Recording Artist Advocate My driving buddy...

People choose their cars to convey who they are just like they choose their music. A muscle car says something completely different than a station wagon. But, don't judge a book by… you know the rest.

I'm driving a Dodge Challenger with the biggest and fastest engine available when it was built. It was an actual "barn car" in that it spent its first few years in a barn with a car cover on it. When we got it after several years, it still had less than five thousand miles. The owners new oilfield job didn't come with a company car - um, truck. So the Challenger had to go.  Lucky us! 

I can't say how fast we've driven it, but you pass 120 without noticing. It's like a NASCAR with all the creature comforts.   

So, I'm driving through the mid cities just trying to move through the traffic when I notice a grey Honda hatchback expertly changing lanes and taking advantage of every opportunity to advance through what was a moving roadblock. The most impressive thing was that he didn't come off as an aggressive driver. He seemed to always pick the right lane and jump in the one that moved the fastest. It took a lot of work to catch up to him. 

He decided I needed some driving instruction, I guess.

His car was stock as far as I could hear and see, but he knew how to make the most of it. Still, he never ran up on anyone or cut anyone off. When I would get stuck behind cars, he would wait for me. It was fun watching as he would perfectly time the flow of traffic. The openings he would take advantage of would just as quickly close behind him leaving me to find a different way. I can't say I was as expert or skillful. But I did keep up mostly. Traffic was awful. 

Finally, he had to take an exit so he slowed down to wave and smile and I did the same.

What did I learn from him? That it's not the car, it's the driver. Just like it's not the instrument - it's the player. Also, you will get shown up by the person you least expect. And that's OK.

Learn something from every experience and be humble enough to smile and wave at the person who teaches you that lesson. You will be better for it and someday you can teach someone else. 






Recording Artist Advocate: Do you need a PA or a van?

When you first start playing out you will likely need some kind of PA. The places musicians play when starting out don't usually have PA. Fortunately those are very small places with minimal requirements. Besides, when it's just you, a little system is enough. I know successful artists who still do some acoustic shows and just bring a few powered speakers on stands. 

When you get a band you'll likely be playing better shows and you'll have to invest in a PA appropriate to those venues. It turns out that a bunch of places expect the bands to bring their own sound. Or they have a system thats so trashed you can't really used it - and sound good. 

So bring your own sound if you want to be presented professionally.

When I first thought about building my recording studio I got some great advice: Build just what you need. Isolated floors and bunker-like walls are great if your in the middle of a noisy city, but out here in the country none of that was necessary. RoughWood Studio was profitable faster because I didn't have to spend so much. 

Take the same approach with your PA. Something as simple as stands to get the speakers you already have allows you to do more with less, and use your system longer - till you need a bigger one. 

A very wealthy friend once told me never buy the cheapest, and never buy the most expensive. Buy the one just under the most expensive. It's usually the same as the top one anyway, but without some cosmetic feature you don't need. 

Also think about weight and space in your van or trailer. You'll be hauling those boxes around. Setting up and tearing down. Even working as a team, you don't want to wear out your guys. 

One final thought. If you don't have the money right now, don't buy on credit unless it's 0% interest and you are gigging enough to pay it off well before it comes due. One day over and the interest is just too much. That's how they get you.  

So buy just what you really need - not the fanciest - and use 0% interest to your advantage. 

It's how much of your hard earned money that you get to actually keep that matters. 

Recording Artist Advocate: Find that niche. It can still be wide...

I recently recorded a rapper. No, wait. He calls himself a Hip Hop Artist. Things cycle back around. I think that's great. 

He is a very unique artist. Really. I'm not being ironic. 

Because of his nationality, religion, and… OK, his nationality and religion - he has an amazing following in different parts of the world. He drops a track on those countries and gets a hundred thousand plays in short order. Some tracks get much more.

Even though he represents a more narrow niche, he speaks to his audience well. They have hopes and dreams too. They feel marginalized within their own countries, cultures and families. It's almost like Rock and Roll of the 50's all over again - to them. Just hearing a guy about their age expressing the same things they feel gives them hope. 

I don't think he could do what he does if he were over there. Well, not for long. 

Who are your "people"? What will give them hope? 

Write a song for em'.  

Recording Artist Advocate: Get a better guitar DI - Please...

It's just a fact of life that you have to plug an acoustic guitar in when you go on stage. But please, get a better DI box. The difference will be good for you and your audience. 

Let me take a step back. Start at the pickups in your guitar. Better pickups sound more natural. That may be enough. But something like a Fishman AURA will make even marginal pickups sound better. 

Back when we first started interviewing bands and having em' play a song (this was when we had the radio stations) I played around with different DI's but settled on good microphones. I still prefer a mic'd acoustic in the studio, but on stage you do what you gotta' do.

Most guitars from the stage sound like your head is touching the body of the guitar. It's not natural. It's just a mess. But so easy to fix.

It's another thing to make you head and shoulders above the rest.



Recording Artist Advocate: Don't listen to the news...

It's so easy to record TV. But I noticed that if I accidentally watch a news show even a day later,  it's amazingly out of date.

News just doesn't have a shelf life anymore.

If you write music thats topical, it's on it's way to being stale faster than ever. 

So what can you write about? Well, just all of human experience. Love and hate and war and happiness are timeless. So is a snapshot of two people meeting for the first time, falling in love, or realizing their love is cold - or has grown deeper with time! It's all there waiting to be mined. 

White hot sparks of blinding intensity are swirling all around you. You're in the calm eye of a storm now, but the destruction (or joy) will roll over you with bulldozer weight and intensity any time now.

The people need your song to mean something next month, next year, and for years to come. 

And you need it to be recorded well. That's where I can help.