I was talking to a good friend today about the concept of “albums” as opposed to projects. To date, I’ve always thought of releasing albums, but I’m now inclined to think instead of releasing tracks as part of a project. The latest project “All Kinds of Crazy” will have the title track released with accompanying video on April 20th as part of “Songs of Hope” from www.musicfortheheadandheart.buzz
This is a very stripped down track and I play all the guitar parts on the superb Waterloo acoustic with the excellent Ella Playford guesting on vocals. I’m really pleased with the end result. We just finished the secord track for the project “Your Chosen One is Coming” and Nick Bloomfield is also going to explore video options for this track. A third track “All is fine, until the world goes pop” is also in progress. I playing all parts on this material and using the superb Arrow UAD unit in a studio to studio set up. For the first time, so far everything is played on guitars, not a ukulele in sight!
I have no idea how long the pandemic lockdown will be for, but it looks like there will be no shortage of time for this project.
I have always been a massive fan of UAD plugins and during this pandemic lockdown I decided to grab an Arrow UAD interface. My initial impressions is that this is really excellent. Crucially it gives me access to my already purchased 31 UAD plugins, but also alsong with the Reaper DAW allows me to work with a seriously high end portable recording unit. The only limitation is that I can only use a few plugins at any one time, but often “less is more” in such situations and my new project is all about working in a stripped down manner.
I’ll report more of my findings in due course, but I’m seriously impressed by the Arrow and the sound is absolutely terrific.
Today was the first time we looked at remote recording from one studio to another via the internet. This required some setting up and the brilliant Carl Rosamond organised it so my studio can talk to his studio.
We used the Acme DI and the Ear Trumpet mic with my hardtail custom strat. This is really old school recording recording a straight instrument and vocals here and then looking at adding other parts. That said I’m keen to remain in “Springsteen Nebraska territory” and keep everything really stripped back. The Acme sounds fantastic and I can see why they used them on the old Motown recordings, guitar straight into a desk.
Its a different sound to previous recording, but I’m really liking what I hear so far. Seeing as we are gonna be in lockdown for what I suspect will be many months, I’m gonna go to work and create a whole bunch of songs. The first proper session will be this Friday where we work on “Your chosen one is coming”
Its clear that we are in very uncertain times with music events cancelled globally. There’s endless chatter online about this and all kinds of lamentations and comments like “You must be heartbroken cancelling festival” Yes, its not great news but lets remember, human life and well being is way more important than a weekend event or a gig.
New thinking, new projects
Since setting up Music for the Head and Heart I’ve been increasingly aware that many artists “have their egg in one basket” and are over reliant on a single source of income from live work. The income stream from products changed long ago and now with the global pandemic, live events have been wiped out. As soon as SXSW was pulled, I thought, “Wow we have a BIG problem” This means artists need to think differently about how to generate predictable income streams for a sustainable way of living.
700 tea bags and a home studio…
We are in new territory and my view is that life will literally never be the same again. The good news is that this creates new opportunities…. I’m working on a new aspect of Music for the Head and Heart with some terrific like minds. This will unfold in the near future and in my very will be pretty inspiring.
I also have a home studio, 700 tea bags and 39 instruments to use for some new recordings. No excuses now, as I have the time to do all those things I have been meaning to do. Stay well, stay safe
This has been an excellent week for The Caravan of Dreams. Florence Rutherford Jones joins the new quartet line up and we just completed our second full band rehearsal, photo shoot and recording session. Flo will be playing violin as well as contributing on vocals. She is a great addition to the ensemple.
On April 4th we’ll be playing our first new gig as a quartet with Laurent Zeller as a a guest at the Music for the Head and Heart showcase in Leeds. The evening with also involve The Caravan of Dreams backing up the superb Captain of the Lost Waves
Yesterday was my first studio outing in 2020 recording in Leeds. I have a bunch of tracks to record and have decided to work on two separate projects, one with the full band and one stripped down project.
Yesterday was spent recording “All Kinds of Crazy” with Ella Playford guesting on vocals. This will be the title track for the album of duets and we’ll record all the material using my superb Ear Trumpet mics. On “All Kinds of Crazy” we started the day with me putting down the basic guitar part with my Collings Waterloo. I forget how much focus you need even to get a perfect rhythm part in play when in the studio. Fortunately I have a superb producer who keeps everything on track and this will be the 41st track I have recorded with him to date.
Once I had the main guitar part down, I started added my vocal parts. We decided to try out a combination of a great ribbon mic and the Ear Trumpet Edwina and Myrtle mics. This is the first time I’ve done a recording with the Ear Trumpets and I now appreciate why so many artists love them for acoustic work. They are perfectly suited for these duo vocal/stripped back recordings.
Ella Playford arrived at 1.30 to start putting down her verses and harmony parts. I have seen Ella perform previously and was blown away by her voice. At 17 she is a remarkable singer with a great ear for harmonies. In just over two hours she had completed all her parts, job done! I’m inviting her back for some more recordings in May as she is a true professional.
One of the great things of being in a familiar studio is when ideas start to spark in an unexpected fashion. As well as using the Collings Waterloo, I brought in my Sobell Model 0. I added some minimal Ry Cooder style phrases that sound great in the mix.
Now we had all the key parts down, the next few hours are dedicated to mixing and mastering. Carl is quite brilliant and I’m amazed at the amount of precision needed for this and how a track begins to really take shape. In forthcoming months I’ll be doing more duo work as well as getting the full band in the studio. Its a fascinating process which requires a huge amount of concentration, but I absolutely love the fact we can work effectively and with so much precision.
“It takes ten years to become am overnight success”
In creating the Music for Head and Heart platform I have had the privilege to talk to a wide range of musicians from enthusiastic beginners to seasoned professional artists. What has really struck me is that for any artist to achieve any kind of success (this will mean very different things to different people, the musician needs to have a good work ethic and be prepared to put in the time needed to develop skills as well as music promotion.
I remember listening to a Robert Fripp audiobook where he talked about his early days in music where he was still working as an estate agent during the day and would then travel to a gig in London, arrive back in the early hours and then start his day job that paid the bills! Tom Verlaine the brilliant guitarist who fronted the band Television, was still working part time in a book shop even when his classic album “Marquee Moon” was released. Both these artists were invested in their work and appreciated that there was no magic wand that would take them to the next level.
Balancing time and money
I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m increasingly aware that balancing time and money is crucial from most performers. I remember one niche festival that would pay a band 100 pounds to play a 20 minute set on the main stage. In contrast I had the same band paid 1800 plus flights and hotels to pay similar sized festival stage overseas. I’m currently offering my thoughts to a festival that is truly seeking to break the mold and create an experience for the public and artists alike that is not just a recycling of the same “safe formula” but is genuinely exploring new territory.
Many artists will fall into the “playing for exposure” trap and discover that its really tough to earn any kind of living. Of course everyone has to start somewhere and its highly optimistic to expect people to pay for entertainment that is not of a high standard. I’ve witnessed some superb performers playing to very small audiences and when I book artists I always do my very best to look after them.
Its very easy to be extremely busy, but non productive. The key is to have a strategy that focuses on the best use of time and money and to really pay attention to what works best. Overexposure is as much a problem as underexposure. The most successful artists find a balance that works best for them. I interviewed a world famous singer once who commented about how crucial it was to remain on the radar. Releasing a single every few years without other exposure isn’t going to cut it. Its like having your egg in one basket! Any music promotion requires focus, time and money.
This means ongoing work and “playing the long game” with exceptional attention to detail and a great work ethic. Many people from what I see and hear, don’t have the stamina for such a task
Attention to detail
Some artists are very focused and keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities. Others spectacularly snatch failure from the jaws of success! This often occurs when they are not looking at a wider picture. I’m recently booking for a major festival and approached some artists who didn’t seize an opportunity in case they got an offer to play at a smaller festival they were familiar with. Of course its 100% their right, but what amazes me is that they don’t explore to see what’s on offer and miss a trick.
Building social media online is also essential to reaching a wider audience. A performer recently mentioned releasing some material and was understandably excited about the prospect. I’ve been keeping an eye out online expecting a social media crank up, but a week away from a single launch there is NOTHING! No online increase in presence, no gigs planned and all social media followers are totally static.
Any kind of promotion in business requires time and money. The key is to know what to invest in and how to invest. Its really easy to burn money and time if you are not careful. These days there are all manner of outlets for music promotion and music promotion options that are affordable. More than ever its about perception. Whether we like it or not, festival/gig bookers and the media look at numbers of YouTube views, social media followers and Twitter stats. I wish this was not the case, but that’s the reality we live in. One thing is certain, a strong work ethic is essential to create any kind of success in whatever way you define it.
2019 was a busy year with the release of “Tales of Dark and Light” and a launch party in May. We recorded 14 tracks for the album and I have another 7 tracks ready to record already in 2020. As well as lining up new gigs, I’ll be spending some time of a side project “The Edge of Feedback” and working on an album of duets of original songs for release late 2020, early 2021.
The lineup of the Caravan will change in 2020, but the core members of myself, Fergus Quill and Rich Ferdi remain. Special thanks to everyone who has recorded with The Caravan of Dreams or played live with us in 2019, including Agi, Rich Ferdi, Fergus Quill, Dave Bowie Jnr, Laurent Zeller, Phil Doleman, John Burr, Chris Smith, Alice Higgins, Paul Conway, Adrian Knowles, Jed Bevington, Evan Davies and Ruth Nielsen. Additional thanks to everyone who came out to see us live, Nick Bloomfield for some amazing video and Carl Rosamond for superb sound engineering and keeping us on track.
As well as working on the projects mentioned I’ll be travelling to Japan, USA, Russia, Austria, India and Poland in 2020 with my other work. Finally the Music for the Head and Heart project goes from strength to strength with more showcase events planned in Jan and April.
In part one, I pointed out how many artists are not looked after by promoters and how promoters fail to pay attention to detail.
As well as these issues, another great way to kill live music interest is to try and promote live music in a space that is totally unsuitable for this purpose. I have countless examples of this, but here are some favorites.
Once example is a venue where the layout means that even though they “promote live music” only a third of the café can actually see the artist! The others can hear the playing faintly in the distance above the conversation of assembled diners. Another example was an EP launch where the light on the stage was literally a single 60 watt light bulb which gace out such poor light that my video recorder couldn’t properly get a picture and this piece of gear worked well in low light, but not that low light!
Other issue can be where the sound kills the artist performance. This can be true for even major venues where I hope against hope for decent sound and its always terrible. I’ve stopped going to such venues as I know I’ll always be disppointed. Unfortunately artists can be complicit in maintaining all these problem scenarios and the end result is that they unintentionally are killing the public’s enthusiam for live music.
This is mostly all avoidable with a little bit of joined up thinking and attention to detail. Perhaps I’m expecting too much?