If you’ve been following my story for a little while, you may remember that one of the main catalysts that propelled me onto my current path (with a brand new CD) was CBC Radio. (For any international readers, CBC is the Canadian version of the BBC in the UK).
At that time, (I thought) I was content to simply write and record my songs with the intention of eventually licensing them to film and television.
My wife Mary had been playing some of my songs in her Zumba class — and the response was terrific.
After several enthusiastic people from her class suggested CBC to me, I finally got the message. That’s how the cards laid out to inspire me to reach out to CBC.
Back in the late fall of 2014, I got in touch with the head of the CBC Music Resources Office, Mark Rheaume. Mark got back to me. He is such a genuine and cool guy. He always got back to me straight away — and with helpful and clear information. A very supportive and great contact for me in the music industry.
He’d listened to a couple of my tracks and he told me that they would definitely fit with many of the shows carried by the CBC. However, he also suggested I have an album — or at least an EP — this way, my story would be a little more compelling for the people who had the shows.
So I thought, “Why not? Ok— I guess I’m making a CD.”
This of course led to an impromptu fundraiser and my EP of 5 songs is now complete. It’s available in my store as a physical CD with cool artwork or on i-tunes.
Update: CBC Radio and My Music
Mark got back to me recently regarding the status of my music. It’s now officially uploaded into the CBC music library. Woo-hoo! Step one accomplished.
Mark also gave me the contact info for all the relevant CBC radio shows in the country who can possibly use my style of music. He suggested I contact the shows in Toronto and encourage them to play my music. The shows also need to play Canadian artists — that can definitely help my cause.
I will keep you posted as I move forward with that!
Another cool thing is that if I ever broaden my base of operations beyond Toronto and play other towns and cities, I will have the contact info for the producers of the radio shows in those towns!
It’s the most rocking song on the album — definitely not for Zumba this time 😉 More of a driving your car kind of song. I literally have a TON of important musical influences — but this song is probably due to early David Bowie along with my bluesy side. I listened to a lot of Bowie at one point during my late teens.
I wanted to have a few different flavours on the album — but still my brand. I think I managed to do it.
Here’s a screenshot of my mixing board for WonderWoman.
The drums are being recorded and mixed in Los Angeles by my co producer Gary Gray as I write this. Kristen Rose is on drums again. If you’re reading this after mid April 2015 or so, you’ll be able to sample my new song WonderWoman right here on the homepage 🙂
Where does a song come from? How does it come to be? Well, I don’t know for sure how songs happen so I’m not gonna try. There are plenty of books explaining the technical side of things.
I am going to relate a cool story about my most recent song, though…
I had a seed of an idea for a song over Christmas holidays.
So I fired up my recording gear and laid down some basic tracks.
Rhythm guitar with a drum loop and some vocals.
After having some fun jamming, I promptly went on with whatever other things I had going on that day.
Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained
Soon after — perhaps even that same evening — while brushing my teeth before bed of course — I had a melodic motif pop into my head. The words were “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
This became the title and hook of the song. People tell me they can’t stop singing it! An idea that popped into my head from the nonlinear quantum “womb” fully formed. All I had to do was nurture it along until it grew, cut the umbilical cord and send it out into the world.
Over the next several weeks I spent up to about 80 hours (perhaps more) refining the idea and my musical arrangement.
When I had what I thought was a pretty decent mix, I sent it to my man Gary Gray in LA. He got back to me with some constructive criticism. Not always easy to accept at face value — but it can be helpful to have outside opinions.
At times, Gary challenges me to dig even more out of myself than I thought possible.
He said it was reminiscent of the soul music from Philly and Motown in the 70’s.
Over the next few days as I proceeded to make some of the changes and tweaks he had suggested, I pondered where indeed had the song come from.
It hit me the other day. Brushing my teeth… after breakfast this time 🙂
Black Magic Woman By Fleetwood Mac?
The other influences were “Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac. Yep. Some cool trivia for you. I absolutely love Peter Green’s guitar playing and songwriting!
I also love the later version by Santana with the latin vibe. I researched and found out that the intro to Santana’s version was featured on a song called “Gypsy Queen” by an artist named Gabor Szabo.
Very cool! There just so happens to be a character in my song who is a Gypsy Crone. You’ll hear it in the song when you listen 🙂
Some other influences became apparent to me as well. As a guitar nerd, I’ve studied many masters over the years.
There’s definitely some “soul jazz” flavour on this song. Guitar masters like Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, etc. come to mind.
Note: from this point on I’ll simply refer to it as NVNG (Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained)
The song itself is based on a 12 bar minor blues structure — guys like Albert King with his great song “As The Years Go Passing By” is an example.
There’s one more important musical influence. I have a strong connection to the Roma culture through family. And I love their music. So I put a few touches of gypsy flavoured notes in the song. You can hear it mostly in the intro, the guitar solo and the outro.
Besides the gypsy character in the lyrics, there is a definite philosophy being addressed in the storyline.
It essentially suggests to open to receive inspiration, and then take action on that inspiration without being attached to the results.
In the east this is outlined in texts such as the Bagavad Gita, and is also quite apparent in the teachings of Jesus.
Here in the west, some call it the Law of the Farm.
Wow! It’s really cool to analyze one of my songs like that. I never would’ve consciously realized a lot of these points had Gary not mentioned to me about the Philly soul vibe.
I was conscious of a few of the points of course — I ain’t just thrown’ sh&t against the wall here and hoping it’ll stick! Lol
Take a listen and see for yourself. If you enjoy it, please feel free to share with friends.
Hope you’re all doing well!
Just touching base with you to give you an update on fundraising for my CD.
We managed to raise $900! Thank you 🙂
Even though my original goal was 2k,
I’m super happy with the results though. Why?
Because I’ve been able to get “commercial quality” recordings done on my own at home (no easy task!) — this enables me to keep the costs low.
First Official Release
Since it’s my first official release, I simply want to get the record sounding great and get it “out there.”
I’d love to have all the bells and whistles such as live musicians in a really cool studio somewhere with a really cool record producer and money for a publicist, etc. Who wouldn’t?
And I could quite possible raise more money with the correct approach and reach that 2k. But I don’t think I’d finish the record! I’ve learned that fundraising is a job in and of itself. Touring/performing and recording are probably best done separately. Fundraising requires it’s very own focus.
I’ll look to do more of that with my next recording when I’ve got a stronger foundation built. We’ll see what the Quantum Universe has in store for the seeds I’m busy planting 🙂
5 Songs Not 6…
I have made one tweak — and that is the EP will have
5 songs instead of 6.
After speaking to some industry people, it makes more sense. Many people release EP’s with only 3 songs nowadays.
3 songs are completed, 2 on the way.
I’ve already paid for the final 2 to be mastered and polished by my man in LA with money from the fundraising. I hope to book a session drummer as well.
I should then have enough left to get the CD’s and artwork manufactured. If I’m lucky, perhaps even a decent little video production for one of the songs to promote on YouTube. You’ll help me by sharing it with friends when the time comes, won’t you?
BONUS: If you know my wife Mary, the artwork is courtesy of her! It’s one of her paintings that hangs on the wall in my studio 🙂
See it at the top of the page.
Wishing you guys all a great week — thank you for your coolness!
This New Year release is a story of letting go. It’s not a new recording — yet! In order to complete my upcoming album, I first need to create more space.
For the New Year, I’m letting go of what no longer serves me. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s more difficult.
I had a different New Year’s blog post in mind. I envisioned myself dusting and vacuuming, straightening and clearing my studio. Writing about it and taking some photos.
Instead, I just cancelled my guitar lessons website. I won’t bother linking to it in this post as it’ll probably be non existent by the time you read this. In essence it was called Free Guitar Lessons Online — and it was my very first website.
I started building it in March 2009. It was intended as a way to make people aware of my music — but somehow it became it’s own thing.
For almost 4 years, I dove deep into a “system” about learning about the internet. SEO, keywords, how to write better headlines, optimize videos, create a newsletter list, etc.
The site was based entirely on guitar lessons. Mostly with video and written content. Back then the way to earn money on the internet was via Google ads.
People would bid to have their ads placed alongside relevant content. I was a content provider who was able to attract a good amount of traffic.
And even though my first intention was to use the guitar lessons to raise people’s awareness about my music, this soon became obscured by my new plan…
My Dream of Passive Income
I would create enough content to provide a steady stream of “passive income” via ads on my site. This would free me up to spend more time recording my music.
The Universe — and the Intelligent order of things — had other plans! Just as my site started to cross the threshold of attracting enough organic traffic via Google to make some decent money from the ads, Google began a drastic restructuring of it’s algorithms.
Most smaller sites got “hit” — even though Google’s intention was to eliminate the “bad guys” who had been gaming the system for a few years.
Even though my site played by the rules, it was hit pretty hard. I was “screwed” — at least with making enough passive income through ads.
I still had enough traffic to make money — but I would need to develop a suite of guitar lesson products and learn how to sell them.
I felt really down at the time — I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel the creative drive to develop these products and sell them, but I didn’t know what else to do.
As time went on, I started to pay less and less attention to my guitar lessons website — although I tried a few other strategies just to be sure. I even managed to build a Facebook page on guitar lessons that has over 20k likes. It still gets many likes and views and I stopped touching it several months ago.
Meanwhile, I continued to teach my private students here in my studio and work on my songs and my music. However, that was only on the surface…
Getting Honest With Myself
I started getting more in touch with myself about certain core issues. I get up early most mornings and actively meditate, journal and reflect. I used this time to ask myself what I really want out of life.
I began to realize that I had been playing it safe. That the guitar lessons site was a substitute for what I really wanted to do — create and perform my songs for people!
I had to dig deep to get past blocks in my mind that came up with all kinds of reasons and beliefs to discourage me from following my heart.
I’m still working with these old belief systems while I continue to take action everyday in the direction of my true desires.
I have come to feel deeply that I am co creating with the Universe — and that by staying true to myself, the light of the Universe is able to shine more brightly into this world.
By healing these limitations within myself, I’m helping to heal the planet. It’s not just about me. It’s about humanity.
Do you have any limitations holding you back? If so, it’s ok. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be here experiencing life in a physical body!
I’m not here to tell you what to do about it. Just please don’t use any of this as a stick to beat yourself up with! We are all in this healing process together 🙂
New Year Release
I’m telling my story as a way to inspire you. If I can do it, so can you type of thing.
This New Year, look around and see if there is anything that no longer serves you. Then see if you’re ready to let go of it.
Start with small things. Material goods and items (I just let go of a winter jacket I’ve had for almost 10 years. How did I manage to create sentiment around such an item? I had it on when I “hooked up” with my wife Mary. Lol.)
Work your way up slowly. Very slowly if you’re new to this type of thing. Baby steps are all that’s necessary. Be gentle with yourself, but lean into it.
Wishing you all the best for this New Year of 2015!
I received a standing ovation at the end of my mini concert a couple of days ago. Is it because I “blew the roof off the joint?”
I played well. I’m really very satisfied with my performance. My sound was good (I even had a couple of musicians in attendance looking at my super basic gear afterwards and asking me how I got such a great sound), I knew the songs really well, I had a well designed set and people were there to listen and watch. When I looked out at the audience, they were absorbed in what I was doing.
But I don’t think that’s why I got a standing ovation. If you read my previous post about how I kept getting really emotional and tears of gratitude while rehearsing, you’ll get a kick out of this.
I actually had it happen to me in the performance! Oh man. The thing I really didn’t want to happen (other than technical issues, of course) happened.
And you know what? People loved it. It was spontaneous. It was real. It was authentic.
You can’t plan things like that.
What Is Being An Artist, Anyway?
I guess it’s all part of being an artist. Because in our day to day life where we wear our “social and protective rubber…ummm masks”, we start to believe that everyone is just as cool as can be.
Know what I mean?
As an artist I’m grateful to have the task of revealing myself — in order for others to feel safe to reveal themselves. Not to be confused with those blubbery whining stereotypes that are always vulnerable — but to be real and authentic.
This includes vulnerability. But it also includes strength, courage and confidence. And of course Love. And the more authentic we can be, the more these authentic feelings from the core of our beingness express.
When I say love, I don’t only mean romantic, friendship and family — I also mean that passion for being alive and connected to everything else in the Universe(s) that is alive also.
If you were at the event, thank you again for your support!
I shed tears of gratitude today. Before you say “big deal” or “you wimp” let me tell you that I haven’t shed tears in a long time.
I do confess to having the sniffles when watching poignantly touching scenes from a film with my wife — but when it comes to real life? Once in a blue moon.
Why The Tears of Gratitude?
I’ve been working hard at my art form since I was a teen. I don’t want to go into the details, but I had to run away from home as a teen in order to follow my dream of doing music.
I didn’t have any support in my childhood home when it came to making a career in music.
I’ve been homeless. I’ve slept in stairwells and lobbies of buildings. Eaten and slept in homeless shelters. Fortunately this didn’t last long, and I was able to get work and land on my feet within a few months.
We always have support, of course. If we’re willing to receive it and look for it. Many people have supported me since then in ways both big and small.
Why Did I Weep Tears of Gratitude Part 2
I’m in the midst of crowd funding to raise enough money to finish my album and promote it.
The first step has been a community fundraiser. You may already know about this. My wife Mary is conducting a Zumba class. This will be followed my a live and intimate performance by me.
As I’ve been rehearsing over the past few weeks for this mini concert, I’ve found myself choking back tears on more than one occasion.
I don’t really want to break down and cry while on stage, so I finally asked Mary what she thinks about it. She said it the tears need to come out. Just let the tears out.
I told her that sounds wise. I then told her it’s the love and gratitude I feel toward her for helping me put this event on — and also for all the people that have stepped up to support with their wallets and time.
I’ve worked extremely hard at my craft — and my art form — for many years now, and not received much in the way of support or recognition. I’m not complaining. How else should it have been? And I know because of these early hardships I have a resilience that perhaps many do not have. Doesn’t mean it was easy though. And I questioned my decision to stay true to my calling many times. I’ve faced down the demons of self doubt many many times.
It’s also not about being “God’s gift” or famous — it’s more than this. This is my calling. These are my talents. I have felt that I have something to say and offer our culture for many years — and finally it’s starting to be recognized. It’s a feeling of purpose and belonging. Without being a false version of myself. It’s ok to let my light shine!
That’s what caused the tears of gratitude to flow.
After saying this to Mary, I had my head in her arms and I was weeping. She certainly doesn’t see me like this everyday, but I’m really glad she did.
It felt really good to allow myself to show her my vulnerability in that moment.
Does this mean I’m gonna be weeping any time soon though? Hopefully not. Although I am allowing the feelings of gratitude to deepen and expand as much as possible.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I have wept tears of gratitude today because of you 🙂
I’m releasing an album (EP of 5 or 6 songs) in March 2015.
Now as I find myself in the midst of the crowdfunding process, I pause to reflect on how I got here.
3 weeks ago I didn’t have any plans of making an album. Perhaps in the hazy distant future, but not now.
So how did is it that I am suddenly “making an album” and finding myself in the midst of crowdfunding campaigns and promotion?
Withdrawal From The “Music Scene”
In the past I had been “on the scene” in various guises. Both as a cofounder of a rock band playing the top clubs in Toronto and as a solo singer/songwriter when the internet was just becoming a part of people’s lives.
Due to various circumstances at the time, I found myself withdrawing from the music scene. I decided to focus on my inner development, my musicianship and writing, as well as my grass roots guitar teaching business.
After 5 years of this, I met my wife Mary. Now, after 8 years focusing on those things within our marriage, I find myself being inspired to again bring my music to the world.
This time it feels different. This time I have Mary’s support — along with many in her Zumba community. She plays my songs in the cool downs after class and my songs have grown on many of the participants. This is also what directly led to me crowdfunding my album.
It’s given me the confidence I needed to pursue what for me has been a lifelong dream. I would even say that other than knowing my own true nature, it’s my dharma — my calling. Even during those years when I withdrew from the music scene, I actively pursued my dream everyday.
I practiced my craft everyday. Very rarely do I miss a day of practice. Whether it’s guitar, keeping my voice in shape or songwriting.
Something else happened in the past couple of years that also gave me a confidence boost. Now, when I say confidence I don’t mean I’m some “mousy” character. It takes a lot of guts to stick to this. Especially in my case where I just couldn’t seem to gain any traction in the “music business.” No matter how good I or others thought I was, how hard I worked or how many sacrifices I made, I just didn’t seem to be able to put the necessary ingredients together at the right time.
As a matter of fact, I have entertained the thought of walking away from it all many times. But it never pans out because I know in my heart I’m not being honest with myself. I’m just trying to escape the pain. But that’s all part of the learning curve when it comes to the art of being human.
Becoming My Own Producer/Engineer
A few years ago, I’d taken to studying and practicing the art of audio engineering. Since I’d never achieved the results I wanted in commercial studios in the past, intuitively I felt that having a deep knowledge of production was a key for me.
And I was right. After about 5 years of working on my own recording projects, I took an online course on home recording for the independent musician.
I loved it so much that I spontaneously emailed the author — Gary Gray — in order to thank him for his amazing contribution to my life.
To my surprise he emailed me back and asked to hear some of my work. He loved what I was doing and offered to mentor me.
So I began working on songs according to Gary’s protocol. I would send him my results and he would give me suggestions on what I could do to improve my mix.
When my mix was finally ready, I would retain Gary’s world class skills to master the song. Mastering is a complex engineering procedure which essentially takes the song and makes it “broadcast quality.” This means it will sound good across any sound system and the production quality will sound comparable to major label releases.
Sidenote: At that time my main goal with my songs was to have them at a good enough production quality to be licensed for film and television. I’ve actually managed to succeed with this twice so far. One contract with a prominent LA firm I ripped up — as it turned out they wanted too much. They didn’t even want me to sell my songs on i-tunes for example. They asked for me to give up a lot — to possibly have a song in a reality show or soap. Forget it! And my other (still ongoing) contract is with a film that is pending. The producers are also getting financing together. It’s a major Hollywood film that I hope sees the light of day. My song will be in it. In that situation the deal is non exclusive. Very artist friendly.
Over the past 18 months or so I’ve managed to complete 3 songs with Gary’s guidance. You can stream 2 of them here and the 3rd one is available as a free song download if you sign up for my newsletter.
The next catalyst to alter my situation was that I got in touch with CBC radio. The head of the music library there is a really cool guy — and we talked a bit on the phone. He had listened to 2 of my songs and really thought they would do well on CBC.
However, he also suggested that I need to release an EP (short album) or album in order to give them a “story” to frame things for radio.
This discussion occurred about 4 weeks ago. So here I am — in the midst of crowdfunding my album!
Mary and I are learning as we go. We immediately booked a local church for a fundraiser. It’s on Friday, Dec. 12 at 7:15pm at Kingston Rd. United Church (975 Kingston Rd.)
The event starts with a 45 minute Zumba class led by Mary. If you don’t already know, Zumba is a kick ass dance fitness class peppered with latin and world beat dance music. It’s so much fun! And an incredible workout. Muscles worked from head to toe, core, cardio, timing, balance, coordination and endorphins out the roof 🙂 Very very cool music.
After that I’ll be performing a mini concert for 25 minutes or so. There will also be light snacks available and some fun and inexpensive “stocking stuffers” donated by our friend Audrey. Everything from slippers to cookie jars, etc.
All the proceeds will go toward the funding of my album due out in March 2015. The ultimate goal is $2000 which means we may be crowd funding as an ongoing process. However, any money we raise will help!
Some of the costs incurred in the creation of my album are some of the engineering and mastering, a session drummer, CD manufacturing and artwork along with a video for one of the songs.
Since I’m doing the bulk of the leg work myself we’re able to keep the costs quite low. Probably less than half of what most artists starting out pay production companies to do for them.
And yes — I feel as if I’m starting out! I feel that this is the first real opportunity I’ve had to really be heard. To be myself. And to pull together the necessary resources.
It seems all the club dates, CD’s, commercial gigs, open mics, studio work and teaching guitar lessons, etc. in the past were simply a very long and self financed artist development. I’m ready to bring my Soul to this world!
Final Thoughts On Crowdfunding My Album
Crowdfunding my album will probably end up being an ongoing process. Mary and I put this local event together in a very short time. Everyone there knows who I am. As I move forward with the album I may utilize online resources for crowdfunding. I feel like the skills and the confidence I’ve developed from putting this event together will really be helpful with the online crowdfunding tools. It will be challenging in a different way because nobody really knows who I am. But because of this event — and all the legwork I did on my own prior to this event — I’ll have a cool and interesting story for people to get excited about. Stay tuned!