Thursday, March 11, 2010

Keeping a Resolution

Many of you will remember that back on New Year's Eve, I made four resolutions concerning my life, one of which was "pursuing with full devotion my passion for music and love for singing," reasoning that it was foolish of me not to work towards this goal because "my vocal talent and ear-catching songs would enable me to do well."

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Far from it, in fact. During the two months since New Year's Day, I've done everything I know how to further my musical ambitions, including responding to a Craigslist ad on January 2nd that led to my being adopted as the lead singer of what I was told at the time would be a hip-hop/pop band.

I didn't write about this then because it was so fledgling, and I didn't care to mention it afterward because of the way the whole affair ended. I realized, though, that my duty as a blogger, if I take it seriously, is to give readers an honest and full view of my life, which I obviously wasn't doing.

The fact of the matter is, hip-hop is not my forte. However, my desire to perform overwhelmed my lack of comfort with the genre, and after assurances from the manager, a twenty-year-old girl who happened to attend Major University, that we would be able to incorporate strong pop elements, I signed on.

It proved to be a mistake, with disagreements cropping up fairly early on. In one case we auditioned a potential backup singer who had major vocal problems, yet our manager was seriously considering choosing him because she liked his "style."

"He has that whole soulful tone going on," she said.

"Right," I countered, attempting to be polite. "But he can't sing."

She finally answered these objections with, "Well, I'll be honest: I started this so it's going to be my decision."

The final straw came after the incorporation of a guitarist and drummer whose style was significantly harder-edged than my own.

Following the additions, and the new members' ostensible displeasure with my tastes, our manager called me up to insist in essence that I change my style to something more R&B flavored.

"I just feel like you're more of a pop/acoustic type singer," she told me. "And we want someone who is more soulful."

I was beyond irritated at this point, as we'd been practicing together for nearly two months, and my mood wasn't improved when to my question of why I'd been picked in the first place she answered that I was a good lead but focused too much on "hitting the right note" instead of adding flair.

"Wait," I interjected. "'Hitting the right note?' Isn't that my job?"

"Look, I'm going to send you a list of songs," she said. "I want you to practice them with a more R&B-type vibe and then come do them at our next practice."

The focus on style rather than substance, combined with the subtle command to be inauthentic, was enough.

"You know, I honestly think that if our styles are really that incompatible, we should probably just go our separate ways," I replied frankly. "I wish you guys the best, but I don't want to waste my time or yours."

So my presence in the band was done.

I was down about it for a few days, but I knew, even through my regret at no longer having a group, that I'd made the right decision. A person has to be comfortable in anything he does, and while especially for a musician compromise is sometimes necessary, the essence of a project jarring an individual's core means that the effort is likely destined for a bad end.

I wasn't comfortable being manhandled or dragged down a road that was unnatural to me, so I left.

After about a week of recovery time I began scouring Internet ads once again, responding to one fruitless possibility after another as I came into contact with individuals who wanted rap, or rock, or hip-hop, or metal, or anything other than the mainstream pop I love.

I aired my frustrations to a classmate who just happens to work as a scout for a major label, and he was confused as to why I was still searching for a band.

"You don't even really need musicians to play with you," he advised. "If you're serious about the pop thing, you need to make a demo."

After several days of looking through the websites of recording companies who demanded submission of quality recordings, I came to the conclusion that he was right and decided that if music really mattered to me, it was worth the investment a professional demo would constitute.

It was during an Internet search for recording studios in the Mountain Town region that I came across an ad for a very small independent record label that had been in operation only since January.

The page gave the company's name and said that, in addition to offering demo production for a fee, they were willing to give free recording time to artists who fit the bill of what they were looking for.

I sent my e-mail address, telephone number, and a link to my song "So Long" to the contact provided, and several days later found myself on the phone with the label's owner.

"I listened to your song," he said.

"Oh?" I asked, trying to pretend that my heart wasn't hammering through my shirt.

"It sounded very commercial," he said. "Very commercial. I don't usually like that kind of music, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize when it's good."

He promised to forward the track to his marketing department, and several days later there was a message on my phone.

"BB," a female voice said. "This is Marketer from Local Records. I listened to your track, and we'd really like you to come out and record a demo as soon as possible. Please give me a call so we can set something up."

I did, and from the get-go established several important points.

To begin with, the demo was to be free, something I insisted on clarifying. While optimistic at the obvious interest shown, I am by nature a suspicious person and wanted to verify that I wasn't being hoodwinked.

"If the demo is free, how will you guys make money?" I asked.

"Well, if it comes to the point that you sign with us, we would get ten percent of your earnings," she answered. "And that's pretty standard. We're not really at a stage to be thinking about that now, though. We're just going to do this demo for free and see how we want to move from there. That being said, the lyrics are very good and so is the song. I've listened to it about four or five times since this morning. You're a terrific writer."

The reservation that this label's officials seem to have toward me is reassuring; the owner went so far as to say that the vocals on the track I sent him sounded "good in some places and off in others."

"There's definitely the potential in there, though," he added.

I can't shake the idea that Local Records is waiting to make up its mind with regard to me, and that's fine.

"I like your voice," Marketer said. "You have a good voice. I want to meet you in person, though, and see how we would market you."

The addendum "see what you look like" didn't even need to be said. That's just how the game is played, and I feel no trepidation about working within that reality.

As I told Anne in a recent phone conversation, I truly feel I'm qualified to do what I'm trying to.

"I write good songs," I listed. "I can actually sing, which is rare these days; and I'm not great looking, but I'm good looking enough that it would be doable."

If Local Records likes me, things become pretty straightforward. I'd be shipped into Marble City to do gigs, the pay for which the label would get a cut of, while more songs would be recorded as soon as possible, put on iTunes, and, along with photos and a short artist biography, pushed to local radio.

My excitement is outweighing my nervousness, which hasn't been as great as you might think.

"Either way, I get a free demo out of it," I told Anne. "Whether they like me or not."

"I don't see why it wouldn't go well, though," she answered.

"Neither do I," I replied honestly.

I have a good combination of talent and commercial appeal that could make a lot of people a lot of money, and I'm trying to find a label that sees it.

My father and I are headed to the studio on Sunday.

8 comments:

Cheryl said...

Wow....!

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

Well, this is certainly a turn-a-round from your last post...good! I'm glad that your father is going with you. You have a good head on your shoulders, but it is always nice to have 2 people listening to the details.

I'm excited for you! I really hope this is the break you need!

naturgesetz said...

That's great. I'm really happy for you. And I'm glad you didn't sell out to the first band.

Gauss Jordan said...

Hey, very interesting. :-) It's always cool when you see someone get off his ass and *do* something.

Good luck. :-)

secret agent woman said...

You actually are not obligated to tell us everything - it's your right to disclose or withhold whatever you choose. But, since you did - good luck with the demo!!

Kevin Musgrove said...

You don't *have* to tell us anything. But it's good when you do. Good luck with it.

Woozie said...

Change your name to Lord Gaga please. For me?

Madame DeFarge said...

Sounds all very positive. And we don't need to know anything except what you want to share. Hope all goes well.