Hi friends, 3 weeks on now since my last entry. I took one of those weeks off, but otherwise have been out playing the open mics up here in Seattle. Here's an observation I've made. For a lot of these groups I've run across there''s an element of deceptive self confidence, that they are really something. Watching them turn up the volume, and dance around playing covers, and jamming and playing with effects boxes and all. I've seen men out hunting...when the prey is near, they take on this trance like state of being, moving stealthily and almost dancing. I see this same kind of thing with certain players. It's disturbing and feels to me like a display of dominance... some kind of hunters dance. As a singer/songwriter I'm trying to dig deep into my own soul and as much as I can the great soul of humanity, to talk about the truths that we all come to terms with in our passage through this life. Standing before a crowded bar, playing these songs while the pool balls are cracking, and the act just prior to you is cackling just behind you going on all about how great they think they are...The music I play has me standing naked on the stage with just my voice, my songs, and my instrument. I know that as a guitar player, I'm certainly not one of the greatest contemporary acoustic players, but I am a cut above most of them out there in the clubs, I do strong chordal work and have a mean right hand, if my songs don't give them pause, usually my solo work will get em' for moment or two..creating of course more enmity with these folks it seems. I wish I could drop all pretense of any ego, but I need some sort of armor out there in the bars with all of this noise. I did a half hour set the other night...in some dive bar. I carefully put together a nice set list...but in the end I felt it was wasted on this crowd by and large. I should just play the fast ones and clear out. So I haven't found it yet..the place where there's an audience who listens, and gets the stories being told to them. I wonder how many of these dives I have to play before I can find a place where folks come to listen? I suppose this is paying dues.
Hi friends, well here it is Wednesday night again and time to offer some thoughts of my continuing explorations of the Seattle open mics. Last night, I played at a place called "Shadowland, The Starlight" In West Seattle. Um...dunno. It's billed as a special place for singer/songwriters, but it's just another bar...and a noisy one at that. So any kind of soulful expressions are quickly drowned in the clamor of the place. It's a very deep room with the ceiling lowered toward the rear. Any further than 10'-15' from the bandstand it all turns to mud. There were no monitors at all so it was very difficult to know If I was singing on key or not. And of course, my favorite microphone again...LOL! (no fault of theirs the damned things are everywhere)... So, It's just the fast one's for this crowd..and I mentioned something about my hat. Gotta Give em' something to holler about. Sign up at 9pm...so a lot of time just hanging out in the place eating and drinking...which of course is the game you see. Then the lovely blonde cocktail waitress doing this strange sort of theater routine at our table..sticking her nose in a full wine glass, and leaving us all wondering "what was that all about?" After offering a large dose of hot dripping ego, and squishilly walking away. I don't mean to be disparaging, but there's this truth in advertising thing...and well it just didn't match up as an environment supporting the singer/songwriter genre. They need a nice cover band or something...( oh, but they'd have to pay them?).. I know that the fellow handling the event has his heart in the right place, and he was kind and accommodating ...but it's too loud, too late, and too expensive...and that waitress? Hmm. I don't think this is my home. We did meet another wonderful songwriter and his wife who spent an hour or so with us...they were great fun! I wrote a new song, "Tango" last Friday night, poetry about the energy within the dance. I'll pull together the chords and melody this weekend. Hopefully with the cooler weather, and if there's a break in the metal band routines, I'll start a new recording..I've got a lot of songs stacked up in the holding pattern. I'm not sure where I'll attempt next week...I'll let you know. It's certainly been an interesting tour for sure. Thanks for following along. More next week!
Up here in Seattle, Tuesday nights are "open Mic" nights. This week, I sampled the "Q Cafe" http://www.qcafe.org/ a venue near the city center just outside of Ballard..I think. The Q Cafe boasts a real sound system with a sound man and a real audience. It was all true, there was a fine sound system, good monitors, and a great audience... not just the other players...real people who came to hear the music! And again..those $#@*& Shure dynamic microphones. The Heil PR-20 is a much better mic for the task...but it's like chasing windmills......sigh... Anyhow, it was a fine evening. Janeane came with, and another friend from work was there to cheer me along. It was a 2 song night, with 8 or 9 of us playing. I did my two, and a third on the second rotation. There were some really fine players as well. A young woman..so nervous, but wow, what a singer/songwriter...the force is strong with her! A fellow who is finally letting himself sing, and for the first time before and audience..sang "You are my Sunshine". He was great! People love to sing...it's something we've always done, and it's good to be among people sharing this gentle art. I seem to be in performance mode suddenly, I suppose all things have their season. I'm working up a 1/2 hour set for the Ould Triangle in a few weeks, but next week will be at The Starlight (Shadowland) a singer/songwriter open mic in West Seattle. I'll let you know how that goes. I'll get back to recording again soon. I bought a third mic stand...now I can use 3 mics...that will open up some nice possibilities when I get round to recording again. I belted it out last night, with few mistakes, seemed well received and was asked to return! OK then that's all for now...Thank you for following along. More to come next week!
Ola amgos y amigas ! Played out last night for the first time in 6 months or so at the "Columbia City Theater"...which is a bar/theater http://www.columbiacitytheater.com/ "The Best Open Mic Ever" is in the old bar up front and the theater was shuttered for the night. It was good to play in front of people again. It's been pretty hot up here in Seattle lately..more so than ever, and most of these old buildings do not have air conditioning. So my friend from work and I sat and watched and listened until my turn rolled around. Thank God for the wonderful fan on the bar in front of us! In spite of the heat there were a number of fine songwriters there..along with the usual tedium of the cover playing animals. (Sorry about the editorial..I'm there to commune with the writers, not the copy cats) OK, I'm kinda rigid about that...I'll work on it LOL! Tuesday nights are "the" open mic night in Seattle it seems. There are a number of them all round the city.. so next week I'll try another one. These things are interesting..they can be sort of "clicky". Each a family unto itself..I'll wander around and sample some of them...maybe one of them will come to feel like home for me too? I do become disconcerted with the ubiquitous dynamic mics, and the little PA's with no reverb...I can't hear what I'm doing largely...so I go at it with some level of reckless abandon which sort of sucks..I'm spoiled working in my studio with a nice condenser mic, and reverb...something I'll just have to adjust too I suppose. One of these events boasts a real sound man and an audience that listens closely...going there next week I think. My room is looking good now, and I was wanting to begin a new recording last weekend. Temperatures were in the mid/upper 90's up here last weekend though, so anything that required energy was given the manana treatment...just too bloody hot. I came up here to escape the heat...I thought? Rumored to be cooler this weekend, so I'll see about making a start on a new recording. Dreaming of condenser microphones and in ear monitoring...OK then more next week. Thanks for following along!
Hi Friends, My studio/workspace is finally finished as of 2 weeks back...well there are a few niggling details...still have to fix the bathroom door...this weekend for that. It's so good to have a place where I can sing...really sing without having to worry about annoying the neighbors. As a result my tone is improving, I'm getting better at staying on key, and the phrasing of the songs in general...all of them is improving tremendously. I am a officially a Reaper user now, and am just starting to get my toes wet in the big ocean of working with a DAW. I hooked up my new Focusrite interface during the weekend, and was able to open a file, arm a track, record and playback...not bad for the first attempt. Next up, I'll see about adding some effects...reverb etc. I'm thinking I'll move forward with the Tascam for the next recording or two only because it's familiar, and I feel the need to get these songs posted. it's hot up here in Seattle this week...looks like climate change followed us up here. By the way, we arrived in Portland last year on the night of June 12th, so it's a year away from New Mexico now. Things are certainly improving. I like the people where I'm working, and bit by bit my music is coming forward. Been a quiet time the last few weeks just a lot of utilitarian kind of stuff going on, but I'm back into creative mode now, and I'll be starting a new recording this weekend. As always thanks for following along. More comin' Bob
Hi Friends...it's another week of background stuff going on more than anything. Work continues on my wonderful music room..my home away from home place. I finished painting half of the space over the weekend. Moved all the contents of the room into the freshly painted half, and started prepping the 2nd half. Fixing holes in the walls etc lots of sanding and caulking. I left the 2nd half of the room Sunday evening in primer...ready to go. I may pop over there tomorrow night and see what I can do to ease the load for the weekend a bit. It's now a neutral "putty" color with a neon white ceiling, and off white trim. Nice and bright...compared the battleship gray that previously colored the entire space. I'm going through things...time for renewal. I've been doing the "out with the old and in with the new routine"...it's a healthy thing to do sometimes. A big change is coming in how I do my work. I've ordered a Focusrite audio interface with it's famous preamps, and I'm going to be working through that into my computer and into the DAW, Reaper. This Focusrite can output higher bit rate files, and I'm looking forward to getting busy with the learning curve. Likely the next song I post will be recorded with this. I'm sure I'll be flummoxed by it all at first, but I'll learn. Looking at a new mic as well..Rode Nt1 perhaps. I've met a few of the guys from one of the other bands who reside in the same complex...a new story is unfolding. It's going to be a good one I think. More next week...Thanks for following along!
Remodeling. The previous tenant in my music room must have been depressed. The walls and ceilings were painted this dark bluish battleship grey. this depression must have been what caused him to rip down all the moldings from around the doors, and various other acts of vandalism...like the hole melted into the flooring etc. I've since replaced the moldings, and last weekend began the process of fixing the holes in the walls and painting. That depressing gray ceiling is now bright white. I'll be rolling some tasteful colors on the walls this weekend. So, it's emblematic...poetic. I'm feeling like cleaning house on all kinds of levels. Sweeping the old stuff out and making room for new. New ways, new relationships, new friends, deeper ties with real friends. I'm renovating. In a few weeks we'll be open for business once again. There are bunch of songs in the queue ready to go. I may be making a transition over from my trusty Tascam to working with a DAW on the computer soon. Reaper is looking good. I'm shaking off the old gray coat..we'll see what comes?
Hi friends, Yes I know I missed a week. I'm in that place between songs, so I've been working on getting moved in to my new workspace and fixing the place up a bit. Installed a window air conditioner this weekend, and I'm getting ready to paint. I'm up on the 2nd story, so as soon as the weather warms just a little, it gets real uncomfortable in there real fast. So what's on my mind just now is to talk about my inspirations with the guitar a bit. I started in the late 60's, early 70's playing rock stuff, Steve Howe, and Frank Zappa were a few of my inspirations. There was country music all around me though and parts of my family were listening to Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Chet Atkins etc..It seems I like ballads, and I like the forms in country music. In terms of classic rock solos, my two faves are Maria Muldaur's recording of "Midnight at the Oasis". Amos Garrett, wow! Forever bent my thinking about the guitar. Then Joni Mitchell's "Help Me"...Larry Carlton, Oh yeah! Oh but wait...that's jazz isn't it? Hmmm. Then Jerry Reed, and Chet Atkins. Uh huh...that's where it is. Then Gypsy Jazz..Django of course, and today's players ie the Stochelo's et al. moving the form along. So, it's all taken me on this ride toward a kind of "country jazz". I seem to be evolving into this curious mix. Did I mention I love the pedal steel guitar?...The stuff is down in my bones. Like I said, I love the country forms..likely arising from gospel, to pedal around the home note, under and over, weaving inversions all over the place, carrying the melody line inside of all kinds of varying voices...love it! Lights me up like a Christmas tree! I can't afford one yet, but I find that as I age, my guitar playing is emulating that kind of sound, along with the rest of the stuff mentioned above. I enjoy a good rock song some days, but chords light my fire nowadays, and building solos out of chords, and nice lines to link them.... now that to me is lead work. I find not too much interest in building songs around licks anymore, there's so much more in there. So I'm working on a song I'm now calling "I'm Just Disappointed", a country ballad...surprise! I'll be in my space under the headphones evolving toward a good guitar and vocal take tomorrow night, and this weekend. In the meantime, have a listen to "Walking Down that Road (Together) if you're inclined too. My heart's in that one. Thanks for following along..more coming!
Hello friends..Things were pretty tentative when I first found my wonderful studio/workspace. Once in there, I just brought in just the barest of essentials to record the last song. Over the last 2 weekends I've been slowly building and moving everything that was in my previous workspace down in New Mexico, into the new space, which I'm managing....so far to hold on to. So, I've been assembling desks, and lamps, and bringing in the furniture. It's finally beginning to feel like my haunt again. As I've mentioned before, the place is also occupied with a bunch of heavy metal vampires, as well as various types who play electric guitars, bass guitars, and bang on drums. Some previous tenant ripped all the moldings off the walls around the doors. So Saturday night I put new moldings up there, and assembled a few more furniture items. It was a hot evening, and on the second story, I was sweating to the oldies whilst' some cover band across the way was playing Pink Floyd covers. There are a number of bands in here...some of them are doing some nice work too. Covers...sheesh (another time). It's all very entertaining this male pattern behavior. Anyhow, I was sawing and hammering and banging away. Looking to change the interior from the drab gray blue that it is, to some lighter shade..in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I'm working on timing and phrasing for "Lonesome Mine" which I'll begin rehearsing in front of the mic soon. It's the time between songs, and I'm a happy camper to be blessed with this place I've stumbled on. OK then, thanks and more to come.
It's a mystery..."Walking Down That Road (Together)" was a cathartic experience, a completion of the circle from the time that we left the southwest and migrated north to WA State. All the months of moving, and the frustrations in trying to find a workspace. Full circle now...the thing has left me in tatters. I'm exhausted, but thrilled and filled with the peace of knowing that I have my creative space again and my work will continue. I have a handful of wonderful friends who support my efforts, I am grateful to you with many thanks. I am learning now to let go of any expectations around how my work is received. This is a wonderful song, and it's been played maybe 10 times over the last week. A bit of a disappointment. I know things roll in waves, and there is no rhyme or reason to the motions of the universe that we can discern..so I'll just roll with it. I'm busy now working on a song called "Lonesome Mine" it's a coming of age tune about false estimations and betrayal. I'm working out the timing, and the arrangement. These days I'm learning about making space in the song so it can be sung without pinching the lyrics. This helps to create a relaxing delivery and the overall tone can be more natural. Interesting things occur, spaces open for new possibilities. Also, working on voicing the chords through the tune. It's pretty boring to play the same lines through a song, so I'm experimenting with chord forms that vary throughout the song, using higher voiced, lines, lower voiced, and right up the middle chord forms to counter and compliment the direction of vocal. This stuff makes nice spaces for additional instruments and helps form the overall arrangement down the line. Been fighting off a spat of vertigo over the last few days, slowly getting back up to speed. Thanks for following along...let's get on down the road!