production

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.

commitment

 

this week in 52 in 52:

The Hand That Pushed:

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

Working IN your business, Working ON your business: the difference by Nick Bullock

week2 There is a big difference between working on and working in… both are important. I know for me, when I get myself organized about which is which, it helps me to prioritize, and get clearer about my goals as an artist and a business owner.

Working in your business, for me is practicing my instrument, playing gigs, recording, mixing, producing, writing songs, song writing sessions, and a host of other fun "artistic-y" things. I generally spend more time doing these things because I'm a firm believer in if you want to be know for doing great things, then you need to practice, and practice often. By working in my business, I get better, learn more, and generally have the feeling that I am progressing in my "studies".

Working on the business is doing all the managerial and administrative things. It's taking the time each week to write out my roles and priorities. Scheduling meetings, making coffee dates, scheduling recording sessions, booking gigs, scheduling rehearsals and in general reaching out to anyone I find fascinating, inspiring,and with whom I might work well with and want to meet. I still keep an old school date book/organizer to help me run my schedule (and business). Working for my business basically keeps me in check so that I am consciously taking the time for working in my business (my art), and making sure I have time with my family. Pretty boring stuff right? Well, it's not as sexy as practicing my sweep picking, or getting the perfect take from a vocalist i'm working with, but it sure does make my life breathable, and it makes sure I get all the time I want and need doing the things I love.

Of course both of these things combined make the whole, the yin and yang. And sometimes life chooses which you are going to spend more time doing, "working in" or "working on". It's a balancing act that has its own flow and zen to it. In the end, I meditate, I laugh as much as I can, I fall deeper in love with my wife everyday, I remind myself that I am a blessed dude for getting to work with creative and talented artists here in music city (one of the greatest cities in the country/world) and I get to do that for a living! I try to be as kind as I can, I try to bring out the best in the people I surround myself with, and I surround myself with people who encourage me and challenge me to be my best, and grow… And of, course i play my guitar and write songs.

So I guess there is working on, working in, and then just being… what ever it is we want to be.

Week Number 2 of #52in52:

"Nervous"

to sign up for the #52in52 mailing list for exclusive content, voting on your favorite songs and other cool shit send your email to:

thesoundawake@gmail.com

to stream this weeks song, go to: https://soundcloud.com/nickbullock/nervous

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

My Week in Nashville in Pictures and Words by Nick Bullock

Hey Friends, I thought it would be cool to share my week with y'all here in Nashville, in picture form :)

Sunday

 

Sunday, I got to work with this sweet lady, Heather Hershow, a songwriter here in Nashville. We met a few weeks ago, and she wanted to do a single of one of her tunes. We're kind of going for the popier side of country… which is really cool for me, because I don't get to go there all that often. It's always fun to do something a little bit different! She has a great voice and it's a really good song, so that always makes it easier and more fun… we'll finish her single up probably sometime in the next month, but for now you can check some of her older stuff out here if you're curious: http://heatherhershow.wix.com/heatherhershowmusic#!music/c1x9v

Monday Monday2

 

Cait and the Bad! My other band…. we rehearse every monday. That's Dan playing drums, and Kevin (from my band The Sound Awake) playing bass while his bass wears my wizard hat (thanks Will for the hat!). We have our first gig this coming wednesday at the basement! Cait Leary writes some great songs, and can sing her but off, and recently we added Paige to the band, who let me tell you, can also sing her but off, and the two of them together = magic… We haven't recorded anything as a band yet, but I bet in 2015 we will… you can check out some of her older recordings at http://cait.bandcamp.com

Tuesday

Then Tuesday, I met with another artist that I'm producing, Miss Lauren Pratt. Lauren has a voice of an angel really, she's a trained music school geek like myself, who writes great songs. I'm really excited to see where we take this record, as of now, we're still in preproduction mode, but the work tapes we are getting done sound really great already. Think somewhere between Gillian Welch and AKUS… it's amazing how talented everybody is down here. You can check her out here: https://www.facebook.com/laurenprattmusic

Wednesady

Then on Wednesday, I got to hang with my buddy Joe Novelli, who was in town to see some buds play in Nashville, and playing some gigs in Asheville NC. Joe is probably the most talented lap slide player I know, and really, one hell of a dude. After seeing his buddy Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses) play a solo set, we came back to my studio and hung till 3am or so trading songs and stories… I really like hanging with Joe, and it was a treat getting to catch up. And seeing Tyler perform was awesome too. http://joenovelli.com

Thursday

Thursday night found me and my two band mates doing some recording for future projects and releases to be announced soon in 2015. Still working on the website too, but eventually it will all come to fruition.

Friday

Friday, I got to hang with Beau James and Jenny to finish tracking for his record that I'm producing. You've probably heard me write about him before on this blog, but in case you haven't, this record is full of heart ache, pain, joy, trials and tribulations, and most importantly Beau's truth. I feel very blessed to be able to work with artists who dig deep, and really push themselves. Jenny laid down some great back ground vocals to tie up all the loose ends that evening, and  now we are just starting to mix. Really, this one is special, I'm not just saying that. http://www.reverbnation.com/beauwigington

Saturday

Saturday, I got to spend some quality time with the most beautiful woman in the world! She really is my better half. Meredith, I love you, you are the light of my life, and with you, I am whole. This thing called life is much better with you, my beautiful wife. www.meredithcbullock.com

Wegmans

 

Sunday we had some visitors from my home town of Rochester. Pete and Marney brought me some reminders of home, Wegmans in particular. If you are aware of who and what Wegmans is, then you know that it is possibly the best grocery store out there… maybe after Whole Foods… and yes, for those in the know, that's some Country Sweet wing sauce that they brought me… come over some time and maybe I'll let you try it :)

And that was my week!

 

 

The Listener is... by Nick Bullock

A wild beast, unpredictable, untethered, and roaming the desert constantly changing its habits, making it almost impossible to track or chase. So what do we musicians, artists, players and writers do? Do we follow the trail, hire a tracker, load our packs with fifty pounds of shame and frustration and set out to capture their attention? No. Well, yes, and no.

We let them come to us, by being ourselves.

Yes, we do practice to get better, yes we are listening to the times pass with our ears to the ground, keeping track of culture's momentum. Yes, we want to know what the thirteen year olds are digging on. Yes, we want to know what is happening in the clubs of NYC, on the front porches of Nashville, and in the back yard parties of LA. I say it IS good for us to know who headlines what EDM festival, and what the top college radio stations are playing. Its always good to keep your eyes open when you're in the wild desert homeland of the listener. So listen good, take notes, copy stuff, learn from everything, learn it all. Then forget it all, and let your voice come through.

Thats the only way you are going to lasso the listening public. Thats how you'll build a fan base. No matter what you do, if its really you, its really true, then the wild listener will find you.

From freak flags to sweet melodies... the right people are out there, your tribe awaits. Follow your own road.

Road2

 

5 Questions with Kyle Cox by Nick Bullock

Kyle is one cool dude. I first met him through mutual friends while he was here working on his record... which is awesome by the way. Give it a listen at http://kylecox.bandcamp.comSince first meeting we've kept in touch and kept tabs on each others happenings. I have to say, I love it when talented friends find well deserved and hard won success. Kyle is a great singer and writer, I asked him a bit about his process, what it was like working with Mike Marsh, and a few other things... here are his responses, enjoy!

Kyle1

1. What does a good song mean to you? What does it do for you?
This is such a difficult first question to answer. I feel like I'm always debating this in my own mind. I have so many friends I respect who totally view a "good song" way different than I & they aren't wrong. It's a very subjective thing.

For me, lyrics, melody, & structure are the 3 main elements I consider to make up a good song. And in that order of importance. If those things don't hit it for me, then I have a very hard time enjoying the song. Like if I have no idea what you are singing about, but the melody is catchy & the structure is real tight, I still will have a hard time enjoying it. Recently, however, I've been trying to not be so critical.
It's like food. Food is food. Taco Bell is just as much food as a $300 steak at the fanciest restaurant in town. Obviously one is "better" than the other, but it's still food. It's still going to fill you up, give you energy, & sustain you to your next meal. Both even have their place & time. The same with music. It's all got it's time & place, even if it's not my favorite, that doesn't mean it's not good or serving a valuable purpose. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, music is like food & I love Taco Bell.

2. You play a lot of intimate house shows, what is the difference between a house show like that and other concerts you've played? Do you like one more than the other?

 
I do play a lot of house shows. I really, really love playing house shows. Even though I am an introvert (and a very strong one at that), I'm a very relational person as well. I love the barriers & walls that get torn down during house shows between the listener & artist. It's a very relational thing. There's no lights, stage, speakers, etc that separates the artist from the listener & almost puts the artist on a pedestal. It's very transparent & very equalizing with the listener. No "rock star" persona possible when you are sitting on a couch in an apartment & the owners cat jumps on your lap mid-song.
There's also a lot more conversation that happens, it's a very vulnerable moment as an artist, and I think it's one of those things that in order to really make it enjoyable for the listener, you as the artist have to connect with them personally.
I do love playing any & all shows, period, and there's definitely something special about venues that you don't get in a house show setting, so it would be hard to say I really like one over the other. But currently, it seems the fans that have been connecting with my music the best have been the ones who have seen me at a house show.
Kyle2

3. You normally play solo, what was it like working with producer Mike Marsh and crafting an album with more of a full band or produced sound?

 
It was a killer experience. We've actually been working together a little bit before this record. Our first time working together, I sent him some acoustic demos & he emailed me drum tracks. Then I just tracked the rest in Orlando at a studio. The next time I came up to Nashville, tracked 2 songs full production with him in 4 days & it was such a rad time that as I was walking out to my car to head back to Orlando from that session, he literally said "write a record this year & let's record it this summer." So that's what I did.
I've definitely built a lot of trust with him, so tracking full band was rather easy for the most part. I would just send him the demos I did at my house, he'd track drums to them, have someone track bass, & then I'd come to town with bass & drums finished. It was very streamlined. I'm not really protective over the arrangements of my songs, so I'm always willing to do & try whatever idea anyone I trust has.
It's like raising a kid I guess (although I'm not a parent...ha). You obviously have an idea of what you want your kid to be once they are born. Like an ideal scenario in your mind. But to force your kid into that ideal probably isn't the best way to raise them. You want to give them all the options possible & let them develop into the person they were meant to be. It doesn't make that kid any less your child if they don't end up exactly like you imagined, & honestly, it probably makes them a better person. I think the same thing goes for a song. I sometimes have an ideal vision for where I see it going as a song, but I also want to see it go where is best for the song. Nine times out of ten, just letting the song grow in the studio usually leads the song to a better place than I'd imagine it would've gone anyway. It also doesn't make it any less my song.

4. What was the hardest song to write and cut on the record and why?

 
Hmmm...I'm not sure. I don't think really any of them were tough to record. The song I definitely spent the longest time writing would probably be "Bring Us To Our Best." I'm still very proud of those lyrics & I spent a real long time writing them.
I think the song I was least excited about recording was probably "Honey, Let's Run Away." Not because I don't like that song at all, but it is the oldest song on the record. I probably wrote that song 4-5 years ago & have played it for so long that it's just worked it's way out of my live set. I still think it's a cool song, but the honeymoon excitement of that song has long worn off well before I even dreamed of recording a full length. I think because of that, it was a little tough to get excited about the track & come up with some cool ideas. I definitely have to throw the arrangement credit to Mike on this one. He really brought this one to life & made it seem brand new to me again. He did such a good job producing this track. It's become one of the favorites of a lot of people I know.
Kyle 3

5. What are some of the things you are looking forward to most now that you live in Nashville?

 
I think what I'm looking forward most about Nashville when it comes to music is just doing more of what I was already doing in Orlando. Orlando is amazing & I am so proud of being from that city, but there's just a limited number of places to play & music events to be excited about. The ones that are happening are super awesome & I love them, but there's really only 3 venues in town I love to play, 1 open mic I really love, and 1 songwriters group that I was a part of. 
 
I'm excited about just doing more of those things in Nashville. If I wanted to play a different open mic every night of the week here in Nashville, I could. There's far more than 3 venues I'm excited to play & that I have played already that I love. I've already had 2 groups of friends (you, Nick, being one of them) that have talked to me about doing a songwriters group. That's just all the stuff I'm really excited about. Doing a high volume of the things I was already doing in Orlando. The things I could only do once or twice a month I now can do 4-5 nights a week if I really wanted to.
 
That's a very exciting thing for me.
 
I'm also probably just as excited for seasons. I love seasons. I love that the leaves are changing & that it's cold. That rules.
 
Anything else you want to mention?
 
I have a full length record that just came out called The Plan, The Mess. You can find that record on iTunes,http://kylecox.bandcamp.com or http://www.kylecoxumusic.com
If you want to know when I'm playing next, head to my website or follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kylecox

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.

photo-7

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.

Queen Cartton

*clearly none of this artwork is mine

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)

tape

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.

rack

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.

A Case Study: "Say Yes" by Elliott Smith by Nick Bullock

elliott4 One of the best songwriters maybe ever. I don't think everyone gets him, at least not at first, but when he hooks you, his genius unfolds. It's not just the words, its the twists of melody and harmony, and how the notes and chords sweep the words along. I'm a big fan, obviously, but if you are unfamiliar, do your self a favor and check it out. I started with the album XO, and my writing, production and taste in music hasn't been the same since... all for the better I like to believe.

Case Study: Say Yes by Elliott Smith

A cold start and a nice descending chord progression played on acoustic... simple right, almost seems like its just another folkie doing his thing.

I'm in love with the world trough the eyes of a girl  Who's still around the morning after

Then the acoustic guitar becomes two acoustic guitars, panning immediately in time for the second half of this first verse. You also have an electric guitar appearing too, with his voice being doubled as well... maybe this isn't so cookie cutter after all. And I want to point out the lyrical/rhythmic phrasing here, without getting too music geeky, its so easy to follow along, and sing along... and the words are pretty straight forward and honest... simple and honest usually wins for me. More on that below.

We broke up a month ago and i grew up i didn't know I'd be around the morning after 

elliott-smile5002

Followed by the guitar playing the melody, panned on the right side still, then the second verse. Same simplistic beauty as the first. Again, that phrasing, and I love how the first three notes of the melody start by going up in register, as the guitar/bass line is moving down... yay for counterpoint! In general, the melody has more upward movement too.

It's always been wait and see A happy day and then and then you pay  And feel like shit the morning after  But know i feel changed around and instead falling down  I'm standing up the morning after 

Then the bridge, instrumentally, pretty much the same thing is happening... the doubling of the vocals, the electric guitar panned right, the acoustic doubled with one more or less down the middle, and the 2nd one panned to the left. That electric guitar is almost playing more lead type stuff, nice double stops... Also, worth it to mention that the bridge, depending on how you count it, is a five measure phrase.

Situations get fucked up and turned around sooner or later 

And then back to a quick verse: This is the first time in the song that he gives away his control, "you tell me"... I never knew what to make about that line, is he resigned to his role, resigned to play the fool, and he just doesn't care, or is there something more... the next section, I think, answers this, but I always wondered about this lyric, as if this is the point in the song where the main character is teetering... whats going to happen?

And I could be another fool or an expection to the rule  You tell me the morning after 

The second bridge! He harmonizes with himself, which he does really well, does it with two voices an octave apart too, which is a little bit different than what you would normally do... in a classic pop sense anyways... Other than that, it's the chord changes, and the extension of the bridge and phrase that is so cool, especially on the word "is" (and notice the electric guitar mimicking the vocals there too)... any you guitar playing songwriters out there, check that second chord out (thats how you use an augmented chord!). Lyrically, this is where he answers my earlier question, to me anyways... its not up to him who loves him and who doesn't. Just like its not up to me who loves me and who doesn't, who cares for me and who doesn't... these are all things out of my control, but we still have to ask. It's worth it in the end, even after the rejection, to ask someone to care for us, to ask someone to say yes. This moment right here, this is why I love this song, and its arguably one of my favorites by one of my favorite songwriters. Simple. Vulnerable.

Crooked spin can't come to rest  I'm damaged bad at best She'll decide what she wants I'll probably be the last to know  No one says until it shows and you see how it is They want you or they don't, Say Yes.

elliott2

And how does he end the song? With a dash of optimism... i think. And wraps it all up in barely over two minutes.

I'm in love with the world trough the eyes of a girl Who's still around the morning after

If you're a fan, there is a new documentary on Elliott called Heaven Adores You, you can find more info  here:  https://www.facebook.com/HeavenAdoresYou

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGB8meDWQeQ

What song or artist should I do next??

 

Play For Me... by Nick Bullock

famwash

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

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.

photo-5

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.

photo-2

 

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

 

Ego is a Stubborn-No Good-Rotten Tomato by Nick Bullock

ego 1 The Not So Obvious 

Have you ever struggled with the balance of ego, and humility. I know I have. Every time I get on stage I wonder how many people will come, will they like (love) me, and what does it mean if they don't. Is it even ok that I'm feeling these feelings? These are all small bits and pieces of my ego poking through. We've all been told, or tell ourselves to not worry about that, just go out there and be yourself, and do your thing. Sometimes this is easier said than done. The ego here, is playing hide and seek with our own sense of self worth. We all want to be loved.

ego 2

The Obvious

Then there are the obvious ego jerks, and we all know the type. Truth be told, we've probably all been guilty of this behavior at some point in our lives. Most of us learn that it does now pay to be a dick. On the surface it doesn't pay because everyone will look at you with daggers of judgement in their eyes, sometimes behind your back, sometimes right to your face. On a deeper level, it doesn't pay because (even if we're super rich and famous and trick some people into liking us) we are just robbing ourselves of meaning by covering up our vulnerable insides that we all carry. And that vulnerability is the good stuff.

ego 1

The Stubborn Ego

Then there is the pesky and persistent ego. This kind says, "even though nobody likes these polka songs I write, I know they are the best thing ever. I just don't understand why the record companies, music supervisors, and booking agents don't get it?". It might be true that those polka tunes are the best ever, and if you are writing polka songs purely for your own artistic expression, then more power to you. But if you are trying to have some kind of measurable success, then you might want to drop the ego, and say "my polka songs are great, but they aren't for everyone, maybe, if I want to be a professional musician, I should be open to other possibilities". I know for myself, I am constantly struggling with this one. Do I write/produce/record for you, the listener, or me the artist. I'm learning slowly but surely, that there is a possibility of me doing both. Either way, I think it is very healthy to be open to all possibilities, and not let ego cloud your vision. Sometimes you can grow, learn and achieve amazing results, that you never would have thought possible had you been stubborn and only stuck to your "I want to be a polka superstar" mentality. Life is too short to be short sighted.

ps: no offense polka enthusiasts, you all rock. :)

first picture is from http://www.vine2victory.com #1, the second is from http://www.flamewarriorsguide.com and the third is from http://esotericmystica.blogspot.com

 

 

Bob Marley, Redemption and Me by Nick Bullock

I'm not really a fan of Reggae, as I'm sure my old friends (and old band mates especially) can attest to, especially living in such a small hippie town for so long before moving here to Nashville. It often seemed like it was everywhere in little ol Ithaca NY. It's not that it isn't good, there is some great stuff out there, especially some of the older recordings, but in general, I always felt distant from it. Maybe I was just over saturated with it at one point and got jaded. But once upon a time, when I first stared to play the guitar, I learned Bob Marley's Redemption Song. The intro lick was easy, but for the beginner still posed a little bit of a challenge, and the chords were all nice and simple. It was, and still is a great camp fire song. And truth be told, I had heard Dave Matthews perform it, so it was obvisouly cool (does Dave Matthews count as a guilty pleasure now?). This was when I was young, impressionable, and susceptible to the hippie jam band culture, and I inhaled it all whole for a long while. Only to reject my younger musical ways as I got older and grew into my own skin.

Which brings me to last night, as I'm driving my car home and listening to the radio. When the song starts to play and I hear that opening guitar lick, my immediate instinct is to switch the station, and my hand reached out to do so. But for some reason I stopped, hand hanging in the air, half way to the radio dial. I started to listen, really listen again. And the words cut through all the bullshit in my mind. I was reminded again of what I knew at such a young age, the lyrics are genius, and even more so moving. Not because they are clever, or hip, but because they are honest, and go way beyond the initial meaning. And I'm not going ot really get into what that initial meaning is, or pretend to understand the mind and soul of another man and his intentions for writing a song, but I will say that the lyrics are undeniably universal. And I was reminded that maybe some things from my past are worth rediscovering, and that I should suspend my auto-discard impulse response. Who knows, maybe I'll dust off the old patch work pants... probably not.

What stories from "yesterday" can teach you something new "today"? What songs have new meaning to you in your life today?

Bob 2

photo taken off the internet, not from me :)

 

Case Study: Arctic Monkeys "Do I Wanna Know" by Nick Bullock

arctic-monkeys-2013 Do you ever wonder how they do it? When you hear that song that just kills you with it's goodness? It doesn't happen to me everyday, but when it does, it hits me like a ton of bricks. So I thought I would share this with you, you lover of music, you songwriter, you producer.

Writing a great song isn't the easiest thing in the world, but sometimes if we listen with the right mind set and ears we can sneak a peak, lift the vail, and understand the creative decisions that were made. And when we do, we are blessed with new ideas and influences for our own music, and it will push us all to create better art.  It can help us to write a great song.

This week i'm choosing Do I Wanna Know by the Arctic Monkeys. Here we go!

Intro/1st Vs

It starts with the kick drum, and maybe some claps, definitely some kind of cool percussion sound with lots of reverb... for only two measures, then come the guitars, panned left and right. Anyone who knows me, or has worked with me knows I'm a sucker for panned guitars, they just sound so good! So the guitars start this riff, and as you will discover, this riff is really the basis of the song. It's cool when a song doesn't stick to the classic chord changes kind of vibe, and instead is based solely around this cool melodic idea. The band does it really well here. What is really like about this one, and what I think separates it from the rest is that it is a four bar phrase, which is long, and makes it more interesting for me. Then the vocals come in, and I really like what they did with the subtle reverb/slap back on his voice, it is, on the surface, pretty clean and it sits nicely with the drums/percussion/guitars. I almost forgot the bass! The bass entered with the guitars, but is tucked in nicely, a round-ish tone, that doesn't scream for attention, and is just sitting there (great!). Also notice that it is cherry picking certain notes of the guitar riff, and not playing the whole thing.

Pre-chorus/Chorus

Nice BGV's (back ground vocals), and you gotta love that the tambourine on beat 4. There is also a tremolo guitar that they added to both the right and the left speakers, as well as a feedback sound in the right. Both of those sounds continue through the chorus. The tambourine goes to beat 2 and 4 for the chorus, as well as another guitar gets added right down the middle, which is interesting to me. The vocals are nice here too, they take the BGV mentioned before and sing the main melody an octave above, along with the lead vocals. And lastly the drums open up a bit more, with crashes on the cymbals. It's interesting here that they really keep the drums way back in the mix, with the exception of the kick and the percussion I mentioned in the intro (which goes all the way through the song).

2nd Vs/Pre Chorus

Almost always my favorite thing to really mess with. It's almost like the second verse is really the place to pull out the special stuff, try some way to make it different, pull a little bit of the magic out. This is of course not the rule, but I am always listening for how other artists/producers treat the 2nd verse. They do it really cool here, yes the percussion stays, but they drop the guitars out all together for the first half, just leaving the lead vocal, and that unsuspecting bass. They also add some BGV stabs, at the ends of phrases, a cool idea. The tambourine gets added to the 2nd half of the verse on beat 4, as well as the guitar riff. similar to what it did in the prechorus. There is a nicely timed little pause that leads right into the prechorus, and I didn't mention this at the first prechorus, but the fuzzy/feedback guitar leads the song really nicely into the prechorus, and it's even more obvous going into the second prechorus because of that pause. Again, all the same instruments that were present for the first pre chorus are present here at the second.

2nd Chorus

Again, all the instruments that were there in the 1st are there again, there is a cool piano or guitar upper register octave thing that is playing on the down beats, as well as a slinky guitar melody that is way back in the mix (which doesn't get added till about eight measure in). There is also a great call and response happening throughout the first eight measures, that is a little different from the first chorus. There is still the octave above BGV. At first, you're thinking ok, cool, they added some more elements to the music, but this chorus is just like the last one, then the next eight measures start and you realize, oh shit, they are repeating the pre chorus here, but with the chorus treatment, that is pretty cool. Then they do what I think is my favorite part of the whole song, throughout the next eight measures, they combine the two, the pre chorus melody/lyrics, the chorus melody and lyric, they both kind of circle each other, while the guitars/bass/drums and all the other wonderful sounds are swirling all around. Pretty rad move there arctic monkeys, I like your style. All thats left is the vamp out, with the slinky guitar melody repeating (which is actually two different guitars, one backwards, and one playing a melodic, single note staccato part), and the big guitars. The drums slowly fade, and your left with the kick, claps, and guitar riff... Pretty awesome.

You tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOSxM0rNPM

Give it a listen and tell me what I missed? What song should I do a case study of next?

 

You Never Know Who's In The Room by Nick Bullock

brodge 3 When I meet people, I imagine that one day they could be president.

It's good to be aware that there are many times in the life of a musician (or any profession for that matter) where we need a helping hand, and you never know where that helping hand will come from.

In my twenties, I made most of my living touring the jam band circuit across the country. Like most bands, our earliest fans were our friends and roommates. One such friend/roommate was Mike, who after moving back to Boston post college, introduced us to one of his best friends, Andrew. As we continued to tour more and more, we became just as tight with Andrew, and once Mike moved to California, we would stay with Andrew at every Boston stop on tour.

Fast forward a couple of years and Andrew is working for a licensing company, and getting our music placed on TV shows, getting us massive exposure and a good pay check. To this day, Andrew is still championing the music I make and write to different TV shows, movies and the like.

You never know who is in the room, you never know who will be a new super fan and can take your music to the next level, you never know who will be the one to give you that helping hand. It pays to be aware, and genuine. It pays to be humble and to love. Build your bridges with concrete hand shakes and look people in the eye, it pays.

Do you have a story of unexpected help or surprise friendship? Share it in the comment section below.

bridge

Swearing Popes = No One is Perfect and The Gap by Nick Bullock

The Gap So I missed a week. When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would do it every single week, no matter what else was going on. I think sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. Maybe you can relate? I get mad when I break promises to myself, even unreasonable ones, but then I remember that no one is infallible. Even the pope let the "f word" slip out and into the microphone, throughout St Peters Square https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jUt0AY8mXY. Though my intentions are good, I make mistakes, we all do, and it's easy to beat ourselves up over it. The important thing is that I/we keep going, and get right back in the saddle... Regardless of what caused the slip up, if we believe in what we can achieve, we have to keep going and growing. In my case it was just being too damn busy and over scheduling myself, but other times it's fear that can paralyze me, or self doubt, or procrastination. I saw recently, as I'm sure some of you already have, a great video on this topic of "just keep going". It is entitled The Gap, by Ira Glass and Daniel Sax. Please check it out! It's great. http://vimeo.com/85040589.

The Gap 2

So here's to another week, where I get to reinvent myself all over again, I get to raise the stakes again, I get to  challenge myself again, I get to laugh at my shortcomings again, and I get to tell myself to chill the f out, again.

What do you want to challenge yourself with? What do you want to laugh about this week?

119-courage-do-on-ebrave-thing-today-then-run-like-hell

Listening: The Art of Telling a Story by Nick Bullock

Slowly but surely, I'm getting better at writing songs. It is a craft as far as I'm concerned, and yes, sometimes we stumble upon complete luck/grace/inspiration and we can write a great song that seemingly comes straight out of thin air. But even that scenario smells of sweaty preparation to me. So I practice, and I write a lot. The David was not created by a man who was picking up the chisel for the first time. We, as humans, learn and get better. We soak in our surroundings and even despite ourselves, we allow it all to influence us and the art we produce. Since moving to Nashville I've made it a priority to get better at listening to the new people I meet. Really listening, not just shaking my head and thinking of my response even before they're done speaking (which can be very hard to do). It is a skill that I think many people take for granted, and one that I want to get better at.

There is a wealth of inspiration that can bubble up when you meet someone for the first time, and hear their unique story, and not just hear it, but feel it. I want to start paying attention more, and capture that empathy, and maybe a bit of someone's story in the songs I write. I wonder if we could wipe away writers block if we practiced our art in the context of listening to the world around us.

When I really listen, I am also a better husband, friend, producer, musician, brother and son.

Writing a great song is often a result of telling a great story, and there are so many amazing stories out there.

Have you ever created anything after being inspired by someone's personal story or journey?

thebeatles     Dolly neal

Duke   stevie

BobbyD   barry