Nashville recording studio

10 Things About Growth If You're An Artist by Nick Bullock

10 Things To Think About Concerning Growth and Growing as a Professional Artist: 1. Growing pains exist. There will be a time when you are still developing your skills. As a matter of fact, you will always be developing your skills. There will be moments when others doubt your abilities, or doubt what you can do. You can, at that time, decide whether or not you are going to honor your reality, or theirs. I suggest honoring your own.

2. Not everything is for everyone. It's ok if people don't like what you do. As a matter of fact, the more people don't, probably means that you are closer to finding your niche. If you are a really good americana songwriter, or incredibly skilled with ink drawings, then maybe a metal head won't like your song, or maybe a fan of water color paintings isn't going to choose your ink drawing. There are lots of people who do like ink, and who do like americana. Do what you do first, then find the people who dig it.

3. Marketing, marketing, marketing. The more organized and intentional you can be with your business, the further you're going to go. Period. If you take your business seriously, others will too.

4. Take a break. When you need one, take a vacation. As a self employed artist, It can be really hard to take time off. But it does your body, your mind and your soul a world of good to take a break every now and again. Yes, there are times when you have to put the pedal to the metal, and just move forward, but balancing that with taking breaks when you can is imperative to your survival as a person and an artist.

5. Shake hands and kiss babies. Take a page from politics 101, remember names and remember faces. Connect with people when you meet them. Care. Not disingenuously, do it for real. When you meet someone for the first time, look them in their eyes and search for their soul, be open to being moved by the person.

6. Those who do, do, those who don't, don't. Start something, and see it through. Don't let fear rise to the surface and drown your enthusiasm before you get a chance to explore your ideas. Think less and do more. Book your tour, make your record, show your work, etc. Do things, big and small, "smart" and "dumb".

7. This time right now while you are doing your thing, isn't your last time doing it. So don't get caught up in perfection. Process, not perfection.

8. Remember to check in on your goals. Every now and again (every three months?) take stock of where you are with them. Are they achievable and time sensitive? If someone asks, are you able to clearly communicate them. Write them down, and work backwards till you have the small steps clearly identified. Make it a habit each week to contribute in some small way to the execution of your goals. Each week I ask myself a simple question: "what is the one thing that I can do that can have the biggest positive impact on ___" (fill in the blank).

9. Get a hobby outside of your art. Seek inspiration else where.

10. Be open to life's many twists and turns. There are very few things in your (our) actual control. You can't predict or control how, what or why. But you can control your own reaction to the peaks and valleys. I'm not saying don't every have a pity party, i'm saying be intentional with your pity party, and when you are done, move on. If a song publisher says no, or a dance troupe goes with some one else, what does that mean? Nothing. It means nothing. It means that you can then shift your focus, when you're ready (after said pity party), to what you are supposed to be focusing on, Whether that is the next dance troupe or something completely different. Who knows? Being open is the point.

 

Week 5 of 52 in 52:

Yellow Stone

you can stream it here: https://soundcloud.com/nickbullock/yellow-stone

Week 5

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

liveband

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?

IMG_3742

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.

tour8

 

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.

tour2

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.

tour3

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.

tour1

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.

tour5

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! 

tour4

 

The American Dream: Just Do it (Happy 4th of July) by Nick Bullock

4th of July

Sometimes as a musician-artist, knowing what to do next can be a struggle. Questions like "How do we build our team? Who can help us get where we want to go? Where are our cheerleaders? How can I get a pub deal or record deal?" etc. These were all questions that to one extent or another, I used to ask myself all the time when I was in a full time band. And sometimes I still do. The bad news is that no two music success stories are truly the same. The good news, however, is that every one of those success stories have the same DNA, the same essence. People say you should do A to get to B, which gets you to C, then to D etc... that is all great, and you should absolutely check out what the experts say and do, after all, they're experts!

But you must remember, the best idea to get your band signed, or get that publishing deal, is always going to come from you. You have to do it, and the good news here is that you are very capable. You will need to think better and more creatively than you ever have before, and you will be tried and tested like never before. It will not be easy. I'll say it again, you already know what to do. You have all the cool, crazy and unique ideas that you will ever need, you just need to fish them out.

It's a business, and you must really understand that, even as an artist. Respect the business side of it, know that people are out there doing it so they can feed their families, know that people are out there busting their ass so they can put a roof over their head. You will need to be one of those people busting your ass. But you already know this. The most important thing is that you do it, start it, what ever it is for you. Start recording all the time, start uploading your videos, start working with smart people... what ever it is, do it. That is the only way that you will ever accomplish anything. Don't wait, do it.

Happy 4th of July. Three cheers for the american dream, all of them.

 

 

A Case Study: The War on Drugs, Red Eyes by Nick Bullock

My wife and I started a new tradition this past week, our date night has become a weekly record listening party for two. We'll go to the local record store (last week was Grimey's, on 8th Ave here in Nashville), pick out a vinyl, and go back home. We'll lay a blanket on the living room floor, picnic style, set up the speakers so we're in the sweet spot, and dig in. Last week was my turn to pick, and I grabbed a record that I have been meaning to listen to since March. We were swept away. WOD1

I saw The War on Drugs about three years ago maybe, back when I lived in Ithaca, and I fell in love with them. I know I'm in love because whenever I do fall, I always walk away with a sense of "That is what I want to do", and that is exactly what happened three years ago. And, it is with that in mind that I chose this song for my next case study... here we go :)

Intro: super cool, I love the synth sound, and instantly you get a pulse for the song, the drums enter with the bass, the bari sax, and a guitar playing some pentatonic tastiness... then the vs starts...

I'm not sure what exactly he is talking about here, but it doesn't matter. That is one of the things I love about rock n roll, yes you tell a story, but it is just as much an audio story as it is a lyrical one. What I mean by that is the music serves the lyrics, and vice versa... they make sense together. It's not about one, its about them both, together.

"Where are we This everything On my knees To beat it down To get to my soul I guessed my way Anyone can tell it's you coming But baby, don't mind Leave it on a lie Leave it your own way"

At this point its obvious that the acoustic guitar and drums are really serving as the back bone, pushing the song along at a nice pace, cruising, accompanied by their big brother the bass, and happy for the company. They are there, watching the spectacle of lights that the synths, and the guitars create, and making sure no one gets hurt.

The piano is nice in the verse too... buried a little bit in the mix, but it's there...  a nice texture.

The verse has a cool 2/4 to 4/4 meter rotation... kind if spinning on itself, you can certainly count it all in 4, but it's more fun to throw some 2's in there, I think :)

And I love the sound that he got on his voice... nice reverb/delay etc. I like how the vocals really sit nicely.

Then you have some interlude material that is pretty much the same as the intro. Is that a leslie effect on the three note guitar lick?? It happens too quick.

The 2nd verse pretty much maintains the pace of the 1st verse, with a nicely added guitar that doubles the vocal and synth line in there for a real quick second...

Which leads to my favorite part! This isn't so much a solo as it is a "lets get really excited for a minute"... they are pulling at us, teasing us, saying you know you love the momentary intensity here, and you know you love it because it's fleeting... nice guitar playing, brief though it be. All over the same chords as the vs:

2/4 I | 4/4 IV | IV | vi- V | 2/4 I | IV | IV || for those of you who care... then the breakdown.

WOD2

It's nice, swelling organ, really great sound... and still the drums, at first without the acoustic strumming its reassurances, then it builds. The acoustic shows up again. The bari sax is back, did it ever leave? Man, that organ sounds so good. I miss being in a band with an organ player. There might be some percussion back there in the mix too, can't tell. The singing starts again, and we are jolted into another solo section, which repeats the themes from the earlier... almost feels like a chorus really, on this second repeat of it... I guess it really isn't a real solo section after all... more of a chorus. And the piano returns!!! All the while, he sings for us. It's an intimate kind of vocal performance, very familiar... I think I can relate to the feeling in his voice... it's part conversational.

It's amazing to me how good all this sounds. Like really, really good. The drums are clear, the piano doesn't sound too tin-y... the vocals... This song really just transported me away. I can't think of a better song to listen to while laying down on the floor with the lights low and closing your eyes.

For me, it's just magic. And it as I write this I have three thoughts: 1. That is what I want to do. 2. I love my wife for having such an awesome idea for our weekly date night (yes, that was her idea!) and 3. I have a studio, and it is calling my name... inspiration indeed!!!

 

What song should I do next?