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...