Ugh. I hate to be typing this, but here is a link to an Indie Go Go fundraiser for John Jennings who is fighting metastatic kidney cancer. You can read all the details at the site but he has had surgeries and is canceling his touring with Mary Chapin Carpenter this summer and his other projects. That’s tough. Having been through the mass canceling of gigs when Susan broke her arm, it is frightening to say the least when you are self-employed like that.

If you know me you’ve probably heard me talk about JJ. He was my very first guitar hero. I spent hours and hours learning transcribed solos of his from Mary Chapin records when I was in high school. I bought a Martin Backpacker because JJ had one (I still have it…he signed it).

I’ve had the good fortune to run into him several times over the years, and even when I pop up in the oddest places like San Francisco or Folk Alliance in Memphis (where we were both conference attendees), he is the nicest and stops for a chat. Here’s a link to his bio if you want it…he’s worked with the likes of Mary Chapin, the Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, and John Gorka to name a few. His musicianship is bar none and his qualities as a great human being surpass everything.

Give what you can and share this link. Chances are he’s had his hand in at least one album or show over the years that has affected your life. Give back!

This Gaga photo has nothing to do with anything.

“Do it right the first time.” I guess I would say I ascribe to this saying. It’s common, it’s one of those oft-repeated sayings from school and childhood used to ward off mediocrity and slackerness.

Except I’m realizing that mantra is not always the best or most logical thing to follow. I’ve been 99% done with my record for a couple of weeks now, and the deal is…I have what I would call “good ears”. SOME have mocked me for my OCD ears, but we’ve brought this album so far and it’s SO GOOD that I just want it to be the best it can be. So does Dan, the producer man.

The other night I was listening through and almost ready to upload the album to my Kickstarter backers, because they are amazing and get it first. That’s when I heard, on the last track, a noise. A lot of times there are little noises made when you record. An open room mic, an artifact from the recording software, whatever. Dan takes care of these as he mixes, but some are tricky and hidden.

So I’ve sent notes to Dan before about noises. Mastering actually makes these little buggers pop out more, I’ve been told, so it’s pretty normal to notice stuff like that. Some of them he hears too and we’ve taken care of them. Some of them, I’m over-listening and it’s a guitar pick sound or something that’s supposed to be there. Dan is very patient and also awesome.

I thought we were done, but there it was…a noise. I slept on it because I really didn’t want it to be there because we’ve mastered this album twice already. I woke up and listened again, and there it was. I emailed Dan. He said, “Yep…there it is.” So he kindly took it out, no big deal, and we re-mastered for the third time (thank you Mark Hallman) and I am going to pick it up today. This is the one. I hadn’t heard anything else, and this was the last track of the whole shebang.

So this morning I was pondering all this. I do operate on a level of perfectionism in my life sometimes, but in art you really do have to learn (and re-learn) that things aren’t perfect and that’s what makes them great. I’ve had to find the line between obsessing over something and on one hand trying to make it almost sterile in its perfection (which benefits no one), and on the other hand understanding that we have made this project SO GOOD that it would under-serving it to give up on the last yard in the marathon.

I think we have done our due diligence, and I am super grateful to Dan for listening along with me. And we DID do it right the first time, meaning we have approached this EP with care and fun and attention, and I think that reflects in the music. It’s as great as it can be and I’m super proud of it.

The Kickstarter backers shall have it shortly, and I’m making a plan to get it to the rest of the world this summer. Promoting a new album is another example of letting go of doing it right the first time, because there’s always something new to try or learn. Let’s hope that process is as fun as the recording process has been!

Here’s a Teaser

14 Apr

Making trailers for things that aren’t movies seems to be hip these days, so I decided to gather up random footage of things in my brain and shove them all together into a minute-long clip. There is indeed a bit of one of the songs from the new EP here to listen to…once you get past Mary Chapin, a very hymn-like hymn, and the Gin Blossoms.

This is Gaga working hard for it.

This business is hard. All business is hard, but the music business is hard, especially for the indie DIY type that is trying to make a living while being a good business person and being an artist. Oftentimes this level of artist is doing everything…booking, practicing, writing, promoting, driving, loading in, running sound, getting paid, mapping, changing flat tires, calling radio stations, web designing…ALL OF IT. It’s hard. This is why I have a job working with one very amazing artist helping with all of these things, and how I landed my idea for Social Thinkery so I could work with other artists on these topics as well.

Bill Small and I did a webinar last week, discussing things like booking, having a great website, and getting past your limiting beliefs in your career. We’re going to do a few more free webinars, but they do by fast and it’s hard to cover anything in-depth.

That’s why we are offering a 12 week course where we can meet with folks weekly and really get in-depth with each artist to address their specific needs, wants, and questions. Everything from Social Media Strategy to setting goals to booking yourself to pushing past your self-imposed limits and anything else artists might need. I’ll be working directly with each artist on their online presence, and we’ll take the 12 weeks to build something great.

Bill talks about it all here – take a listen and consider the course. It’s going to be amazing. Here’s the link. Take a look.


7 Apr

Daniel Barrett and Mark Hallman

EP 3 is almost done and in my hands. I spent a super enjoyable day at Congress House Studio in Austin with Mark Hallman and Dan last week. Mark is a super producer himself, and known as one of the best mastering studios around amen. It was neat to see the process. Mastering takes all the tracks and puts their sounds in context with each other – so one song is not louder than another and you’re not turning your stereo up for the soft ones and down for the louder songs. EQ, gain, and compression are adjusted so everything sounds good as a whole project.

Artwork is almost done…I’ll post that soon!

Whelp, this will be fun! My friend Bill Small asked if I would go in on this wonderful project with him and I yelled “YAAAASSSSSSS!!!” and then more politely responded “Why yes, I’d love to, thank you for asking.” What are we doing?

Well, you can watch Bill’s very well narrated info video here, but I’ll keep chattering about this webinar anyway.

Note: webinar = seminar+the interwebs!

You all know what I do. Between working with Susan for six (6!!!) years on booking and touring and social media and promotion, and working with Dan at Rubicon Recording on music and business and social media, and working with myself on blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking and Vining and SXSWing and ALL THE THINGS…I have some thoughts about how to do the DIY musician thing. A couple thousand, anyway.

Bill, aside from being a great songwriter, performer, producer, and member of the Mighty Mystiqueros, is also the founder of Creative Artist Coaching. He’s spent years helping people, especially artists, break down a lot of barriers that keep them from doing their thing. I know a thing or two about barriers…writer’s block, fear of success, fear of failure, lack of motivation, feeling stuck…these things seem to be rampant amongst musicians who are small business owners (which, if you are a DIY Musician…you are!)

We’ve joined forces on this webinar and we’ll be taking questions about all of these topics and more on Google Hangouts from 1 – 2 PM Central on Monday, March 31st. Stop in, ask a question or 8, and listen to us chat about whatever comes up.

Registration link is here – that will give you all the info on how to log in on the 31st.

See you there!

I love musicians who have paid their dues, played the crap gigs to get to the good ones, are masters at their instrument, write their own songs, and push the limits of their genre. This is why I like a lot of singer-songwriters in many genres. This is why I love Lady Gaga.

There is a huge internet uh…storm…about this whole thing, which I’ll address later, but first I’m going to blog about my own experience with it. So…yes, Doritos brought Gaga to SXSW. To get into Stubb’s, a 2200 capacity venue (or dirt pit, as it were), you could do a few things:

- get your badge scanned at the conference and write a note on a postcard about how you did something bold (which I am pretty certain they immediately threw away)
- Tweet or Instagram about doing something bold
- attend one of many events downtown that Doritos ran called “Bold Missions” involving lame things like getting a weird hair cut or dancing in public

I love me some Gaga but I wasn’t going to get a haircut. Also, while going through this whole week, I am still not sure how “BOLD” relates to Doritos. Is there a new “Doritos Bold” flavor out or something? Anyway, luckily scanning my badge was enough to get me an email the night before that I was indeed headed to the show. We had to pick up wristbands at the convention center starting at 2 PM, so I was in line at 2 and got mine. Then I sauntered up to Stubb’s to see what was going on at about 3 PM. Several things happened:

- I heard Gaga sound-checking “Gypsy” and I got REALLY EXCITED
- I saw that there was already a line of about 30 people
- I figured “Why not?” and got in line. It was going to be a long wait.

Doors were not until 7:30, and I was glad I brought a book. Interestingly, I hardly had to do any recreational reading on the sidewalk because the group around me quickly made line friends and we spent the time chatting about our festival experience, Gaga, and life in general. For some it was their first Gaga show, for some it was old hat (it was going to be my third). Finally they opened the gates at 7:30 and we rushed in to be crunched up together some more and stand for another 2 hours.

I seriously do not have this kind of patience for just about anything. I hate concession lines, grocery store lines, sitting in traffic…I hate it. However, I was so jazzed about this show it didn’t bug me. My feet were tired but after a week of hustling around downtown anyway I guess I just went with it. Also, I just really love her music.

Two opening acts: The Dirty Pearls and Lady Starlight, both from Gaga’s club days in New York. They were good, but as the tone of the crowd grew more impatient, it was clear we weren’t here for openers. A Doritos logo was projected over our heads onto a screen but that’s about all I saw from the chip people.

Finally, a woman comes out to center stage, eating barbeque pretty…suggestively. She takes a bite of a rib and throws it into the crowd. She sits on a chair. A whole bottle of sauce is used. It takes about 10 minutes, the crowd back-and-forthing between “I WANT A RIB!” (because we had been standing for 7 hours) and “GAGA!” The Gaga chants got louder and more intense and finally the curtain dropped and out rolled Lady Gaga on a…spit. She was the meat we had all been chanting for. She launched into “Aura” while untying herself from the rotisserie and it was on.

It was a pretty hardcore rock and roll show, really. Before I get into the most publicized spectacle of the evening, I want to point out that Gaga is REALLY good live. She plays piano like a boss, her voice sounded great, and she had this weird intense look the whole time that would have made me run away were it directed straight at me. She brought it.

Then there was the thing everyone is talking about…the vomit performance artist. As Gaga introduced her friend Millie Brown to help her on the song “Swine” – which she said was about violation and selling yourself, and as Millie walked out with a liter of green liquid and started chugging it, I thought…”This will not end well.” I will admit, I did not see the initial um…upchuck. Too many people in the way and it was toward the back of the stage. Then Gaga and Millie got on a giant mechanical swine-slash-piano (of course) and she started chugging a black goo. Then it happened, and the black goo was all over Gaga’s shirt. While this was registering my mouth dropped open and stayed that way through the whole song. “Did that just really happen? I am shocked. I have never been at a show like this before. My mind is reeling. I kind of like the feeling of being confused at a pop concert. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?” And then it was over and they hugged it out on the swine and the show went on. I knew it was shocking and I knew it was some trippy performance art, but honestly the thought of “THAT WAS SO OFFENSIVE” did not cross my mind once. I mean, I am KIND of a prude, but I’ve seen a lot of stuff go down in the world and I had never seen that.

The rest of the show went on pretty normally comparatively – we got a countrified “Bad Romance” and a killer version of “Applause” and then she ended with “Gypsy” and some thoughtful words about the week at SXSW – its triumphs and tragedies. She told us to go home and pick up our guitars and write something, not post selfies on the internet. She reminded us that no one will care what we tweeted when we’re gone, but they will care about the people we helped and the connections we made. It was good stuff.

She did not try to sell us chips once.

The thing that was interesting about the “Swine” performance is that I kept thinking about it all the way home. I didn’t just leave with some warm fuzzy “that was fun” feeling and move on. I didn’t actually think it was something that would cause an internet stampede the next morning, but there it went. All I knew was that my mind was blown and not because of the performance art although that was definitely part of it. It was just a really great show by one of my favorite artists in a venue with a capacity of the kind that she hasn’t fit into in years. One of the biggest pop stars in the world played at Stubb’s and I was there…and I’m glad for it.

SXSW Recap: Day 5

17 Mar

The last day of Interactive…made it! I found this out last year – after 5 days of intense brain utilization and also being around a lot of people, I am wiped, but happily so. There really isn’t a way to match the experience of being in a convention center full of people excited about things, building things, selling things, and thinking about things. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush and why I attend Interactive with such gusto.

First up was Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter. We didn’t hear much about Twitter itself other than the point that people now reformat their thoughts into 140 characters or less to fit into a tweet which was something previously never thought of before. Interesting. Stone’s new venture is an app called Jelly, crowd-sourcing help from real people, basically. I downloaded it and have asked a question and gotten useful replies back. Will it change the internet? No. Interestingly that was the summation of a lot of recaps I have read this week – there was nothing at SXSW that is going to change society as we know it. Simply upgrades and new applications to existing technologies. This is to be expected, I suppose.

There’s also a wall people hit, I think, with how much they will use technology and how much this expands within a generation’s lifetime. Interactive TV is not catching on because people don’t want to click around while they watch Orange Is the New Black. They don’t want creative control of House of Cards, they want a great story. In terms of wearable tech, which was one of the buzzwords of the conference, it can mostly be applied to gaming and building alternate reality fields for that…with other more everyday applications being things like…counting your calories burned or body temperature. Nothing incredibly mind-blowing, just more data being collected to apply to already existing analyses.

I’m sure another Twitter will come along, and new things are being born all the time, but this year’s conference seemed to be about applying what we have to be more effective.

Speaking of that, Chelsea Clinton rounded out my Interactive experience with her keynote about applying tech uses to third world nations who need them in ways we don’t here in the U.S. There are simple cell phone programs that provide farmers in Africa with information about weather and when to plant crops. There are text programs to tell caregivers in remote villages when to check on their pregnant women. There are apps that can verify medications to make sure they are not fake when buying them. Really easy, cheap, practical applications for real people who need help. Definitely made some previous panels about TVs with four screens in one that detected eye movement and turned up the volume on the screen you were looking at seem…superfluous.

Clinton implored all the attendees to focus some of their work on this humanitarian side, and while her speech was not the most entertaining one of the week (though her sit down chat interview was way more comfortable than the keynote part), it was arguably one of the more important.

Chelsea gets mobbed.

Then I skipped over to a Music Conference panel about technology in marketing and was told to use Spotify and CD Baby…I left that one early to try and win a ticket to Lady Gaga because, well…I know how to use CD Baby and I wanted to see Gaga. It worked.

SXSW Recap: Day 4

16 Mar

Day 4…Monday. After the Sunday Slump everything starts anew. I did pretty well, focusing on responsible topics and staying away from celebrities (although not altogether out of the spotlight as you will see).

Content Shock: The Future of Social Media…this was one of those “history of the internet and where are we going” type panels, which was fun to attend. We went all the way back to the dawn of time…er, dial-up and the ever-constant trend is of course creating content. Experts estimate that in the next 6 years the amount of content on the internet will increase 600%. We will have 6 internets in 6 years! The challenge is to filter this into what we want to consume, and the challenge for marketers is rise above all this noise. Not easy, but exciting.

Edward Snowden was up next with a virtual interview from somewhere in Russia. The interviewer joked that the video might be bad because Snowden was hiding behind 7 proxies…which I think was a joke but actually maybe not. He was somewhere in Moscow. Anyway, Snowden chose SXSW as his first interview because he believed those in the building and designing of technology should be on the forefront of change for privacy. Most apps and websites DON’T do a great job of protecting our privacy. This could change if companies simply made it a priority. After Snowden leaked his first papers, Google, Yahoo, and Apple all immediately made their sites more secure…something that should have been done eons ago. The odd part of this was he was speaking to a room full of people building apps that probably require us to sign into Facebook to connect to more people to get more users for the app. To track our location. To see our accounts. I’m not totally sure how many people in the room were interested in our society’s general level of privacy, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Internet Marketing in the Age of the Superfan was up next…mostly again focusing on TV and movies. There are ginormous clusters of fans for shows and movies that I cannot wrap my head around. I will admit, I check out some Glee fan sites to see what fans say about the show (and its steady decline into something…lame), and I have been a member of a group of Mary Chapin Carpenter fans since the AOL days, but I am not an active participant in any group really. As the panelists pointed out, everyone is a superfan of something. An author, a kitchen appliance, a festival, a TV show…whatever. If it’s a thing that supplies a lot of content, then fans get to take that content and regurgiate it and mess with it…hence…Tumblr. So many GIFs and fanfiction sites and such. The best point from the panel is that while they love it when fans repost content from the show or movie, providing content is a GIFT, not an obligation. Sometimes I get caught up in how many times people share a new video we put out there and I need to remember…it’s for consumption, and the fanbase is not our PR company. Good perspective.

The last panel I went to was a jam packed one about viral videos. I think it was packed because everyone wants to know how to make them, or at least hear how some were made. What I did not expect was that this was just a panel full of people from one marketing company in the UK showing us their very slick, very expensive “trailer” videos that happened to go viral. I left early because I figured someone else could use my spot and I wasn’t getting anything useful. Also I was tired.

It was the home stretch…

I will see Lady Gaga live tonight at SXSW.

Color me thrilled!