Tag Archives: music

7 weeks (49 poems in 49 days) – Day 3

LUCID

As the crooners croon
And the lovers sigh
As the stargazers moon
Under dark summer skies
Thanks for the memories
Thanks for all that
Thanks for the presence
Though at times I forget
You bring gifts to my body
We are branches that bend
We are supple and hearty
As we dance in the wind
You make light of my tinder
I am flammable when wet
My lungs are on fire
You are my cigarette
My crooners’ lips
They are streaming in song
Your telescope slips
Into absolute dawn
With skin that is milky
You are way beyond cream
And if I am lucid
Then you are the dream
And if I am music
You are the beat
If I am fire
You are the heat.

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Filed under Poems, Writing

Here are the Shooting Stars! [Photo Gallery]

Yesterday the last DVD arrived with footage on it for the Shooting Star video. Okay, I can tell you right now this is will be AWESOME FUN editing together the stuff that came in. The creativity and sense of wacky is GORGEOUS! Since it is probably going to be a few of weeks before I have a chance to finish the video, let me share with you readers some snap and screen shots from the submissions. A little taste of why I am so excited about this project! :)

Starting with… David F. from Thorold and his crew from Lake St.Peter (Ontario), who were the very first folks to send in footage.

Turn on your images to see: David, Andy and Leslie Cowpokin' in Lake St. Peter, Ontario

David, Andy and Leslie Cowpokin’ in Lake St. Peter, Ontario

Not only that, but I found this familiar face included in the files David sent me. Washboard Hank heard about my project through David I presume? – here he is… wearing full bells ‘n whistles!

Turn on your images to see a photo of The one and only Washboard Hank winding up.

The one and only Washboard Hank winding up!

Turn on your images to see another photo of Washboard Hank and his (cow) bells and whistles.

…to play his (cow) bells and whistles.

Next came footage from Guido T. & Conny S. This may have been the furthest footage traveled to get here – all the way from Dusseldorf, Germany! (Later, you’ll see a submission from Solingen, Germany too. I’ll have to double check the distance in google maps.) Here is an example of horse power not only under the hood, but behind the wheel too.

Turn on your images to see: Pony On The Autobahn (With Fuzzy Dice)

Pony On The Autobahn (With Fuzzy Dice)

A few days later, I received a memory stick full of footage from Toronto. Tania, Diane, Oscar, Shannon, Bella and Ken scripted several colourful scenes… an entire song’s worth… filmed them in a park in their “one-horse-town”. The memory stick included on-the-set photos too. Here are a bunch, starting with some shots of fabulous artwork by Oscar.

Turn on your images to see this drawing of a Sky Full of Stars!

Sky Full of Stars! (by Oscar Sza)

Turn on your images to see the drawing: Blazing Trail of Star

Blazing Trail of Star! (by Oscar Sza)

Turn on your images to see Chalk Drawing

Chalk Drawing (also by Oscar!)

Here is the whole gang (minus Tania, who is behind the camera.)

Turn on your images to see Parade in the Park

Parade in the Park!

Some close ups of the feature actors:

Turn on your images to see: Giddy Up Horsie Ride

Giddy Up Horsie Ride ~ Shannon & Bella

Turn on your images to see: With that awesome hat, Ken could also be called Oblio :)

Ken! (who with that awesome hat could also be called Oblio :))

Turn on your images to see Diane On The Set of The "One Horse Town"

Diane On The Set

Then I received this lovely postcard in the (e)mail, It’s from Guido O in Solingen, Germany…

Turn on your images to see: This was taken last November when I played there at Tom Bombadil's in Solingen

This was taken last November when I played there at Tom Bombadil’s in Solingen.

Next, Kat Leonard sent me some fabulous footage of her dancing around the stage one afternoon (By the way, Kat & I were co-participants in the blogging challenge I did this winter!). Here are a couple of screenshots:

Turn on your images to see: Kat Dance #1

Kat Dance #1

Turn on your images to see: Kat Dance #2

Kat Dance #2

Then Tania A. sent me some cool abstract footage of stars being lit up by a spot light and also a short clip of a pinwheel spinning. Here are some still captures of the shining stars:

Turn on your images to see: Tania's Glowing Star #1

Tania’s Glowing Star #1

Turn on your images to see: Tania's Glowing Star #2

Tania’s Glowing Star #1

A few days ago I received the penultimate submission from Laurie in Lilloet. That’s right folks, we’re home on the ranging with a bonafide cowgal and horse. [And yippee-yi-yeee, I used penultimate (meaning: second-to-last) in a sentence!]

Turn on your images to see: Laurie and her horse

Laurie and her horse

Turn on your images to see: It's to the range she's bound!

It’s to the range she’s bound!

Turn on your images to see: Beauty!

Beauty!

Yesterday I received the last submission. A delightful scene in which Jay F. dances around in his hallway. He also included this still photo on the DVD:

Turn on your images to see: Jay Showing Us The Words To Shooting Star

Jay Showing Us The Words To Shooting Star!

**************************************

UPDATE: July 2012
Luckily for me, I’m a dawdler. I still hadn’t edited the video by the time I started my tour of southern Ontario this summer, so I was able to receive one last submission. After a fine and fun House Concert in London Ontario, I was talking with my host – Joanna – about the video project. She showed me the amazing, sparkly footage of her daughter, Talya, dancing with an aunt at a wedding. I asked if I could include it in the Shooting Star video, and she said yes! :-)

Screenshot from the HMVP Shooting Star video featuring Talya and her Sonia Aunty

Screenshot from the final video ~ Talya and her Sonia Aunty!

**************************************

And there you have it! Horses, dancing, shooting stars cows and cowbells. Sheer awesomeness. Thanks again, I am so thrilled with what was sent in! And I can’t WAIT to see how it looks once everything is edited together.

So give me a few weeks here… I am thinking of editing the video while I’m on the train traveling across Canada in early June. [Aside: Once again I am taking part in VIA’s OnBoard Musician Program playing music on board in exchange for passage. Pretty sweet deal! When I’m not playing shows, eating or staring out the window at the prairies, I’ll let the rhythm of the wheels on the track evoke the gait of a horse. Hopefully inspiring some good creative editing.]

Okay. Give me a few weeks to post then. Till then… Wishin’ you far! :)

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Filed under Music, Photo-of-the-Day, videos, Writing

Wanna Make A Snow Angel? You Gotta Let Yourself Fall

This week I found myself thinking about nostalgia. Well, not so much thinking about it as sensing it ~ it is a visceral feeling like I am repeatedly stepping into a second-hand shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market ~ and every time the door opens the delicate scent of incense wafts over me. Now I am stretching out on my futon in the attic bedroom of my first apartment, sun streaming in the window. Particles of dust are lighting up like twinkling snow.

With the blogging challenge now officially over, I set myself the task of filming / editing the next video in my Homemade Music Video Project (you can read more about the project here.) For number three in the series, I went back to my 2005 album Hearts Fall and picked Angels In Snow. Emblematic of my mood and the unseasonably warm late winter/early spring all across North America, I chose a song about longing, love and the end of winter – of “early spring thaw cracking”.

Image of Karyn Ellis jumping from the roof of the tomato house. Screenshot #2 from the music video.

There I go jumping into nostalgia again.

Unlike the rest of North America where spring is kicking in full force, forty minutes from where I live – in the sleepy town of Wells British Columbia – there is still plenty of snow. Surely this is where fairy tales are born: in a setting ideal for ice queens ~ winter gardens full of pacing tigers and white roses. The population of this town shrinks to around 100 in the winter months, blooming again to 300 in early summer when the actors come to work in the nearby historical town of Barkerville.

And like Gretyl finds the frozen garden, I reentered the song Angels In Snow… my 2012 face singing along with my 2005 voice. (Hey! Seven is one of those fairy tale numbers, non?) I remember that youthful flutter in my chest – the dizziness of falling – best approximated by falling backwards into a bank of snow. Wearing no coat, no mittens. Making snow angels and feeling the icy cold clutching at bare hands and running down my neck. Watching snow flakes adrift in air and on eyelashes in the brilliant afternoons of late winter.

Image of Karyn Ellis making a snow angel. Screenshot #1 from the music video.

No stunt doubles or snow machines were used in the making of this video.


With Dizzying Certitude, So It Comes

In addition to (or perhaps as a subset of) that fuzzy warm feeling, this week I have also been awash with something akin to shame. Like butterflies, but the manic kind. Internal logic runs along the lines of this:

Me 1: Ah! This will be fun. I’m going to make a video for my song, Angels In Snow…
Me 2: That old thing? Shouldn’t you be spending your time writing something new instead of rehashing old songs?
Me 1: It’s a perfectly good song!
Me 2: Why didn’t you make the video when you released it? You had your chance. That window has shut. It’s catalogue now, baby.
Me 1: Wait a minute… Youtube didn’t even exist back then. Beside, I just discovered how much I love making videos!!
Me 2: Too bad, so sad! If you didn’t write the song this morning, how can you *truly* call yourself an artist?
Me 1: What, there’s a time limit on creativity?
Me 2: Gotta be fresh, baby.
Me 1: You’re a spoil sport!
Me 2: You’re cheating!
Me 1 & Me 2: You are! You are! [point & pout]

(etc, etc and so forth)

And so comes the poignant feeling that I somehow let the opportunity pass me by and that there is no catching up with time. <== That’s where the shame slips in. Tell me, what is this strange impetus to always be making something up-to-the-minute brand new… new… NEW!?! [Cue Tom Wait’s song, “Step Right UP!”. Now there’s a man who can ride the nostalgia wave to a tee.]

It is the ebb-and-flow of these periodic bouts of being deflated. But hang on now… isn't deflation the same as exhalation? Just a part of the breath cycle. So I did it anyways. I made the video.

And here it is…

Watch: Homemade Music Video Project – #3 – Angels In Snow

(Thanks: Kate Sulis, for helping with the filming. And Judy Campbell, for letting me tromp all over her Tomato House.)


Next week: Hibernating Bears
Look for my next blog update Monday March 26th.

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Filed under Music, Short Essays, Winter, Writing

Interview With Andrea Ramolo of Scarlett Jane

I met Andrea Ramolo when I played a show she was co-hosting in Parkdale, Toronto a couple years back (more about that series – Ladies in Waiting – in the interview below.) My first impression of her was that she was a total firestarter! Fun-loving, enthusiastic and at the same time, very focused on her music. She was heading out the next day for another dazzlingly large number of tour dates in support of her debut album, “Thank You for the Ride”.

To describe her music, I snagged this great quote from her website: “Musically, she’s been described as the antidote to too much Joni Mitchell, a tougher Dolly Parton a sexier Janis Joplin, but Andrea Ramolo has a soulful and sultry sound that’s all her own.”

Photograph of Andrea Ramolo

K: You’ve been called a “tireless road warrior”. A quick glance at your past tour dates, and one can see you’ve pretty much been everywhere in Canada! Where did it all start? What initially inspired you to make albums and take your music on the road?

A: I became really serious about music after a pretty intense career as a dancer and actor.  I was a later bloomer.  My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer while I was in university and I had just gotten out of a really long relationship so I picked up my dad’s old guitar, more out of therapeutic necessity… and started learning and writing my own songs.  Singing and storytelling have always been a big part of my life.  So the transition of becoming a songwriter happened pretty organically.

At the time, I worked at the infamous Orbit Room in Toronto owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush and really developed a close kinship with the incredible musical talents that came through there.  I learned about life on the road and life off the road, while sharpening my craft and writing more of my own songs.  And after another heartbreak it all sort of came together pretty quickly.  I needed to record my songs… and I had a plethora of talented musicians at my fingertips, so my first recording experience was fantastic.  

I released my first indie solo album in 2008 and wanted other listeners besides my friends and family to hear the tunes.  I wanted to play and to travel and get more inspired.  And so, I booked my first east coast tour and since that, I’ve pretty much been living out of a van for half of the year and travelling coast to coast and playing for audiences of 5 and audiences of 15,000.  It’s been quite a ride.

K: Sounds like it! How many shows *do* you play a year?

Image of Andrea Ramolo's CD artwork: The Shadows And The CracksA: Well I’ve released two solo albums- one in 2008 and one in 2011 – and within that time frame, I probably played around 150-200 shows a year.

I kept myself really busy.  It was almost like a self-imposed boot camp.  Living out of a van was not easy.  I like comfy beds and showers.  Most of us do.  But concentrating on nothing but music for 6 months straight, morning, noon, and night and playing almost every night of the week in a different town kicked me in the butt and really helped me evolve as a writer and performer.  It also gave me tons of material to write about.

I am just about to release my third album… this time with a project called Scarlett Jane with my good friend Cindy Doire.  We’ve been writing and recording and getting a team around us, so I have actually been pretty stationary since the fall, which is very new for me.  I have itchy feet and I don’t know what to do with myself half the time.  But I’m lucky to live in such an incredible city.  There’s a great scene going on in Toronto.  Scarlett Jane is going to be hitting the road in May and June, then doing the Home Routes Concert Series in the prairies in the fall before we head off to Mexico and Europe for some shows.  

K: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The music? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The schedule?

A: Wow.  It’s everything really.  The music is the impetuous for it all of course… and it’s what sort of helps mould the lifestyle or the schedule or the touring.  I love being on stage with other musicians and sharing in creating something all together that moves people in one way or another.  I like collaborating.  And I feel more at ease on stage than I do in many social settings.  I also love songwriting.

[Songwriting is] painful at times and I find myself lying in the fetal position trying to come up with the best possible way to communicate this or that… musically and lyrically.  So it’s challenging and puts you in a very vulnerable place… but it’s so rewarding.  I also love all the beautiful strange misfits (like myself) who flock to this sort of lifestyle.  The night owls, who’d rather sing you a song than waste time talking about the weather, so to speak.  Life makes more sense to me in music and in songs.  And I feel like you can really get to know people intimately through their music.  It’s so revealing.  I guess I’ve always been a revealer… and one who is drawn to those who feel the need to reveal.

K: You and I met at Ladies in Waiting, a cool weekly music series that you, Cindy Doire, Sarah Burton, Faye Blais, and Sara Fitzpatrick created and ran in Toronto. I loved how you organized it: each show featured you and the other ladies trading off hosting duties depending on who was in town and / or away touring. And then you’d bring in special guests to play one off shows, with a focus on showcasing women musicians. That series seemed to act as both a bonding space for that community of women singer-songwriters and a homecoming for you whenever you were off the road.

A: Ladies in Waiting ran at Not My Dog for over a year every Monday night.  Monday became the new Friday and as you mentioned, all of us ladies, who are dear friends and supporters of one another, brought our new tunes to showcase.  What ended up happening was that we would all end up on stage with one another, singing impromptu harmonies, playing percussion, and just having an amazing time.  It was a great playground for trying out new material and jamming with new musicians.  And we developed quite a steady following.  We’ve had so many female (and some male) guests over that year, I can’t even remember them all.  Samantha Martin, Kayla Howran, Jadea Kelly, yourself of course, Trish Robb, Jenny Allen, Mel Brulee, Kristin Sweetland.  Man we know so many talented beauties.  

K: And speaking of creating / bonding, you mentioned earlier that you and Cindy Doire have started a new band together called Scarlett Jane.  How did that project come about? What was the inspiration for the name?

A: Cindy and I have been friends for years.  We fell in love with singing with one another the first time we met and over the next while, we’d write songs, guest on each other’s albums, team up for double bills, do short little tours when we had the time.  We were finding that we wouldn’t see each other for months and months except when our ferries criss crossed over the Atlantic, or when we’d plan to meet in the prairies for a coffee while we were on the road driving in opposite directions.

We’ve always had many of the same musical influences and the same sort of thing cranks us.  So it just made sense… and we’re really excited about the album and thrilled with the outcome.  We originally called ourselves Calamity Jane to allude to the dark country/folk noir sort of vibe that the new songs took on.  But we discovered that there are a few bands by that name around the globe… so we tossed and turned for months and really liked Jane but not on it’s own.  We are roommates so we would lie in bed and send phone messages to each other late at night with band name ideas.  It was driving us crazy.  Finally… we came up with Scarlett Jane and it stuck.  

Photograph of Scarlett Jane

Cindy Doire and Andrea Ramolo are Scarlett Jane

K: You and Cindy are both well-known for strong abilities and leadership as solo performers. What’s it been like working together as a band?  How do you deal with creative decisions? What’s your writing process like together?

A: We really work as a team and discuss any potential decision at length before jumping into something. We push each other as well… which is needed sometimes when you’re your own boss.  We actually have a great thing going and communicate very openly with one another.  We’re not always going to be on the same page with creative or business decisions… so we share our opinions, argue our points, and then end up coming to a consensus in the end.  We have our own process and it works for us.  Creatively, we’re of the mind that we write better together than apart.

And songwriting can be a very sensitive endeavour. Like with anything else, we’ll both create and share ideas and lines and melodies, etc… and eventually we put it all together and fine tune it.  Our debut album ‘Stranger’ was written on a writing retreat we forced ourselves to go on in Mexico.  Quite painful, I know. We had a blast.  We finished the album on a retreat in a cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario and in our apartment in downtown Toronto.  The songs came together really quickly because both of us had been saving tidbits of inspiration from our time apart.  And it was all perfect timing.  We both were mourning break ups and it’s really easy to create when you’re feeling so lost and low.  It kind of just pours out of you.  So it did.  Lucky enough we had each other to fall apart with, so it was easier to get back up.  The buffet and open bar at the resort in Mexico made it a bit easier as well. 

K: Cindy Doire is another fabulously seasoned touring aficionado. You mentioned Scarlett Jane will be hitting the road soon?

A: Yes.  We have about 40 dates booked across Canada commencing after our Toronto release show at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday, May 10th.  We’ll be touring with a full band out west and then as a duo out east.  We’re also doing the Dauphin Country Music Fest and Mariposa among Home Routes Concert Series and a few other great shows this summer.

K: You’re previewing your debut Scarlett Jane record “Stranger” on March 15th at the Dakota in Toronto. What can we look forward to with that show?

A: Unfortunately the album is not packaged yet.  But we’re really excited to showcase our new tunes in a great little spot with our new touring band.  We’re also shooting a simple single camera live music video that night.  The show starts at 10pm and tickets are $7 at the door.  We have Ryan Weber of the Weber Brothers playing piano, Justin Ruppel playing drums, and Greg Cockerill (whose band will be closing the night) playing lead guitar.  All members were involved to some degree with the album recording.  

K: For those of us outside of Toronto, how do we get our hands on the new album?

A: ‘Stranger’ will be available via our new web site www.scarlettjane.com, as well as on iTunes.  We’re not certain about who will be physically distributing it at this point, but I’m sure there will be other ways to get your hands on it.  And of course, my favourite way to sell albums is right off the stage after a live show.  CD’s make a great souvenir.  We’re also going to be re-releasing the album on vinyl at some point.  All these exciting plans.

K: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Andrea!

Lightening round: If you could bestow a superhero nickname on Cindy, what would it be? What superhero nickname would she give you?

Well… we sort of have these pseudo names. Hers is Bindy Boychuck… I forget where it came from. Mine is Audrey Rogers because I was once introduced and brought onto the stage at a show in Vancouver as that. I’m not quite sure how that came out of Andrea Ramolo, but I guess the initials are correct.

K: And finally… which time change do you prefer: Spring Forward or Fall Back? Why?

A: I’m one for moving forward so spring forward all the way.  I feel like I have so much more energy when spring is near.  I feel healthier and I really enjoy being outside.  Cold weather tends to keep me indoors and gives me a bit of the blues.  I crave sunshine and people out on the streets. Today was a gorgeous day and the sidewalks were so colourful.  

K: Lovely! Good luck with your show at the Dakota on March 15th and with the launch of your new Scarlett Jane album!


VISIT Scarlett Jane’s brand new website to hear music & find tour dates: www.scarlettjane.com

VISIT Andrea’s website: www.andrearamolo.com
FOLLOW Andrea on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrearamolo

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Filed under Interviews, Music, Writing

And That, Folks, Is A Wrap! (Wk 9)

[Sorry for the delay getting this out today. It appears that today is the culmination of my week-long battle with technology… I’ll spare you all the borey details… but today’s woes started first as a power outage in my home office. Then, after hopping in the car to drive to the nearest town (I live in the country, doncha know) I have been subjected to the most excruciatingly slow wireless here in this coffee shop. Three out of every four saves I get the “Problem Loading Page” message. Once (if???) I get this blog out, I may have to revisit my “Poor Poor Baby” post from week 7. Woooooaahh!]

Ahem… happy thoughts!

Today is the last day of the “Music Success in Nine Weeks” blogging challenge. If you’ve been following my posts then you know that on January 9th 2012, I joined sixty other singer-songwriters across Canada on a week-by-week adventure in learning how to use the various social media platforms to promote our music. We have been using Ariel Hyatt’s book as our guidepost. [Ed. note: if you’re new to my blog, catch up with my weekly posts by following the links at the end of this article.]

We started in the deep of winter, and we are ending the day after clocks spring forward. How’s that for metaphor? Judging by recent comments on the facebook group set up for the challenge, my fellow bloggers and I *do* seem to have a little more bounce to our step, more joie to our vivre.

Those blue squiggly lines are artistic renditions of my footprints. See how they bounce?

Well. Okay. So I didn’t manage to squeeze in that gig at Massey Hall, but I did start a new project on youtube called my “Homemade Music Video Project.” [Read more about that in my Week 5 post.] I also did some preliminary work on the launch of my “Fundraise The Roof” campaign for my next album. (In fact, this past week I received my very first contribution from someone in Medicine Hat, and the campaign hasn’t even officially started yet. Woo!) My blog readership is up, and most importantly, I am writing again. And making videos and practicing music and generally feeling re-inspired and re-engaged with my work.

This challenge has reminded me that success is not so much a destination as a process. Goals are important, yes, but it’s the steps in between… the daily habits where life really happens. That has been the biggest take away from engaging in this blogging challenge. Simpy put: the doing is in the doing!

Speaking of doing, here’s an exceptionally quick summary of week 9 …

The Real World

Our task took us offline to look at our marketing efforts when networking face-to-face, to review whether our press kits are working for us and to analyze what makes a good publicist. While there were no shocking revelations for me, this week reiterated a second key point that has popped up again and again throughout the challenge: relationships are key in the music biz.

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Personally I think it is fine to use your fish fork to eat cheesecake, but for heavens sake… when you’re in a conversation show some interest in the person you are talking with! Be curious, ask questions and listen to the answers. It’s not what the other person can do for you, but how you both can connect and support each other. Cultivate a genuine interest in other human beings, and you will find they want to connect back. Actually, I would suggest this is positive behaviour for life in general!

Okay then. That folks is a wrap. Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader, over the past two and a bit months while I have fulfilled my new year’s resolution with this Nine Week Blogging Challenge. I hope the process been as illuminating for you as it has been for me as I have reflected on various issues that come up when putting music out into the world.

But waaaaaaaait…

I’m not done yet! Although Ariel’s blogging challenge is officially over, I will continue to post every Monday – and maybe even twice a week – writing about whatever topic catches my fancy and/or comes from your suggestions. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to see covered on this blog related to songwriting, performing, politics, the weather… (okay, maybe less so about the politics. But I’m willing to throw my opinion in the ring if the topic should come up.) Meanwhile this Wednesday March 14th look for the interview I did earlier this week with singer-songwriter and friend of mine, Andrea Ramolo.

Till then, enjoy the longer days!


Next week: Flying Solo!
Look for my next blog update Monday March 19th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby
Week 8: How much IS that doggy in the window?

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Filed under MSi9W3, Music, Writing

How much IS that doggy in the window? (Wk 8)

It is no surprise that it’s 10:20pm on Sunday night, and I haven’t scratched out a single sentence in this week’s blog entry for my Monday morning deadline. [Ed. note: it’s now Monday morning at 9:15am, and I’m not done yet. Yikes.]

You see, I’m wrapping up the eighth week of the nine-week blogging challenge. And this week the task is about money. Our task is to create a “Continuum Program”. In market speak, this means answering the key question: what are the variety of items / services / events you can sell to your consumers (fans) in order to make your music business an ongoing thing?

A visual collage

Like many artists, I find it hard to think / talk about this question. But it’s maybe not for the reason you think. I don’t believe in the cliché of money sullying art (well, I used to… but I’m long over that.) I like money. I like feeding and clothing myself, paying my bills and student loan (well, I don’t like the bills, but I like paying them off.) I like being able to afford to tour and make records. And I do think my music contributes to people’s quality of life and is worth an exchange of cash for it.

But it baffles me how people actually assign monetary value to things …how do they know how much to ask for? It seems to me that succeeding in sales and these sorts of financial matters require an understanding of interpersonal communication rules and a community agreed-upon pricelist that I just don’t have.

Maybe it’s silly but…

When I think about money, I get the very strong sensation that I am a kid playing house or “groceries” and that it is play money I’m handling. Yes. Even now. I get that feeling. A concert ticket could be $2 or $20, a record could as easily cost $50 as $5, and I couldn’t explain the difference between St. James Place and Pacific Avenue. The amounts are arbitrary to me, and at the end of the day it is merely an accumulation of numbers. Maybe this is why I don’t mind doing my taxes, because it’s more like a giant set of math problems than any thing to do with the real world.

Image of Monopoly and Canadian Money

Is that strange?

Like I said I am coooool with money. I know I need it to live, to tour and to make records. I’m pretty good at raising capital for large projects: I collected a fair chunk o’ change for my last two albums through arts grants and by inviting friends and fans to contribute through my “Fundraising The Roof” campaigns (popularly known as crowdfunding), and I’m about to do it again for the next one. Making records this way is a fairly sustainable proposition.

But what this week’s chapter reminds me is that it is on-going sales/contact in-between the big projects that makes a music career sustainable. I ought to (want to) come up with additional day-to-day ways of making an income. Less feast / famine and more chug – chugging along.

So let me put the question out to you, my trusty readers… what sorts of items / services would you like to see me offer as my “Continuum Program”? Do you need t-shirts? Fridge magnets? Chord charts? House Concerts? Let’s brainstorm here! And can we get a price check on that?

PS: Speaking of play money, check out my friend Corin Raymond’s fundraising efforts for his upcoming record. So far he’s collected more than $2,600 in Canadian Tire Money!! He’s aiming for $10,000! (There’s a photo of what $2,600 CTM looks like on his blog: www.dontspendithoney.com)


Next week: “The Real World”.
Look for my next blog update Monday March 12th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now
Week 7: Poor, Poor Baby

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Filed under MSi9W3, Music, Writing

Poor, Poor Baby (Wk 7)

I’m not going to lie to you. This week was a crash for me emotionally. I have been on a relentless pace since starting this Music Success in Nine Weeks challenge seven weeks ago. And I think the 16-hours days are finally catching up with me.

It’s been quite a ride. From the moment I took this challenge on, I have been inspired… nay… rushing to do the million and one things I have been meaning to do for AGES. Indicating, perhaps, one of reasons I put them off before now. There is just not enough time in the day to do all the organizational things I want to do and still play music. Instead, there are huge learning leaps with just about everything I’ve been taking on these past two months – redesigning/updating my website, making a music video, becoming a regular blogger and social media broadcaster and so on and so on. And when you’re an all or nothing gal like me, “all” – like the internet – is an ever growing universe.

What A Rollercoaster!
I thought this week would bring me a little rest. Make space for more music making. The task: look at ways to incorporate our mailing list into our social media plan. I have had an email list going for several years now. It is a healthy size, growing slowly but surely over time. I love that I can chat informally with fans and friends via my newsletters, and it’s always a gift when someone replies to me directly. I thought I would do the simple task of switching service providers to one with a few more cool features and a better sign up form — something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. And spend the rest of my week doing some prep work for my new recording.

Simple, right? All I had to do was (1) migrate the list, (2) write an email from the old platform saying “we’re moving” and (3) write an email from the new platform saying “we’ve moved”. Done, and onto the good stuff.

But nooooooooo. Technical difficulties abound!!!!!! It’s like I sat down to write a note on a piece of beautiful, crisp stationary, and I couldn’t find a single pen with ink in it anywhere in the house. I won’t bore you with more details of what went wonky, but let’s just say that instead of taking an afternoon, it’s been three days now of fussing with templates and broken links and blah blah blah. I’m finally ready to send out my note, and all the wind is *fffoooooooop* knocked out of me.

It’s time to throw myself a five-minute pity party!

Here’s what I do when I’m feeling low. When technical difficulties overwhelm me. When a new song I’m writing fizzles out after a verse and a chorus. When I get passed over for a festival spot or an award nomination. When I learn that that grant proposal I spent a week a half writing didn’t go through… when I’m feeling sad and alone in the world and quite certain that nobody gives a s*** about me or the arts… that’s when I call on a little “Poor Baby” time.

If I can call a friend with a sympathetic ear, that’s especially nice. But even if I can’t cuz it’s 3 am in the morning, and nobody I know is awake… I can still give myself a “poor baby”. Moan and bemoan all the choices I’ve ever made in my life. Woooaaaaaah!

You should try it too. Yes, I mean it. Whatever your loss is. Throw your fists up at the sky and wail “whyyyyyy meeeeeee?” Cry and gnash your teeth as you say “It’s not faaaaaair.” You are five years old… you are where the wild things are… you are having yourself a good old fashioned melt-down. Then, pat yourself and say, “poor baby”.

Rail out: “it’s not fair, everything sucks!”, then murmur softly “poor baby.” Don’t try fix anything, and don’t let anyone else tell you to buck up and quit blubbering. For five minutes, don’t compare yourself with anyone else in the world or with any one else’s sorrow. Just keep repeating “poor baby” until the sadness and frustration start to subside. After that, eat your supper. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to get on with the pleasures of living.

Yo Ellis, Get a Grip

I don’t care if it sounds self-indulgent. I don’t care if it’s “childish” and “irrational”. And I don’t care if it makes me a softie. Cuz what’s exactly what I want to be… soft. I don’t care if it sounds way out of proportion… a whole lot of poor baby over the small matter of a mailing list snafu.

It may be a simple exercise in improving the flow and delivery of my newsletter, but sometimes the smallest things become an existential crisis. When I’m nose-deep in technical problems, how quickly the questions rise up about my value as an artist: Are my songs any good? Do I have what it takes? How long can I keep up this pace? Does anybody really care enough about my music to make all this drudgery worth it?

That’s when I need to be kindest to myself. Like a mama rocking her fretful baby, her poor, poor baby.

Post script
Eventually I did get my list move sorted out. I even figured a work around for a glitch in the new platform (it wouldn’t let me add one particular link to my email in the way I wanted.) I have written the notes to let subscribers know what’s happening, and hopefully not too many people will be freaked out by the change and unsubscribe.

And this week I even received a couple of nice music nods… my video for How The Tiger Lost Her Roar was featured on the Songwriter’s Association of Canada (SAC)’s homepage. And I was also named “Larrivee Guitars’ Player of the Week” on their Facebook Fanpage. Like I said, it’s been a rollercoaster.

Post Post Script
Oh yeah, and I suppose I would be remiss if I did not invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. So, if you’d like to get my newsletters filled with upcoming events, exclusive content and shorter versions of this sort of philosophical musing directly in your inbox, be sure to sign up! :)


Next week: “Creating a Continuum Program”.
Look for my next blog update Monday March 5th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.
Week 6: I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now

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Interview with Kimi Lyn Smith (Wk 6 – 4 of 4)

I had the pleasure of meeting Kimi Lyn Smith this winter through the Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge. My ears perked up immediately when I heard her song “Only With You” on her website, and I decided to find out more about what she’s up to musically…

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Guitar

KE: I love the song that’s up on your website, “Only With You”. It’s super catchy! I can hear Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall and Fiona Apple for sure. Is that an original tune?

KLS: Thank you so much! Yes, it’s an original, it’s one of my songs that has more of an alternative rock edge to it. Some of my other songs are more acoustic-instrument based and a bit more complex than this one.

KE: And it’s a demo for an upcoming album of yours, right? Tell me more about that project. Where are you recording it? Is it your first album? How can we get a copy?

KLS: Yes, it’s my first album and I’m recording it in my bedroom, but I have musicians based all over the world playing on it too. The wonders of the internet! Making the album is a fun process but it can’t happen overnight, so I plan to release at least one single before the album is complete. I’m still looking for more musicians to play on it, as well as someone to professionally mix and master it. As for getting a copy, anyone who’s interested in knowing about my future releases, including pre-release material like free mp3s, please do sign up for my newsletter via my website.

KE: You mention in your bio that you have done some co-writing. Who have you done that with? How did that/those come about? What was the process like?

KLS: I’m a big fan of co-writing. I love the magic of creating something that you or the other person would not have created on your own. I’ve always been open to collaborating. I even started a monthly co-writing and song feedback event called London Songwriters when I lived in the UK. It’s still going strong under the same format. I’ve met collaborators through that as well as online or down the local pub to write with.

The writing process is different every time, for example, sometimes I’ll sit alone in my room and write music to the lyrics someone has emailed me. Other times I’ll be in a room with one or more people and we’ll discuss the concept before experimenting with the various elements that make up a song. I find it fascinating when people play me a song they’ve finished when I’ve supplied only the lyrics. The beauty of it is that the situation and the outcomes are always variable when you’re writing with other people. I’ll be including at least two of my favourite collaborations on my album.

KE: How does the UK fit into your story…I notice you’re taking pre-orders in pounds!

KLS: After high school I decided to spend “a year” in France. Fast forward through 15 months of baguettes and cheese and I was ready to leave France but not ready to end the adventure. Fast forward through 15 years of living in the UK and I’d had a lot of great experiences and met a heck of a lot of musicians, and I was ready to go home at last. I relocated back to Toronto in 2011, soon after completing a Masters Degree in Songwriting at Bath Spa University.

Photo of Kimi Lyn SmithKE: What is the first cover tune you learned? Do you still play it?

KLS: It was ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ from my late uncle’s Zeppelin guitar tab book. I wasn’t just learning the song, I was also learning the instrument. That song taught me fingerpicking and some chords. Then I discovered drop-D tuning and learned a bunch of Soundgarden and Nirvana songs by ear. After that I just wrote and played my own songs on guitar. No, I never play those cover tunes anymore. At open mics I like to play my own material.

KE: Very cool. So, I met you through an online blogging challenge that’s all about getting our heads around social media as artists. What motivated you to take on this challenge?

KLS: I joined the Songwriters Association of Canada shortly before I got back to TO, to make some contacts on this side of the pond. I found out about the challenge via one of their emailouts. It was coming up to the new year and I liked the idea of getting stuck into something structured to keep me motivated, plus I was keen to meet some fellow Canadian songwriters. I didn’t have huge expectations with regards to learning about social media. I felt I was already pretty savvy, but I was open to learning more – and by Jove, I have!

KE: And how’s the experience going for you so far? Social media: friend or foe?

KLS: I’m loving it. Social media is a wonderful thing. It’s crazy how small the world has become. The challenge is great because apart from meeting likeminded people, I’m learning about new platforms and various tips and tricks that interest me.

KE: One of things you talked about is about changing your stage name. Why did you decide to do that? How’s the new name feeling for you? I have to say I really like the name you picked: Kimi Lyn Smith. It rolls off the tongue!

KLS: I’d been going by Kim Smith but I felt it was too generic, so I decided to start using my full name, Kimi Lyn Smith. Apart from it not being the more common spelling, it’s pretty Google-friendly. It feels good to know I’m the only one out there. And now when I get a Google alert on my name, I know it’s about me and not one of the million other Kim Smiths. I still read the Kim Smith alerts every day though, I find it amusing to see what they’re all up to.

KE: What’s your favourite part of being a musician? The practising? The writing? The touring? The fans? The lifestyle? The organizing? The blogging (lol)?

KLS: I love being a musician, and I surround myself with other musicians, I think this is a pretty common practice. I see myself as a songwriter first and foremost, and a recording artist next. Though I’ve performed somewhat regularly in the past, it’s not something I’ve ever been wholly comfortable with. These days I’ll occasionally hop up onstage at an open mic to play a couple of tunes, but it’s not something I plan in advance. So for me, the best part of being a musician is the creative process. I enjoy writing and practising and recording. I love experimenting with production techniques and effects in Logic Pro. I’m always excited to delve more into the craft of songwriting. I don’t have to worry about getting gigs or compiling set lists or the rigours of touring. As for the blogging, I hope to develop my writing skills over time. My music is a big part of my self-identity and I’m happy being a slave to my creativity.

Photo of Kimi Lyn Smith with her Melodica

KE: I see that in addition to singing and guitar, you also play the melodica. Super fun! If you could magically know how to play another dream instrument, what would it be?

KLS: I would love to play the Hang. It’s a UFO-shaped descendent of the steelpan that you play with your hands. It’s a relatively new instrument and they’re really hard to get a hold of. I saw a guy playing one in front of the Abbey in Bath, UK. We had a chat and I bought his CD. I’d like to get my own Hang. I can see myself sitting alone on a grassy hilltop and playing it for hours and hours and just zoning out. Maybe one day!

KE: Sounds neat. I’m going to google it… ! One more question: rainy day or sunny day. Which do you like better and why?

KLS: After living in England for the past 15 years, I’ve got to say sunny. Despite the fact that one of my all-time favourite songs is ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ by Garbage, a little bit of sunshine sure does lift the spirits. And my Hang won’t get all rusty.

KE: Anything else you want to add?

KLS: Thank you Karyn, this has been really fun!

KE: And thank you for you time, Kimi Lyn! Good luck with the new recording. Can’t wait to hear it.

To learn more about Kimi Lyn’s music, VISIT www.kimilyn.com

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Interview with Sue Newberry of Sue Newberry & The Law (Wk 6 – 3 of 4)

I first met Sue Newberry a couple of years ago when we played a show together at the Spill in Peterborough Ontario (back then she was going by the moniker “Sioux Newberry”.) We spent a bunch of time together last summer – and dare I say we even became friends – when we were both participants in a four-day songwriting workshop at Island Mountain Arts in Wells, British Columbia. Dave Bidini led the workshop, and I forgot to ask but I bet Sue would agree with me that it was an awesome and fruitful experience. (An aside: Dave Bidini is facilitating it again this summer. For all you inspiring/aspiring songwriters, I highly recommend that you check out the IMA 2012 Songwriting Workshop.)

To describe Sue Newberry’s music, I love this quote that her brother David Newberry – a kick ass singer-songwriter himself – writes:

“I want to say that you sing pretty and powerfully, have a killer pop band that can rock, and are smart and poetic. I think thats a good set of messages to try and get across. Is ‘funrock’ a word? I hope so. It’s literate funrock. That’s what you do. Well.”

Photo of Sue Newberry Holding A Delicious Pie

K: Let’s talk about your name for a second here. What’s the story behind ‘Sioux’?

S: It was a nickname from a schoolmate many (15?) years ago. She spelled my name “Sioux” on letters we passed back and forth during class. It just stuck, and pretty soon my peers and teachers were using the spelling. When I was pursuing my university degree in theatre I found that the spelling of the name helped distinguish me in auditions, etc. After so many years I became really attached to the spelling and identifying myself with the pattern and the shape of the letters. It just made sense.

K: I see you are shifting over to Sue Newberry. How’s that going?

S: It’s such a small thing, but a big shift to make. I’m still transitioning all my online sites. I’ve never loved “______ and the ______” band names, but here we are. It seems to make sense for now.

K: Canada seems to have two distinct indie modes of music. Solo verses Band projects. Where do you sit in that dichotomy?

S: I sit in both seats! In the past I’ve played mostly solo, duets, in small projects. The last 3 years or so I’ve been fronting larger bands – our current band has 6 members. It’s super, and so interesting to me right now. I don’t write songs anymore for myself and my guitar, and instead start to conceive and write songs with a 6-person rock band in mind. Playing with a full band for the first time was like grasping the edges of my song and pulling it open, making room for so many sounds. For me, the band enables the expression of the idea and emotion of the song in ways that can’t exist when I’m playing solo. Lots of new challenges, but I’m loving the results.

K: What’s it been like working with a band? Have they been part of the writing process too?

S: We don’t have any set rules about how songs come about. Most often I approach a member of the band, or the band as a whole with a song I have written beginning to end, and we play it out, making changes as suggestions arise. We have tried writing or re-writing together as a group, but find it not as effective. I’m looking forward to continued experimentation.

K: We’re doing this social media blogging challenge together: a challenge that asks musicians to pull out their bullhorns and spend some (a lot?) of time digging into the marketing side of music. How do you keep yourself creatively engaged with your music while at the same time promoting it?

S: Deadlines! I find it essential that my creative time be structured in a way that has actual results in mind. Most of my songs come from a strong lyrical or melodic idea, and those will often come out of unstructured thinking or playing times, but the idea will wither out if I don’t eventually lock myself in a room and put the hard and frustrating work in of finishing the song. Deadlines are essential motivators for me, and for my creative engagement. That might sound backwards, but putting up structures helps me to immerse myself fully in a creative work time – or else the day-to-day will take over.

For example, I’m currently in-studio recording the last few songs of an EP that I started a while back. At the same time I’m working with a publicist, graphic designer, booking gigs, updating social media sites… it’s a very exciting but overwhelming time. I can honestly say that without set deadlines (such as a planned CD release) I would not have put in as much time as I have on my own and with the band over the last month doing the really important work at this time: getting the tunes together for this weekend’s studio session! (P.S. – I’m writing this after day one of recording — bed tracks are sounding great!)

Photo of Sue Newberry Playing Live

K: Can’t wait to hear it, Sue! So, you are smack in the middle of recording your album… that’s no light feat. Long days / nights that absorb most if not all of a person’s creative energy and care. And here you are doing this blog interview! Do you think self-promotion is a necessary evil of being an independent musician these days?

S: *laughs* I think it’s important for the artist have a handle on social media, and be up to date with how social media is connected to exposure, publicity, sales, ‘buzz’, etc — regardless of if the artist  is at the helm of promotion or not. An unexpected result that I started to find about halfway through this challenge is this: I’ve been spending so much time with the ‘other side’ of the music, which is the product that is being marketed (as opposed to the creative process). Somewhere amidst all the thoughts, research and action regarding self-promotion that has been dominating the last 6 weeks I’ve discovered and started to truly believe that the ‘product’ I have is actually something that is worth promoting. So in that way, it’s not an ‘evil’ at all – it’s a pretty great motivator. 

K: If you could delegate away one job as a musician, what would it be?

S: It can be really hard to let go of the reins when it comes to your own craft, and self-promoting that craft! I’ve been working at it, though, and seeing the benefits. Things like mailing out CDs and press kits is an extremely time-consuming job that is better left to someone who has more professional contacts anyway, to yield the best results!

K: You mentioned you were in the studio this past weekend… you’ve got a new project on the horizon! Your album is coming out! Tell me a little more about it. What’s it called? Where and with whom are you recording it? How do we get our hands on it?

S: I independently released a solo CD in 2008, as well as a duet CD with my brother David Newberry (2008). Both albums were toured from Ontario to PEI a few times. You can get a copy of the duets CD here:

www.cdbaby.com/cd/newberryvsnewberry

My upcoming 6-song EP is my first full-band project. It’s under the band name “Sue Newberry & The Law” and is a far step away from the folk/country/roots sound of my first two albums. It’s taken me a long time of playing, writing and touring to start to hone in on my specific strengths as a songwriter and performer. This new turn toward an more indie-rock-pop sound is feeling good with my writing style and voice. I’m really excited to be a part of a team project and we’re really looking forward to the release and tour. CDs will be available online this spring. Our website is currently under re-design and will be launched shortly before the CD release. “Like” our bandpage and you’ll be sure to hear about how to get your hands on a new CD!

www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw

K: You’re doing some tour dates around Ontario this spring with your brother who’s also a musician. Sibling rivalry or revelry?

S: Revelry, in accordance with the specific definition:
rev·el/ˈrevəl/ [verb] Engage in lively and noisy festivities, esp. those that involve drinking and dancing.

(Here’s a list of their upcoming tour dates in Ontario.)

K: Awesome ~ a dictionary definition! You’re a gal after my own heart, Sue. And now a few random questions: what’s your favourite mode of travel? (Bus, train, car, plane, boat, bicycle, skateboard, luck dragon?)

S: I’ve been taking the MegaBus lately from Toronto to Kingston for TEN DOLLARS. Double decker! That’s been pretty sweet. I do enjoy (non hwy 401) driving. But all that is behind me now, since I’ve switched to travelling via Luck Dragon. It’s kinda like, our band’s “thing”.

Photo of Sue Newberry and The Law standing in an alley.

K: What are two lines from the cheesiest song you have ever written?

S: This question is awesome.

this glass won’t see me turn to stone
this face i see just can not be my own
this world around me can’t revolve
until all my problems have been soooolllllllllvvvveeedd
(courtney love growl-out ending)

K: Yeah!! What are two lines from the song you are most proud of?

S: Our song “The Law” on our new EP is a mysterious story about a hero running from the law… but why is she running? Lyrics are pithy and fun to sing. It starts:

If you believe what you read than I’m a
Sharp Shooter
but don’t be deceived, believe me,
I’m just going through some hard times
and don’t we all go through
hard times ?

K: Nice! You’re awesome, Sue. Thanks so much for talking with me. Good luck with finishing up and launching your EP!



LISTEN to the song: The Law
From Sue Newberry & The Law’s upcoming album.

Find Sue Newberry & The Law on the Web:
www.facebook.com/siouxnewberryandthelaw
www.twitter.com/siouxberrynew

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Interview with Tom Shea from Trio Arjento (Wk 6 – 2 of 4)

Tom Shea is one-third of the musical entity known as Trio Arjento: “a smooth, complex, and heady blend of musical styles and influences; scotch whiskey for the ears. Their soulful, fragile, exploratory sound mixes jazz, blues, and singer-songwriter traditions to create musical tapestries where every note tells a story. Marcy Hull’s warm, wise, and sultry voice is complemented by the intuitive counterpoint and improvisational chemistry of Jennifer Lockman’s piano and Tom Shea’s guitars.”

I met Tom online through the Music Success in Nine Weeks blogging challenge that I’ve been engaged in as my New Year’s Resolution to get a better handle on social media. This week I thought it would be fun to sit down with Tom and interview him about his music, his take on social media and his call to think locally with his Hundred-Mile Microphone Project.

Photo of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: Tom, I met you through this blogging challenge, and you keep popping up everywhere. And then there’s your group…

T: Trio Arjento

K: I’m glad you said it.

T: Yeah, it’s a funny name. Actually, it’s an anagram… the AR is from Marcy, JEN from Jennifer and TO from Tom. And it sounds like the Spanish word for silver. But it doesn’t mean anything. If you were Spanish, you’d spell it with a “G” not a “J”. We were going to call ourselves The Balvenie Scotch Trio after our favourite brand of Scotch, because it’s wonderful. But there were some people at our first show who thought that was an irresponsible way to name a band. People started scribbling on napkins…

K: How did you end up doing that first show together?

T: I’ve known Marcy the singer since I was five and she was four. She was in my younger sister’s pre-school class. She used to come around the house for play dates. I don’t really remember this, but Marcy claims I used to grab her pigtails like motorcycle handlebars and drive her around the house.

K: That’s beautiful.

T: She auditioned to sing in my first rock band in high school, when I was in grade 11 and she was in grade 9. We did all out rocking blues stuff, and she was totally unsuited for it. We did early U2 “Pride: In The Name Of Love” and the “Hippy-Hippy Shake”, which was on Cocktail… remember that? With Tom Cruise. [Tom S. picks up his guitar and sings a couple of bars]. We ended up with a guy with massive hair. But somehow Marcy stuck around. After highschool we formed a duo for six years, her voice and my guitar. The focus was on Ani Difranco, edgy aggressive folk. But I grew up on heavy metal.

K: Really?

T: Yeah. My background was all Black Sabbath, Anthrax and Slayer. And she kept saying “you know, there’s so much more to music than this.” She kept conking me on the head, and eventually I caught on that Joni Mitchell was pretty awesome too.

K: Though I have to say that one of the things about heavy metal is that guitar players are… like…good! Some of the finest guitar players come from heavy metal bands.

T: Yeah. But I’m at a point now in my life that I’m not impressed by the speed anymore. *smile*

K: So how did Jen come to be part of your band?

T: I took a break from our duo, while I lived in Kuwait for a while. Then in 2006 Marcy phoned me out of the blue one day. She said, “I know this guy who plays guitar and sounds a lot like you, would you like to come jam with us sometime?” The three of us jammed, then we posted up on Bandmate. We found a bassist, a drummer and a keyboardist… that was Jenny. That band lasted for 2 1/2 years. It was an amicable thing, but in the end that band called it quits over differences in the direction. Marcy, Jenny and I formed the trio.

K: How long ago was that?

T: Two years in October.

K: And so is it all original? You do covers too, right?

T: It’s probably about 70% originals at any show. The covers we throw in for amusement. For example, our Michael Jackson cover of “Human Nature”. We try to do things that are either extremely beautiful or things that are just comical. We’ve done “November Rain” by Guns and Roses. Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now.” And Ani Difranco, because Ani is part of my DNA now. But the focus is on original material.

Photograph of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: You’re in Hamilton, right? Do you guys tour across Canada?

T: No, we haven’t. Last summer we were working on an album, and things were coming together nicely. Then Marcy had a baby. We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now, writing new material, putting the finishing touches on the album. We’re not playing out much right now because she’s tired and needs a nap! That’s one of the reasons I joined the Songwriter’s Association of Canada –I thought I could get my songs out there.

K: Do you ever play solo?

T: Not really, no. I’m not much of a singer. It terrifies me. In the past 12 months, I’ve made it a goal that I’m going to sing in public. And I do now. I’m getting better, but you couldn’t give me an hour and a half in front of the microphone.

K: And you’re a dad too. I’m thinking about the touring thing. I’m not sure how many kids you have…

T: I have two boys, they’re seven and ten. So they’re old enough if I go away for a few days. We played at the Orillia Jazz and Blues Festival in October, and I was gone for three days then. And that was fine. But the idea of doing a three-week tour is not really feasible. It might happen this summer, but we don’t have any serious ambitions to tour in the next year.

K: That brings me to something you’ve been talking about, your Hundred-Mile Microphone project. Tell me about that.

T: It started because I bumped into an old friend on the web, a guy name Glenn Marshall, who runs a recording studio here in Hamilton. He’s worked with a ton of people, Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno at the top of the list. He used to be in a band in the 80s. I was just coming into the scene, and he was at the top of the scene. And I remember hanging out with him, and I was really impressed that these people were making music their lives. Then he just kind of vanished for a while. I don’t know what happened. Well, in his blog he says that he developed stage fright. Suddenly he couldn’t go up on stage anymore. He went into the studio, became a great producer.

This got me thinking about my place in the local music scene. And I realized that in a lot of ways I don’t know what’s around me. Because we’re all – you… me… everybody is so distracted by music that’s piped in from outside. I found Glenn’s song on the same day that Whitney Houston died. Everybody was posting “Whitney Houston is dead. What a tragedy, and what a great voice.” And I was sad, I mean I liked Whitney as a singer. But then Glenn’s song came in, and it had a much more powerful impact on me because it was somebody I knew. I’d shaken his hand, I’d eaten dinner at his house. So I got to thinking that maybe I should spend more time exploring my local musical environment.

Since I’ve posted up the blog and the Facebook site that partners with it, I’ve been getting me the names of bands that I’ve never heard of that literally live right around the corner from me. Music is everywhere. If I go for a walk on a summer night, I’m going to hear somebody playing guitar out of their basement or attic window. Right now, a five-minute car ride and I could be at ten different clubs where somebody is playing music. What this project is is the chance to redevelop personal connections with the music scene. To say thank you to Glenn. To say thank you to my buddy Dave, who’s playing a gig tonight. By the way, Dave’s band was the first band that my wife ever saw when she was fourteen. Not only that, but his sixteen year old son is in my English class right now. Everything just goes in these little circles. It’s awesome when you realize it. You don’t need any music from anywhere else, because there is so much good stuff right here. Wherever here is.

Photo of the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento

K: You’re doing the nine week blogging challenge with me, which is all about social media. Why did you decide to do that?

T: The initial attraction was because the band is not playing out that much right now. I thought let’s see if I can use this little shiny box *points to computer* to grow the fan base and explore other avenues for getting the music out there. Initially I found a couple of things a little frustrating: The transparency of all this software: I could set up a blog, but then it wouldn’t talk to my twitter which wouldn’t talk to my Facebook. There was all this trying to massage the pieces together so that they cooperated.

The other thing is that I often feel like I’m dropping pebbles down a well and listening to the echos. As consumers of web content we all see the big, popular stuff; when something goes viral everybody gets it. And I think this gives me and probably some other people a false sense that when you put something on the internet you will find an audience. Which is demonstratively not true.

Having said that, there *is* a cool thing coming out of Hamilton right now. There’s a guy named Drew Smith, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter… he sounds like Radiohead or Coldplay, atmospheric poppy stuff. He did a neat thing to make his last video. He had $2000, so he outsourced it. He got a dance school in India to make a Bollywood style video. In the last two weeks he’s gotten about 185,000 hits. And today it’s going to go through the roof, because it’s on the front page of the Arts & Entertainment section of the Wall Street Journal. It’s an article about outsourcing, really.

K: You’re bringing up the elusive question about why things go viral. (a) They have to be really good but also (b) everybody’s always looking for the new story.

T: Just being a good singer singing a good song is not going to get you a million hits.

K: Right.

T: A whole different part of your brain gets engaged in how to get your idea out. But I don’t watch videos. I just don’t like them. I like to listen to music, not look at it. So the idea that I can make a picture that goes with my music kind of blew the doors off of my brain for a week and a half there.

K: It’s a whole other art form, in a sense. How many hats *do* we wear as musicians? We’re already doing (a) the music (b) the writing (c) the performing…

T: …and then there’s maintaining a blog, doing my twitter feed, and now I’m going to direct my own videos? And I’ve got a day job! I’m a high school English teacher. The idea that I’m going to come home after work, spend quality time with my wife and my kids and maybe do a little cleaning in the kitchen, and then start shooting a video at 11 o’clock at night?

K: Oh yah man, come on! Maybe you should outsource to your students.

T: That’s funny, because yesterday… I’ve got these two really wonderful visual artists who are in my writer’s craft class… I gave them a copy of my CD. I said “I can’t pay you for this, or give you bonus marks in English class for it. But you have my eternal gratitude, and I’ll give you credits in the liner notes.” So they’re going to do a series of illustrations…

[We talk for a bit about making videos out of fridge magnets and lite brights, etc.]

T: You know that I maintain three blogs?

K: Yes. I love the poetry one.

T: The poetry blog never gets any hits! Every time I publish a poem, I post it up on Facebook and the same 20 – 25 people read the poem. Occasionally somebody responds, and that’s just fine. I don’t write because I want to get rich and famous. That’s clearly never going to happen for anybody ever again! But as soon as I posted my first Hundred-Mile Microphone, I got 200 hits within 24 hours. Apparently there’s an audience for this, an appetite for the exploration of local music and culture. I’m excited to discover that I’ve stumbled upon something that other people are excited about too.

K: Cool! Okay, just a couple more questions. Sweet or Savoury, and why?

T: Savoury, I don’t know why. Because I’m already sweet enough?

K: Adorable! One more. What would your secret nickname be for yourself?

T: Like if I were a superhero?

K: Sure.

T: If I were a superhero I would want the ability to breath under water. So what would my nickname be? I think I would probably call myself… *thinks* No… not “The Amphibian”. That’s a terrible name for a superhero! I can’t tell you my secret name. That would be giving it away, right?

K: Right. *smile* I really appreciate you taking time to talk with me, thanks Tom!



Promotional photo for the Hamilton band, Trio Arjento.LISTEN to Love Lets Go, the title track from Trio Arjento’s upcoming CD.

VISIT www.trioarjento.com

LIKE Trio Arjento on Facebook

CHECK OUT the Hundred-Mile Microphone Project.

WATCH Trio Arjento’s version of Human Nature by Michael Jackson on youtube. (Yes, a video!)

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I’ve Looked At Blogs From Both Sides Now (Wk 6 – 1 of 4)

It’s week six of the blogging challenge. And since this week’s task is to look at the blogosphere itself… research and connect with interesting music bloggers and start getting word out about my music that way, I thought it would be fun to turn the task on its head and become a music blog for the week! I’m curious what it’s like from a blogger’s perspective to do music interviews and reviews. What are the questions they have for an artist? What makes a story, you know, *sparkly*. I also thought it would be cool to send a little love out by interviewing a couple of my fellow blogging challengees!

Photo of me working on my laptop

So earlier this week, I spoke with Tom Shea of Trio Arjento, Sue Newberry of Sue Newberry & The Laws and Kimi Lyn Smith to find out what’s going on their worlds.

Initially I thought I would post all three interviews today… a cornucopia of music and ideas for you, my faithful blog readers, to peruse through. But after chatting with each of these wonderful people and hearing their responses, I realizes that they each deserve their own day in the glow of the blog-sun. I will be posting Sue and Kim’s interviews separately over the next couple of days.

Today, may I present to you…
An interview with Tom Shea of Trio Arjento!


Next week: “Your Newsletter”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 27th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything
Week 5: Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter.

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Music Videos Are Not Dead! They’ve Just Gone North For The Winter. (Wk 5)

Digging into week five of my blogging challenge (for more about the challenge, see the links to previous posts at the bottom of this page.)

The task: (a) entwine youtube into my online presence and (b) post a new video. So after fiddling around with my youtube channel – switching over to the new layout, updating the look with my now ubiquitous honeycomb backdrop and adding web links and so forth – I set out to finish part (b) of the task.

And I’m glad I did. Because this week, it seems, I have inadvertently launched a new project aptly titled: my Homemade Music Video Project. This has been on my secret to-do list since I first created the music video for my song Be My Girl back in March of 2010.

I say secret because in addition to making music, I have a fantasy of being a world famous movie director / auteur! Okay, if not world famous…then at least kinda well known around internet circles and among my fans and friends.

Image of How To Make A Secret Message

How To Make A Secret Message

I’m a filmmaking newby, and I’m fascinated with old super 8 footage and stop animation and all sorts of low-tech ideas. What better way to figure stuff out then to…well… figure it out!

So the project goes like this: I am going to make videos for every song on my album, Even Though The Sky Was Falling… and then some (I’m thinking of a few tunes from my earlier album, Hearts Fall, and when the new album comes out – songs from that one too.) Once a month, or so, I plan to put together a new video and… yep, you got it… post it on my youtube channel. Seamless integration!

And So, Drrrrrrum Rrrrrrrollll…

Here is my first submission: (well, second if you consider Be My Girl to be the inaugural one so many mooooons ago.)

May I present: Little Grey Sparrow!

(Warning: embarrassing hair cuts ahead.)


Part Two: A Brief Musing On The Function Of Music Videos

Remember a few years ago when every body was saying that music videos were dead? That’s because in the old school way of thinking (old school being 80s & 90s MTV model) music videos were promotional tools only… music video were the sweet eye candy, the ribbon on the music, the window dressing on the salad days designed to do one thing only… sell singles.

They were sleek, expensive and only doable for artists with major label support. After all, there was only so much broadcasting time available on MTV or MuchMusic – and those were really the only outlets for showing them. If you were going to sink that much money into promoting a song, the production values had to be high. And that meant having big backers.

Even the addition of CMT and MuchMore didn’t do much to change this. If your video didn’t have high production value and someone working it for you [read = $$$], it was/is tough to get it added to rotation. (Though having said that, and if I may toot my own horn for a second: last year Be My Girl got picked up by Bravo, and I hear it still plays from time to time. Groovy!)

February 14th, 2005: The Day That Everything Changed

And then Youtube showed up. All of a sudden you could post as many videos as you wanted and the ability to garner viewership was, theoretically, a democratic process. If people liked your video and shared it, well gosh darn… you’d go viral! Thus followed the explosion of kitten and silly prank videos and other quick sugar fixes. [Ed. note: well, it took a few months for youtube to actually get up and running. But the domain name was registered seven years ago tomorrow. And in my opinion, that’s romantic enough to deserve to be the title for this section]

Youtube opened up an avenue for independent artists to try their hand too. And thanks to the limits of bandwidth and viewing resolution, as well as the immediacy of upload times, music videos no longer needed to be polished and sleek, just interesting to watch.

Tap, Tap… Is This Thing On?

This raises the question – as an independent musician trying to build sustainable income from music, I wonder do music videos really help to sell music anymore? Do people rush from watching my latest post over to iTunes to download the song?

Maybe that is not the right question anymore. What music videos do is help to forge stronger relationships with fans, and hopefully make new fans too. And equally important is that the process of searching for visuals to express a particular song inspires me to expand my creative thinking. Hopefully that brings depth and moves me to make better work in the future.

What do you think? Are music videos dead? If not, what do you get out of them? What makes a music video interesting enough for you to watch and to share?

Next week: “Blogging”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 20th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage
Week 4: Social Media and the Theory of Everything

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Social Media and the Theory of Everything (Wk 4)

In the spirit of this week’s blogging challenge task – Week 4: looking at social media – I’m gonna (try to) keep it short.

The scientist in me wants to know why there is such a discrepancy between ways time passes when you are online. Note the difference between:

(A) The length of time you have to wait between posting a status update on your Facebook and the moment you receive your first reply. Those few minutes can stretch out to foreeeeever! (If you’re looking to bend your brain, check out the article on “Event Horizons” on Wikipedia. Warning: Geek Alert!)

Similarly, why does it take so long for someone to respond to that important email? (Don’t they know it’s urgent… URGENT! In my world, that is.)

(B) On the other hand, how come time flies so quickly when it comes to writing that new blog entry? Where did that eight hours go since you sat down to type out a few lines?

Let’s Do The Time Warp!

Photo collage of Einstein doing the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show

One of Einstein's lesser known equations: (L+R)(H+K) = TW
(A jump to the left + A step to the right) (hands on your hips + knees pulled in tight) = time warp.


.

Photo from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Time Warp Dance

Scientists are busy working on developing a single equation that can tie together and fully explains all known physical phenomena. So tell me, wouldn’t that be helpful when trying to balance my million online social media sites? Soundcloud, sites that let you “sign in with your facebook account” and organizational apps like Hootsuite and Bufferapp suggest that computer programmers are on the same hunt for the perfect “Theory of Everything”. Though they are still faced with the issue of dark matter to deal with (anyone using Myspace these days?)

Funnily enough, this week actually found me spending more time offline playing guitar and recording demos than in the previous three weeks combined. Ironic, since the task was all about social media, which as you know happens entirely online.

But as Einstein (probably) said: you gotta take time to dance if you want to have something to share with your tweeps and facebook friends.

Next week: “The Musician’s Guide To Youtube”.
Look for my next blog update Monday February 13th.

For more about the blogging challenge I have embarked on for my 2012 New Year’s resolution, see my earlier posts:
Warm up: Does Anybody Ever Win These Things
Week 1: What The Mayans Can Teach Us About Setting Goals, Or…
Week 2: Hold the door, this elevator is going up!
Week 3: Home Sweet Homepage

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Hold the door, this elevator is going up! (Wk 2)

Has there ever been such a fine invention as the humble elevator? You enter a tiny 5 by 4 foot room on one floor. Press a button indicating where you want to go and watch as the door closes. For a moment or two you are inside your own private space. Then – like seeming magic and without ever appearing to move – the doors open again and you step out onto an entirely new floor.

I am in the second week of my blogging challenge: Music Success in Nine Weeks, and this week’s task is to write two or three sentences that sum me up as an artist. This “elevator pitch” (also called a 15-second pitch) is a short blurb meant to be delivered quickly to a potential fan, industry supporter, media tastemaker, etc, in the time that it might take to share an elevator ride together. Just enough description to entice them to check me out if they haven’t heard of me before and to raise awareness of my music to a new level.

Talk To Me, Otis!
This should be easy, right? I am songwriter, and I am used to using words. But… [pause] I’m not an engineer. Trying to condense my work into a couple of lines feels like trying to draft the blueprint of an amazing “elevating machine.” I know there are some hoists and some cables, and there’s a cabin nestled inside an elevator shaft. Or… maybe there are ropes or pulleys or…


From the National Archives.

I, like many artists, often create from a place of impulse. I write songs and I perform them in front of hundreds of people, but I don’t often stop to think about the impact I am making. I mean, I like it when people respond to my work. I love hearing comments and applause, yes. But I don’t really know how people, you know, see me. In my mind, I’m just doing my thing without too much thought to whether or not my slip is showing. So what could have been a ten-minute exercise – two or three sentences that sum up my sound – turned into a week-long journey into another philosophical question: what impact do I make in the world?

The Mechanics Of Un-Invisibility
I decided to ask people. I drafted up a four-question survey I called “How Would You Describe Me To Your Friends”. (I used SurveyMonkey.com, a decent platform for making free surveys.) I asked people to tell me who I sound like (similar artists), what genre I play, and what words they might use to describe my music to someone who doesn’t know me (tying this back in to what one might say to a stranger in an elevator.) I included a long list of adjectives scoured from reviews and stuff written about me. This in itself was pretty trippy: sometimes I am stuck in my own little elevator cabin and I lose perspective on where I am in my career. I found a lot of really nice write ups in the press using words like “playful”, “whimsical”, “melodic”, “bittersweet”, “expressive”, “warm” and so forth. Felt good to put the list together.

However, the moment I hit send to my newsletter pointing them to the survey, I had an incredible plunging feeling. You know… you’re standing in the elevator and you hear the moaning of cables, and the sudden lurch of the cabin and you think… “oh my god this baby is going down!” Thoughts of “self-indulgent” and “who I am to ask… who really cares about little ol’ me?” started running around inside my head.

The Rush Of Falling
Imagine then how utterly blown away I was to discover forty people were willing to take time out of their busy days to fill in my ever so clunky survey (did I mention I’m not an engineer?) People left comments that were amazing. I am reminded that just as I feel goodwill for other artists so too do people sometimes feel goodwill towards me.

The Root Verb Of The Word Elevator Is Elevate:

1. To move (something) to a higher place or position from a lower one; lift.
2. To increase the amplitude, intensity, or volume of.
3. To promote to a higher rank.
4. To raise to a higher moral, cultural, or intellectual level.
5. To lift the spirits of; elate.

While all of the above are relavent in the context of this week’s task, definition number five, in particular, catches my eye.

Here’s a short sample of the comments people wrote:

I really enjoy having your music as part of the soundtrack to my life. When I am up it can take me just a little higher and when I am down it’s like having a friend to ride it out with. But whatever and whenever, your voice and music always feel like home.” SB

“There is something very personal in your shows. I have been to three or four, and I have always felt “close” to you, even though we never spoke. It truly feels like you are sharing your most personal feelings with the crowd… the feeling of “I know how she feels, I felt it too”.” YF

“Your music lifts my heart.” DH

First Draft
So much of what I am discovering these past couple weeks doing this blogging challenge is that to be better “business-minded” and reach new levels as an artist, my relationships with people are at the core. I was reminded again this week that my art connects me to others and others to me. And at the end of this week, I humbly submit, I feel elevated.

The pitch I wrote at the end of this process is somewhat anti-climactic after all the emotional adventures I went through. But I’ll put it down here for the curious. (A shout out to Ross Douglas and Guido Ocker whose wonderful comments were woven into directly the pitch.)

“Karyn Ellis is a gentle powerhouse of a songwriter. Playful, bittersweet and made with the finest ingredients of Folk, Country, Pop and even a trace of Jazz. Listen and be fortified.”

Please do let me know if you think it sounds like me! Suggestions for edits are welcome. I have an inkling that it does, but can I really know for sure? :)

Next week: “Your Website”.
Look for my next blog update Monday January 30th.

PS, I’ll be posting more comments and feedback from the survey as part of next week’s challenge. [Ed. note: Survey Results and Comments from the Survey have been posted here!]

Related Posts: The Difference Between Small Towns And Cities… Stickers!, and a prose poem: “Some Days It Surprises Me”

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Filed under MSi9W3, Music, Writing