The sweet people over at Studio City Sound and Adrianne Duncan invited me to join their Christmas show again this year. You can stream it on YouTube! You’ll hear versions of the two Christmas songs I wrote quite a while back — one even played on ukulele. The studio is a family run place, and it couldn’t be warmer or friendlier. You’ll see the whole family — who were a band à la the Partridge family, that I actually saw when I was a kid growing up in Irvine at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. The youngest of the bunch, Michael Damien, went on to be a TV star and had a hit single with a remake of “Rock On.” But, Mama Weir is the real star of the show!
I hope you enjoy it! (You can find me 42 minutes in, at an hour and eight minutes in, and an hour and 25 minutes. And if you tried to click the link from my email blast, they updated it right after I sent it!)
Just kidding, but now that I have your attention, I’d love to get your thoughts on Kickstarter. I hear a lot of grumbling — frankly, mostly from artists — about the “established” artists/designers/filmmakers who launch their projects with crowd funding. Often these same voices (with considerably less financial resources) say they feel funny asking for money this way.
I funded my last album via Kickstarter and I know some of these struggles. I woefully under-asked for $1800 — enough so that combined with savings, favors and gear loans I could take a month off work to record. Luckily the campaign took off enough that I raised double my request and was able to actually manufacture the discs. (I initially thought after I’d finished the recording I’d shop for a deal of some sort — I guess I was living in the 90s.) So I question myself and grumble occasionally when I see my friends and associates ask for $20,000 to make an indie record. Though I’m proud of what I did, I know it would’ve felt pretty nice to pay a few great musicians and engineers to take the project up a notch.
Then this morning I was looking at an app with all the bands in town this week from my music library (granted, I live in Los Angeles) and I thought, “No wonder it’s so hard to get anyone out to a gig!” You’ve got Robert Glasper tonight, Steve Earle tomorrow, World Party at the Coach House competes with Jonathan Richman at El Rey on Friday, and Saturday they’re at the Troubadour while Brian Wilson is at the Greek and k.d. lang is at Royce Hall. I don’t have the time or money to get to all these gigs, but I can listen to all their albums with a $10 Spotify subscription. Somebody has to fund the music so the average listener can stream all this music for $10 a month and it’s not going to come from new t-shirt sales, door charges and CD purchases.
Yes, it would be great if artists got more than a fraction of a penny whenever someone streamed their music. But we have to live in the world we live in while we try to make it better. So it seems to me that the only way for new independent music to get made is through crowd funding.
Favors are nice. But paying creatives is much more gratifying than paying manufacturers. I guess capitalism has always prioritized paying those who own the machinery over the people who put in the hours crafting what is made. I believe music, however, is more about community and many of us have moderate or even extraordinary means to help support the artists we value even in a crowded marketplace.
Right now, I’m sitting on a good batch of tunes after a difficult drought. I’m thinking about the album and how to get it out there responsibly for myself and those who support my music. What are your thoughts on funding, Kickstarter or other options? What’s the sweet spot for a crowd funding ask/goal? What are your thoughts on the system in general?
Never too late… Here’s a recording of my song “A Big Picture” from mMix performed with the a cappella improv group, Fish to Birds. There’s a little story if you scroll back about a minute (to 1h45m53s), but I thought starting with music was best. Happy New Year!
I searched for some new music to hear for my hike this morning up in Runyon Canyon and noticed that The Cry of Love by Jimi Hendrix had been reissued! It’s the first posthumous release (six months after his death) and had been out of print for years though all the tracks were on the 1997 album First Rays of the New Rising Sun. That album was supposed to be the recreation of the record Jimi had planned at the time of his death. But I had grown up listening to The Cry of Love on vinyl and First Rays meandered too much for me. So this morning was the first time I’d heard Cry in sequence for years. I don’t know it as well as Abbey Road but it was almost that same feeling, that satisfaction of a sequence of music you’ve known forever, that favorite couch in your parents’ house where you plop your hand down and feel the little hole that’s been repaired and takes you back to Sunday afternoons with nothing to do. There’s just a profound comfort in this record for me. It doesn’t have the hits, obviously, but the music is uniformly strong and it’s a guitar lovers dream. I found myself hiking with my fingers involuntarily playing along like I did as a kid and my lips moving as if I were singing these songs in the studio in 1969 in Jimi’s place. (If you’re a singer, you probably have felt that sensation when listening back to a track you’ve recorded, where you can’t help but feel the words shaped in your mouth as you listen.) This album is that internalized for me. And I think it’s the funkiest record he ever did. That meant something to me, too, as a kid.
So I felt a little silly when I noticed all these outward expressions of joy, but I tried to keep it subtle as I climbed the hills….
I use podcasts to help me fall asleep on restless nights. With the earbuds in place, they block out the traffic, coyotes and other noises of the canyon. I usually know not to listen to music or interviews with musicians because that usually riles me to want to get up and work (then fret about lack of sleep…) But I ignored the rule and put on this episode of Unfictional (from KCRW).
It was a huge flashback telling a story of a day just about six weeks after we’d played together in Los Angeles. The snippets of the radio performance are breathtaking. And hearing his speaking voice in the interview, especially when talking of his influences reminded me so much of that evening upstairs with him and his mother at Luna Park. That was the fresh Jeff, excited and easy to share things that worked for him, inspired him. That was the guy who helped me get a foothold in New York by sharing the places he loved to play, etc. And then the story goes on to a sold out show in London, to the point that they had to book a last minute gig at what’s now the 12 Bar Club on Denmark St. which had the people who’d been waiting outside at the original club follow Jeff down the street lined with music shops to that room I played in just last month. The person in the story talks about the tiny balcony where my friends, Julian and Wendy, were just sitting and I think about how exciting it must’ve been to see Jeff on that day.
Yes, that was the career I wanted, and I had my moments of pin drop crowds and times playing for the people lined up outside to see me on Sunset Blvd., but I knew when I saw Jeff the first time that he had a haunted fearlessness that took him in directions that my acquiescences would have a hard time following.
But grace is a funny thing. It touches you when you least expect it and inspires you to go on. I hate that Jeff isn’t still here making music and continuing to enjoy the explorations he’d begun.
Take a listen to the radio show here: The Grace of Jeff Buckley. It’s from the BBC page because it has a few more links to check out that I thought would be nice to share.
I’d also recommend KCRW’s Unfictional show which often rebroadcasts some of the best BBC4 documentaries in addition to its original programming. After I listened to the story on Jeff Buckley I listened to a new one on Judee Sill, where you get to hear one of my heroes, Andy Partridge of XTC, cry… Her music is incredibly beautiful as well.
I don’t recommend listening to either of these stories when you’re hoping to fall asleep!
Kenny Burrell told this story last night to a few of us. Duke Ellington had previously told him to his face that he was his favorite guitarist, but there was another private compliment he received from the legend. Kenny – with his trio – had opened for Duke for a concert in Central Park. They’d done a really good job and the applause was loud and strong. As Kenny left the stage he was walking past the maestro’s dressing room and heard Duke’s manager ask Duke if he heard all that applause. (Maybe he was trying to get his competive juices flowing…)
Duke said, “Yes, but did you hear that harmony?”
I felt a little like that when seeing this photo of me playing one of Kenny’s new songs last night, noticing him looking on so sweetly at the corner of the stage. These are the moments you live for as a musician, the moment you make your heroes smile!
Performing “Giving Back,” a new Kenny Burrell composition. That’s Kenny, far left, with Tom Rainier on piano and Tony Dumas on bass.
Wow, wow, wow! So happy to be in Paris and have the opportunity not only to play music for people, but to stay in my cousin’s amazing apartment here. I’m looking at the Eiffel Tower as I sit on the balcony at a red table, in a red chair. It’s just unbelievably gorgeous. And when we arrived, after Franni showed us the lay of the land, we walked around the corner to a farmers market where we bought the fresh strawberries I’m eating now. We also had a turkish lunch and picked up groceries for our dinner.
We’ve been in three countries now in two weeks. Eight days in London where I felt like I had such a nice connection with new people at the shows and really loved seeing friends Merideth & Ella, Julian & Wendy, Drusilla, Tina, Bei & Greg, Fiona, Steve and Richard & Andy – who booked me for gigs – and their teams, who always make me feel like returning family. I’m so lucky!
Then we went to Berlin and stayed with the US Ambassador to Germany and his family. They actually gave us a guest house to ourselves and treated us to amazing meals and the love of family with their three daughters. Adrianne has taught them for years and we’ve produced recordings for all three. They’re a talented and spirited bunch. And yes, I got to ride in a bulletproof car in a motorcade. And I got to see the amazing David Bowie exhibition with special stuff added specific to the time spent there recording Heroes and Low that wasn’t in the Victoria & Albert exhibition. But what was most interesting was to get the feeling of Berlin without the wall. I grew up with the Cold War heavy on in the Reagan 80s and only went to Berlin before the wall fell. It’s amazing to think that it’s been more than 24 years since the Wall fell. Some of you reading might never have considered it at all when thinking of global politics at all. But it seemed a thing that would never budge. I remember being in love with Eastern Bloc writers like Milan Kundera who talked so much about how those hungering for free expression were able to do so under the watchful eye of “communist” governments. (See the film “The Lives of Others” for another glimpse of that feeling.) So it was moving to be able to walk over the brick lines in parts of the city where the wall once stood. I could go on, and maybe will sometime about the people I met and their stories now and then.
But now, I’m going to enjoy Paris a little. Or take a nap…
It’s been lemonade so far. Our flight was delayed, we had time for Real Food Daily right there in LAX — then our connecting flight was redirected to the gate next to our quick connection. The redirection caused confusion that kept us on the plane longer than expected to deplane, then our connection was delayed, so we got sushi in Dallas before getting back in the air. We got lost trying to find a cafe where we were to meet Adrianne’s brother, then ended up at an even better place for Lebanese food as we dashed in from the pouring rain and lightning. We were expecting a continuation of the hot summer they’ve been having here in London, instead we got a double rainbow.
Today, I’ll meet my friend Merideth whom I’ve known for a couple decades now and we’ll go with her daughter to see a Bill Viola exhibition at St. Paul’s and a Matisse exhibition across the Millennium Bridge at the Tate, in the neighborhood where we’ve stayed the past two visits. And hopefully I’ll get to jam a little bit with her daughter, with whom I haven’t played since she was in the single digits!
Tomorrow, I’ll play at the 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street in Central London, which as I said in my previous post holds a special place for me as it was one of the first streets I visited in London so many years ago. Thursday is the Drawingroom in Chesham, and I’m looking forward the bucolic beauty heading out there, the great vibes of the space, and the English breakfast in the morning! Then the weekend is for connecting with dear friends that feel like family.
I’m feeling very lucky as I sit here up too early in a jet lagged mellow listening to Gilbertos Samba trying to keep quiet, as I smile, looking forward to three weeks of celebrating a lifetime of connections and new friends in beautiful cities and countryside.