September 05, 2014
The feeling I get when composing and performing music is unlike anything else I've ever experienced; there's catharsis in it to say the least. Yet, over the past few months I've had some incredible opportunities in both my personal and professional lives that actually rival my sheer adoration of making music.
Over the course of July and August, I was hired to produce and engineer a 6 song EP for an aspiring singer/songwriter named Claire Talley. Although I've engineered and produced other projects, never before have I actually enjoyed producing someone else's music enough to invest as much time and energy as I do my own. Claire's songwriting is quite good in general, but it's exceptional for her age and level of industry experience - keep an eye out for her in the upcoming years! Her EP, The Lucky and the Brave, is currently being mastered and graphic design is in the works. More to come on this front soon.
Switching gears to a more personal level, there's no better feeling than watching your kids succeed. Kathryn and I are only about 9 weeks out from the birth of our baby girl, Olwyn Ann, and we can hardly wait to meet this kid, but what's so wonderful is that Layne and Finn share our excitement and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their new baby sister! Cultivating a blended family has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I've ever done with my life - I'm just so thankful for and proud of these kiddos, my kiddos, for patiently navigating through this crazy thing called life with me.
Layne's not too keen on taking pictures, but I've so enjoyed watching her play softball and basketball over the past several years; in fact, it's become somewhat of a tradition in our household for the two of us to go out at the start of each season and purchase her new gear together. I don't imagine she knows it, but I desperately look forward to the start of every new season because of this ritual; we don't get to spend enough time together these days, so I cherish the time that I get. On the other hand there's Finn, who's a little more open to being photographed; if I were to write a symphony that rivaled the works of the best composers the world has ever known, it wouldn't come close to touching just how proud this photograph makes me:
Getting to help coach Finn's very first t-ball game last night was one of the best experiences I've had in my life. Watching him work with others, listen to his coaches, and focus with such intensity, I couldn't help swelling up with pride. The boy was barely 2yrs old when I met him, and now he's playing organized sports. Who knew something so simple as participating in a child's sporting event could be such a life altering event?
Maybe I'm starting to feel my age, or perhaps it's the notion that I'm about to be a biological father, but for the first time since marrying their mother, I feel like I can finally place less emphasis on the "step" with Layne and Finn and just be a dad. I'm dying to meet my daughter, Olwyn, but I already owe her a debt for giving me a blood link to my other kiddos.
It's going to be an exciting fall season in the Bramble household. Stay tuned!
PICTURE JOURNAL FROM MUSIC VIDEO SHOOT
May 30, 2014
Below are some shots from my "A World Too Big" music video shoot with #DewberryCinema (dewberrycinema.com) over the past few weeks:
Thanks to @rachdewb for sneaking this action shot (although admittedly I felt like I was creepily serenading her at the time because she stood in the sightline for my focus spot in order to get it!)
The "headshot session" setup for the video's double exposure effect, which will look incredible!
A shot of @Jdewb capturing some B-roll (worth noting is that this camera, which is worth about $100,000 after lenses and filters, is insanely heavy, so John was grateful for some tripod time by the end of the day.)
The lovely, talented couple examining captured footage.
We wrapped filming on Tuesday, May 27th and editing could take about a month, so the final product should be ready by late June or early July. I'll keep you posted!
THOUGHTS ON A CAREER IN MUSIC
April 26, 2014
A college student recently reached out to me looking for advice on how to start a career in music. Although I certainly don't have it all figured out, I'm finally deep enough in a music career that I can actually give some legitimate, helpful thoughts. Below is how I responded:
Again, thank you for the kind words. This may be more than you bargained for, but whenever people take the time to reach out with questions or ask for advice, I try to respond adequately. So, here we go...
START AT THE END - One of the most important pieces of advice I can give comes in question form; what do you want to do in the industry? Do you want to perform? Tour? Write? Produce? Engineer? Etc. Having a clear sense and understanding of what you want to do in the industry will narrow your focus, which will give you direction. Now, that doesn't mean you won't stray somewhat from your initial path down the line. When asked the same question at the outset of my career, I enthusiastically answered "yes, I want all of that!" Eight years later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I have no desire to tour, nor do I aspire to "make it" as a songwriter (i.e. writing music for other people.) Who you are as an artist will be shaped in large part by who you are as a person, and your personal life may take you places, both literally and figuratively, that you never considered. Moreover, with age comes a change in priorities, such as starting a family, and often times the "artistic self" gets to make sacrifices for the personal. All that said, it's just good to have a blueprint of what you think you want to do so that you can set goals to work toward.
TREAT YOUR CAREER LIKE A BUSINESS - It's been my experience that people would much rather hire someone who's good and reliable than someone who's incredible but a total flake, especially when it comes to the entertainment industry. There's a reason why musicians are stereotyped as lazy and flaky - a significant portion are, so my first piece of advice on this is set yourself apart. Communicate with your clients, show up on time, and do what you're hired to do; act like a professional and you'll establish a solid foundation for a great career. Secondly, track your income and expenses (miles driven, business related expenses, etc.) and get a great accountant to help you through tax season. Lastly, be prepared to work...a lot. I've found that if you're willing to hustle and grind out the occasional day of (3) three hour sets you can make some pretty good money without having to charge a fortune. Strike that balance between getting paid as much as you can while still being reasonable so that people can afford to hire you.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND - Sometimes opportunities come up that are both unexpected and unconventional, and I would urge any aspiring performer to keep an open mind. Over the years, I've been presented with some truly bizarre gig venues that have either a) proven quite lucrative or b) served as stepping stones to bigger and better performance opportunities. Unless someone's asking you to compromise your artistic or personal integrity, accept as many gigs as you can, including "low dough" and "no dough shows," and eventually you'll be able to pick and choose.
START EARLY & HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN - I had a somewhat unconventional college career to say the least; while most of my piers were off at date parties or participating in intramural activities, I was writing, recording, and performing every chance I could get. By the time I graduated, I'd already established an extensive client base that, in the aggregate, provided me anywhere from 1 to 3 performance opportunities. Between these gigs and my day job, I could support myself right out of college, but that wouldn't have been the case had I not taken advantage of those cushy college years. Stability is key, and any musician who tells you different isn't taking his/her career seriously. Few artists can make a living right out of the gate, which is why most have at least one day job. Although it's at times physically taxing, the financial consistency that a day job provides is a huge stress relief. Whether you supplement your income by busing tables, brewing coffee, tending bar, answering phones, or (in my case) teaching, you'll appreciate the paying gigs even more when they start rolling in.
MEASURING STICK FOR SUCCESS - Your measuring stick for success (the goals you set at the beginning of your career) will likely change over the years, which is great. Initially, what I considered success was to get a record deal, be on the radio, go on tour with all my influences and idols - in essence, I wanted to be a "rockstar." I looked at every gig I booked as a stepping stone to that ultimate goal; they were a means to an end. However, my priorities have changed over the years. I have a wife and two (soon to be three!) kiddos and I love being able to come home to them at the end of the day. Additionally, someone with my personality and temperament just isn't cut out to live the fast paced and erratic life of a "rockstar;" I'd have been miserable. Your artistic self will grow in conjunction with your personal self, so tailor your career to fit your personality. At the end of the day, I get to do what I love and get paid to do it, which wouldn't be sufficient for some, but it's proven more than enough for me.
I wish you the best in your artistic endeavors!