Ok, since Thursdays are my weekend I thought I would try a full on project from start to finish instead of doing 18 little things that don’t really get anything done.  I’ve been wanting to record in Garageband for a while, and it always intimidated me.  Recording geeks are a fun but different breed, and I don’t know what a flange does.

I bought one of those nifty Snowball microphones – it’s USB so you just plug it in.  It gets good sounds for knocking around and having fun.  I also had a couple of personal milestones this week in terms of music, I will share later — but I celebrated by buying a completely frivolous but awesomely fun instrument…a MicroKORG synthesizer.  I like electronica and beats and weird sounds (see Imogen Heap), and I have wanted one for a while.  So I did it.  Thanks, Guitar Center, for sucking me dry.

I video documented of course, but I’m currently trying to make hard drive space to get the footage imported.  Hence, verbal description!

I started about 10 AM with some lyric scratchings, and then I messed with the loops in Garageband.  Techno, Trip Hop, House, Electronia, Trance, gah!  So much.  I got overwhelmed.  I freaked out and got in the car went to the bank to make a deposit to avoid my project.  Then I got home and I picked about 5 beats that might work, and then bailed on that and worked on the words some more.  Then I got sleepy and I took a nap.  Then I finished the words and the chord and picked a beat.  This is finally when I felt this could get done!  It was probably about 3 PM.  :)

The rest of the evening was spent recording each part.  I added banjo (my favorite part), the synth, and I borrowed the lovely notes of Susan’s pump organ.  I’m not a keyboardist or anything, but I can pick out a scale and such.  That’s what makes recording so fun…I learned that from working with Dan.  You layer things and try several pass-throughs to get the right part.  No pressure, just play!

I think part of what kept me on it was that I TOLD FACEBOOK I was doing this and I wanted it done in a day.  Something about promising in public wouldn’t let me just shove it under the rug and go watch Arrested Development.  Thanks, peer pressure cloud!

Here it is…there’s cute little quirks because like I said — first try.  Hope you like it!

Adore by janapochop

We are nearing the due date for TightRope, Susan’s new album, which comes out on Valentine’s Day. My desktop looked like this at 8:30 AM today, making some promo stuff for selling online.


I love that kind of thing…I’m no graphic designer, but I can make a web graphic and find a good font and move stuff around until it gets the message across. Jill of many trades, master of one, which is messing around with more trades.

Starting to push out the EP for reviews…a scary process but FUN nonetheless, especially when you get reviews like this from the kind folks at The Needle and The Groove…a great, personable, and well written music blog. I’m not just saying that because the review of For & Against contained this sentence:

“Songs like “Drive Around,” which calls to mind the long gone days when a car could be the heart and soul of any relationship…the kind of songs that made Springsteen the Boss…and amid it all, echos of Jericho and Jesus.”

All I know is they get it. And I thank them for it. Show them the love, folks.

Dan Thinks
Daniel Barrett at work!

I’ve mentioned Rubicon on my blog a bit but here is my formal (but still dressed in business casual) introduction in this new series of posts.

Many of you have followed my blog long enough to know I’ve worked with Daniel Barrett, formerly of Red Leaf School of Music, for several years.  He’s the one who devised my Folk Music Grad School curriculum…a holistic approach to being a musician.  We studied guitar, voice, performance, writing, recording, breathing, business, everything.  I’ve worked with him for over 3 years now and the progress I have made since 2007 has been both outwardly successful and inwardly rewarding.

Last fall Dan moved to his own space – a full on awesome recording studio complete with a unique program for developing musicians called Rubicon Artist Development, all wrapped up in a charming little house in South Austin.  I am the studio manager there now.  Dan jokes I am the Sy Sperling of Rubicon…”I’m not only the studio manager, I’m a client.”

The Rubicon Year is taking what Dan and I worked on for 3 years and makes it a set curriculum, because…it works.  There’s a certain kick in the pants that up-and-coming musicians need to get to the next level.  I’ll speak for myself but I get complacent or lazy sometimes, and sometimes I just don’t know how to get to the next level, whether it’s in singing or performing or booking a venue for me to play in.  Humans are hardwired to want the buddy system as well as a mentor.

It’s older than dirt, this mentorship idea.  People were apprenticing way before Donald Trump ever made a TV show about it.  Simply put, it works.  I had a set goal every week to check in with Dan about, and we also spent a lot of time on long term goals for musical growth.  We hit every mark we set out to hit.  Personally, if left to my own devices, I would have wandered off to watch an episode of Housewives of New York and forgotten that I was supposed to practice that year.  The results were tangible…I have 2 EPs recorded and can see the difference from one to the next after spending time with the mentoring for 3 years.

Now The Rubicon Year is a full on program, and I believe it to be one of the only of its kind in existence.  Lawyers have to go to law school; doctors to the medical school.  It is not outrageous to think that musicians would benefit from a “finishing school” to really hone their craft and study what being a performing musician entails.

It is radical to study and train for music, because so much of the musician lifestyle and vibe is that we are all rogue gypsies, wandering around doing art for the sake of art, man.  Which is true on one hand, but art for the sake of art does not mean haphazardly stumbling into skill or success.

Thoughtful examination and focused study are sometimes radical things in the musical world, but I guarantee that most of the long term success stories in music have these things backing them.

Just some food for thought about the path…and whatever your path is, a little mentoring and intensive study won’t hurt a thing.


(PS: I know I ripped off a Eudora Welty title for this blog…it’s meant to be in reverence and not plagiarism).

Slowly maybe I became a bit of a writer this year.  I mean, I’m a songwriter and a blogger so I’ve been a writer for a long time.  I wrote my first poem in kindergarten and my teacher gave me an A and that was it; I was convinced I was the next Hemingway even if I did not know who Hemingway was in kindergarten.

But when you write poems about cats and mats and then move on to songs and blogs, you’re not getting PAID to write.  I have made money on my songs via album sales and gigs, but I am not one of those fortunates who gets a check when I turn in a song somewhere.

However, this past year I’ve written several pieces of…prose?  Copy?  What is the word?  Various things arose that required some text and I am a willing supplier of text.  Susan’s last 2 bios came out of some fun word-choicing and a crazy amount of caffeine.  All the text on the Rubicon Artist Development site is also penned by moi.  Based on a few of these compositions I just got asked to write another artist bio for…somebody.  I’m not being coy, it’s just not written yet so I’m not saying who it is.  But it’s a paying writing gig.  So there we go.  I call it being a writer.

Here’s my short but sweet resume’, yo.

Susan Gibson TightRope Bio

Susan Gibson Hilarious Bio

Rubicon Artist Development Website

Havilah Rand Bio

At Ebenzer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA...Martin Luther King, Jr. time.

Part 1: Happy Martin Luther King Day! Here is a zitty college photo of me at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. King’s home church.

Part 2: We just read an article in the New Yorker about viruses and the study of how they spread. Turns out humans have been infected with lots of things we can’t handle because of contact with bushmeat and game blood in Africa. Unsafe cleaning practices with hunted game coupled with the increasing connectivity of the world – globalization, transportation, all that jazz – have made viruses more…viral than ever. Joy.

The interesting thing is the very technological innovation that has unleashed this exposure upon us can also be the thing that saves us. Scientists have goals of setting hunters in Africa up to a twitter-like system of reporting groups of dead animals and also symptoms of illness…all things that could trend toward the start of a viral outbreak. Posting these trends in real time helps pin down when things start. Very cool indeed.

All this to say…as musicians, we actually WANT things to go viral. And the means of transporting our message, sound, image are more accessible than ever and are more useful than ever, as with the medical example above. It’s quite a bit less pressing than viral outbreaks in Africa, but it’s important to understand that you and I, the consumers of music and content online, control the trends. It’s no longer a case of us getting spoon fed the popular thing from the big 3 record labels. They still try for sure, and they succeed on some level, but not on the level that they were.

Now it’s communal. Part of our marketing work for The Boss’s new album is a new street team…using fans who like to talk about her music to, well…talk about her music. They are the core of the grassroots promotion we are doing. Paying radio promoters to get songs spun so that they chart on some chart somewhere…doesn’t really make people go buy an album these days.  Having their friend say, “Hey check this out, this is cool,” works more.  Having their friend say it 8 times works best.  It’s one at a time, but it creates long term fans instead of non-committed flighty half-fans.

So what do we do?  We do what we do as music lovers and buyers.  if we like it, we share.  If you like that Switzerland video below, post it on your Facebook.  If you like Susan’s music, tweet it.  If you like Dan’s band porterdavis, go see their next show and bring 2 friends.

You control the outbreak, and in this context, we want it to spread.

And don’t ever eat bushmeat.

Ritalin live jam with Mike and Dave by janapochop

Here’s a moment in time from a jam I had with my friends Mike and Dave in New Mexico a few weeks ago.  We had been threatening to do this forever, and we finally did.  Mike plays bass and Dave plays dobro (on this track), mandolin, ukulele drums, and probably 6 other things.  We had such a good time, and Dave got the whole evening on tape.  By tape I mean digital file.

He sent the mp3s and the thing that struck me is that this was a jam — meaning informal, play what you want and how you want, and most importantly…unrehearsed.  I basically said, “Hey guys, this song is in D!” and we started.  I thought what came out of this spontaneous moment was so cool I had to share.  It’s not slick and shiny and overdubbed, it’s what happened when 4 brains (my bestest Jamie was in the room holding down the fort and the dogs and offered the “Hooray!”) sit in a room and mess around with music.  Too much fun.  I hope it’s the start of my New Mexico band.  Then I’ll pay them well enough one day where we can fly to gigs on a Lear Jet together.