of their choosing would want me to try to push them away from their goals with my band activities. There is currently a new project being discussed.  I would really prefer to approach it in the macro sense.  At this juncture, there is irritated resistance within the group to my desire for the Project Name/Brand be related to my name, my past work, or my future goals as a musician.  I am facing this resistance head-on, because I need to be able to carry on with the songs I produce for this project if this particular group decides to disband or never is able to make it into the greater public sphere for whatever reason.  The band name can be *anything, I just need it to help Me out.  This does not mean my full name.  I'm definitely not into that.  I am not a prima donna, and there has never been any evidence of this.  I am totally into collaboration, and there is 15 years of evidence of that.  The reason I need the name to revolve around me is because I take this music thing Seriously, Professionally, and with a long-term Vision.  Even if it is simply a (very) valued hobby for the others, I can work with that disjoint if there is a Brand.  This concept should not affect the standard hobbyist bandmate in the slightest. Really, a good question for each band member is: "What do YOU want out of this band?"  I was never drawn to having my name in the band at any point in my past.  I have a 15-year-history of actively avoiding it.  If anything, "Baron __ " or " __ Baron" would be the absolute most I can imagine accepting.  Although, after thinking about this for a long while, and considering how many bands I've been in and how much career momentum has withered due to disbandment, I kind of wish I had called every group I was in "Chris Baron & The Tummybuckles", "Chris Baron & Evelate", "Chris Baron & Searchlights"...and so forth.  Just in hindsight.  It would have made Today a whole lot easier to work with. Anyway, the point is, my dear new bandmates: Why Not?  That is a rhetorical question. Part 2, then?

Band Names, Part 2/6

Its hard to explain. These voices, they eat at my brain, and resistance is draining. Why not help me out with a serious professional goal?  I have always been completely collaborative and democratic, and that has resulted in some GREAT music in the catalogue.  At the same time, collaborating with hobbyists as equals...has also resulted in some woeful long-term opportunity-cost for me.  I am really in search of some sort of serious band, in the long-run.  I have been in search of that my whole life.  The kind of band that, if given the opportunity, would absolutely not hold back an aggressive gamble in "going for it" (something really musically cool...and a goal of being Recognized for it). I am ok with having this particular new project be agreed upon as a totally fun side project, a hobby for me as well...and if that were to be decided to be the case, I would definitely continue to search for the ultimate band for myself on the side, and I would not write songs for this particular project.  My career priority list would re-structure thusly: 1) Looking for my ultimate collaborative/backing/visionary/fully-committed project 2) Chris Baron Music (solo artist) 3) My new ROCKIN' side project with my friends Mr Bass & Mr Drums! My preference is to make this new band priority number one.  For one thing, we're hot.  And I like it alot. But this will require the concession of the name. Working with me in this fashion will cause no need to quit jobs, cut back hours, increase rehearsal time, start writing songs themselves, or really change anything that they are already doing (I appreciate everything they do already).  It would mean only that my name be included in the band name as a Brand, so that I can do the work I need to do for my career goals.  A general group consensus on this peripheral fundamental point is necessary before I go any further with my efforts.  I have only recently put my finger on the fact that this is the issue that is holding me back from all the hilarious band name suggestions so far. Indeed, I asked myself throughout the past week, including a few sleepless nights: What is my primary goal for The Band? and I discovered that I, personally, want three things, deep down. 1) TO MAKE A RECORD IS MY PRIMARY GOAL. 2) TO BE IN A BAND THAT PLAYS THE SONGS I WRITE, AS I WRITE THEM. 3) TO FIRMLY POSESS A BRAND THAT I CAN CARRY FORWARD MYSELF IF WE CEASE, OR NEVER CRACK THE GREATER PUBLIC SPHERE. Stop reading now if you get the point. Continue to PART 3 if you want me to go more into detail...cuz I feel like writing this all down right now.

Band Names, Part 3/6

Going back 15 years, when I started, I was 17 years old, and my first full-length album with the band One Fry Short was called "Look Behind You." A reference to high-school, of course; but obviously, I was already planning for the long-haul. And to the present day, for sure, my goal, my desire, my destination has been the Same.  My IDEAL band-situation is to be in a group that gets together either for rehearsal or a band meeting 3 days a week, and performs (or records!) the other 4.  I want to be in a full-time band.  If being in a full-time band necessitates performing 7 days a week (touring!), I am fine with that.  This is 15 years of feeling this way.  Mind: this is the IDEAL. About 8 years ago, I realized that I was the only one I knew that really wanted this.  Thus, I decided to put myself in as many local bands as possible.  For example, if I am part of 5 bands, then I have 5 rehearsals a week, and then every Friday/Saturday night I have a gig.  In this situation, every gig was with a different group, every weekend.  And I was playing music (PLAYING MUSIC!  YEAH!!!) every night of the week.  I was stoked.  And so was everyone around me.  They all got to play 2-4 gigs a month and jam once a week (nice and easy, no pressure, full-time job and extra-curriculars intact).  It worked out pretty lux peachy.  The bass player for the new project in question knows about all this...he was with me through it, sometimes as a bandmate, sometimes as a trusted friend…but present through the journey. Fast-forward to now (Summer 2014). All those groups have since disbanded, all for separate and unrelated reasons.  All that effort I put in to each one, though...I am left with the Experience Points (increased skill) and perhaps some leftover CDs that I can try to sell at gigs when I want to "cover" those old songs.  I am left with very little for my efforts in the long run, and it has finally dawned on me that I had lost sight of my original goal, caught up in the moments and momentums of collaborating with others. It should be obvious, therefore, that I am not particularly interested in being in another band that is just a hobby for everyone else, while I am betting my whole life on it.  I do not think that I should put my professional needs aside to accommodate the hobby-goals of others. Get it?  Well, stop then.  Go on your merry way! Want more?  Carry on to Part 4.

Band Names, Part 4/6

I will now go in depth on the 3 things that Chris Baron wants in a Band, and you, dear reader, will further explore why I am hesitant to "just pick a band name" that has nothing to do with who I am or what I need. 1). TO MAKE A RECORD IS MY PRIMARY GOAL. A band can play live as much as it wants, with as cool a name as it can think up, and totally Nail It every time (or most times).  But, a band does not exist in the larger scheme of things without a Record.  And even then, most bands break up after their first or second record anyway.  But still, they Exist because they had That.  This next bit will mean something to you, if you have had a similar experience in the past. The band Searchlights (Dusty Beats & Joe Bass) recorded 17 songs with my #1 Favorite Engineer/Co-Producer Ryan Ferris.  Along with that, we opened for Portland heroes Floater (a goal since childhood for me), made goodly cash playing clubs, and had hugely successful local shows that won us deeply loyal fans to this very day.  Those 17 studio songs: I worked insatiably on them.  I met with Ryan in the studio once a week for over 3 years.  I listened to the mixes constantly and provided him detailed notes, that we then tackled week after week.  I spent all my free time, and a little more, perfecting those recordings and mixes...and also writing and arranging and preparing for the next session in the meantime.  All this while, Dusty Beats listened in to the online mixes that Ryan posted, making comments, chatting with me by phone, and being involved.  All this while, Joe Bass was himself uninvolved in the mixing/post-production process.  Again: this was a 3-year-period.  While we all showed up to every rehearsal, every gig, and all worked together to promote our shows to friends for the sake of fan energy and momentum, as far as the recording went, I was heavily, heavily, heavily involved.  I felt like Dusty was reasonably involved as well.  Ultimately, Dusty moved out of state to pursue a job opportunity and all of a sudden, we weren't a band anymore, and I was OUT all that effort.  I was able to salvage some of it by working it into my new solo album "Light Up The Sky", which I can support on my own, but that was only 8 out of the 17 songs we tracked (and I mixed, and remixed, and remixed, and polished).  A real shame for a guy like me, with the goals that I had.  WE NEVER PUT TOGETHER AN ALBUM. That is a terrible blow. For me. In the meantime, Dusty and Joe sentimentally miss the music and the good times, the memories, etc.  Aw, shucks. I now think of it like this: Live bands Live, Live music dies (everything's eventual), Recordings Live Forever. Searchlights dealt me one of the hardest and deepest blows to my time and effort and self-view that I've ever experienced.  That is NOT HAPPENING AGAIN. Next, Part 5: I want to play in a band that plays the songs that I write, as I write them.