CARL PERKINS — success & choices

Patching It Together

Livin’ Life Big

Not so long ago I watched a video with Carl Perkins and Paul McCartney.  They were talking about their own lives and Carl was talking about the fateful car wreck that changed his life.  He and his band were on their way to New York City (I believe) to play on the Perry Como Show.  Their car crossed over the center line and hit another car head-on.  That crash put the breaks on his rise to stardom, and he watched Elvis Presley, as well as a host of others, soar to stardom, playing his songs.

In the video Carl said that he was lying in his hospital bed, and and had the thought that he could not hang onto what he had lost, but only to what he still had.  WOW!!!  He also said that for many years he was never on stage, but always behind the scenes.  Then he looked at the camera and thanked us who bought his records for the birthday parties, vacations, bicycles and for the lifestyle he was able to have because of the success of the songs he wrote.  This one quote is worth the 45 minutes of time I spent watching an already great video.  What a lesson!

It’s a lesson too many of us learn either too late, or we don’t learn at all.  I know so many really great musicians with really bad attitudes.  Never willing to work gratefully with what fate dishes out, but ready to carp, complain, and whine about everything from the people who give them work, to all the other lousy musicians who have made it big, because the industry wouldn’t know a good sound (such as theirs) if it bit them in the ass.  Whoa cowboys, ease up on the two-gun nastiness!

We all know someone (maybe ourselves), who has used their bad attitude to burn all their bridges, lose jobs, stifle their chances at even a modicum of success.  I used to work at a drug and alcohol rehab center where I heard many such stories.  One stands out.  One of the men I counseled had been in the really bad-ass Cell Block “D” of Leavenworth Federal Prison.  After getting out he began using drugs, and selling.  He told me that at one time he carried something like four Glocks and six hunting knives on his person at all times.  Through his violence, he also took a fix-it ticket and worked it into a prison term at a maximum security prison.  There is no end to what a bad attitude and a depressed state of mind can accomplish.

BUT on the other side of the attitude coin there is true success.  I was there on that bad attitude side of the coin, and it took me from being a nationally known photographer to losing business, my car, my house, also my mind and close to my family.  I discovered some self motivational materials and gave them a try.  Well not the first time.

The first time I gave them to a friend who was losing everything, and they turned him totally around.  But while he was turning around, I was spinning in a free fall to the bottom of the tank.  Once I hit, I was re-introduced to similar materials as I gave my friend, and this time I was ready to believe it.  So don’t say that I know not of what I write.

I should say here that whatever it is you believe is absolutely correct.  So if you believe everyone is out to get you, they probably are.  If you believe that all the good musicians are broke and won’t make it because the industry only wants to produce trash, you are right.  If you have convinced yourself that you have to sell your ass and your principles and your art to get anyone to listen to you, bang on the spot.

Paul Quinnett writes in his book, Pavlov’s Trout: The Incomplete Psychology of Everyday Fishing, that he understands two approaches to life.  The first he terms, The Depressive’s Reality; the other, The Delusional Fisher’s Reality.  And of course as I am writing this I cannot find the damn book to get an accurate quote, but here, in my own words, is what I remember him writing.

Quinnett claims that the Depressive will make absolutely logical (for them) claims of why things will not work.  These claims sound completely rational and will bring failure every time because what they predict sounds so right.  The Delusional Fisher, on a other side of reality, just sort of believes that the next cast will catch the illusive fish sought after all day.  The motto for the Delusional Fisher is, “Just one more cast!”  If that fisher is a Depressive, when darkness settles in they are already washed up, well fed, and in front of the TV, while the Delusional is still making that one more cast and waiting for that fish.  Eventually the Delusional, if no fish are caught, will need to be dragged from the stream or lake by well-meaning friends who will end up enduring a tide of vitriol until some fish, on maybe another day, is actually caught.

A Depressive not only understands the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Entropy, but believes in it.  The Delusional Fisher won’t even consider such a theory.  The theory of Entropy holds that all energy seeks a common ground or state of being.  That common state is always cooler, slower, lower, calmer, less, but stable and constant.  And, there ya go!  And yes, we all will dissolve into paste; and yes, probably no one will even remember us in one hundred years; and yes, it is probably good enough for government work and the women we hang with; and yes, so what, so who gives a shit; and, yes that is possible, but it ain’t very probable; and yes, and yes, and yes…  We’ve all heard ’em, and we’ve probably all used a few of them never realizing just how devastating statements like those are to our success.

Years ago, when I was trying desperately to get something to work for me, and I was starting to consider the possibility of songwriting, I was bar-tending in a little dive down on the waterfront side of Sacramento, California.  Sometimes business was non-existent so I would take my guitar down there and leave it out so I could practice it when no one was there.  One night this kat strolls in, order a beer and sits off to himself and sips on it.  Pretty soon he comes over to the bar and asks me if that was my guitar.  I said that it was.  He asks me if he played it gently, could he play it a little.  I said he could.  Well he starts doing some intricate finger-picking runs and he started really getting my attention.  I start watching his left hand, and I notice a pleat-like pattern that goes all around his wrist, and I realize it is a scar.  I asked him about it, and he informs me that he had been in a car wreck some years prior, and his hand was cut off.  He said that he was told that he would never use that hand again.  He also said that he figured if that was true, that it was time for him to learn how to play guitar.  I knew right then and there that some of us say “can’t,” some of us say “maybe,” and some of us actually commit to “yes.”

I have made some really bad decisions in my life.  I have made some really great ones.  The most powerful one I have ever made was to step past all my manufactured fears and to yell, “yes,” at my life.  Life is worth living with as many yeses as possible.

At this point I can almost hear you asking, So, what does the term, “success” mean to you? For me it means finding joy in what you are doing.  It is important to make a living at what we love most, so we can continue doing it.  But success is not determined by any outside force, it is determined by our own inner source.  My advice is to set your goal as high as you can, and never be satisfied with less, and like a true Delusional, settle nothing less than the big one.  Yet, to also find meaning and hope and joy in whatever level of success you have attained.  It is at this point many get confused, lose focus, and turn on the self-destruct mode.  Never confuse true success with outward achievements.

Learn to adjust and adapt.  If I am not catching fish, I try another fly.  I anticipate what flies I will use during the Winter when I am tying them, but I also take a portable fly-tying kit with me to the stream where I can tie what might be hatching that I don’t have.  The same is true with pitching songs I have written.  I have learned that a rejection will probable be an acceptance somewhere else.  I find places where I can conform my art to the needs of the industry, and I hold some areas back just for me and my art and style.  It is fun.  I find joy.  I do not make a whole bunch of money but every day I am thankful for the successes, and failures, I have had and will have.  My name is Hilary and I am a Delusional!

The video is about 45 minutes long, but if you wish to watch it here is is —



Broken Hearts & A Little Bite

Broken Hearts & A Little Bite

A really powerful and essential question was asked recently, How do you guys feel about becoming a performer over the age of 30?  Do you feel it is ever too late to become a live performer?  It was the beginning of an ongoing conversation I got into late on a LInkedin site, and I liked the question a lot, so I thought I’d try to answer it in this blog

I have performed at open mics since God made dirt, but in my late fifties, I decided to see what I could do at a professional level. I think you need to pick the level at which you want to perform and shoot for that. Some realism is in order, however. I mean, if you are 70 which I will be in August, don’t be disappointing if the twenty-year-olds aren’t screaming at you, or hitting on you or you can’t get hired for their bars. AND if they do don’t confuse your music and wall of sound with your sex appeal. I played with a band up until two years ago and then decided to start concentrating on pitching my own songs, which is doing OK, and playing as a solo act. It’s harder to get gigs, but I like me best, so it seems to work out well.

SO, to answer the question straight on, Where there is a will, there is always a niche, or a venue. You will need both to make it, but if you target your market correctly, make it you will. Best of luck to you! 

Yesterday I played at a venue where there were lots and lots of musicians, a good crowd of fans of all ages, great wine, and lots of camaraderie.  I had this post on my mind as I looked around the space.  What struck me was what age differences there were.  What also struck me was that crowd response had little or nothing to do with age.  When good was played, it was paid attention to.  And there is something extra about good.  If you want to perform, no matter what your age, if you are good, you will be listened to.  I saw a young girl, probable around 15, go on stage who was an accomplished singer/songwriter/guitar player and all the conversation stopped and the crowd listened.  The same happened with a few men at 60+.  When I finished my set I had 20-year olds come up to me and thank me for my music.  Age seems less a factor than being exceptionally good.  Also,  it seems that while labels are not so inclined to sign Rockabillies, fans are really inclined to listen.  So at 70, with a few broken hearts and a little bite, my style/genre seems to go over just fine.   Actually, I do think genre has a lot to do with fan acceptance.

However, with all that said, I do believe that some show promoters are much more finicky than are the audiences and fans.  The fans come to have fun and listen to good music; the promoters are more concerned with second guessing the fans and making bucks.  But still, if you have product, meaning charisma and groove on stage, age is no issue.

Now if you are considering attaining stardom in the immature and bland  pop market, good luck if you are over 15.  Just how it works.

News Flash

News? Well I am working–actually working on producing a new CD, and the project is bigger than I am. I will go into the whole thing in more detail in another post, but suffice it to say that I am madly trying to learn stuff that I need to know in order to get to the next level–whatever that is. What I am trying to do in this posting is to just get a post done.

Borderlands of Hell --

Borderlands of Hell —

With the help of Rob Fisher, I released the “Borderlands of Hell CD” on CD Baby last year. and it sounds really great! Now I am learning to produce my own CDs–very exciting More to come

Learning The Ropes of Listening

Last week I was disgruntled but this week I’m learning. Learning to listen.

I figure if I can’t beat them I might as well join them. That’s what I’m trying to do.
I have had to re-record some material, so I am trying to do this thing right. I did my recording. Then I did the mixing with Sonar. I worked each track to where I thought it sounded the best.

Once I got each track as good as I could, I mixed the whole thing down into one stereo track. That done, I tried my hand at Mastering.

Now Mastering is tough, but I do not believe it is as esoteric, or arcane as some writers would like me to believe. I think it is a learnable skill like anything else. It is a matter of learning what tools are out there, and available to my budget, and then learning how to use them.

The real trick, the one that is what music writers go on so much about is the skill of actually listening to what you have done. But, and I believe this is true, this is a learnable skill as well.

We’ll see. I have a lot of songs on which to practice. But years ago I had to learn the fine art of seeing. I know that not everyone can see as well, or the same as everyone else. That’s what makes humans unique. I did learn to see better than average, I believe I will be abe to learn to hear better than average as well. We’ll see.


Blank Page Waiting for the Song

I am working hard, but I feel as if I am not doing anything.  How can this be?

I am not really a prolific songwriter.  Since 2000 I have only written two hundred and twelve songs with a yearly average of around seventeen songs.  That means that I some years I only wrote five or six songs, and other years I have written over sixty.  However, I identify with being a songwriter.  I may have a Ph.D. in theology, and I may be a minister of a church, a very small, liberal, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Northern California, but I nonetheless identify as a Rockabilly/Honky-Tonk singer/songwriter.  I spent years as a professional and fine-art photographer, but I still wrote and performed my original songs.  Songwriting and performing is just what I do, and I do it very seriously.

So this last year, and this coming year as well, it seems that I am doing more song promotion and song marketing than writing.  It also means that I am spending more and more time at this computer communicating with A&R reps, song peddlers, artists, film companies and whoever else needs and uses songs.  It also means that I am doing less and less songwriting.  It also means that I am doing more recording, mixing and mastering, at which I am least proficient.

I have a woodshop where I build and repair wood stuff.  I enjoy working with the wood, and I make a little money ate it, but it is still just something I do to clean out my brain for the real work of songwriting.  I have written one and one half songs this year so far, and there are more to be written, but I feel frustrated by the need to record, mix, and master my old songs.

Actually I feel grumpy at the blasted A&R people who need fully mastered radio-ready songs to pitch to their artists.  I yell stuff at my studio walls like, What the hell ever happened to interpolation?  Where they could hear a song and hear themselves singing it.  Without having everything done in advance.  The walls of my studio have no answers, and I just go ahead and play the stupid game.

The bottom line is that I am learning how to do it because I cannon afford to have it done by the experts.  I am using an older version of Sonar for the mixing and a new version of Izotope Ozone for the mastering.  I am slowly figuring it out.  I do not have high end studio mastering speakers, but I have my PA speakers that work good enough.  I figure that if I get the sound so it sounds good on my studio speakers, and it sounds good on my little CD player and on my house system and on the car system, then the sound should be good enough quality to send to an A&R type.  It somehow seems to be working.

Yet, while that seems to be working, I still do not feel as if I am working.  Rather, I should say that I don’t feel like I am accomplishing anything because I am not writing songs at the rate at which I want to write them.


Me Loving the Crowd Loving Me

WOW!  I think I’ve dun died and gone to songwriter’s heaven!  I’ve got this twice a month gig at a wine lounge called Wicked Wines in Healdsburg, CA, owned by Steven Moore.  Steven and I discovered we had similar goals:  He to have some music in his shop that did not cause riots, and me to have a place where I could work out some new chops, learn some new material, and have a home for the winter.  I am playing there on the first and third Fridays through April.

I began by competing for a date with musicians who play loud and amplified, but it turned out that he didn’t have a license to have amplified music in his shop, and couldn’t afford one just yet, and had to shut down the music.  I told him that I could play and sing with no amplifier, just my vocals and a guitar with no problem.  It’s just like the days in the late 1960s when I first started out in the coffee houses around Sacramento, CA.  Another plus is that it is an early gig.  I begin my act at 7:00 pm, and close up at 9:00 pm, so I have time to get out and check out the rest of the music scene in the area.

This gig, I am finding out is great for my fan base around Northern Sonoma County.  People are coming in to hear me.  They are remembering my songs and asking for me to sing them when they come in.  These people are young, many in their twenties and thirties, and some forties and fifties, but mostly in their early thirties.  I have to say, this is great for my ego.  They listen and talk, interact, with me.  It’s just kool!

This past Friday after I finished my gig and packed up I went over to another venue where they have an open mic with a karaoke program from 9:30 pm on.  I check out the karaoke because I find great voices, and really good talent for my demos at them.

I left my guitar in the truck so I wouldn’t intrude on what was going on inside and went on in.  I no sooner got in the door than the MC started yelling that I was there and asked me if I would do a couple of numbers, and I told him that no, I wouldn’t, that I was just there to check out the scene.  Looking right at me he started to tell the crowd that I would be playing as soon as they set up for me, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  So I went back out the the truck and got my guitar and harps.

I want to go on record that I absolutely love being loved!  As far as I am concerned, it is as good as it gets.  Performance is what songwriting is all about for me.  I began writing because I wanted songs to sing that were relevant to and for me.  It turned out that what was relevant for me was relevant for others as well.  I learned harmonica to back up my folksy/bluesy friends who needed somebody to fill in some holes in the music.  I learned guitar because I needed to write songs.  At the time performance was far from my mind, and when I started performing, that was extremely evident.  Jeeze, but I was bad!  Now performing my material is as natural as breathing–and as necessary.

But with all that said I do not, ever, want to take stage where my performance is going to upstage amateurs, who are at these things and are trying to build confidence.  When I get on stage, I pull out all the stops, and give my best to those listening.  Yet, while I was reluctant to go up front and play, I still didn’t protest too strongly when I was asked.  Fans are indeed fans, and they need to be respected.

So, I played some new material I am working up for a CD.  The music drew them in and turned them on.  At one point they joined in an a repeatable chorus.  All stuff that makes my songwriter’s heart go pitter patter.  My life is good, and sometimes It just gets better!  People singing along with your original music IS like going to songwriter’s heaven!  Can I get an amen?  AMEN!


Working on What Needs Work

I’m working on all the things I think I need to be doing.  It is not as easy as you might think.  The question arises, How do I know what it is I need to do?  It is a good question, but not one easily answered.  It has been hard enough to answer it for myself, let alone answer it for someone else.  So, how do I go about finding out what it is I need to do?

I belong to several social networking sites that have to do with music.  This needs doing.  I have found that these are a great place to begin.  There are others out there that seem to be as clueless as myself.  My two main sources of information are Facebook and Linkedin.

Facebook is obvious, I found out some truly useful information about copyrighting my songs by simply mentioning a problem I had.  Two people chimed in and, WOW, I’ve saved thousands of dollars.  Up until then I had no idea that I could batch copyright my material.  I now do batches of forty or so songs at once, for the same price as one song.  Not bad at all.

Linkedin is important because it has so many sub-groups pertaining to my musical interests and needs.  I get questions answered.  I read answers to questions I never thought to ask.  Plus I get suggestions that are really great as well.

I am currently working on three projects for other singers:  a singer in Texas, a singer in Great Britten, and the CD about Marijuana.  I still have the Borderlands of Hell on the back burner, but the sound engineer, while very good, is very slow.  Borderlands will get doing and released, but that, for the time being is out of my hands.

I also have worked a deal with a local wine bar/tasting room, to play every 1st and 3rd Friday.  This is really great because I am working our my sets.  I need to learn a  bunch more of my songs so I have a larger repertoire for playing out.  I figure that, while there are some songs folks want to hear over and over again, I need to be able to rotate my material so I don’t get bored.  I am currently working on having eight sets of sixteen songs each.  That’s an arbitrary number, but having sixteen songs a set gives me plenty of stuff if I need it.  I was taught that when I am getting ready for a presentation, to “Prepare, prepare, prepare, and then to edit, edit, edit.”  I have found that over preparation has never lets me down.

I might add here, that this is not work that is hard, or that I am grumpy about having to do.  I absolutely love what I do.  I am never bored, really, and there is always something exciting happening that lets me know that I am really and truly alive.  I like when I am alone writing.  I like when I am in my studio laying in tracks and mixing.  I like making contacts for gigs and songwriting opportunities.  I like being on stage and tearing it up.  I just like it all.  What’s not to like?