Monday, December 5, 2011

Just a writing' & singin' my song...

Not much happening on the blog front.  Just writing, recording the ideas, adding instrumentation & wondering how to spend my money on better piano sounds, etc.  Anyone out there have any opinions on realistic sounding virtual piano mods?

Actually, the last few weeks have been a relatively creative time with ideas coming from I know not where.  The diligence of perseverence...

See ya's

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where are my muses now?

I'm in the midst of writing new material as I persist in the perennial attempt to create.  At times, there are no ideas, no thoughts, no inspiration.  And then suddenly something comes to mind & a beginning of something becomes worthy of working on.  

As I try to break from old patterns, it's sometimes like an experiment to just go with the concept regardless of whether it fits into a 16 barre format or not.  It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, 'On Beyond Zebra', which I loved reading to my son when he was young.  In the book, Dr. Seuss creates an alphabet with associated beings on beyond the letter Z.  Great book!  

Sometimes I wish I could somehow tap into that creative energy source coming from the muses of creativity just like I wish I could just plug into somewhere & instantly know how to speak French fluently.  A bit too sci-fi, I guess, but that's the imagination for ya.  Oh well, if it was easy, it'd be boring, right?

See ya's  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Musical Gems

In every musical community there are those players who are just simply gems.  I was fortunate in making myself leave the confines of  my home to go downtown to hear 3 of the best musicians in the Burlington, Vermont area if not the Northeast & on beyond. These were Jennifer HartswickBruce Sklar & Aaron Hersey. It was an absolute delight to hear these dynamic, tasteful & sensitive musicians play in an intimate environment.  I'd been wanting to hear Jennifer for quite a while & I was not disappointed when at last I did.  I've been lucky to have heard Bruce & played with Aaron over the years which is always a supreme treat.  

Those who know me allow for my very selective & particular tastes.  These people are worth seeing & hearing.  I am all the more fortunate for knowing them personally, as well.

Thank you all.

See ya's

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Blog For All Seasons

Somehow I got on this guy's email list: E. Michael Nolan who's writing a great blog on creativity, art & the artist's struggle.  This guy has a great take on things.  His blogs are well written & insightful. No wonder he's a successful author.  

On another note, I've started working on a song with lyrics written partially in French & of course, I decided to try to record an accordion!  Fortunately, my French tutor (yes, I've started studying French again) had one in his closet & was gracious enough to lend it to me.  Man, that thing's heavy!  So, I'm slowly working on the part which is taking about a 1,000 overdubs, but the sound is just right for the Francais flavor.  We'll see...

See ya's

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Spark In The Dark

Funny how an idea or concept for a new song will come from the oddest places sometimes.  I was sitting at my desk just sort of opening my mind for something to write about & spotted the Quarantine folder in my email program.  From that I got a song! ( ) At other times, however, that spark in the dark just stays hidden behind the clouds.  If only I could whistle for the spark & it would come to me.  But, I try that on the dog, too, & she won't come every time either...

See ya

Monday, August 29, 2011

What rhymes with cup?

I'm currently working on a new song & was trying to find a rhyme for 'cup'.  Not much out there...up, supper, wazzup...nothing to lead me to a new, unexplored direction for a rhyme.  Finally had to settle with:

tell me this pen can write all the words you want to hear
these fingers will go to pick it up
tell me of a magic tea with leaves as fine as hair
I'll bring some in a porcelain cup

I wanted to keep 'porcelain cup' & it all works with the melody & the music, but I would've still have liked to come up with something else.  Never satisfied...

I seem to write songs about relationships & lean in the direction, like the Beatles, of writing songs about peace, love & happiness with an occasional sad song or maybe an anti-war type of thing thrown in.  But I've never been able to write a 'Lovely Rita Meter Maid' or 'I Came In Through the Bathroom Window'!  How did they come up with lines like that & make it into such a great tune?  Amazing...

I remember having a problem with a song I was working on once in which I was writing music to a poem written by my brother-in-law Dominic Hardy.  I was having trouble not only making it all work, but also in allowing myself to just write without worrying about presumed commercial viability.  My son Rama, in his professorial wisdom, said 'just think of it as an experiment, Pop'.  Essentially, just write the tune & do any & all worrying later.  Let it flow, man.  Wiser words were never spoken.  That's why we have children!

Maybe one day, one of my experiments will give me my very own 'Lovely Rita...'!

See ya's

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When did I become dated?!

Too many times, I'm afraid I've received critiques on my material that the songs are good, but sound dated.  How many millennium have artists persisted in perfecting their styles only to become dated or not in favor by the marketing complex of their time.

It's ironic how Steely Dan, for example, doesn't get any air time anymore, but when they do shows, the tickets sell out in 24 hours.  When my band & I do club dates, kids are asking for tunes that came out before they were  even born!  I can't count the times I've heard the request for Freebird!  Ugh.

French Impressionism is still the biggest attraction at museums around the world.  So, I suppose one could derive hope from that.  Of course, many of those artists didn't become popular till after they left this earthly realm.

Is that my karma?  Time will tell...

See ya's

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

To find the unfindable tone...

Tone.  That seemingly unattainable sound that we try to get from our guitar setups.  Never ever satisfied with varying guitars & amps & pedals & speakers & changing stage acoustics; it's a frustrating & compromising situation.  We want to hear what we hear in our heads & dreams, but it just never sounds that way.  Especially when one is dealing with a limited budget.  The wife will only go so far in accepting the rationalization that a new amp or pedal will make all the difference in the world!

I've actually been pretty consistent in my career using mostly Fender amps, lastly a Twin Reverb '65 Reissue which has brought me very much closer to a sound I can live with.  I only wish there were speakers available that supported the tones but were lighter!  I gotta stay in shape to carry that thing!

I like to say my mid-life crisis was resolved after seeing Eric Clapton perform & consequently switching to a maple neck on my Strat after playing on rosewood for god knows how long.  I love the snappier & funkier sound of the Strat with a maple neck.

I resisted using a compressor on stage for the longest time.  Finally I bought one & it was a revelation!  At low volumes I'd still get sustain & response that helped my playing.  It's funny how when using a distorted setting, the response of the attack just isn't as immediate as when playing on a clean setting.  When using the compressor, it solved it for me.  Better late than never, I guess.

I just recently switched compressors & started using a JHS pedal.  It's relatively transparent for a stage compressor & has made it all the more enjoyable.

See ya's

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Friendship Renewed - A Virtual Hug

I was able to speak with my old friend over the weekend.  Like so often with true friends, we resumed our conversation almost as if no time had passed at all, although we were remembering things that happened 30 years ago!

The amazing & wonderful thing in speaking with my friend was that although he is 15 years my senior, we were coming up with the same concepts & philosophies about life.  Although he is one of the lucky ones who has become financially stable from his art & I have always been frustrated by the lack there of from mine, we were agreeing that financial reward does not measure success.  The passion & the love we have for our creative endeavors is what makes it all worthwhile.  Music to my ears... ;)

We won't let another 30 years go by without speaking, I promise.  I am going to ensure that the virtual hug of the phone call will become a real one very soon.

See ya's

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Magic

Part of the fascination of songwriting for me is in the way the sounds of melody, chords & words come together to form the thoughts & emotions I'm trying to impart.  Sometimes it becomes sort of like a chess problem in trying to make it all work.  That's when I have to be careful not to let it get too intellectual in my efforts & remember the initial emotion I am working from.  But when the sound of the words within the melody within the chord finally all comes together, the hair will stand up on my neck & my eyes become teary...perhaps that's the reason I continue to do this...for those moments.

Lyrics especially are usually the hardest part for me.  I have a hard time with just saying things simply or in ways that have already been done so many times before.  I may be cutting my own throat in that way, as I get critiques back after submitting a song somewhere saying that the lyrics are not enough to the point or that I should state exactly what my characters are thinking or doing rather than using imagery.  But I just seem to continue on in my own way, despite them.  The Stubborn Artiste in all his glory...

I think there's a balance somewhere as I need to keep in mind whether a song could be commercially viable (in my own personal estimation of what commercially viable is...) & being true to the way I personally want to hear the song; lyrics & music.  So, all the comments run in the back of mind while editing a new song, and conscious decisions are made along the way to try to appease those critiques.

That magic that happens when it all comes together; when we finally hear it coming back at us from the studio speakers after all the overdubbing & arrangements & mixing & editing & leaving the wife to be by herself in the early evening hours & when I can still endure listening to it?  That's why I continue to write.  That's the magic.

I think it was John Sebastian who said 'The magic's in the music & the music's in me'.  Thank you, John.

See ya's

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where are the Heroes?

In the early 70's, I had the great fortune of meeting a man who became a great friend & benefactor.  I was raking rocks around his newly built extension/studio to his house and we started chatting.  Soon after he invited my band at the time to come over & play some tunes for him & his wife.  We did all my songs at the time.  Eventually, he put me & whichever band I was in at the time into a professional recording studio in NYC a couple of times over the next several years.  He even paid me a nominal salary to stop raking rocks, stay home & write.  Unfortunately, nothing ever came of the demos, the band broke up & I moved to Vermont.

I spoke with him a few times after moving, but then we lost touch.  I've always felt badly about not being able to pay back his investment.

Although I sent him every album I've done during the intervening years, apparently they never got to him & regrettably, I lost his contact info, so I couldn't call to see if he got them.  His number has always been unpublished.

34 years later, after not speaking for all that time, we've reconnected. My brother was somehow able to locate his number.  I speak with him in a couple of days.  Can't wait!

This man is a hero in my book.  Aren't too many around...

Here's a song about Heroes.

See ya's

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Biz...

There but for the grace of God...

One thing I was never able to develop was an ability to keep up with the business part of the music business.  I'd come up with some semblance of a campaign with acquired information from various music publications at the time, follow up for a little while, but was never able to maintain it.  Every time I'd remember that I should follow up with someone be it record shops, publishers, radio stations, record companies, I felt like I was dragging myself through the mud & clinging to roots on one side of the bog to fight the thoughts that were pulling me to do some business on the other side..

I remember at one time I was in a band that played the local Holiday Inn 11 weeks out of the year.  During our breaks, I went through a 500 page listing of record companies, publishers, etc. all across the U.S.  I sent out index cards with my name on it asking permission to submit material to them.  Not a successful campaign.

Even calling the local record shop to check up on sales was a trial for me.  I've always said I'd prefer to pay someone to do all this, but of course, could never afford to do that.

I think I figured if the music was good enough, it would make it happen itself.  Wishful thinking?  Probably.  Being from the 'hippie' era, going with the flow was paramount.  So, if it was meant to happen, it would.

And I wonder if it had happened, would I really have been happy being on the road in crappy hotels & doing nothing all day waiting for the time to get onstage.

Fame & fortune, right?  Is that really the way we measure success?  Is that the way I should be measuring my own success?  Am I asking these questions because I don't have fame & fortune?

At my age now, I realize that I would've been miserable.  So, I should probably be grateful that it didn't happen, & yet, I still hold on to the dream of being able to support myself & live comfortably by writing music.  The dream is still alive.  Stubborn?  Passionate?  Both?

All you need is love...

See ya's

Friday, August 12, 2011

Le Stubborn Artiste

All through my career as a struggling songwriter, I've been told by various people to write something in the style that's popular at the moment.  Get a hit & then with that success you can do whatever you want.  I suppose that's a viable philosophy, but then I would've had to write in the styles of hard rock, bubble gum, disco, punk, heavy metal, reggae, rap, etc.  Well, that just wasn't gonna happen.  I do love writing in different styles, but sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

I insisted on continuing to write music the way I heard it.  I mean, we all have our influences & exist in the ebb & flow stemming from those influences.  I was & am heavily influenced by artists like the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder & Motown, Sting, Little Feat, Neville Brothers, to name a few, & especially the Greatful Dead along with all the country rock bands of that time.  This is what I looked like then around 1972:
Go figure.

I guess I've read enough statements from other artists over the years who've said that being true to your own path brings success because it's sincere & truthful. Consequently, people will feel that essence coming from your work.  This gave me enough support to keep going despite all the rejection letters & lack of funds.

I love the quote from Shakespeare (Hamlet): 'Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so'.   Amen.

Believe in yourself.  To thine own heart be true.  Need I say more?  Perhaps tomorrow.

See ya's

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Songwriter's Dilemma

...and so it begins...

On the urging of my son, Rama Gottfried & daughter-in-law, Celeste Sunderland Gottfried, I have begun this blog in the hopes that sharing thoughts & experiences will enable me to get through life a little bit more easily when dealing with my passion for songwriting.

I was commiserating with Rama one day with head in hands in my project recording studio at home asking 'why do I bother doing this?'  Why do I continue to write songs, record them, arrange them, mix them, master them, design the cover art & text for the CD, send them to the usually non-responsive publisher and then pray for redemption & some financial return?

I will always be grateful for how Rama replied: 'Pop...why did you start doing this in the first place?'

The answer: 'Because I love it.'  'Right', he replied, 'so, remember that.'

Wiser words I've never heard.  Those are the words that keep me going when the music business periodically drags me through the mud.

So, to fill you all in, I'm a 59 year old songwriter who's been writing my entire life.  You can hear some of my songs at my home site . I do love it...but it does get frustrating in the financial aspect of the music industry.  Nothing new...artists have been in this predicament forever.  I just never saw myself sitting at a desk from 9 - 5 in order to pay the bills & have a relatively comfortable life.  I fought it off for a long time, too.  It wasn't till I was 49 that I finally took a full time that I can live with, at least. I guess I have a relatively high geek factor, so learning about web site creation, database management, SQL queries, etc. was kind of fun for this 'musician in real life'.  It's been almost 10 years now.  I'm still playing out with a 6 piece band of wonderful people & musicians, but we're not performing any original material.  It's not that kind of band or at least the places & events we play don't really want original material.  But, that's okay.  I've accepted that at this point in my career, I'd rather provide the songs for other people to use i.e. other artists needing material, movies and/or TV soundtracks, than to be the artist/performer myself.

So, I continue to write & produce CD's & do what I can with them.  Website presence, Taxi submissions, etc., copies for my friends & family.

Well, that's enough history.  I think I'd like to use this blog to describe what I'm thinking & feeling while in the process of song writing & production.  Perhaps describe new production techniques I discover (new for me, anyway), new gear, new song ideas, etc.  Maybe complain a wee bit after critiques come back saying my songs sound dated. Hopefully, this will be a cleansing & therapeutic process for me & anyone potentially interested in reading this blog.

See ya's