Thursday, December 30, 2010

What an amazing year!

2010 has been an amazing year, and I'm so grateful to be alive, and to be doing what I love.

This year I made some of the biggest money I have ever made from music, so it just goes to show you that it's true - if you follow your passion, the money will find you. Not that it was easy or always pleasant, but as John Demartini says, you will endure both pain and pleasure in the pursuit of your highest values, which are determined by your biggest voids.

Aside from getting Kiri now at the end of the year - our new beautiful little Labrador puppy to add to our 13 other dogs - one of my highlights this year was the remix of one of my songs by a really talented producer and a well-connected DJ, which was playlisted on a major radio station in Johannesburg. Bring on more of that in 2011!!!

Some of my goals for the new year:

1. Write some amazing music that really serves people.
2. Finish and release more albums - and have greater success getting some CDs into stores.
3. Sell some downloads!
4. Get heaps more radio airplay.
5. Do a stint on radio as a presenter.
6. Get onto TV so that I can shamelessly self-promote my brand.
7. Make some amazing award-winning music videos.
8. Increase my international connections.

Whatever you wish for yourself in 2011, may all your dreams and goals come true.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A nice gig...

So my very good friend Kevin, who works at Aramis at Edgars in Eastgate (think JC Penney at Mall of America) arranged for me to come and perform Christmas carols at the Aramis counter in-store.

I'll be singing, but he has also arranged that one of my Christmas CDs will be sold as a gift-with-purchase as part of Aramis: if you buy R1000 (about $150) of stock from the counter, you get the CD free. It's probably the biggest and most prominent promotional event I've done so far in my music career, and I'm just thrilled about it! I'm gonna use the opportunity to grow my brand. After all, I didn't study marketing communications up to doctoral level for nothing...

Thanks Kev - you're a great friend.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

House Music!!!

So much has happened since my last blog, and I have been so busy (or lazy) that I haven't blogged nearly as much as I would have wanted to. Not that I'm complaining, but I feel perennially tired... My mom says I need a good dose of vitamin B, so that's what I'm OD'ing on at the moment...

But I'm happy and I'm grateful. September/October have been great months for me. Even though I felt a bit strange that I was being too Madonna-esque, trying to do too many music things at once and being involved in too many genres (this "too many irons in the fire" syndrome, as my mom calls it, has always been a problem for me), I feel like at least I'm moving forward. I have been reading up on other musicians and songwriters lately, and I see a lot of people multi-tasking their careers. For example, I didn't know that indie film producer Gus Van Sant had released a few CDs of his own music! I was also surprised to read that Rupert Holmes (the Pina Colada song guy) has written musicals for Broadway and has written TV scripts. Suddenly I don't feel quite so strange!

Let me etch this in stone, this MOMENTOUS event: on Saturday 11 September, Stapura, a student of mine at Soul Candi and a prominent DJ on YFM, a Gauteng-based radio station, phoned me to try and let me know that the house remix of my song, Could This Be Love, was being played on Metro FM, one of the largest radio stations in my native South Africa. What a kick to be watching your music performed live at a theatre at the same time as it's being played on national radio!

Then, to my utter delight (I have to admit that when I found out I squealed like a little girl), Stapura contacted me this past Tuesday, 5 October, to let me know that the same track had been playlisted on YFM, which is a very popular youth radio station broadcasting out of Johannesburg to the province of Gauteng. Does it get any better than this????? AFTER TWENTY YEARS, I FINALLY HAVE AIRPLAY ON MAJOR RADIO!!!!! YIPPPPPPEEEEEE!!!!!! A huge thank you to Stapura, Cuebur the producer, and DJ Shimza, for helping me make one of my dreams come true - airplay... Now let's just hope it becomes a massive, smash hit!

I must say, though, in all the years I've been doing music, I never dreamed that I'd be doing house. I researched it a bit on Wikipedia. It has its roots in Chicago, in disco, stemming from the early 1980s. From there it spread to Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and Miami, before crossing the Atlantic to Europe and the Med and the Sahara Desert to Johannesburg, my home town, where it has hugely taken root and flourished. My foray into house is thanks to my connections at Soul Candi, the music school where I lecture, that is linked to a record label. I have access to all these young students who are eager to churn out music, and so I asked some of them if they would work with me. These new tracks, seemingly a million miles away from my own Josh Groban influence, are the fruits of my (and their) labour...

I'm thrilled and I'm very pleased, and on the inside looking out, my career feels like a big fat mess, a mish-mash of all sorts of genres and styles. But this is how new music is born, and if there's one thing I've learnt in all my marketing studies, it's that being different is a good thing. Well, it's been a while since someone with a classically-trained voice has forged ahead into contemporary music. Talk about a culture clash! It's like Josh Groban and David Guetta having a baby! You gotta laugh at that!

So, I'm tired, but very happy. Not making zillions yet, but I fully intend to use my brain to move me forward in the finance department too. And that's one thing that I have also realised about myself: I have incredibly high standards, and I have set the bar really, really high for myself. It means being uncomfortable often, but I still think it's been worth it...

It's ironic that I find myself writing about this today, the 9th of October. It was this day 12 years ago that my father died. He was one of my biggest fans, and he would have been hugely proud of me. Everybody would have known that "my son has a song on radio!" Well Dad, wherever you are, floating around in the universe, I still think of you.

And Mom, I'm so glad you're still around to guide me through the muddy waters of life. What are we without the people we love and those who love us?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Friend Kevin

My dear friend Kevin and I were chatting today. He said that in the next 5 years he will write a script and I can set it to music, and I might also just try my hand at writing my own script for something else. Hey, I don't think my creativity is limited to my music...

Time for dinner!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elton John

I'm so pleased that, after all this time, in the immortal words of Elton John, I'm still standing.

I guess you just can't keep a good music spirit down...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Music & Marathons

For me, having a music career is like running the Comrades Marathon. It doesn't matter that you don't win. It matters that you run, and that you do your best to finish...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding My Own Voice

Today is my birthday! I'm very excited because I'm launching my new album tonight - just a little party with some friends, to celebrate. It's only officially released next month. I'm very pleased, after four years of hard work. It has plenty wrong with it, but at least I am getting stuff out there.

I was hanging out with a very good friend of mine, Obita, on Monday, because he cannot make tonight's launch. We spoke about a recording session with Josh, an artist who used my voice on one of his tracks. Obita says he was back in town a few weeks ago and Josh asked after me. They had a chat and then Josh said to him, "That guy has has got one of the best voices I have ever heard..." Man, I was so hugely encouraged. It took ten years to get that voice, and it may well taken another ten years before I'm making the kind of music that I will do justice to. But that's okay - as long as I don't end up being some weekend wannabe.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Time marches inexorably forward...

Come Wednesday I'll be a day older, but also a full year older. Can you believe it?

To celebrate this auspicious occasion I'm releasing my first album of solo original music. I have other original stuff out there, but this is my first solo flight, with ten original tracks. It's taken four years, and without sounding too harsh, it's an ok album - no awards, but it really is a labour of love and therefore, for me, a highly prized piece of art.

It still bothers me immensely that I'm turning 40 next year (what a BIG party & album launch that's gonna be) and I should be so much further along in my career, but I'm not. I still have so much to learn about the music industry and about making good music that people like and enjoy. I want an album with 10 crowd-pleaser tracks. But it feels like the DJs are taking over the world, man! Not that that's a bad thing... With my students at Soul Candi I am busy reworking some of my music into House tracks. It's keeping me young, and it really has been great fun.

But back to the album... It's called "Finding My Own Voice," which I should really have done by this stage of my life, right? Well, maybe this album will move me there, but I don't know if I've found my voice yet. Maybe that's because it keeps changing, and maybe that's what should happen.

As my sister says, the universe is exactly as it should be... That ever-so curious French expression comes to mind: C'est la vie...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Going, going, gone!

I was very sad to see that the iconic Roxy's in Melville and the Victory Theatre in Orange Grove are both going on auction. Amazing musicians like Dave Matthews played at Roxy's in Melville, and the Victory Theatre brings back wonderful memories for me. I first saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show there.

Hope the new owners will turn these two wonderful Jo'burg venues into entertainment hot spots for the city.

PS This is my 100th post. Is that cool or what!!!???!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baccalaureus Musicologiae

YIPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! I just found out that I passed the first two subjects of my Bachelor of Music degree WITH DISTINCTION. I considered doing a BMus when I first started university 20 years ago, but I wasn't sure I wanted to do it and I didn't think I'd finish it. Ah well, better late than never. Besides, I think I'll do it justice this time around, now that I'm older and wiser...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Encouragement again...

This is like my own big online personal diary, and what is it about my exhibitionist nature that propels me to post tidbits about my music career here? Ego, no doubt...

Anyway, on 11 June, the start of the World Cup in SA, I went and saw Crighton Goodwill, a SAMA-winning producer (the SAMAs are the South African equivalent of the Grammys). I'm thinking of working with him to do a track or two. He listened to my stuff and said, though the production lets me down a bit and my style of writing is a bit dated, that I am a good songwriter!
Then on 16 June, Youth Day in SA, I saw one of my students, Lisa Bornman, for a singing lesson. Two things she said in conversation really stuck with me: 1. "Rob, you're a massive talent." 2. I am not the corporate bunny type, and it's so NOT me, therefore I should never consider returning to such a career. Not that I had ever intended to...

I'm so encouraged by these things, and the reason I share them is that I am insecure about my musical talent, and I often feel like I have not yet achieved the great heights I have set for myself. Sometimes it really is just good to stop and take in those roses...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mind the gap!

Today I travelled on the new Gautrain, Jo'burg's rapid rail project, from Sandton to OR Tambo International Airport. Anybody who's ever travelled on the London Undreground, the Los Angeles Metro, the Paris Metro or the New York Subway will have noticed the similarity to Jozi's new system. It really is world-class, opened just in time for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.

Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with music, but I just have to comment that it really is helping turn Jo'burg into a world city. It's wonderful to see the tourists all piling on with their bags on the way to the airport. Of course, there are other parts of the city that are not so world-class, like their crappy billing system for water & lights. But for once, I am proud of the city I grew up in, and it really is a thrilling time to be in SA. I'm proud of my country on occasion. This is one of those occasions. Well done to all concerned.

Now my big question is: will we see buskers at the stations, peddling their musical wares, like we see in London and New York? As Katie Melua says, it's a rite of passage for a musician - but it requires such guts! I remember doing it for a few years at The Zone in Rosebank. Bleak days, with little money, but man I had such fun. A very cool guy at the Musica store in Rosebank said to me one day, "You lend such an air of class to the joint" (I used to stand and sing musical theatre numbers). Wow! Be still my enormous ego! Thank you sir.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm Encouraged

Today after class, a student of mine came to me and asked me if maybe I'd be interested in doing some vocals on one of his tracks. I listened to the track and I enjoyed it, and then I played him my track. He said, "This is really good. Are you serious that you've only sold like five copies?"

I was so encouraged...

It's my favourite track on my first album, and it just goes to show: you never know how your music impacts others. I just love singing and making music. It gives my life such purpose.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cindy Alter

I spent some time with the fabulous Cindy Alter yesterday. Cindy was the lead singer of Clout, a girl group from South Africa in the 70s. They had a huge hit with a song called "Substitute," but because of their shady manager they never made much money. In 1990 Cindy decided to move to Los Angeles, where for many years she worked to get her career moving forward, making huge sacrifices.

While in LA, she got cancer, and she decided to move back to Johannesburg once she felt a little better, to recover, to heal, to rest, to contemplate, to work. She was able to do music full-time in SA, which meant she was able to follow her dream. "Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to sing," she told me yesterday. We've had her back in Jozi since 2005, but she may be on her way back to the States, this time to Nashville, with her new band, Alter Irving.

Cindy is one of my mentors. Her years of experience, her pain and her joy, the heights that she has achieved and the lows into which she has sunk, have both sobered me and inspired me. Our 90-minute consult reminded me that I am just trying to be who I am by living my music dream, by following my heart and my passion - because, like her, as a little boy, I also always wanted to sing.

Cindy is the coolest rock chick on the planet. Having her in my life has helped me see my own dream that much more clearly...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Spirit Within

Spent most of the day working on my album art for my new album, The Spirit Within. It's my first release of the year, a mixture of covers, mostly Josh Groban stuff. Such beautiful music! And I get to sing it with an amazing talent - my friend, Heidi Kruger. What a voice.

Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I'm performing at Cindy Alter's monthly Songwriter Night in Jo'burg. After many years in LA, Cindy is back in Jo'burg, but will probably be heading for Nashville soon. Best to hang out with her whilst I still can...

I have to work on my doctorate now, and I'm so not in the mood. It's been a long day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yay!!!! A gig at last!!!!!

Sang at Zak and Kirsty's wedding today - my first official gig of 2010 (shameful). My voice sounded great - but I messed up my words! Shocking. A real pro wouldn't do that. I was underprepared.

But at least I had a paying gig - I hope they were mostly happy.

So, gigs to go this year: 99. Not sure if I'll make it... But now I don't have to! When did music stop being fun? That's not right...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 68: The End...

Okay, so I've been thinking...

Blogging has been fun, and I will continue on, but the daily blog has become a slog, and I guess you need to know not when to quit, but when to change strategy.

I probably won't make my goal of 100 gigs this year, or 1000 CDs sold, or even 5 albums (I might manage to do 3, which still ain't bad).

But I just decided that I want to blog when I need to blog, not every day because I am under pressure to meet this silly deadline (kudos to Julia for blogging AND cooking for a year, every day).

So, in the end, I will still blog, but I am changing and revising my goals so that I don't go insane! I'm sure I'll be a much happier person for it.

Days to go: 0.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 67: I'm not owed anything

You know what? I don't care if nobody feels my music dream with me. I was reading a bit of Rudy again the other day, and he says that people who are really passionate follow their dream anyway.

If I had to get a day job today in a totally different city, I'd still find a producer to hook up with and I'd still keep making music.

You see, nobody promised me an easy ride, or accolades and awards and endless riches. But that doesn't mean I can't follow my dream. I can. I am. I will.

I am making music. I am in the music industry. These are decisions and actions I can control. As for the rest, well...

I appreciate my academic co-supervisor at university, who is helping me with my D Litt et Phil degree. She's a genius, the most amazing woman on the planet. When I did my Masters, she always told me how much she admired my dogged tenacious determination to get it finished - because it was such a struggle for me. She said that I'd earned her respect and admiration for that.

Well, that same bulldog terrier-like determination is being applied to my music career. I don't care how long it takes, or how much struggle and sacrifice it takes. I will not quit music until the day I die. If that's tomorrow, I die a happy man. I have lived my dream.

Days to go: 298

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 66: Fans!

Been reading up on Bob Baker's great suggestions on how to better connect with fans. See, even though I'm supposedly this marketing expert, I sometimes feel so out of touch with grassroots marketing - the fancy stuff I know from text books makes me fancy - it just doesn't seem to make me relevant! Not that I'm complaining about my education. Hell, I'm so grateful that I'm still able to study at university - what a privilege.

But anyway - Bob says with fans it's the same as with all marketing: give them what they want. Well, that begs two questions:

1. Who ARE my fans?

2. What DO they want?

Life's mystery is part of what makes it such fun.

Days to go: 299.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 65: Insomniac Night Owl

I have developed the weirdest sleeping patterns. I usually fall asleep on the bed with the dogs in front of the TV at around 9pm, wake up at 1 and then come work on my laptop. Like now. It's 4:38am and I'm typing on my blog. Weird.

Music keeps me up nights.

Days to go: 300.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 64: Facebook

I'm trying to re-connect with all my friends on Facebook. I find it fascinating that I have a Masters degree in marketing communications, yet I sometimes feel incapable of effective micro-marketing! It's that whole cobbler's bare-foot children and physician heal thyself thing again...

Well, Derek Sivers cautions against becoming an expert. So should I quit music and just do marketing?

Never. Slash my wrists first.

Days to go: 301.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 63: Not bad for 4 years

You know, sometimes we are so hard on ourselves. I like to think that I wasted 20 years not pursuing my music career, but the truth is, 20 years ago I wasn't even sure I wanted to do music. I've always been a late bloomer, so it should come as no surprise to me that as little as 5 years ago I wasn't sure what kind of music I wanted to do.

After doing some musical theatre in 2005, and after singing opera for a few years, I realised that I'm just more suited to the pop/commercial world. So, it wasn't until 2006 that I started looking at those elements of my music career, and I think I have done really well for 4 years:

1. I've educated myself on the music business, so much so that I now teach music business to young music students.

2. I won the Top Billing Music Award in 2006, with Tzipora.

3. I've released 2 albums to date, with another 3 on the way this year.

I'm not rich or famous (yet), no Grammy Awards (yet), but am I enjoying the journey? So, so much. I am grateful for all that has transpired in my life, and I'm grateful that I've finally found my dream and am living it. You should try it - it's a liberating feeling...

Days to go: 302.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 62: Back to Bob

I've been studying out some Bob Baker of late, and it's always so helpful. Bob Baker and Derek Sivers - my two cyber gurus many miles over the sea, yet right in front of my laptop. The world is vast; the world is small. Don't ya just love technology?

Ah well, back to work. Let's start applying some of these marketing ideas!

Days to go: 303.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 61: Old times

I went to go get pizza with my sister today, and we drove through a neighbourhood we haven't been through for years. It hasn't changed too much. It's quite close to my gran's old tennis club, and it suddenly reminded me of her.

She was never a very big supporter of my music - always quite critical. Do you have people like that in your life? Well, I guess I just decided to let it make me stronger. It's like Madonna said when she accepted her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the people who said she couldn't or she shouldn't only strengthened her resolve. A woman after my own heart.

Days to go: 304.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 60: Truth...

I had a chat with Greg today about my stuff - he's a producer I'm considering working with. He just flat out told me our first album - the one I did with Flo - was crap. Ouch! But I'd rather have the truth than him lying to make me feel better.

Days to go: 305

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 59: My sister's 40th

My sister turned 40 yesterday. We had a blast eating out at the Spur in Ermelo, just her, my mom and me. We're such a close-knit family.

Hard to believe that at 40 she is probably halfway through her life. It's my turn next year, but of course in typical music style I'll be throwing a big fat party and doing an album launch at the same time.

I still feel my musical biological clock ticking, but I'm getting more comfortable with myself and my late bloomer music career. Who cares? I'll just botox and lipo-suction my way to a Grammy. Vanity, thy name be Rob Rodell!

Days to go: 306

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 58: Publicity

I have started getting braver about sending out press releases and buying into my own schtick. It is such an ego trip, and it feels kinda strange, I guess, but I always remember my music mentor and guru Madonna, who is shameless in her self-promotion efforts. Madge honey, when are we working together? You, me and David Foster... 20 million albums later. Let's do it girlfriend!

Days to go: 307

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 57: Creativity

Just about to sit down and write a new song, and rehearse some new ones.

Is this fun or what? I love the advice from Michael Laskow of Taxi - nobody is born a great songwriter - you have to become one, with time, with practice, with refining your craft.

I was lecturing music business at Soul Candi earlier today, and I bumped into Kevin of the Death Valley Blues Band. Here is a man who has a gig at 01:15 am tomorrow morning, and he was rehearsing with his band today. Commitment. Dedication. Passion. I admire all of it.

Days to go: 308

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 56: The blessing in the crisis

I love John Demartini. He always says that there's a blessing in every crisis! Words to live a powerful life by.

Days to go: 309

Monday, March 15, 2010


You know, sometimes I think about the amazing ability of people to make music. I'm so glad I am involved in the creation of music.

Man, I just really love music!

Days to go: 310

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 54: Applied Luck

My sister referred me to a website that spoke about perseverance as being "applied luck." While this source acknowledged that luck plays a role in all people's success, usually it's because the person stuck it out through the tough times and they then came to be lucky. It's kind of like a law of averages or law of attraction thing: the more you stick it out, the better your chances of stumbling across some dumb luck, or maybe you just draw the good fortune into your life.

Well, perseverance and applied luck: that's the motto for my music career.

Days to go: 311

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 53: Of Mothers & Sisters

My sister is turning 40 next week, and I'm so excited that we're gonna be able to spend some time with my mom. My mom and my sister are my rocks, man, and I really am so grateful to God that they're both still alive and well, and that they are there for me. That's why moving to a different country is always such a difficult decision to make... And while I'm not particularly enamoured with South Africa right now, any relocation would require them to be with me.

I just really feel there is no point in living 16,000km away from the people you love. I dunno how others do it. For me, blood really is thicker than water.

Days to go: 312

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 52: Studio

I'm very excited! I have just done my new album sign-up with CD Baby and I'll be back in studio soon to finish it up. It's mostly Josh Groban-type covers, which is cool, and there are some great tracks to sing.

But, I must get onto original music faster. There will be an album of that out this year, but it's still a while off. The nice thing about this Josh Groban album is that I really hope it inspires people to go out and live their dreams. That's what keeps me alive.

Days to go: 313

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 51: Me & YouTube...

I'm trying to upload more videos to YouTube but I'm having such a hard time of it! Man, I must get more tech-savvy... I haven't done a Facebook update in a while, let alone Twitter. Again I lament: where do people find the time to do all this stuff?

Days to go: 314

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 50: 100 years to live...

I love that song by John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting), especially the chorus: when you've only got a hundred years to live. It speaks about time being so fleeting, and it really reminds me to get a move on with my music career.

Of course, I'm also reminded of Rudy: dreams have no time limit. My academic supervisor for my Masters degree, the great genius Andrea Crystal, also once told me it takes as long as it takes. That really does take the pressure off. Still, while I'm impressed by the 69-year-old granny DJ who's rocking Paris clubs, I really hope it's not gonna take me another 30 years!

Come on, David Foster & Madonna! Let's work together...

Days to go: 315

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 49: WWMD?

I have started thinking along the lines of those bracelets that people wear: if I had one, mine would read, "What would Madonna do?" In no way is this meant to be irreverent...

I have just decided that, when it comes to my music and the marketing thereof, what would Madonna do if she were faced with the same set of circumstances I find myself in? The answer my brain conjures up points me in the right direction, I believe. Cool hey? As Tony Robbins says, our lives are determined by the quality of the questions we ask ourselves.

Days to go: 316

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 48: Why I LOVE Steve Jobs!

Some people in the music industry hate old Steve because he turned the music industry on its head with the digital revolution and the iPod. My sister has one and, quite frankly, I'm not that impressed. I've never understood what the big fascination is with Apple.

But I really admire Steve Jobs. I was re-reading an article on his address to students at Stanford in 2005. He said to stay hungry and stay foolish, and to keep loving what you do. His accomplishments with Apple are far less meaningful to me than his accomplishments with his own mind: he never let his own worst enemy - himself - get the better of himself. That's a great lesson to learn. He says you've got to find what you love, because the only way to be truly satisfied is to do great work, which means loving what you do.

I shall do the same with my music career.

Days to go: 317

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 47: Me & drugs

I can't imagine Celine Dion ever snorting coke, or Josh Groban popping pills. Maybe they do, I just cannot conceive it.

My business colleague Jayson says I'm the only musician he knows who has never taken drugs (I'm not sure if sniffing poppers counts - I did it once, it gave me a massive headache and I kept thinking, "My God I've just lost 10,000 brain cells!"). He feels I'm missing out on some psychedelic music experiences which would make me a more authentic artist and would enhance my songwriting, which I confessed to him I think is average (though I have every intention of improving that).

Anyway, I told him I already have enough vices, one of which is food, so I'm not sure I wanna get all high. I'm actually terrified that if I open that door I won't be able to close it again... So maybe I should just stay the squarest musician on the planet. I have had to make peace with the fact that I'm not a hard-core rocker anyway. I couldn't imagine myself riding a phallus on stage like Mick Jagger. Maybe I need to get more outrageous.

Days to go: 318

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 46: Tae Bo

Bought myself the Billy Blanks Tae Bo DVD yesterday - with money from my Christmas gigs - so that's how this is a relevant blog post!

Anyway, I did Tae Bo a couple of years ago with an instructor, and I really enjoyed it, so I thought I would give it a bash again, seeing that my bod is not looking as hot as it used to.

Image. I wonder if it really makes that big a difference. Mind you, I was speaking to a production lecturer and DJ at Soul Candi a few days ago, and we both agreed, you can make crap music and get away with it if you look great and are packaged well, but the converse is not true: you can make great music but you won't get away with it if you look like crap. I'm sure some people would disagree. I think you'd get away with it if you're already an established artist, but I think it's harder as an unknown.

Days to go: 319

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 45: Body Talk

I went to see Beyers, my Body Talk dude, today. BT is a technique to get your organs to communicate with your brain so that your body can heal itself - in a nutshell.

Anyway, without me telling him, Beyers started prodding and pressing my body, and it told him that I am frustrated and unhappy that I am not fulfilling my music dreams. How spot on is that! But he also cautioned me to celebrate the victories. For example, my soul is not as out of whack as it used to be, thank goodness!

So yeah, this music dream is a work in progress. But it's true: it ain't going away, so I might as well deal with it.

Days to go: 320

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 44: Fortysomething

My sister turns 40 today in two weeks. I'm not that far behind, and with the Hollywood Size 0 mentality inculcating our perceptions of the world, it's easy to think that at 40 I'd be a has-been, or worse, a never-was. But I'm reminded of one of Tina Turner's backing singers, who was interviewed during a DVD about Tina's 60th birthday party.

This is what she said: "The music industry tends to think that if you're over 21, you're over the hill. Around 38, 40, that's when you really start singing, and everything before then has been a rehearsal." Wise woman.

Sting said something on the same DVD, and it seems appropriate to include it here, since I wrote about him yesterday: "As you get older you should get better. She's definitely one of those people - a role model for all of us." Wise man.

I'll be bringing out an album next year I'm calling Fortysomething. It'll tie in with a huge party I'm having for my birthday, which will double as an album launch. I couldn't think of a better way to live it up.

Days to go: 321

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 43: The 4Ps

There's a friend of mine, Greg Brest, a South African actor based in LA. He said the next time I'm there I must come and stay with him and we can hang out and chat, and he can show me more of the town. I'm sure LA will be better the second time around, with friends.

Anyway, he said it's important to remember the 4Ps of the entertainment industry (and we're not talking old-school marketing here): Perseverance. Persistence. Patience. Passion. That's great advice, because as passionate as he feels about acting, that's how I feel about singing and music.

A producer I worked with showed me a scene of Jay-Z and co. working on looking for beats for a song. They spent the whole day looking and came up with nothing. Jay-Z had this to say: "Only two things will get you through this - patience and persistence." Hey man, that's how he got the girl. I totally respect that.

Sting has this to say: "It takes a certain kind of discipline, a certain kind of mentality not just to rest on your laurels, but actually to get better at your craft." What a great musician.

Days to go: 322

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 42: Tuna

I'm making myself a tuna mayo sandwich. I've been lusting after one all week. I do feel sorry for the tuna, and I'm concerned about dolphin-friendly tuna, but I'm not sure I could do the vegetarian thing. I love spinach and feta and eggs and potato and cheese, so I might manage. We have dogs and cats, though - they will always be carnivorous!

Maybe I should write an album about food and promote it together with a cookbook, or something like Great British Menu or Master Chef. If you think about it, this here blog was inspired by food (one of my vices in life). Loved Julie & Julia - such a cool flick.

What would the songs be? Leek Limerick? I kissed a carrot and I liked it? Okay, this is just getting stupid.

Days to go: 323

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 41: Why I LOVE Rudy!!!!

It's no secret that my favourite movie of all time is Rudy - I'm so inspired by the man's life. Finally listened to my yen for the beach and went away for the weekend, on a slow train to Durban, so I had a lot of time to think and read... I re-read Rudy's book, and it reminded me to never give up on my dream.

So, the truth is, even if I have to wait till I'm 83 to release that album and win that Grammy, as Rudy says, there is no time limit on dreams - just stop making excuses and go live the purpose - and never give up till you get there.

Well, let me reiterate then, and strengthen my resolve: I will not stop until I have made as much music as I possibly can, and have done everything in my power to make it the best music I can make, that the world believes is genius.

And I will never, ever, ever, ever quit. And then even if I don't get that Grammy - and I truly believe that I will - I will have no regret - the name of my new song.

Days to go: 324

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 40: Beach Eye Candy

I had a wonderful breakfast at Wimpy on the beach this morning, after walking along the beach. Wow. I really miss this, staying in an inland city. I can see why the Beach Boys were inspired to write music about the sea - well, it's not deep art, but it's catchy floss-pop that defined a generation. They were before my time but I love their music. Maybe I was a surfer in California or Durban in a previous lifetime.

Butt yeah - ha ha - plenty of talent on the beach today, since it's such a hot, sticky, sweaty day. How this relates to my music career is beyond me, other than just the fact that I needed a weekend away. And what a great way to spend the last day of February, as summer slowly begins to wane and give way to autumn. I hate winter, so might as well make the best of the glorious weather while we still can...

Days to go: 325

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 39: On The Beach

This is also a song by Chris Rea, and though this is a music blog, well, hey, all music and no play makes Rob a very dull boy. Even Madonna takes holidays...

So I finally arrived in Durbs this morning after my 17-hour train ride. Third class is safe (police & security) but noisy. I am so glad to finally be at the beach, even though I'm exhausted after my train trip. I will either be going home by bus or plane tomorrow. No more third class trains for me. It was fun, it was an experience, but it's over now!

Durban is wonderful. The sea is catharsis for the soul - I have written some of my best songs at the coast, on the beach. One day in the not-too-distant future I will buy a place down here. But I could never live here permanently - Johannesburg, for all its ills, is such a powerful music city magnet that my career is far healthier up there than it is down here. No, if I want to combine music and the beach it would have to be Los Angeles.

Days to go: 326

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 38: Durbs Surf 'n Sun

I'm taking a train to Durban tonight. Since the first class train only goes once a week, I'm going (gulp) third class. Hope I survive. I could of course just jump on a plane and fly, so why would I subject myself to a 17-hour train ride instead of a 1-hour flight?

Well, it's cheaper, although I can afford to fly - but I just wanted to experience a train trip again. I haven't travelled by train in about 30 years.

Well, when I bought the ticket, the lady looked at me with these big eyes like I was nuts. White people DO NOT travel by third class train in South Africa, unless they're really poor - it's an historical thing.

Well, I hope I live!

Days to go: 327

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 37: Social Networking Blows

YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger....


When do people find the time to do all this stuff? And does it actually REALLY help your music career? I mean, is some schlub in North Korea gonna read my tweet and think, "This guy is the modern day music messiah. Let's rush to his website and download his latest track!" I don't think so. Not that I'm indulging the negative, but aren't we all just overloaded by the Net????

I hardly have time to brush my teeth (even though I still do - well, most days.... EEEWWWW!).

Days to go: 328

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 36: Prodigal Brat: This One's For God

This post is gonna seem totally irreverent. I was a member of the International Churches of Christ for about 12 years, and I was heavily involved in the music ministry. I eventually left because the music ministry frustrated me and because I couldn't get a handle on my "sin."

Truth is, I don't know that I will ever understand this sick social experiment that God calls Christianity. Not to take anything away from Jesus - he's a cool guy, as is God (or being, if you will) - but I just find it so hard to live by the constraints that God has put in place - if that really is the truth and the reality, and not just a Roman Catholic myth. It always feels to me like God is saying we should run the 100 metre sprint in under 10 seconds, but first he cuts our hamstrings and then tells us to do it. If we are living in a fallen world, it's too hard to not be fallen.

That having been said, I always knew I had one "gospel" album in me, which is my flawed act of worship. It is what it is, filled with strange songs in different genres, and the only thing tying them all together is this one thing: God.

Well, if there is a hell maybe I'll be burning in it, but I really don't understand why an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God would create a world that is not as it should be. No sorry, free will is not an answer, and neither is faith (since mine is broken). No, if God is the God of the Bible, then he'll have to perform a miracle to get me back on track. I like to think he's much broader-minded than that, and a really good guy after all.

Prodigal Brat is one of my album projects this year, a mix of covers and originals.

Days to go: 329

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 35: Music is serious business

I remember having a chat with someone about why so few of the American Idols go on to sustain a great music career. Certainly, in South Africa, entering Idols can actually end up being BAD for your career...

She made a great point: there's no character that comes with such an easy win, and even though it's hard to make the top 10, in the grander scheme of things, winning a talent show is just the first step. ABBA will tell you that.

Days to go: 330

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 34: Gratitude

It's such a trashy subject that's been done to death, but all the gurus I respect keep harping on its importance, from John Demartini and Rhonda Byrne to Robert Kiyosaki. So let me regale you with a story from today:

I teach music business courses at Soul Candi, a record label/music school for DJs and producers. I guess part of me feels that it's not the pinnacle of a music career. I mean, where are the gigs and the radio songs and the fans and the Grammys? Some people say I should give up on those. Never. Some say I just need to give it time. Okay, I can live with that...

But back to my story: So one of the students came to me in class today and was telling me how difficult his life is, which it probably is. He's from Swaziland, his parents have passed on, he doesn't have great living arrangements and he doesn't have much money. But here's the thing: he was given a bursary to study at the school, valued at almost $4000 for the year. One of the well-known DJs gave him a CDJ thingy (I'm not a DJ) for gigs, plus the school gave him a free set of Sennheiser earphones. Total price tag is probably almost $5000. And he was moaning about his lot in life. I reminded him how lucky he was, and although he wasn't convinced, I hope he at least went to think about it.

But it reminded me of my own ingratitude: I'm doing a BMus degree, which I feel overloaded by. I have already released two albums, which I feel haven't gone anywhere. I have had the privilege of a university education, with 3 degrees, that I feel are meaningless and won't help me with my music career. I have this musical, which I feel won't make me rich or famous. I have a voice that took me 10 years of blood, sweat and tears to get, which I feel is too classical for a pop market. I am able to stay in the music industry through teaching music business and vocals, but I still feel unsatisfied that my music career is going nowhere slowly.

I ask myself: WHAT THE HELL IS MY PROBLEM??????

This just smacks of ingratitude, and that just pisses me off: I hate ungrateful people, and yet I'm the most ungrateful person I know. Shame on me.

Now is this an excuse to become lazy and accept my lot in life? Hell no! I will fight for what I want in my music career, but maybe it's time to take some advice from a different mentor: I need to live in the now, as Eckhart Tolle preaches. As John Lennon said: life is what happens while we're busy making other plans...

Days to go: 331

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 33: Thanks Pule!

Pule is one of the producers at Soul Candi, and we started working on a new song, so finally I'm getting on top of my quota. Thanks Pule! I guess sometimes I like co-writing...

New songs: 4

Songs to go: 46

Gigs to go: 100

CDs to go: 1000 (gulp!)

Days to go: 332

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 32: Of Gospel Choirs & Studio Time

Today I went into studio with a gospel choir and helped just a bit with their sound as they recorded a demo. Gospel is the biggest selling genre of music in SA (South Africa), so all the peeps there believe it will sell uber well. I'm sure they will - what a nice bunch of people!

After that, I went and taught a singing student - the only student whose home I go to, to teach, since he stuffs me with tea and biscuits and sandwiches and it's practically a 5-course meal whenever I go there! I'm glad to see he's in better spirits - last week he was feeling so sorry for himself till his wife told him to snap out of it! I agree. I love self-pity, but it's like regret: it's such a waste of time...

When I got back home I had another student for 2 hours! He was wasted by the time we finished, but I felt my voice had gotten a great workout. That's why I love teaching singing: the students pay me to practice! Thanks guys.

Days to go: 333

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 31: Songwriting

I don't find it particularly difficult to write songs. But that doesn't mean they're all good, and I write far too little, far too slowly.

But it is my lifetime ambition to write 1500 songs - since Johnny Cash wrote so many. Although that's still a lot fewer than the 5500 James Brown has written - more than Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Strauss and Irving Berlin, so he claims. No wonder he feels so good - ha ha ha ha (okay, so I'm tired).

Well, that's me done.

Days to go: 334

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 30: Uncles Winston & Franklin @ the Fireside

I feel a little down today, I have to admit. My mom always says I have too many irons in the fire, and this time I've really gone and done it. I have way too much on my plate, and I feel like my music career is suffering. Lecturing all day, and doing a BMus and a D Litt et Phil at the same time, whilst still trying to songwrite, get on top of my music marketing and all the other stuff... I feel totally overwhelmed.

I imagine it was particularly hard for Britain living through the darkest days of the Blitz in 1941, with only the resolve of Winston Churchill between them and utter despair. I imagine FDR's famed fireside chats did much the same for the American psyche as they entered the war.

Maybe the dreams I have for my music career are too much. Maybe they're just pipe dreams. I'm tired. But I know I won't be happy if I don't at least try. Even if I fail, at least I know I tried. My favourite line from the movie The Battle of Britain is when the British Ambassador to Switzerland says to the German Ambassador, "So don't dictate to us until you're marching up Whitehall, and even then we won't listen!" I love it. It's Britain showing Nazi Germany the finger.

That's what I'm doing right now: the determined me is showing the critical, doubtful me the finger. Up yours, pal! I'm never gonna quit. I might need a rest tonight, but I am never quitting. As I say, I guess they'll just have to wheel me onto the stage with my wheelchair and oxygen mask, to collect my Grammy when I'm 83.

Days to go: 335

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 29: Ladysmith Black Mambazo

You know, I always moan at myself and berate myself for not being as far along in the music industry as I'd like to be. But you know what else? I have only been seriously pursuing my music career for four years now, since 2006. Before that, I was confused about whether or not to sing opera or musical theatre, and before that, I was still learning how to sing properly - even though I did my first professional gig at age 16.

So when I compare myself to Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM), I see that I still have a long way to go - but I also acknowledge what I have achieved so far. But LBM has been around since 1960 - 50 years this year! It took them 26 years to walk with Paul Simon on Graceland, and 27 years to win their first Grammy. Now THAT is a dedicated music career. I'll get there... Luckily for me, music is not like sports - if you don't start young it's too late. I still believe my best years, and my best music, have yet to be lived and written.

Days to go: 336

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 28: Why I LOVE Dolly Parton!!!!

You know, Dolly Parton first introduced me to the music industry. My mom tells me when I was three, Dolly Parton's "Jolene" was big on the radio, and I would stand on the back seat of the car and sing it. Is that cool or what!?!?

I absolutely admire the woman's work ethic and dedication - the day after she graduated from high school, she got on a bus and went to Nashville. She was completely focused and she knew exactly what she wanted. I really respect her for that, because it's not easy listening to that voice inside of you with such conviction.

And then, you have to admire the coup she scored with "I will always love you" that Whitney Houston recorded for The Bodyguard. Wow. Ka-ching! She made a mint off the the royalties there. But I get the impression she has remained humble and true to her roots.

Dolly - you're a champ! Come on, let's record a song together.

Days to go: 337

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 27: The Naked Cowboy

Have you heard of him? I heard he performs in Times Square wearing only some underwear, cowboy boots and a guitar. I've also heard he's been signed to a label and that he's busy releasing an album. Apparently tourists in New York constantly take snaps of him, which they then share with their families back home.

Very clever... Talk about creating a talking point, being completely unique and different, and using your smarts to get people spreading your message for you. Maybe it's the finest bit of publicity whoring I've ever heard of in my life, but I'm jealous! You gotta admire the man. Hey, if I had the bod for it, I'd do it too!

Days to go: 338

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 26: What's Valentine's Day?

It's 12:09am and I'm sitting here, on a Sunday morning, trying to finish an assignment for my BMus.

Again, I have to ask myself: what the hell was I thinking, studying at two universities at once (which is not actually allowed)? And then I wonder why my music career has stalled... I'm an idiot. My mom always says, "My son, too many irons in the fire." Well hey, I can't quit, so what the hell am I gonna do?

I think my biggest fear sometimes is that I'll become this music academic instead of being a true performer, and that music will then just be a head exercise for me. I can't help thinking about Goldfish: in 2006 Flo and I beat them to win the Top Billing Music Award, but they have since seriously kicked our asses, winning SAMAs and signing with Sony. They do like 7 gigs a week, I battle to do 1 a month! This worries me: am I a true musician then? Doubt fills my heart in the wee hours of the morning.

Elvis Costello, who I share a birthday with, once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It's a really stupid thing to want to do." I'm not sure what he meant, but again, it scares me. Does it mean that studying music is a waste of time, because you never get out there and take action - it just becomes an exercise in theory? Or should I follow the Rudy Principle, when his boss says to him something along the lines of, "Oh you're so full of crap! You hung out with the best college football team in the land, and you just got one year of top quality education from one of the best universities. In this lifetime you've got nothing to prove to anyone except yourself." I love that movie - still my favourite of all time.

In the final analysis: I don't know... Maybe it's time to go to bed.

Days to go: 339

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Day 25: A manic day in the life of Rob.

Not that I'm complaining, but this is what I did today, a Saturday:

  • Went to Soul Candi to teach fresh new blood about the music industry.

  • Helped Priya, a vocal student of mine, prep a song for her brother's wedding next weekend.

  • Saw Ken, another vocal student, to help him prepare for his audition at UJ for The Purr Factory.

  • Came home to work on my first ever BMus assignment.

  • Took a short break for dinner and watched an episode of Law & Order before returning to hit the books.

I'm determined to put a musical business system in place so that I can create my won wealth, as suggested by Robert Kiyosaki. This "struggling poor artist" crap doesn't work for me. I know I'm better than that.

Days to go: 340

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 24: Free Nelson Mandela Part 2

So these are some of the quotes of Nelson Mandela that I saw at the Apartheid Museum yesterday, that help me and inspire me with my music career:

"Running through the struggle like a golden thread was the indomitable human spirit and a capacity for self-sacrifice and discipline."

"Deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity."

"None of us can be described as having virtues or qualities that raise him or her above others."

"There are few misfortunes in the world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and necessary skill."

Need more be said? I have never had to sacrifice 27 years of my life to my music dream, but I know I would be willing to - just as Madiba's sacrifice to the world saw his dream for a better South Africa come true. Hey, I live here, and no, it's far from a perfect country - but I couldn't help crying today as I saw the miracle of what has been achieved. In fact, the last time I cried like that at a museum was in New York in November 2007, at the 9/11 Memorial.

Days to go: 341

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 23: Free Nelson Mandela

I went to the Apartheid Museum today, to look up info on Ladysmith Black Mambazo for the second assignment for my BMus degree. There wasn't much there about them, but I inadvertently stumbled across a exhibition about Nelson Mandela, because he was released from prison today 20 years - I forgot!

Mind you, not that I should have forgotten - it was this time 20 years ago that I started studying at the then Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg). It's quite a milestone for me, because 20 years on, I am now doing my D Litt et Phil degree AND I've just started my BMus - so 2010 is a very significant year for me, just as 1990 was. I still remember the rector at the time delivering a Harold McMillan-type speech about the winds of change blowing through Africa again, 30 years after that first speech in 1960.

Of course, what the hell this has to do my music journey is a mystery. I guess music has just always been an integral part of the world's liberation, and it was interesting seeing Amy Winehouse singing "Free Nelson Mandela" at Madiba's 46664 concert in London's Hyde Park, with a full gospel choir backing her, and Josh Groban FAR in the background.

Madiba, if you're reading this, I wanna perform at the 46664 concert this year! More tomorrow.

Days to go: 342

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 22: Durban is calling...

Damn it's been hot lately! I didn't get to the coast this Christmas, so my body is longing for the beach. Durban, here I come!

My uncle's second wife, a very cool Hawaiian American by the name of Linnea, tells me that Durban is a combination of Miami and Honolulu. That's why I love it so much - and that's why, on my next trip to the States I want to go to Miami (for the sun, sea, sand and surf), to Memphis (for Elvis - weird, I know!), to Nashville (the only US music city I haven't yet been to - I've seen both NY and LA), and to Cleveland (the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - what else??).

Days to go: 343

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 21: Airbus A380

I'm devoid of creative inspiration today, so let me write about something non-musical.

The Airbus A380 makes its commercial debut in Johannesburg this month, courtesy of Air France. How cool is that! So I must get myself off to OR Tambo Airport for a look-see. I think it's a cool plane, and while my step brother in England would make fun of me for being a plane watcher, I love that kind of thing.

I loo forward to flying one next time I jet off on a gig. One of these days, it needs to be in first class though...

Days to go: 344

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 20: The cobbler and his children

Have you ever heard the expression, "Physician, heal thyself" or, "The cobbler's children always run around with bare feet"? When it comes to marketing, that's me...

I have a masters degree in marketing communications, and yet I feel like such a lousy marketer - especially when it comes to my own brand! I've probably mentioned this before, but I remember speaking to Liesl of B# Beetles, a kiddie music & movement programme. She and I studied at the same university, same course. She always says, "Yeah Rob, but that's just book theory. It's not gonna get you out there..." Not that I'm dissing my degree, which took a whole helluva lotta work - but the danger is that it stays intellectual instead of becoming actionable. Something to fight against... As Donald Trump says, when you find yourself off course, get back on course very quickly.

Days to go: 345

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 19: Being selfless

I know, so Derek Sivers also reminds us that it's not about us, but about the difference our music can make in the lives of others. The basic premise of marketing is that you need to serve others and meet their needs. But that's easier said than done, and it requires a selflessness that is sometimes hard to achieve when you're wrapped up in your own ego trip.

It's also hard to believe. I mean, does Madonna REALLY care about her fans? And how can she, when there are so many of them? It's not that I don't wanna care about fans - who wouldn't wanna care about people who think you're great? - it's just that maybe I'm ungrateful that I only have five of them! Even so, music careers are built fan by fan, piece by piece. I get the impression it's kinda like saving - it takes time...

Days to go: 346

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 18: Saturdays & work

I'm off to go and teach vocal students now, followed by lecturing music business courses at Soul Candi, followed by more vocal students, followed by stopping by a fellow musician's gig tonight. Whew! What a day... As David Foster says, it's good to work on Saturdays - that way we get more done, and we stay on top of our game.

Sometimes it feels a bit nuts doing it, but I love music so much it barely feels like work. Well, hey, those are my two indicators that I'm living my purpose:

1. Would I do it for free? Yes, I already have, but now I'm so glad I get paid for it!

2. Does it feel like work? No - find a job you love and you won't have to work a day in your life. I think it was actually a Chinese philosopher who said that...

Days to go: 347

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 17: What can I offer?

I was having an interesting conversation with Jayson, and he asked me a question: "Rob, why should I rush out and buy your CD?"

My answer? The truth is, I don't know. I'm still trying to figure that out, what it is that my contribution to the music world is. It's tempting to let this discourage me, but I won't allow that, because there is no point in self-pity. As Derek Sivers reminds us, no one is coming to save you in the music industry. I just have to get out there and make it happen.

Days to go: 348

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 16: Another new song!

I suddenly remembered that I've been busy working on another new song with a producer named Vusi. Okay, so now we're making some progress.

This stuff is serious House music, so I sometimes wonder if a white boy like me would do it justice. Mashing of genres. I love it! One thing's for sure: we'll be having loads of fun...

Days to go: 349

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 15: The GOMA Tour

After my elation with David Foster (who writes that there is no substitute for hard work in this industry), I have come up with an idea.

It's called the GOMA (as in "Get Off My Ass") Tour. I will do a mini-tour of Jo'burg and Pretoria, and there's no reason why I can't do my 100 gigs this year. No gig too small or big - see, it even rhymes!

I've also decided I want to return to LA this year for the Taxi Road Rally and I think when I'm there I should do a little mini tour of LA and New York. Also hope to get to Nashville and Cleveland for the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

Days to go: 350

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 14: Why I LOVE David Foster

My writing partner for The Purr Factory, Corinne, gave me a copy of David Foster's book "Hitman" today, after our meeting at UJ - a belated Christmas present. I am so excited!

I couldn't wait to start reading it, and of course the man is a genius. I mean, just look at his track record: Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Michael Jackson...

Mr David Foster: if on the off-off-off chance that you or someone you know may be reading this: I'm coming to work with you! I don't know how, when or where, but I know you wrote this in your book, p. 206: "I have helped put a number of very talented people on the map, certainly - and in the months and years ahead I hope I'll be adding plenty of names to that list." Okay, sir, here's one of those names: ROB RODELL. Please write it in your diary. I don't care how bald, fat, ugly and talentless you may think I am, or how far away (16,000 km from LA), I don't quit! That's my Winston Churchill-esque nature.

I am your next Richard Marx. Remember on p. 214 when you spoke about him wanting to release an album, and you told him he's not a singer, and you admitted, 50 million albums later, when you screw up, you screw up big? Well, I'm your next dark horse project, sir, with enough gumption and chutzpah to do it. Take a chance - I wanna be like Ryan Seacrest, the hardest working man in showbiz, according to you...

Anyway, songwriting continues, slowly... Gigs. What are those again?

Days to go: 358

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 13: 100 gigs - what was I thinking!?!!!

Okay, so in hindsight, maybe 100 gigs was a bit much. But it's the only way to get the necessary exposure to make people aware of what your music is doing.

But boy, I am gonna have to WORK! I don't wanna get to Day 365 and make excuses for why I didn't achieve my goals for this year, for this blog.

Days to go: 352

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 12: Musical drought...

Feels like I'm going through a bit of a musical dry patch at the moment, although who was it that said, "inspiration is 99% perspiration"?

I do have an idea for a new song, though, although it does seem a bit weird. As it popped into my head I quickly recorded it one my cell phone. Let's see how it pans out.

Days to go: 353

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 11: Non-musical streams of income

I really want to make pots of money from music this year. I'm busy reading Robert Kiyosaki, so my mind is focused on his 3 Es: education, experience, excessive cash...

Sometimes I consider putting a non-musical business system in place, to earn a passive income form it. Then my musicometer kicks in and rejects the idea because it will distract me and it's not pure because the money is not from music. Am I being an idiot, or does this just mean I know what I want and I'm really focused? As Sting said in My Music Brain on Discovery with Daniel J. Levitin, "I'm happily lost. I don't know where we're going or what happens next." But at least that's musical... I just dunno...

Days to go: 354

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 10: Busy-ness can be a bad thing...

You know, when I was throwing together my goals for 2010 at my mom's in Mpumalanga, it was easy. But being back in the big city, it's much harder to get around to those goals. Each day I have to remind myself that I must stay on track, as Donald Trump says. But, as John Lennon said, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. So I need to be sure that in my daily activities I'm moving towards my goal.

Status thus far: 1 song written. 0 gigs. 0 albums. o CDs sold this year (I recently gave away 2, which doesn't count). Well, I better stick to the game plan.

Days to go: 355

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 9: My BMus degree

When I left school, I opted for 4 possible study avenues: BMus (music), BA (communications), DipArch (architecture) and a BSc (town & regional planning). I eventually opted for the BA. Now, 20 years after I first started studying, I am going back to undergrad to do a Bachelor of Music degree. So far, it's been cool!

Of course, my fear is that I become so theoretical and technical about music that I never get around to playing and gigging and getting out there. I'm reminded of a musician in a little book called "Wisdom for a young musician" by Bruce Warren. This muso said he wished every day that he'd studied music, so that he could understand it better.

I'm also reminded of a scene from my favourite movie of all time, Rudy (with Sean Astin): Rudy complains that he has wasted his time trying to achieve a seemingly futile dream of playing football for the University of Notre Dame because he just doesn;t have the athletic talent for it. His boss, the grounds keeper at the stadium, tells him basically he's an idiot for being so ungrateful: not only did he get to play college football with the best team in the land, but he also got one year of top quality education from one of the best universities.

So yeah, let me not be ungrateful - I am so glad I get to do a BMus degree. Most people never have the opportunity...

Days to go: 356

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 8: The Music Business Academy

This year I get to see one of my babies - a college for teaching students fresh out of school - really start to take off. I have to say, although I got on board early, the idea for the Music Business Academy - which teaches people music business skills - is the work of my friend and producer, Jonathan Shaw.

Jon sought to educate himself about the music industry, including elements of copyright law, finance, management and marketing. I attended his course at Wits University in Jo'burg 4 years ago already, and this is the natural progression of that. Sometimes I get a bot scared that these things will distract me from my real purpose, which is to write and sing and perform songs, but I also need to make a living - and I'm SO glad this allows me to keep doing that in the music field. I love working with Soul Candi.

But: songs! gigs! albums! I need to get a move on.

Days to go: 357

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 7: No Regret...

FINALLY! I have an idea for a new song. Been working on it these past few days, and it's begun to crystallise.

I think it's something I really wanna say to the world - maybe at last I have found something I want to contribute. Here are the words:

1. 20 years from now, you and I will both be 20 years older, if we're around at all...
So when I'm 90, sitting in my rocking chair, I hope and pray that I will say,

No regret, I don't wanna be afraid anymore, no regret, no, no, no

2. I've already spent too much time living life without meaning, but that's about to change...
'Cos we were meant to fulfil our destinies, to live out our purpose, so we can say,

No regret, I'm not gonna be afraid anymore, no regret, no, no, no

I think it speaks to me - and I hope to others - about living our dreams, not just on a whim (which is also good, I feel) - but because it is our destiny to do so! I DO have regret that I didn't have the guts to do music full-time immediately after school, even though I did it part-time on the side during my studies and my first years of work. The truth is, if I have to be honest, I wasn't ready to do music straight after school - or even sure I wanted to (although I now know I have known since I was 3, maybe even younger...). And in hindsight, I first had to get the training to become really good at what I do. So I guess me feeling regret is unfair, besides which, it's such a waste of time.

But I also know two things: first, regret is a great motivator - I feel more driven than ever to catch up and succeed because I feel I wasted so much time (even though I didn't really, and even though my friend Jay at Soul Candi Music reminds me that all that we have gone through is part of the journey); second, the more I pursue my dream and love what I do, the less regret I feel, because I am finally living my purpose. That's such a wonderful feeling. I hope somebody can relate to these words, and feel inspired to live their dream. Be brave, dear friend! Life is short... You won't be sorry you lived your purpose.

Days to go: 358

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day 6: Mamma Mia

So anyways, I'm reading about Mamma Mia!, Benny & Bjorn's smash hit musical, and feeling very inspired...

It's truly cool how Judy Cramer was able to convince the two ABBA co-founders to write a musical that included their hits. I have learnt so much about the writing process, as well as the elements required to stage a musical. I thought the movie was crap, but I still think their music is amazing. Maybe I will write a musical some day, and I hope that I am able to at least meet the two Bs one day, if not work with them - and even though it flies in the face of rock 'n roll for some, I'm glad they're being inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in March.

Well, slowly making progress...

Days to go: 359

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 5 - Namwaaka Day

Slowly recovering from my party last night...

Today, I probably won't get much songwriting done. I have a meeting with Tziporah, my partner in the Afro-World music venture "Namwaaka." We released our album 18 months ago (an awesome night for us) - but since it was our first album, we now know we made lots of mistakes. So, one of the 5 albums I'm aiming to release this year will be a re-release of that album.

Actually, we used to be called Platoon, but every time you do a search for Platoon, the first thing that pops up is the movie. In any case, you'd think that with my marketing background I would have used my brain to realise that Platoon does not say "Afro-Pop world music." "Namwaaka" is a Chichewa word (a local Malawi dialect) that means "years" or refers to time. It took Tziporah (I call her Flo) and me many years to get our first album together, partly because we weren't ready, and partly because we were reactive, hoping that a label would pick us up. I eventually saw the light and decided, thanks in large part to cool peeps like Bob Baker and Derek Sivers, to take my career into my own hands.

So, we are re-releasing our first album sans three tracks: two of the tracks will be transferred to my upcoming solo album of original music (the other song just doesn't work at all for us - we may decide to give it to another artist to do), and we will be adding three other tracks: Afrika (a new song we started working on in 2008), Thula (a song written by the late, very talented Joe Matsheka) and My Mother's Love (a song written by Flo, so that doesn't count for me).

Speaking of mothers, I just got off the phone with my mom, who lives 300 kilometres away (we were with her for Christmas and New Year), and she listened to my Christmas album last night - she said she really enjoyed it. Also, my friend Nan (who took copies of the album for her sisters in New Zealand) said it was played three times on Christmas Day (poor them). YAY! I have fans 15,000 kilometres away...

Anyway, that's me for today.

Days to go: 360.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 4 - of love and music

Just rediscovered a really rough copy of a song I recorded with a good friend of mine about four years ago. His name is Gerhard Bothma, and he wrote the song for his wife, whom he met after a break-up with another woman, which almost killed him. His wife saved him, and you can hear that raw emotion in his voice when he sings. I just did backing vocals, but it turned into such a nice song, I think it needs to go onto my album of originals, to be relased this year.

Anyway, it's Saturday, so today's entry will be short. I'm going to a friend's house later for a meal. She is my biggest fan (loves my voice, loves my music, loves my albums), and that's why we've become such good friends! She's just returned from holiday in New Zealand, where she was visiting her two sisters, and she took them copies of my Christmas album. Yay, so now I have international fans!

Went through a whole bunch of creative ideas I had stored up on my laptop - other rough recordings and ideas for songs that I had come up with - not sure if that's cheating... guess they're just song ideas, so if my muse is still on holiday I'll use existing ideas to spark the genius of creativity. In the interim, I'm thinking about poignant words that are meaningful to my existence (sounds so deep!), that I can maybe use as lyrics... At least the processes are in place and I'm making steady progress. I'm on the equivalent of about Recipe 3!

Days to go: 361.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 3 - a new song!

YAY!!!! I've finally come up with a new song idea - so far only the melody line for the pre-chorus and chorus, but at least a new idea. Benny & Bjorn say they almost always find a melody line first, and then Bjorn goes home to work on words after. My writing style is very similar.

The song is called "No Regret" (a very Edith Piaf title). Of course we all have them, but I've realised that we cannot let our regrets consume us. Actually the idea came for the song after I watched Oprah's interview with Whitney Houston. Here's a woman who ostensibly lost a decade of her life to drugs and put her career on hold. She was on top of the world when she fell. But when Oprah interviewed her I saw a woman who is grateful for the second chance she's been given, and has decided not to let possible regret get in the way of her new beginning. So when I thought of the song, the female POWER BALLAD came to mind, and it has definite undertones of a Whitney Houston song in it - hope that doesn't make it too 80s/90s - but I also heard some of her new stuff, and it has that flavour to it. In any case, a classic is timeless, right?

So, songs to go: 49. No gigs yet, no CDs sold (actually I've just had a call from a CD shop telling us to come pick up our stock since it hasn't sold - CRY!). Well, I'll just take my burst bubble with me and march on...

Days to go: 362.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 2 - time to learn Cubase

Nina always brings out the artist in me...

Today I'm busy cleaning out my study as I listen to Nina Simone sing Summertime by Gershwin. A procrastination technique, you say? Yes, quite possibly... But there is method to my madness. I want a clean work area, so that I can start composing properly. I have to set up my Cubase and make space for my keyboard and all the other stuff, and then I have to learn how to USE it.

I've never been much of a producer, but if I hope to create music more regularly, I can't be hooking up with producers miles away who are too busy to help me - besides which, it's cheaper to DIY - and it will give me good music, songwriting and discipline skills.

I am reading Benny and Bjorn's book about Mamma Mia (love their music, hated the movie, never saw the show) for two reasons:

1. They speak about the creation process that they go through to write songs - Benny, for example, goes into an office when he's in Stockholm and tries to write a little each day. I spoke to a music publisher a couple of years ago who told me Stevie Wonder used to go around to functions introducing himself as "Hi, I'm Stevie Wonder, I write a song a day." Derek Sivers reminds us that the more songs you write, the greater your chances of creating a hit. So if I wanna be a successful singer-songwriter, I'd better be writing more.

2. The Purr Factory is a musical that I co-wrote in 2008/9 with a great friend of mine, Corinne Farber. I thought I'd read up on Mamma Mia to learn the tricks of the trade and see how we can incorporate them into our show. It's very exciting, because the show will debut at the University of Johannesburg Arts Centre in September this year. Our hope and prayer is that it will go onto Broadway and the West End... Anyway, that's one of the CDs that I'll be releasing this year - the music of the show. Very exciting stuff!

Well, back to cleaning and setting up my Cubase. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have learnt how to use it!

Days to go: 363.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Julie/Julia Music Project - Day 1

Happy 2010!

50 new songs. 5 album releases. 100 gigs. 1000 CDs sold. 365 days. There will no doubt be spelling mistakes...

Okay, so I spent the holidays with my mom and sister as always, and we watched Julie & Julia. Loved it!

Inspired, I've decided to do my own version. It's obviously about music, not food, so instead of cooking 524 recipes in 365 days, I've decided to write 50 new songs, release 5 albums, perform 100 gigs, and sell 1000 CDs in a year. It's a huge challenge for me (I'm not Madonna yet), but I decided it would be good for my music career.

This is what I'll endeavour to do:

1. Blog each day (massive technological difficulties and EMPs notwithstanding) - if I'm unable I will make it up the next day...

2. Write 50 new songs, which basically means one a week - failing which I will have to do two or three in a week if I fall behind... (do I hear excuses from myself already?)

3. Release 5 albums - I have been reading about fellow musos like the Beatles, the Stones and Elton John and KISS - they sometimes released as many as four albums a YEAR! My plan is cheating a bit:
a. Some of my albums will be covers.
b. Some of my albums are co-writes (with already existing songs).
c. I'm not doing this through a major label - yet...
d. More about the various albums and songs in days to come...

4. Perform 100 gigs. Paid, free, charity, don't mind - as long as I reach my goal... But preferably paid!

5. Sell 1000 CDs - this feels like a challenge, but hey, my two major income streams at this point would be gigs and CD sales. Some people would say, "A thousand! Is that all? WIMP!"

It's not a new idea, of course - Jonathan Coulton did it back in 2006, writing a song a week for a year, very successfully, and there must be at least a million other bloggers out there doing the same thing, but what the hell, right?

All of this will be over and above my "day job," which I'm very happy to say is not as dreary as Julie Powell's was. While not blogging/composing/releasing/singing/selling, I will continue teaching music business courses at MBAC and Soul Candi, and continue teaching singing students. That alone is a great reason to get out of bed each morning!

So: 364 days to go.

Till tomorrow then...