Why does a huge sprawling metropolis like Orlando have no significant music scene? The biggest factor as to why there is no significant music scene in Orlando is Disney, which owns the town. Disney, like any powerful & ruthless corporation, seeks to eradicate all competition in its sphere. There is no way a creative & independent artistic movement will be allowed by Disney in Orlando. That’s part of Florida politics.
I lived around Central Florida for over 25 years. I arrived as a new resident from out-of-state as a practicing dentist, and became an independent musical artist. When I arrived in Orlando in late-summer 1994 as a fresh-out-of-school dentist, I was immediately besieged as a provider by constant requests/demands for oxycontin & Lortab for pain relief. Evidentially, Orlando was an early test market for huge pharmaceutical companies to dump opioids onto the market, creating legions of addicts overnight. No one taught us about this in dental school.
Drugs is what drove the mid-1990’s electronica rave scene in Orlando & elsewhere. This is when meth started becoming popular in the drug underworld, and as a practicing dentist I saw more than my share of meth mouth. It’s very tragic when you see a once-beautiful 19-year old husk in your chair, begging you to remove teeth in order to stop the pain. It’s even worse when they insist on narcotics for prescription-strength pain relief afterwards. Those CEO’s at Pfizer, J&J, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, etc, all made fortunes off the opioid epidemic they created, while healthcare providers in every field were stuck in the trenches dealing with this crap.
This, and all the problems it creates, is why so many providers have left healthcare since the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020. All the fields of healthcare have fallen under corporate control, where doctors, assistants & nurses no longer have control over their offices & patients. Today, it’s too expensive to compete with corporate, unless you are catering to the top 2%. That’s a tiny niche, but highly competitive. Most of the patient need (in medical & dental) is for ‘nuts & bolts’ care. This means: 1) proper exam & diagnosis; 2) preventive health procedures; and 3) basic care procedures. ‘Less is more’ in most cases.
You can see how this conflicts with our current corporate healthcare model, which emphasizes high-production & expensive elective procedures because they make the most profit. And when under-trained & unqualified providers don’t have good answers, they often write another prescription… No wonder America is so sick.
Back to Central Florida and its lack of a new music scene. This is where & what I came out of as an artist when I began writing songs in the late 1990’s. Orlando ‘music & arts’ is more correctly defined as a drug & party scene. It’s been dominated by drug-fueled LGBTQ+ activists long before I arrived.
The biggest Orlando rock band of that era was Matchbox 20, who relocated their home base to Atlanta after they broke through with “3 AM”. They did this because (as a straight rock band) they couldn’t get sustained local support from Orlando Weekly & Co. It’s mostly sniping, intrigue & backstabbing that drives their tabloids. Their identity politics today are widely despised.
So how did I overcome all this and make records? First, I was extremely fortunate to work with great people who really helped me and believed in the music. Jay Stanley was in Tabitha’s Secret, the name of Matchbox 20, just before they broke big. Jay had been amputated in the process. As my recording engineer & producer on Magnified (2012), he explained a lot of the Orlando music politics to me. Jay Stanley was forced to sue Matchbox 20 for songwriting credits to “3 AM.” which were worth millions of dollars in royalties.
Jay had won his legal case, and he had it made when we first met in Ocoee, FL in summer 2011. He had a great 2nd-story home studio, nice & private with everything we needed. We clicked right away, and together we blasted out all the songs– I sang & played all the guitars & harmonica, while Jay added electronic beats, studio effects & mixed. It was fast work & high-energy excitement the whole time. Both of us liked Magnified, and still stand by it. It’s a revolutionary rock album.
After shooting videos for “Mercury Rising” & “Talented” with local Lake County video producer Susan Cameron and her team at Wild Zebra Media in Tavares, FL, I had greater ambitions for my next album. Electrified! (2015) was to be a CD as well as a documentary essay film. Susan filmed, while I starred & directed. We edited & she produced it– as far as we got. We recruited as much local talent as we could, for as long as we could, and shot that fucker on a hope & prayer. I didn’t have the money to finish, or any possibility of major distribution, so the project collapsed at the end. Here’s the film, which still needs some editing & corrections, but it’s 98% finished.
Jay Stanley relocated to Apopka while I was working with Susan Cameron in Tavares. By the time I was ready to record my second album, he had just finished moving into his new house in the suburbs. Jay had converted the garage into his new studio, and I was his first client there. We has numerous sound & microphone issues, as you can imagine. We had barking dogs, along with an upset & needy girlfriend constantly interrupting the sessions. My management skills & patience were never more tested than during this period.
I had Tom Pearce on board with being my drummer. I wanted live drums this time, and Tom has no problem recording to a click track– which means he’s a real pro. Tom is a very sociable & likable fellow, in ways that I am not. Every veteran rock musician in the Orlando area seems to know who he is, because he’s drummed in many bands. Tom is a professional, so he does a lot of ‘fill-in’ gigs, where a band needs a drummer for a night or just a short time, for whatever reason.
What you learn from listening to people like Tom is that local live music is a community. Bands & their musicians are often interchangeable. Every singer-songwriter & guitarist is constantly looking for an upgrade, whether on drums or bass. It’s typically a fluid exchange of talent within a healthy music scene.
As I mentioned above, Orlando is just the opposite. Instead of healthy & thriving with creative energy, its juice has been sapped by drugs & cynical politics. In a word, Orlando is toxic. Remarkably, it is within this milieu that Tom Pearce was able to find & connect with the best rock musicians Orlando had to offer at the time.
On bass, Craig Roy is the best technical rock player in Central Florida. He has a sense of artistry that most professional bassists aren’t even aware exists.
Jessica Dauman (now Jessica Lynn Martens) was brought in for her violin. Her 2013 recording session only lasted an hour or so, and included “Anna Rex”, “Old Friends” & “Moneybug”. After “Anna Rex” became an underground internet sensation, particularly in the modeling community, Jessica earned a vocalist role on the FOX series Archer (2009-21), and also has worked with Kenny Loggins.
I required a real guitar player for “Tip of the Cap”, so I convinced a local two-bit redneck shitkicker I know named Bill Pelick to play for me. He did a great job, and then was willing to give it a whirl on “Just Because,” and it worked great. I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite tricks. I’ll invite someone in for one song, and then when that’s quickly done, I’ll say, “How about this song…?” That’s how records get finished.
One regret on Electrified! was that I didn’t ask Jessica to play on “Listen to the Woman”. What was I thinking?! Tom had everything else produced by mid-2015, but that song needed a woman’s voice, so he convinced Rachel Decker to add backing vocals. It was recorded on a laptop computer in my Mount Dora apartment. We actually has a better take a few weeks earlier, but Tom accidentally erased it. That’s how things went back then.
It took over two tears to finish Electrified!, from start to finish. After Jay recorded it, I decided to have Tom produce it. Of course, Jay didn’t like that, and there were hard feelings on all sides at the time, but today we’re cool. Tom has aptitudes that Jay & I lack. Tom is a drummer, an egghead & a computer whiz. He LIKES reading & learning all that technical sound science.
Tom took all the tracks which were recorded on Apple ProTools by Jay, and converted them to PC so he could work with better recording software. This, along with re-recording certain tracks, occupied Tom & me for two years. In October 2015, Electrified! was finally released online. I had already put the film online.
Since then, Tom & I have record live & acoustically. Hwy 19 & Main St (2015) was recorded in November in a tin shack at that location, and then Fully Covered (2016) in December/January. Over & Out (2017) was recorded in one session at my Mount Dora apartment in May of that year, also by Tom Pearce.
Tom then traveled to Sanford to record my last singles to date from 2019-2021. Bill Pelick & Rachel Decker each participated in a session. Both appear on “Patch Me Up Doc” & “Millennial Whoop”, Rachel on vocals & Bill on bass. Tom on drums & beats, also was the recording engineer & producer.
Tom Pearce also contributed mightily to the artwork for all of my projects from Hwy 19 & Main St, through the singles. He makes great suggestions and understands how to work creatively with a bold idea. He also knows when to set his ego aside, which is the mark of a great producer.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, I self-recorded the Coronavirus Concerts (2020) on an Amazon Fire tablet in Sanford, FL, and released them as videos. This was during the initial lockdowns, and well before any vaccines were available. The point was to prove a new & safe model for music recording & delivery during an uncontrolled viral pandemic.
I’ve used this career retrospective to illustrate many points. The title referred to the Orlando music scene, and that’s where I’ll conclude. When I say there is no significant new music scene in Orlando, that is a statement of fact. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented performers & artists who care. It means that the talent & creatively isn’t being allowed to flourish and there are material political reasons for that.
Artists & musicians need to stop isolating themselves and re-join the real world again. The real world works for its living, and in general it isn’t happy with its present compensation level. As long as musicians continue to endlessly party & get high, seeking only fame for themselves & vicarious pleasures at any cost, then they will continue to be isolated. They have nothing good to offer to humanity.
This downward spiral of despair & hopelessness can only be corrected when musicians & artists link together in solidarity. Hollywood writers & actors along with disenfranchised workers throughout the entertainment industry are now organizing & linking with teachers, autoworkers, UPS drivers, Amazon workers, etc. The entertainment industry can’t exist without all this coordinated labor. The current problem is that all the power is in the hands of corporate, backed by the state. Workers need to realize that THEY are the power. Without their labor, there is no economy.
Postscript: So where does Ric Size belong in the tradition of Florida rock music? While I love the Allman Brothers Band & Lynyrd Skynyrd, I’m probably closer to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as far as classic rockers go, but I’m not nearly as prolific. I’ve always considered myself a post-punk rocker, in the tradition of the Minutemen, Sonic Youth & Nirvana. Somewhere along the way I became a Trotskyist and it became revolution rock. You wouldn’t expect any of this to come from Central Florida, but that’s the story.