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Podcast today!

Jason Hikes!I’m in Bar Harbor, enjoying my mom and Acadia National Park! Last week, though, Katie Mitchell interviewed me for the Standing “O” Project’s podcast. Standing “O” is a fair trade music streaming site that you may have heard about from “The Art of the Song” radio show, your music community or me (I was featured last year on “The Art of the Song.” It just went live today!

Listen here: https://www.standingoproject.com/artist/jasonluckett/ with a fan or free trial subscription. Fans can also listen on libsyn here: http://standingoproject.libsyn.com/jason-luckett-mid-week-coffee-break or on itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/art-song-standing-o-project/id707128897?mt=2

I haven’t listened to it yet, but I loved talking with Katie in my studio. I was just getting ready for the Harry Nilsson Birthday Concert (which went great — I had a string section, bass and drums accompany me on “The Wailing of the Willow” from Harry’s Aerial Ballet album), and working on some new stuff which you’ll be hearing about over the summer.

I hope you’re having a good summer. I find nature, exercise, and music are the best healers, so I’m grateful to be experiencing them all. Hope you’ll experience some of the same!

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Posted in Blog, Music, News

Magic Trumps Reason for Tiny Desk

I filmed some friends at my studio for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest and decided to submit myself, too! I had a cold, but it turned out okay. I’m loving my new space as its possibilities unfold!

Posted in Blog, Video

David Bowie.

He went out well. Two albums in three years, a broadway play, and a major art retrospective. As I write this, I hear Neil Young: “It’s better to burn out/Than to fade away.” I’m rethinking what it means to burn out. To burn with passion is good. When we create, the fire illuminates. Bowie burned on his way out. Neil wrote of “burning out” as the story of Johnny Rotten (who actually lives well today), Elvis, Janis, Jimi, Morrison even. But Bowie burned, perhaps edging up against self-destruction at certain points, but largely like a sun, a life-giving force to the “freaks” on society’s fringe, those who may have needed to be reminded that they were pretty, but less often needed reminders that they were driving their mothers and fathers insane.

My sister Josslyn wrote today that Bowie was a bridge between my father’s love of jazz and Nina Simone and the music we loved growing up. My recollection is totally different. I remember listening over and over to “Wild is the Wind” in my bedroom. I don’t know what it was about it. I was probably twelve wanting to love, be loved and leave the oppression of sticking out in a very white city where I was betrayed by my shade and kink, then completely outed by my dad’s extravagance. And I’d definitely internalized some of the messages I was a wild creature. It’s somewhere in the vulnerability in Bowie’s voice when he says, “Don’t you know you’re life itself.” The “itself” lands alone, over an implied change to the V dominant seventh chord, the chord that begs to resolve back to the root, yet the previous minor IV chord has stopped ringing. The emptiness in which he holds that awkward word kills me. He does bring us back to the tonic, a minor ninth — that ninth hinting at hope by surpassing the octave by just a step. It’s that aloneness that Bowie allowed us to understand wasn’t so unique, that others share your longing, your estrangement from community norms. And in that understanding, you could step ahead.

I remember my father coming into my room and asking, “Why are you listening to that white boy sing that song?” He fought back with Nina Simone’s version, to which I must now say I’ve listened at least as many times as Bowie’s. But then it was a dismissal of my interests and probably a reaction based on his insecurity around my rejecting his “blackness” by my embrace of my white rockstars — save Jimi. Ultimately, I must agree with my sister that the cross-cultural elements of Bowie’s music did create a bridge between my father and I. I remember him apologizing fairly soon after his initial diss. He later loved that Bowie and Iman were a couple. But it was uncomfortable. Bowie started a fight. But we both learned and gained something in the end.

Then again, that uncomfortable feeling was part of Bowie’s genius. Over and over he pushed boundaries — remember the “man skirt?” — then world caught up, at least sort of. And maybe that was it, too. He created space for acceptance or alternative culture (beyond that icky word “tolerance”) even if the elements of it weren’t embraced or adopted by mainstream culture. That ability to create space for acceptance of “difference” however is probably why he ultimately was so embraced and beloved by the mainstream. Of course it was all helped by a clearly sweet core that you could see in so many of his activities that had little to do with the Avant-garde (Bing Crosby, Jim Henson, “The Snowman…”).

The songs that grabbed me this morning were “Five Years” and “Lazarus.” Impending death at the beginning of his career and transcending at the end. All the while, Bowie radiates as a powerful sun, burning beauty into us, illuminating wondrous ways to look at the world, its inhabitants and its transcendentals.

 

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Posted in Blog

Christmas Stream from Studio City Sound

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!) 

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Posted in Blog, Video

For my next album with Steven Tyler…

Steven Tyler at the Canyon Country Store

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?

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Posted in Blog

A Big Picture (Come By Here) At Studio City Sound

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!

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Posted in Blog, Live Video Archive, Video

Air Guitar Inspiration…

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….

Listen and allow yourself to be transported.

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Posted in Blog

The Grace of Jeff Buckley

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).

Jeff Buckley

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!

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Posted in Blog

Sunday Night Photos

More photos from Saturday night with Kenny Burrell at the Giving Back to the Future fundraiser. (These are on Facebook, however some of you may not partake…)

Posted in Blog, Photos

Unsolicited sweetness

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.

Performing “Giving Back,” a new Kenny Burrell composition. That’s Kenny, far left, with Tom Rainier on piano and Tony Dumas on bass.

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Posted in Blog, Gratitude, Music