Category: Actor/Musician

23
Apr
2020
0:32

Salvador Dali

So here’s something extremely silly I did. I used to work with the Paramount Story Wranglers which is an AWESOME group that goes to elementary schools and teaches kids about writing stories, then takes the CRAZY stories they writes and turns them into skits and songs for a show that the Story Wranglers perform at their school.

For one of the shows, I took one group’s story about Salvador Dali and turned it into a song. Tonight while looking for something else, I found the demo I had made of the song so we could learn it for the show, and decided that it needed the full production treatment to be a finished song. I wish I knew the elementary kids to credit for writing this story.

I am Salvador Dali, that is my name
I practice and I practice for my art
I want to be a painter of extraordinary fame
But my art room is a mess and I guess that makes it hard

It makes me oh so mad, that I can’t paint
I feel I’m not the person for this craft
Maybe mom and dad can help with my complaint
And help with brainstorming ideas and maybe painting a first draft

So we drove to a museum filled with other people’s art
Just so I could see ’em, get ideas of where to start
That’s when I saw a flyer and I found myself obsessed
It said “Want to become famous? Join the Art Museum Contest!”

I went back to my art room and I painted and I painted
I sent it to the contest, it was done
And when I told my parents the good news, they nearly fainted
My painting didn’t win 1st place, but 2nd place I won!

I told myself no matter how my painting looks
There’s one thing more important than the rest
Regardless if my name ends up in history books
At least I’ll know that I tried my best!

15
Apr
2020
14:00

Thriving In Quarantine

Things I’ve done since lockdown that you should definitely (I mean, if you wanna) check out. #shamelessselfpromotionedition

  • Recorded and released a new song. Here’s all the details including the story of its making. I also thought of a few last-minute production things that made me cackle with glee even though most likely no one will detect them but me so it was just updated today with the final version. I say final because if it isn’t I’ll have to rename the song “Someday, I’ll Stop Tweaking This song, But Not tonight.”
  • Redesigned my website. You’re looking at it now.
  • Re-wrote the problematic lyrics to the Rolling Stones song “Brown Sugar” into something tasty and useful.
  • Wrote a special Quarantine Love Song.
  • Covered an apropos Jellyfish song.
  • Recorded a dramatic monologue for the #OneMinuteMonologueChallenge on Instagram.
  • Live streamed a dramatic reading of Masque Of The Red Death and then a very not-dramatic reading of it.
  • Re-mixed the Friends Theme to have way more claps because of an off-hand silly comment on a friend’s post

Recorded VO as a foul-mouthed pirate cat for a web series, began recording audiobook narration for 4th book in a series by Andrew Hunter (I also narrated the previous 3). Played a lot of video games. Slept a lot. Took lots of walks. Got my diet in much better shape. Have stuck to a regular push-up regimen. Edited a series of videos for a friend and re-formatted his book. And probably a lot of other stuff I’m forgetting.

I”m not bragging or trying to detract from the seriousness going on in the world, but for me keeping track of the good and the light is the best, most productive and positive thing I can do. Everyone’ handles things in their own way, and however you are handling it, it’s right and okay. Maybe some of the stuff I’ve done can entertain, make you smile, or have some positive impact. That’s all I can really hope for is to try and put my little orbs of light out into the world. #quarantinethrive

05
Apr
2020
4:03

A Visit From A Muse

From a spark in my brain to finished song: 13 hours.

Long version: I had some dreams last night. I woke up at one point this morning and the idea and chorus for this song were in my head. I was still tired and wanted to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. And this song kept nagging at me to give it life. So I got up and fired up my studio. I knew this was going to be different from anything else I’d ever done. I knew it was going to be all synthesizers when I’m mostly an organic guitar-driven guy. I knew the exact vibe and atmosphere I wanted. I also knew I was going to write it in a way that I’d never written before: as I went along. Just tinkering with sounds and parts.

So, where to start when you have many different synths, each with hundreds if not thousands of sounds? I did a search for every sound that had “Dream” in the title. Then I started going through them all and finding ones that I thought might work for what I was going for. I ended up with about 20+ tracks of synths ready to be used. I started piecing it all together part by part. After about 10 or 11 hours, the music was done and I had a verse and a chorus of lyrics. I took a walk at around midnight and finished another two verses. I got back home and finished the last of the lyrics, thinking I would record vocals tomorrow.

Then I realized that I was going for a very soft vocal style on this song, so despite sleeping roommate’s and roommate’s child, I decided it couldn’t wait. I recorded all the vocals, did a few overdubs and edits, and here we are. Approximately 13 hours from when the muse kissed me, her gift is done. A song completely unlike anything I’ve ever written or recorded before. Everything but the vocals was done with Reason 11 in Reaper.

Some of the identifiable (to me) influential ingredients in this musical casserole:

  • Billie Eilish
  • David Bowie
  • St. Vincent
  • Pink Floyd
  • Jellyfish
  • Cars
  • Annie Lennox
  • Adele
  • Muse

A list of (most of) the synth sounds used (all the “dream”-based sounds):

  • Analog Dreams
  • Dream Sands
  • Ethereal Dreams
  • Galadriel’s Dream
  • Alan Turing’s Dream
  • Dreampark
  • Wavetable Dreams
  • Porpoise Dreams
  • Spock’s Dream
  • Start Your Dream
  • Acoustic Dream
  • Toy Dream
  • Dream Central
  • Soft And Dreamy
  • Dreamsong
26
Mar
2020
18:12

One Capo To Rule Them All

Guitartists: I have found the one capo to rule them all. The G7th Performance 3 ART capo.

I have used Kyser, Dunlop, Shubb, D’Addario, Thalia ($75!) and they all have their issues. The most common capo issues are that guitars have different neck radiuses (or Radii) or how flat or curved they are. Capos are a fixed radius and therefore may not follow the profile of your fretboard perfectly and could cause buzz on the outer or inner strings depending on the capo vs. your radius. The Thalia capos seek to remedy this by having different shaped inserts for the capo. You pick the one that matches your guitar’s radius. However this means that if you want to use the capo on another guitar with a different radius, you have to change inserts. I also had to order a special pack of XL inserts to fit my Rain Song acoustic. The standard ones weren’t tall enough. I also found the Thalia too bulky. Playing a B7 shape at the 7th fret was difficult with the high profile of the capo. The Thalia also suffered from the other common problem…

The other is that any spring-loaded capos have a fixed tension and I find that on some guitar, they will push the strings sharp. Now recently, I found the Shubb and D’Addario capos remedied this problem with adjustable tension. The Shubb had become my favorite due to it’s small size and just generally having a good quality feel.

The other common problem is that any spring-loaded capos have a fixed tension and I find that on some guitars, they will push the strings sharp. Now recently, I found the Shubb and D’Addario capos remedied this problem with adjustable tension. The Shubb had become my favorite due to it’s small size and just generally having a good quality feel.

Then I discovered the G7th Performance 3 ART capo. They ART stands for “Adaptive Radius Technology.” The pad on this capo is built in such a way that it can adapt to the radius of your neck. It also has a really cool and unique tensioning mechanism where you squeeze it on and it stays however tight you squeeze it so you can put just enough pressure as necessary to get a nice clear sound without pushing strings sharp.

At $45 it’s more expensive than any of the others except the $75 Thalia, but I think it’s worth it. My second choice would be the Shubb. Enjoy the fruits of my labors and the knowledge gleaned from way too much money spent on capos over the years.

The other is that any spring-loaded capos have a fixed tension and I find that on some guitar, they will push the strings sharp. Now recently, I found the Shubb and D’Addario capos remedied this problem with adjustable tension. The Shubb had become my favorite due to it’s small size and just generally having a good quality feel.

Then I discovered the G7th Performance 3 ART capo. They ART stands for “Adaptive Radius Technology.” The pad on this capo is built in such a way that it can adapt to the radius of your neck. It also has a really cool and unique tensioning mechanism where you squeeze it on and it stays however tight you squeeze it so you can put just enough pressure as necessary to get a nice clear sound without pushing strings sharp.

At $45 it’s more expensive than any of the others except the $75 Thalia, but I think it’s worth it. My second choice would be the Shubb. Enjoy the fruits of my labors and the knowledge gleaned from way too much money spent on capos over the years.

A video I made, pretty much just saying everything I just said here.

09
Feb
2020
18:08

“Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis, Bass Tablature

Learning bass parts for an upcoming project, I decided to try actually notating the bass part to “Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis in tablature just to see if maybe that would be helpful to have in the future (usually I just learn by ear and memorize). Things I learned:1. It’s probably not worth the time it took (many hours), at least not for a complex bass part that has a lot of changes and variations. 2. I’m an amateur as far as writing notation so I may not have done it “optimally,” but I feel like things that are easy to “feel” and play look far more complicated on paper. Like, this bass part isn’t easy, but I don’t think it’s nearly as hard as it ends up looking when written.

“Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis, Bass Tabalture.

06
Feb
2020
1:57

My Rebellious Streak

I’ve posted before about this strange rebellious streak I have in me that I don’t really understand and sometimes find annoying. I found a perfect example tonight.

Learning some bass parts, I was thinking about how I really prefer playing bass with a pick. Now there are certain songs or reasons that I sometimes prefer using my fingers but in general, I like the feel and sound of a pick better and feel like everything is much easier for me. Now, there are some schools of thought (that I do not agree with) that think using a pick is “inferior” to using fingers. I can play great with my fingers too, but vastly prefer a pick. With a pick, everything is just so much more effortless for me, while using my fingers makes me have to “fight” a little bit more.

And yet, I play 90%+ using my fingers. I think partially for fear of not being taken seriously by bass snobs if I don’t but also because it’s harder and less intuitive for me and so a part of me thinks “Well then you should develop that muscle and strengthen it instead of just doing what’s easier and more effortless for you.” I researched different right hand techniques and even with that, instead of using the right hand technique that comes most naturally, I find myself trying to train myself to use other ones that I’ve never used before.

I am ambivalent about this streak in me. On the one hand, it’s great to always push yourself and try to strengthen weaknesses, but on the other, it’s kind of silly to throw needless roadblocks and obstacles in your own path for no good reason other than to “up the difficulty” or to please opinionated snobs. My mind is a fascinating place.

12
Jan
2020
3:22

Life’s Strange And Beautiful Road

In 1999, I lived in Dallas for a year. My roommate Esteban and I went to see the Arcangels at a club in Fort Worth. The opening band was a band called Cadillac Voodoo Choir and we were both blown away by them. We were also both particularly blown away by the keyboard player, a guy named Danny Smith. He was a great musician, singer and just had a great stage presence. I got their CD. Later on, just for fun, I learned all the guitar parts on their CD, and thought, “Hey if they ever need a guitarist, I know it all now!.
Fast forward several years (I can’t remember the exact time). I have no recollection of exactly how this meeting came to be, but I was living back in College Station again (my home town), and I drove to Austin to meet the drummer of Cadillac Voodoo Choir (which I think may have been defunct at this point) to talk about a new project he was getting together. We met at Star Seeds, had a conversation and I gave him a demo CD with some of my originals. Nothing ever came of it.
Then tonight, I had a gig with Scottish Thunder. Through a series of random coincidences and chains of events, Danny Smith ended up sitting in with us tonight on keys, guitar and vocals. Super talented, and more than that just a phenomenally nice guy. The more we talked the more we seemed to have in common and I felt that “kindred spirit” vibe. The “brother from another mother” thing.
And as coincidence icing on the coincidence cake, I happened to mentioned one of my all time favorite artists and influences, Butch Walker, and while most people have no idea who he is, it turned out that Danny is friends with him. Now in my world this is kind of like if someone was like “Paul McCartney? Oh yeah, we’re buds!”
Anyway it was a phenomenally fun gig with 4 other super talented friends and I felt like we were pretty solid, put on a good show and at the very least had a blast doing it with good people. Life is strange and beautiful.

04
Dec
2019
1:37

“Pride And Joy” Bass Tablature

I love that you can find many original isolated tracks on youtube which are great for really hearing details when learning songs. I found the isolated bass track to “Pride and Joy” by SRV so I could really work on the nuances. If anyone else would like to benefit from my painstaking work, here’s a PDF of the tablature. This should be almost note perfect. The only exceptions are that there are times when he is sort of muting the upbeats and such, as opposed to playing a really audible open string on the upbeat (which is a lot of the song) but all the important and audible notes should be there.

25
Jul
2019
12:17

Do The Thing

For any given thing you may want to do, your brain will likely come up with a million reasons not to do that thing.

For example, I’ve had just over 30 original and cover songs recorded for quite some time now, starting as far back as 2000. Over the years my skills as a musician, engineer and producer have grown, as have the tools available to me. Consequently, over the years I have occasionally, tweaked, remixed or otherwise “improved” some of my previous recordings. This, obviously can get dangerous and you may end up like George Lucas, constantly “improving” and tweaking your old work. The thing is, as Admiral Ackbar would say, “IT’S A TRAP!” Perfection will remain ever elusive, just ducking around that next corner. It’s so easy to fall into a purgatory of never being “finished.” There is a saying (attributed to various people throughout history) that art is never finished, only abandoned.

In all these years, I had never taken the steps to get my music on the most popular streaming services and stores such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc., for various reasons. Some of those reasons related to what I’ve said above were that I needed to really, finally, finalize the mix and make sure I had exported them in the highest quality possible, as in my earlier years before I knew what I was doing as well, I had not done either of those things as best they could be done. So my music was only available on my Reverb Nation page where I could easily replace the file with a new one if I made changes and wanted to do so.

This week, I finally made the jump and using Distrokid, I uploaded all my originals and covers. Theoretically I could still make changes if I wanted to, it would just involve pulling my old song from all stores and then re-releasing a new one. Now there was a new angle: I had to add “album art” to each release and also decide if I was releasing a batch as an “album” or just singles. I’ve never recorded an “album” per se, every song was just recorded as it came to me. I joking have all my songs tagged as being part of the album “Best Of” because that amused me to have my debut (and only) album be “Best Of.” That’s right! No filler here! Every song I put out is my best! It’s also an ever growing album since every new original gets tagged that way as well. All my covers are part of my also, ever ongoing “Duck And Cover” album. So I decided I’d release every song as a single and just have the “album art” be either my “Best Of” or “Duck And Cover” art as appropriate. However, apparently stores don’t allow multiple singles to use the same art, so I quickly mocked up art for each “single” which was just the album art with the title of each single on it. In addition, I started worrying about all the old worries again “Is the mix good enough? Is the mp3 maximum quality?”

Sometimes it’s hard to know when searching for perfection is holding you back or whether you are allowing yourself to be lazy or mediocre and justifying it by saying that striving for perfection is a game you can’t win. In the end, I think it’s better for my imperfect music to be out in the world as widely as possible, than forever in purgatory waiting for me to “finish” it.