I was inspired to write this song while visiting a vineyard with friends in northern California. Inside the vineyard, there was a clear plastic tube showing a sample of the kind of soil the vineyard used to grow their grapes, but it looked very dry and rocky. I asked my friend why they don’t use rich, black soil, and he told me it’s because the best tasting grapes grow in rocky, desert like soil, where they have to fight to survive. And it became a song.
The branch and the vine
they must fight to be wine
they must fight to survive
the dirt all around looks like
dirt that you found on some
dry desert ground
You teach me my lessons and you’re
keeping me guessing
til you got me confessing
I crack break and pour
my whole self on the floor til I’m
no one but yours
the green growing vine
and the dead poisoned vine
they are tight
you could cut you could tear
to the point of despair
you wont get
the live and the dead
are so closely bound
they are so
and I crack break and pour
my whole self on the floor
No one’s but yours
I am like a bird that sees himself inside a window
and he flies into that window and the window does not move
All my mirrors I will break them, I will break them all for you
cause until I break them all I see is me I can’t see you
On January 1st, 2013, I made the decision to become a full-time musician. I spent much of 2013 aggressively booking gigs, trying to keep up with my ambitious goal of writing and recording a song every week, and organizing a self-supported fall tour in Europe. In 2014 I switched gears a bit. I set a goal of recording my first studio album. For years I had been under the assumption that “No one buys CDs anymore”, and had mostly focused on releasing songs online, with a few home-made CDs here and there. But after doing some research, I found that, while well-known pop artists have suffered and CD shelves at electronics stores are shrinking, CD sales for independent musicians are alive and well. So in February and March I teamed up with my good friend and audio engineer, Christopher Bell, and we recorded the 12-track “Joy, Pain, Love, Songs”, which was released on June 5th, 2014 at the Redstone Room in downtown Davenport. While playing over 200 gigs this year, I found that music fans are, in fact, still very eager to buy CDs. In the less than 6 months since releasing my CD, I’ve sold 326 copies, which helped me recoup all expenses for recording and pressing the album, and now CD sales serve as a nice supplemental income at gigs. I’m so thankful to everyone who has bought CDs, come to shows, shared videos, and as a Christmas gift for fans, I produced 5 new Christmas recordings available for free download at my bandcamp.com site.
This year I also had the privilege of playing with quite a few Quad City-based musicians and I have to say each one of them helped me become a better musician and we had a great time.
In anticipation of the new album, I booked quite a few out of town gigs, however, I wanted touring to make financial sense, so for the most part, I kept gigs within a 3-hour radius of my home base. My summer tour brought me to quite a few different venues in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. I met a lot of new people, made new fans, opened for some killer musicians/bands, and discovered some really cool venues. I also got myself a nice $250 ticket in Ohio for going the wrong way on a one way street. I did my best to try to get out of it on the grounds of not being familiar with the area, but couldn’t make it happen.
This year I had a change of heart toward music videos. In the interest of songwriting/recording purity, I had been hesitant to spend a lot of time conceptualizing, shooting, and editing a music video. However, I came to understand that having a few cool music videos can bring my music to people who might not have clicked on an audio link. I ended up actually having a lot of fun making a video for the album single, “All I Need”, as well as collaborating with Quad City bike riders to create a video for “Ride Our Bikes”. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for more videos this year, stay tuned!
I’m already well into the songwriting process as I prepare for a brand new full-length album in 2015. While this year’s album was an eclectic compilation of songs I’ve written in the past 8 years, this next album will be full of brand new, never-before-heard songs with a genre focus of alt-funk/neo soul.
I’m so thankful to be able to continue to pursue this largely uncharted path of a songwriting/music performance career. This year I want to raise the bar. I want to produce an emotive, catchy, high energy album, with a music video to accompany each track, a full line of merchandise, create an engaging, interactive live show, and appear as a musical guest on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. Thanks for your support. I’m excited for 2015!
As a full-time musician, I’m always looking for ways to save money. I make the 5-minute drive over to Iowa to buy cheaper gas, roast my own coffee, and have lately even started clipping coupons for various purchases. Another key to saving money is making the stuff I have last as long as possible. Here are four things I’ve fixed using a $4 bottle of Gorilla Glue:
#1 – Boots
I like these boots. I got them 5 years ago and I wear them all the time. They are pretty worn out, but more comfortable than any other footwear I have ever had. However, last year, due to the heavy wear, the leather heel-guard lining began to peel away, making it difficult/impossible to wear the boots. Actually this has happened twice. Both times I’ve simply applied gorilla glue and wear on. It hasn’t affected the comfort of the boots at all. The second time the leather started peeling away I was in an airport in Denmark. There happened to be a shoe repair store in the airport. Due to the discomfort, I decided I was willing to spend the money to have them repaired, so I showed the good cobbler my boots and he said he couldn’t repair them. I managed to get back home and Gorilla Glue did the trick again.
Money Saved from not buying new boots: $200
#2 – Hario Coffee Dripper
I’ve had this coffee dripper for years, and despite all the rough trips it’s taken with me on planes and road trips, ironically I ended up breaking it by dropping it in my own kitchen sink. No worries though – apply a light bead of glue and it’s as good as new.
Money saved from not buying a new coffee dripper: $25
#3 – Removable Music Stand
Speaking of things that take lots of abuse, my piano also does. Eventually the clear acrylic piece fell out of the metal holder of the detachable music stand. I glued it back and it’s been solid ever since.
Money saved: $40
#4 – Refrigerator Rail
Recently I guess I shut my refrigerator door too hard, cause the rail that holds milk and stuff in the shelf on the door fell right off. Actually I have a good landlord and he probably would have fixed it himself if I had asked him, but, honestly I’m kind of enjoying fixing stuff with Gorilla Glue.
Money saved: (conservative estimate) $10
So there you go, that’s how I saved almost $300 with a $4 bottle of glue. Buy your own and fix your broken stuff!
Yesterday afternoon I went with all available band members to do an interview with WVIK’s Bruce Carter for his weekly program, “Art Talks”. He interviewed me, Morgan, and Jake about things like songwriting, how the band formed, and what it’s like to play music in the Quad Cities, and also played a few tracks from the new album. After listening to excerpts from the interview, I realized I still say “uh” way too much when being interviewed, blaaahhh!
Bruce had me relate the events leading up to my decision to make music my full time job, and regarding the financial risk factor, he said years back he had interviewed a very successful Czech painter who had originally moved the the US with his wife and child, and although they only had 70 dollars between them, he kept thinking “I have to paint!”
We found Bruce to be a very knowledgeable and gracious radio host. He was very enthusiastic about the album, and optimistic about our future as a Quad City band. The interview will be aired on 90.3 WVIK, Thursday, August 14th at 7:00 pm, and also on Sunday, August 17th at 1:00 pm. After the air date, you can find our interview, as well as many other local artist interviews at WVIK website. Hope you tune in!
I played this at a gig last night and it just felt really right, so when I got back to the studio I recorded a video. Actually I recorded this for a cover album close to ten years ago, but it sounds better now.
I’ve seen plenty of books and blogs with marketing advice for musicians. However, until the past few months, I had never thought of asking local high school students for help, and probably never would have, had not Jason Hamann, a teacher I met while substitute teaching, told me about a unique marketing class at Bettendorf High School. The class is taught by Mark Pisel, and rather than putting a marketing textbook in front of his students and testing them on it, Mr. Pisel decided his students might benefit more by working on real-world marketing projects. Recently the students in this class have created a website and developed a branding strategy for a local track club. They also shot, edited, and promoted a music video for a Chicago-based band.
Last month, when I first met with the students, I was surprised to find them well-prepared with detailed questions about my goals for my music, and how they could help me accomplish them. The way the timing worked out, I had just booked the CD release show at the Redstone Room, and we decided the goal of the marketing project would be to get as many people as possible to come out to the show.
The students started by researching music marketing, and coming up with a marketing stragegy, which they uploaded to a blog and gave me access to so I could see the results of their research at a glance.
One of the results of their research was that the target audience for my music are people ages 15-19 and 30+. They found that these 30-somethings are into original music, but also enjoy the nostalgia of hearing and seeing new versions of songs that were popular when they were teenagers. Based on this, they advised me to do some youtube covers of some Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind songs, and post them on the facebook event page, which I thought good advice, and have in the works.
One students started a Twitter fan page for my music (#lkmusicfan)
And most recently, the students arranged an in-person interview for me to do with a writer from the Quad City Times about the Redstone Room CD release show.
I was very impressed by the ingenuity and competency of the class, and even though the school year is almost over, some of the students expressed a desire to donate time outside of class to help promote the show! You may see us passing out flyers in Vanderveer park sometime this week.
Kudos to Mr. Pisel for thinking outside the box and giving his students the chance to have real-world educational experiences. And I want to thank all the students for their help. Much appreciated!