We played our second show recently, and the good George Hodges produced a fine live recording of it for everyone to hear.
The Internet Archive, the same people who bring you the Wayback Machine, is a great place where live music recording enthusiasts are posting all kinds of great stuff for free listening. Not only is the Ska City show there, but there are millions of other things you can get lost in listening to as well.
Way back in the good years of 1992-1993 or so I was in a band called Merle, based at Warren Wilson College. As a three-piece, we produced some insane sounds, surrounded ourselves with more insane antics, and had a hell of a time doing it.
Merle went on to become The Merle when Morgan Geer joined the band, and our notoriety in Asheville and beyond started to grow. Eventually, I left the band (I was the only one still in school at that point), but The Merle continued on and became an Asheville legend.
An old pal from Warren Wilson (Richard Stowe) recently dug up a tape of a live recordings and some demos that Merle had done from 1992 or 1993. Another old pal (George Hodges) cleaned up the tape, remastered it, and put it out there for you all to enjoy!
Beware: there are vulgarities at certain points, where we asked friends to join us on stage.
It’s been a while since I posted any musical updates here, and I don’t have a ton to share, but I did get a surprise email from the venerable Jason Lowenstein the other day, with a remastered set of Crain’s studio appearance on WMBR in Boston back in 1991 that he had made.
The previous version of this, mastered by Bob Weston, who initially recorded it in the studio late that evening way back when, is still here on my Music downloads page, and it is great, but I thought I’d add Jason’s version for you to download in one fell swoop.
I just updated my My Music page, which was long overdue. There’s not a lot of new stuff to report just yet, but I am in a ska band that is practicing and trying to determine a name. Stay tuned for more about that.
Here is a Spotify playlist featuring my songs, or songs I played on over the years:
And here’s an open directory from which you can download a lot of these goodies:
For a musician, music is one of the prevailing passions of life. There’s no feeling quite like hammering out a day’s worth of stress on the drums, or transforming a life experience into an intricately-formed set of interwoven lyrics and guitar lines. If music is in your blood, it’s impossible to extract it, nor would you want to; music helps musicians get through life and gives them a creative outlet.
Practising music in an amateur capacity is one thing, but structuring an entire career around the art form is quite another. It’s not easy to break into the music industry; in fact, music is probably one of the most competitive and difficult careers you could choose for yourself. As a trade-off, though, it’s also one of the most consistently rewarding and downright enjoyable careers you could pursue. Here are some tips on getting your music career off the ground.
Build your finances
It’s boring, sure, but one of the most important things you need to do as a musician is to try and build your finances to the point where a few failures aren’t going to damage you significantly. Music as a career is rife with opportunity, but with opportunity comes failure; you’re going to play quite a few gigs to nobody in particular, so you need to be prepared to be out of pocket from time to time. Plus, you might need money to buy that new guitar you’ve been lusting after; how else are you going to finish your magnum opus? There are several ways to go about this. You could apply for a loan to bolster your cash reserves a little; if you’ve got a vehicle, we’d strongly recommend this logbook loan lender as a reputable and trustworthy source of money for that first van to transport all your gear. Alternately, you could simply put your nose to the grindstone and save a portion of your income until you feel you’re ready. Whatever you decide, you’ll need a decent wad of cash behind you before you embark on a music career.
Treat music as a business
One of the most heartbreaking things every musician has to learn about a musical career is that many aspects of this life will swiftly become just as boring and numbers-focused as any job would. Music is a commodity; it’s bought, sold and bartered for. As a result, you’ll need to make sure your music is adequately catered for in the business department. Get yourself a savvy management team who know how to negotiate proper fees for you and your band (if you have one); optimise the sound quality and distribution method of your music to make sure it’s getting to as many people as possible; make sure you understand the ins and outs of the legal side of music and, if you don’t, hire people who do. Obviously, most of this doesn’t apply until you find yourself making money, but there are too many stories of musicians falling foul of this side of the industry for you not to make sure you’re covered.
Hone your craft
Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking the songs you wrote when you set out will sustain you for life. Keep writing, keep improving on your instrument and if you’re in a band, keep playing together to improve your chemistry. Eventually, the same songs and the same performances will start to bore the audiences who loved you to begin with, and besides, as the old adage goes, a huge amount of creators claim to despise everything they wrote more than five years ago. If you don’t want to keep writing songs and expressing new stories and emotions, then maybe this isn’t the business for you. While it’s true that many songwriters (lookin’ at you, Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain) weren’t technical wizards on their instruments, they still have a unique style which they honed over the course of their musical career. Whatever your musical niche might be, keep learning and evolving and don’t allow yourself to stagnate.
Don’t give up
This is one of the most crucial pieces of advice any budding musician could take on board, so it’s very, very important to say it: don’t give up. No matter how many times you’re rebuffed by venue owners who say they just don’t think there’s a place for you here; no matter how many times people tell you your music sucks (and they will, whether it does or not); no matter how many times you read a scathing review of a gig or single in a local music magazine. You are your own worst critic, and you only need to listen to yourself and the opinions of those you trust when it comes to improving your art. Obviously, reviews should be read and taken on board; you need to learn to deal with criticism if you’re going to be a professional musician. Whatever gets said about you, though, and whatever business setbacks you find yourself suffering, remember your love of music and let that carry you through the hard times; it’ll come in handy during the good times, too.
My banjo buddy Jason Skinner, a phenomenal Don Reno-style picker, has made some updates to his YouTube channel. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Jason in person over the last few years, and I’m glad to see he’s back at it online. I’ll be hitting the woodshed for the winter to study and learn. If you don’t see me until next spring, you will know why.