Music to Swear By Preview #3 – "Tonight was a wonderful night!"

Check out this fabulous rendition of Cryns #3’s “Tonight was a wonderful night!”, performed by Cryns #3 on the Music to Swear By podcast!

The full podcast will air next Wednesday.

Music to Swear By Preview #2 – Duluth

In this recording from our session at the Music to Swear By podcast, the band plays, “Duluth”.  Enjoy!

The full podcast will air next Wednesday.

Music to Swear By Preview #1 – "Kirsten Dunst"

I recently travelled to Shoreview, MN to record an episode of the Music to Swear By podcast with with co-hosts, Tony, Paul, and Dave.  The guys were gentlemanly and smart despite their penchant for the F-word (or maybe because of it).

Over the next 8 days, I will be releasing a series of 8 recordings Tony made during the podcast both with the band and solo after the band left.

This first song is one of my favorites to play live.  It is called, “Kirsten Dunst”.

Our episode of the podcast will air on Wednesday next week with a preview scheduled to be posted this Friday.

Going Pro

Today I spent a couple of hours hanging with Charlie Van Stee in my apartment.  Together, we listened to the demo tracks from his forthcoming release, “Tigers will eat you!”  (You can listen to most/all of the tracks on Charlie’s Facebook page.)  It is his most heartfelt effort to date, imho.

Charlie wants to make a career out of music.  He is sincere about it, and I believe he has a good chance to do it.  This week, I have talked with two other musicians with dreams of doing just that (Ariel Apricio from Brooklyn and Keith Axline from San Francisco).  Both of them have found it tough going.

I believe that anyone with a bit of talent and a ton of determination and hard work can make a living playing music.  What people don’t always realize is that, like anything else, if you want to make money at music, you have to devote 40 hours a week to it and run it like a business.  This includes networking, honing your craft, and developing a reputation as a professional.

Below is my checklist for things to do to become and maintain your status as a professional working musician.  This list is reflective of my web biz more than it is of my music biz, but I think the same rules apply to both.

Networking

  • Attend local shows 5 nights a week
  • While you are at shows, meet the bands.  Meet the promoters.  Meet the bartenders.  Meet the bar owners.  Engage them all in conversation and hand them all your business card.  Follow up the next day with an email or phone call expressing (sincerely) how nice it was to meet them.
  • Maintain regular contact with aforementioned industry folks.  Ask them for gigs, leads, networking opportunities as appropriate.
  • Maintain an email list and add new email addresses to it at every show
  • Develop an online social networking strategy.  Get active on online social networking websites that make sense to you (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.).  Spend reasonable amounts of time on these and be focused.

Honing your craft

  • Warm up for 1 hour every day
  • Practice for 2 hours every day solo
  • Practice twice a week with your band (if applicable)
  • Listen to music and music-business podcasts (Check out the CDBaby Podcast)
  • Develop a regular schedule for songwriting (This is the only way you will get better and quicker at your art!)
  • Write. Write. Write.  Blog about your experiences.  Write music.  Write poetry.  Think about things that happen to you, and write about them.
  • Become a leader in your local music community.  There are all sorts of local music organizations in Minneapolis (and probably every big city).  Get involved!

Developing a reputation as a professional

  • Show up to gigs early/on time
  • Be courteous and professional
  • Dress appropriately
  • Get contracts signed well in advance of gigs (if applicable)
  • Hire someone (or get a volunteer) to watch the door so that you don’t get ripped off
  • Sell cds and merchandise at your shows
  • Treat everybody with respect (they are your customers!)

The bottom line is that unless you get SUPER lucky (like Owl City), it will take hard work to make it as a professional musician.  Being a career musician requires starting your own business.  Time spent up front will pay dividends later.  Most of your good gigs will come from friends-of-friends.  You will get paid more the longer you are in the biz.

Now get to it!  🙂

Music to Swear By

If you haven’t checked out Music to Swear By‘s podcast series, you are missing out.  It is a perfect mix of smart humor, satire, music, and fart jokes.  Seriously.

Last night, John, Ryan, and I had the pleasure of recording a soon-to-be-released “Music to Swear By” episode in the fancy basement recording studio of ringleader, Tony FU’s, house.

The vulgarities were flowing out of my mouth.  I don’t know what happened.  It’s like I forgot how Catholic I was for a 40-minute span and spewed enough sin to make God raise an eyebrow.  The storm that I drove through on the way home could only be my doing.

35W was flooded.  Noah’s Ark even floated by (haha!).  Upon arrival at home, I said 142 Hail Maries and went to bed.

I do want to say, Catholic jokes aside, that the hosts, Tony, Paul, and Dave, were most cordial and represent a sect of down-to-earth, brilliant formerly-city-folk that can only be found on Brigadoon Drive in Shoreview, MN.  I’m not even sure Brigadoon drive exists when I turn my back.  It’s the end of the rainbow.  A pot of gold.  That’s how special it is.  Its inhabitants are mystical and funny and have a podcast that you need to listen to at the gym.  Seriously.  Check ’em out!

Music To Swear By Recording Tonight!

Local podcaster, extra-ordinairre, Tony Fu, has invited John, Ryan, and me over for a recording of his “Music to Swear By” podcast.  I am pumped!

Tony likes music with swear words on it.  He heard us play one night and liked our verbs.

More to come as I have it!

Ain't Life Grand? Well…mostly.

All is lost.  Liana told me that she is giving up music.  Turns out that the hard work of making a career of the music biz wasn’t for her.  But she is in Hollywood and has dreams so big that they don’t fit in this universe, so I forgive her.

I, on the other hand, have manageable dreams.  The kind that I can taste, if only I was willing to put in the work to reach them.

But I know that my dreams of rock stardom will not be satisfying.  Even if I became the most famous musician in Minneapolis history, I would still go home to my 4 cats and my lovely girlfriend and lead an utterly amazing and downright normal life off the stage.

Life is grand.  But it can’t keep up with those fleeting moments of triumph on the stage.

The greatest moment of my life was hitting a jump shot at the first-half buzzer in a varsity high school basketball game against Stillman Valley.  I lost control of my emotions and jumped so high in the air that I might as well have hit my head on the gym ceiling.  It wasn’t a big shot in the grand scheme of things, but I was in the midst of the greatest game of my career.  The crowd was pumping along with the cells in my body, which for reason unknown to me, had conspired to give me a temporary shooting hand that the comes around once in a lifetime.

Sometimes being on stage is something like that.  But it doesn’t quite make it there.  At best, it is a tamed-down version of that jump shot.

I can relate to drug addicts who are continually seeking the next fix.  I don’t do drugs – never have – but I do seek out that next fix.  I call it art sometimes.  And sometimes I call it performance.  It is a mix of the two.  I am in search of the perfect mix of performance, art, energy, and crowd.  I am on constant watch for it all coming together.  For all my cells to decide to do something special for a brief moment in time.  To push me to that promised land once again.

New Album in the Works?

So what if the paint hasn’t dried on our last album?  I am in the business of making music that I love, and I have been writing up a storm over here.

Having the piano in the living room is a big help, as I have been able to play it every day for at least a bit.  Usually when I sit down there, I write a song or a part of a song or a riff or some vocal melody.  Something.

I love the piano.  As it happens, “Faraway Farm & The Bird” was five minutes from being a piano-based album.  I had a list of about 100 songs in mind as possible album tracks, and as I narrowed it down, the mold of the songs was inching towards piano.  “Run. Run! Run!!! RUN!!! RUNNNN!!!!!” was originally written on piano.  It was also called, “Little Franky” at the time, but that is a different story.

Anyway, because Ryan, John, and I were having such a ball playing as a indie guitar-rock trio, I thought I would push the guys to produce some magic in that arena.  They delivered, and I haven’t looked back since.

But I do miss playing the piano live.  My weekly gig at Sportsman’s Pub is many years in the past, as is my piano-rock duo, Arthur Dent.  This next project is looking more and more like it will be an album of emotionally-charged piano music.  I have a song about my brother, Noah, a couple of beautiful songs about Lisa, a couple of songs about my cats, and a bunch of other ideas.

I like to put together a list of 100 for pretty much every creative thing I do, and musical albums are no exception.  From the list of 100, we will narrow it down to 10 or so that will be recorded for the album.

Oh!  And I also have this beautiful dance thing with Nate happening.  But more on that later.

Back to the Piano

I have been getting back to my Minneapolis roots recently, playing piano and writing some sweet new tunes on the instrument.  Those who are keen to our local history will remember my first Twin Cities band, Arthur Dent, as well as my weekly solo performances with Dave Brusie at Sportsman’s Pub in SE Minneapolis (btw, Dave’s record, Flyover State, is grrrreat!  It’s too bad he moved to Boston.  Minneapolis is far superior.).

Anyway, I will continue writing songs and plan on scheduling a couple of fabulous piano performances locally at some point in the near future.  Hopefully I can get Arben A. to join me on the bass guitar.  He’s fly for a bass guy.

The Grind

The Grind.

The Grind is what happens when I am in search of the next awesome show.

The Grind is moving amplifiers at 2 a.m. after playing a show that none of my friends attended.

The Grind is hours spent wondering why I do this.

The Grind is not being paid for making other people money.

The Grind happens.  Often.

Fortunately, there is The Grind’s happy twin, Bliss.

Bliss

Bliss is sitting around a table with friends singing songs.

Bliss is getting paid to perform.

Bliss is when a friend tells me that she likes one of my songs more than everything else.

Bliss is Chewbacca (my cat) sitting on the couch next to me while I type this.

Bliss is performing on stage with my band while dozens of friends, visiting from all over the country, sing and dance on the floor below the stage.  I work for those moments.

Most Nights

Most nights start out as Bliss With Infinite Expectations.  That is, as I drive to a gig I think, “Maybe there will be 150 people there, and they will all applaud wildly at the end of my opening number.”

But most nights end as The Grind.  A few golf claps.  Maybe a free beer.  If I am lucky, I will have a good conversation with Jim or Ryan.

The Grind isn’t all that bad.  Sometimes it is nice just being in The Game.  The Grind is part of The Game.  The game is what my old friend, Deb, called, “Look at you!  That’s so cool!”  Deb doesn’t know about The Grind.  Most don’t.

Last night at Dubliner Pub was definitely The Grind.  It was The Grind x 10.  Many thanks to Jon and Colin for the golf claps!  I returned the favor.  They got more applause than me, though – probably on account of their well-chosen cover songs.

Cover songs are The Devil.  At least that’s how I was raised.  I would have gotten kicked out of the house if my high school band played a cover song.  So goes it in a house that values creativity, I suppose.

Liana also told me that she experiences The Grind.  She experienced it after opening for Black Eyed Peas and also after opening for Pussycat Dolls.  I doubt that Black Eyed Peas and Pussycat Dolls experience The Grind.  They are in Bliss, too busy being loved by sheeple (thanks, Noah for that term!) to see The Grind.  They lock him out behind three layers of beefy security guards.

Jake from Semisonic also talks about The Grind, at length, in his book.  I highly-recommend his book.

The good news is that The Grind has as much to teach as Bliss.  And I learn equally from both.  But Bliss makes me smile, and The Grind makes me frown.  But I can’t have one without the other, I suppose.

"I think I might be evil." Audio Commentary

“I think I might be evil.” is one of my favorite songs on Faraway Farm & The Bird.  The songs on my records are like children – I love them all differently.  haha!  This song, like most of my recent music, is autobiographical and about a lady.   Enjoy!

"Quittin' My Job!" featured on Dr. Demento's Radio Broadcast!

This is the most awesomely-random thing that has happened in my entire music career.  My favorite radio host, Dr. Demento, heard “Quittin’ My Job!” and played it on his radio broadcast on June 19!  Listen to an audio clip.

I grew up listening to Dr. Demento, so this is super awesome on the awesome scale!

"Monster" Audio Commentary

The song, “Monster”, is extra special to me, because it was originally penned by my sister, Liana.  She is probably the best songwriter I know, and I took her song and re-crafted it to suit my artistic vision.

"So Just Be" Audio Commentary

“So Just Be” is one of the first songs recorded for Faraway Farm & The Bird.  The song features some nice organs that were conceptualized by Ryan Arnholt (who also plays bass guitar in this band).  I remember hearing it a couple of years ago and thinking, “Wow!”.  I still feel that way when I listen to it.

I'm Back! *Free MP3 to Celebrate*

I just got back from Singapore yesterday.  It was weird, because I left Japan at 4 p.m. on Friday and landed in Minneapolis at 1 p.m. on Friday.  Did I just time travel?  I don’t know.

But it is 5:30 a.m. now, and I have been up for a long time on account of jetlag and a nap.  My internal clock is all screwed up.

I regretfully have not yet posted my new website, nor have I posted my slightly-soughtafter bootleg recordings of “Quittin’ My Job!” and “Run…”.  If you bought the album and want those bootlegs, just email me, and they will mysteriously appear in your in-box.

For the rest of you, I am providing this album-version of Quittin’ My Job, which features fart noises, cows mooing, porpoise singing, and all sorts of other nonsense in an effort to capture the ridiculousness that became my former employ.  I am trying to get this song into the hands of as many people as possible, so please rip it, forward it, and otherwise tell people about it.  In my dream world, the song would be featured on Dr. Demento‘s Saturday morning broadcast.  So, if you happen to know the Good Dr., please forward this track to him as well.

"You're all that I want." Audio Commentary

“You’re all that I want.” is one of the oldest songs in my current playing repertoire.  It has seen a number of variations since its first appearance back in 2001 or so.  The most recent version, featured on “Faraway Farm & The Bird”, has all sorts of voices coming together to form a powerful message.

"It's time to decide." Audio Commentary

“It’s time to decide.” is one of my favorite tracks on Faraway Farm & The Bird.  It is probably the most forward-thinking of all the songs in the sense that it offers a choice that I can make today (and not a decision that I made in the past).  Originally crafted for …if Howard Roark Could Dance, and finally inspired by Lisa, this song was completely reworked and rewritten to reach its current form.

Sometimes songs will take on a life of their own and see a puberty stage followed by a mature stage.  In its original iteration, this song was full of angst an sadness.  In its current version, the song is sweet and optimistic.

Quittin' My Job: The Audio Commentary

Toby

This is my first podcast about Faraway Farm.  It might turn into a series.  Please let me know how it works for you!

Videos from CD-Release Show!

As you probably know, the Faraway Farm & The Bird cd-release show back in April was a blast.  I thought it was about time we post some videos from the show.  Enjoy!

Surprisingly Awesome!

Here we are after our CD-Release Show (Photo by Devon Arnholt)

Every now and then I stumble, unexpectedly, across a photo that brings a smile to my face.  The truth is, I don’t remember this photo being taken.  But oh what a gem it is!  It pretty much captures the air of jolly excitement I was feeling at our CD-Release show in April.

Thanks, Devon!

And just for good, rock star showing…here’s another fab photo from that show:

Rocking out at the Cryns #3 CD-Release Show at Acadia Cafe on April 2, 2010 (Photo by Devon Arnholt)