Monday, 29 March 2010

Totally Independent

This is a blog about my blog. My blog just got featured on the front page of The Independent website! Cool or what? Check it out:

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Zen mastering and Woody Guthrie

Since I'm pretty sure I am done with working on the album (hurray!), I have uploaded one song for you to listen to.

Please buy it and help me fund the release!!!! You can pay a dollar (the cost of about three mouthfuls of coffee), or more if you want to generate some good karma, or want to email a copy to a bunch of your friends without feeling guilty.

It's my version of This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie (I wrote new lyrics for it). It's the most stripped back, straight-up folk song of all the songs on the album. Got that down-home country feel, yee haw!

This week I have been getting my head around The Campaign. I met with Lauren (my manager-type person) to talk through all the various things we need to put in place over the coming weeks and months: photo and video shoots, lists of places to contact, press releases, electronic press kit, update website, work out what to release when (and how), where to tour (and how and when) ... the list goes on and on. It will be loads of work but I'm really excited to have the freedom to do it exactly as I want.

I also had a final crack at mastering the album.

When we made the first album I had no real idea what mastering was. I couldn't see why you would need mastering on top of mixing. I mean surely once it's been mixed, it's ready to go, right? Wrong.

Mastering basically means taking a bunch of songs and turning them into an album. You take the final stereo mixes of each track and make sure all the volumes are right - both within the song and from one song to the next - as well as being comparable to other music in the same genre. You make sure the frequencies are balanced (not too bassy, not too top endy), and the loud bits are not too loud, and the quiet bits are not too quiet, while at the same time maintaining the dynamics of the song. And then there's the overall 'texture' or 'flavour' of the tracks - smooth or rough, warm or cold, bright or thumpy. There are a bunch of techniques and pieces of kit for making all that happen, and it is harder than it sounds! I have spent quite a few hours on it now (much longer than a mastering engineer would have spent, though with significantly less efficiency) and have done at least four versions, learning as I go.

With the first album, a mastering guru did the work. He has a beautiful studio designed specifically for mastering and has done work for everyone from Nick Drake to George Harrison to Depeche Mode. But now I am DIYing it and so I have had to learn fast (fortunately learning fast is something I have become quite good at - a bi-product of refusing to stay in one place or specialise in one thing).

And other news - I found out this week is that you need to allow two months from submission of your music before it shows up in digital retailers (itunes, etc.). I thought it would be, like, five minutes or something. So that was a handy find! Better get designing an album cover!

Tomorrow I am heading into downtown Vancouver for a seminar on digital music marketing set up by the nice folks at Music BC. Timely or what???

Until next week...


Monday, 22 March 2010

Doing a bit of DIY

Yes friends, my second album will be a truly independent release. Just Music, the record company who released my first album, have decided that they don’t feel they can market it.

To be honest, I agree with them. They are a chill and downtempo label, and my music has been moving increasingly away from chill. In fact, my aim with this album is to incite people to do the exact opposite of chill. I am hoping to inspire people to action.

The album is not just an album, and it’s not just about me. It’s a call to action – all about climate change, sustainability, the need for political and economic change, and our need to reconnect our spirit with nature. We are living in the biggest crisis, and the most exciting age, that humanity has ever experienced. I’ve been banging on about this in my blogs and at gigs for ages. Now, finally, it will be reflected fully in my recorded music.

Last time I had press, radio and online promotions people helping me out. I had people with their fingers in important and tasty pies all over the place. I had people who liked having meetings in Soho, having meetings in Soho on my behalf. I had people who knew their way around the music business making their way around the music business for me.

This time things will be a little different. I’m a tad daunted, but mostly just excited about doing this on my own. Well, I won’t be entirely on my own – my manager Lauren at Backstage Vancouver will be helping out.

I’ll also be relying on you guys to – PLEASE! – help me get the message out there. Word of mouth (and word of mouse) is going to figure quite strongly in the promotion if it’s going to make any kind of splash at all. Which is great, since that’s the most authentic way of going about things anyway.

The latest, and probably final, title for the album is In Defence of the Wild. I have decided not to pursue another deal for this release, at least for now, to leave me free to do some fairly unconventional things without having to argue with anyone about it. I shall tell you more about those things another time. But the key thing is I’m hoping to make it as zero waste as possible. The medium is the message.

I’ll be posting some music from the new album very soon, and will be documenting my solo journey much more regularly from now on. I figured it might be interesting for people who are looking to release their own stuff to see how I do it, and how I do. I learnt a fair few tricks from doing it with a label the first time around, so let’s see how this goes!