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Steve Ison
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Steve Ison

4/24/2013 2:21:22 PM ---- Updated 4/24/2013 3:38:49 PM

Beautiful art from dark places
My mate (and excellent songwriter ) Harper Stephens reckons i'll never be able to write the kind of emotionally intense,stellar,timeless songs i'm ambitious to write -songs people can't just ignore- 'cos i'm too balanced and 'safe' as a person..
I don't take enough real risks with my life that are gonna put me in the REALLY dark places to create the friction where those kinda songs are born (in his opinion )

Since he's my favourite unknown songwriter and a pure artist -up there with the greats imo- and -being honest -has been a songwriting mentor for the 20 years we've knwn each other -he might well be right..

Thinking about so much of my favourite music ever -one things for sure...Their creators were definitely not balanced people at the time they created the stelar work they did..
Not happy bunnies...

Late 60s Lennon was desperately unhappy -First trying to dissolve his ego thru binging on LSD -then when he came out of that undergoing the hell of 'primal therapy' (Plastic Ono Band) to try and come to terms with his childhood demons..

Ray Davies had a nervous breakdown due to the intense pressure he was under of having to write so many songs so fast- and getting burned out by fame in the mid 60s - when he was writing songs like Waterloo Sunset and Sunny Afternoon..

Bowie -in his own words- says the whole Hunky Dory/Ziggy/Alladinsane period where he created (to me) his finest work ever - was the unhappiest time of his life- and he was nearly cracking up as a person -losing his mind..

Early 70s Neil Young the same..

Hendrix and Brian Wilson both being swallowed alive by the LSD goddess..
Arthur Lee too

Kurt Cobain almost dosn't need mentioning.......

Beethoven -universally considered the greatest composer ever had a life of incredible suffering n loss..

The list goes on....A catalogue of misery and darkness that somehow managed to cathartically mine beautiful timeless art from human suffering and personal hell

Creating Joy out of pain..

Transforming sh*t into gold..

Maybe thats just the way it is..

I'm always looking for the raw 'emotional connection' when i'm writing my musical ideas....
and intuit skill n craft of themselves definitely arn't enough to take me unacompanied where i wanna go.,.,,,

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Hop On Pop

4/24/2013 5:32:22 PM

Everybody suffers, Steve; we all have our own burdens to bear.
It's a matter of just wanting to go there, you know? Not being afraid to look into that dark place that we ALL have been to every now and then and pulling inspiration out of there.
But, you know, not all emotion has to come from negativity. Emotion, raw emotion can just as easily be joyous and it can be just as intense and even more inspiring if you channel it.

Maybe it's the "safe" thing that has you pinned? I don't know you well enough–only from our back and forths online–to know if you can go there. But it also means taking risks to get to genuine joy.

You gotta dig deep to mine the vein.
That's where the gold is.

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Chandra Moon

4/25/2013 3:36:27 AM

Oh yes Steve - what a dilemma! I have been very happy in my personal and emotional life over the last couple of years and as a result have a written a tiny number of songs. I've recorded loads of older ones so at least been using my creativity productively. When life was going wrong - separations, family disasters, friends dying, the tsunami in 2004 (my son was out there), and a host of other ghastly occurrences - I was writing at least a decent song a month!! I can't seem to write one a year now.

Would I trade the happiness for the art - no I wouldn't. Maybe that's why I'll never really make it but give me the happy life - we're not here for long after all. At least I've written a few good ones. But I do so relate to the need to try and write a truly deep and meaningful song that will touch people on that level.

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Hop On Pop

4/25/2013 4:38:41 AM

Also, what you fail to mention about yourself, is that a lot of folks here would love to be able to write as skillfully and as prolifically as you.
You're a damn good songwriter and I think that the only one who does not see that is you, apparently.
Keep on writing the way that you do; lord knows it's appreciated by all who hear you.
And if you are missing something from your own songs, like i said, dig deep. There is certainly something powerful in there that you can use to take it to the next level.

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Richard Scotti

4/25/2013 9:05:49 AM ---- Updated 4/25/2013 9:14:48 AM

I've often wondered about this subject myself. So many of my musical idols went to the edge to look into the abyss so they could come back and describe it to us in their work. Unfortunately many of them eventually didn't come back and therein lies the problem.

It's true that some of the greatest art has come from tortured souls but I believe that an equal amount has come from a lighter source.

We'll never know if the artists you mentioned, Steve, could have written their masterpieces without having had a terrible childhood being under the influence or whatever. But it would be an incorrect hypothesis (imo) to conclude that great art can only come from emotional pain and/or drug abuse.

Artists tend to be unhappy with or without ample justification. They question everything, they are always searching for meaning and purpose; they are usually very sensitive and don't always "fit in" to society and often they self medicate.

Sometimes the dark side may have helped them write and sometimes it killed them. Sometimes it caused them to write some really bad stuff. We tend to only see the good that came out of their suffering and not the bad. I'm sure that there are artists who actually cause their own suffering in the mistaken belief that they can reinvent themselves as a 60's hippie who can spin straw into gold but if that were possible then there would be many more great artists than there actually are. The 60's can not be artificially recreated in the present but we can do everything we can to keep the best parts of it alive.

We are who we are. I worship Bob Dylan's talent but I will never write a song as great as Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands or Like a Rolling Stone, no matter what external forces I used to try and make that happen. But it's no shame to admit that there is only one Bob Dylan or one Shakespeare or one Beetoven. We all have different destinies. I'm not going to lose sleep at night worrying about trying to be an icon like the ones I mentioned. I'm happy being who I am because I know that I put a tremendous amount of effort into what I do and I always do things to the best of my ability.

I don't do drugs or alcohol and I take care of my health. I have a very happy marriage and I love my life. I wouldn't trade any of these things to have someone else's life or someone else's talent. Of course I do draw on past personal experiences that were horrible when I need that kind of influence in a song and I also feel the pain of other people when I want to go to a dark place in my writing.

If the best I have to give is not as good as other artists, there's nothing I can do to change that but I take pride in the fact that I've created a large body of good work over the years and that I never gave up and I never will give up. I do believe in the "raw emotional connection" that you mentioned, Steve. That's what I strive for in my songs and I admire the fact that you are striving for the same goal. I don't always succeed but I try, and I try and try, try, try, ~ I can't get no.......................

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Bob Elliott

4/25/2013 9:28:27 AM ---- Updated 4/25/2013 9:30:53 AM

I used to think that. Used to think about it a lot, too, and worry. But now it's irrelevant to me. A couple of reasons:

Here are some artists where I do not see that correlation but their work towers:

Duke Ellington- if he's not done major work, who has? I am not aware of personal anguish being a particular driver for him. It is said he enjoyed life. Never married, never stopped touring.

Stevie wonder- there's not much talk of anguish being a driving force in Stevie's career. During 70 to 72 he produced talking book and innervisions. He didn't even do drugs, and at that point I think Ll his relationships were pretty stable and he was having success on all fronts.

I would always attest that McCartney is the equal of Lennon, and anguish is not known to be his driving force.

Dylan has never claimed misery is his major motivator, and if he can't write, who can?

Brian Wilson's greatness in pet sounds and smile was achieved when he was actually on an upswing emotionally. The negative reaction of his team to that great work did usher in major depression which lasted decades. Did we get any masterpieces out of those decades of depression? No, we got almost nothing from him then.

Prince is a fairly widely recognized genius. Anguish is not known to be his driving force. Sex is more like it.

The Rolling Stones have a catalog of greatness, Their quality does not track a line with their anguish, more like their best quality stuff came when they partied the hardest, and some of their lower material might coincide with when they had to deal later with where that can leave you. Neither Mick nor Keith have, as far as I know, ever named misery as a major driving force. Women and drugs, yes.

I once heard Miles Davis on 60 minutes reject the idea that misery or hardship drove his music. He wanted to make it clear he did not come from poverty and hardship, but that his musical talent was born of musical talent. True he went through heroin addiction and kicked it, but a look through his catalog does not find higher quality coinciding with a bigger mess in his life.

There are more, and in more places than music. Of course intense pain can be used as inspiration. But it's not the thing to try to wait on or manufacture, because the key word is not ' pain', the key word is 'intense'. What all these greats and basically all the greats share is intensity to their purpose.

In my own work it is intensity toward the work that seems to take me where I need to go. I like to keep a stable home for my family and I fight like hell for that. I don't need it crashing around me so I could get some songs out of the wreckage.

And misery visits us all, I won't court it. I do live pretty intensely, and a lot of that is in my own mental world. I believe in these things. You have a gift. Be intense about that gift.

I am not sure, but it seems like you don't have kids? Without kids I would be more intense about travel and just getting into the world in various situations, and yes that would work into my writing. Even with kids I try. But I would not try to engineer trouble. Just intense contact with the world that I let my back mind translate into something it gives me for art.

I hated it when I used to think the thought you have posted. It felt like a weird trap, and it is a common thought people put on us, but I think now it is false.

But I have always wanted to hear Harper, so could you post a link? Thanks.

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Steve April

4/25/2013 3:23:44 PM

Theoretical physics...three forms of matter, solid, liquid, gas...

a kind of Eden-ic processs from the Big Bang to where we are now...

Highest energy level explodes, much like an explosive device, sending "debris" in all directions. First energy-matter is gaseous (early big bang), followed by liquids and solids.

Solids clump, liquids flow, gas floats.

Traces of our origins in phrases like "go out in a blaze of glory." "Better to burn out than fade away."

"Flow" is the heart of music. Basically, we solid clumps long for a higher energy state, closer to our origins (oceanic, all-connected, ) with more "flow' and less friction and "drag." (a physics term)

stages on life's way.

1. youthful, self ultimate....the most dangerous age = around 27 e.g. jimi hendrix, janis joplin, jim morrison all died at 27, if i recall. the "romantic fallacy..." or is it? we are explorers, like richie havens says, "the only way to fly is die, die..."

2. music is "flow" and to create music, gifted musicians embody flow, to a degree or another. however, we're solid bodies (70% liquid), but our identity (ego, sense of self, sense of realization) mediated in the world of solids.

Less identity w liquids. (closer to a mythical cosmic unification)

All identity (seemingly) stripped if we transform to gas.

Due to we live in the material world, in our bodies, physical clumps, the yearning for "liquid", "flow" and cosmic unifications also implies losing the bounds of our identity, and reintegrating into the cosmos in a phase transition i.e. through drugs, alcohol, meditations (philosophy), art, music...

On the bright side, successive unifications, and phase transitions may be incorporated, through growth and evolution, in an individual way (ontological) and humankind in general (phlyogeny).


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Bob Elliott

4/25/2013 5:57:42 PM

Bonus for not giving the same old answer. That's fun stuff.

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Steve Ison

4/26/2013 3:57:05 PM ---- Updated 4/26/2013 4:11:42 PM

Some great reading here folks,thanx

Todd..Cheers- Tho you're wrong - i know i've got skill n fluidity as a songwriter
Tho feeling 'secure' and 'insecure' in that belief is a flexible thing depending on my state of mind and who i've been listening to -its never static
Tho generally i enjoy and feel free n expressive in my musical creativity now

I certainly wasn't holding Harpers words as 100% gospel btw - it was more just throwing them out there for discussion..

Bob..Paul McCartneys a strange case-in-point from how i see him as needing emotional pressure to bring out the real depth in him..(tho i love his lighter stuff too)
'We Can Work It Out' driven by his relationship problems with Jane Asher..

You Never Give Me Your Money,Golden Slumbers by the pressures of the Beatles splitting up..

Maybe I'm Amazed-the love of Linda helping him thru the depression of The Beatles split..

His early solo albums have loads of really creative things on them -but the 'critics' thought he was just a frothy lightweight coasting on his gifts..He was pissed and had a point to prove..

Rams a great album- so much creative stuff on that but still got unjustly savaged by the critics at the time -but with Band On The Run they just couldn't deny him any longer..

It was a huge success -Wings became a global superstar band..Its like he'd 'made it' all over again then -proved his point..The creative pressure n intensity slipped from him and he never made such great music any more..

No i don't have Kids -and definitely live intensely in my own internal space with music n creativity as the epicentre...Have geared and organised my life around it - and most everything else is subservient to that drive..

I absoloutly agree -i'd never deliberately court misery..That'd be an insanely stupid thing to do
I dunno whether misery and visiting n facing the really dark places in yourself are the same thing -or thats what harper meant tho

I've developed very good survival skills and coping mechanisms that enable me to avoid them and/or live with them...

I don't think there's many people who deliberately choose the darkness unless life absoloutly forces them to confront themselves in those ways..

Like most people -i'm too much of a coward to do that- and -given the choice will choose escape rather than face the pain..

Anyway -whatever he said -i'm the way i am - and (like everyone else) try my best to be as happy as i can in this world..

The link to his music's in his name on my original post btw

Steve..Thats a brilliant creative post...Thanx so much for that
I love posts that have got food for thought and a way of looking at things i havn't considerd before like that
I resonate with so much of what you're saying - and they're ideas to feed the imagination and run with
Very cool :)

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Steve April

4/27/2013 1:39:22 PM ---- Updated 4/27/2013 2:07:09 PM

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4/27/2013 1:59:58 PM

“If it don’t fit, don’t force it” Was a song by Kellee Patterson in the 70’s. I think Parliament/Funkadelic did their own version of this theme on the “Maggot Brain” Cd. I liked both songs not because they were coming from a dark place but, because the message was so practical and logical. Most things that don’t fit get broken when you try to force them. Steve, you are young and you are bound to have many dark moments in your life. No one skirts hardship for long. Sooner or later it will find you. When it does, you will write that kind of music as long as you keep writing (which I know you will) regardless to whatever faze your life is in. But this notion that suffering is required to write emotionally intense music is (imo) not necessarily so. Sure, these people that you mention had some tough moments and those moments may have inspired some great writing. But truly, no one but the writer really knows the roots of their writing. Everyone else is just speculating. It is possible that they would have written those great songs if everything was going great for them. Your thoughts remind me of the Christians that believe that because Christ suffered and died, in order for them to be like him, they have to suffer and die also. They never fully grasped the concept that Christ did all their suffering for them and now they are free to pursue happiness. But I digress (sorry).

As writers this is what we do. We write! I have lots of dark songs in my catalog because I have been through some dark moments in life such as Heroin addiction, racism, war, child abuse, homelessness, Brain tumor, stroke, heart break, and even suicide attempts when I came back from Vietnam. That was all very dark stuff and I continued to write music while dealing with all of that. To be honest, I listen to that stuff sometimes and am awed by the fact that some of those songs are cheerful and pleasant. Could it be that music was my escape from the hardship? An alternate existence maybe? But writing during those times didn’t make me a better writer. Those songs weren’t necessarily better songs. What made me a better writer was to consistently write. Being in touch with both my happy and dark side is an ongoing natural process.

Having gone through all that stuff and surviving even my own attacks against myself did make me more aware of my inner self and how important having balance in life is. The life I live now is sweeter than anything I could have ever imagined. Sort of like having heaven right here on earth. I believe that I have written my best music during these times. Not because they are good times but because I am a much better writer, musician and listener now. Optimism, faith, triumph, victory, peace, love, rejoicing, party, dance, forgiveness, redemption and salvation are just as intensely emotional as addiction, heartbreak and suicide. All of it, the good and the bad is essential towards my achieving creative peace with myself. I have been more successful and achieved many noteworthy milestones during this happy faze of my life. I disagree with your mentor as I just don’t believe you have to suffer to write emotionally intense or timeless music. Quite often I channel the emotionally tense situations of others and use that as a catalyst to write and produce. Being a songwriter is often like being a scribe or musical historian. Marvin Gaye didn’t write “Whats Going On” from his own pain. He wrote it by observing the signs of the times and using that as an emotional key to the hearts of the listener. Everyone knew that his words were truth because we were all asking the same questions that were in his songs. Of course he had his dark side and was eventually killed by his own father. But during his highest point, he simply had his finger on the pulse of the nation and the world. I’m not sure he ever really shared the inner storms of his own heart with the rest of the world. No one could ever be sure of that but the writer. Speculation about someone else s creative motive is like spreading idle gossip. No one knows if it is true. Sure there may be evidence and people say things when they are being interviewed but the mystery of creation cannot be deciphered by outside entities. Only the writer knows the truth! If that writer has died, no one knows the truth.

The key for me is to yield to my inner creative force. To allow it to move me according its favor. Even in the midst of all this joy I sometimes am moved to write music from the dark side. My soul is in charge of this one man band. This is why I am often writing up to 4 songs at a time. When I feel the need to start something new (even though I haven’t completed something else) I follow that need and write for the moment. Back and forth from dark to light, funk to Blues, Jazz to Reggae. When it fits what I am feeling at the moment, I write it. If it doesn’t fit I just move on to something that does. Fit, that is. You will write the songs of your dreams if you just keep writing and allowing it to come to you naturally. Your portion of musical greatness will be poured out when it is time for you to receive it. Everything you write in the meantime is in preparation for those days. Don’t over think your creative blessing. Keep writing and the depths of emotion will eventually come out. But you don’t have to suffer to achieve that. Just be open, observant and emotionally connected to your artistry. Sometimes greater joy comes from joy and better quality gold comes from gold. Well, at least that’s how I see it. This is just my opinion. Hopefully it helps you to gain an alternate perspective while holding on to your own.

Much Respect to you and your awesome music Steve!

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Steve April

4/27/2013 2:24:55 PM ---- Updated 4/27/2013 2:57:09 PM

Yes, Stoneman...

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Paul groover

4/27/2013 4:26:38 PM ---- Updated 4/27/2013 4:28:15 PM

Here is a fishy tale that totally inspired one on of my songs The Beach. I was aboard a oil supply ship in the Forties field in the North Sea. It was a beautiful day the sea was like a mirror. You could see down into the depths for hundreds of feet. The suns rays playing in the water were like ballerinas dancing. I was out on the back of the ship having a fish as there was not much happening. We were just drifting along when out in the distance i saw some fins breaking the water. I thought dolphins we had schools of dolphins feeding on the fish that hide in the oil rigs legs. Bloody hell Killer whales i counted about 20. Just as they were drawing level with the ship about 500 meters from our side. One of them broke off a giant with a fin so big that it was doubled over because of the weight of the fin. It started towards our ship it was getting closer and closer. Until it reached the rear of the ship and glided onto it's side we made eye contact never felt such a primal fear. This big black eye about 8 inches across staring at you we shared a part of each other we carry to this day. He or She never ate me


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Richard Scotti

4/28/2013 6:21:43 AM

Steve Ison ~ WIth all due respect to Harper, I listened to his songs and although I thought they were very good, I didn't notice much of the elements of darkness or timelessness, etc that he said your song writing lacked. I think you're both excellent writers although I think you have better production skills and creativity.

Frankly, I think your songs are more engaging but that's just one man's opinion. For him to say you will "never" write a great song because you are too "safe" is just not an accurate prediction. What would he like you to do when he says you should take more risks and put yourself in dark places?

If he has done the things he's asking you to do, I don't see it in his music. He seems to be undermining you and I'm puzzled as to why he would do that. I mentor artists myself and I would never give his advice to any of the people I work with. I think your instincts are great and your take on 60's music is inspirational. After 20 years, maybe you have outgrown your mentor. Follow your heart and head. "Don't follow leaders, watch the parking meters." ~ B. Dylan.

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Bob Elliott

4/28/2013 2:06:49 PM

Checked out harper's Maybe She Shows Me

Wow. I mean like WOW! Tell him I said that is fantastic.

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Tom O'Brien

4/29/2013 9:45:34 AM

Great blog, Steve. I can see your words resonated with us all. I think Bob was onto something in talking about intensity.What I want from a song is to feel like the composer has first looked inward - way inward - and is painting a picture based on what he sees there. If you don't first look inward, all you are doing is mirroring what everyone else is doing. All of us have some emotional pain somewhere. The more you examine yourself, the more in touch with that pain you are. Sometimes I think all art is just trying to work out how we feel about life - it is like journaling about our feelings. Even great love songs have pathos. But the great serious love songs are few. There seem to be many more great songs of loss.

The myth of the suffering artist comes from real suffering, because the writers could not help but be in touch with their suffering. But that doesn't mean that suffering is required. All of life is a struggle to learn and survive. It is self-examination that makes emotion into song. If you don't reach inside first, your songs will be superficial. If you do reach inside, you will find a wealth of emotion that will give you songs for a lifetime.

Our souls are a lens through which all of our life's experience passes. Each person has his own focus and so our music comes out differently. The trick is to make sure we use that lens to also project our music. If you don't filter things through that lens, your work will be vapid, derivative, and uninspiring.

No one should suffer. Those geniuses who did did not choose it. There are plenty of suffering people who do not make music or art or do anything creative. Maybe the Beethovens rise above because they understood how valuable our inner lives are. It doesn't matter if you are happy or sad in order to write good music. But happy people just want to do it, whereas unhappy people might need to do it to exorcise their demons.

You are an amazing songwriter and I can feel that you look deeply inward when you write. A song is evidence of the intelligence of the writer. You have shown in your music and in your writing here that you possess a deep, self-examined kind of intelligence. I encourage all songwriters to dig deep into their own souls to find the truth. It's what makes a good song work.

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Steve April

4/30/2013 3:00:13 PM ---- Updated 5/1/2013 10:10:58 AM

how about this???

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5/1/2013 10:46:42 AM

I agree with Richard. I listened to several of Harpers songs and though I find his writing to be excellent, I didn't hear any elements of darkness of timelessness either. Great songwriter but in my opinion, Steve your work is just as good or better! Just my opinion though. Music is so subjective. One mans pot of gold is another mans pile of s$#t. One of the best things to encounter is when the protege matches or exceeds the work of the mentor. This is what makes mentorship so exciting. I think you are there man. Harper should be very proud of you!

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Richard Scotti

5/3/2013 7:49:41 AM

When the student out shines the teacher, then the teacher has done his/her job well.
That is the essence of mentoring (imo) But even mentors are students forever because as long as you are on this earth, you never stop learning.

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Bob Elliott

5/3/2013 11:29:36 AM

Not sure, but I think he uses the term 'mentor' in a generous way. I think they're just long time songwriting friends, and harper might be just as likely to call Steve his mentor, too.

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Steve Ison

5/5/2013 6:57:58 AM ---- Updated 5/5/2013 6:59:57 AM

Paul...An interesting tale for sure ! I was so fascinated by Killer Whales i read up on them convinced there must be multiple tales of them eating people alive -but as powerful as they are - and opportunistic as predators there's no instances i read about where Killer whales have attacked
n eaten people in the wild.
Its fascinating..There's obviously something in their psyche that recognises humans as being intelligent kin -some strange spirit connection deeply embeded in them not to harm us..

Strange too -'cos they've every reason to hate us - as we've hunted them -taken individuals from their pods to put in SEaParks etc..Treated them with brutality and ignorance..
Maybe they're more spiritually evolved than we are..; )

Stoneman..Thanx man..When you say 'But truly, no one but the writer really knows the roots of their writing'

i totally agree..And would go even further saying often even THEY wouldn't have a clue where its coming from....
You're dealing with the unexplainable and the mystical -Trying to pull something from the ether that speaks and expresses some truth in you you can't say just in words and neatly tie up...
Searching for something that moves you on a primal level..A great chord change,a certain melodic twist,the rythm of a vocal line, a poetic phrase that has meaning on multiple levels..

Creating something you couldn't've predicted before you did it - that exists in the moment and (if its beautiful enough ) can be timeless and speak to anyone who hears it too..

Richard..Thanx for the kind words on my music..Much appreciated
I don't think he's 'asking' me to do anything really..He was making an observation (from how he sees things) knowing how attracted i am to songs that have alot of emotional tension - and even a slightly 'aggressive' undercurrent in them -Remember -John Lennon, Lounge Act-Nirvana,Five Years/Rock'n'roll Suicide Bowie (to name a few -Even Harpers own 'She's Leaving') and saying those songs are usually being ripped from a place of real torment n conflict in the individual...

He's a fan of my music -but couldn't see how i could write songs that have that kind of mood n energy with the personality i've got (as he sees it)

Tom..Another wonderful post -
You put things really well -in a way i hadn't quite crystallized in my own thoughts before
Given me alot of food to refect on over the last few days - so thanx alot for that..

Its strange with the whole idea of depth and inner life..Alot of people would just consider that in terms of lyrical content -not really how the music hits them....

So a very emotionally eloquent, skillful lyric writer like Jackson Browne would be universally considered far 'deeper' than say someone like Marc Bolan - who was much more instinctive n playful and loved the 'sound' of words as much as their meaning..

Altho i work hard on writing lyrics that have real meaning n a sense of poetry for me -i'm 1000% more attracted to the music of Marc Bolan than i am of Jackson Browne - and all my years of developing as a songwriter is to get closer to his kinda spirit and further from Jackson Brownes if i'm honest..

Why ?

For all Jackson Brownes eloquence as a lyricist his music feels too 'imprisoned' for me -there's little room for my imagination there.It feels boxed in somehow..It dosn't INSPIRE me..
But there's a SPIRIT in the best of Bolans music that feels alot freer,more life affirming and something i definitely want to draw on

I've got no idea how a sudden chorus shift as beautiful n magical as 'Children Of The Revolution' fits in with depth or the inner life -but it speaks loudly n clearly to me in its unexplainable way- thats the kinda muse i wanna follow.....

Stoneman/Richard..I really appreciate your kind words viz my music but i think aot of Harpers songs have a real timeless quality..
Its not produced to the level my music is - and - to be fair to him -a stack of my favourite songs he's written havn't even been recorded properly..Tho of course you can only hear whats up there..
Still a song like 'Never Felt Like It Feels' i find incredibly haunting, beautiful and timeless.....

Bob...I am using the term 'mentor' in a generous way.We've always supported n listened to each others songs - made suggestions -collaborated occassionally etc-
He's a mentor to me 'cos i've been so influenced by his attitude to music,creative angles on life and the depth n heart exhibited in so much of his creativity..
I've learned alot from him and am really grateful for that..
To be fair tho -the influence IS one way - i'm pretty certaibn he wouldn't consider me a 'mentor' - and i'm totally fine with that..
He isn't influenced by my music at all (as far as i know) even tho he appreciates the creativie spirit in it..

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Richard Scotti

5/5/2013 7:12:18 AM

Steve ~ Have you and Harper ever collaborated on a song or considered doing so?
Maybe he's the "John" and you're the "Paul", very different in their styles but when they wrote together they created a third entity that transcended both of them. They also influenced each other's writing and broke out of the stereo types they had been known for.

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5/5/2013 9:14:07 PM


I hope you don't mind if I tell you about a very dear friend of mine. She is about 5/11 and weighs about 120 pounds. She has long flowing hair and beautiful Green eyes. Everyone that meets her thinks she is stunningly beautiful. In her youth, for a short time she was pursued by a modeling agency but she never felt she was beautiful enough to sign on the dotted line. Time has been very good to her as the rest of us are fat and look our ages but she still looks like that beautiful girl we have known all these years. In her mind, every man she has ever been with was too good for her and she purposely sabotaged those relationships because of this. But to us, the people that know her and love her, she is such a precious gem. A kind caring soul who has been a light in all of our lives. When she talks about how much weight she needs to lose we all roll our eyes into the tops of our heads in disbelief of her own warped self perception. For many years she has done therapy, self improvement courses and so many other things in order to improve herself. I wish I had a dollar for every new hair doo she has tried out. I have tried many times to help her to see the reality of who and what she is. But, I have learned that her perception and her personal reality is all her own and nothing anyone says or does will ever change that. It is actually kind of sad.

So, what does that have to do with you? Well, lets see. You are a very respected artist here at IAC. You have been on the top of several charts for quite a long time. You have been on the hit list, the top 50 and have enjoyed obvious favor amongst the community and the IAC staff. There are hundreds of artists here that have never been on the hit list and have never found that kind of favor. They have never been #1 in any genre and have never been as revered and treasured in the way that you have been revered and treasured by this community. In this thread alone, several of the top artists here at IAC have told you that your music is exceptional. Yet, you lend your ears and beliefs to one other person in your life and prefer to believe what he has told you. In my mind, the only thing that you are truly lacking is exposure to the masses. The only thing lacking in your songwriting is your own perception of it.

So, I will tell you just like I have recently told my beautiful friend. If you don't know how great you are yet, you probably never will. No amount of hard living and/or life challenges will change that. Even if you go forth and win several Grammy's it will not dispel this notion that you have not arrived yet. Or, that you haven't written any songs that are timeless and emotionally compelling. This is the only thing about you that puzzles me just as it puzzles me when my 5/11 120 pound friend starts talking about how much weight she needs to lose. Her truth is her truth and everything else is a lie. So I yield to her own understanding of herself but it breaks my heart to see her missing out on her own true beauty. It breaks my heart when I see such talented artists like you striving for something they have already achieved. Timeless? The only thing that will prove whether your music is timeless is time. You may or may not live long enough to see the result. As a community, we all have great respect for what you do as an artist. But I am hopeful that you will learn to see and hear what we all have already seen and heard from you. Love of self is the beginning of love. Self respect is the beginning of respect. Greatness is a gift that so many have been given but have never received.

In all these years that I have been in the music industry, this is one of the things that has befuddled me more than anything else. Self perception. Why is it that so many of the "no talent" people think they are great? Why is it that so many of the super talented people think they are lacking? Why did so many of the people that I looked up to give up and quit. Why has an artist like me survived for over 5 decades? So many people laughed at me for many years. They aren't laughing any more! Now, those same people are calling me asking for advice. I never stopped believing in me. I am hopeful that someday you will see and hear what we all have seen and heard in your music. But until then I will yield to your own perception of who and what you believe you are as an artist.

Much Respect,

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5/6/2013 10:40:58 AM ---- Updated 5/6/2013 11:06:54 AM

Oh, one more thing. When I was in college I wrote a song called "Supersize Me". The song became extremely popular and every time I did a concert I heard people in the audience hollering out "Supersize Me"! Supersize Me! The college radio station began to play the song and it was an immediate hit on campus. They also played several other songs that were on my then current album. In my opinion those other songs were the songs I was proud of. Supersize me was kind of an embarrassment as it came from my more (shall we say) "ghetto side" of the creative cycle. It is a song about my personal taste for big women with big butts. Turns out that I wasn't alone in that preference as that song has easily become my most downloaded and biggest money grosser of all time (for me that is). An online music publisher in Brazil signed it shortly after I graduated.

So, I graduated and moved on with my musical aspirations. I completely forgot about the song being on the radio and everything. Since then I have written and produced hundreds of songs and won several awards. But recently I stopped by the old college to see a former teacher who runs the radio station and teaches songwriting. He asked me to stop by his class before I left the campus. When I walked in he announced, everyone, this is Stoneman. I was stunned to see everyone up on their feet clapping and cheering. I thought, what is up with these kids? Why are they so excited about seeing an old geezer like me? Then, a young lady stood up and said Mr. Stoneman, your song "Supersize Me" changed my life. It changed how I saw myself and it gave me hope. Several other women in the class echoed what she said. The teacher mentioned that out of all the graduating classes that have contributed music to the radio station, that song is still the most listened to and requested song on the station. I graduated from Recording Engineering in 2006. This is 2013.

My point is this, "Supersize Me" in my in opinion is no where near to being the best song I have written. But there was one element in the song I never thought would be so prevalent. So many people connected with it. It is a Hip-Hop song but White and Black, skinny and fat, male and female people have connected to this song on an emotional level that far exceeded my expectations. After all, this is a song that gives homage to women with big butts! All I am saying is that in this college community that song has become "timeless". The production of it was terrible as I was just learning about recording engineering when I wrote and produced it in the recording lab. The message is fun and humorous. There is nothing dark about this song but it is without a doubt "Emotionally Compelling" for a lot of people. Go figure?

As I walked out of that class I was visibly shocked to see the affect that a song like this could have on so many other graduating classes long after I was gone. Because of this, I am giving that song a second look. Maybe during the course of my striving to write the song that would fully define me as a songwriter, that song, a song about big butt women, has already been written. The song is living proof that emotionally connective material comes in many different styles, moods and textures. I think I still have it on my IAC page but I am not sure.


2005 Diablo Valley College

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Steve Ison

5/8/2013 2:40:59 PM ---- Updated 5/8/2013 3:30:42 PM

Richard...Yeh we've collaborated on Destination and Scenes From Palacio plus quite a few others that havn't seen the light of day
We've got a new one half recorded where i wrote the verse and he's written the chorus..
We don't collab much for the amount of time we jam together - as we're both kinda self-sufficient creatively - but it does happen occasionally..
Thanx for the interest :)

Stoneman...Appreciate the generous-spirited post man
Your story of your 'overweight' woman friend was very interesting and i'm sure a part of that would be recognised by anyone here who's battled with low self-esteem issues -which i certainly have - and continue to do (tho i'm much better than i was)

I think one of the reasons someone like that is kind is 'cos they're very aware how easily they can be hurt and how it feels - -so they take alot of care with other peoples feelings..

To be fair to Harper ,he genuinelly likes my music as it is - and that comment was just to do with a certain vibe in the music which he didn't feel (with my personality as he sees it) i'd be able to acheive,as i'm NOT John Lennon or Bowie living thru the personal crises they did which (he feels) were a major contributer to the kind of songs they wrote that i love..

I'm totally grateful for all the good-will and support i've received from fellow musicians here -as you pointed out - and on the other couple of sites i frequent and certainly don't take it for granted .
I mean i wouldn't actually have an audience if it wasn't for other musicians !

I was trying to figure out the size of my audience the other day out of curiousity -people who are interested or care about my music..(wonder who else here has thought about that ? )
At a guess 10 people here on IAC- maybe 10 each on the other 2 musician sites i frequent plus maybe 10 members of the public on Facebook..

I'll be pretty generous and round that figure up to 50 then

So.........From 10 or 11 years being visible on the internet, regularly releasing music thats celebrated by my peers and making video's for them too, i've attracted an audience of 50 people IN THE WHOLE WORLD who are interested at all in my music..
You could prob drop that to 10 0r 15 who'd be prepared to buy a CD too if i made a new one

(If you take out other musicians from the equation i've actually got an audience of about 10 )

I'm pretty sure my musics been exposed to literally 10s of 1000s of people over that time too

Low self esteem would make me think my music's very weak,derivative and really poor from those figures -but i choose not to believe that..

Instead i think basically people (other than other musicians) just arn't interested anymore in music per se

Mine or anyone elses....

The creative quality is utterly irrelevant really - and instead people are much more interested in seeing a dynamic live performer -being charmed by a charismatic personality thats available to them-and ( most importantly) being seduced by a great marketeer with a good story to sell
(Thats actually not including 'sex appeal' which is maybe 50% for da kidz )

The type of musician/singer who gets successful -eitrher thru traditional record company ways -or from internet marketing buzz today totally bares that out


My own numbers bare that fact out (if i choose to believe my music has artistic value that is)

I don't really wanna be a part of that marketing world at all - and refuse to channel a ton of my life energy n time into learning its ways and being in its headspace....

So in the modern world where marketing is king maybe i get what i deserve ; )

Thanx alot for the video link of Supersize Me btw..A fantastic,energetic performance- and you look far younger and seem more vital than i'd pictured you somehow from how you've talked about your age and health issues here..
Thats so cool you've got such a deicated loyal audience too -with so many folks who dig what you do- Seem to be so many kids who are into your music too...Nice one :)

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Bob Elliott

5/8/2013 7:07:56 PM

And which are those other sites frequently Isoned?

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Bob Elliott

5/8/2013 7:12:46 PM

And also, it seems you two would play on each other's stuff often, but even more so sing on each other's stuff because of getting different vocal textures.

Creativity, brother, it will make its own way. Much of the time I ignore obscurity. I do not believe people today will not respond to great creativity, but I do think you and I both are complete marketing failures, and I think marketing has always been vital. Just we don't dig it, and we just don't dig it.

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Richard Scotti

5/9/2013 7:34:07 AM ---- Updated 5/9/2013 1:30:32 PM


I agree that marketing is extremely important but the artist doesn't have to be the marketeer. That's a job for a non-artist like a manager, agent or music lawyer. It's a logical division of labor. You do the creative part and he or she does the marketing.

If you don't feel that you can be the kind of artist who IS the "product" to be marketed, then maybe you should have a representative concentrate on having another artist record and perform your songs while you collect your share of the royalties. That artist and that rep can do the things that you feel uncomfortable doing, while you just focus on the creative aspect of making the product and not being the product.

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5/10/2013 12:04:05 PM

Yes, exactly! I am referring to what Richard wrote. Many of the most successful artists that I know have a team of people working for them. Back in the day, that team would have been provided by a record label. But these days the independent artist must learn how to build their own team of people working in the background. Creating a groundswell of interest in your music is not something I have mastered either. My fan base is a list of a few thousand people that have followed my music for many years and through a variety of bands I was in. Plus, I do have several publishers of my work whose livelihood depends how much they shop the music and create revenue streams. Not sure how they do it but the bottom line is that I ain't getting rich off my music. I'm just comfortable and the royalty streams are indicators that a few people in the world know me and my music. Last year I had about 750,000 visitors to my main website. Most of them stayed for less than 30 seconds. I know that all the traffic came from the efforts of my publisher to exploit the music because I certainly don't do anything to promote my website. I haven't got a clue as to how they are driving the traffic there. Maybe they have my link on a porno site. :) I too find the marketing/sale part of the business distasteful. But it is a necessary issue that must be faced.

But there is absolutely nothing wrong with not trying to pursue the higher levels of the music business. If that is your choice I applaud your stance. We are all on a musical journey and the roads we choose are essential to our own individual development as songwriters and musicians. If only one person is touched, moved or intrigued by your music, you have accomplished your mission.

Yeah, that school concert was a stroke and 3 surgeries ago. I don't have that kind of energy very often these days. But I do still look kind of young for my age. I was the oldest person in my graduating class. I was also the only retired person in the class. Since that video in 2005, my condition has deteriorated tremendously. I even have a handicap placard now...........

One thing I like to do is study the music of today. My idol (Marvin Gaye) always seemed to have his finger on the pulse of current music while maintaining the rich history of the music of the past. We all have a musical mission that we are on. Mine is to continue to be a bridge between the new and the old. I think that is the key to my being popular with some of the youngsters while maintaining a following of my long time fans. My music is familiar to both groups. I have always felt that entertainment is something that should transcend all generations, cultures and nationalities. When I toured it was important that somewhere during the concert I would have a moment with almost everyone in the audience. That's why I ignored the advise of industry stalwarts and maintained my multiple genre identity. I will never be one thing. I am many things in one. On stage I loved to transform from gospel artist, Jazz, Reggae, Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop and Blues. Often I had a partition on stage where I would do quick change costumes. Each change to represent the kind of music I was playing next. It was a lot of fun! Being bald, I wore a lot of wigs. It would make people laugh so hard when I would come out in a blonde Rockers wig and start playing a wailing guitar tune. Or to don a wig of dreads and play a Reggae song with a fat joint hanging out of my mouth. Oh the memories! But after the stroke I suffered word recall deficits. I can no longer remember lyrics while performing. So, my days of performing are over. But I can still write, produce and record. I am blessed by that! I will never be a house hold name but I did manage to find myself a sizeable audience. We all want to be heard. Right?

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Steve April

5/10/2013 3:46:25 PM ---- Updated 5/10/2013 3:48:51 PM

Stoneman, the voice of experience lol...

Steve, you've got the (very) goods. I'd hope your fanbase may increase exponentially, if you perform live, and get into a groove. Take it to another level... i dunno...

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Steve Ison

5/11/2013 10:05:03 AM ---- Updated 5/11/2013 10:25:41 AM

Richard..Of course i'd be really happy for someone to promote me and my music as 'the product'
-obviously totally depending on how many 'demands' on me and what i'd have to do promotion-wise being the product entails..

Would be delighted too if someone chose to cover any of my songs..Thats always an honour..
Tho in reality i know my style is probably too idiosyncratic for anyone to want to 'cover'- with the hope of making money from them that is..

The problem with anyone promoting me (or any artist who's not below 30 or who can't be neatly 'packaged' ) is its difficult to imagine where they're going to make money from doing that..
There's not very much money to be made at all from recorded work by people -even if you're relatively well known today - let alone from a total unknown like myself..

As i said -i've already been exposed to 10s of 1000s of people over the years..

Why havn't i got more people who are interested in my music then ?

Prob because -as i said -there's absoloutly no audience for recorded music per se nowadays -AS FAR AS I CAN SEE..People seem to need some extra other sort of 'hook' to grab them..

'Cos its not really ABOUT the music anymore

People want something else..

Whether thats a great story they can associate with you-a certain 'coolness' or 'hipness' you can imbue them with by proxy,a great image,a great voice or a rivetting,entertaining live experience you can give them (regardless generally of the creative quality of the music )..A sense of belonging in an exclusive 'club' etc

Its almost like the whole world has collectively lost a sense of just responding inwardly to the music individually nowadays..
A sense of liking the music just 'cos it gives them something personally-opens them up in some way
Its like its just not considered important or neceassary anymore -wheras in the 60s n 70s especially it seemed like it was much more so..

If it WAS considered important you'd get artists like Neil Young or Bowie,Hendrix or The Beatles etc coming thru - and we'd all have to raise our game to hope to make money or be noticed -
'Cos that inexplicable 'quality' would be the prime requirement made by the people to determine success or not...

The artists who are succesful nowadays -in all genres- show that the genuine creative quality i'm speaking of is not really even part of the equation anymore..

I don't really need to know any information about the artist other than the music they're making..
As i imagine alot of people here do too..But we're very rare-we're artists- into the art and the way music affects us internally-how it opens us up creatively (or dosn't )

Bob...Yeh,i totally agree that we're both marketing failures lol - and don't have the taste for it
Whether creativity will 'out' in the end or not -i don't know tho..
Maybe we need to make music ( as you've said before ) SOOOO GOOD it just can't be ignored
If thats the case i certainly havn't made that kinda music yet else i'd've been recognised in some way..

On a personal level maybe that total obscurity keeps us freer to be able to keep refining and aiming higher
With no outside pressures or market forces to pull at us we're totally free to make the kinda music we want
Actually think you've already said the same thing in different words on another thread lol

Stoneman...Sorry to hear you're not in the same physical performing shape you were at the time of the video -but its really cool you're still so obviously enthusiastic and dynamic about expressing yourself creatively in the recording world..

I agree that big melting pot of genres is great to express yourself with and be open to..

One of the huge ironies i feel about the explosion of the internet and the fact that anyone can listen to absoloutly any music they want to anytime is that its actually closed people down and made them LESS open..

For people who listened to radio -even as close back as the 90s (especially in the UK) you had no choice but to be exposed to a whole variety of different styles and influences as a listener n musician -'cos radio then was a huge melting pot where pop would rub shoulders with rock,dance,country..
Nowadays tho people can just ghettoize themselves totally if they want..Just settle back n relax in their particular 'niche' (whether thats pop,r'n'b country or metal etc ) and never be exposed to any different styles of music at all
That exclusivity can only serve to make you weaker and more generic as a creative person imo..

Steve..Many thanx..Well i'm getting a band together now -so hopefully that will bring some more interest to my music
I'll do my best -can only hope.. :)

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Shoe City Sound

5/11/2013 4:02:02 PM

Stoneman, I think you are really good in videos. This one is great and I've always liked the one for "They Did It For Freedom" where you play all the different roles. I meant to comment on that a while back when there was a thread about acting when you're singing. I think you do it really well.

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Steve Ison

5/12/2013 3:25:08 AM

Bob..Sorry completely forgot to say which other sites i go to..

www.Soundclick.com (the 'critics corner' section )

and the excellent
www.musesmuse.com...A great site n community for songwriters


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5/13/2013 7:55:48 PM

Thanks man! Yeah, it was hard to walk away from the stage but it was sort of a natural transition. As you get older they (doctors and therapists) keep telling you the things you can no longer do. By the time you get my age you are kind of use to making those transitions. However, there is hope. My doctors at the veterans health clinic want me to go through speech therapy. They claim that it has been very effective in helping stroke victims recover their word memory capacity. I start next month. We'll see what happens. Maybe some day soon I will be able to perform live again..

Yeah, part of the reason why people have closed down from being open to hearing new stuff on the internet is because of over zealous musicians who send out spam on top of the spam they just sent. I wish I had a dollar for every email I have received from some "producer" to come check out their music. Then, when I go listen I get angry because I wasted my time on a bunch nonsense junk music. In my opinion, the over saturation of junk music by the millions of undeserving wanna be stars is why a lot of people have become jaded about listening to new music or music they haven't heard before. It is sad that the untalented ruin things for those who deserve to be heard.

Thank you so much. The "They Did It For Freedom" video was shot in my brothers back yard on a budget of $150.00 which was used on the wardrobe mostly. My brother who is a film director did all the film magic. He's an amazing director! Thank you for your kind words about our work. That video is now being used in several African American history school curriculums. I am very proud of it.

One of the things that I stress to my vocal students is that there are singers and there are singers who entertain. Singers who entertain become connected to the song and assume a role. The entertainment value is the fact that their connection to the song connects them to the audience who in turn become a part of the act. There is nothing wrong with just being a singer. As long as you have a great voice. But I try to inspire my students to reach for something higher and to make the visual experience just as enjoyable as the audio experience. It is what I was taught by my mentors and so I pass that along to those that I mentor. Thanks again D.

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Steve Ison

5/15/2013 10:08:26 AM ---- Updated 5/15/2013 10:20:42 AM

"Yeah, part of the reason why people have closed down from being open to hearing new stuff on the internet is because of over zealous musicians who send out spam on top of the spam they just sent. I wish I had a dollar for every email I have received from some "producer" to come check out their music. Then, when I go listen I get angry because I wasted my time on a bunch nonsense junk music. In my opinion, the over saturation of junk music by the millions of undeserving wanna be stars is why a lot of people have become jaded about listening to new music or music they haven't heard before. It is sad that the untalented ruin things for those who deserve to be heard."

Totally Stoneman..The internets like the wild west..
There's no gatekeepers and absoloutly no quality control anywhere
Its every man for himself - and tho there's a level playing field, it just means the good the bad and the mediocre get mixed up into a huge unappetising soup and any quality within just gets lost in the sludge..

Thats prob the reason its so difficult to attract jo(e) public to a site like this ( or any OMD) to check out new music

They basically don't trust musicians anymore from (like you said) being spam-bombed to death by a zillion wannabees - and because of the total ease of access to the whole recorded universe of music -they've got less patience than ever before if something dosn't hit them as amazing -or totally to their taste- in the first 10 seconds...

Dunno what the solution is -but with everyone n their mom today thinking they're an "artist", 'cos they can bung a couple of loops together in reason and release it to the world - looks like the situation can only get worse :(

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Bob Elliott

5/15/2013 12:13:16 PM

I think the internet music scene has given us a skewed view of the music world. We now know it would be actually POSSIBLE to work in our studios, post our creations, and the world would notice. This is possible, and it wasn't possible before.

The problem is it is not PROBABLE. What is PROBABLE is pretty much the exact same situation as has existed since before the net you have to hold a band together, see if you can get them interested in doing your songs, take it out everywhere you can, etc... all stuff I used to not do befoe and still don't do now, with predictable results. The only difference is that now some peopl from around the world actually do hear my music that would never have heard it without the net. For instance, this guy from England. That's great, I think, but I'm still way too apathetic abot the rest of it, just as I was before he net.

Nothing's broke. It's th same as it ever was, same as it ever was, sam as it ever was...

with a nice little bonus.

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Bob Elliott

5/15/2013 1:59:10 PM

See, because we're saying, "Look at all this mediocre music people are releasing on the net which is getting in the way of the good music released on the net, that's what's wrong with the modern age", but before the modern age we weren't releasing the good or bad to the world. We were sitting on it.

Now us sitters have a little tiny window. It's still just tiny, but it's more than before. Before when I'd make my stuff I could show my mom. Now I can show you and my mom.

There is some distant lottery-ish type opportunity, but most people still make it in music the ugly way. Bar to bar door to door coffeehouse by coffeehouse publishing company by publishing company.

It's a real drag for people with my kind of make up, but it always was a real drag, and that is why people like me don't go far today in music, but we didn't go far yesterday in music either.

I don't blame modern times, modern tastes, I blame myself. Actually, blame is the wrong word. It's not really a messed up thing so much as the things I choose over other things.

I've been raising kids since I was 19, and I like peace with my kids and I like to create in my world, and I put my heart into those things and I reaped what I was trying to reap. I have always been aware of the type of things I needed to do if I wanted to drop the day job and go all music, I just didn't really want to do those things, so I'm not surprised at where I am now, nor am I sorry.

But the big thing to me, the thing no one can really prevent me from doing is producing work I consider worthy of listening. I am free to create work I love, and no one can tell me no. I don't need to beg for that gig or know somebody or work favors or whatever. I just create until I think it's good, and that part works fine.

10,000 lousy songs can crowd the net and it will not make my song any worse. Is it hard for me to get very many people to hear it? Sure. It always has been, especially for people like me unwilling to pound the pavement and suffer whatever mildly humiliating things happen when you start the door to door slog. However, because of the net I would say somewhere around 100 other people besides my mom are interested in my music, and hell, I'd make albums for ten, so if now it's a hundred, that's not a problem, it's a bonus.

Not sure of your age, perhaps you were no doing home studio stuff prior to the advent of the net? I was, and if you think we're isolated now, let me tell ya, mon, before we were down in a 100 foot deep well.

So the net action is cool, but it stimulates this thought that we should be able to put our killer music up and it will do its own work. Ad then when it doesn't we are dismayed.

I'm actually the biggest believer that can be done of maybe anyone you know despite all of what I said above. I just feel it has to be unbelievable great stuff to walk out there on its own legs and bring he world to me. So I just play my game of see how good I can make it and live my life.

I love making albums so much I'd be making them all my life even if only Mom was listening, so I really am not losing anything. It's an art form I am addicted to for life.

So everybody please get ten people to listen to my stuff and have each of them get ten and so on and so on....


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Bob Elliott

5/15/2013 2:03:43 PM

But, I think you'll all be relieved to know that Mom thought "Something New Under the Sun" was my best song yet, so clearly I'm getting some serious traction at this stage in my life.

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Richard Scotti

5/15/2013 4:48:44 PM ---- Updated 5/15/2013 5:06:56 PM

Bob ~ My love of "Something New Under The Sun" has been well documented here but "When Louis Armstrong Speaks" is also a great song. I like all your stuff but these two are my favorites. In an ideal world they would be classic hits by now. But it's a shame the world is far from ideal. Good luck, man, and don't give up doing what you do.

Steve ~ MTV pretty much killed rock as we know it because the "visual" became more important than the music. Having a video with good special effects and a good looking singer or band became the prerequisite for success. Now MTV just panders to the lowest common denominator with all kinds of horrible shows about pregnant teens and the like. It's amazing how much damage they've done to our culture and to our young people.

Now music videos are hardly shown on TV anymore and their influence has waned but the true gateway to "popularity" is now via You Tube. It's power can't be overstated. Comics used to say that they knew they had arrived when they were on the Johnny Carson show. Now you have to be popular on You Tube to get discovered. So even though MTV videos have died out as a force in music - now you have to have a great video for You Tube fans. We're back to the "visual" again!

Go viral or go home! (LOL) It's sad but these are the "new rules". Compete or delete. Love it or hate it, it's a force to be reckoned with in the modern age. Since time travel is not yet possible, we're stuck with the 21st century.

As far as the internet is concerned, I think it's a great way to get your music out there. It's true, there's a "glut" of mediocrity on the net but that doesn't diminish my music in any way. The fact that I have more competition just makes me work harder. The need for me to stand outside the crowd also makes me work harder and the harder I work, the better my music gets. The internet and especially IAC have broadened my horizons farther than I ever could have imagined. Seven years ago, I bought my first computer. The need to escape the high cost of studio recording forced me into learning to record at home which is something I had no interest in prior to the advent of home recording on computers. Of course I had used 4 and 8 track recorders for many years and did some great sounding work on them. I tried ADATs as well. But advances in computer recording changed everything. Then a strange thing happened. After I learned how to record on a computer, I wrote and recorded like a demon possessed. No more limitations on tracks; no more tape hiss, no more ADAT machines eating tapes, no more rip off studios, no more watching the clock etc. The songs got better and more plentiful.

Then the true epiphany came when I joined IAC. The response was amazing. Now anyone in the world good hear my music apparently lot's of folks were listening. I finally broadened my small circle of support from just family and friends to thousands of people I didn't even know. My self esteem grew and gave me the confidence to dig even deeper to be the best I could be. In a few days my new CD will be mastered and sold here and on iTunes. I couldn't done it without IAC admin (past and present) and members (past and present). My second CD is almost completed as well. This has been the most prolific time frame of my life and it has yielded the best results.

I agree with a thread that Bob started about music getting better when you don't have to compromise. I've turned down many a deal because the compromises were too high and if I had taken any of those deals I would have hated myself and essentially ended my dream of making the music that I want to make. Instead I held out and honed my craft. Soon I'll putting out what I consider to be the culmination of many years of intense work and sacrifice. 24 songs (2 CD's) chosen out of hundreds of songs to represent the best of who I am and what I do. On a small budget I did it my way. I could have had a bigger budget and did it THEIR way but I refused. Yes, with a bigger budget, the work might be a little more sonically sophisticated and maybe someday I'll have that budget but I will never change a word of my lyrics or approve a different arrangement of my songs if I don't think it makes the songs better. I've had people who wanted to bankroll me and make RIDICULOUS changes in the music that only satisfied THEIR egos and THEIR need for writing or producing credits. You wouldn't believe how many amateurs with lot's of money are out there trying to pass themselves off as rock stars. ~ lot's of dentists!!!

And even if these latest CD's don't achieve what I hope they will achieve, I'll at least know that I didn't sell out. I'll know that this is the best I can do and this is the vision I believe in for my music. I'll sleep well at night knowing that I put my best foot forward with no excuses. I'll be making music for the rest of my life regardless of whether I'm commercially successful or not because I've found peace at last. IAC and the power of the internet helped me reach that goal.

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Steve Ison

5/18/2013 6:42:15 AM ---- Updated 5/18/2013 6:51:46 AM

Bob/Richard..I totally admire both of your total positivity about your music and contentment with its/your place in the world..
Really wish i was more like that and i'm trying hard to work at it..

Sometimes i've got that and sometimes i don't at all

A part of me's angry 'cos i feel the creative quality of my music deserves at least a few more listeners -then another part of me's totally grateful -like you 2- for the freedom i've got to live the life i do - and totally make the music i want regardless of that.

I mean you can hardly demand people pay attention 'just '#cos you wish it lol

At really low points i'll think i don't deserve listeners 'cos i can't make music as great as the best Bowie,Beatles or Neil Young etc
Why should they spend time listening to mine when there's more intensely creative music made 40 or 50 years ago people can access at the click of a mouse ?
I know thats not really helpful to me personally -but it could definitely be argued there's some truth in it..

Anyways there's a helluva lot of friction n conflict i've got around this whole issue..

I'd love to be totally self-sufficient and not care whether people hear my music or not..
I convince myself i'll be like that - then get crushingly disappointed when i put my latest lovingly created track up - and only 5 people 'like' it on facebook..

I can't help it

You create something with a timeless spirit and it has a lifespan of 24 hours -then becomes totally

Its weird..

Thinking about it..I was wrong saying that people (especially young people) arn't interested in music today
I just believe its more they hone in and are more intensely focussed on totally different aspects of music that i'm not so concerned with - and have little sensitivity n appreciation for the areas in music that i do..
So they love people with great voices who create good grooves -or who exhibit very skilful musicianship within very limited musical boundaries

The art of intuitive musical songcrafting tho- that i'm personally fascinated by and love- and have spent my whole life developing and getting more skillful at .Telling an emotionally engaging story thru interesting chord progressions and melodic movement- dosn't really interest them any more..

Its a commercially redundant artform now.

This guy- a musician - about 22- i was talking to in a pub, was raving about this artist with a reggaeish vibe and played me a song of his on youtube..5 milliion hits...A beautifully soulful voice f'sure and a great groove-but the song ? Far too bland and predictable for me..

Been having to do this 'work experience' thing at the moment and the radio's on all day where i work.Its shocking to me how creatively asleep the modern 'hit' music-radio is..

How low the songwriting bar is set...

A part of me's angry about it..

How can they get away with it ?

The chords n melodies are dull n cookie-cutter..You can predict nearly every move they make before they do it...A groove n a big fat bassline can't disguise or cover up that..

But hey - there's big melisimaing- to-the-max 'soul' X Factor voices a -plenty on show

Bob..I started recording about 1990- a good 10 years before the internet and -like you - had no-one listening at all...Was making music totally in a vacuum..

Getting on the internet and suddenly getting heard by so many people was amazing and a fantastic opportunity..
I had far more listeners and people interested in my music in those early days than i do now tho..

Really don't know why that is..I don't think the music i'm making now is any less creative or interesting
Its prob 'cos people are so much more saturated and therefore numb to new music now than then..

I'm very happy it dosn't seem to be the same situation for you n Richard tho from what you're saying..

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Bob Elliott

5/18/2013 7:07:04 AM

No, my situation is like yours, but with probably less listeners.

And truth is I do care. It's just that I want to immerse myself in it anyway, so I build walls inside to shut that stuff out.

I always had such belief in my music that a time would come when it would lift our lives up, no more day job, just more music. And that little creator inside me still operates on that premise.

But if I continue unknown, fuck them all, because I know what I'm making over here.

And you see, that sounds bitter, and I don't want to bring on that flavor for you all, but just for you to know if I sound rosy content, I am probably not sharing what truly goes on in me. Inside I'm just a fierce believer in what I'm doing, fierce believer to the core.

Here's my REAL thought stupid as it could sound to others: people don't know what I am in my life.i am a true blue musical force, and generally people don't know that.

But I am that and I'll continue to be. So it's not contentment as much as it is very strong defiance, and I live on that defiance.

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Bob Elliott

5/18/2013 7:34:29 AM

I tend to be self reliant in a lot of things. I do my own building and fixing and am very autonomous in my job, so the world of home studio music fits my tendencies: I learned to do it so I can do it without permission from others, no one can stop me. So I'm driven by internal forces.

Of course I notice the weak quality stuff making money. It just makes me more defiant. Inside I burn pretty hot, but I don't usually like the way that sounds on paper, so I have given you only the contentment part. That part is real, too, because I love my music and I love making it, but I have all the rest inside, too. Like, you know, placed on this earth holding this thing and I know what it is and I will wring everything I can out of it before I die because I know what it is I'm holding.

If it doesn't catch on in the world, then they missed it, or even more likely I am to blame for my limp promotion, but my creating side says fuck you to the weak artists and the public that loves it, and also fuck you to my weak promoter side, too. The creative part just burns hot and will attempt to move obstacles to be able to create as much and intensely as possible.

Great artists can and do go through life unknown. You wouldn't be the first or last. But you have the force.

And if you link me up to your Facebook, instead of five listeners to the song you post, you'll have six. You're the real deal, brotha, hold your head high and burn bright before we die. It's not really contentment, it's a battle, and I feel ultimately we win if the work is quality.

I'm not really a believer, but I make music with the idea that god and the angels listen, and I get a fair hearing right there and try to make stuff in that way.

And wackier things are in my head, so someone needs to take away my keyboard here before I unload the whole truck.

But I think " Something New Under the Sun" might be finished which means I'm released and free to go to the next song called "Speed of Light" which we already have bed tracks laid and it is soul to the core just so so so fun and this one won't take 5000 hours. Yeeeeehaw.

But first, as usual, I gotta go work on my house. Good morning everybody!

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Bob Elliott

5/18/2013 7:47:11 AM

But like John Lennon, Lou reed, al green etc, these people would likely laugh me out of the room, because they went into the world and faced the bars the promoters the skunks the everything, so I think I would on some level be a joke to the musicians I admire.

But there, too, my creative side is defiant. Who cares about what they would think I am? Did they keep their families together while making that great stuff? No, and I just don't care that they wouldn't take me seriously. I get why, but I'm defiant of that notion, too. Anything that says I can't be a great musician, I just want to push back and succeed.

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Bob Elliott

5/18/2013 10:31:46 AM

But I read all I wrote above, and it's all kind of laughable and silly, I know that.

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5/18/2013 2:31:24 PM


I read everything you wrote and I didn't see anything wacky or silly there. It was true to your heart dialogue and perceptions that are based on your own personal experience. As my PTSD therapist often says to me, your feelings, perceptions, ideas and fears are all valid. They may not be for everybody but they are valid because it is how you see things for you. We tend to think that we all live in a big universe. But I believe that we are all living in our own individual universes. This means that collectively we are all right and were all wrong. But in our individual universes that we call our lives, we each make the laws and rules that govern our universe. Now, that's some weird and wacky stuff for you Bob. But it is what I believe and because I live in my own universe. I'm right. Right?

Success is only relevant to individual perception. Michael Jackson's last few albums did not have the sales or chart stomping clout that Thriller did. So, they labeled those efforts as failures. But, if any one of us had even a small fraction of the sales and Billboard chart positions of Michaels so called failures, it would be labeled a huge success. All I am saying is that nothing matters except what matters to you and me as individuals. I have 40 music industry awards. Big deal! I have never had a gold record, been on the billboard charts or won a Grammy. That makes me (in the eyes of most of the industry) a big fat failure. A nobody! But for me, winning those awards makes me feel successful in 40 different ways. As they say, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This has been such a great thread. Probably somewhere up there in the all time record in regards to longevity and participation. Big thanks to you Steve for bringing this to us.

I would like to say a few more things that may not be very popular but I think must be said. Complication and degree of difficulty (in my opinion) have absolutely nothing to do with being a great song or songwriter. There was a jazz great named Thelonious Monk. He played piano like no one before him or after him ever could. His music was extremely complicated. So complicated that........ wait for it........ this is gonna piss some jazz purists off but...... I think his music was junk! I never heard one of his songs that I liked. I took an American music history class in college and when they came to the Bee-Bop era and Thelonious Monk, I wanted to gag! I was force fed his shit when I was a child and I always wanted to burn or hide his records so I would never have to hear them again. Now that I am older, I do appreciate his playing ability and I understand why a few people are so enamored with his complication, variation and unpredictability. But, sometimes artists go so far away from normalcy that their music goes right over the heads of the listening public. The very people that they want to capture as fans become isolated and unappreciative of the skills being portrayed. The bottom line is that people want to be entertained. Their ears have not been trained to appreciate complication. They want entertainment and familiarity that gives them a feeling of euphoria and a message that they can personally relate to.

I think that one of the biggest problems that we as musical artists have is that we are way too full of ourselves. We want to be heard and we press forward like artistic crusaders ready to chop of the heads of anyone who dares to dislike or ignore what we think is great. But the truth of the matter is that for every 10 fans of the Beatles there were at least 20 people who thought their music was crap. Sure, they sold out concert halls and invaded an entire nation by permeating the airwaves with (in my opinion) some of the best compositions ever written. But the detractors were just as vocal about them. The critics were just as fervent in their disdain for the music from England. I remember reading those scathing reviews and seeing those disgruntled editorial commentators. But in the end, the will of the people won out! Elvis was considered a traitor by a large percentage of the South because he was doing what they considered to be "race" music (insert Black or Negro). He even admitted that he got a large percentage of his moves and grooves from watching Black people performing in the juke joints and on the chitlin circuit. Yet most of us (all colors) were absolutely thrilled about the White guy who danced and grinded the air like Jackie Wilson. It had great entertainment value. So much so that he was eventually proclaimed the King of Rock & Roll. But in the cases of Elvis, The Beatles and most of the great artists, complication was not their calling card. Their music was pleasing to the ears because it merged newness with familiarity. Most people could care less about how many chord changes, bridges and all that what not a song has. All they care about is if the song sounds good to them. Does it make them feel anything? Do they want to get up and dance to it? Or, pull out a tissue and cry because they were touched by it? Does the song make them feel inspired to keep trying to accomplish their goals? Or, does it make them angry, happy, sad, uplifted, horny, melancholy, reflective, spiritually fulfilled, tortured and so many other emotions. This is what truly makes the listening public think a song is great. They not only will buy the song but they will take ownership of it by proclaiming "That's my song". Have you ever heard people say that? This is the what legendary artists are built on. A good song has longevity because people take ownership of it. They never tire of listening to it.

I made a decision a long time ago that I was going to stop trying to impress my peers (other musicians) with my ability to be complicated. Sure, I know how to do that but what does it really gain me? Do I like it? Most times when I hear complication I turn it off. I decided that I want to be an entertainer. I want people to like my shit because I absolutely love my shit. And yes, I know that some of it is shit in the eyes of some people. But shit happens and I know that I could never please everybody. No one can! Hell, they even crucified Jesus because the people loved him. But I digress, my point is simply that simple music is not bad music. It is just music that almost anyone can play or relate to. Melodies that are so pleasing to the ear that a large percentage of the people that hear them want to hear more. Coming from a dark place is extremely cool. But when you do, make sure that you are not the only one that can relate to it. Make sure that it is familiar to the masses and maybe the masses will like it.

I bought the Justin Timberlake CD a few weeks ago. I have not been able to turn the damn thing off. There is only one song on the entire CD that I don't care for. Thankfully, he made it the last song. But I predict that his CD will go down in history as one of the best of this era. His songs are memorable. Even after I turn the CD off I find myself walking around singing his songs. The degree of complication is not really there but the entertainment value is overwhelming. It is current but it is also remnant of the past. In my universe, Justin has reached superstardom with this CD. By the way, I never liked anything he did before now. Okay, I have probably pissed enough people off with that revelation.


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Richard Scotti

5/18/2013 5:01:56 PM

Steve ~ It took me a long time to get to this point but I assure you that anger, sadness and frustration are always with me regardless of how content I may seem but I reached a crossroads a while back where I could only take one of two roads. One road led to regret and depression while the other road led to acceptance and peace of mind. I chose the latter. I wasn't going to let my failure to be a rock star make me miserable for the rest of my life. It was a choice. But I also made a promise to myself not to let the dark side of life prevent me from making music at all. That would be true failure in my opinion. I decided that my identity was not going to be decided by the music industry or by Facebook. I'm more than a wannabe. I'm an "I am". I am a father, a husband, a son, a film buff, a chef, a writer and many more things and I do them all well. Music is just one of the things I do. My life is my art. I've learned to accept my anger about how I've been wronged by certain people and institutions in my life. All of the bad things I went through inform who I am but the good things have shaped me too. I've brought all of those elements together into one person. I use them in my songs. Music is my therapy. The more I put into it the more I get out of it. It makes the clouds go away and my life was very cloudy.

Stoneman ~ I totally agree about Justin Timberlake. He's a genius and perhaps the new Michael Jackson. (Someone had to fill the void, and Justin did it.) I wish I could write music like that. Justin is an inspiration because he's making timeless, classy pop music and is not pandering to anyone. He's a true musical visionary, always one step ahead of the rest of the pack while having one foot in the traditions of the past. He's like a young Sinatra. His star is continually on the rise.

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Bob Elliott

5/18/2013 9:51:49 PM

Thelonious Monk is a bonafide musical genius with beautiful creations.

And who said anything about complexity?

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Steve Ison

5/21/2013 2:26:46 PM ---- Updated 5/21/2013 2:29:25 PM

Bob..Thanx for being so honest about the internal dialogue you've got going inside that isn't all 'rosy content'..If i was you i'd fiercly believe too.
A musical force with an original creative voice - Bags of heart n soul n integrity-.and that deserves a real audience-not just a few other musicians here on IAC...

I don't know any 'creative' musician peers where i live who've built a stable family life whilst living that intensely with music..I know alot of kids with different mothers,broken relationships drug/alcohol abuse etc...
Alot of people who don't burn as bright as they once did..

Same with famous artists too..

Building a stable family takes a helluva lot of energy n time...Bringing in a regular wage,creating stability-being an emotionally stable/together person..

Needs familiarity and routine..

Being available to give a stack of your life energy to a wife n kids to support n protect them..
Its grounded in this world

Art demands alot of solitary time for reflection,gets fed by the frictions in personality-is a chaser of ecstatic states of being (and feeling the corresponding lows),thrives on childlike spontanaity and is a thrill seeker.....

Its trying to break free of this world..

Its like serving 2 Goddesses -both with totally different and opposite needs (at least from my perspective)

My friend Colette (who i'm doing this song a fortnight thing with ) is a single mom looking after 2 young kids - and she's been keeping up with me songwritingwise -producing a new song every 2 weeks - and she's a very good songwriter too
I love her music

I've just recently had to start a compulsary 'work experience' job -where i've gotta work 30 hours a week for a month - as i've been unemployed for the past 6 months..

The last 2 songs i've put forward for this 2 week thing are old mixes i've been sitting on- mostly complete-brushed up n given a quick lick of paint -'cos i absoloutlty don'rt have the time or energy (or inclination ) to write n produce a brand new song every 2 weeks at the moment with doing this job
It takes too much energy- and i just can't give that at the moment..

Writing n producing a new song every 2 weeks is a full time job - so i've been trying to make the best use of having so much wonderful free time lol

So serious respect to the both of you for doing something i couldn't..

"I always had such belief in my music that a time would come when it would lift our lives up, no more day job, just more music. And that little creator inside me still operates on that premise"

Gotta say that reflects my own beliefs too ..I've always believed one day i'll make a living from it..On my own terms as well

And if that never happens -thats fine too-'cos i love the creative process n freedom it gives me so much- and i've got too much love for the music to ever let the pissed-off bitter voice of unrecognition take over and eat away at that..

Thanx for the offer viz Facebook too..Definitely :)

Stoneman...I think you were referring to me talking about 'interesting chord changes' n the like when you were talking about not liking complexity in music..
Gotta say,for me personally 'simplicity' or 'complexity' are totally irrelevant,its all about how the music makes me FEEL..
So the simple 3 chord-trick holds one of my favourite songs ever (Here Comes The Night by THEM ) and one of my least favourites ever ( Achey Breaky Heart by BILLY J CYRUS)

Same chords -Totally different vibes

Richard..I think the whole 'rock star' dream screws up so many people..
Those who make it ..and those who don't
Maybe you were lucky you didn't make it
I think if i'd 'made it' in my 20s i'd probably be dead now......

I've never ever seen music or artists as 'succesful' just 'cos they've made alotta money..
They're succesful to me if they make cool music i love..

The aforementioned 'Achey Breaky Heart' made zillions -but i certainly don't envy him having to play that song at every gig he does for the rest of his life..

Now that WOULD be a recipe for serious depression ; )

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Richard Scotti

5/21/2013 3:51:18 PM

....very wise words, Steve. I think many people sometimes ponder what their lives would have been like if they had chosen the "other door" or taken the "other road".
As I mentioned, I've had my share of offers and opportunities but I have no idea if they would have worked out well or not. I have plenty of comrades who burned out
early in life because they couldn't resist the allure of the quick buck or the 15 minutes of fame. I'm glad I chose the road I chose. The bottom line is ~ I have no regrets.

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Lars Mars

5/21/2013 6:27:46 PM


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5/21/2013 7:04:45 PM


Thelonious? Genious? Maybe. But when I sit down and listen to his music it doesn't make me feel anything but the turn off knob. Coltrain, now that's genious that I can appreciate. Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrel, Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis. In my opinion, those are the Jazz greats that continue to make my ears happy. But I do understand why some Jazz purists are so enamored with Thelonious. Maybe they feel something there that I canno comprehend. But, its just my opinion and that doesn't mean I am right. So, I yield to your fervor for Mr. Monk.


Yes, I agree with you about complexity and simplicity. Cyrus may have made a lot of money with that song but he didn't make many fans amongst musicians. Mainly because it was a junk song that went crazy wild on the charts. Go figure.

Many years ago I did a gig in Vegas. There was a guy that would come into the lounge every day and he would request "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and give us $500.00 chip. After 3 weeks of that, I absolutely hated that song. Can't imganie how awful it would be to have to play Achy Breaky every time I performed. Sometimes success ain't all that they claim it is............

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Richard Scotti

5/22/2013 7:54:23 AM

Stoneman ~ Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix were going to make a record together.
Now THAT would have been something special. Even Paul McCartney expressed an interest in the project, But to your point about the problems of being famous or known for a particular song or songs ~ I've read various things about how Jimi was desperately unhappy about the fact that he felt like a prisoner of his fans and his fame. Even his record company did not want him to stray from his older work. Of course he loved the hedonistic excesses of fame but what he resented was how his fans kept insisting that he play Purple Haze and Foxy Lady over and over again. I've seen him play many times but I'll never forget seeing him at Lincoln Center (one of his last concerts) where he was attempting to play all new material that had never been recorded or heard before. It was so brilliant and beautiful. It was a mixture of rock, jazz and blues and a whole bunch of other stuff...very melodic and fluid, just out of this world with amazing evocative lyrics about exploring new worlds. Many people were booing and yelling for him to play the old hits. He was clearly angry and depressed. I was disgusted by the audience reaction. He told a British newspaper that he'd rather be dead than play the "old hits" forever. The rest is history.

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5/22/2013 10:35:24 AM


Yes, I read about the failed Miles Davis, McCartney and Hendrix collaboration. The timing was just slightly off. Too bad, that would have been a monster recording session. It is so sad how tortured Jimi's life was. Such a gifted artist. His music changed the entire landscape for rock and psychedelic music. I saw him once at an impromptu performance in Hermosa beach. A local band was playing and they asked him to come sit in. I had never seen or heard his music before then. It was before he was famous. But after he began to play I just sat there stunned. Totally stunned! He did things with a guitar that I never thought possible. It made me a fan for life. I would have been more than happy to sit through a concert of him playing stuff never heard before. I would have considered that an honor. Why is it that the best and most talented artists are so F'ed up emotionally? How many great artists have we lost to drugs? So many that I can't even attempt to list them all. It would take too long. Its sad man.............

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