Monday, April 29, 2013

James Rhodes: Find What You Love And Let It Kill You

"I didn't play the piano for 10 years. A decade of slow death by greed working in the City, chasing something that never existed in the first place (security, self-worth, Don Draper albeit a few inches shorter and a few women fewer). And only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven – to be a concert pianist."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Plus-One's New Music Wish List

Over the past seven years, Alaska has been my good-spirited +1 for many an experimental music concert. Finally, after years of absorbing the "new music" scene, he has come up with his wish list for an ideal program. I share it here; any composers want to make this significant other's dreams come true?


Concert opener for man in cheap bear suit with ursalogical tape. [3'30"]

Four movement song cycle (SSA) based on text setting of "Lunchables" ingredients label. [15']

Duet for bassoon and oysters with live electronics. [8']

Solo for closed piano and two hands with no rests. [ 9'06"]

"Traffic" for brass, boats, trains, bicycles, airplanes, automobiles, and multi-media. [13']


"Disdain" for rhythmically crossed arms, stamped feet, voice. [2']

Tone poem on Shiitake mushrooms for saxophone, electric organ, flute, triangle, recorder. [40']


(I think he's getting the hang of this.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Edie Brickell and Steve Martin at the Apple Store (Soho)

Tonight, thanks to the good eye of my dear friend Punjabi Tuba, I was able to catch second row seats to a free chat + salon concert from Edie Brickell and Steve Martin at the Soho Apple Store. The duo is promoting its first collaborative album, Love Has Come For You (Rounder Records).

My, are they easy to watch on stage. So relaxed, so comfortable, so inviting. Naturally because, have-you-met-me? I asked them about the process of making the album and Steve was kind enough to give me a thorough answer. Get this:

  1. Steve conjured all of the music first with his banjo and sent Edie recordings by iPhone. Unusual.
  2. Edie put lyrics and stories on top of the changes, recorded the results with Garage Band, sent them back to Steve.
  3. When they had thirteen songs, they brought those rough "iPhone demos" to producer Peter Asher, who took care of the rest: corralling Esperanza Spalding, Waddy Wachtel, Sara and Sean Watkins, and the Steep Canyon Rangers to flesh out the arrangements.
  4. None of this music was ever written down.

Steve Martin said that he spent the first half of his career in turmoil but when he finally accepted that his creativity wasn't going to go away he was able to enjoy it.

Edie added her own two cents: "When the images come just trust them and put them into words and sing." Easy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to Approach Press (If You Wish to Be Successful)

"I hope you can step up and give us some publicity [for our show that opens in four days]."
I don't make a habit of talking PR shop on my songwriting blog but Ronni Reich recently shared the above "pitch" she received, and I thought I'd take this opportunity as a teachable moment. That pitch exemplifies a few common misconceptions many folks have about interfacing with press, so here are some pro tips for how to properly orient oneself:
 1. A journalist's responsibility is to her audience, not to you. It does not matter how important, interesting, or relevant something is to you (or to your client!); it matters how important, interesting, and relevant something is to her audience/the world, and most specifically to her editor. Those curatorial decisions are hers to make and that is why you are contacting her.

Make the best case for why the project/story might be of interest to her/her outlet and equip her with all of the info she needs to make that case to her editor.
2. A journalist doesn't "give you publicity." If you want to make a journalist cringe, approach her as if you're asking a sleazy favor or as if she owes you something. There is an entire code of ethics devoted to this. You are not asking for help or for a favor, and you are certainly not passive-aggressively demanding what's owed you.

Respectfully ask for (and thank her for) her consideration.
3. Timing is everything. They call it "news" for a reason: it's timely. It happens in cycles and on deadlines. Different outlets book or close content on different timelines but we're talking months/weeks ahead for arts coverage, not days. And certainly never after the fact. ("We released an album last fall, will you review it?" = That's not news. "We have a Festival next week, will you cover it? = Booked already. Not a chance.) A great project pitched too late = no story at all. Period.
Know the production schedule of the outlet you're pitching. Be early, be on time.
4. In general, follow the Golden Rule. If you want a journalist to read/watch/listen to your work, then you need to read/watch/listen to hers first. Give her the careful consideration, attention, and respect you would like to receive in return. Pay attention to her interests, preferences, style, columns. In the age of Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, there is no excuse for being uninformed when making contact with a journalist.
Read/watch/listen to a journalist's work before making contact and pitch her (or refrain from pitching her) accordingly. All the time. Every single time.
Obviously, this isn't everything. PR is a full-time job and a field of specialty in itself. Don't have time to keep up with thousands of media contacts' personal preferences, deadlines, schedules, outlets, and recent work? That's why you hire a publicist! But these are my quick late-night offerings, for the win, for the world. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Step Five: Don't you know that the time has arrived?

In which a person comes on board.

It has been ages, dear Knights,  and a progress report is due. Over the past many months, I have done the following:

And the grand finale is a case of right person, wrong time. For the past 2-3 years, I have been looking for a drummer for SMK. For the sound I have in my head, I must must have a percussionist. Without one I've been spinning in circles. I have posted Craigslist ads, I have asked friends and colleagues, including a certain grade 'A' percussionist who was willing but who felt her lack of drumset specialization precluded her from joining. Since then, however, she has been banging on found percussion (which, for my vision, is the best kind of all!) and therefore:
  • As of last week, I am collaborating with this lovely perc pro who, in about 15 minutes, was able to intuit and execute exactly what I'd been carrying around in my head all this time. Easy. And we are playing the Bar 4 open mic on Tuesday, April 23. #LWatCDR.