Indie Band Guru – Review of the Wild West Medicine Show

http://indiebandguru.com/kally-omally-a-testament-to-having-a-musical-passion-even-with-a-day-job/

I love this review.  This guy gets me.  Part of me had to do this project just to see if I could and what I would learn along the way.  I’ve never believed in being a “starving” artist, or that you have to “suffer” for your craft.  My parents were both cops. They worked incredibly long hours often picking up additional off duty jobs to help pay for the extra’s.  They weren’t particularly musical either.  I’m pretty sure they saw that my head was in the clouds early on and perhaps that worried them.

When I was sixteen I asked them if I could run rickshaws in Coconut Grove (I thought it would be a great way to make money and lose weight).  After a resounding NO from the parental units I opted for a summer job at JC Penney’s.  After coming back from the military I started going to school at Miami Dade Community College on the Homestead Campus and ended up getting a job as a dispatcher for the Florida Highway Patrol.

At the time I was studying classical music and it was not uncommon for me to be humming or singing softly in the dispatch room in between calls, especially when I worked midnights and the shift was slow.

Slow and steady, with the full intent of improving along the way is how I approach my craft.

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Blurred Lines in the Music Business (Mimicry and Risk Aversion)

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Marvin Gaye’s family won the lawsuit to the tune of 7.5 million dollars.  So now Thicke and Williams have to pony up the loot. I’m a songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and producer who strives for originality.  Now nothing in songwriting is purely original.  Most of us stick to the Western scale system and use I, IV, V as the root of our music.   Different formula’s for different styles but the fundamental platform in which we write a song has been an established paradigm for years.  So then what’s the problem? The business wants Mimicry! Repetition and for you to make it sound familiar!  One need only look to Glam Metal to see the obvious….lol.

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Making music is a huge business where ridiculous profits are possible (not probable for most).  Promoting the new and unique is akin to risk taking and like any big business, they’re risk averse.  They want to continue to reap profits from a proven method.  It’s understandable.  Fear of losing one’s paycheck is enough to incentivize them to want to err on the side of caution, so everything soon starts to sound the same.  Follow the rules, sound like someone popular, get to the hook fast, have production that sounds like the pro-sounds that the major houses put out.  One of the best examples of this is the Nashville sound, which has pretty much ruined country music.  The commercially produced music coming out of Nashville is sounding like pre-packaged meals, looks great on the outside, but inside it’s bland.  As long as the standard operating paradigm for the music business continues to be “do what has been done before,” we’ll continue to see judgements such as this.

We love songwriting for the framework, it’s like you’re given free range to roam within a certain set of rules and boundaries.  But there’s nothing new in the universe, so being creative is a challenge.  As a voice student, I was taught to never try to sound like anyone else, but to discover and cultivate my own sound.  The same approach applies to my songwriting craft.  I sonically isolate myself from popular music or even any music at all when I’m creating and let the words drive the melody.  Even with all safeguards, it’s still possible to end up with something that may sound a bit like something else.

To intentionally create music that sounds like something else flies in the face of true artistry, but we can’t help but wonder if the jury had really been peers of Thicke and Williams (meaning a jury of fellow songwriters) would the outcome have been the same?  I can easily distinguish the cowbell rhythm differences, and other major differences, but could the jury?

I use a submission service to place my music and I’d like to give you a little taste of my last rejection from Warner as it demonstrates this paradigm: “Hi Kally, First I want to say you are a true artist/writer.  I admire when an artist is not afraid to do something new.  The problem is, we work with straight middle America pop and RnB.  I wouldn’t know where to begin to place your project so for that reason, I have to pass.  If in the future I receive an opportunity that fits your style of music I’ll reach out to you.”  I’ll take the rejection over watering down my artistic integrity any day.

I’d be willing to bet that many artists get worn down over time and eventually bend to what the business wants, which is guaranteed profits.  It would be all to easy to sacrifice that integrity for the idea of “success” which is something every composer/producer must face.

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Bourbon on my Deathbed

I’m terribly impatient. I want to release these as I get them recorded and don’t have anything keeping me from doing that. Freedom is a beautiful thing. I’ll eventually pull them all together into a CD format and hopefully manage to keep a few songs a surprise.  

My family is from Ashland Kentucky and my Granny and I had an especially close relationship.   She was an amazing and entertaining lady.  She would talk about how beautiful Kentucky was and how she ached to return to the land of her roots.

When she was in the assisted living facility she was a hoot.  I was visiting with her one afternoon and she was telling me about what was happening with the lady she shared the room with and somehow we started talking about  Kentucky and she said, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some KY bourbon.  Just a taste would be sooo good.”  and I said, “Granny, I can take care of that for  you right now.  There’s no good reason why you can’t have yourself a little swig of bourbon if you want it.”  You could see her eyes just light up at the thought and then she said, “Oh, no…no. I just couldn’t,”  “Yes, Granny, yes, you can.  It’ll only take me a moment to run to a package store and get you some!”  She refused.   It was a funny moment that stuck with me.  So this song is for her.  I tried to capture her passion and love for the state and I accidentally made up a word, which I can fix in editing  – I’m just  not sure I want to.

Lyrics:

Give me bourbon on my deathbed
fill my cup, before I die.
In that cup, I place my solace and the
secrets of my life.

Kentucky bourbon on my deathbed
when the bells begin to chime
Oh the devil comes a callin,
If I drink before it’s time.

Give me God that sweet refreshment
it’s like horses running wild
through the bluegrass fields of heaven
as I cross the great divide.

One last kiss of pure delightment –
one last taste upon my tongue,
for this land has been my heaven,
Kentucky bourbon take me home.
Kentucky bourbon take me home.

My Songwriting and Producing Process

I work in academic medicine during the week and my evenings are packed with workouts and band rehearsals so Saturday and Sunday are ideal for composing and getting deep into my craft.  I’m coming down to the final process of my instrumental CD, 12 songs are mixed and ready to be looked at for line up, transitions and mastering.  I accidentally fell into my 13th composition for that CD last Saturday and I think I’ve decided on a name, Delandia.  Naming instrumentals is much tougher than a lyric based song so I look for a word or group of words that conveys the color/hue/vibe of the piece.

I’ve also started recording the tracks for my next CD, which will include, Sweet Delta Breeze, Fly, Oops I Fell Off the Barstool, Miss Understood, Got my One Good Eye On You and a bunch of other tracks.  As a sound engineer, I am extremely interested in the mix and the tricks, continually asking myself, what can I do to make it better, richer and sonically clear. I see so many folks listening to songs right from the speakers of their phones so I think about that mix as well.

My songs are born from all sorts of methods.  Sometimes I get the music first, sometimes I get the lyrics first.  Sometimes some sort of event occurs in my life that is so vivid, so strong it becomes the catalyst for inspiration.  I often get the song all at once, as if I opened up the front door to discover a beautifully wrapped gift left on the porch.  All I have to do is pick it up and unwrap it.  Sometimes it’s so simple it’s downright silly.   Other times it’s silly but not quite as simple.

Oops I Fell Off the Barstool took a little longer and it belongs in that vivid life event category.  Here’s how it went down: A very nice looking blonde lady was sitting at the bar of One Speed restaurant in East Sacramento and enjoying dinner and beers.  She looked a little tipsy but not drunk.  She was laughing and chatting and having a nice time.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw her hand fly up and then heard a big commotion and looked over and she was on the floor and the barstool was on it’s side.  The servers and busboys came running over to make sure she was okay and she popped right up, red in the face and embarrassed.  She went back to her meal and things settled down.

About 4 days later I was sitting in that same barstool.  I had just finished teaching yoga and was enjoying a nice cold beer or two and don’t quite recall exactly how it happened.  I may have leaned back a hair and not realized it, but the next thing you know, I’m on the floor and the chair is on it’s side and I was like, “What just happened?”  I got up and pulled myself together and did a mental review of the incident but couldn’t quite believe it.

The next morning I was in the shower getting ready for work (I get a lot of songs in the shower) and I heard the melody and the line, “Ooops, I fell off the barstool last night!, Gave the poor bartender a terrible fright…the chair flew out and I fell down, people the restaurant turned around when Oops I fell off the barstool last night.”  The rest of the song came over the next few days and involves a bump on my head, a sore butt cheek and one or two beers too many….  Bright fun harmonies and a nice rowdy feel with humor.

So tell me, have you ever fallen off of a barstool?  Or seen someone else fall off of a barstool?

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Easy Money

I should have known that by writing a song called Easy Money, folks might think that I was trying to hook them into some sort of money making scam.  I guarantee, that’s not the case.  My uncle was a paramedic at Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital and he used to love his El Camino.  He used it as a pushcar for racing.  When I was a kid I used to clean his house (gross) for extra loot.

It seemed to fitting to include the El Camino in this song.  I made the video as well, using an online program that got scooped up by Disney unfortunately so they closed up shop.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish on your own these days if you’ve got some technological prowess.  The tools that are available have rewritten the manual on what we can accomplish individually.

I’ve got two major projects that I hope to wrap by the end of the year.  It’s a good thing I get two weeks off from my hospital job over the approaching holidays.  I’m going to use that time to wrap up my instrumental CD and try to finish recording the music for my next lyric based CD, “Wild West Medicine Show.”  The songs are written and crowds are already responding to my new songs, “Sweet Delta Breeze” and “Fly.”

My head is a broken record

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“Just how lonely can lonely be?” by Southern Culture on the Skids is one of the covers I’m learning.   I’ve got it down, guitar parts memorized.  It’s pretty simple, just rooting the words down into my brain so they’ll stick and I can get off the page.  I really like the structure of this song and it fits right in with my material.

I’ve never had much of a memory for certain types of data – the order of presidents, important years of historical events (minus the depression 29-32) have always escaped me.  One thing though that does not escape me is a song.  Especially a song that I’m working on.  I can hear all the parts in my head and when it’s really bad it’s like a pinball machine on tilt.

I had a super interesting conversation with my father recently.  He brought up this story from my past and asked me if I recalled it… I had come home from Neva King Cooper Middle School with a less than stellar report card.  He was displeased.  I was in my parents walk in closet and he was yelling at me.  His exact words were, “What in the hell goes through your head all day?”

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One thing about my father was that he could smell a lie.  And lying to him was akin to an enormous betrayal.  I weighed the consequences and decided immediately that the pure truth was in order.  I looked up at him and said, “Songs.  Songs go through my head all day.”  He looked at me utterly confused and was unsure what to say.  I think at that point I was wanting to audition for Annie so it was songs like, “It’s a Hard Knock Life, Tomorrow, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile,” etc.  I would hear the melodies and the songs as if they were on repeat.  And it was impossible to get it to stop.  Sometimes it was the last thing I heard as I got out of the car.

Now here I am, three CD’s later, songs placed with publishers and on apps and my dad said to me, “It didn’t make any sense to me back then, but it sure makes sense now.”  And it does.  Perhaps it’s just part of my creative process.  I had a voice teacher along the way say, “It’s not how much you practice but how well you practice. Sometimes the best practice is mental.”  I never have to worry about not having a radio.  😉