Band Stuff

Commitment by Nick Bullock

Commitment: The scary thing about committing is that you are officially on the hook. The scary thing about being on the hook is that you might be taken to task for not seeing it through. And if you fail, not only do you let others down, but you let yourself down, and that doesn't feel good.

But commitment is also confidence, it's a way of publicly stating your intentions. It's a powerful statement that "yes, I can" is in action. And the funny thing is, even when you trip up and make mistakes, people usually respect those who have whole heartedly committed themselves to something (an ideal, a job, a process etc), and rather than hanging you out to dry, they tend to give you a second chance. The question then is how do we want to perceive ourselves (therefore have others perceive us)? Whether we commit a "take to tape" at a recording session or commit to a relationship, I think the answer is obvious.

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this week in 52 in 52:

The Hand That Pushed:

to stream, go to: https://soundcloud.com/nickbullock/the-hand-that-pushed

52 in 52: fifty two songs in fifty two weeks: its a start... by Nick Bullock

095 Every now and again you get a great idea, that seems far fetched. Some would even deem it crazy. "That sounds nuts", "Why would you ever do that". The best ideas usually are tied hand in hand with those kind of sentiments. The worst is when they not only come from the outside in, but the combo punch of coming from within too.

Self doubt, man its a bitch.

We all have it (i think).

What do you do with it (i'm really asking)?

I used to just pretend like it didn't exist, but I realized in ignoring it, I was somehow just extending its grasp on me. Lately, I'm in the habit of really just letting it be, almost honoring it in a way. Meaning, as soon as I recognize it for what it is (which I'm proud to say, doesn't take me too long anymore… practice makes perfect), as soon as I name it for what it is, I acknowledge it, and then i'm able to actually let it go. My inner monologue literally goes something like this "I feel scared because of ___" … then I say "ok"… and then, almost always, its gone. And i'm back to making decisions based on truth and not fear, based on what I want, not what I doubt I can have.

About a year ago I had the idea to start a recording project, i dubbed it 52 in 52. My band and I will be releasing fifty two songs in fifty two weeks… one song per week for a whole year.

As soon as this crazy idea birthed itself in my head, my logical brain had sooooooo many things to say to the rest of my brain… again, the voice in my head: "what if you can't do it", "what if you release a shitty song", "you only get one chance at a first impression", "its going to be sooooo hard" - that one has a very whiney monolog voice attached to it - "what if i fail", "how am i supposed to write, record, mix and master all that", "screw that!!!" … and on and on.

But you know what, I really value growth above most other things in my life. And the best way I know how to grow, is to do, and do again, and again, and again. At the end of the day, the thing that excites me most, excites me louder than any voice in my head, or voice of doubt in the world, is the chance to learn from each and every song I write and record. I'm sure there will be some songs that I write that are better than others, and I'm sure that my band and I will achieve greater sonic bliss on some songs while tracking and producing each song, but you know what, each time, i'll be getting better at it. We'll be getting better at it.

So if you're at all interested in checking up on the progress, there will be several ways you can. Weekly social media blasts, and email list and the like.

At the end of the year,we will have people (like you!) vote on their favorite 10 songs, and release a very special album, curated by you.

Certainly expect some videos in the works too, again, picked by you the people.

So there it is, my crazy ass idea, but what the hell, you only live once, why not challenge yourself. Go big or go home, right?

Here's the link for week 1: https://soundcloud.com/nickbullock/lonely

happy new year

xo

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Before and Now: One Year Left by Nick Bullock

IMG_3763 What would you do with only one year left to live? How would you live, what would you change? What are you meant to do with your life?

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hadn't even started working for Starbucks till he was 29

Martha Stewart worked on Wall Street for five years before starting her brand.

At age 25 Mark Cuban was sleeping on a floor, sharing a three bedroom apartment, with five other guys.

John D Rockefeller made his billions early, but his life didn't really begin till he got deathly ill, was given a year to live, and decided he couldn't take his wealth with him to the grave. Philanthropy became his soul purpose in life, his true calling, and he lived for another 40 years giving his money away.

JK Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and was married, had a child, and got divorced all before she got the first Harry Potter book published.

At 29 Oprah Winfrey moved to Chicago to host a local morning radio talk show.

My point in all of this is that we are not always in control of where the universe brings us. We are not always where we need to be, and we sometimes don't get what we want in life. But time and time again, I have seen with my own eyes, that life puts us right where we are meant to be. Do you think that any of the above people knew that they would end up where they did? No. They might have dreamt, and visualized, and prayed, and worked their asses off, but there are no certainties in life.

When I was 15 I wanted to be a professional point guard in the NBA. Just ask my friends... i even once told a friends mom that I would buy her a new car when I got drafted... they still like to remind that I owe them... I was devastated when I didn't make the team. Later that year I picked up the guitar.

We might not always get what we want, but almost always we get absolutely the best thing for us, even if we don't recognize it at the time.

So, if you had one year left, what would you do with your time?

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Patience, Wisdom, Courage and Strength by Nick Bullock

Cartoon girl:guitar Strength (from Webster's Dictionary): the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

Strength is easy, it's really about taking action. Do it. Whatever that is. That is having strength. It has nothing to do with size, and everything to do with intent. To dare to dream is great, but it's in the first step, and the second step that strength is shown. So write your song, book a show, show your face... it takes strength to make those first steps (as well as every step there after)

Courage (again, Webster says): the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

Yup, strength's big brother. Before the step can be taken, you need to come to a realization that you are not doing what you were put here in this planet to do. This might be one of the hardest things to admit to yourself... "yeah, I don't love my job, but it does have great benefits" etc. I'm not shitting on anyones desires to lift themselves out of poverty, or anyones goals to make more money, but money is just energy, and so is courage. It builds until one day you say "f the benefits, i'm miserable". Whether your happiest when writing a book, or poem, or acting, or singing songs or whatever, courage is recognizing that steps (strength) that need to be taken, and admitting your truth. And doing it everyday if need be.

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Wisdom (Webster's Dictionary): knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life

That's the thing... experiences... you don't know you love acting until you have the unique experience that comes with it. The first time I saw a guitar player doing his thing, I thought it was really cool. And, as a small child at the time, I remember thinking I wonder how you do that... Where are those sounds coming from? Fast foreword about ten years and I have the experience of picking up the guitar for the first time, and the wonder and frustration that comes with learning a new instrument. Fast foreword another ten years and I have the experience of going to school to study the instrument, and playing my first professional gigs with it. Maybe, beginning to build a little bit of wisdom on how to use the guitar properly, for me. Another ten years, and I have all the experience and wisdom that I have now (and i'm still working on it!). You can't fake passion, passion doesn't start with knowledge, but it can go hand in hand with wisdom. Without all my experiences, I wouldn't have cultivated whatever knowledge I do have in my early thirties about playing guitar, being a professional musician and making music. Without that wisdom, I wouldn't understand my passion nearly as well as I do, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do... Without the experiences and wisdom gathered, I would be lost. Even with courage and strength.

Patience:

More often than not, this is the one that I struggle with the most. But in all honesty, it might be the most important. When you're playing a solo live, improvising your way through with your band mates and friends, patience can be what makes or breaks the experience. When you're in the studio, searching for the right tone and part, patience is the saving grace, other wise you settle for less than what your creativity is demanding of you. When you're writing a song, patience is being able to take a deep breath, and stay present and with it until you've figured out the next line in the story you're telling. It's also knowing a good song when you have one, and not becoming negative about it when the first person you show it to/play it for doesn't loose his or her shit and have a come to Jesus moment like you think everyone one should. And patience is being able to smile and relax when you are meeting someone who wants to help you along your path to success. In this case, it's the comfortable pair of jeans that never looses its popularity, because patience tells you that you are worthy of success, and it doesn't really matter if the person you are meeting with right now actually comes through or not.  patience is being in it for the long haul... the long game.

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*clearly none of this artwork is mine

One Year by Nick Bullock

   

Have you ever dared to start over, to begin anew, click the refresh button for your soul?

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It can be something that brings out an immense amount of excitement from deep within you, but can also have you trembling your ass off. It doesn't always happen overnight, it can take time for you to notice the winds calling. For me, there are voices in my head, the good kind, that yell at me over and over until finally I gather up enough courage to listen and take action.

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This September marked the one year anniversary of us moving to Nashville. It has been one of the best choices I have ever made, one of the best examples I can think about in my own life of gathering that courage, listening to those voices, and jumping off the cliff. I'm lucky, I didn't have to do it alone. I have the love of my life here to experience all of the ups and downs a year of transition can bring (a year of life can bring). I have supportive parents, a brother who is cheering me on, not to mention all the old friends from New York (and beyond), and all the new friends from Nashville (and beyond).

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It can be really hard (and scary) to start all over, especially being a musician in a place like this. One year in, moving to Nashville has already given me so many blessings that I would have missed out on if I lacked the wisdom to listen to those voices in my head. Thinking back on the week I've had, I've gotten to hang with a grammy award winning producer that I really respect and like, I've been reunited with an old tour friend, and gotten to meet some of the cool people he knows here in town, I've co-written two songs with two great songwriters, I had a great rehearsal with a band that I get to play guitar in, and I am going to top it off by recording and producing an EP for a great songwriter and friend this weekend, where I get to flex some new gear that I recently purchased for my studio. Oh, and I bought a new piano! This week is a direct result of the previous fifty one weeks that came before it, and all the aforementioned support that I've been lucky enough to have. And it makes me really excited, because if this is what fifty one weeks of hard work brings with it, then I can't wait to see what one hundred and four weeks bring! The courage it takes to dive untethered into new territory, is no small amount. But when we demand the most for ourselves and out of this one life we are given, the new roads we are called towards give us more in return than we thought possible.

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There are no guarantees in life, but i'm constantly amazed at the gifts each new turn in the road can bestow for anyone daring enough to drive blind around a corner.

You can do it.

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Some things to think about before hitting record by Nick Bullock

I met with a friend last night to talk about making his record. We got together, and he played me all of the songs he was considering recording, and we talked about the arrangements, instrumentation, and production he was aiming for. As the person who is producing, engineering and finally mixing his album, it's my job to make sure that his vision is achieved, both artistically and sonically. There are so many factors that go into crossing that goal line that I thought I would just outline some thoughts on the process. board

1.) Pre-production can make all the difference in the world, turning a good song into a great song. It can also serve the artist by helping him/her get an even firmer grasp on the sounds they are going for. For the artist I mentioned above, we will be getting together at least one more time with the full band to rehearse and go over arrangements. This just helps to smooth out any kinks that show up. It's much better (and cheaper) to work all that stuff out before you actually hit record. It also serves as a confidence booster to everyone in the group.

2.) Don't be afraid to copy the greats. Get specific. There is no way that I can get your band to sound exactly like Surfer Rosa era Pixies, but it does help the producers and engineers to know that you love the bass sound on Michael Jacksons Thriller, or the snare on the Smashing Pumpkins Good Night Good Night. Borrow the sounds and the ideas of your heroes, just don't expect to make a DNA copy of their music, nobody wants that anyways. (This of course applies to the writing process too... chord progressions, snippets of melodies etc)

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3.) Now is not the time to quit smoking, or switch to tea. I'm not saying that I do not wish for you a long and healthy life, but recording can be stressful. You are spending a decent to a huge amount of money to lay down your soul for all the world to see, and you want to get it right. There can be a lot of internal pressure (and sometimes external). It can be a scary process for some. This is also where a skilled producer comes in to play as well, managing personalities and feelings almost as much as they are managing guitar tones and performances. All I'm saying is don't do anything that is going to add a big amount of stress to the process (which includes partying... the studio is not a disco tech, at least not anymore... at least mine isn't).

4.) Tune your guitar between every take. It's a good habit to get into, just do it.

5.) Make sure you have all the pics, strings, smaller instruments, cables, percussion you could possibly ever need. Write up a master list of everything you will be bringing, and get it all together the day before you load into the studio. Check it twice.

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6.) This is the moment you have been waiting for. Embrace it, trust the people you have chosen to work with. By the time you are ready to hit record, you have already made most of the difficult decisions. It's time to breath and concentrate on playing and singing your ass off. Let the rest float down stream. Don't worry about deadlines, don't worry about changing the world, don't worry about who will like this or that. Trust your self, trust in the moment, and play for the selfish joy it bring you and your mates. The best records, I think, are the ones where the band lets go of expectations, and they trust in the process of being in the moment. They make decisions based on what they enjoy about music, what they like. You've already dissected every chord and lyric, and channel strip, so now its just about having fun and making great music.

What do you do to help get yourself ready to record? Share your thoughts.

Touring: Experimental Existentialism and Shut Up and Play by Nick Bullock

Have you ever toured before or wanted to hit the road in a van, with your best buds, playing your music? Who wouldn't want to, right? A few weeks ago, my band went on a ten day tour, starting down south and eventually ending up north to play a festival set near my old stomping grounds of Ithaca NY. All in all, playing eight shows along the way. I thought I would share some thoughts on my experience, both anecdotal and practical. First, a brief background for those of you who don't know where I'm coming from. I spent the majority of my 20's, in a van touring with my best friends. tour6

We lived together, worked together, partied together, did chores together, wrote together, and recorded together. We were, in some ways, living the dream. One day at a time, we were figuring out how to be professional musicians in a professionally touring band, playing original music. We hit the jam band circuit hard for years, playing well over 150 shows a year for the majority of our time together. That is a lot of days on the road, I don't care who you are. We sacrificed much of our personal lives for the greater good of the band, and for our shared vision of what we wanted out of life. I'm very proud of those days, and I don't regret a single moment. Being in that band taught me many many things.

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But, like all things, everything comes to an end eventually. When we split up, we all went our different ways, and I, out of my creative restlessness started a new band called The Sound Awake a few years ago. In the time that has passed since my "touring as a living" days, I have gotten married, started a business, sold that business, moved to Nashville, and started my studio, and a new musical/professional life here in music city.... so this tour that I mentioned above, was really like a dipping of the toe back in the warm waters of the touring lifestyle. More than anything, I was curious to see how I handled everything... so here we go.

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The Existential Experiment:

Playing music you write to a room full of enthusiastic people is really one of the greatest feelings I've ever experienced in my life. It is an experience that I would encourage anyone who writes their own music to aim for. The good news is it's a reachable goal. I didn't realize how much I missed the camaraderie of being in a band, hitting the road, and doing it together. There is a bond that gets formed, regardless of personal differences, or personality traits or whatever... it's unavoidable. You get tighter as people (sometimes this means you see both sides of people's humanity, the good and the bad), and tighter as a band. There is definitely a thing called "tour tight"... its kind of unexplainable, but after so many shows on the road, you all just gel better musically. We weren't out there quite long enough to get deep into that tightness, but it was there, lurking, and I could feel it. I wanted to drink it in more, I wanted to let that feeling wash over me more. I got a taste, and it was sweet. Touring is also an amazing social experiment, and way more times than naught, you get reminded of people's innate goodness. The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing to behold. It is so easy to believe that the human race is going to hell in a hand basket, but when you get out there, meet people face to face, give them a genuine smile, you would be surprised at how many genuine smiles you get in return. Maybe that speaks more for the power of music, than anything else, but the fact remains, there are a lot of kind people out there who will offer you a couch to sleep on, buy a CD to support your dreams, cheer you on,  buy you a beer, talk guitar tones, or lend you an amp if yours breaks. I could go on and on. Touring is also a great time to catch up with old friends that you don't get to see on the regular. It is truly one of the best things about being on the road. I would go through and name all my friends that I got to see and spend some quality time with this last time out, but there are too many to name. I miss them already. All in all, the tour was very successful. When we got up to upstate NY to play the Grass Roots Festival (which is attended by about 10k-15k people), we were in shape, and we brought our A game. Nothing compares to the roar of a crowd after a particular enthusiastic song or musical moment... and my end goal all along was to get that roar, and we did, more than once. I can't tell you exactly what it feels like to be the target of a crowds raging storm of energy, but it feels so good. Its a drug, and I want more of it.

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I don't know what it would be like to do 150 dates a year again, and quite honetly, where I am in life, I would have to get paid way more than we did on this tour to consider doing it. I missed my wife, I missed sleeping in my bed. I didn't enjoy sleeping on couches quite as much as I used to remember. And I like my AC (sorry, it's true...). Touring is hard work. You drive all day, hurrying along the freeway, watching the mile markers count down, only to get to the venue to see there is no sound guy, or the bathroom doesn't have a door on it, or the PA that the venue said they have doesn't actually exist... or all of the above. If you are going to put yourself out there night in and night out, the one thing I would say, is that the music has to be the life blood, it has to be the source and the purpose, it has to be the thing that gets you off the most. And you have to believe in it, more than you believe in anything else, at least for the moment. So, if you're still into it, here are some very practical thoughts I can share with you on the my experience.

Shut up and Play: I'll keep this pretty straight forward.

Start booking the tour at least four months in advance. If you're booking yourself, it takes more time than usual to get all the ducks in a row, line up the routing properly, and make as much of a promotional splash in the market as you can before the concert date.

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It's up to you to get people through the door, and once they are there, to keep them there. I don't buy that it is only the clubs or promoters responsibility for the success of the show. We, as artists, are in charge of our carriers, not the venue. That being said, usually when venues see that you are working hard to promote a show, they will get on board and pick up the slack on their end too. A win win is what we are all aiming for, after all.

Advance the show! At least once, if not twice. Go over all the details with the talent buyer at least a month before the show. This can clear up any little hang ups, and make sure that communication is clean and obvious. This will ensure that you have little to no headaches on the road, it will help you rest easier knowing that all the t's and i's are crossed and dotted. Ultimately allowing you to concentrate on the music and relationships that can form while on the road.

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The music comes first. Don't drink too much, serisouly. Don't overdue the excesses, because it will be easy to. When I was on the road this last time, I started smoking again (why oh why! after months of successfully quitting)... why? because I'm human, and thought I could handle the temptation. Beware, is all I have to say. Have a good time, but music first, and music last. (I am now more than a week quit again, thank you very much... get back on that horse!)

Appreciate your band mates, you are all in it together. You are a team. If someone is in a bad mood, it doesn't hurt to give them space. Don't take everything to heart, people are people, love them for who they are and where they are in their own personal journey. As long as everyone is treating the music with the respect it deserves (see above), all will be good.

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Don't be afraid to warm up! In the van, in the green room, wherever. What ever you can do to make the show a better experience. Warm those pipes, warm those fingers, and don't be embarrassed about it.

You are there to provide entertainment. Read the room, it might not be a great time to take a set break after playing your second ballad in a row. You will get booked again if you keep people in the room, buying drinks. Unless your touring larger venues, and drawing hundreds of people, know that the one thing that will help you achieve your goals is to get rebooked, and get playing for more people next time. The people that were there had such a great time listening to you that they tell their friends, buy your merch, sign your mailing list and spread your gospel.

Have a mailing list. Have your merch table in a well lit and obvious place. Seems like a no brainer right? Bring a light, bring a cool table cloth or patchwork blanket to lay down... anything to make your products/merch look cooler, or more professional.

Know that nothing is perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect tour. Have a a does of thick skin, if the promoter or bartender is being a total jerk, walk away respectfully. If the show is poorly attended, play your ass off regardless. Touring has its limitations, enjoy it for what it is and know that doing your best is all you really can do at the end of the day.

A big thank you to Kevin and Russ, bass and drums extraordinaire, you guys are the rock to my rock n roll. Thanks for making the tour possible. #tsatour

What are some lessons you've learned from touring? What about touring most excites you? Share you thoughts, we would love to hear them! 

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Some Words with Music Band from Nashville TN by Nick Bullock

Hello from the road/tour! One of the best things about living in Nashville is the incredible talent that you are surrounded with everyday. It can be daunting, but mostly I find it extremely inspirational, and enlightening. It helps me clarify what and why I do what I do with my musical career.

Music Band is probably my favorite band in Nashville, and and I only say probably because I'm very aware of my own tendency to get super excited when I bear witness to great musicians singing great songs... Music Band is positively great. I've gotten the opportunity to see them a bunch since moving to Nashville, and under full disclosure, I've have the great fortune of knowing them personally for the last three or four years... And to sum up my feelings, last time I saw them, I immediately went home and wrote a song that was very inspired by them. And for me, whenever someone makes me want to go home, pick up my guitar and start writing, I'm all in. That, is true inspiration. Thanks for that Lee, Harry and Duncan.

Enjoy the interview!

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Nick Bullock Music: What is your favorite thing about the Nashville music scene?

Music Band: The music scene here had been gaining momentum well before we moved here two and a half years ago. Really steaming, cooking with gas. It's like a big steam engine ripping through a residential intersection at 3 in the morning and the driver is all coked out and fucked up just laying on the whistle because he hates his life and wants to ruin everyone's night. That actually might be one of my least favorite things, when a train sounds its horn for way too long and you're just too close to it. It cuts right to my core, enough for me to shout out loud, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" every time I hear it. Damn, it makes me so mad. But the Nashville music scene does not make me feel this way. We got mad respect for these streets and these peeps here. Mostly everyone who plays music here rules, and I think that's because it's the kind of town that if you come here and don't have any respect for the folks who have been holding it down OG-style then you're liable to get yourself banished. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. It's "Music City" and people have been doing this for as long as anything here. That's what's cool about Nashville. It doesn't matter what kind of music you're into because you should be able to appreciate the real heads who are on their grind. It's funny to go to shows here, and a lot of touring bands I meet will lament about this, but a lot of the time when Nashville people are watching bands they don't move around much. I think it's not because everyone's jaded on music but it's more because everyone is a musician in their own right and are actually watching the band, I mean having a real peek-see, and I can respect that.
NBM: How do you balance the artistic/creative side of being in a band with the business side of being in a band?
MB: We've been pretty much doing our own business since the beginning, so it's not really something we think about much anymore. Although lately there have been more business-related things going on for us, it's fun to learn how it's done, and I think we're fortunate to have some guidance from our friends who know what they're doing. Everyone in a band is always like, "I just want to play, man. The music industry is killing me. Etc." but we're quickly learning that if you can't deal with the business side of things then, well, what the hell? Music ain't a hobby. Not for the real heads, at least. If you're actually trying to make money or a career out of this then you gotta learn how the shit works, even if it's learning by trial and error. I think it gets to a point where the creative side of playing music is sort of like the "reward" for everything else. Or at least that seems like a good situation. I guess it's something we've just had to start balancing out of necessity.

NBM: How do songs come into creation for the band?
MB: Most of the time one of us will work on the structure of a song alone and then bring it to the the rest of the band in practice and we'll spend a few days working it out, trying different things. A lot of the songs on our new tape "Can I Live" actually came out of fucking around at our old practice space, as bands are wont to do. Some of my favorite songs we have just came up off the dome from a late-night "jam", as corny as that sounds. Once we have a song though, we spend a lot of time tweaking it and working on dynamics, harmonies, etc. usually by recording a demo at home and seeing what we like/don't like. Lyrics are really important to me (Harry), and so that's often one thing I personally start with.

 

NBM: Do you have an end goal, a big picture you are shooting for?

MB: To become immortal, and then, die.

NBM: What about being in a band excites you the most? What are you working on now? How is the process going (how did it go)?
MB: Live shows are the best. Going on the road. Meeting people, meeting other bands. Good audiences. Makin' em laugh. Free meals. Being in the van just getting all crazy. Figuring out a new song and being really excited about it. Recording. Takin' a peek-see at mixes in the studio (shout-out to Andrija at Bomb Shelter). Venues that really know how to treat musicians, and not that bullshit where you show up and everyone working there is like "I don't even want to be here tonight. What's even going on?" Havin' a plate of Lil' Smokies in the morning. Fun doggies. Seeing our parents on tour. Putting friends on "the list" due to mad respect. 

 

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Check out their new release "Can I Live" a cassette release on Infinity Cat: http://infinity-cat-recordings.myshopify.com/collections/music-band

You can listen/stream there stuff here: http://musicband.bandcamp.com

For music info/shows etc go here: https://www.facebook.com/musicband.gov

Support Local Music!

What Nashville band should I interview next?

Play For Me... by Nick Bullock

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Hi, Musician on stage... I'm here, I'm the only guy in the room... can't you see me? I'm listening, I'm clapping, I'm engaged in your music... this is your soul, remember, and I am liking your soul... hello? I don't need or want you to stare at me the whole time, thats just creepy, but some eye contact would be nice when I'm the only one clapping. Just saying.

And at the end of the show, come say hi, because I stayed, I am still here, and I'm not counting the wasted girl who is flashing the bartender, or the drunk dude passed out and slowly sliding off his stool, they doesn't count. Lets talk, and get to know each other a little bit.

I was hanging at the Family Wash over on the East side in Nashville, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites spots to hang, and saw a band there in this exact context. And you know what, the singer made eye contact, and came over and said hello, and thanked me for being the only one paying attention.

It makes a difference.

A little eye contact goes a long way.

 

 

Playing a guitar solo on the back of a motorcycle... by Nick Bullock

cloud I get it, they go super fast, and the rush... man, it's addicting! I was on the back of a bike for the first time last week, sweeping through the Dragons Tale in North Carolina and Tennessee. If you like to ride, then you know The Dragons Tale. (After I said a few Hail Mary's) I was blown away by how oddly safe I felt once I got used to the glide of the bike. In a somewhat strange way, it reminded me of a great guitar solo. In it's breakneck pace, the sudden turns, the leaning in with your body, the speeding in and out of a curve, the tension of unforeseen scenarios that a driver will encounter, and the ability to deftly handle any precarious situation he is given. The driver must be zen at all times, flowing with the curves, and at the same time keeping a watchful eye for anything that might disrupt the pace.

A great guitar solo (or any instrument for that matter) does the same things, staying in the moment, trusting your instinct, hearing when the music "turns", keeping your technique relaxed at all times. They even made a books out of it... (Zen Guitar and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). And like the driver of the motorcycle, the driver of the solo needs to be aware of many things at once, all while keeping that improvisational wonder. Where is the drummer, pushing the beat, pulling the beat or riding the middle? What did the keys player just play, what chord extension was that? Where are we going? Am I taking the audience with me? Am I leading us up the mountain, sweeping around curves, or am I just sitting letting the bike idle?

I could talk for years about what scales go with what chords, and what you could do by superimposing a triad over another chord. I can talk about dotted rhythms, triplets, playing over the bar lines, extending phrases and  the simplistic beauty of the one note solo, but really, a good solo simply moves us to feel alive and excited. It comes from passion, and the freedom to risk falling on your face combined with the confidence to be able to take any turn in the road.

What do you do that gives you that same freedom?

Gerry

Infinitely Available by Nick Bullock

Infinitely available... Probably the most important thing you can ever be. The biggest gift to someone else is your time. That is the most precious possession we own, because we only have one life, and it goes by fast.

When you are meeting a friend for coffee, or going on a date with your husband or wife or girlfriend or boyfriend, give them your full attention. Look at them when you listen, and look at them when you speak. Smile with your eyes. Those non verbal cues are the most important.

When you are writing a song with a friend, give their ideas 100% of your attention. Really listen. If both of you do this, the inspiration will run over, and you will write a great song.

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When you are making an album, put away your phone. Listen to what the guitar player just overdubbed, and cheer him or her on. Tell them what it was that was awesome, before you say anything else. Be goofy, make jokes, and laugh with your band mates. Celebrate at the end of each stage. Even if it is just a high five.

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Be like a puppy, infinitely available. As best as you can. In the end, your art, your relationships and your life will have more of an impact.

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Thanks to GoodSex for a great week of recording. I love your songs, and I'm excited to mix this record!

 

Everyday by Nick Bullock

Everyday: read a book in your field

write a song

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teach someone younger than you

teach

listen to your favorite vinyl record

vinyl

go to a house show

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go to a big concert

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kiss your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend

tell a friend you love them

schedule a coffee meeting with someone you admire

Calenadar

learn something new about gear

gear

look for a mentor

go to the gym

record music with your friends

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smell the flowers

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...or, if you're like me, take a breath, and do what you can today, and trust the process.

 

Ten Thoughts on Touring by Nick Bullock

Do you ever wonder what it's like to drive cross country with your best buds and play music that you love? If you are thinking about making that move, here are some thoughts on it that I hope you'll find helpful. tour

I miss touring! I spent about ten years of my life playing well over a thousand shows and living out of a van. Touring with the same guys night in and night out. We were lucky, we made our living playing our music for audiences around the country. Touring can be such a fun way make a living, and it can be a very tough lifestyle. Here are some thoughts/tips/advice (call it whatever you want)...

1.) Don't be an ass and drink when it's your turn to drive.

Seriously a dick move here. It's a great way to build resentment in the van, and can make for a very angry band in the morning, and at the next show, which of course, an audience can pick up on. Pull your weight, I don't care what you play.

2.) Set up your merch every night, even if you don't want to. When the show is over, go and hang out by the table.

An obvious one it would seem, but I've been to so many shows where it'll be 4 or 5 bands on the bill, and only two of them have their shwag out and viewable. Even if you don't have any t-shirts, and the record hasn't come out yet, at least have a snazzy mailing list, a pen (yes!) and a light by which to see. Also, when you can, place the merch by the door, so people walk by it on their way out.  (Admittedly, I could take my own advice here sometimes too!)

3.) When you crash with strangers, treat their house with respect, make your bed, do the dishes, say thank you with your actions, not just your words.

The strangers you meet on the road are the real reason we do this. They are friends in the making and fans for life. It builds good will, and the next time you're in town, they are likely to have you over again, come to the show, tell all their friends that the coolest band in the world is coming to town etc.

4.) Try not to eat at too many greasy spoon joints.

When  I finally learned this lesson, I started the habit of packing and bringing some healthy food with me, especially on the shorter runs of shows. You aren't always in control of what your eating options are, but make healthy choices when you can. A good trick is to shop for breakfast at a local grocery store instead of the diner. More now than ever before it seems like they'll have an organic section with some healthy options. If you're touring, your in it for the long haul, your gut (and your wallet) will thank you.

5.) Be on time, even though no one else will be.

Hurry up and wait is the name of the game. But being on time is a good way to build trust with venues and promoters, even though most people won't be. It is also a good way to guarantee you a sound check, which will make the show that much better.

6.) Never, ever, ever talk shit about another band you are playing with. 

Word will get out, and it's not the other bands that will suffer, you'll be known as a prick. Don't be a prick.

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7.) Don't stare at your shoes.

The show is for you, AND the audience. Look at them, or at least pretend to. I still struggle with this one sometimes, but inevitably, when I come out of my shell, the show takes a turn for the better. Have fun, you're playing music.

8.) Tip the bartenders at every show.

They, more often than not, have the ears of their bosses, and promoters. Treat everyone you meet well, and they will more than likely remember you for it, even if it doesn't seem so at first. Oh yeah, and of course when you do meet an asshole, ignore them.

9.) Give your band mates space when they need it. 

Everyone gets pissy now and again. We miss our significant others back at home, we're hung over, we don't want to drive 5 hours today, we're missing the game, whatever the case, don't take things personally. If someone says something that (you know) they don't really mean, let it roll off your shoulders at the moment, and when calmer heads prevail, bring it up then if you really need to (maybe after the kick ass sold our show you just played). Communication is of course key, but timing is a good thing to get a feel for too.

10.) Stop to smell the roses.

There are so many wonderful experiences to have when you're out there on the road, playing show after show. You're with your best friends (at least some of them!), you're getting to see the country and meet so many cool people, making friends every where you go. Don't take it for granted. Some of those friendships I formed I still cherish dearly to this day. Stop and smell the roses, and smile.

So what did I miss?? What are some other things that every band should know when they start touring?