Just wanted to invite any of my musician and singer friends to contact me if they're interested in helping to make my second CD album sound better than the first one. I've written some new songs and have recorded some very rough cuts of several potential tracks for the album. I will be working on producing quality backing tracks over the coming weeks and I would be very happy to incorporate any useful musical input into the final track mixes. I will give due credit to anyone who contributes to the final result, although I am unable to entice you with the promise of any financial reward I'm afraid. My music is a labour of love, but I will love it even more if it ever becomes really popular.
The recent long spell of nice weather that we have been having here in the UK has put the brakes on recording the new album, I'm afraid. But I make no apologies for enjoying my outdoor pursuits while the fine summer weather is still with us. If only I had the same passion for recording as I have for fishing ! OK, I'll admit that I'm sometimes a lazy musician and don't like playing unless I'm really in the mood, but I think that the album will still sound great when it's finished and I definitely want to sound inspired when I finally get around to recording it, so there's no point in trying to force it just for the sake of keeping to schedules. Anyway, I'm still waiting for collaborating musicians to add their bits and pieces and so I want to remain flexible and be able to develop or change my original plans for certain songs. As a semi-pro performer, I used to have to 'work' to earn money for playing other people's music, but now I much prefer to record and perform my own music when it suits me, and I no longer think of it as 'work'.
Only joking. Or am I ? Recently I seem to have received more messages than usual from people purporting to be successful promoters, usually including a photo of themselves dressed in business-like attire, and asking me if my music has made me rich yet ? I assume that what they are really asking is for me to give them money so that they can try to make me financially rich ! A typical message suggests that I contact them or visit their website if, for some strange reason, I'm not already financially rich and would like to become so. I always politely reply thanking them for becoming my fan and also for their enquiry regarding my 'richness', and letting them know that I am, in fact, rich beyond my wildest dreams ! Well, it's a perfectly honest response to make. If their question didn't actually specifically mention money, why should I refer to it in my reply ? Indie artists know quite well that making money from their own recorded work is a very difficult goal to achieve, especially if we're not gigging regularly. Selling mp3 downloads or CD's to our fellow indie artists is nigh on impossible, and getting our music heard by the music-buying public generally involves getting it played on the radio. Apart from that, you have to spend money to promote yourself or pay somebody else to promote you, and with no guarantee of any financial return. I'm sure that a small percentage of indie artists have benefitted financially from speculating in such a way, but for the majority of us, it would be just like throwing money down the drain. How do I know this, you may be asking ? Well I don't mind admitting that selling my own music has met with limited success so far, and that is even though I have enjoyed more radio airplay than many indie artists and reached more listeners than I ever dreamed possible. Many other indie artists who also have a huge following tell me exactly the same thing and many warn me about dodgy promoters . But then again, I'm content with what I have achieved, and realistic about what I may yet achieve. My goal has always been to share my music with anyone who cares to listen and I outreached my expectations on that score long ago, so I am happy to announce that I am in fact, very rich indeed, thank you !
A new set of original songs are being prepared for recording over the next few months. The songs have been written with the intention of making them suitable for live solo performance, but the studio recording will include extra production and will also feature several excellent musicians who have collaborated on several of the songs. It promises to be very special indeed !
I've never felt comfortable discussing music and artists in terms of genre. Maybe it's because my own music has so many influences and therefore I do not want to be pigeon-holed, or maybe it's because genre is really just a marketing tool, a convenient way for producers and promoters to target a particulart 'type' of audience (eg. by age group). From the artists point of view, I suspect that the majority of us are happy to be heard by anyone if there is a good chance that they may like what they hear. That is why it is a very good thing that Reverbnation allows artists to edit their genre type and location. It allows us to have some control in targeting our audience, and by studying our stats, we can view the results. For instance, I recently edited my RN location to Tokyo for just two weeks only, and the number of my Japanese fans increased markedly. I have also edited the genre of a featured song to increase my fanbase. One of my featured songs which appeared in the Classical chart, helped me to boost my fanbase with fans who also happened to be artists with profiles showing their genre as Classical. Then after editing my genre to Alternative, the same featured song helped me to attract artists with the matching genre. So you guys, listen up and take note. You don't have to suffer from label branding and manipulation, just use the tools that RN provide.
It's proven harder than I expected putting together my first proper album as a singer-songwriter. It's not that I haven't got enough original material to start recording though, it's more to do with getting back into the habit. There have been many distractions over the summer months and I've been spending far too much time on RN and FB. I'm afraid that there's nothing else for it, I'm just going have to sign off for a couple of weeks and maybe retreat to somewhere calm and peaceful with just my acoustic guitar and a portable recorder for company. Having enough new material and the means to record it would seem to be a great position to be in, but this time I've also got to think about promoting and performing, and I'm not used to performing my own personal songs in front of anyone, even close friends and family. I obviously want it to be a positive and rewarding experience when I do so, and that is going to take lots of careful planning and preparation. I know exactly why I'm doing it so that is not a problem. It's an opportunity for me to finally share my personal experiences with people who actually want me to share them. I can no longer tell myself that nobody will want to listen, because the reaction and feedback that I have received in reponse to my first album and EP clearly indicates otherwise, but I have not even performed any of those tracks to a live audience. Performing solo as an acoustic guitarist, or on electric guitar in a band is not normally a problem for me and I've had plenty of experience in both of those situations, so I guess I'll just have to learn to trust in my own ability and step up to the microphone. As a band member, I always believed that the singer had the hardest job, and I could shortly be in a position to test the theory for myself. Wish me luck.
My interest in the guitar began when I received my first album for my 8th birthday. It was a Chuck Berry album called 'More Chuck Berry'. My favourite track on the album was actually a slow blues track called 'In the wee wee hours' (nothing to do with going to the bathroom). I was hooked on electric blues for the next 7 years and was captivated by the likes of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton and many other blues rock guitarists. My life changed after a friend played me an album by John Fahey called 'The Yellow Princess'. It was entirely instrumental and played on a single acoustic guitar. I had heard nothing quite like it before and the music of Fahey remains unique to this day. Another American guitarist who was discovered by Fahey was Leo Kottke whose playing (especially on 12-string guitar)was also innovative and he actually made it into the UK top 30 album chart with '6 & 12 string guitar' which was released on Fahey's own Takoma label in 1972. This was quite an achievement for an instrumental acoustic guitar album where all 14 tracks were recorded solo on either a 6 string or a 12 string guitar. As far as I'm aware, nobody else has matched this since. [less]
What I found so appealing in the work of these two masters, was that they both used fingerstyle techniques which were borrowed from original Delta and Country blues legends like Mississippi John Hurt and Son House and expanded it to create an original and non-traditional form of music. The music of John Fahey has often been described as 'Primitive American guitar' and Leo Kottke is often credited with being one of the earliest 'new-age' performers. I always found it hard to find their albums in my local record stores as they were never displayed in the same section every time. It was either folk or country most of the time but both artists were so versatile and original that they could just as easily be categorised as blues or jazz or pychadelic even. From the moment I discovered their music, I was compelled to teach myself how to play solo fingerstyle guitar but I found it tremendously difficult at first as it involved playing the bass, rhythm and melody all at the same time. So I went right back to basics and listened to as many old recordings as I could of Robert Johnson, Willie Brown, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White, etc and found that a lot of the white electric blues guitarists and bands that I had listened to, were actually playing songs that had originally been written and performed by these black guys as far back as the 1930's. [less]
Luckily for me, there was an American guitarist called Stefan Grossman who had studied the individual styles of some of these guys and had even gone in search of them to get first-hand knowledge. He then released albums of blues guitar pieces that he had learned from them and these were accompanied with a booklet of guitar tablature for every track. So I bought two of these albums and began the long task of working out how to play some of them. I also bought a suitable acoustic guitar and a 12-string and slide (bottleneck). I was still learning all the popular rock guitar licks at the same time and I soon joined my first band when I was about 17 years old. My dad astounded me by buying me my first US Fender Strat and 100 watt valve amplifier. I had always thought that he hated rock music but he encouraged me to play and I played in a series of local rock bands for 5 years before being persuaded to form a duo with the lead singer from my last band. We were hired by an agent and spent two years playing pubs and clubs throughout the NE area. However, I was bored with this before very long and it was hard working full-time and having to play nearly every night as well. The plus side was that I earned enough cash to buy enough gear to set up my own home recording studio and at this point, I had so many ideas for songs and compositions that I wanted to develop and I spent the next 6 years working on them. I still enjoy playing the solo acoustic stuff though, and continued to play the odd gig now and again just to keep in touch with the performing side. I later regretted this decision to a certain degree because I lost touch with a lot of my musician friends and missed the buzz of performing to an audience. The best scenario would have been to write material for a band and then rehearse and perform it on stage, but unfortunately there wasn't much demand at that time for local venues to feature artists who played their own material so really I felt that I had to choose one road or the other. It was only in May 2009 that I decided that I would play in a band again and I'm so glad that I made that decision. My son Alex, who was 15 years-old, played in a Steel Band and was also learning to play piano and bass guitar. The opportunity to join a council-funded Jazz Workshop presented itself but it was a bit daunting for him at first. So I agreed to join in as well just to give him some moral support, as they didn't have a guitarist and I was taking him to the workshop anyway. After 3 months of weekly sessions, we ended up with a 10 piece band called 'Miles Ahead' and had a reportoire of six jazz numbers by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver and Wayne Shorter. We performed a one-off gig at the Stockton Riverside Jazz Festival on 2nd August 2009 to an appricative audience of approx 100 people in the historic Georgian Theatre and received a great review: http://lance-bebopspokenhere.blogspot.com/search?q=miles+ahead See also: http://www.jazzaction.co.uk/milestones.html
We have both continued to take part in the Jazz Workshop and have performed at the 2010 & 2011 jazz festivals at the same venue. It is wonderful to be working with other musicians once again and I feel that it has helped me to add another string to my bow. I am also working on a new album of songs and instrumentals which will hopefully be released in Autumn 2012, and hopefully there will be a few live performances to follow.