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