May 25, 2009

Searching for a Producer



I now have enough songs I consider worthy of a full-scale album. I'm currently recording an EP, but it's stripped-down-- just acoustic guitar, violin and voice. What I'm talking about here is a full-sized record where I bring in other musicians to play and create arrangements for the songs. This could happen as early as next fall, but most likely will be done over the winter.

Step One is to select a producer-- the person overall in charge of the project. In my case, I'm looking for the following:

1. Someone who likes my songs and is passionate about making this record. Sure, I could hire any number of experienced producers, but I don't want someone who is just going through the motions because they're getting paid.

2. A producer who is also a songwriter, who will challenge me to make the songs as best as they can be, both musically and lyrically. Someone who might even co-write a song or two with me for the record.

3. A producer who is a singer, who will work with me to help me sing the songs as best as I can.

4. Someone who will be creative about the arrangements, the instrumentation, and the selecting of the musicians who play on the record. I don't want a generic-sounding singer-songwriter record, where you bring in studio musicians, go through the song once, give them a chart, and then they play generic, conservative parts. I want the musicians to listen to the songs several times before coming into the studio, try different things, take chances, be creative. I want a producer who knows these kind of musicians and has a pool of them to draw from.

As you can see from the above criteria, I'm looking for a *musical* producer as opposed to a *techical* producer. While some producers are also recording engineers, in my case they just have to know good recording engineers that they can hire (and good studios).

So the search begins. Ideally I'd find the right person in Colorado, but if I have to go elsewhere, so be it.

May 18, 2009

Amsterdam Songwriters Guild

While in The Netherlands recently, a friend pointed me to the website (or rather the blogspot site) of the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild. As a result I found two great open mics in Amsterdam where I play, Cafe Sappho and Skek. If you're ever in Amsterdam, check 'em out!

-Rob

May 7, 2009

bicycles in Holland

Upon arrival in Amsterdam, one of the first things you notice are all the bicycles. Same in Utrecht and other Dutch cities. There are far more people on bicycles than driving cars. I would guess the ratio must be at least 5 to 1, maybe as much as 10 to 1.

But it's not like the people who bicycle in Denver, where I'm from, or other US cities. No skin tight shorts and shirts polluted by advertising. No $2000 bicycles made of special metal alloys. Here, the bicycles are cheap and rusty, with a basket on the front or back. No self-respecting American cyclist would be caught dead on one of these. But here they are ridden by everyone--young and old, business people, students, everyone. And they are ridden by people wearing their normal clothes. That's because they are not riding for "exercise" per se; they are riding to go to work, or to shop; the bicycle is transportation. Less expensive than cars, and frankly, easier to get where you're going in a big city.

Not many fat people here. Wonder if there's a connection?

-Rob

Playing music in The Netherlands

For the past week and a half I've been in The Netherlands. I was hanging out with Chicago Mike Beck on the Netherlands leg of his European tour. Mike did a presentation about playing in Europe at the Lyons Song School last August, and I decided to come over and check it out. Mike was gracious enough to let me hang out with him, and play a few songs to open his shows here.

Mike plays a rocking acoustic show, mostly blues-rock in style, playing mostly popular covers but also his own songs, which are good. He uses a looping pedal so he can play guitar solos over the chords, and was usually joined by two great Dutch musicians on keyboard and bass, Tim and Eibe. He's been doing this for several years now and has a following in Holland. Check out his website, mikebeck.us.

Here's where I played:

Sunday April 28: arrive in Amsterdam.
Monday April 27: open mic/jam at the Oude Pothuys in Utrecht.
Tuesday April 28: open mic at Sappho in Amsterdam.
Wednesday April 29: open for Chicago Mike at Scooters in Drachten.
Thursday April 30: open for Chicago Mike at Scooters in Leeuwarden.
Friday May 1: open for Chicago Mike at Skutsje in Haarlingen.
Saturday May 2: open for Chicago Mike at De Gouden Leeuw in Geldermalsen.
Sunday May 3: open for Chicago Mike at Café de Merckt in Tiel.
Monday May 4: a day off! went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
Tuesday May 5: open mic at Cafe Averecht in Utrecht.
Wednesday May 6: another day off. Slacker.
Thursday May 7: open mic at Skek in Amsterdam.
Friday May 8: back to Denver.

It's been a good trip. I've learned about some of the places to play and made contacts, met some great Dutch musicians and made some new fans. And I learned from Mike about some of the logistics of playing here. I plan to set up some gigs for myself and come back sometime in the next year.

Another thing that was reinforced on this trip is the primacy of the music in songwriting. Almost all the Dutch speak English--some very well. But I could tell when I was singing my songs that, for many of them, they missed the nuances of the lyrics-- slang words, metaphors, etc. So in choosing which songs to play, I started using the songs where I created a good melody, and/or had an interesting rhythm. The English language is not universal but music is.

-Rob