As a result of the original post I heard from an old friend from Dublin days on Facebook today and he shared these photos. What a wonderfully pleasant suprise to hear from an old friend, see my old friends, the old flat… and that old stupid hat! I forgot about that. Thanks Brendan!
My cousin Amy is going to Ireland in a few weeks and when she asked me about my old haunts I realized that, thanks to Google maps, I could send her the precise location and streetview of my old flat across them Trinity College, where I spent my junior year abroad.
Here it is, somewhat obscured by a truck, so I’ve included another view below. I lived in the second story appartment above what now seems to be a tattoo and barbershop. When I was there is was a candy shop and convenience store, run by the women who owned the building and lived in the story above me.
I can’t remember her name (Ms. ???). She was somewhat formal but lovely and married to a solid middle-eastern man named Fayad (or something like that) who swam everyday. I remember her telling me one time that an educated American is an attractive thing (implying that most were neither).
The SXSWi themes this year were mobile and games. The keynote by the SCVNGR kid got me dreaming of how I might use a location based service to augment gigs, possibly in remote settings. My mind has been reeling with ideas for mobile apps and ways to use location to enhance, reward, share, and show what I’m doing musically.
I’m trying to ask all the hard business questions about where I fit in the music world. I try to continually remind myself that the goal is to find a niche, and better yet, to define a niche.
So here’s the current hypothesis: My niche is palm-tree poetry. Good lyrics, upbeat, laid-back song for enjoying warm weather outside, a sunny day by the water.
What is the need?
I am the anti-dote to fast, frenetic, noisy songs that leave you with nothing: no memorable lines, no sweet melodies. You can’t hear the singer, the lyrics are crap, and there’s too much going on. The need is for classic songwriting, easily heard and understood. The need is for music outside the box, outside noisy venues, outside on a gorgeous day.
What is my answer?
Laid-back literate reggae, roots, and soul music, with horns and backup singers. The message is mystical, thankful, thoughtful and loving. The answer is for a break from the noise, the job, being inside, being busy. The need is for nature, celebration, community.
Who’s in this space?
The international laid-back reggae, soul, folk-rock scene: Ziggy Marley, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson
The local reggae, soul, world/folk scene: Grimy Stiles, Suzanna Choffell, Killer Bees (Papa Mali), Dan Dyer?
The outside, outdoors, beach music feel: Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet,
The doodling poet: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jason Mraz, Hugh MacLeod, Austin Kleon
The local channels: Flamingo Cantina, KUT, KOOP, KGSR, The Chronicle, Flipside
If you really dig your artists and you love his or her songs, then my advice here is to seek out at least ten people that each have ten years of solid music industry / music making experience and then challenge each music industry professional to point out, describe and contrast similar songs. Judgments aside, similar song/artist analysis – produced by people that regularly traffic in music – is going to give you the essential, comparative marketplace information you need to make an informed investment decision.
I’m after that “comparative marketplace” information.
I found Music Map this afternoon as I was investigating ways of determining artists I sound like or may be somehow sonically related to. It’s pretty limited, but it helps for making some connection suggestions. Here’s the map for Stevie Wonder.
Here are the folks I listed as somehow sharing characteristics:
When Anais fell asleep in my arms this weekend, there was, luckily, an old New Yorker beside the recliner. I grabbed it with my free hand and greatly enjoyed David Brooks’s article, Social Animal. Here is a long lovely closing passage.
“I guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends,” he said. “Now, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.
“And though history has made us self-conscious in order to enhance our survival prospects, we still have deep impulses to erase the skull lines in our head and become immersed directly in the river. I’ve come to think that flourishing consists of putting yourself in situations in which you lose self-consciousness and become fused with other people, experiences, or tasks. It happens sometimes when you are lost in a hard challenge, or when an artist or a craftsman becomes one with the brush or the tool. It happens sometimes while you’re playing sports, or listening to music or lost in a story, or to some people when they feel enveloped by God’s love. And it happens most when we connect with other people. I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.”
I had a lot of fun this evening making a custom header for this site. It’s as close a representation I can make at the moment of my actual desktop and the man in front of it. I tried to keep everything to scale by comparing it to the sketch pad, on my desk, then in the digital image.
headphones (nicer than mine)
Boss TU-12H tuner
Strathmore sketch pad (spiral on top for this leftie)
After trying to crack Obama’s communications code, I’ve broken my philosophy down to the following five principles.
Truly believe in your cause: Nothing is more important than making and sharing great art, song. This year I need to make a great album, site, and share it with Austin (DC, New York, San Diego…) and the world.
Spread the word: I am a songwriter who cares about lyrics and poetry. Non-disposable words and a palette of folk, funk, soul, jazz, latin, rock and reggae. Everyday J making poetry pop.
Make it urgent: Countdown to the next album: 6 months. It’s been 4 years since my last album and I’ve got scads of unrecorded songs. I’ve been in Austin for 13 years and am almost completely unknown beyond my friends. The time is NOW! Make a great album, show, site. Get on the map in Austin, at the very least.
Give the power to the people: Solicit feedback and collaboration on everything I do. Create ways for fans to easily share with their friends. Be accessible to fans, creatively reward. Always offer clear opportunities for engagement.
Report from the front-line: Keep doing cool stuff, trying new things. Don’t sit around. Keep pioneering innovative approaches to writing and playing; bring your sketchbook, recorder, camera, and guitar and get some good footage for the folks that can’t be there live.
Having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to this overcommiter. It meant I had to let go of all the illusions I had that I was going to get to those 117 projects, commitments, opportunities, dreams, and distractions.
When you have a baby, it quickly becomes obvious that you can really only do two things if you’re the 9-5 breadwinner: 1. Do your job and 2. Be with your family. If we sort that list by priority, instead of time, it’s 1. Be with your family and 2. Do your job. Either way you slice it, that’s about all you have time to care about effectively.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to do a third thing. What’s your #3? It took me some time to let go of the illusion that I was going to be able to do more. I barely have time to 1 and 2.
So there’s only one choice left for me in life: What’s my #3 going to be?
My #3 is music. It was my #1 for a long time, but I’m much happier with it as my #3. Because I love it so much, and am so attached to the dream of making it, I let go of everything after it.
My #4, was a dream I nursed of making a name and business for myself doing Web work. And I do keep a very small bit of freelance Web work going, but knowing that it’s not my #3 means I don’t torture myself about not doing more speaking, writing the book, and starting the business.
I still have my 4, 5, 6, 7, 8… and I get to them when I can. But I don’t fret over not getting to them anymore. And having a baby is the best excuse in the world to turn things down, guilt-free. It’s so easy now to say, “I would love to, but I can’t”. As Bob says,
Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
If I want to stay up a little later, I don’t wonder what I should do. I do my music. And I love it. It’s what I want to be doing and my time is scarce, so I’m more strategic about it now that I ever was when it was my #1 and I didn’t have any deadlines or need to be efficient and resourceful.
So even if you don’t have a baby, I bet you have a job and a family. And if you’re wondering how many other things you can be truly effective at, it’s 1, not 3, not 7, not 34 or 117. So stop expecting that of yourself and enjoy saying no because it means you get to do what you must do, to be who you want to be.
Cut the agonizing and the chaos from your life by answering this: If ou can only do one thing with your hour of free time a day (when you’re lucky) what is it? Because everything else is distraction.