the sound awake

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"

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

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

 

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.

tour7

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

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

Nashville, Updated by Nick Bullock

Here is my week: Wednesday: day session with my buddies Goodsex. They are a great garage type band, and super cool guys, and hillarious. The session went great (once I figured out how to solve that weird lattency situation!). They're going to be releasing a 7 inch this spring. For a listen to their first record, go here. http://goodsex.bandcamp.com/

goodsex1

goodsex2

Night time rehearsal with my band, The Sound Awake. Thomas Elefante (drums/vocals), Kevin Harper (bass/vocals), and Alex Tomkins (guitar/vocals) are super f-ing talented and rad dudes. I'm lucky that they like the tunes, and are kind enough to play with me. If you see them around Nashville, give them a hug. We're going to be doing a bunch of recording together, not to mention playing shows in the Nashville area.

NB-home-page-pic

Thursday: a bunch of meetings (which I won't bore you with, but they were with some super friendly and helpful folks, so thanks folks!)

Night time session with Danny Leggett (he's so legit!). Danny is the man! Great songwriter, and singer. He hasn't put out anything in a while, so we're both excited for this EP! You can follow him on instagram @dannyleggittman

Leggett

Friday: more meetings, followed by some work for Will Musham, for his third recording to be released at some point in the future (after he releases his second record which I produced and engineered last year). Will is a fantastic songwriter. You can check him out at http://willmusham.com/ and look for his release sometime soon.

Will

Friday night (tonight!)... we'll see, was supposed to have a session with my other Danny Sierra! I've posted pics of Danny before and mentioned how absolutely rad he and his music is, but I'll do so again. He's an amazing singer songwriter. This is his debut EP, and it is going to be really great!

Danny

or i'll go see my friends from upstate NY, Driftwood perform tonight at a house show. I caught them on tuesday at The Basement here in Nashville. You should DEFINITELY give them a listen, they just released a new record and are out on tour. They're tighter than a frogs ass. http://driftwoodtheband.com/

driftwood

Sat/Sun I have all day/night sessions with my buddies The Heavy Heavy Hearts, a really great guitar/bluesy/rock band from here in Nashville. Super excited to work with these dudes, they're great players and have a really cool sound going. http://theheavyheavyhearts.com/

heavy hrts

(photo taken from their fb page, no idea who took it, but i didn't!)

Monday, back to The Sound Awake rehearsal! for our first ever show in Nashville, which is happening the day after...

Tuesday, the show! We're playing at the Basement, as part of their "new faces" night. My/our first nashville show... sighhhh

selfie

And on it goes... So how is Nashville you ask? GREAT!