It's All About The Sound

I suppose you could say that I am obsessed with Indie Music.  Why?  Well, it seems that 99% of the music I like is on some Indie Music label or another.  Also, many of the bands I like the best are not even on labels or rotation even–I just hear them at local festivals and clubs.  These bands are fresh, alive, and untainted by a management team or a label deciding for them what will sell best.   These people just play their music from their hearts to ours.  I like that.

So I spend much of my free time going to open mics, not to play, but to listen.  I do not go there for ideas, but for musical camaraderie, and a sense that there is unspoiled music out there.  I find a kind of hope for music at these open mics that goes beyond the industry itself.

Understand that these are either bands made up of beginners just trying out their musical wings, or people who have no real aspirations of entering the business of music who are satisfied with just making music the best that they are able.  Some are really good.  Some are really bad.  They all are really serious about their music.  I am hardly ever disappointed.

I think that Indie Music does have a specific definition, and that is that the record label is separated from the distribution.  There is an excellent article at

which explains quite a bit about the development of the Indie Music Scene, so I won’t go into it here, but, and for me this is at the heart of Indie Music is the Do It Yourself (DIY) element–that aspect of total creative control that is available the the recording artists.  This is a new age for real!  We have magic at our finger tips in regards to recording, producing, mastering our own sound, and I find this very exciting.  And the quality, for the DYIer, is possible as it was never before.

On his Feels Like Rain album, Mickey Newbury mixed the then state-of-the-art  four-track tape recorder so far beyond its limits that he developed track noise.  He then put in recorded effects of rain and storm sounds to cover up the hiss.  That would never happen in our own time.  I also will point out that it is one of those albums Cherie and I call, “Perfect Albums.”

I like that the Indie Music Scene allows for an artist’s obsession to rule and rampage.  I like that I can do it my way.  45-90 records in two separate studios, in two completely different geographic locals–Geyserville and Sacramento.  I record my vocal, harmonica, rhythm guitar tracks in my Geyserville studio, make WAV files and sent them to my engineer’s studio in Sacramento where he will then record lead guitar, bass guitar, drum (if needed) keyboards.  Then the tracks are mixed and mastered, and made into a CD.  Indie Music DIY at it’s best!

It is all about the sound, Indie Music is, or at least it should be.  And I need to say right here that for me Indie Music IS about MY CONTROL OF MY MUSIC!  I can obsessively re-record as many times as I need to, in order to get the track perfect and the particular sound I need the way I want it to sound.

What I like best for my own particular, and peculiar, form of music is the rejection of what Felix Thursday terms, False Country, which is 99.999% of what is coming out of Nashville and the big labels at present.  I recognize that is is just sweet that the little cuties (boys and girls) are making it big in Country Music right now, but there is nothing real about either the sound or the stories sung.  It is Pop with no pop, swing with no swang, it is sung and not sang, a story-line that has a great big Why-Bother attached to it.  I can care about Loretta’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Tammy’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” George’s “Tonight, The Bottle Let Me Down,” but I find it hard to pay attention to a singer who needs a songwriter and a worked-up demo and tons of assurance of hit potential before they know if they can sing it or not to tell me what a great life it is to be a Country boy or girl living the Country Life.

What I like is that the Indie Music scene offers really great and potentially never to be heard of writers and bands to actually have the playing field leveled a bit.  There is still competition, but some of the disadvantage is shared by the larger labels.  They are just missing out on income, because they are being bypassed by obsessive songwriters and musicians with an obsession for their own visions for their own music.

Sometimes it pays to be obsessive!



  1. another Indie music scene is people like me, what I call working-class musicians.
    We didn’t fit or refused to fit the industry model, or play what was “pop” just then, or want to “make it to the top”, didn’t have the ego or ambition, or want to play for lottery tickets, hoping we’d be winners. We chose to just be independent working musicians, at all the little fairs and fests, little venues, odd venues and niches,, and out on the street, producing our own CDs out of our own pocket, getting by on the small pay, tips and CD sales, and living cheap to get by., but dedicated to being musicians for a living, even if it wasn’t much of one. by most people’s standards. I’ve recorded in commercial studios I paid, and with my own gear. I buy CDs by the 1000, and takes a while to sell them sometimes. I have no other job, never have.
    Though other indies might work a second job to support their art, maybe they have families they have to support, and a wife who won’t put up with living out of an old van on the road with the kids, and some lucky few do have a wife who is willing to do what it takes so they can play. But they are still working it, and are still dedicated to the music.
    I don’t play at open mikes, usually.. too busy making a living at it, which is a full time job often enough..on the road a lot, a lot of low paying gigs, better to play someplace just for tips and fill the gas-tank at least than play for nothing. And honestly, I feel they are for people who need a chance to get behind a mike, get on stage, while I have spent my life there. Though I might sometimes.. good way to meet local artists. or I like the place, maybe it is raining, so I come shine.
    But everyone does what they do, “we” are all different, all independent, all individual. I’ve met hundreds like me, in all the places we play. Every scene is different, but the life is often pretty similiar.. we trade tips and scenes, tell stories, trade songs, working-class musicians.

  2. Brian, You kats are the true heroes of music! You do it and do it and do it. I raise my Martin to you as a salute of respect. It truth the “working-class” musicians are the ones who keep music going. Keep the faith brother, for it is you who keep the dream alive! Thanks for your comment! Hilary

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