Been a hot minute since I have made a post. For the past several months, who am I kidding – this past summer, I’ve been holed up doing a lot of different things music related. Initially I had a plan to be releasing singles on a set schedule and then a monkey wrench came my way. A good monkey wrench mind you.
I was asked to prepare a list of 8 things before I start releasing songs again. That’s 8 things per song as currently not doing albums any more. Most of that stuff I had already been doing, but there were a few things that I had not been doing. It lit a fire up under my ass to actually get the rest of the list done on anything new that I plan on releasing. But my workhorse self decided I needed to do this for several of my past singles as well. These are important things that were getting left out.
Fortunately another friend stepped up to offer a trade of services. One of those services were on my list of 8 things I was missing. How awesome is that?!? I’m getting to trade something I need for something that I can do. That is the idea of music videos. Thus we’ve shot two music videos so far for previous releases. They’re done, in the can, ready to go. I’m waiting on VEVO to give my label control of my VEVO channel so they can start releasing them. They sure seem to take their sweet time responding to anything. Rest assured that as soon as VEVO grants us control to my VEVO channel, there will be new videos coming once they stop leaving us out of control of my channel.
Another aspect I had been missing, lyric videos. I’m in process of creating several lyric videos as well as saying, I’ve got several done in the can, ready to go. Again, waiting on VEVO. Those video are feeling left out, but hopefully not much longer.
There’s another avenue I’ve been traveling where I’m producing other artists. Sometimes it goes really well, other times it’s a process of explanation during recording. I’m a stickler. I can’t let things slide when it comes sonic quality and I strive to make it as awesome as possible to listen to. For some artists it’s easy and they can perform. For others, it’s difficult being under a microscope and coached to get that tingly hair raising vibe from them. That’s the gold standard, does it perk my ears up or make the hairs on my arm stand up? If so, we’ve nailed it. I don’t want other people to get left out of feeling those hairs stand up.
Additionally, I’ve been working really hard on another project in my current home town. One that is meant to lift up the entire music community. To improve their songwriting, their performance chops and hopefully allow them to demand and earn more when they do perform. I was able to get a space from the city strictly for this endeavor. As of a couple of days ago and several months after initial approval then an out of the blue disapproval and back to re-approval, that space is ours to use. Songwriting events start to commence this coming Wednesday and people are excited. Which is just plain awesome. We don’t plan on leaving anyone out.
Beyond this, sometimes you get caught up in other people’s bullshit. Which also happened this week. I was subpoenaed out of the blue for a lawsuit happening between two people I don’t even know. One is an artist. The other is a producer. The short of it is (for this post anyway, I do plan on a much longer post about all this as it is a good lesson for budding artists and producers alike), said artist sued said producer for breach of contract and won. Said artist then solicited bids for production from other local area producers to find the most expensive one to use as an example in suing for damages. That one happened to be me. Now I’m dragged into their mess, I really wish they left me out of it. As I wrote, I will be writing a much longer post about this in the coming days as it does make for a real good lesson.
Finally, getting left out. It’s not a state secret that I’m an award winning songwriter and I’m not a slouch as a performer either. But I do pick my shows and my means of playing live carefully as I don’t like to lose money doing it. There is a festival going on right now in my home town where I’m getting questioned by friends, fans, and even representatives as far away as Nashville and Los Angeles as to why I am not on the bill. I know the main reason, but I’m not keen on sharing it. But it’s hard to not feel a little bit bitter about it when it is put on by local people and as an artist you are the one full time musician that has won awards and lives there full time but not invited to play with a large amount of other award winning songwriters from out of town. Fortunately I have friends who have sought to get me on the bill to no avail. And more fortunately one of the main peeps did grant me an access pass to at least attend the events I wish to attend with the words “We’ll work on getting you on the bill next year.”
Oh, I’ve also been making some behind the scenes additions to my website. One of them is the addition of player buttons from multiple streaming services. Now I’ve added Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube and Amazon to the main page. I’m still behind on adding them to all the previous releases, but I’m getting there. I’ve also been working on playlisting landing pages. Where a person can click a button and immediately playlist one of my songs on Spotify. The process works you can see the page for A Perfect Man as of right now. I have them for other songs. I’m almost to a point to be making them all public. Once I have the done I will start making it happen for Deezer and Apple Music as well as I believe those two services also allow us to do it via an API. They will come with time. So right now Deezer and Apple Music (as well as other services that don’t allow it) are getting left out.
That is all for right now.
Working on not going radio silent again.
The Hostless Oscars
A paradigm shift happened in award shows last night, the hostless Oscars. Normally, I’m not fully interested in watching the Oscars. I find them stodgy and usually boring. Often it’s a lot easier to watch the highlights of the interesting things that happen. As per Anne Hathaway, the worst Oscars ever happened last year – and I didn’t watch.
Last night I watched the Oscars as I wanted to experience the idea of an awards show that didn’t have a host. What I got was an efficient show that felt like it had a decent flow. What a refreshing change of pace. Not having to watch a carnival barker doing a song and dance in-between each award was fantastic.
The awesome side effect is that each award became about the award itself and not about the lame ass stuff the host does trying to keep people interested in the show. I was more riveted, I was more interested to know about the people nominated and the winner of the award itself. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?
The other great side effect of the Oscars last night was an earlier finish that didn’t feel forced or exhausting. There were a few moments where I was disappointed in producers cutting people short in their acceptance speech. Though, let’s be honest here, when people start thanking tons of people who very few people are privy to know – it’s boring and rambling at it’s very worst.
After the show I sent out a tweet stating that was a perfect showing as to how to run an awards show and that the Grammys should take note and do the same thing next year.
The Grammys would do well to note that the Oscars going sans host was a win. I know that lots of media outlets thought Alicia Keys did a spectacular job hosting the Grammys. Personally, I didn’t agree. I felt that lots of her comments and constant statements were forced and not genuine. That’s coming from a musician that is a fan of Alicia.
It was as if the Grammys were trying way to hard to oversteer the boat. I had female friends texting me during the Grammys mentioning the same thing – that the Grammys were trying too hard to push some agenda that felt forced and fake.
The bigger news of this years Grammys were the artists that turned down performing on the Grammys. The biggest of them all, Ariana Grande, even called the Grammys out after the producer sent out a fake statement as to why she wouldn’t be performing. Mashups of various artists who probably wouldn’t otherwise work together were on the chopping block. As they should be. That’s part of the whole feeling forced vibe.
Personally, the Grammys would be well served to limit performances to the 5 songs nominated for Record of the Year. Get rid of Album of the Year – the new industry isn’t about selling Albums, it’s about streaming, time to fuckin embrace that shit. This way, we, the consumers (and yes, I consider myself an ardent music consumer despite also making music on a professional level), won’t get terribly bored by lackluster performances by artists that are too weak to deny the Grammys making them look like grind organ monkeys.
Sprinkle those performances throughout the awards show, like the Oscars did. That way there isn’t a constant barrage of some pointless host trying to make points that fall of deaf ears. Nor would there be performances that make no sense.
Cracks in the wall of the old method of awards presentation at the Grammys blew wide open. The Oscars cemented the foundation of how to move forward. As a member of the academy, I’m hopeful that we can make a change that show the Grammys could become more relevant going forward. Where people can see more of the actual awards, as a vast majority of the Grammys are done prior to telecast – in an effort to have more “song and dance” that many find more boring than the awards we don’t get to see.
Will the Grammys make the change? We can only hope they’ll take note of how well the hostess Oscars came across.
You can’t control crazy!
About an hour ago as I write this, a post I made on social media picked up a few responses from a few people. Then came a crazy response that caused me to think, hey, this might make a humorous response. Off went my reply into the social media ether. Or so I thought.
I didn’t expect to suddenly be inundated with a slew of posts where each one made less sense than the one before it. Some insulting. Initially I thought it prudent to explain the humor. Then it went even further south. Its like I tapped into crazy. Or rather some person’s crazy that I eventually had to think to myself. Stop responding.
I ended up wondering exactly what set this guy off. So I make a small trip into his profile. I find someone who fancies themselves a lyricist. One who has publicly promoted a known company that takes hopeful musicians/lyricists money to make demos and offer a publishing deal that is about as good as a rubber quarter for spending. Who knows, maybe this guy is the next country version of Bob Dylan, I’m not willing to find out.
After that trip down the rabbit hole, I continued to get posted – despite my silence. I hit the mute button as I had to remove myself from the situation. It was making my brain hurt.
It seemed quite similar to an exchange I had with a stalker a few years back. Yes, I’ve had a male stalker. You try to be nice and the person continues to be less than considerate, that’s when you have to put the real distance between yourself and their crazy.
In happier news, I’ve been finishing a bunch of tunes destined for TV. Pardon me while I put focus back into the music.
There’s been an undue amount of silence on my website and social media. For those not interested tl;dr – this is a rundown of my past two months of real silence.
Silence on a Journey
Its been a tad quiet on my website since late November. That wasn’t by design. It was by life. The music industry generally shuts down in December and at the end of 2017, I ended up holing up myself with family and pretty much working on a project being planned for later this year in 2018.
I did my annual pilgrimage to NAMM in Anaheim. Letting out a little information about the upcoming plans, which isn’t something I’m want to do. Mostly because without a contract in place – its really all air being blown about. Its better to keep the silence when things aren’t in stone. Despite that, I and a couple of future bandmates got to partake in seeing Andy Grammer rock the outdoor stage at the convention center.
His songs are enjoyable, but after seeing him live I now understand his real talent. Putting on an awesome show!
Certainly gave me a bunch of ideas of breaking my live silence, when plans for later this year come thru.
Solace in Skiing
Winter got turned on its head. Eastern states got pummeled while the west was left nearly bone dry. Due to a bunch of unscheduled trips away from the studio, I turned to skiing to realign my soul. There’s a spirit in the high altitude that isn’t matched anywhere else. There’s a freedom to life when you succumb to gravity and let it pull you down mountains as fast as you can stand to go – and I can stand to go pretty damn fast. Most skiers can’t keep up. Thinking about that, it would be pretty awesome to spend a day skiing with Lindsey Vonn. She and I could just run the mountain in silence, but I’d probably gush in admiration.
In March I came to a realization that my old hosting service wasn’t going to be updating their backend software. After a couple of years of asking for updates, and being told, we’re eventually going to. This led to reaching out to my friend Derek Sivers. He suggested that I ought to strike out on my own and go self hosted. He claimed I could do it in a week. Therein began a real fork in the road for 6+ weeks. The true moment where I pretty much went into digital silence with minor moments of social media posts here and there.
Technology isn’t a stranger in my life, but I’d never considered learning to run my own server stationed on the web. Yes, I have a server at home that allows me to house digital copies of all my media and gives me an encrypted way to control my studio machine from afar. That’s far cry from the open ocean of the internet.
I began learning how to install an entirely different operating system than what I was used to. This led to a rather steep learning curve. I pestered Derek about software and options of what to do, until he pretty much said – I’m going out of contact for a couple of weeks. Fortunately I had a brother from another mother in Jesse Stern who was taking a very similar journey.
A crash course of learning the ins and outs of server life. It was eye opening.
Security was the original breaking straw of why I wanted to find a new host. I was installing the latest and greatest of operating systems, web serving software, databases, email, ftp and vpn setups. My first attempt found me about a 4 days in and suddenly locked out of my own server. Oops. My second server went much better, but still took a good deal of time.
Then came the need to extract all my data off of my old host. It spread into so many different areas. Once collected I found that it was roughly 1.6 terabytes. I couldn’t imagine I had that much data stored in places. It accrued in silence over a bunch of years.
A harsh reality smacked me in the face. A blog site that I used to run on a daily basis Single of the Day, took me hours to port over. Several thousand audio tracks. Plus an unruly database. It took me 3 days to delete hundreds of thousands of spam comments because WordPress couldn’t handle doing it itself. If you don’t think spam takes up much space – I learned that it was several gigs in my database. Once removed from that site’s database, it shrank from multiple gigs down to a few megs. Wow!
Come later this year my silence from Single of the Day will be broken. In the meantime, I will spend random time here and there to convert old posts to the newer format. A format that showcases posts like before, but instead of using MP3s, I’ll be going for digital streaming posts namely on Spotify. It falls more in line with my original goal of getting artists I’ve posted about, paid when people listen.
When email finally switched and went online with the new server, I was terribly naive. Within 24 hours my father’s email account killed my email setup. Yes, I’m hosting my dad’s website and email. He’s like most older people who aren’t terribly savvy with their email account. Tons of spam. It didn’t help that my ignorance also left my email server software open to outside users to crack and send spam.
There wasn’t much silence from my mouth after that realization.
Rebuild It Again
I had to destroy another server and start from scratch. By this time I was getting pretty darn proficient with installing things. However, I decided to switch hosts to a new cloud host as I was disappointed with the previous cloud host and their lack of customer support. The fortunate thing was, all my websites and other valuable info had been pared down to roughly 15gigs, far cry from the original 1.6 terabytes. This also meant spending more time securing the backend.
It took another week to get it close to running full speed. Email still eluded me.
Then I took a trip to see about a girl. Talk about a waste of several days of time right there.
I kept working on email. Making sure all my certificates for my domains were in order. I doubled down on securing the email server. To the point that once I got it working, it wasn’t fully working properly. I have about 180 email aliases. I do this in order to find out where what companies end up selling my info to spammers. Then I can delete that alias. It took several days to figure out a setting in the software that was missing literally two words from the code. Those two words cost me several days of time in getting email back to fully functional.
Amazing. That’s the word I’d use for what happens to servers. They get brute force attacked. Which is why I ended up installing software to ban intruders. Fingers crossed it keeps things at bay.
At this point, I’m breaking my silence because yesterday I finally got all of my digital life back up to speed. Up to speed on way more modern software. I revamped this website and offered up a request to the software creator for a desired change to the music pages. They liked the idea, hopefully they’ll implement it soon.
This digital journey led to my websites serving pages faster than ever before. My email is running better than ever before, plus I’m getting less spam and I can see that despite spammer attempts to break in and send spam, so far its not happened. I’ve switched to a new email list software that I’d really love to have you on (hint hint – signup using the form at the bottom of this page!) It also means my phone and laptop are running faster, because I run a VPN for my data needs in public.
Back to Music
I’m back in the studio saddle. Still working on the plans for later this year, I’m really hoping to have some awesome news to share about that soon (I really thought it would be all set back in February). In the meantime I’m finishing up a slew of music for a new library. I’m finishing up several singles to add to the stockpile. And I’m ramping up on additional plans for later this year. Until then, please go listen to my latest single Rise Up!
Here’s the 3rd installment of videos around getting great guitar tones from a computer using MainStage. This video showcases how to split up guitar sounds into multiple patches to switch between within songs.
MainStage Song Parts For Multiple Guitar Sounds
The reason behind setting them up this way is simple – it’s the best way to control the system for the Tuning function, as well as for making patch changes function via a single button press. Because we all love simplicity when playing live.
I’ve been doing a lot of recording in the past several years where the guitar tones are important. Who am I kidding? Guitar tone is always important. I’ve recently made the switch to using software and computers for all my guitar sounds and amplification.
Great Guitar Tones
One thing I’ve found in my exploration of sound is that there is more than one way to get great guitar tones. This is a different mentality from a majority of guitar players that believe there is only one way which involves a classic guitar and a hardware amplifier. No matter where I go and mention that I’m using a computer for my guitar tones, I get people that say its not possible. Not possible that is, until they hear it. Then they change their minds.
Looking around on YouTube and other parts of the internet, I’ve been unable to find anyone who is really showing how to use a computer to get great tones. Thus I recorded a short series of simple tutorials on the subject. Here is the first one that gives a beginning look at how I’m doing it and part of what I’m using software wise.
The revolution is here. Enjoy and stay tuned for the next two videos.
Developing A Midi Foot Controller
In an effort to create a better live performance experience, I’m developing a midi foot controller. One that is more simple and more advanced than any other I’ve researched on the market.
Why? Well, I caught a glimpse of Ed Sheeran playing live and found that his rig is a customized device that is fairly large. Initially I went looking for ones on the market that I could twist to my will. The common problem is they’re generally too simple or way too complex. None of them actually show you the computer’s screen that you’re connected to. Most are made of thin materials and plastic, meaning they’re not super durable.
I had an old midi controller for a traditional guitar rig that I have of normal hardware like an amp, power amp, effects racks, etc. I connected it up to the computer to see if it would communicate correctly with the software I’m going to be using in a laptop. What I discovered was disappointing. It could do a few things, but not everything, despite being a very advanced midi controller. Oh well.
A couple of months ago I started sketching (using Paper by FiftyThree) on my iPad for a pedal board that would do what I wanted it to do.
Then I picked up a 20″ x 30″ piece of foam board. I started poking holes and tracing things out to make a bit more sense. My next sketch became this:
I mentioned my endeavor to a buddy of mine at lunch and how I was looking to find a fabricator that could make the casing. That sent me on a long journey. I learned about metals and how they get cut and/or welded. The original company I went to sent me on an excursion. First I needed a version of my design in a file format I had never heard of, dxf. Then he could give me an estimate. I called my sister and asked if she had heard of that format because she’s an architect. Sure enough she had and asked me to send her my drawings. A week and a couple of lengthy screenshare sessions later – she sent a dxf of the design that was improved upon initial vision.
I went back to the builders to get an estimate. Then he sent me on another journey to ask about powder coating. I ended up talking to about 8 different manufacturers. None of whom could do the case from front to back. Everyone had one thing they did and charged a lot for. So I went back to the first company and said: Let’s go with it. They responded, sorry – our cutter won’t do aluminum because it screws up their machines. I wanted aluminum because it would be strong a light.
Another round of hunting and I found a company that could do it from start to finish. And to make things even cooler, the guy rendered my case into a 3rd model.
And gave me a much better quote than all the previous people, by a long shot. Then came more questions and in the process of talking about it, he had additional ideas to help improve the design of my foot controller from a builders/welders standpoint. To which my sister agreed. The next rendition was:
At this point I was ready to say – let’s do this.
Story of the foot controller will continue in the next block post.
Becoming a phoenix of sound. That’s my new mission as of January 1st 2015. I didn’t consciously make a new year’s resolution about it, but I’m definitely on the path.
While in Las Vegas to play a gig in 2014, I was hanging with a good friend. He put on the TV while we were chilling and on came the show Austin City Limits from his DVR. It was the episode with Ed Sheeran playing some of his material as he does – solo acoustic with a looping setup. Instant inspiration struck me. Right then, right there. I pulled out my iPad to do a little research into what Ed uses to get his loops happening. It was a bust on the net with every site saying, oh he uses the RC-30 or some such little Roland pedal.
No way was it a little Roland pedal that I saw on the screen. It was something much bigger, much better. My buddy Brian, who’s house it was and who is also a musician, obliged me as I freeze framed the show at the few spots that had his pedal board on screen. Unfortunately there was no real clear shot of the name, nor of the make. [not until early January did I find a little corner of the web that gave a good detail of the box: The Chewie Monsta, Ed’s custom board.]
But boy did it hit me about how to approach the new singles I’m going to be dropping this year. Hit me in how to perform them live when I’m sans band. Thus began the process in my head.
Phoenix of Sound
I called another fellow tinkering musician late last year and asked if he’d be willing to embark on the mission with me. Mostly because he’s into making weird instruments and knew he’d appreciate it. So far its only been talk about where to get parts.
It dawned on me in early this year that I have an old midi pedal that I had for my amp rigs, just sitting in storage. A real tank build of a midi pedal (image above). Lots of tap dancing happened on this device early in my career. It still looks the same. It’s a super solid construction. In fact I don’t think any other midi pedal controller was as expansive or solidly built.
Leave to me to be the one person to find a flaw in it.
[pause for effect]
I know you’re thinking, what the hell is the flaw? Well, it has to do with the position of the expression pedals when you hit a patch change. Turns out that if an expression pedal was at a certain point in its range and I hit a sound change on the midi wizard. It would send the wrong expression pedal setting.
How did you figure that shit out Jody? (you ask).
Like any inquisitive musician with a computer, I hooked the midi wizard up to the computer and started stepping on the expression pedals and the midi wizard. What I found out was that if the pedal was between 0-60 in its range, it would get sent as 0. Above 60 and it was fine, the number would go out. Man what a pain in the ass that was on volume stuff. I did mention it to the people at Rolls who promptly told me, who cares – we don’t intend on fixing the issue. Ouch!!
So I had to make due with it, meaning that I had to rework a whole lot of carefully crafted amp settings to work around it. Not fun when a company couldn’t give a shit about a product bug. I don’t think they make the midi wizard any more and now there’s a midi buddy. But I wonder if they kept the bug in that product.
When I made the jump to using a laptop for recorded and live sound, I put my pedal board in storage with the rest of my amps. There they sat, unthought about. Neglected. Miserable. Not any more!
As of moments after this post goes live, I will start tearing apart the pedal board, assessing which parts to keep, and which to sell off. Then I will start tearing apart the midi wizard itself and thinking how I can take its guts and finding a new housing for it. See I’m thinking of doing something along the lines of the Chewie Monsta. Only a little more in depth.
I want to be able to create multiple loops. I want to be able to erase takes if needed. I want to be able to turn parts on and off. I want to have visual feedback from the board. I want awesome sound quality.
The first things come from the computer I’ll be tied to and its software. Right now I’m contemplating using MainStage along with Mobius. Mostly because MainStage can do almost all the things I need it to do with a full band setup. There are a couple of things I want it to do which will require a call to Apple. Thus why not use the same software for the acoustic setup, then its only a quick change of programs between which type of show I’m playing, full band or solo.
I could still use Ableton, I have that all set up for the full band thing. But that takes the fun out of learning new software right?
The pedal part doesn’t have all the feedback I need. Not the visual cue anyway. What I wish to do is put a laptop screen into the box on the floor. This will give me the visual feedback that I need from MainStage.
The next step is to start pulling things apart and finding a metal worker. Actually I already know one. I’m hoping he won’t charge me too much money to create a custom case to fit all these pieces into once I get it into working order.
Stay tuned, more pics and story about the journey will come.1
Apple introduces an Apple Watch. Earlier today, like many people, I took a little time off to sit and watch the Apple Event. Yes, I’m still an Apple nut. Hell all the new singles I’m stockpiling for imminent release were recorded on a multitude of Apple computers. So yeah, I pay attention. Of course if you’ve been listening to the rumor mill then you’d heard the iWatch was sure to unveil and sure to be like all other tech companies who rushed their watches out to market to “beat” Apple. Instead they got the Apple Watch.
As a disclaimer, I don’t wear watches. It’s not my schtick to do so. There’s so many clocks around, on the phone, in the car, everywhere you look, there’s a clock. Thus, I don’t have a strong desire for a watch. That being said, I can very much appreciate the detail and fine design that has gone into the Apple Watch. Do I really want one? No. Would I get one? Maybe. Would I wear it? I haven’t a clue, but I did end up buying one – I’d make sure to wear it.
I wonder if it will be like an iPad? Actually, I kinda wanted an iPad when they were announced. I could see the usefulness of it immediately. I’ve started reading a lot of books since I’ve had the thing. I used it constantly. I just don’t see why I’d want a watch that requires me to have my phone with me in order to use it. Why look at pictures on a tiny Apple Watch face when I could whip out my iPad or my iPhone and see it there on a bigger screen? Same can be said for music? It’s got an iTunes app. However, they don’t show where you listen – again, I think it’s tied to the iPhone, or other iDevices.
I suppose it will come down to whether or not I think it’s worthwhile to get an Apple Watch as a health tracker. Then again, the iPhone already does all this and more. *sigh*
The real cool/frightening thing that was announced was Apple Pay. In my own efforts to reduce the clutter in my pockets I’ve stopped carrying credit cards or a wallet. I have to remember when I need them. However, it would be extremely cool to have it tied to my phone. As Apple has now done with the upcoming iPhone 6 and iOS 8. Their feature is super cool. The consumer version of their security features sound great, but the reality is something we know nothing about yet. Hopefully we don’t start hearing stories of Apply Pay horror like the recent Apple ID hacks of naked celebrity photos that everyone thought was a direct issue with iCloud. Mind you, I went and deleted questionable photos of myself off my iCloud when it was announced