Nathan Brumley (Songwriter) / Blog

My State Of The Art

Most artists could spend a good 6 months in the studio recording a full EP album (some even take years) and spend in excess of $10,000 doing so between all the expenses it takes to get a great sounding record.

I was on Spotify yesterday after about a month and realized that many things had changed since the last time I was on the site. I now have full access to any artist I want with unlimited access to their library on shuffle without having to pay any monthly fee. Wow this is great! But is it really?

I look back at all the pain staking hours I've put into the studio-hours of edits, tuning vocals, saving up money to hire players, hiring someone to mix, master and duplicate the album. Graphic design artists, marketing teams, and that's just a start!

Yeah I admit I sure enjoy being able to listen to any artist I want at the free click of a mouse button but have we gone too far? Have we just totally let our guard down to where the producer/artist or the non touring songwriter/artist is pretty much screwed now? Artists are basically driven to give their music away because no one expects to pay for it anymore.

Things are always changing in this crazy world of music but this is a change that I can't live with. I work too hard on my music to see it scattered to the wind without a return. Yeah I know I'm never going to get rich at this game, but I at least deserve a penny for my thoughts.

Many Hats

Throughout my 13 years here in Nashville I had to overcome many obstacles to keep my music on as many platforms as possible. When I first moved to Nashville, I was content with just rocking the stage but soon realized I did not have a decent LP to sell, no music videos and no website or any other online platforms to back up my artistry.

I've been very fortunate to not be the entirely broke artist, but I've never had the excess to cut a $20,000 record or a high budget video. Through trial and error I taught myself audio production and had to pretty much bite the bullet and become a web designer and online marketing (far from) guru to keep things rolling with a low budget.

The latest conquest which I am proud to say that I've got the hang of is video production. Over the past month I've created several videos for my latest EP with The Bitter Selway 'Cold As Numbers'. Although they are minus all the helicopter views, high budget actors and $50,000 cameras, I just feel very accomplished that I was able to finally figure it out and get a better presence on Youtube. Here are some of my latest videos:

Diablo: http://youtu.be/LDq43WnphcM

Cold As Numbers: http://youtu.be/UzkdztrAK7Q

Trail Of Tears http://youtu.be/MOzAkz3h8lY

Trail Of Tears

In my songwriting career, it has always been a long time goal of mine to write a tribute song to Native Americans. With my descent being from the Ute Indian tribe and my father being born and raised in Whitebird, Idaho on the Nez Perce winter camping grounds, I have a lot of respect and sentiment for the native lands and the people that inhabited them.

Putting together this track was a lot of fun-finding Native American sounds like tom sounds, rattle snake shakers, Indian flutes and other percussion was cool. I also blended a western feel with timpani, mandolin and orchestral strings to give it a very theatrical feel.

However, as enjoyable as the production was, the lyric is very mournful and reminiscent of the good times and is from the perspective of a tribe member walking the Trail Of Tears. As the song reaches its peak on the last few stanzas, the mighty warrior finally gives up and lays down his bow and gives up his fight; a sad ending to a great and beautiful heritage of owning their native lands.

Times have changed and most of those times have been long forgotten as western society has evolved. However, just for a moment I wanted to put myself in their shoes back then to remember the legacy that they left and continue to leave with their beautiful heritage.


Waiting For The Baby

It seemed like early in my career I would deliberate for months and ultimately waste years procrastinating for the right time to start a record. Part of me hoped that some label would come along to foot the bill; part of me was just lazy and the other part was just indecisive.

In a lot of ways I was like a couple who were trying to decide the right time to have a baby. Putting it off to wait for all the finances to be right, the marriage to be as good as it could be and everything in life organized for just that perfect time.

Working in film and tv and writing to cue with insane deadlines, I have realized the crazy pace of this industry and, though it can be a blinding speed, I'm amazed at the material I've been able to crank out in little time. Actually one of my top tracks right now was written with an artist in LA in which she sang the vocal on her I Phone and emailed it back to me for a deadline the next day. The song has since been placed in the hands of several prominent film supervisors who are heading up some new upcoming shows.

All this to say: do your best, do good work, never compromise your craft or your talent. But also don't be afraid to cut loose and show the world what you've got. No time may seem like the right time, but the world is never going to know about you unless you make your voice or your sound heard!

The Ghost Army

I cannot thank my fans enough with how supportive they've been of my music and my various ventures with my different side groups. As an artist, our fans are everything and I am so thankful of the love mine have given me.

I think its so funny how companies out there actually sell Twitter followers or Facebook likes. I get on some independent artist's sites and I see that they have 30,000 Twitter followers or over 2000 likes with only a few songs on their profile. I have never believed in this practice and think this 'ghost army' is actually detrimental to the artist in the long run.

Music is a highly intimate and very subjective to each individual person. There are so many niches and pockets of tastes and influence in music that it is nearly impossible for an indie to win a fan base overnight.

Music is definitely one of the more challenging career paths out there. With changing trends, the collapse of the music industry and just the sheer number of bands it is tough to make ends meet. But I can honestly say that I could never have done it without the support of my fans and I sincerely want to thank every one of you for being so good to me and helping me on this journey. God bless you all!

Some Of Pop's Elbow Grease

When I first moved to Nashville 13 years ago I had a plan; and in my mind everything was going to be easy. I'd get to town, play a few local shows, get a good buzz going, get some labels interested and travel down a golden road to stardom within the first 3 months. 13 years later I'm still laughing at how stupid that was!

You see, I just figured that all I had to do was just start playing my songs and people would come running to me and as a result I wasted a good 5 or 6 years for chances to come to me instead of pursuing career changing opportunities.

.30 years ago Pops (I'll call him) had no Twitter or Facebook, no Indie Bible and no easy roadmaps to success. He either busted his tail or threw in the towel. Back then there were a million artists knocking on the industry doors and, if you were the lucky and talented one, you got that chance to prove yourself and escalate on the road to stardom.

The business has changed a lot since then. We have many more tools at our disposal than Pops ever did. The DIY musician has more resources now than EVER before. But sometimes I still feel like all of us fall into that mentality of 'well if I just write a song thats good enough then it will just go viral." OK---just go on Youtube and see how many great songs and videos have less than a 1000 views.

It took hard work back in the day to make things happen-and it takes the same hard work today; I'd venture to say even more with the vast amount of music out there. These days we're not competing for the most I Tunes sales, we're competing for just 1 millisecond of our potential fans attention-and thats hard to get in todays brutal climate.

So roll up your sleeves and get busy-go all out for your craft, don't leave any doors unopened. Do what you do best and do it with all your heart. I wish you all the best today my friends.

The ow.ly Indie Artist

Ow.ly has been an amazing advancement on sites like Twitter for altering or shrinking websites to fit into the already limited number of characters allowed for posts. It has allowed someone with a massive link to alter it to something that would fit into a post even with having a lengthy description preceding.

Indie artists are unique; we offer a sound that the mainstream doesn't have and frankly I think we all want to keep it that way. We explore sounds, do things differently and make great music that is unique to us and not just for a mass crowd that likes regurgitated Beiber and Taylor Swift sound alikes.

Sometimes I think, however, that there are temptations out there for indie artists to change who they are; to conform to a mold-to blaze a path that would definitely lead to more monetary pleasure. A path that would alter everything that we are or have become with our indie music to become like the countless throngs of other pop one hit wonders.

Ow.ly is a good thing-technology is a good thing-your music is a GREAT thing. Don't conform your identity just because you aren't getting the attention or money you think you deserve for your craft. Your day will come-be true to your art and continue to work at it, make contacts and push forward with it with all you've got. And even though Ow.ly continues to condense and alter sites to fit a certain mold, don't let your art follow the same path!!

Part 2: 5 More Crazy Tips For Inspiring New Song Ideas

#6-Pick up a new instrument-Eddie Vedder picked up a ukulele, Bob Seiger played piano and guitar-if you are primarily a piano player try writing a track on guitar and vice versa. Don't worry about taking lessons. Some of the best writers had their own style of playing that wasn't necessarily correct but was uniquely them and relayed the genuineness of their craft.

#7-A song a day-years ago I went through a period of time in Nashville where I did not write at all simply because I thought none of my ideas were strong enough. In the process my writing got rusty and I lost a lot of my chops. I finally came to a point where I would take 1 week, 2 weeks or 1 month and vow to write 1 song per day. Quality wasn't always the end result but it allowed me to keep consistent with writing and helped me keep more on top of my game when it came to co-writes.

#7-READ READ READ-So many of the best writers I know are some of the most prolific readers. Authors have great word imagery and offer numerous ways to say things in a manner that's fresh in the same way songwriters try to do in their music.

#8-Write to queue-I have worked a lot with the Songs Of Love Organization and write for many film/TV companies where a 1-2 day turnaround for a full song with production is pretty common. Even if you don't have these kind of deadlines, set goals for yourself to try to write a great song for an artist or for your own album in a given amount of time.

#9-Always be sensitive to situations in your life that you can put to song-is a family member going through a bad illness, is a friend having a bad break up? Try to vicariously put yourself in their shoes and see what kind of hook lines, melody or ideas you can put with their situation.

#10-Fill in the blank-go to a new station and find a song you've never heard before. Listen to the intro and verse 1 just to where the chorus is about to start. Just before the chorus begins turn off the radio and hum where you would go with the chorus melodically. This is a great exercise to keep up your melodic chops. Writing is a very instinctual exercise and generally your first attempt is going to be your best one.

Nathan Brumley *Song holds with Grey's Anatomy and Vampire Diaries *Film placement with Life Unexpected, Surprise Homecoming, Palisades Pool Party, Hollywood Heights and The Young And The Restless *2007 Discmakers Top 14 Acts of the Southeast *2008 2nd overall winner of the USA Songwriting Competition & 2012 1st place winner in lyric category of USA Songwriting Competition *2nd overall in Music City Songwriting Competition 2009 and 2010 *Lightning 100 featured artist-July 2009 *Warner Brothers featured songwriter for film and television in March of 2009

5 Crazy Tips For Inspiring New Song Ideas

Inevitably at some point in your music career ideas, melodies and hook lines with taper to a screeching halt and you will find the endless flow of work, school or family blinding your way to writing the great tunes you once penned with ease. I've compiled an off the wall list of 5 tips to lube the creative machine and hopefully get you out of that rut if and when you may arrive there.

#1-Challenge yourself to listen to a new genre; even if it's one you don't necessarily like. 5 years ago I started listening to obscure indie rock garage bands and although I didn't enjoy 60% of what I initially heard, I heard new melodic patterns and production ideas that I would never have heard on mainstream radio. Which brings me to another good point-DON'T LISTEN TO MAINSTREAM RADIO-the world doesn't need another Taylor Swift, Adele or Justin Beiber!

#2-Turn on a new radio station in your car or on your computer and turn it to the lowest volume you can to where you can't definitively make out the melody but can still hear the music. Your brain is going to constantly try to make out notes, riffs or melodic patterns and in the process you will come about a process I call 'melodic regurgitation' which has been very effective for me when I go through melodic blocks.

#3-Go to a record store or get a copy of the 1000 best albums of all time and sift through song titles. There is no copyright law in using a song title and writing your own original song to it. It can also be very inspiring to get song ideas as well.

#4-Find your ideal time of day when you're the most inspired. For me it is right before I fall asleep (when it's the least convenient time to grab a pen or a recorder!) Take advantage of these times and don't let anything distract you. ALWAYS WRITE DOWN/RECORD YOUR SONG IDEAS! Never assume you will remember them because many times you will forget them.

#5-Co-write-this is not a ground breaking concept but one that I've come to admire especially in the Nashville music scene. With co-writing you not only have the ability to cross promote, but you can also save money on the production by splitting costs and sharpen your songwriting skills by learning from other writers.

The most important thing to remember is the BE CONSISTENT! You wouldn't go to the gym and just do one workout for the year. Rather you need to condition your body regularly, do different exercises, keep it fresh and challenge yourself in creative ways. I wish you all the best this year and hope you can take just one thing from this list into your own writing and write some great songs!

Nathan Brumley *holds with Grey's Anatomy & Vampire Diaries *cuts with the Young And The Restless, Nickelodeon, Life Unexpected, Palisades Pool Party, and Surprise Homecoming *2nd overall winner of the USA Songwriting Competition in 2008 and 1st place in lyrics in the 2012 USA Songwriting Competition *Discmakers Top 14 Acts Of The Southeast 2007 *Nashville Lightning 100 *featured artist-July 2009 *Warner Brothers artist of the month for film placement March 2009 *I Tunes/Tunecore Top 25 Song Of Summer winner July 2012

Planting Oaks Around The Sequoia

Jesus said in the New Testament of the Bible that a 'prophet is without honor in his own hometown.' Sometimes I have found this to be true in sharing my music on Facebook. It seems like the people who I'm closest to sort of lose interest and become numb to what I do and I feel like not even the most epic achievements would impress them.

The problem with sites like Facebook is that if you're not careful they can become a feed for all the other sites that you're on (if you choose to link them) so sometimes your friends, family and some fans can get an overkill of your music life.

I've personally resorted to using Facebook to post quotes and other non music related topics and reserve my music posts to ones that are substantial such as a film placement, artist cut or big award. I call this 'planting oaks around the sequoia'-still keeping my fans engaged without wearing them out with constant non-substantial music posts.

This week I posted a similar approach to doing this on Twitter with my 6 tweet per day plan to getting fans without 'over spamming them'. Here is my plan: 1. Tweet 1-Instagram picture 2. Tweet 2: artist/fan or business mention 3. Link to your Soundcloud song or YouTube video 4. Funny or thought provoking quote or thought 5. Outreach-reach out to one person directly whether it be a radio contact, producer, fan or label 6. Retweet a fan or follower tweet I space my tweets every 2-3 hrs but to can repeat this cycle daily if you want. Put you music links up at high volume Twitter times throughout the day (not at 5 am!!)

I am no music professional, but I've found that less is more when approaching Facebook and Twitter and the more direct contacts I can make with people the more likely I can get them to check out my songs. Good luck!!