Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry, Merry, What is Christmas?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adventskranz_Porzellan.JPG

It's almost time for my annual new year resolutions post. I'll get to that soon. I'm still thinking about those...

But today, I want to ask you a simple question:

After the Christmas lights turn off and everybody goes back to work on a gray, overcast day in December, what are you left with? What was the point? What does Christmas mean?

Here's an interesting read if you're looking for a good answer to my question:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/12/23/the-best-christmas-songs-tell-the-truth

My guess is that if we really examine our own hearts, we'll find that the meaning of Christmas - for us - has been hi-jacked a little bit by our culture: good feelings, spending time with loved ones, presents, "peace on earth", "Jingle Bells", eating awesome food...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When it's All Worth it

Raising kids is hard. It's a complicated process that never ends - not even when they're "grown up" and out of the house. That's because as we teach our children, we're also ourselves learning how to teach them. And every lesson taught - and learned - or re-taught and re-learned - is again another new lesson - because the circumstances have changed: you're older, the child is older, the day's events are different, and every variable is different. The weather is different, too!

Raising kids is complicated - not just because it is - but because it's what we call life. Life is complicated. There are new variables every single day. You can't even perform the same, simple task the same way from one day to the next. Take a less simple task as an example: you learn to walk as a toddler. Then you run. Then you gain speed and mobility. You train. You run further, faster, longer. Then you get older. You lose some of your edge. And sometimes, you lose your ability to run at all. Or even walk. You can't approach running in the same way from one day to the next because you're not the same person from one day to the next. Life changes. It's one of only two constants*.

But here's the deal: some of the most memorable moments in the last six years of my feeble existence have been spent with my children. Those moments almost always relate to something they've done - a laugh, a tumble, a word or sentence, a mess.

These moments make you realize that yeah, as cliche as it sounds, you wouldn't trade your kids or these hard days for the world. Psalm 127:3. This post has made me start to think about some of those moments in my own life, going as far back as I can remember. I think I'm going to try to compile a list of them and post them here over the next year or so. (It will take a while to remember them, to think through the years, and I don't want to miss any.)

If you're wondering what that picture is in this post, it's my son's bedroom after he decided to remove all of his books from the bookshelf.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We're Here to Help

I met with a friend today whom I hadn't seen in months - probably close to four. His wife had a baby about eight weeks ago, and 12 weeks ago, my wife had a baby, and 16 weeks ago, my family moved a half hour away from where we used to live. It makes spending time with former friends difficult and many times, just plain unmanageable. But not today.

So his wife just had a baby; and, just like me, he's a stay-at-home dad (whatever that means). It's not the easiest road to travel, and now my friend and I can empathize with each other and those dads around the country who stay at home during the day and make less money that their wives.

We concluded our time together, our babies in hand, by me saying a few words of encouragement and praying for him. The main point I wanted to drive home was that we'd always be available to him and his wife if they needed to talk, bounce ideas off of us, hang out, pray with or for them, or otherwise agonize together as parents.

Megan and I want to be known as doers of friendship, not just lip service friends. We want you to know that if there is anything we can do for *you*, we're here to help.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Armenian Cookbooks and a History Lesson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Armenian_Empire.png

I've been shopping for Christmas presents this afternoon - for an affordable Armenian cookbook, in particular. I didn't realize how difficult the task would be. I guess I didn't realize (until I looked at a map a few minutes ago) just how small and insignificant Armenia is in the world. I mean, Armenia is on par, size-wise, with Israel. But I'm not saying that Israel is insignificant. I guess I'm saying that people see Armenia as insignificant, but it's not.

Here's a fact for you: People complain about Israel or Palestine "losing" land - or any number of "countries" (IE: ethnic/religious groups in that region) but Armenia seriously lost a lot of land to Turkey. It's like 700 km from Yerevan to the Mediterranean, and you've got to figure that Armenia at one point stretched at least 200 km both to the North and South of Musa Dagh, which is basically right on that sea. But let's keep in mind that the history of this region of the world has always been messed up. Land is trading hands all the time, and it's been that way for way over 2000 years. I don't want to get into a debate over whose land it really is... My opinion is that all land is on loan from God, and one day he's going to take it all back for himself anyway...

So my quick history/geography lesson came as a result of researching various regions of "Armenia". You see, to at least some Armenians, they still call parts of what is now Turkey "Armenia". I don't disagree. But I also don't think it matters, in some senses. What I mean is: politically what you call a place matters. Historically what you call a place matters. But when it comes to calling a place your home, if you're an Armenian, if you grew up in Cilicia, for example, you're likely to call your childhood home "Armenia." I think.

Back to my quest for an quality Armenian cookbook.

I'm not sure there is one. I've found a lot of "church lady cookbooks" - you know, the ones the ladies at churches compile and print for their congregations? Yeah...

If I had the money, I think this was the most promising one I found. Again, I think it's too much money:

http://www.armenian-cuisine.com/about.htm

- this bad boy is 65 USD, including shipping!!!

Looks pretty cool, but you can't really look inside. A ton of pictures, but could probably use either fewer and more recipes or just fewer all together. And cheaper, please. But again, this one hits the mark as far as hip factor goes. It sounds like the authors have a killer restaurant in Lebanon...

My second and third choices are pretty much equals, and I'd hate to settle on my gift by buying one of these seemingly lesser cookbooks. Again, the problem with shopping for cookbooks online is that you can't really get a good feel for them. Here are those two:

The Recipes of Musa Dagh - $20 on Amazon.

and...

Simply Armenian - Only $17.

So what do you all think I should do? I'm totally torn. Oh yeah, this search has also help me to come to the conclusion that Armenians don't use cookbooks, so the mere fact that I'm even looking for one is paradoxical.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When I'm Not Me

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CrayonLogs.jpg
Over the past month, I've had conversations with two different friends about what it means to be "me" - whoever you are. We all came to the same conclusion:

One thing that makes you you is that you find special satisfaction in doing a particular type (or types) of work. You've been uniquely gifted, and if you're not regularly exercising those gifts, you're acting contrary to how you were created to act.

Those gifts could be anything: dancing, typing, editing, marketing, talking with people, building, designing, writing, punching or crunching numbers, analyzing, caring for someone, snapping a picture, digging holes, driving, teaching, learning - whatever. The thing is, sometimes your desired vocation doesn't turn out to be your occupation - at least for a particular season in life. But hang in there. I say that as one who struggles with this very thing.

Just to clarify: vocation is just one part of who we are. It isn't the whole person. It's not even the most important part of the whole. But it's a part that gets over-emphasized in countries like the USA.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Supporting the Companies that Support Climbing



Something has been bothering me lately.

Two days ago, I received the newest issue of Vertical Times in my mail box (yes, mail box). I read through it immediately. I got to the second-to-last page and, as always, I am careful to review the entire list of corporate donors. Until this evening, I couldn't tell you why I do that. I couldn't put my finger on it, but now I can tell you: I was interested in seeing which companies are actively involved in the climbing community - which companies demonstrate a vested interest in the activities that I'm interested in.

But why does that matter? In some of the same ways that it makes sense to "buy local" (stimulating the local economy, local owners have an interest in the community prospering, these people are often our immediate friends and family, their product offering can be, and often is, unique and nearly one-of-a-kind, and they often support other, fellow local businesses and causes), it makes sense to support the companies that support your interests - in my case and those of many of my friends, climbing.

Here's a list of the AF's current corporate donors: http://www.accessfund.org/site/c.tmL5KhNWLrH/b.4992449/k.C75D/Corporate_partners.htm

For starters, let me say that I don't know over what amount of time these donations have come in. They may reflect lifetime donations by an organization. I plan to contact the AF to see what the numbers actually mean, and I'll update that on this post.

A couple things surprised me about the list:

1. PrAna, which I thought to be a fairly small organization, is one of the top five donors. Experience has told me that PrAna makes the absolute most comfortable climbing clothing ever, but I did not expect a top five from them. It really makes me wonder why we don't see other brands that make apparel that high up the list: Marmot, Mammut, and Arc'teryx, in particular.

2. I didn't think Outdoor Research made that big of an impact in the climbing world. I guess I was wrong.

Here's the biggie, and here's really what sparked this post:

3...

Yesterday, I was at my local climbing gym, Vertical Endeavors, in Warrenville, IL. I looked around and this is what I saw: 8 out of 10 climbing harnesses on 70+ climbers were Black Diamond brand. Another 10% were Petzl and the final 10 were probably Wild County, Mammut, etc. That's a lot of cash going Black Diamond's way from the climbing community.

I then thought about my own, personal gear: carabiners, quickdraws, slings, harnesses, nuts, cams, tents. I'd say 80% of my climbing gear is Black Diamond brand, 10% is Petzl, and the final 10 is a combination of Trango, Metolius, and C.A.M.P. Again, that's a lot of money going to Black Diamond.

Considering these sorts of numbers, Black Diamond should be able to donate eight times the amount of money that Petzl donates and closer to 16 times the amount that Mammut donates. But on the Access Fund donor list, all three companies are in the same bracket. The simple numbers here mean that Black Diamond should easily be in the next rung up. (They all give/have given between $50 and $100k.)

4...

About one year ago, I wrote a letter to Mountain Hardwear, expressing my unhappiness with where their company ranked on the Access Fund donor list. The company did eventually respond by saying that they donate to a number of organizations and are constantly working on giving more. Interestingly enough, the company is not listed in the current issue of Vertical Times, though they are listed on the donor list on Accessfund.org. I'll have to contact the AF to see what the deal is there.

My next step:

  1. I'll call the AF and see what's up.
  2. I'll write a letter to Black Diamond.
  3. I'll buy my coffee from Intelligentsia (who gave the Access Fund between $250 and $500!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Starting Over


Have you ever wished that life had a "do over" button?

When I was younger, I used to say, literally, "This is my life. No regrets. I am who I am today because of what happened yesterday. End of story."

Do I still believe it? That's a hard question to answer.

Yes, I'm a product of my past, so at least that much is true.

But do I regret any of my past? Maybe the answer is "It doesn't matter, even if you do."

As a famous meerkat once said, "You got to put your past behind you."

Tonight I've got the whole evening to work on writing new music. My wife has graciously let me out of the house (and agreed to watch the chiluns). But I'm tired and having a hard time getting inspired. So I'm blogging instead, for now.

I'm hoping this whole process will inspire me - and you - to remember that "life's a dance, you learn as you go..."

PS: Anybody else getting freaked out by these crazy "appeals" on Wikipedia?!?!

Do over button image: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCPDB0QlqNs

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Don't HAVE to, I GET to

I love my family.

Sometimes they're difficult. Sometimes they prevent me from doing the things I love to do. But this is all just a part of life, isn't it? Anything can cause us difficulty or keep us from having fun, etc...

I think I'm learning that when you truly love, you're choosing to be in pain - as you love. Here's why:

Love is sacrificial - self-giving, other-oriented, not selfish at all. What does selfishness look like? Putting your desires above the desires of those you love, and when you don't get what you want, you make a big stink about it. (Keep in mind, love isn't one-way - it happens in relationship, so both people have to be giving of themselves, and sometimes it works out that someone is sacrificially loving you - you're the receiver.)

Next, when you hang your heart on the line - when you love - you're bound to be let down by the people you love. People suck. People hurt the people they love the most. Why? They don't really do it on purpose. It's a product of the fact that we spend the majority of our time with the people we love the most. People are prone to act contrary to the way they were originally designed to act (in perfect love).

Now here's how this post relates to my title:

A selfish man would say, "I have to stay home with my children during the day, so my wife can work a steady job." A loving man would say, "I get to stay home with my kids..." I'll be honest. I'm definitely feeling somewhere in between today. Of course, it's because I'm not perfect and I struggle with selfishness - probably more than the next man! But you can't say I'm not trying to work on or figure out how to fully, truly say "I get to..."

Also, my kids are cute. Seth in the leaves and Eleanor with wide eyes.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

What All Great Music Does


Life is never what we expect.

Curve balls are thrown. Your dad gets cancer. You don't end up with the career you always envisioned. Your almost 30 and still single. You feel pressured to achieve the unachievable - the unidentifiably unachievable.

This is what life is.

Life is messy. Life is full of disappointments. Life is imperfect. Broken. Difficult. Desperate.

But great music can help.

There is one thing that all great songs have in common: they fill us with a sense of longing for a perfect, eternal future. They remind us that a glorious future is possible. They even contain within them a glimmer of that reality, and for a few, brief moments, we can be there. In that moment. At peace.

Music helps me to continue living.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately: what does it mean to be human? I think it means exactly what I've already described about the human experience: you feel disappointment and long for unattainable fulfillment. Or is it unattainable?

Many of my friends call me spiritual. Few call me religious.

I'd say if ever there were a need to believe in God it would be because we humans know that this unquenchable longing can not be satisfied by what we do, have, or accomplish. History has shown us that our deepest human desires can't be fulfilled by our own achievement. Time and again people "at the top" are the hardest to fall. They seemingly have everything and yet, they lose it all - and eventually, die like the rest of us. Have your actions, relationships, or possessions brought you perfect fulfillment yet? I'm guessing not.

We have to believe God exists. Without Him, we are utterly without hope of having our longings fulfilled. We already know we can't make it happen ourselves.

And I'd say that if ever there were a reason to believe that God can actually do it - can actually placate my (and your!) frenzied hunger - its because when I listen to great music - in that oh so small, fleeting moment, that's exactly what actually happens. I feel redeemed.

God exists because an unquenchable longing exists in our hearts that can't be satisfied by human activity - and we have to believe that this longing can be satisfied by something out of this world. And God is in fact able to do it because he gives us pieces of that satiety through music.

Do I think there's more to the story? Oh yeah. By grace, I'm trying to learn more of it every day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

P90X and Climbing


A very good friend of mine recently recommended that I try working out with the P90X home fitness video series. He was so serious about having me give it a shot that, for my birthday, he bought me a pull-up bar. Why I all that interested? Nope. Do I like home fitness videos? Definitely not? But do I want to improve my climbing ability? Absolutely.

Some of you may remember that my first post of the new year (2011) was a set of new year resolutions. You can read 'em HERE. One of those resolutions was to climb 5.11a. Basically, it's a difficulty rating system used by climbers and anything rated 5.11x is right in the middle of it - not too easy, not too hard. So all in all, I set a humble, moderate goal of being able to climb about 1/2 of all routes.

I've only done two sessions/days of P90X and, so far, it has spanked my pants off - hard. On the third day, yesterday, I went climbing at Devil's Lake. I was sore, but was able to pull off a couple of good routes fairly cleanly - a couple 5.8's and a 5.9. (Devil's Lake ratings are stiffer than anywhere else I've climbed, so a Devil's 5.8 is really at least a "real" 5.9 and a Devil's 5.9 is at least a "real" 5.10a.

A few months ago - back in May, when I was climbing more regularly (READ: before our second child was born), I was easily climbing 5.10b and was close to climbing 5.10c. (The steps from 5.10a and 5.11a are: 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c, 5.10d, and 5.11a.) I feel like I've taken a small step backwards, but still hope to be able to accomplish my goal by year-end.

So the hope is that P90X helps to round out my training, so that I'm not *just* climbing, which has pretty much been the case for a while now. I've been feeling like a slug, and, with the exception of a handful of runs between today and this past May, it's been all I've done.

I'll fill you in on how I'm doing in the coming weeks...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"THAT Neighbor"

Until recently, I had never heard of someone described as "THAT neighbor" before. I had no idea what the phrase meant. I have since figured it out.

Ironically, the one who first introduced me to the term has turned out to be the purest embodiment of the word's definition that I have ever encountered. Now knowing the definition, I can say that over the course of my lifetime, I have had several "THAT neighbors": growing up, the pot smoker next door; the drug dealer upstairs; the video game-playing insomniac raver; and now... well, I'd rather not give a description yet.

Here's my working, evolving definition of "THAT neighbor":

Someone who lives next door to you (or above or below you) who habitually, carelessly breaks the spoken or unspoken rules of your neighborhood.

A shorter definition might be much simpler:

"THAT neighbor" = the neighbor that nobody ever wants

Or:

"THAT neighbor" = a bad neighbor

So here's the real issue at hand: now that we have identified who these people are and what they do, we have to decide how we're going to deal with, and interact with, them.

The bottom line is this: I'm convinced that God demands of us all that we treat all others with infinite respect, as we would wish to be treated - even when we screw up - because all people are inherently valuable to him. But more than that, I believe that I am personally expected to act with an impossible amount of grace and patience - to demonstrate a level of love that I am incapable of showing to anyone in my own strength.

With great difficulty, I say here: "I love my neighbor." Now comes the hard part: showing it. By how I act, what I say - both to her and to others about her, and how often I go out of my way to show her that I care.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Late Nights and New Videos


For the last two, consecutive nights, I have stayed up late - past my bedtime - to work on a couple of new videos to post online. The first one, the live, studio session recording of "Welcome", from my album, Fundamental, and the other, a real-time illustration (music video?) of my song "Orphans", also from Fundamental. Am I happy with the results? Absolutely. Do I wish I were sleeping right now? Yes. Do I regret it? Not yet.

Please take just a few minutes to head on over to my YouTube channel to check out the new videos. And, comment on them and share them with your friends, please:

http://youtube.com/jaymathesmusic

Just FYI, only the "Welcome" video is currently available (as in, today, 10/5, at 2:25 AM). YouTube is doing some system maintenance and the "Orphans" video won't go live until some time mid morning.

Thanks!

-Jay

Monday, October 3, 2011

Music Clout. Seriously?

Wow. Same junk, new name: Taxi. Sonicbids. Reverb Nation. G2.fm. Music Clout. Companies preying on gullible artists, asking them to pay for exposure or concerts or song placement or whatever. Will Music Clout succeed? My guess is yes. Why? Because most artists are looking for a pipe dream: the easy way to musical success. Don't get me wrong: I'm tempted by the same things.

This Music Clout-sort of a business model works on numbers: get enough artists to sign up (IE: "buy in") and, for every submission from every artist, the company makes bank. The only cost to the company is the up-front cost in convincing songwriters and bands of the illusion that *their* organization can *truly* "make" a band - make them lots of money - with one of their "opportunities".

Songwriters and bands, listen up:

NEVER PAY SOMEBODY UP FRONT FOR A CHANCE TO GET HEARD BY A PARTICULAR PERSON, AGENCY, VENUE, OR LABEL.

It's been said that anything worth having takes work to get. It's true. 99.99% of the time, these companies will steal your money and leave you in the same place you started: nowhere. You can't build a music career simply by submitting innumerable entries to virtual businesses. You need to be *there*, in person, pounding the *pavement*. Physical. Work. Sweat.

Wow. Venting. Seriously.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thoughts on Reason 6 - Upgrades and Pricing

Just two days ago, Propellerhead Software released a new version of my *favorite* music creation software: Reason. The new version, 6, combines all of the features from two, different programs of theirs. Basically, all I'd like you to know is that this new version kicks serious butt, adds some new features, and is still my program of choice when it comes to generating ideas for new songs in a computer recording "environment" (as they say).  I've been running Reason v.4 since around Christmas time of 2009, and my last upgrade before that was version 2.5 - way back in 2004. The software has certainly come a long way, and, dare I say it, if the company can "fix" some of their lack of keyboard shortcuts, Reason just might replace Logic Pro as my multi-tracking (IE: recording) program of choice.

So, a few thoughts on Propellerhead's Reason 6 pay what you want deal (oh wait. you didn't hear about that?!?!):

1. It saves Propheads money. They won't have to manufacture as many DVD's/Boxes for Reason 6.
2. You do have to own either Reason 4 or 5 in order to do it, so they are expecting users to upgrade - to something - and make it all the way up to Reason version 6, making up for some of the money from consumers "underpaying".
3. It's only for one month. This builds buzz and hopefully generates a ton of sales in the first month, helping the companies balance sheet (a business term basically meaning that they'll have cash on hand to carry on business).
4. Most people aren't going to pay what they want - they'll most likely pay what they can afford. I wish I could afford the "regular" upgrade price, but I just can't right now. Consider: starving artist.

This last factor was really the big motivator for me. A regular Reason upgrade - in a box - is $129. Of that, you've got to figure that $20-30 of it goes in to production and shipping to local music stores. The company then has $100 left with which to develop the product, pay their people, etc. When you think about it, that's not much for a world-class leader in recording software. Apple's Logic Studio is $500. Logic upgrades are usually $300.

A secondary motivator for me was considering how much money the music I have created using Reason has generated for me. I'm a professional performing songwriter, after all, and I looked at this picture considering Propellerhead a partner in the music I create and sell. If I made a lot, I think I'd be willing - and able - to pay a lot. Considering where I'm at right now, I hope to be able to pay Propellerhead back for taking a bit of a hit this time around, and when I'm generating a little more cash from my music, I can make up the difference - between what I paid and what I think the software is really worth - when the next version comes out.

This does beg the question: what about hobbyists or people using Reason for fun? First, there probably aren't many of you out there. And for those of you who are, I think you should consider a different model for determining how much Reason 6 is worth: consider what upgrades have been in the past, consider what upgrades of similar products (IE: other DAW's) cost, and consider how many songs you write using the software. Maybe something like, "For an upgrade, I'd be willing to pay $5 for every song I expect to write/compose using Reason 6", using your past usage as an indicator.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yes, It's 3:30 AM, but the New Site is Up!

My life always seems to work this way. I get an idea. I run with it. I don't stop. Three days ago, I started work on a complete redesign of jaymathes.com. I knew the day was coming when I'd need to make that happen, but I didn't expect it to happen this week.

I'm not going to restate why I did the new design. You can read out that on the first news post of the site. (Never fear, I will continue to keep this blog up. This blog is where I get to rant. Over there, I keep things more business-like, you might say.) What I will say, though, is that I feel much better now that it's "done" (I have a few things yet to touch up, but they're all very minor.)

I like the idea of starting something, going all in with it, completing it, then moving on to the next task. It's refreshing. I hope you enjoy the new site as much as I do. I feel like I've accomplished something.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thoughts on Google Music Beta: Magnifier

I've only spent a few minutes on Music Beta - and only about 10 minutes listening to music from Magnifier. If you're unfamiliar with either or both services, check 'em out here:

Music Beta: http://music.google.com/about
Magnifier: http://magnifier.blogspot.com

Basically, my thoughts are simple:

First of all, Music Beta successfully ruined my first listen of Rachael Yamagata's song River by blipping the crap out of it. I have 24 mbps download-streaming internet service, so I'm guessing the real streaming problem of this very delicate tune was on the content delivery side - not on mine. Seriously. Ouch.

But here's what I find to be the real problem:

Google says, "Add new and exclusive tracks to Music Beta for free" and in their promotional literature, they repeatedly say Music Beta is "your music library" and "your personal music library"....  I find that hard to believe - and as far as I can see, I'm right.  Here's why:

Yes, only *you* have access to the songs. Yes *you* can organize them into playlists - just like in iTunes. BUT - and here's the kicker: your songs are stuck in cyberspace and you can't download them on to your computer - even if they are in *your personal music library* that is called Music Beta.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but it looks like even when you make content available offline on your Android device (is it available for iPhone?) you CAN'T play songs OUTSIDE of the Music Beta app - meaning: they aren't YOUR songs - they're stuck in MB. Unless I'm missing something, there definitely is NOT a feature to download songs to your computer or make content available offline on your computer.

So I argue here that the feature to "add free songs to your library with Magnifier" is totally and completely dumb. They in no way become MY songs.

At least Spotify doesn't try to tell users they OWN songs that they merely from within their program.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

View from Horseshoe

This past Sunday night, I took the stage at Horseshoe BBQ on Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. It was a fun night - not a stupendous night, but a good night. It was my first show as a father of two. I had a mild headache. I was running on about 10 hours of sleep over three days. Beautiful. (in a weird sort of way.)

I want to say a quick thanks to Rena Newman for inviting Chris Zonada and me to perform, and I want to thank Mike at Horseshoe BBQ for paying us - for supporting live, original music in Chicago. His commitment is rare this city I call home. Thank you. Speaking on behalf of all other Chicago songwriters, we hope that we can pay you back - some day.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blurb from My Latest Newsletter

I don't do this - ever, but I thought it would be good for you all to hear, if you haven't already read it in my latest newsletter... This is a cut and paste from the email I sent out to my music mailing list just a couple days ago, on August 26, 2011 (by the way, if you're not already on it, please sign up for my mailing list at http://jaymathes.com, filling out the mailing list form on the right side of the page, towards the top):
WHERE I'VE BEEN, WHERE I'M GOING
In just a few, short weeks, I will be the father of two, beautiful children. Having kids makes you think, and, paradoxically, gives you less time. Maybe what really happens is you just think better with what little time you have to think.
I've put in a lot of time - and money - into my music over the years. (I just realized that this past February marked the 10-year anniversary of the release of my album, Leave it All Behind.) Don't worry. This isn't a break-up letter.
I'm not losing steam - just trying to evaluate things. What I can say is that I'm even more inspired today by life than I ever have been. I can't help but write and perform. And I'm also even more excited by what I call a genuine musical experience. What I long to see in other recording artists - and what I long to show to you - is a picture of who the artist really is - not some projected image - some amalgamation of marketing tactics and strategies.
In an effort to better show you who I am, I'm going to continue doing what I do: writing music that comes from my heart, my experiences, and reflects who I am and how I feel. I might blog less. I might tweet more. I might be on Facebook less. I will write more music. I will post that music online. I will beg and ask for your support of that music.
Music keeps me going. If I lost my hearing, I'd self-combust.
Thanks for your support, and come on out on 9/4 if you can!
-Jay

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Now Serving BMI Artists...

I just received an email today from my performing rights organization (PRO), BMI Inc., that they just signed a deal with Spotify that pays BMI artists for music streamed from the Spotify application. Awesome. So feel free to stream away those Jay Mathes tunes in Spotify, knowing that I'm actually getting paid when you do!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on the John Mayer Q and A at Berklee

If you're a songwriter and you haven't read this yet, check it out:

http://www.berklee-blogs.com/2011/07/john-mayer-2011-clinic-manage-the-temptation-to-publish-yourself/

It seems as though Mr. Mayer has gotten a hold of himself and regained some serious perspective on life, music, and success. I've always had respect for the man's music and guitar playing, but he hit a serious low last year with his quest for the Joshua Tree of... Just look up his Rolling Stone interview if you have no idea what I'm talking about. Actually, one more thing about his music: using the word "respect" to describe how I feel about his music would be an understatement. I would say he's one of my top 10 favorite artists of all time, actually. I wish that artists more often lived how their music sounded. Is it too much to expect the writers of extraordinary music to live extraordinarily virtuous lives?

Maybe not.

But this time around, I think Mayer has reformed some of his previous errors.

The biggest take-aways from this short interview/article are Mayer's comments on social media. Mayer admits that this crap is addicting, distracting, and creatively worthless.

I've heard one artist, when asked "How did you get to where you are today?" say, "I just turned off the T.V." What he was getting at is that media is a distraction and, ultimately, it is a progress killer.

Does anybody find it ironic that I'm blogging about this topic?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #6

Weezer: Weezer

Hands-down the most influential album of my high school years. I can put more experiences to music from this album than any other. And the stories are almost all too personal to share in a blog post.













View my whole list here: http://jaymathes.blogspot.com/search/label/top%2025

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Classical or Folk: Which is Better?

Last night, in a late-night discussion about the impact of music on body, mind, and soul, my brother and I argued the pros and cons of "classical" and "folk" music. Let me start with definitions:

"Classical" - instrumental music that utilizes stringed instruments or brass and sounds like it could have been written in the late 1700's. (Bear with me. This is really quite a terrible definition. But it probably works just fine for the average person.)

"Fok" - any music written "of the people" or sounds like it was written by them or sounds like you can have a gay ole time partying to it.

So who won? It's not that simple. At the end of the day, we both felt that lyrics are often integral to the communication of music. But nearly every great lyrical song also has some sort of a musical "set-up" section, where the song wouldn't be the same without the bed of music upon which these words sit.

Conclusion: it might be worth one's effort to try to write lyrics and a melody for Copland's Appalachian Spring.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CAU Performance Rescheduled

Hey, folks.

I spoke to Michael Teach of Chicago Acoustic Underground last night, and we were *finally* able to reschedule my live performance taping for the CAU podcast. I'm not sure yet when the show will air, but the recording will be on Monday, July 11th, at 2 PM, at the CAU studio on Armitage Ave.

Awesome.

Details forthcoming.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Strange Tendency of History to Repeat

@jaymathesmusic: Reading "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh" right now. Why can't we prevent history from repeating itself? Oh yeah, now I remember: politics.

Clarification: I'm reading a translation, in English...  The picture to the left is a copy of the first edition.

I'm only one hundred pages in to the book right now, but a lot of what I've read so far sounds vaguely familiar: Nazi Germany, Sudan, and the Trail of Tears all come to mind.

I do have one, big clarification, though, on my tweet: I think there are occasions where the main reason countries do no intervene in preventing genocide is because they do not have the resources - financial or otherwise - to stop it. For all practical purposes, this was probably a big factor in WW2. Not most of Europe together could stop Nazi Germany, even though they wanted to.

I think at the heart of this global problem is the fact that people inherently react to events with self preservation as the highest priority. I can bring this theory in to the practical: I love my son. Very much. But when he runs at me when I'm lying on the floor, full-speed, and I don't see him until the last instant, my only reaction is to lift my arm, shielding my body from the blow, regardless of the consequences to him. Thank God I haven't hurt him yet this way, but he has definitely lost his breath on a number of occasions.


I'd just like to humbly conclude by saying that this is an area of great interest to me, and one that I know almost nothing about. I tend* to be a serious cynic when in comes politics, and the American political system, in particular, and this obviously affects my views here. I'm open to discovering the truth behind what I'm talking about - even if it means revising my entire view of the matter.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Song is Not a Cookie

I distinctly remember reading a book for a marketing class in college that referenced the start-up of some, well-known cookie manufacturer of today. That cookie company was started by one dude giving away cookies on public transit buses in whichever city he lived at that time. I could have sworn he did it in the city of Chicago. I've searched, but alas, cannot identify the company. Maybe it was all a dream... I'll try to remember to dig out a couple of books and search for the company the old-fashioned way - by browsing my book collection.

But here's the deal: a song is not a cookie.

When a dude wants to start a cookie company, he just might become successful by giving away his cookies for a month straight, and, assuming his cookies are fantastic, he might gather a long line of customers who seek to eat another one of those fantastic cookies - and pay for it - after that time.

With artists, songwriters, record labels, and anybody else who relies on *recordings* for their income, you can't, ultimately, just give them away for free. Why? Because once someone "tastes" (IE: downloads) your sound recording, the person never has to come back to you to get that same flavor - he already has it in his iTunes library. You've just given away your number one commodity, and users can re-create that listening experience without you now.

I haven't decided exactly what this epiphany means for me, my music, and the music Swiftly Running Records represents, but you bet I'm thinking about it - alot.

If you think you've got a few good ideas to explain what I'm talking about, or if you've got other ideas about how to make sound recordings work for artists, please let me know. Or maybe I'm way off base...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finding Significance in Your Work


It might come to a surprise to some of you, but the majority of songwriters and music artists struggle to earn enough money to make ends meet. That means that the majority of songwriters often find themselves employed doing work completely unrelated to their music. And I think that's okay - for a season.

For my own part, I've spent several hours this past week trying to drum up new business, new gigs (music- and non-music related), and I've come to one [I think] very important conclusion: wherever you work, and whatever you do, it has to be "work worth doing":
"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
- Theodore Roosevelt.
If your current job is just a job or just a way to pay the bills, I'd suggest seeking new employment. Why? Because jobs like that burn people out. These are positions that are a part of the modern corporate machine, but don't really add value to our or any other peoples' lives.  Some might say, "Yeah, but these things have to be done by somebody." And to that I say, "You're right." But why should it be done by you? Find something else where you *know* you are adding value to society - not just to your 401k.

Life is too short to be somebody's tool. I want to be a tool for change.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anti-Social-Media Trends

@jaymathesmusic: Is it possible? I think it is: the successful, anti-social-media band. Only time will tell. Consider this a prediction.”

So, I know this is probably going to come as a complete surprise to many of you... I have a very strong feeling about this, though, and because I have been accused at times of saying "I knew that was going to happen" well after the fact, I'll say it here, right now.

A day is coming when the cool thing is nowhere found online. It only exists in a secret, old-fashioned, *actual* word-of-mouth world. I predict that one day in the not-so-distant future bands will "emerge" and become popular, not as a result of social networking websites, but as a result of anti-media. Does any band or artist dare to test the waters? I don't think so. Not yet. But the one who figures out how to do this first will be the one who benefits the most (or at least gets the credit for implementing this "cutting edge" "marketing" strategy.

So how far in the future do I see this happening? We're probably a ways off yet. I'd say you won't hear about the first, best-kept-secret, off-media band/artist until 2024.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Licensing Opportunities



Over the last few weeks, I've been exploring new ways to generate some cash from the music that I write and record. The good news? There are a lot of ways to generate the money, as I have found. The bad news? It seems like every other artist has discovered the same thing that I have. I've found a bunch of websites that claim to "specialize" in what is called song placement or music licensing - places called "pitching houses" (basically just a new name for a music publisher). The problem is that I'm having trouble navigating this over-crowded sea of music speculators.

For lack of a better comparison - actually, no, I think it's a perfect comparison - the digital music licensing world looks *exactly* like the California gold rush days: everybody is vying for the same territory, the "mining" technology (a content delivery system) is readily available to almost all artists, and the value of the commodity (good, quality music) is fluctuating based on its availability.

So what does this mean for my music and the music that Swiftly Running Records represents? It means that now, more than ever before, I have to rely on personal contacts to exploit song placement opportunities. And the best way to continue to establish those relationships is to be where those decision-makers are - to live where the music supervisors live, eat where they eat, attend the events they attend, invite them over for dinner, take them out for coffee. I know a heck of a lot of them live in L.A., a few in Nashville (I think), and maybe some in NYC(?). But I'm not so sure I'm willing to relocate just so that I can pitch my songs. (Maybe I can get somebody else to do it[?].)

I want to play. I want to perform the music I write. I want to be on stage. I'm just looking for a way to make enough money to keep doing what I love.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #5


Death Cab for Cutie: Plans

For starters, they used amazing equipment to record it. A friend of mine, Collin Jordan, a mastering engineer in Chicago, said that the vocal mic Ben Gibbard used on this record was probably worth over $10k.  Nice.

Second, Death Cab has pioneered the pop-electronic fusion that is so common in music today.

Yes, I will follow you into the dark...

View my whole list here: http://jaymathes.blogspot.com/search/label/top%2025

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Pics from Catfish Studio


I recently came across two more pictures - ones I've never seen before! - from my time recording Fundamental, at Catfish Studio. Both were taken by my good friend, Nick Gray (iamnickgray.com)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Instrumental Record?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Always a bad sign. Why? Because it means that you're not happy, I think. I have a lot of "unfinished" songs sitting in a drawer right now, and I was thinking about the best way to finish the songs. I listened to some of the sketch recordings I made and I came to a conclusion: one way to finish all of these songs is to keep them instrumental. They range the gamut, stylistically, and not all of them even need words to stand - the melodies and instrumentation can hold themselves up as is. So I just might do that. It would be yet another non-Jay Mathes "project" that I'm a part of, but it might be worthwhile, especially considering it might give me more material to pitch to advertisers, TV, movies, and video games. Just a thought. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Special Thanks: The Hursthouse Family

I just wanted to give a special thanks to my friends, Bob, Robbie, and Scott Hursthouse, who hosted a concert for me at Scott's house in Channahon, IL, this past weekend. I had an awesome time, there was a great turn-out, and they were more than generous, providing everybody with great drinks and food, and sending me away with a nice, little care package, including pulled pork, rib tips, and sweet potato pie!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #4

Coldplay's X and Y. Will anyone actually argue against this album being on my list? Highly doubtful.

View my whole list here: http://jaymathes.blogspot.com/search/label/top%2025

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Press for Fundamental!

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Wheaton Leader Newspaper printed an awesome article about my latest record. Check it out HERE. Booyah.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #3

As you know, I have gotten myself in to a little pickle. I have started a top 25 albums of all time list. The problem is that, over the years, a heck of a lot of music has been recorded and compiled as albums. Just as a bit of a reminder, and maybe even a clarification, I have a few ground rules for this list. The more music I have listened to in my quest to compile this list, the more I have seen a need to be very specific about what this list is. Here are a few guidelines I am following:
  1. Pop/Rock genre only. There's way too much music out there, and way too much music that I can humbly say I know absolutely nothing about.
  2. Every song on the record has to be great. Every song has to be able to stand on its own, distinctly stand as a part of the whole and compliment it. For my purposes, even a single, bad song on an album will disqualify an album from the list.
  3. Popularity is not a pre-requisite. I am not using anyone else's list to make mine. I am trying very hard not to let Rolling Stone magazine tell me what to include.
  4. I won't include an album without very recently listening to it all the way through. And when I say listen, I mean that the music has my full attention.
  5. Your suggestions are warmly invited! I know I haven't heard everything out there in the pop/rock genre - especially when it comes to classic rock, oldies, or 80's pop. Some historical background: the album "format" didn't really become popular until the mid- to late-1950's, so just as a simple, point of fact, I probably won't have to go back any further than that.
With all of this now said - and said again, in some cases - I'd like to announce album #3 in my list: Acceptance's album Phantoms. I might take some serious criticism for this one. The album is from 2005 - right around the time when all alternative rock music started to sound the same: over-compressed, perfect vocals, unbelievably punchy drums, et al. But, at the end of the day, in my opinion, this might just be the best album you've never heard of.

View my whole list here: http://jaymathes.blogspot.com/search/label/top%2025

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Home Sweet Home

There's no place like home. And for different people, it turns out that home is somewhere different. New York City was awesome, but when I saw that Chicago skyline as our plane was landing, I automatically felt more relaxed. Calm. At ease.

Life brings us huge changes all the time; and for me, at least one big one is approaching - maybe even two or three. One thing I can guarantee: Chicago will always be home.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New York City Here We Come

If you think I've been MIA for the last three weeks, you'd be right. So where have I been and what have I been doing? Simple. I've been spending most of my time recording at the Dragon Room (the name I gave to where I do most of my producing). The result? Eight new songs for a new record with a little side-project that I have called Restoration Project. I haven't tallied up all of the hours I've spent on it in the last three weeks because, frankly, it doesn't really matter. I knew from the start that I'd spend as much time on it as it would take. The album comes out April 10th, and you all should come to the release party. Get the details HERE. So there you have it. It's time for a vacation. I leave for NYC with my wife and son tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Human Struggle for Recognition

This morning, I had a little bit of time to think about why people blog. It was on my mind because I actually took some time today to read the blogs of a couple of good friends of mine. We don't read our friends' blogs (usually) because we already know what's going on in their lives, how they feel about things, and how they're continuing down this strange path of existence we call life.

The bottom line? We all struggle with a lot of different things, but there are common ones, too. Though there are obviously many reasons, I think blogging is motivated primarily by a desire to be recognized as a person, separate from everyone else. It's a desire to find meaning behind why we're alive; because if we're all pretty much the same, we all live, we all die, we're simply a part of the lineage of the human race, then what's really the point?

Humans don't just want to exist. They want to matter.

I don't think that I blog because I'm searching for answers so much myself, but that I kind of hope that I can help other people cope with that struggle - that desire - and can move them in the direction of discovery for themselves...

My new album, Fundamental, really is the closest I've come so far to expressing this and other struggles common to the human experience in my music. If you haven't yet, you should check it out, here:


To some of you, I know I still owe you copies of the album. I'll try to make that happen this week. Sorry for the delay!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Video from Record Release Show Now on YouTube!


Just this evening, I posted the first video from my record release concert last month. Yeah, this video stuff takes a long time to edit. The first song of the first set was "Broken Well". Take a look (and listen) on my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/jaymathesmusic. And here's a direct link to the video page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFAJMaCtny0.

Also, my buddy, Nick, who shot all of the video in the studio for the documentary about the making of Fundamental posted some of the raw video on his channel. Here's a link to the raw video (and audio) of the studio recording of "Broken Well": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLafZL7e5SM

Cheers! (and enjoy)

-Jay

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mosquito Fleet / Milano Concert Review

This past Friday night, some friends of mine, Mosquito Fleet, performed at the local coffee shop, La Spiaza. While I don't exactly like the "venue" or their coffee. Or the owner. Or how they treat the artists who perform there. I do like the atmosphere when there's great, live music being played. Opening for Mosquito Fleet was a band called Milano - some very talented chaps from Chicago, whose lead singer, Joe Guerra, is artist-in-residence at The Line Church in Lincoln Park. Pretty cool gig, if you ask me...

So about the concert...

In a word: impressive.

I only caught a few tunes from Milano, but what I heard was polished, refreshing, a combination of alternative, folk-rock, and a hint of traditional country.

Mosquito Fleet? I love these guys. They bring it every time they perform, and this concert, the record release show for their new EP, was no exception. Without the luxury of having stage monitors, the band did more than just keep it together. Standing at the front, right up against the band - within inches of Josh, the bassist, and feet of everyone else, I had a chance to look back in to the audience and take pictures of the scene in my mind:

Laughter. Heads moving. The floor bowed down with each kick drum hit from feet jumping ever-so-slightly to the beat. Bass emanating from the house speakers gave me blurred vision. And several faces with glazed-over eyes, lips pursed and turned up with joy as ears take it all in: lyrics. music. life.

Even with flawed lead vocals on a number of songs - no doubt caused, in part, by the lack of monitors - Mosquito Fleet still got their point across: they love performing the music they write for the people who love it and they don't ever want to stop.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered?

Have you ever wondered why, as a little kid in elementary school, everyone told you that you could save the environment by cutting the plastic rings on a 6-pack of soda? Yeah, it has always bothered me - even then - and I finally figured out why... So here was their rationale: cutting the rings meant that no bird or fish could get caught in one of the rings. And now I am asking you, right here, right now, why would this piece of plastic ever end up in a body of water where this sort of thing would even be possible!?!?!!?!??!?!?!?!? That's right. I guess people back then were actually okay with our trash getting dumped in to oceans and lakes and rivers and streams. They must have figured that, at the very least, if they couldn't prevent it, maybe they could try to minimize the damage(?). I don't know. How Ridiculous!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Notebook, 2012, and a Goal

Let me start off by saying that I've totally blown a few of my new year resolutions. One of those was to write - music or lyrics - every day. Hasn't happened. I've just lost the routine and now I am on a quest to find it again... Here, routinie, routinie, routinie... come here, boy. Wheredja go?....

Next, during the blizzard of 2011, Megan and I watched the movie 2012. Awful. I like Mr. Cusack, but this was bad. Two hours I can't get back.

Finally, in addition to trying to get back on the horse called Resolution, I have a crazy goal of having one article printed in a newspaper, ezine, or other medium every-other week for the next 12 weeks. So far, so good. Here's what we've had so far:

10 Jan 2011 - Chicago Sun-Times
18 Jan 2011 - Daily Herald
28 Jan 2011 - COD Courier

And next week (Wednesday), I'll have a pretty big spread in the Lombardian.

After that, I'm not sure where the next coverage will come from, but I'm optimistic that I can keep this streak going!

Talk to you soon, and look for me in your local paper!

-Jay

Monday, January 31, 2011

Long Saturday

I finally feel mostly recovered from this past Saturday. From 9 AM until 5 PM, I was recording with The City and Restoration Project at the Dragon Room. Then, at 6:30 PM, I packed up my gear for a performance in Elmhurst, IL, at Cuvee Cellars. I arrived back home at 11:45 PM. Long day? I'll say so.

Saturday was a super-productive session, recording cello for two songs, for two different records coming out in the next four months. "Jump" is a song that I wrote, and The City decided to record a down-tempo version of the song - quite obviously different from the version found on my new solo album, "Fundamental." The other song, "O Love Divine" will be on ResProj's upcoming April release. Thank you so much, Jason Young, for your hard work on these parts. You were great!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Luck and the Art of Waiting

Waiting isn't exactly the same thing as trusting in something to happen.

One of my favorite college professors (his name was Jun) once said that luck isn't being in the right place at the right time, it's putting yourself in a position to be in the right place at the right time.

And I believe him. If we're just talking semantics.

I actually don't believe in luck at all, which is why I made my first statement about waiting. I actually think that a better way to describe my professor's idea of luck is to call it "active waiting". You see, it's knowing (or trusting) that something is going to happen if you just keep going for it. You take steps that move you forward, and sometimes, if you're going the right direction, you'll hit opportunities that can push you even higher.

This is in contrast to just plain ol' "waiting", which means that you're sitting on your keister and still expecting something to happen. And you'd be right - something will: you'll get fat, dumb, anti-productive, and altogether zombified by that glowing box you sit in front of.

So as for me, I find myself in a season of active waiting. Actually, I can't remember a time when I haven't been in this sort of a season. I expect big things to happen and I am actively engaged in trying to make them happen. But I don't think they'll happen because of what I do. Does that make sense? Ultimately, I think they'll happen because they were destined to. (And yes, I do believe in destiny; but not the kind that is most common today, in our culture.)

It's a really uncomfortable place to be, but isn't all of life really uncomfortable anyways? Isn't it better to actually be able to identify the discomfort and just deal with what you believe to be going on through it all? I think so.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who came out to my record release show just this past Friday night. We packed the place and rocked the house. If you didn't have a chance to make it up to the merch table, you can still purchase Fundamental online, from my web store. You can get the regular CD, the Limited Edition, hand-printed CD, or the digital download.

A couple of hours before the concert, I was extremely nervous about how the performance would come off. I definitely felt tense as I performed my first song. I was told, though, that none of that came across. So the night went off without a hitch [mostly], and I was happy to see that I can still draw a crowd in my home town. What's more, I actually have friends who are willing to support my music by coming out to see me play.

A fairly recent goal of mine has been to regularly draw crowds of 100+ in DuPage County, and I think I'm moving in that direction - with your help. Please continue to demonstrate your support for what I do by coming out to concerts and buying my records.

Thank you for keeping this dream alive.

Photo by: Ashley Hodges // ashleyhodgesphotography.com

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Reeling, The Fizz Bubbles Over

I just spent the last 15 minutes listening to the recorded audio from tonight's record release concert. Wow. I'm tired. Exhausted. My mind is reeling. I am thankful.

Thank you, everyone, who made tonight a special night for me. Had the room been empty, I confess, I would have been more likely than ever to find another line of work. But as it stands, this night has spared me from that fate - this night. Tomorrow is a new day and yet there is hope.

To those of you who made it out to the concert: you give me great joy. It means that you have considered my music worth a listen. You have validated my work as a songwriter.

This was an interesting night. A bittersweet night. Tonight I also saw that I am physically incapable of exceeding my own expectations in so many ways - but particularly as it relates to being an excellent father, husband, and performing songwriter, all at once. I need grace.

Before this evening, I described the feeling I had as of a soda pop, closed, but shaken - a lot. I had a lot riding on tonight's show - for better or worse. And the last four months have mostly culminated in tonight's performance. I had a fear of what would come after...

It's after now, and I can say that I'm just plain tired. The fizz in the bottle is gone, and what's left is a man ready for bed. Goodnight, and thank you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Live Show Almost Ready


Those of you who have seen me perform live over the last six months know that I've been working on perfecting some crazy live show stuff. I'm almost there. And I think I'll be ready by the record release concert this Friday night. Yes, in two days. Guitar. Voice. Keyboard. GiO. iMac.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Release Show on Friday!

I can't believe that the release concert for my new album, Fundamental, is this coming Friday! Unbelievable. I've been working my butt off promoting it, and I'm starting to get some positive feedback, which is really encouraging. And, responses are starting to roll in on the concert's Facebook event page. That's even more encouraging! My goal is to pack the place with 75 people or more, and I think we'll be close. Will you be there? I hope!

And I'll tell you what, if you show up (and because you've read this blog post), I'll give you a $5 discount on purchasing Fundamental at the concert! Just go to the merch table and tell the girl behind the table the secret password to get your discount. What is the password, you ask? Just say the words "Fine Lines". She'll take care of you.

Oh, yeah. Details for the show:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 21ST, 2011 9:00 PM
Fundamental Record Release Show
Muldoon's Restaurant and Pub
133 W. Front St.
Wheaton, IL 60187
630.668.8866
Price: FREE
Description: Come and hang out with Jay for a night of live music from his new record, "Fundamental." CD give-aways, good drinks and music. Also catch a special viewing of Jay's "The Making of Fundamental" documentary between the first and second set. You must be 21 or over to sit at the bar. Minors may request a seat with a view from the dining area.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #2

Remember, these aren't ranked in any sort of order. I haven't gotten that particular about this list yet. But maybe once I get a top 25 I can move in that direction...

The second album to make my list is Sister Hazel's 2000 release, "Fortress". It's just another one of those albums that I could never put down - and still now I don't get sick of listening to it. The production on the album is some of the best that I've ever heard, and the harmonies are just tight - in an era that was only just beginning to learn what auto-tune was. The main producer, by the way, was Paul Ebersold.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Top 25 Albums of All Time

Okay, so I don't claim to know everything about pop music... Actually, I'm pretty quick to say that I have never heard the music of a lot of artists out there. But I do know what I like, and I also think that I'm a pretty good judge as to what other people should like, too. Pompous? No, I don't think so. I think that I have been given the honored privilege and ability to critique music well - both on aesthetic and technical levels.

About a week ago, I watched a ten-minute clip of an interview with Josh Ritter, published by some magazine (the video was a part of a series titled something about eating with artists...). In the video, Ritter mentioned that music, like movies and other art, should be judged 15 or 20 years after it has been released (obviously, that's no help to the actual artist living it out in real-time). His point was that a good song is still a good song 20, 50, or 300 years after it is written.

The goal of music criticism is to assess a song or album in a cultural vacuum (outside of current pop trends or stylistic leanings), allowing the music to stand on its own, judging it against nothing but its ability to relate to the human experience across space and time.

I have been thinking a lot about my favorite art of all time - primarily books, movies, and music; and I think I'm going to try to compile a list of my top 25 albums of all time. The difficulty with this is that I have been told that there are some *unbelievable* records out there - ones that people can actually name by name - that I haven't even heard for myself yet, and so I'm going to be taking this slowly, making sure to leave some room in the top 25 for records that I'll have to listen to between now and before I finish my list. (If you have any suggestions, please comment on them on this post.)

So, without further delay, I would like to announce the first (not number one, but just "one of") of my top 25 picks of all time:


And that, of course, is what I am listening to right now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Are You Kidding Apple!?!?!

So Apple just launched their new App Store application for OSX. It's pretty cool, I must say - not because the store itself is that innovative of an idea (Apple has been selling people stuff on iTunes for years). But the way Apple is delivering and bundling the products and managing their distribution and installation is. For the first time ever, buy iPhoto '11 without iLife '11. And, for a lower price. And, you can install the software on ALL Mac computers you use. Here's the quote about that from the App Store's Help guide:

"After you purchase an application, you can install it free of charge on every Mac you use."

Pretty impressive - especially when Apple just blasts away their delivery and shipping costs, shelf space, and breaks down nearly all possible limits on accessibility (not being near a store, not wanted to drive to a store, not having the time) - and all slashing their software's cost to consumers... Now we're talking some serious revenue generating.

So I'm not one to typically complain about Apple... for two reasons: 1) there is hardly ever anything to complain about and 2) I own stock in the company. But in this case, I found a technical snag that is exceedingly irritating...

I just purchased Aperture 3 from the App Store for $79 (regularly $199 out of the box from a physical Apple Store). Great price on some really excellent software. One, big glitch.

Apparently, iPhoto event descriptions do not convert in to Aperture project descriptions. Where do they go? Into the air. Gone. Zappo. If you want your iPhoto event descriptions in your shiny, brand new, Aperture software, you best sit down with a warm cup of tea on a cold winter's day, cuz cut and paste key commands are going to be your new best friends.

So here it is: Apple, this Aperture problem really sucks. Fix it. Yeah, that's right. I read the message boards. This has been an issue since at least April 2010. If you want people to migrate from iPhoto to Aperture, this has to be fixed. Fix it. Seriously.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rihanna's "Umbrella" Uses Garageband Loop


Old news, but new to me. I just found this out today.

Rihanna's song, "Umbrella" - yeah, you know it's a hit with many a fella, ella, ella, eh - uses a *free*, Apple-made loop named "Vintage Funk Kit 03", included in Apple's Garageband software. Even Wikipedia says so.

So I guess nobody has to feel bad about using the stock loops that come with these types of software programs any more.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It Comes from Somewhere Deeper

In the exact opposite way that the dwarves of Middle Earth awoke something from the deep, driven by their greed for mithril, in these past 48 hours, I have found something deep within that has allowed me to work late in to the night promoting my art. I actually can't say what it is at all, or that I've even found it. Maybe it would be best to simply say that when I needed the grace to continue, it was there. It never failed.

Good night, Chicago.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Always Behind, Never Ahead

One problem that I always seem to have is feeling like I am behind, off-schedule, running late, or otherwise incapable of completing a task sufficiently by the deadline that has been set. In my case, the official record release concert for Fundamental is less than three weeks away and the official drop date is exactly three weeks away. Promoting the release show is just one aspect of promoting the record, and promoting the record doesn't just end after the release date.

That said, part of my day today will be spent figuring out what promotion is essential to complete prior to the release show and what can wait. And even more than that, what promotion will be more effective if it is staggered over time, as a part of a larger strategy to build a larger fan base?

These are the questions that an independent artist has to ask - in addition to all of the other, more creative ones: does the chorus on this recording need another guitar part? do those lyrics fit the theme of the rest of the song? what chord am I missing in there?

The trick for the next three weeks will be balancing my desire to be creative and my necessity to do all of the business-y things like handing out flyers, hanging posters, writing press releases, contacting the local media, etc.