Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How I Wound Up Playing For The New York Yankees

Guitar, Not Third Base

I guess I’m a dual-career sort of guy. I’m a musician/singer/songwriter/guitarist of course. But I also work in live sports TV broadcasting. Occasionally this presents some musical opportunities.

The Yankees were in Minneapolis for a series with the Twins. I was working on the Yankees broadcast. I also had a gig coming up at a club in Minneapolis called The Fine Line. So I put up a few posters around the TV truck in the hopes of luring some of my TV co-workers to the show. Leon, the producer for Yankees TV on Madison Square Garden Television noticed my poster and asked if I had my guitar with me. I didn’t, but I said I could go home and get it.

Leon told me that their usual play by play announcer Al Trautwig could not make the trip, and Mike Crispino was filling in. Leon asked “could you write a song about it?” Of course, why not!

So I got in my car and drove the three miles home to get my guitar. Along the way I had a notebook on the passenger seat so I could write the song as I was driving. By the time I got back to the Metrodome, the song was written.

We shot the open for the broadcast outside in front of the Metrodome. Mike Crispino said something along the lines of “sometimes words just aren’t enough”, and the camera pans over to me and I start singing “The Ballad of Al Trautwig”. Mike interrupts me several times, and I add more to the song each time. By the time the song is over, I’m getting pretty annoyed by Mike’s interruptions.

Leon loved it, and the next two times the Yankees came back to town, they asked me for a song. I did a couple more songs for them, written on the spot. They lost interest when I started asking about money.

But while I didn't make any money, I learned that I could write a song on the spot if I had to. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Physical Media or Digital Streaming, Which Do You Prefer?

The above headline is essentially the entire post--do you stream music, via Apple Music or Spotify or some other provider, or do you prefer physical media such as CDs or vinyl? It's something I've been wondering about, particularly for my audience, as it would be good for me to know which way the people who like my music prefer to consume music.

By all accounts streaming music is growing in popularity. I recently read a stat that stated that it accounts for about 41% of music consumption in the world. And there's lots to like about it. For roughly $10/month you can listen to practically every piece of music ever recorded. That is just incredible to comprehend. The Beatles to Hank Williams to Enrico Caruso to the band down the street, and everything in between. You can listen to it all. Many times I've used Apple Music or Spotify to check out the music of a band I was reading about that I had never heard. $10/month is a small price to pay for that sort of access in my opinion. And on Spotify you can access everything for free as long as you don't mind listening to ads. Another bonus is you have access to the world's music, and you don't have to build an addition onto your house to store it!

The downside, for some, is the fidelity. Streaming just isn't as good, in some people's opinions, as CD quality audio. But I think it's pretty close for a high bit rate file, and for some people the difference wouldn't be that noticeable.

Then there is the teeny-tiny royalty rate paid to the artist for a stream on Spotify or Apple Music. The last time I checked, I was getting paid .005 cents for one stream on Spotify. That's $0.00005 per stream. So I would have to have 20,000 streams to make one dollar. (Note: anyone who wants to help out can find me here on Spotify.)

But that is the world we live in, and it's best to go with the flow, as you can't win fighting it. So at live gigs I have been conducting informal polls, asking who in the audience listens to Spotify or Apple Music. I have to say that so far, it's not a lot of people.

So how about you? Do you primarily stream music, or do you prefer CDs or vinyl?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The New Single Is Out!

July 16 was the release date for my new single, "Procrastination". I spent a lot of time on it, recording, mixing, and mastering. You can see the video of it below.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy New Year!

Well, it looks like I post about one to four times a year in this blog. Not too impressive. I suppose I should up my game a bit here. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

Recorded a bit this morning. I re-recorded an acoustic guitar track for an old song of mine called "New Face On The World". I wrote it a million years ago and have been playing it live ever since. I actually recorded and "released" it once before, on a 1996 cassette-only release called "All Dressed Up And All Stressed Out", which got excellent reviews I might add (a couple anyway). But "All Dressed Up..." was recorded on a Tascam Portastudio, just so I would have something to pedal at live gigs, and I always felt that "New Face..." deserved a better recording. So I am trying to give it the treatment it deserves.

So I set up an X-Y stereo pair with my Rode C5 mics. It sounded OK, but I thought "what if I add a direct feed from my pickup, through my Body Rez pedal?" So I created another track and recorded the stereo pair plus another track for the pickup. This sounded pretty good!

Once I had a good performance recorded I got another idea. There's a couple of spots in the recording where I always feel like clapping along. So I decided to record four tracks of that clapping, using the stereo pair I had already set up. That turned out pretty good as well, and it added a bit of rhythmic stability. I may run it through a doubler when I mix it to see if I can get it to sound like even more hands clapping. We'll see.

This song will be released on a new acoustic EP that I want to have finished before I go off to Kansas City in February for Folk Alliance. I think it will be an EP anyway; it will depend on how much I can get done in January. Maybe it will be a full-length CD. Again, we'll see.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Review of My Favorite Songwriting Podcasts

I love podcasts. I listen to several on a regular basis. There are podcasts seemingly on every possible subject, something for everyone no matter what the interest. My interests, of course, are music related, whether it's about the business of music, the art of recording, or songwriting. Happily there seems to have been an explosion of songwriting podcasts, and I never tire of listening to them. Three of my favorites are Sodajerker on Songwriting, And The Writer Is..., and The Working Songwriter. These are in no order of preference, but in the order that I discovered them.

Sodajerker On Songwriting is hosted by two Liverpudlian songwriters (not the two you are thinking of), Simon Barber and Brian O'Connor. The first thing to know about these guys is that they are themselves songwriters. Therefore they ask better questions than your average journalist would ask. You can hear the effect this has on the subjects of their interviews, finally hearing intelligent questions that could only come from a fellow songwriter.

I discovered this podcast Googling one of my favorite songwriters, Andy Partridge of XTC. Lo and behold, the Sodajerker fellas had had already interviewed Andy! And what a great interview it was. Real insights into Andy's methods and inspiration; real nuts and bolts stuff. I was intrigued. I went back to the beginning with an interview with Billy Stienberg, followed by Todd Rundgren. I was hooked and the binge listening began. The list of songwriters these guys have interviewed is impressive. Legends like Jimmy Webb, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka, Carole Bayer Sager, Paul Simon and more. Billy Bragg, Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford, Neil Finn, the list goes on and on. Simon and Brian have just released their 106th episode, Yusef Cat Stevens. There were 90 episodes or so when I discovered the podcast, so it was a summer of binge listening for me.

Besides the aforementioned good questions from Simon and Brian, two other factors make this podcast enjoyable to listen to as well as informative. First, they have that dry Liverpudlian humor and wit. It's almost like listening to the Fab Four quipping away in "Hard Day's Night". And second, they have a genuine reverence and respect for their subjects, which I'm sure plays no small role in their gaining access to so many big names. They are true fans of songwriting and songwriters. I hope very much that they land an interview with that other Liverpudlian songwriter, Paul McCartney. Sir Paul, if you're reading this, you should talk to these guys.

And The Writer Is... is hosted by hit songwriter Ross Golan, and is a look into the world of today's hit pop and country songwriters. We're talking big sales/airplay and Grammy nominations here.

Ross' interview style is like eavesdropping on a couple of old friends as they talk about the songwriting biz. Most of his subjects are people he has known and worked with, and Ross asks them about their start in the business and general career path. As they are contemporaries they know all the same people and swap stories, like a couple of friends out having a beer.

This podcast is fascinating to me because, even though I consider myself a songwriter, they talk about things I know nothing about. I had no idea what a topliner is. Golan talks about "song math" without explaining what it is. (I suspect it's related to song structure, verse-chorus-bridge stuff.) I had never heard of Max Martin, or how influential Swedes are in popular music. They talk about songs seemingly created by a committee, with one person creating the beats, another person creating the verses, yet another creating the choruses, and the topliner writing the song over all that. Songwriting to me has always been sitting in a room with a guitar on your lap and an empty notebook in front of you. But here was another way!

Ross Golan sounds like a great guy, and I too would like to have a beer with him and shoot the shit about songwriting. I'm sure I would learn a lot, as I'm sure there's lots to learn. And I would remind him that in season one, Desmond Childs tells him he should never call himself a topliner.

I still haven't listened to all the episodes, and he's cranking out season two at a one per week rate. So I've got a lot of listening to do.

Last, but in no way least, is The Working Songwriter, hosted by singer-songwriter Joe Pug. This is songwriting that I'm familiar with, complete with the guitar and the long-stared-at blank notebook page.

The Working Songwriter is aptly named, as it focuses on the day-to-day of the working performing songwriter. Joe himself is a touring songwriter, and he talks to his subjects at length about the highs and lows of being out on the road, playing to full (or empty) houses. In episode one, Joe talks to Joe Ely about being on David Letterman one night, and sleeping out in a corn field the next. And Joe Pug goes deep with his subjects, asking interesting questions that only someone with similar life experiences would know to ask. Of the three podcasts reviewed here, this might be the one that hits closest to home for me.

Joe starts his podcast with an intro that states the show is "an iron clad excuse to put off actually writing" and finishes with the reminder that "reverb is not a song". Words to live by. He also starts off each episode listing his upcoming tour dates, so go see him. I will be doing just that when he hits St. Paul in December.

Each of these podcasts features a Spotify playlist of songs written by that episode's guest. So even when podcast is over, it's not over. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some podcasts to listen to...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

FARM 2016 Coming Up Soon!

In one week I'll be headed to Iowa City for the Folk Alliance Regional Midwest (FARM) 2016 conference. I attended Folk Alliance International in Kansas City last year, and I have to say it was a blast. Even though I had serious doubts as to whether or not the music I perform constitutes "folk music", and to be frank I still have those doubts, it seemed to me that I fit into that genre in some sense, if only for the fact that I almost always perform solo without a band. People see you alone with an acoustic guitar and jump to the "folk" conclusion. Last year I saw plenty of solo singer-songwriters in Kansas City whose music, to me anyway, was not in the traditional folk vein. So maybe I do fit in there somehow. Though I would suspect a folk purist would disagree.

Here's a solo acoustic version of a song of mine called "Son Or Daughter". You can download it for free if you'd like, or if you're more inclined to support independent music you can pay what you want

I hope you enjoy it. To me, it's a pop/rock song performed solo. What do you think? Is it folky enough? Leave a comment please!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Gotta Write A Bio

So I have to write a 50 word bio for my Folk Alliance International Official Showcase Application. This might be the toughest thing any musician ever has to do. It's harder than writing good songs, it's harder than playing gigs, it's harder than driving to gigs.

I think this might be the most hated job any musician ever has to do. I know I hate it.

Just what does one write about one's self?

Of course a more established musician would hire someone else to write it. Or his manager would hire someone. Well, I am not yet at that level. Still. And being a chronic procrastinator does not help.

So here's what I've come up with so far, after staring at the screen for a couple hours, trying a few things, erasing a few things:

With songs ranging from the personal to the political and everywhere in between, singer/songwriter Jim Pellinger has performed for audiences throughout the upper Midwest. An energetic solo performer, singer, and talented guitarist, Jim’s shows lie somewhere between a rocker with an acoustic guitar and a folkie with a Stratocaster.

I think that's fairly accurate; I wanted to avoid hyperbole.

And it only took all evening.