You Get For What You Pay

“You get what you pay for,” or as the grammar-nerd in my likes to correct, “You get for what you pay.”

Music doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  Sure, there are some superstars, but that’s the exception.  For every superstar, there are hundreds and thousands of musicians (and drummers) who play for fun, play for tips, play for food, and play for beer.

Music, even as a hobby, is not cheap.  Let’s break it down to it’s cheapest form:

Buy a guitar.  That’s a couple hundred dollars, at least.

Take lessons.  You can either take lessons and pay someone for it, or you can learn yourself.  Either way, you’re spending your time.  Someone once said time is money.

Learn songs.  You have to hear songs before you can learn them, which probably means purchasing (or stealing, whichever your conscience lets you do) songs.

There you go.  You’re still looking at several hundred, maybe even thousands, of dollars.  No biggee.

IAMTB-Blog-post

The masses don’t always understand what it takes to have music for an event.  I get that.  I don’t know what all it takes to build a hospital.  But I do ask others that build hospitals what kind of money it takes to build hospitals.  If I can’t afford it, I don’t build hospitals.  If music is expensive, I guess you’ll just have to go without.

Something that also goes into having music is amplification.  Most every bar, restaurant, clothing shop, and gas station in Nashville has a PA system because they all have live music.  However, go outside of the city limits, and people don’t always think about these things.  I get it.  However, it then puts the musician in a tough place – somehow it becomes the musician’s job to now track down a PA system.

The life of a beginning artist – you learn who your friends are.  The ones that have PA systems.  The ones that let you borrow those PA systems.  The ones that have it ready to go at a moment’s notice.  The ones that let you use it rent free.  Man, I love those friends.

A Bit of Nashville History

I always liked history, but I was never any good at dates and dead people. That is, I was never any good until History of American Recordings during my junior year at Belmont University.

Finally history was easier for me to understand. The music I knew gave context to the political and cultural things happening.

I think there are quite a few guitarists, and other musicians as well, that feel the same. There is something about honoring and treasuring, even preserving, the past.

As I write this from my phone, I want to keep it brief to save my thumbs. Simply put, a piece of music history in Nashville might be on the verge of being lost forever. A little place maintained by a friend – RCA Studio A.

Read Ben Folds’ open letter here to find out more. Then hop on Twitter and use #SaveStudioA to make noise. Call the Mayor’s office. Spread the word.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to step inside the studio, it’s one cool place we can’t afford to lose.

Give Up

Music is hard.

“The perishing is more likely, and will be a lot easier anyway.”  – Samwise Gamgee, “Lord of the Rings”

It’s easier to give up.  Chances are success will not be attained.  Why go after dreams in the first place?

I’ve always been a dreamer.  I used to sit in my room at night and play guitar, imagining I was playing (and sometimes singing) in front of thousands.  I never actually thought I would get to do that, but I didn’t care – I was dreaming.

As a dreamer, I’m not really sure what motivates the “non-dreamers.”  I’ve never met someone that labeled himself a non-dreamer, but I suppose they are out there.  What motivates him to wake up in the morning and get out of bed?

For music, it’s my dreams that motivate my practice.  I want to fulfill my dreams.  Maybe it’s a sense of duty for non-dreamers to practice.  That sounds like it would quickly lead to burn out.  That ain’t my style.

I was fortunate enough to have parents that supported pretty much any extracurricular activity I fancied.  Baseball and guitar were the two with which I stuck the longest.  Music longer than baseball.  I’m thankful for that support – showing up at every game, tee ball through senior year of high school; buying me my first guitar and lessons at age 8; allowing me to take over weekends and summer vacations with days at the ball park; chipping in to help me buy my Taylor in 8th grade; loving me all along the way.

It’s late and it’s time to head off to dreamland.  Luckily, I’m a dreamer.  Tonight looks to be filled with dreams of songs and stories, and I couldn’t be any more excited for what’s ahead.

Bradley – Professional Artist Pep Talker

That’s what I’ve decided to put on my business card.

Being the husband/guitarist/band leader/manager to a talented artist means being a good encourager.  Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t come naturally.  However, I do think I’m getting better.

I was talking to another artist just getting started in this whole creating art thing, and what was quite interesting is that HE HAS THE EXACT SAME FEARS AND HESITATIONS as every other artist out there.

“My art isn’t good enough.”

“No one likes it.”

“It’s not selling fast enough.”

“I’m not good enough.”

Sometimes artists need reminding they aren’t their art.  Their art is a part of them.  It doesn’t define them.  It’s a glimpse of what life and this world look like through their eyes.

We like comedians because they point out the mundane things in a humorous way.  We like musicians because they point out the mundane things with melody and meter and give it meaning.

Keep making your art.  You need it in order to express yourself.  We all need ways to express ourselves.  I also need to see how you see things.  It’s fun.  It’s entertaining.

It’s art.

 

P.S. Check out my wife’s art at JessieSmithMusic.com or on iTunes – Jessie Smith

Improvisation

5600659318_cdd9e7ef15_z

Improvise – to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation

That’s what I had to do today.  I was asked to lead a discussion in the high school youth group at a church this morning.  We were just going to unpack the sermon, and all I thought I had to do was lead a discussion.  I’ve done this time and again with a group of guys for years now.  No problem!

One problem – no one wanted to talk this morning.

So my “discussion leading” had to shift to more of a “lesson teaching.”

I think I did ok – the kids all seemed to track with me for the most part.  Here’s how it ended:

We got onto the topic of gifts.  I asked what is the greatest gift you could be given right now and someone said a Jeep Wrangler.  Cool.  I ran with it.

God gives us gifts.  We’ve been told to “give those gifts back to God.”  I don’t want to.  I want to keep my gift just like I want to keep the keys to that Wrangler.  But I’m thinking about that all wrong!

God doesn’t want the keys back, he wants me to go to the store and pick up milk.  He wants me to deliver dinner to a family in need.  He wants me to drive my little brother to practice.  He wants me to put my gifts to use!

I learned something from myself today.  Sometimes a little improvisation can turn out beautifully.

Olympic Hurdles

So the second show felt like an olympic event.  Here’s why: late Thursday night before the Saturday show, the A/C in our venue crapped out.  Died.  Stopped working.  This is not good for middle Georgia in July.  Postponement was not an option – we had to play this show because Kickstarter needed this show to happen now.

Thanks to Jessie’s parents working tirelessly, we were able to find another venue 2 blocks away.  A church graciously opened its doors to us and let us use their sanctuary for our Saturday night show.  A venue!

So once we get inside this church, we realize that the sound system is going to be, as we like to say, fun.  We brought a sound system capable of powering a 1,500+ venue, and here we are in a 500 max sanctuary.  It was loud (sometimes a little too much maybe), but we got it all figured out by the time we went on stage.  Also, luckily, people showed up – around 300 – and that helped our sound not echo off the wood-panel walls so much. And then…

My wife put on an awesome show.  Probably one of her best.  I’ve really only played 2 “real” shows, this one being my second.  But I have played around town with friends.  It’s hard playing to a Nashville crowd.  But playing to this crowd on July 28 in Georgia was a blast.

I can’t wait to play not-Nashville again!

First Show – Done!

So our first show is done.  AND IT WAS AWESOME!  Things couldn’t have gone smoother, and my wife even thought it was good – she’s the one whose opinion really matters.  It was a relief, too.  She had lost her voice on Monday.  We had rehearsal on Tuesday, and she sang more than she probably should have.  Wednesday her voice was worse, and she either would speak the lyrics at rehearsal, or sing them an octave or two lower than normal.  Things were not looking pretty.  Then Thursday, we had to work with our background vocalist to figure out her parts, and again Jessie had almost no voice.

But the show must go on.

So Thursday night, she took a pain killer/sleep aid, and got a great night’s sleep.  Friday, after a lot of rest and some slow warming up, her voice was feeling strong enough to perform.

And perform she did!  It was great, the crowd loved it, I loved it, and she loved it!  I’d say that’s a winner right there.

Rehearsals Begin

We had our first rehearsal tonight.  Jessie sang beautifully, though she won’t tell you so.  I had a blast playing with some very talented musicians, Tim on guitar, Hitoshi on bass, and Julian on drums.  It was a very fun, relaxed, and great sounding rehearsal.  I can’t wait for the others, and the shows to follow!

These shows are to promote my wife’s music and to raise money to record a swampy soul album.  We started a Kickstarter campaing a few days ago, and we’re already past the 14% funded mark!  We are all pretty proud of this, and we’re pretty proud of the progress we’ve made so far.

To keep up with everything Jessie, go to www.JessieSmithMusic.com

To keep up with everything behind the scenes, stay right here.

Little Victories

So my wife kicked off her Kickstarter campaign today.  The one where we try to raise lots of money so we can do this whole music thing.  I’m really excited.

I’m also pretty proud of myself, and here’s why.  We’ve designed a pretty cool – and SIMPLE – website for her.  It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Apple made an empire on simple.

So check it out.  JessieSmithMusic.com

Wearing Many Hats

So it has been a crazy couple weeks.  We have been tweaking set lists, finishing the charts, double checking rehearsal dates, tying up venue loose ends, AND working our normal jobs!  It’s been especially hard with me being out of town for a week for work, and then Jessie leaving for the beach to nanny for a week, missing each other at the airport by minutes.

As hard as all the work is, I still get goosebumps thinking about how awesome these shows are going to be.  There will be a lot that goes with the shows too – practicing, rehearsals, hopefully radio and TV time, invoices to pay, and lots of other things I’m sure I’ve forgotten about.  Oh yeah, like life.

It’s hard trying to be creative with music while also trying to do all the business to perform the music too.  But at the end of the day, I think it’s still worth it.

I think Jessie does too.