My Recent “Stumble-Upon” For Writing

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 I just thought I’d share a little something I recently figured out about songwriting. I’m sure this won’t be any front page news to some people, and to some people, it will seem impossible. Everybody writes differently. I get it. Now, to what I’ve kinda stumbled upon: There’s no room for filler when you’re just starting out. Now wait just a minute…let me finish…I know you’re thinking “I already knew THAT!” Anyways, no matter how big or small your music career is, there’s no room for filler, but if you’ve sold a few million albums, you MIGHT (MIGHT!!!) be able to get away with a little, even though you shouldn’t, if at all possible. When you’re starting out, especially, you have to make sure every song you write is finished before you put it out. On your first couple of records, you won’t really understand when a song is finished. You’ll think it’s finished when you come up with enough words to fill a couple of verses and a chorus. A song isn’t TRULY finished until just about every line of the song means something, and it all joins together beautifully, instead of just being a couple of good lines surrounded by a bunch of clichés and nonsensical ramblings. Now, that being said, it’s okay to be done with a song. Just make sure it’s TRULY done before you let other people hear it. Also, it’s okay to put a song on the shelf for a little while. Keep writing all your ideas down, and someday, I’ll darn near guarantee that you’ll have enough ideas written down that make sense together, and you can pull that long lost song off the shelf, and put the newer lines with it, and you’ll have a great song! This will teach you about patience with your writing, as well. I’ve learned the hard way about rushing with writing. It’s not worth it. Allow the song to live up to its true potential. You’ll be glad you did, in the long run. Don’t write your songs the same way you’d write a blog. It’ll be so disjointed that you won’t even have a clue what you meant. I just hope I ended with the same topic I started with.

 

Here’s an example of BAD writing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4iX5D9Z64

 

Here’s an example of GREAT writing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQsPMaYRPFA

Living Legends

I watched a video, a while back, of Dale Watson, at one of his concerts, talking about who is and isn’t a living legend, and he made some great points! Living Legends. You hear this term thrown around a lot, but who really IS and who really ISN’T a living legend? The ones who we say for sure AREN’T living legends are sometimes obvious. Obviously, the new kid on the block who came out with his first single from a yet to be released CD yesterday isn’t a living legend, but are we headed into a period of time where he will be refered to as such? I’m afraid so. I’m afraid we might hear somebody call Taylor Swift a living legend. Yes, she’s living, but is she a legend? Well, anytime you are considering calling someone a living legend, check to see if they meet these qualifications:

1. Are they living?
2. Are they well known?
3. Have they been around more than 15 or 20 years?
4. Did they do something original in their music?
5. Are they good?
6. Did they change the game of the industry when they started?
7. Do they say “No” to every single demand or request from a big city record label or industry exec?

If the answer is “Yes” to all of the above, you have yourself a living legend. But, the problem we find here is that some people will answer yes to some of the questions above, when the answer is no. For example: Some of these Nashville cats that are being labeled as “Outlaws”. I don’t know all of their names off the top of my head, but it includes all the Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert types. They act all big and bad because the record label image groups said it would work. If you make them look like they’re rebelling, people will buy the records and think they’re a bunch of bad you-know-what’s. They always reference people who ARE living legends like Hank Jr., Waylon Jennings, etc. And almost always, somebody’s going to write a song where they reference A Country Boy Can Survive, and name drop Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, or any other classic outlaw artist you want to throw in there, as if this somehow validates their own music. I can write the worst song in the world…hmm…not being specific to any real life situation here, but let’s say this song’s about…a dirt road and a muddy pickup truck. (cause THAT’S original!) It could be the worst song ever (Truck Yeah, Dirt Road Anthem, etc. PICK ONE! THEY’RE ALL THE SAME!), but as long as I name drop a classic country outlaw, that means I’m one of them, right? WRONG! But, that’s a different rant altogether. The video of Dale talking about that was taken off of Youtube, but if you look hard enough, you can find something.

 

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Dale Watson, where he talks about modern Country. http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/saving-country%E2%80%99s-ass-dale-watson-interview

 

After Blake Shelton called older Country artists “Old Farts”, Dale Watson wrote this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpfnrjgBzJk

 

 

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Bang For Your Buck: Albums vs. Singles

What’s the deal with new music being all about singles? Back in the golden days (60’s-some 80’s), it was all about the albums. Sure, there were singles FROM those albums, but nobody focused on making two singles and eight fillers. This is one reason why there were so many concept albums back then. Artists would have 10 or 12 songs that they wrote around the same time, and they’d all be linked together somehow, so they’d make an album out of those songs, and whether they meant to or not, the album would tell a story. Back then, when you bought an album, it was worth the money. You weren’t buying a record with two singles and eight fillers. Now-a-days, the few people who actually BUY music are at risk of being convinced that an album is great because there were 2 or 3 good songs from it that they heard on the radio. So they buy the album. Now, I don’t listen to a lot of new music (that’s a shocker, huh?), but a lot of the newer albums I’ve seen start off with the 2 or 3 singles, then it goes downhill very quickly after those songs. Very forgettable material, for the most part. But, the worst part is, the modern music buyer might be tempted to get the “Deluxe Edition” of said album, because it has “Bonus Tracks”. OK, bonus tracks have been around since the beginning of time, almost. But, just because you have bonus tracks doesn’t mean you can do half an album, then fill the other half up with these “Special Bonus Tracks”. These “Special Bonus Tracks” are usually terribly done demos of some of the songs on the album, or rejected new songs that are even worse than the ones that made it to the album. Oh, and the “Deluxe Edition” is probably in a prettier package, and maybe has a 5 minute DVD with “Behind The Scenes Making Of” for the album. Let’s call it what it is: It’s an infommercial.  But, if you’re in the right frame of mind, you’ll realize that none of these added bonuses make up for the lack of material on the actual album. David Allan Coe was always one of the best at making a great overall album. On a lot of his stuff, it would be like a live performance in the studio that they recorded.

David Allan Coe’s Human Emotions (full album). One of the best ever made! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xsyl1GLJwQ

David Allan Coe’s Rides Again (full album) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwX94nok-0M246943_2149747381831_1051029_n

Re-Records…why?

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It seems like, recently, more and more artists have been doing re-records of their older material. Some claim that it’s just to update the songs. Some claim it’s because they weren’t satisfied with the originals. Some claim it’s because fans want it. But, just like the situation with “Comeback Tours”, we should all know what it’s really for…TO MAKE MONEY! Actually, that’s only part of it. Most of the time, the re-records don’t make much, if any, money at all. The real reason that artists re-record their older material is because their old record labels own the rights to the original recordings, which means, in many cases, the artists either don’t get paid much, or just don’t get paid at all. So, legally, they can re-record the songs, and keep all the money from the re-records. This means, they will, in a way, be in control of their older material again. The only problem is that most people want to hear the original recordings of the songs, and, quite frankly, some of these re-records aren’t worth the time it takes to listen to them, let alone $10 or $15 for the CD. So, do the artists really gain anything from this? Well, they do have a way to make money off of their older material, but there’s a very small chance that anybody who wants to use their music in a commercial, TV show, movie, or other format, will want the brand new version. They’ll want to go with the version that everyone already knows. That being said, I’m not telling you to ignore these releases. Sometimes, they’re really good! For instance, FireHouse did one a couple of years ago, and I love it! John Prine did it for his Souvenirs album, and that’s also great! The problem is not with re-recording the songs. The problem is that you can’t guarantee it’ll do well for you. While some artists, like Bon Jovi, might do it someday, just as a cash grab, most do it just to try to retain the rights to their older material.

Here’s John Prine’s re-record of Souvenirs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_W-_hvOUPQ

Here’s Firehouse’s re-record of All She Wrote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2sTfXSjS3c

Goodbye Cher…WHOOPS! NEVERMIND!

I suppose that I was the last one to hear the news that changed the lives of so many people in the world…Cher’s coming out of retirement, for a tour! But seriously, folks, was I the only one who saw this coming, the second she retired? So many people were surprised to hear it, which is the only thing that surprised me. The fact that, after the decade of reunions and comebacks, known as the 1990’s, we STILL, as a society, don’t have a clue why these artists come back to the spotlight, again and again. One word: MONEY! Now, there is that small part of every artist that hates to be away from the stage, but that, alone, cannot make an artist go back to touring. I guarantee you that almost every show, if not every show, will sell out, on the day the tickets go on sale, for Cher’s comeback tour. Also, given the enormous amount of money that’s up for grabs here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the average ticket go for no less than $200-$300. Also, since Live Nation has figured out every way in the word to make money, I imagine there will be special “V.I.P. Big Fan Special Fan This Is Just For You If You’ve Got The Money Fan” packages, that tend to go for anywhere from $500-$1000. These packages, typically, include a “Special” T-Shirt, a laminated pass, crowd-free merchandise shopping, early venue entrance, a tote bag (don’t know why), and a pre-show “Party”, in which you “Just might get to meet Cher” (Not a chance in h***). When you look at all of that, you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Cher back on the road! George Strait is about to do the same thing. He claims that 2014 will be his last tour, but we should all know better than that. At his “Farewell Tour” press conference, he said he would still be recording music, and playing occasional shows. Judas Priest said that in their “Farewell Tour” announcement, a couple of years ago. Shortly afterwards, Judas Priest changed their statements completely, and continued with their regular touring. Anytime an artist says that they’ll still make music, or play a few shows, you’ll be seeing a “Comeback” tour from them, not long afterwards, just like Cher. So, for all you George Strait fans, this should be a momentous occasion for you! It’s just been confirmed that you’ll get to see him again, in about 6 or 7 years, if not sooner. The only honest farewell tour I can remember is The Scorpions Farewell Tour in 2010. I saw that show. I believe they’ve been honest about it, because nobody’s heard anything from them since that. That’s not the case with other acts. That’s why Don Henley came up with the title for The Eagles’ Farewell 1 Tour. He joked “You can have as many farewells as you want, as long as you number them.” When there’s enormous amounts of money to be made, artists and concert promoters will grab it all up! Why do you think Alabama’s back? Their “New Album” was just a bunch of re-records, featuring “New Hot Country” acts, just to sell more records. There were only 2 or 3 new songs on the album. Brooks & Dunn did their farewell tour a couple of years ago, and since that, neither one of their solo careers have gone anywhere near as far as they did, as a duo. That is a little sad, though, because they’re both very talented, and you would think the true fans would support them in any form, as long as they’re delivering what the fans want, which it looks like they are…or are they? Fans are great, but a lot of them are pretty set, in their ways. They want to see Brooks & Dunn together. Remember that Cinderella song “Don’t Know What You Got Til’ It’s Gone”? That’s exactly what this is! The fans want Brooks & Dunn back together. The fans want George Strait to continue touring, yet, when all of these artists show no signs of stopping, the fans just decide not to go, for whatever reason. So, when crowd attendance gets so low that you could’ve moved an arena show into a theater, what choice does the artist have? It costs a lot of money to be out on the road, and when you’re losing money, you can’t be on the road! So, with that being said, are the comeback tours, with all the V.I.P. packages, expensive tickets, and sold out shows, a way to get revenge on the fans that wouldn’t support them before their hiatus, or is it a way to get out of debt from their last tours, so they can try to make enough money to tour some more? And, finally, do we, as fans, in a way, deserve to have to pay these higher prices, since, after all, it is our faults for not supporting them when they needed us? When you don’t pay your bills on time, the interest goes up, by the time you get around to paying it. Think about it…

Here’s George Strait’s “Farewell Tour” announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra4jz3cMffI
Here’s Cher’s comeback performance on the Today show from earlier this week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOv7WkYB7Ww

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Proof That Corporate Executives Are Clueless

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This past Summer, there was a concert in Ozark called Thunder On The Mountain, which was done by the same people that put on Wakarusa in Ozark. Thunder On The Mountain was meant to be a festival for fans of new “Country” music, bringing in artists such as Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, and Big & Rich. As you might’ve noticed after reading my blog, these artists are not REAL Country artists. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I found something about this festival to be interesting. About a week after it was announced, I realized what it was. On the lineup was Todd Snider. Although Todd Snider is relatively new, he doesn’t play the “Cookie Cutter Country” that Toby Keith and Luke Bryan play. Todd Snider comes from the Singer/Songwriter branch of artists such as Hayes Carll, Guy Clark, and Robert Earl Keen. Once I saw his name on the bill, I thought it was a mistake. A couple of weeks later, I realized this was no mistake. Shooter Jennings was added to the bill. At that point, I knew that it wasn’t a typo, but rather a case of New Country people not being able to take a hint. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. For instance, Shooter Jennings put out a song a couple of years ago called Outlaw You, which aimed straight at “Dirt Road” fake artists such as Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert. Shooter has openly criticized these artists, and he has more than the right to do so. So many of these modern artists name drop Waylon Jennings in their songs. Well, if you didn’t already know, or figure it out, Shooter is Waylon’s son. So, for a festival to bring in all the fake Nashville acts, and then bring in the real deal, in the SAME WEEKEND, that proves that they really don’t pay attention to the meanings behind the songs, otherwise they probably never would’ve booked Shooter, since his song “Outlaw You” addresses the business leaders in charge of Nashville artists. There’s a video on Youtube of Shooter playing that song at the festival, and the crowd’s getting into it, but it seems like they may be just as clueless. Either that, or they truly get it, so they all gathered to see Shooter. Either one is possible, but after seeing Shooter Jennings live before, I think the second one was the case. Shooter’s fans are just as upset about what Country music has become as Shooter is. Shooter’s fans are Waylon’s fans are Shooter’s fans. It all goes around. Everyone loves it all equally. Everyone gets it. So, back to my point about Shooter’s booking being proof that music executives are clueless. Is that the case? Or, are certain powers in the music industry trying to get Shooter’s message across? It makes you wonder if our music will really be saved. It gives you that slight ounce of hope, and even that makes things a little better.

Here’s the video of Shooter performing Outlaw You at Thunder On The Mountain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q69mwRe3Jos

This was a feature that CNN did about Shooter, after he released his final major label album, The Wolf, which, even with the mix of Country and Rock, was still too real for corporate Country. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA95fKOSghg

 

“Get somebody relevant!”

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The local arena, Verizon Arena in Little Rock, made an announcement a few days ago that they had a major concert announcement coming up. Everybody got excited, and everyone hoped for something different. A lot of people asked for a new “Country” concert like Blake Shelton or Eric Church. Then, the announcement came…JIMMY BUFFETT! Many people claimed to be disappointed, and made comments like “Nobody wants to see that!” or “Get somebody relevant!”, which was rather odd to see. Jimmy Buffett is rare to these parts. Last year, he played a show at Verizon Arena, and it sold out in, practically, seconds after it went on sale. I got tickets to that show, so I know first hand that the comments of “Nobody wants to see that!” and “Get somebody relevant!” are absolutely false. The day of the show, North Little Rock was, pretty much, blocked off. All the Jimmy Buffett fans, Parrotheads, flooded the streets, going to tailgate parties, and filling up every restaurant and bar within a 5 mile radius. Parking was slim to none, throughout the entire area. One place we went to said they completely sold out of Jimmy’s Landshark Beer. Every person I could see walking through town had on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville brand T-Shirts, shorts, flip flops, hats, etc. At the tailgate parties, people used Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville brand frozen drink machine. Then, it was time for the show. Twenty thousand people started walking to the arena, almost at the same time. A few people had on battery-powered shark fins on their heads that lit up. Once we got inside, everybody ran to the merchandise and concession stands, buying all the Jimmy Buffett shirts, CD’s, posters, hats, jewelry, shot glasses, tote bags, and frozen drink mixes that they could get their hands on! Just for this special show, you could buy Margaritaville brand Margaritas at the concession stands. Those sold like hot cakes! After about an hour of that, everyone took their seats. The lights started to dim, as the song “Tequila” came over the speakers. As the last “TEQUILA!” of the song filled the arena, Jimmy walked onstage, and you couldn’t hear a word he said, over the 20,000 screaming people! After the screams died down, he said “Hello, Little Rock. WE’RE BACK!” Then, he introduced his opening act, who came on and played 3 songs, then exited the stage, as the lights faded, and “Hot, Hot, Hot” came on the speakers, as two of Jimmy’s crew members came onstage to launch T-Shirts out of special shark-shaped launchers. They danced around, getting the crowd ready for about 3 minutes, then the band came onstage and began to play “Piece Of Work”. Jimmy walked onstage, and once again, 20,000 people screamed so loud that he could’ve played Yankee Doodle Dandy out of key, and nobody would’ve noticed. The show went for about two and a half hours. We left right before the last encore, which was one of Jimmy’s famous solo acoustic encores, Lovely Cruise. So, when I saw the announcement of Jimmy’s return to Arkansas the other day, and I read the comments about “Get somebody relevant!”, I couldn’t help but laugh. Normally, it’s not easy to sell out an arena, even for newer acts. Blake Shelton and Eric Church don’t typically sell out. Not saying anything about their music, for once. Just a fact. Other shows just come to town, and leave, without any big deal being made about them. No city-wide tailgate parties. No audience from about 6 or 7 different states at one show. Also, Jimmy Buffett, if I recall, has made hit songs out of duets with new artists such as Alan Jackson, Zac Brown, and Toby Keith. People refer to those artists as relevant, yet, they can’t easily sell out around 20,000 seats, when their shows go on sale. So, obviously, if one man can be in a town, for one night, for one show, and not only sell out the entire arena within seconds, but sell enough shirts, CD’s, beer, frozen drink mixers, flip flops, and hats to make the entire city of Little Rock look like one big Margaritaville logo, you can hardly call him irrelevant.

Here’s a video of Jimmy from the Little Rock show last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2S67AYe1Dw

Here’s the intro I was talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXN8Q0yQvSI