Art Talks Interview with Bruce Carter at WVIK

wvik1

Morgan, Jake, and Lewis with Bruce Carter

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!

 

 

 

On Finishing What I Started

The Deluge, John Martin

On January 1st, 2013, I decided not to continue substitute teaching and to write, record and perform music as a full-time career.  I set some goals for myself so as to be able to measure how things were going.  One of the goals I set was to write and record 52 songs this year.  For the first 16 weeks I was consistently cranking out a song every week.  Then came summer, with all its busyness, and after spending time out of town in Minnesota, Seattle, and a 5-week stint in Europe, my song-per-week regimen had come completely undone.  I was still fairly consistently recording new songs over the summer, but I wasn’t making up for missed weeks.  And now I’m significantly behind.  I had started thinking it was unrealistic and had pretty much decided that I had already written plenty of songs and wasn’t going to stress the 52-song goal.  But a couple friends reminded me of the importance of accomplishing goals in keeping momentum going with my music and so with 29 songs down, 23 songs to go, and only about a month and a half to finish, I’m going to try to do this.  Some of the songs may be a little rough, (I plan on re-recording a lot of this year’s songs anyway) but with renewed resolve, I’ve decided to commit to finishing this project.  I’d like to thank you for your support and interest this year.  Get ready for a deluge of new songs!

Getting to know Bremen

After 3 solid weeks of gigs, I’m in the home stretch with one final show tonight at “Moments” in Bremen.  Nearly every evening has consisted of finding a venue, tracking down some dinner, setting up gear, playing, selling CDs, tearing down gear, and driving home.  The nice thing about having a home base ‘flat’ in Bremen is that each night I’ve had a place to come back to and get a good night’s sleep.  So since I’ve basically been living here for almost a month, I’ve gotten to know the city a little bit.

bikesI’ve taken public transportation nearly every day for the past two weeks.  It’s the first public transportation I’ve used where you pay for and receive your ticket from a machine after you get on the train and just hold onto it (honor system).  I was definitely confused the first time.

I won’t soon forget the greasy (delicious) lamb wraps (called Doner?) from the Turkish-owned kiosks.  One time I ate one and was full for six hours.  That never happens.

I’ve run to the bank to get my change converted to bills, to the post office to send postcards, the electronics store for a SIM card and batteries, and the grocery store for food .  ALDI here has daily fresh baked bread. aldi bread

There’s a touristy area in Bremen called the “Schnoor” and I busked there yesterday afternoon for a couple hours.  A guy stopped and sang the first verse of “Wonderwall” with me.

There are bikes everywhere.  There are bikes in the bike lane, bikes in the street, and bikes in the sidewalk.  Long story short – watch out for bikes.  I’ve met lots of people who don’t own cars and just take the train if they need to travel far.

There’s a strong history of counter-culture in Bremen dating back to the ’70s.  For this reason, graffiti plays a symbolic role in the city and, at least for the most part, is left as-is and not painted over or washed off.  Last night I went downtown with Joe and Boubacar and took a few pictures of graffiti here and there in the winding Viertel neighborhood.

graffiti1 graffiti3 graffiti2

So Bremen, it’s been good getting to know you.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.

2 cents

Doubleheader Sunday – Kulturambulanz and Katakomben

There have been a few days during this tour where we have played two shows in one day.  This past Sunday we played at 1pm in a concert hall inkulturambulanz a park near a Hospital in the Bremen area.  There were around 20 people in attendance and they were very into the music, and also quite generous when we ‘passed the hat’.

Then in the evening we drove about 20 minutes away to a very cool spot in Achim called Katakomben, an underground ‘beer cellar’ as Ollie, the owner, described it.  As soon as I walked in I went full-on shutterbug.  By the time the show started the place was totally packed and everyone had an ‘uber’ great time.

katakomben5 katakomben4 katakomben3 katakomben2 katakomben1 lewis katakombenbuba

And I really knew it was a good show when I broke my pick on “With Your Soul”

pick

Learning How to Write Music – Using Tone Color

“What to Listen for in Music” is a book written by 20th century American composer ImageAaron Copland, originally published in 1939.  I read it 5 years ago and am now re-reading it and finding it extremely insightful for understanding more theory behind song writing.

Music has four essential elements: rhythm, melody, harmony, and tone color.  These four ingredients are the composer’s materials.  He works with them in the same way that any other artisan works with his materials.  From the standpoint of the lay listener they have only a limited value, for he is seldom conscious of hearing any one of them separately.  It is their combined effect – the seemingly inextricable web of sound that they form – with which listeners are concerned for the most part.

I like how he describes these four ingredients in concrete terms, ‘as any other artisan works with his materials’.  Music itself cannot be seen or touched, so it’s hard to think of writing music in concrete terms, and the process or writing or finishing a song can start to feel completely nebulous.

Taking the element of ‘tone color’ as an example – I might get an idea to play a “C” note on the piano in the background of a chorus.  if I’m writing a song in an abstract sense, I might get caught up in deciding simply whether to go with the “C” idea, or skip it.  Or maybe I would get distracted and start experimenting with what it might sound like to play a “D” or an “E” instead.

However, let’s think of the “C” as dab of yellow paint on a palette.  Does the painter only think “Should I use the yellow or not”?  No, the yellow can be used sparingly, liberally, can be mixed with any color, can be watered down, can be thickened, etc.

In the same way, the “C” note on the piano can be played loudly or softly.  On a full 88 key piano, you have the option of playing a C somewhere in the low, middle, or high register of the keyboard, each one creating a slightly different feel in the song.  You can play the C in quick 16th notes, quarter notes, or hit the C one time and let it ring for the whole chorus.  Already there are so many possible combinations, it would take hours just to try them all.  I think it’s important while writing music to maintain a frame of mind where I’m thinking of musical elements as organic materials

Sonnendeck – Dangast/Varel

Played a fun show last night at this vacation spot on a bay that leads out to the North Sea.

sonnendeck 1

There’s a little bar/restaurant right on this beach and I played on the deck for a couple hours.  Did an hour of covers and an hour of originals.  Got a request for “Leaving On A Jet Plane” which I butchered, but then redeemed myself with a segue into “Country Road”.  Sold 4 CDs.  The owner was really nice and kept trying to give me more food…even after I ate a whole pizza.  Whew, I need to go for a run.

Maximilian, Big Buttinsky, De Nul, Lambooijhuis

My first show was on Friday night at a restaurant/bar called Maximilian.  I played on one end of a large patio area, and since the weather was perfect everyone was sitting outside.  I played two forty-minute sets with about a 50/50 mix of covers and originals.  Overall people seemed to be enjoying it, but a few people at the table closest to me were really into it.  After I finished they bought CDs, we hung out for about an hour, and they’re going to host a house concert later in the tour.  While we were chatting they told me “In northern Germany, we usually do not show enjoyment with dancing.  We may seem to look stern, but we are dancing in our minds.”

Saturday was my first night playing with JeConte and the Mali All-Stars.  (The previous night we were scheduled for separate venues).  I have to say I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with them, listening to their music, and they even let me come up on stage and jam with them during their set.  (Videos to come later).  Through their songs they seek to speak peace into the current turmoil in Mali (read more here).  They have a new album available on itunes which you should really check out.

We played at a venue called “Big Buttinsky”.  When we arrived we had a hard time finding the venue because it was right inside a movie theater, located directly across from the ticket booth.  It isn’t owned by or affiliated with the cinema, it’s just a really cool venue that happens to be in a movie theater.  For that and many other reasons, I found this venue to be fascinating.  They treated us extremely well, even giving us a place to stay for the night.  But the thing I was curious about from the first time I perused the list of venues was “Why are they called ‘Big Buttinsky?'”  I had a chance to ask Carson, one of the owners, and he told me that 6 years ago when they started the venue and were trying to think of a name which would give them the number one spot on any Google search in any language.  Somehow they came across the word “buttinsky” which means “A person who habitually butts in; an intruder or meddler.”  So after trying different words and combinations of words on Google searches, they found that “Big Buttinsky” did the trick.  

jcmas big buttinsky

Sunday we headed for the Netherlands and played at a Venue called De Nul.  Very cool venue and staff who are establishing a place for independent musicians to play.  They gave us all t-shirts before we left.  I would love to play there again.  After we left De Nul we went a few blocks away to another ‘optional gig’ at a place called Lambooijhuis, where we had dinner, played for about an hour, and called it a night.

joebubadenul

Now we’re back in Bremen and have a show in town tonight.  One thing I’ve wanted to accomplish during this tour is to really develop my original songs for live performance and I think that is definitely starting to happen.  I’ll post some video soon, stay tuned.