Blog: Music to ________ to – 16/10/19
Any musician/band who has submitted a song for “playlist consideration” on Spotify will most likely be either a) blissfully chill or b) frustrated about the inane options in the form. Just a few clicks and you can you download the highest frequency of all those good laid back vibes, man. Is your music ‘energetic’, ‘happy’ or ‘sexy’? You’ve come to the right place, entre.
Of course, why would we expect anything less from a streaming behemoth like Spotify? A quick run through of the form takes between 30 seconds – 5 minutes to complete, it all depends on how deep you want to get. There is the option to give a little spiel about the song. Yes, you can only choose one song per submission so it’s important to make it count.
I make a start on it. What words would you use to describe your music (choose 2) comes up on my screen. These are some of the options. I imagine a group of 20 somethings like myself in an open plan office shouting out adjectives. “Chill”, “fierce”, “wild”, “romantic”. Yes, that’s it. Nailed it.
The problem here is music may be some of these things from time to time, but it is not necessarily so. I could describe Orange Juice’s jangly 80’s guitar pop as sexy but that would be forgetting the melancholy that lurks within. The political movement of youth culture. Rebellion. I could describe.. you get the idea.
I don’t feel like it is naïve to go along this path. Spotify, like any company that profits off their subscribers or users want you to ‘hang out’ with them as much as possible. Do you ever listen to Spotify when you’re watching live music? Probably not.
So how do they get you to spend more time with them? Playlisting. Yes, Music is no longer just an ephemeral thing that brightens sticky carpets of pubs and inspires hearts of punters. Instead music is contextual and can accompany your workout, your day in the office, downtime at home – every moment in the day has been soundtracked if you so wish to hear it.
I am conflicted if this is a good thing or not but also draw solace in the fact that Spotify can never playlist those in-between awkward moments. I can rest easy that the best music often illuminates and brings to the forefront the indescribable, the ecstatic, experiences that transcend language. There are some positives – they have done a good job representing first nations people and the LGBTQ community and featuring them on high-profile purpose built playlists. But for such a big company in 2019, I really would not expect anything less.
A final thought. Balance is critical to establishing healthy relationships with technology. I do enjoy play-listing some of my moments but I also feel like with every ‘add to playlist’ click, the billion dollar algorithm working away behind the scenes – the magic is lost.
Blog: Alternatives to self-promotion on social media? – 7/9/19
To set this up, it is tellingly that my last blog was on 1/3/19. Imagine my shock when what was intended for being a low-key creative outlet for me had been delegated to the dust pile? I must confess all my writerly sins now. I had written a piece sometime after that first blog and after many drafts, I shelved it and decided you know what? I am not going to publish it. But let’s be honest, this is not that shocking. It happens all the time. So rather than beat myself up about it, I want to examine what’s behind it – and ask some questions about what murky cyber space this blog co-exists with.
Also, parallel to my written journey, I am just about to release my third full-length album as a composer and guitarist with my band Soft Power. It remains an important avenue for my self-expression. But I am tired of all the self-promotion and needed a serious break which is why I am releasing this album ‘quietly’ and setting this little thing off into the internet ether.
Looking at the function of this blog then after this experience, it is easy to see that what is a low-risk experiment has morphed into a social media octopus, its tentacles holding on to “branding”, “likes”, “bringing value to your business”, “sponsored posts” and all of the “link in bio’s” in the entire world. Yes, our “newsfeeds” are polished, short and snappy. Content must be small enough so we can view it on our phones. We all curate content and are either selling something. This is laughably not a new discussion, so I won’t go into any more detail on this. Type in “tired of social media” into your favourite search engine and you will uncover vast riches.
What I am interested in is looking at some alternatives to self-promotion. Forgetting about the 6-month release schedule, the PR strategy, the 30 second teaser, you have the work itself. In my case this is as simple as it gets. Just writing music. Doing the work is the first step and this is what I have been doing over the past month or so, almost exclusively. Reflecting on what has been a fruitful creative period for me, I realise that my blog has been non-existent because I have attached my perfectionist ideals through the lens of social media. A debilitating cocktail in this case. Wanting to try out my new material then, has inspired me to want to book some solo jazz guitar gigs where I can have opportunities to crash and burn and perhaps find some gold along the way.
Both projects, this blog and my band are very niche and are still finding their audience. Rather than trying to compete with everyone else screaming for your attention – backed by what at times can feel like a shapeless music industry of people saying that ‘you’re ready’ or ‘you’re not ready’, I can participant in my own terms and do what feels right for me.
A few weeks ago, before bed I just starting writing on a notepad before falling blissfully asleep.
“To play the game but not get attached. To be vulnerable in the world and immune to the fiction. To have a healthy separation between the two. To move at your own pace.”
And underneath the question, “alternatives to self-promotion on social media?”
Blog: Suffering for our art – 1/3/19
I can’t remember when it happened exactly but at some point in my life, I decided that I didn’t want to make music that was just about being angry and sad anymore.
All the cliches – the artist torturing themselves over their work – the black dog never far from it all became old quite fast for me. Now before I go too much further and shoot myself in the proverbial foot, I must clarify that this is not intended as a loud calling out of art that tries and does these things. This is more of a wakeup call for me in realising their inherent limitations for myself – creatively and personally. Also, this is not to say that I now found myself brimming with happiness and jumping around with joy on the regular. I do not find myself today, a person completely cured of all my personal anxieties.
So why move beyond something that clearly works? Well it wasn’t working for me. It became clear that what I was outputting musically was affecting my inner – seemingly fragile world. However, at the time I was not ready to throw out my minor chords and slow tempo chord progressions in favour of something upbeat and funky. That seemed too easy and even insincere. I was more interested in examining my intention behind my music and perhaps throwing out those pesky binaries in the process.
It’s very easy to justify anger or sadness – just look at the world, the political spectrum of fake news and palaver can rouse the softest hearts at times. But there must be more than just reacting and protesting – life can’t be just a vacuum of sound and fury but a complicated, nuanced and transitory world. Do things happen for a reason? Are we even asking the right questions? It became clear after a while that it didn’t seem necessary to make music that was purposefully sad or angry – why do I need to do that when so many of those things exist in the world already?
So from a practical point of view – what happens when we want to shed an identity that we have previously clung to – what does it feel like to make music that is not about a break up, that is not about being angry about the world, that is not about feeling existential angst? It feels different. It feels like there is less of a persona going on. It feels more ordinary. It doesn’t feel like it needs to make people wake up and act about a cause or a thing and yet it feels like it could do all those things if needed be. I feel that most importantly, there is this overall awareness that the world will manage to go on just fine without me and my music. Which is damn liberating.
Finally, it feels like by making music that is not intentionally political – my music is more political than ever. As artists we can take a stand by staying true to who we have always been and who we are born to be, not shifting or yielding to the tide.
New Soft Power album “Bucolica”
Excited to announce that my band Soft Power will be releasing our 3rd full-length album “Bucolica” online on September 20, 2019.
To celebrate, we will be playing a special show at the Jazzlab in Melbourne on September 19th. Tix on sale now or available on the door on the night.
Here is a track “Sea Change” taken from the new album recorded live at Pughouse Studios. Audio by Niko Schauble and video by Mike James Productions.
New projects for 2019
Excited to announce some new musical projects to kick off the new year.
JOYING is a new jazz band by myself that is dedicated to playing original jazz that is hard swinging, energetic and positive. Formed after a Soft Power tour to Tasmania, this band is made up of old musical friends Tom Flenady (double bass) and Liam O’Leary (drums). Full band bio is available to read on the portfolio section of my website and don’t forget to check out my upcoming shows page to catch us live in action.
Also, after a surprise burst of gigs late last year including one at the Northcote Social Club, it has been a pleasure playing guitar in Hydra Fashion Week – a cyber punk jazz band led by Charlie Teitelbaum (Huntly) This promises to be one of my more interesting projects of the year as it is my first time ever contributing backing vocals to a band.
Also excited about my regular projects which so far involves: recording a Shayan album with an extended 7-piece band, more Biscotti gigs and of course some big things planned for Soft Power this year.
Hope to see you at a gig sometime!
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Soft Power’s new album ‘Easy Listening’ out now on Newmarket Music!
Soft Power announces Melbourne / Sydney tour this July / August!
Celebrating the launch of their second album ‘Easy Listening’, Soft Power will be playing 7 shows in Melbourne and Sydney this July / August.
Full dates below:
Fri 20/7. Wesley Anne – Melbourne, Northcote 6pm
Fri 3/8. Wesley Anne – Melbourne, Northcote 6pm
Fri 10/8. The Edinburgh Castle – Melbourne, Brunswick 6pm
Tues 14/8. The Toff in Town – Melbourne, CBD 10pm
Fri 17/8. Halfback Books & Records – Sydney, Dee Why 7pm
Sat 18/8. Golden Age Cinema & Bar – Sydney, Surrey Hills 10pm
Sunday 19/8. Gasoline Pony – Sydney, Marrickville 3pm
Shows with Gena Rose Bruce!
Pleased to be filling in with Gena Rose Bruce’s band for a few shows this July and August. Full dates available in my calendar.