In honor of Valentine's Day, and for today only! - I'm releasing a previously-unreleased original, a love song called One Sleeping Maiden. Click on over to see the lyrics. Enjoy!
While The Salvagery was a fun summer project, the far larger effort is the continuing work on my first E.P. It's coming along and I hope I'm in the home stretch here. Some of the songs you've heard before in rough form, and some are brand new. My Favorite Clown is now fully instrumented and has some nice surprises. I hired a string trio to help me with She Believes. Damn My Eyes is sounding pretty incredible, I think. Add to that three new songs and a fully re-imagined Together, and we've got an overstuffed E.P. that is getting close to full album length. I'm really looking forward to sharing it with you all!
Spent some more time this last weekend at the studio. Now we're getting to the tail end of the recording process, we're recording with Rob Stroup at 8-ball studios, in Portland.
Thursday night I drove down from Seattle, and rested up for Friday. Friday was a ton of fun - I got to play a Leslie organ/speaker for the first time. They way they recorded it is by pointing mics at the back of the leslie speaker, and then turning the volume WAY UP (by way of volume pedal) so that the signal would be loud enough that the mechanical noise wouldn't show up on the recording.
This was my first time at playing an organ like this and it was a bit embarrassing that I couldn't even make the classic organ glissando sound quite right at first. The sound was also so loud that it took a bit for me to calibrate, I had to remind myself not to be tentative. But soon enough it started coming together. Jake Oken-Berg was there next to me and was stomping on the pedal button that turns the vibrato on and off while I was playing, a true collaborative effort! I had Jake also take over and play organ on a couple of the parts while I did the bridge and the last few choruses.
After that it was cello time. Skip vonKuske came over and did a great job - from solo lines, to layering, to some tremolo stuff on the song of mine that Jake is doing his own arrangement for.
After the cello, it was time for me to finish recording the piano part for Damn My Eyes. We've gone back and forth on this song a few times, there was some concern that it would sound too "classic jazz", but that was never really the direction I intended for it. We made a couple of short cuts, and over the last week I had been working on a piano part that sounds more intentional, and a hell of a lot more aggressive. I love it now, and for the first time I even think the song works live as just voice/piano - I'm looking forward at trying it out at an open mic sometime. Anyway, it works really well with the bass and drums now, and I'm looking forward to hearing how it shapes up after we finish layering.
We ended the day with me doing some lead singing - finally! It was funny a couple of times because I'm so used to singing at the piano that it felt alien to sing standing up. I had Rob change the mic a couple of times until I finally decided that standing up was better so I could have more breath. We ended with Not Today and I felt really locked in on it, to the point that I was demanding to sing more takes after we were done just because I was enjoying it so much.
Day Two of the weekend was all about the guitar. Guitar is an instrument I haven't really been able to wrap my head around for these songs, but that's where Jake and Rob were very helpful. We had Bob Dunham in to do the guitar, he brought along about fifty thousand guitar pedals, and we basically just experimented all day. It might be that we strip down some of the choices later in the editing/mixing stages, but I think a lot of the material and choices work really well, and Bob did a great job.
What's left? Well, there's more organ to do... a couple of specialty instruments, the possibility of some string playing, and then just a whole lot of singing. We're definitely in the fun stages and I'm realizing that I absolutely love the recording process, at least when I'm on mic. It's even more fun than the gigging and the rehearsing, although I have to say that there's still nothing that tops the feeling of playing through a new completed song for the first time. Writing is painful, but the sense of victory you get at the end, that's really something else.
Still definitely on track for 2011 being the year of the cd release. More later!
I submitted Damn My Eyes for reviews over at Garage Band more than a year ago, and the reviews have been trickling in ever since then. It looks like the review process finally stopped a few days ago. You can check out all the reviews here, but here's the general summary.
First, there were several "awards". The awards are always a good stroke to the ego, but I never actually noticed any traffic bumps on any of them until the last one. Damn My Eyes was given the "Track Of The Week" award in Alternative Pop on Jan 18th, and there was a measurable impact - I got about 25-30 new "iLike" fans (from 71 to 98, I believe), one or two of which joined my mailing list. iLike's fans are kind of in a separate category - I can reach all of them through bulletins, but they don't give you email addresses for any of them, so I honestly don't try and contact them a bunch except to remind them of my mailing list. I do tend to send out announcements to them when new songs come out, though.
The reviews were informative. There were a few common themes. Many felt Alternative Pop wasn't the right genre, and that I should have put it in jazz instead. I'm torn on that, it's my most "jazz"-ish song, but it's played much the same way every time and has an actual song form, so I see it much more as jazz-influenced pop. Beyond that, I see the theme of the reviews as that they like the idea and the recording, find it a very enjoyable song, and that it is a bit conventional - doesn't take a lot of risks into really original territory. At the same time, it's the song of mine that has gotten the best response so far, ahead of Together, My Favorite Clown, etc. Over on Jango, Damn My Eyes is a touch more well-reviewed than She Believes, too. Damn My Eyes continues to exist off to the side for me, one of my more favorite songs but not in the core group (She Believes, Not Today, and So Beautiful). I think it can be dressed up more but beyond that I think it'll be one of those songs that is really fun to play live as a change of pace song.
I have some rehearsal recordings posted - I'm letting some of my mailing list subscribers hear them because more ears are always better! If you're interested in hearing them and sharing what you think, come on over and join the mailing list. Here are some former rehearsal recordings that I've worked up and deemed good enough to release publicly: http://www.reverbnation.com/tunepak/1378735.
I'm still working on the title so for now I'll just call it "The America Song". That's not intended to me arrogant, by the way, it just means it relative to all my other songs. Not relative to all songs in existence. There are a ton of America songs out there.
And... that's part of the problem. This song is the first song I've written that came from a dream, so I had to write it. But, two songs I'm apt to discount from the outset are patriotic songs, and protest songs. I just generally find them so thoughtless. This song... is a little bit of both, and I definitely put thought into it, so maybe that moderates things. But I'm still mulling it. I have a good rough of it but it needs a couple more doses of marinade before I upload it.
About six months ago I wrote a song called "I Don't Mind", and I just made it available as an exclusive for my mailing list subscribers. This one's actually a love song, and I'm a bit embarrassed about that since love songs are schmaltzy, and goodness knows we just can't have schmaltz in music. I tried my best to write this one schmaltz-free, though.
The recording is from shortly after I wrote it, and it has a couple of audio artifacts in it, but it's the first time I made it successfully through the song from beginning to end and I like the performance, so I'm a bit sentimental about it. It's technically a pre-love song.
To give it a listen, come on over and join the mailing list.
Finished another song earlier today, Sunday afternoon the 12th.
Man, this one was rough. I had the idea for this song probably almost a year ago. This was a very slow songwriting process, I've had the musical material for a long time, two ideas for the form of it for a couple of months, and the rough lyrical concept with two or three phrases ever since I thought of it. And I just couldn't get over the hump. I set some ridiculously high standards for myself on this one and I'm not sure it's a good idea to continue doing that - does it lead to better music, or just a more labored vibe to the music? I don't know.
So this one had more free-writing than any other song I've done so far, maybe three layers of free-writing. Where I'd free-write, and then boil it down into a shorter page of concepts, then free-writing more on that, and then boiling it down again... overthinking, zooming out, overthinking, zooming out... it's great to have this one written and I think I will like it a lot, but this time it's a slightly different feeling - not so much the rush of having created something, more like the relief of having a monkey off my back.
Last.fm and Jango are both systems that will recommend your music to others based off of similar tastes. Users of the sites listen to music through their online players, and they get a mix of artists that are their favorites, and new artists the system believes they will like based off of analyses of "similar artists".
The question for independent artists is how to break into that and get your music recommended to new ears. On the one hand, the whole point is for listeners to find new artists - that's you! On the other hand, the system needs to know about you, which requires many listens from many people. It's a catch-22.
So the way around that is to buy plays from these services. There are of course a variety of opinions on whether a good artist should even need to do this, but listeners need to hear about music somehow.
I decided to test Last.fm against Jango. I used two of my songs, She Believes and Damn My Eyes, and I picked the smallest play package for each. Here are the results:
In addition, another last.fm user recommended it to a friend of theirs.
In addition, two people outside of the campaign "loved" the track during this time.
To judge these results you can go listen to my songs to get a relative sense compared to other music you like. But when judged against each other, my rough conclusions are that Damn My Eyes is slightly more likeable (in a broad sense) than She Believes - however I find that She Believes tends to make a stronger impression on the people that like it.
But regarding the services themselves, while it was fun getting the extra listens, I'm still not sure of the benefit of either of these services, for a variety of reasons.
My whole strategy at this phase of my career is to build my mailing list and write songs. I don't yet have a cd or a product to sell, so I use my music to build my mailing list so I have as many likely buyers as possible when I eventually do have something to sell. So from my perspective anyway - and factor in your own opinions of my music quality - it doesn't look like these services are worth the results. I basically paid $50 per lead. (Update: Jango response rate is getting better - their listeners might be more active.)
Now, there are several things that could moderate these conclusions:
But overall I think it's important to note that both of these services appear geared to the listeners, not the musicians. It does a good job of introducing new music to listeners, but neither do anything towards encouraging the listeners to become active supporters of the musicians behind the music. There is a lot of music out there, and you're really just sort of being anonymously presented to people. This creates a low likelihood of building an actual relationship.
Update: I'm informed that Jango is only a few weeks old. My impressions of Jango overall are positive, and it's clear they're actively working on functionality. After getting another 3-4 mailing list signups I'm more optimistic that Jango's promotions might be worth it.