New Technology

It’s odd that, for a professional IT consultant, my old laptop was circa 2004. The poor old thing started its life as a 17″ Windows XP machine, but after about a year that operating system was bogged down and slow. I moved over to a Linux variant and progressed through many versions of that open source platform. It was okay, it got the job done, but was almost totally useless in the realms of audio recording.

Enter my new machine, a MacBook Pro. It complements my trusty iPad, gets the job done in style with speed far beyond my previous experience, and lets me run Windows apps courtesy of the wonderful Parallels virtualisation software. Moreover, Garageband gives me the best recording environment I’ve ever had on a computer by a long, long margin. I’m still getting used to that! Conveniently, I have a stereo USB interface that lets me plug in a couple of phantom-powered mics from my collection, or even an electric guitar. Garageband has built-in amplifier virtualisation and effects, so I’m sacrificing nothing by plugging in directly – and I could run a line from my amp anyway if I wanted.

I’m going to have to rethink my recording process. That’s not a bad thing! I reckon I need to find a slightly more advanced USB interface – one that allows me to run four independent channels simultaneously. That’ll give me enough channels to record my drumkit reasonably well – I don’t have any great demands.

It’s an exciting time. Let’s see what emerges.

 

A Demo Worth Sharing

This happens to me all the time: I’m insanely busy, working to a deadline that can’t be broken. Working late, getting up early, you know the ritual. Then I notice a song bouncing around the inside of my head. I try to ignore it (okay, not so very hard) but eventually I have to arise, grab my guitar, and start the process of fidgeting around until I’ve successfully extracted the thing from my brain. It’s not unlike trying to remove a deeply-embedded splinter. Even the relief and pleasure when it’s all over is the same!

In coming months I’ll be doing very rough demos of new songs and sharing them with you. Is that a smart thing to do commercially? Actually, yes. Research by anyone other than the moneygrubbing RIAA (don’t get me started!) shows that people are more likely to buy an album if they’ve had the opportunity to listen free to bits and pieces along the way.

I’ve also got a fairly extensive folder of songs that will never make it to an album. They’re too odd or too awkward or remind me of something else, so they don’t make the grade. So I’ll dig through and share one of my oddities every now and then, too.

Okay, the first demo is called No Anodyne, and I recorded it this morning into the mic of my iPad. Yes, Virginia, that does mean that it’s not sparkly studio quality. It’s going to fit nicely into the next album, Small Things @ LightSpeed. Although you’ve got to get more of your friends ordering F-35¬†first, right? Get cracking!

Pop over to the LISTEN page to get your free song. And if you like it, Like it – that’s payment enough for me.

A Day with Family

I’m pleased that it’s become acceptable within my extended family to call up and say “bring your guitar with you” when I’m attending a family event. My sporty family has done me proud with their support and appreciation in the wake of the album’s launch. Not only did my uncle and aunt attend the launch, but they really seemed to enjoy themselves and were happy to hear more at the family Christmas event. Yesterday we made the big drive south to visit some cousins, a trip that was made well worth it by the opportunity to re-connect with my oldest cousin who lives just outside Perth. We’ve seen each other only fleetingly over the decades since we were kids, so it was wonderful to catch up. I even sang a few songs for the assembled family and friends, a raucous bunch who astonished me by being silent and attentive when called for by the song. That’s a rare pleasure for a solo performer used to the rough-and-tumble of pub gigs; when you’re up there with your acoustic guitar and mic through a couple of thousand watts of public address system, often you still can’t beat the conversation and the clinking glasses. Thus I was thrilled to play Don’t Follow Me Now with all the sensitivity it requires, aware of the eyes that saw and the ears that heard it all.

Families can be a pain in the arse sometimes, but you’ve gotta love ’em, right?

The Launch

I’m writing this a bit after the fact, but that’s probably a good thing. The launch day at Rocky Passes Estate, some 25km from my house, went brilliantly. The weather was touch-and-go; it’d been crappy for days and was black and threatening in the morning of the launch. I’d been incredibly busy with work for weeks, which meant that my schedule of rehearsal and plotting the way the day would work went completely out the window. Instead it was only hours before kickoff and I was still thinking about what songs I would play. That’s not the way to go about it!

Fortunately I was comfortable about the venue and the audience. We’d used EventBrite to manage RSVPs, and that was great for many people. Others had just emailed to say they’d be there. Candi and Vitto at Rocky Passes had confirmed the numbers for meals, and set up a lovely marquee for the performers. Their act of good faith with the weather turned out to be prophetic, as about half an hour before the first chord the clouds parted and the sun shone down.

My wife-and-manager dropped me at the venue before heading off on an unlikely series of errands. I was under strict instructions not to start until she returned … as if I would dare!

Josh and Joel from The Steinbecks arrived on time with their gear. I had the PA just about set up and ready to go, so it wasn’t too long before we were doing a final run-through of the songs we would play together. As soon as the audience arrived though, it was time to set last-minute preparations aside – it was all starting. There were greetings galore, as I knew everyone who would be attending. Some very old friends, some locals, some new friends. It was going to be a very social day.

Most important to me was the fact that my parents were there. Over my thirty-five years of playing music my parents really haven’t seen me perform at all, and this album was especially important because it was my first official solo work. On top of all that though, there was another element that raised the stakes: my dad was dying. He’d been essentially symptom-free until two days before the launch, which was astonishing considering how far along the disease was. He was quite upset on the Friday thinking he wouldn’t be able to attend, but they got his medication adjusted and some old friends (my old Akela from cubs!) offered to drive him and Mum to the event.

My plan for the performance was that it would be a lot of talking and a bit of singing. Over the years I’ve become pretty comfortable talking to people, and I’d decided to simply tell a long story of my musical history. There were some sheets of paper with bullet points on them, but when I started talking they blew away and I didn’t feel the need to retrieve them. It’s my story, so I guess I know it pretty well. There were some great recollections of my childhood and getting my first guitar that I shared with the audience, and Dad felt comfortable enough to shout out a few memories of his own. It was an easy interaction, and I got to play some old songs and new.

Halfway through the story, I invited Josh and Joel up and we played some songs from The Steinbecks’ first album – songs that I’d written with Josh. Then we moved on to some newer Steinbecks material and I filled out the instrumentation and voices, then left the marquee to sit in the audience while J+J delivered some great tunes with their trademark heartfelt honesty. Between songs they added some of their own recollections to the story arc of the day, which was fantastic. By the time they finished their mini-set, the audience was rapt.

I returned to the mic and continued the tale, played more songs. The time was getting on, and I figured that finishing an hour late was the furthest I could go, seeing as we’d started on time and people had a way to go to get home. The goodbyes were many and touching, I had some photos taken with Mum and Dad (tearing up a little as I write this) and I knew that Dad had a great day.

On the way home in the car I said to my wife that I’d now achieved all I wanted in life. I have the love of a good – and smart – woman, have friends I like and respect, have the skills to do interesting work, and I’ve written and played good music. I’m not well-known, nor do I have statuettes on my mantelpiece, but that’s never what it’s been about for me. If I live another 40 years I’ll be very happy, but if I drop off the twig tomorrow I can honestly say that I’m happy with what I’ve done with my life. How lucky am I – how many people can say that?

The launch was a simple affair that I was able to share with friends and my parents, but for me it was a signal achievement in a life of simple pleasures.

I will post some photos and maybe even video from the day when I get a chance.

Thanks to all who attended on the day, to Josh and Joel for making some great music with me, and especially to my lovely wife for her ongoing support.

Busy

The last couple of weeks have largely been occupied by work when by rights I should be doing nothing but rehearsing. To be fair, we also did a 36 hour, 2200km road trip for a family Christmas gathering. And I spent a night in Castlemaine with Steinbecks luminaries Josh and Joel, rehearsing our collaboration songs for the launch. But otherwise, it’s all been work. Well, work and sleeping…

The reason I really need to rehearse is that I’m going to be playing songs from my entire ‘career’ (note the ironic quotation marks), which entails some re-learning of ancient works. And a good number of the songs on the new album haven’t been played live before; in fact it’s a challenge to work out how to play them on a single acoustic and still capture the intent of the song. Also, I’m going to be telling the story of my 35 musical years, and I’ve got to do a lot of work on trying to remember what that story is. No, there’s no drug-induced memory loss, it’s just that I generally don’t do a very good job of organising my own history in my mind. The benefit of that is that if someone catches me out on a tall story I can safely say I mis-remembered it.

We’ve been selling some CDs. but I feel I need to do more promotion. Some promotion, maybe! There’s going to be an article and photo in the local paper, maybe this week. That’ll help. And we did circulate disks to community radio stations around Australia. But I haven’t sent any copies for review yet … partly because I want to wait until the album shows up on iTunes. That should happen in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, I’ll be writing my set list and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing.