Monday, October 31, 2011


Hey there followers.

Long time no type.

Just a quick one this week: do yourself a favor and go read this review of the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration: Injustice For All

He has a great deal to say about the current state of the music industry in this review. It's very good.

This Week

Almost finished with the mysterious recording project. Listened to some of the stuff I recorded a few years ago, thought I could do better now,  and started remixing some of it.

David Wilcox
Josh Woodward
They Might Be Giants

Happy Irish New Year.

....we are witnessing the end of Metallica....

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Hey all!

Hope everything is going according to plan this week.

This one's gonna be short and way late.

This post is going to be another short one, just some thoughts that occurred to me after having been to a publisher pitch session this last week.

If you're in Nashville, you probably should try to make it to Jason Blume's free workshops at BMI. They're free, you just might learn something, and every month there is a publisher pitch.

This week I went to one of his publisher pitches. It was interesting. The publisher was Nathan Nicholson. He was honest and up front and told us that he was looking for contemporary country songs for male singers. He also told us that he probably wasn't going  to take anything with him unless it was BETTER than what was currently on the radio. He listened to every song, most of the time saying things like, "I just don't think I could get it recorded." Or "Not that it's a bad song, I just think I'd have a hard time getting it cut."

Sometimes there would be a really great song, but not "contemporary enough." In other words, maybe the song would sound like it was from the early  90's and therefore be out of place in today's contemporary country market. And then I started thinking: everybody that I like, and I'm talking about Guy Clark, James McMurtry, Lyle Lovett, Hayes Carll, Dylan, John Prine, Joni Mitchell--I don't think any of them would be able to get a publishing deal today.

So here's what I arrived at: I think everyone comes to this point in their songwriting development where they have to either take the fork in the road that heads to Commercial writing, for money, for the business of it....or take the other fork...that leads to Art...and truth....

So which one are you? Which fork are you going to take?

Sorry this is so late, but hey, there's some life that's gotta happen in the midst of all this.

This Week

Jeff Black
Hayes Carll

....yeah I realize it's a false dichotomy. You can probably do both...but it seems like all the songwriters I admire have chosen to eschew the commercial game for something more transcendent.

write somethin' will ya?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Slipperman's 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown

If you have done a bit of audio engineering, you may have come across a huge amount of discussion fora on the subject. Most are full of people that talk as if they have a clue, but actually do not. There is one shining exception: the World Of Media Boards, or the "Womb." If you haven't checked them out, by all means do so. Here's the Link: They were started by a guy using the nomme du plume, "Mixerman," to disseminate ACTUAL knowledge from ACTUAL PROS about how audio engineering ACTUALLY happens in REAL LIFE. Mixerman recruited some of his Audio Engineering colleagues that were fed up with the normal trolling and flame war BS that typically happens in fora.

One of these colleagues is a guy whose handle is "Slipperman." He has a huge amount of experience running a high client recording studio on the outskirts of NYC, and on the WOMB, you will find his amazing narratives about Audio Engineering as a Life Pursuit, and his hilarious take on the way the music business is crumbling. He has a huge treatise in which he goes over his methodology for recording LOUD, HEAVY, DISTORTED GUITARS and he also has several podcast-sized audio files in which you can hear him go off about things in highly entertaining ways.

I was reading through various posts one day, and I came across this piece of Slipperman wisdom that has stayed with me...and although it is titled "Slipperman's 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown," I think it applies to ANYONE in the music industry IN ANY CAPACITY. Enjoy.

Slipperman’s 10 Commandments of AE Beatdown

1.) Expect nothing other than a long litany of suffering. You’ll be less disappointed. In fact, soon you’ll learn to LOVE the suffering, and will become, for all intents and purposes, indestructible.

2.) Attach some sort of price to EVERYTHING. Things that don’t have a price attached to them are usually perceived as worthless, no matter what their ACTUAL value is. It’s human nature.

3.) Realize that, with the best of intentions, the nicest people in the world will hurl you under the bus if they have something/someone else who holds more REAL(usually $$$) sway over them. Get over it. Get used to it. Cover yourself accordingly and feel no guilt for doing so.

4.) Assume the worst at all times... then multiply that by 3.

5.) Expect that, when the brass tacks are down, your worthy competition, often posing as good friends... are going WILDLY out of their way to shit talk you and your work. Ignore it and refuse to return the favor. Let your work do the talking. You will suffer IMMENSELY in the short run for doing this. Refer back to 1.) and 3.).

6.) In the words of the immortal Rev. Billy Milano: “If yer doing me a favor... you’re NOT doing me a favor”.

7.) Stop expecting to like your own work in the long run. If it ever happens, be very concerned, it usually means you’ve peaked, and worse yet... yer probably in decline.

8.) Everything matters. Everything. HOW MUCH it matters, and what you do with that hard earned knowledge is what separates you from the rabble.

9.) Everybody knows a little bit of something. We’re all pretty silly and small in the face of God. It’s a good thing. Your failures, and HOW YOU DEAL WITH THEM DEFINE YOU. Nobody ever learned SHIT from THEIR OWN successes. Resist the impulse to examine them... they are nothing but smoke and mirrors. In the same respect... Feel free to make as many mistakes as you like. It’s all about graceful recoveries and a steadfast determination to not make the same mistakes again.

And finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY:

10.) Accept all the above and refuse to let it alter your basic love for the craft and your desire to better yourself and your works. The fricative elixirs that surround you in the course of doing this as a LIFE PURSUIT will either be allowed to pool around you and EAT YOU AWAY as a corrosive agent... or you will learn to BURN THEM AS FUEL. It’s your choice. There are no victims who didn’t cast themselves in the role, knowingly or unknowingly.

Pretty great.

...and I think it can be applied to be many more things than just music....just a nice set of life lessons. 

This Week

This week, I've started mixing the mysterious recording project, but I think I have one more guitar solo to record. 

I am also almost finished recording the song I wrote last week, and I have another cool idea...but it's a funk I get to pretend I'm James Brown....

...we are witnessing the end of Metallica...expect it....

Write somethin' will ya?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music Theory: Part Six! (The Last)

Hey there seven followers, I hope the week has proven to be productive and song inducing....

Let's get right into the final post in the Nashville Number System/Music Theory Introduction Series:

The Last Page

The last page is so unbelievably simple, I don't think I even need to scan it and upload it. Here it is in its entirety: 1 6- 5 4 repeat until the fade out. Since you've been keeping up, I'm sure you've figured out by now that in this key, D Major, that progression is D Major, B Minor, A Major, G Major. Repeat ad infinitum, or until the drummer passes out....

How about in Bb Major?  Bb Major, G Minor, F Major, Eb Major.

Simple, right? I invite you to try to make some number charts of your songs as you write them--it's funny--sometimes, even in GoogleDocs, I write out a number chart in the margin, so i can link the progression with the song, so i'm able to remember it for later.

Nobody guessed, what this song is. Surely you've heard it. I KNOW at least three of you have heard it. Anyway, I'll tell you what it bit...

Why are we doing this to ourselves again?

So again: Why it it useful to learn the Nashville Number System? I think there are several reasons to do this to yourself.

First, it will allow you to write charts that Nashville Session Musicians will understand. Even if you aren't in Nashville, competent session players at least have a cursory understanding of the number system.

Second, the number system sort of bypasses the fear of sight reading that most musicians have. It allows the player to be creative within the context of the groove and the chord, without having to adhere rigidly to the written notes.

Third, it allows for quick and relatively painless transposition. Let's say you're Don Felder, and you just wrote and recorded a demo of this great chord progression on the guitar in E Minor. So you bring it to Don Henley, and he takes the demo tape home over the weekend and writes some lyrics and a melody to this progression you've written. When you reconvene in the studio on Monday, Don tells you he finished the song, but he has changed the key. Acting like it's no big deal, you ask Don what key this new song is in, assuming he has changed the key by one whole step at most. Don replies, "B Minor."
THAT'S A FIFTH HIGHER!!! Now you have a BIG problem, if you have already written charts in standard notation. either you have all the players look at the chart as you have written it, in E Minor, and THINK "B Minor," or you re-write the chart, causing you to waste time and money in the studio. With the Nashville Number System (and some session players that are familiar with it), the player would just make the adjustments mentally, and you're off! "Hotel California" is recorded with no new charts having to be written, and the players don't have to perform the odd mental gymnastics required when you are LOOKING at an F#, but THINKING C# (get it? a fifth higher).

Fourth, everybody gets the same chart. Since everybody is sort of improvising their own parts within the confines of the song structure, the key, and the groove, there is no need for SPECIFIC charts. We're going to TRUST THE  MUSICIANS.....I know, but it's just a song, it's not like they are going to date your daughter....

So there.

This Week

Wrote a new song, completed the recording of the background vocals for the ever enigmatic recording project.

Need to play out more. There's a weird dynamic when you play things only for people you know. If they're your friends, they tell you the song is good even if it sucks.  Even if you play songs for someone you don't know, and it's one on one, they are most likely uncomfortable criticizing you to your face. When you are playing for a group, you can usually tell whether or not your song is ok by their applause. Then, if no one approaches you afterward to compliment your song, you know you have a dog....but if they do approach you after you're finished playing and compliment your might be on to something. Just saying. Maybe you should make that your goal when you start to write; "Man, this time, when I play this song at the Joe Blotz's Terrible Open Mic Night, people are gonna come tell me how much they like it."

No....don't do that.  Write the absolute best song you can that comes from an authentic emotional place, with detail and imagery that exemplifies the emotional sentiment of your song, and don't settle for anything less than the BEST you can pull from yourself.

Hayes Carll
Will Hoge
Jeff Black
Justin Townes Earle
Then there's this song on John Denver's "Aerie" that I keep going back's called "She Won't Let Me Fly Away" the groove is better than it has any right to be on a John Denver record...


it's "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, but you probably figured that out, right? Go buy it. Play along with it.

Write somethin' will ya?

See ya next week.