Extended Play 2019-21 has undergone many permeations, as “Millennial Whoop”, “The Road Rage Song” and “Patch Me Up Doc” have been released. This EP originally had 4 songs, and was to be finished by the end of 2019. But “Primary Colors” was never properly done, and then the coronavirus pandemic struck, causing further delays in production & release. When it finally came time to try again on that song, and then again, I had written more new tunes, which I’m calling “bonus tracks” for clarity on this sprawling 7-song EP which took two years to complete.
Tom Pearce & I got recordings of two brand new songs, “(It’s a) Steamy Jungle” & “When You’re Out There,” so it was a nice session on December 2, 2020 in Sanford FL. Minimalist studio recording is the only safe way to deliver meaningful new music during this coronavirus pandemic. That’s the idea here.
Tom brought a somewhat different recording rig this time. He still uses a Mac flatscreen installed with Studio One software. But now he’s using a router to connect wirelessly to a Behringer rack pre-amp, which he likes. This rack pre-amplifier rests solidly on a milk crate which carried the cables, etc. The vocal & guitar microphones were wired to the pre-amp, as well as a line-in from the guitar through a DI-box, for crystal clean three-track live recording.
I’m the one who insists on the guitar line-in, as it gives the producer another track to fatten the sound, if needed. I play an acoustic-electric so I can get both sounds. The two live mics have “sound spillage” due to their proximity, so lining-in gives the producer a clean track to boost the guitar sound without affecting the vocals. It’s called double tracking the guitar, and I know I didn’t invent it.
As you can see in these images, Tom used folding microphone stands to drape blankets & create sound screens which envelop me. This significantly cuts down on the guitar & vocal reverberation in the room, giving Tom a cleaner acoustic recording.
My vintage Tech 21 Trademark 60 guitar amplifier never got plugged in, again, instead it made a comfortable seat with a sofa cushion in-between. It really helps when taking pictures, I think. We also had a different headphone monitoring set-up, with me getting a small wireless dedicated unit, while Tom was headphone monitoring through his computer jack. This performer monitoring unit can rest on a flat surface, or be clipped to the microphone stand.
Tom’s always explaining this stuff to me as he’s setting up. I’m listening until it gets too technical, and it’s time for me to check my lyric sheet one last time, or whatever. Lots of nervous energy being exchanged. He goes on until he finishes and then says to me, “Got all that?” I reply, “No. But as long as you like it, I’m good.” Then he says, “I think you’ll like it.” And I respond, “Alright, let’s rock.”
And then we do it. And when it’s over, we get photos. As an artist, if you do this well here, it’s so much easier to get everything done & online. Good images help with visualization & concretizing of abstract ideas into forms people can recognize & relate to. If the song is strong & well-performed, then artwork is the final piece that the artist must give to the producer to help him finish.
When the song is mastered, what I need from my producer is a jacketed mp3 & the cover art image jpeg. With that I can make a thumbnail video, which allows me to promote & distribute the song across all platforms. This is everything necessary to promote a song, with minimal resources spent. A website with a running blog, a YouTube channel, and a social media presence is your ‘press release’ department. You have to wear a lot of hats, and stay on top of things as best you can to succeed against these industry odds.
Live streaming is now a valid artist delivery method. It works better as a revenue stream if you are a ‘name performer,’ otherwise you are better off streaming for free, and soliciting donations. Live streams are the now & future, so prepare for it, while understanding there’s a limited amount of excitement that an artist can create with a live streaming performance. Live streams are better for interviews, discussions, comedy, etc. Making new music is the most effective way to reach fans during this pandemic.
The next step is pressing CD’s & vinyl, but that takes money & connections, so be sure you have a deal that pays you (the record & publishing company) upfront, otherwise stick mostly to the low-budget DIY model. If you’re insistent on selling CDs, do it right. Keep the publishing & copyrights updated, the website & social media running with consistent fresh content, and the domain name locked up.
“When You’re Out There” was written in August 2020 after I listened to a LOT of Sun Ra on YouTube. With COVID-19 killing the live music scene, it was a good opportunity for me to finally hear many of his records which were never really available during the vinyl era, and were overpriced during the CD era.
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was always a champion of Sun Ra, and was the one who introduced this unheralded genius jazz composer & virtuoso to me. Sun Ra’s music is timeless, with depth, and a spirit of fierce independence. He’s out there, and that’s what inspired this song.
The other bonus track we recorded during this session was “(It’s a) Steamy Jungle,” an acoustic reggae song I came up with in October 2020.
Tom took all the pictures of me, and I took the set-up shots. He ripped mp3’s of all the recorded songs during playback, and put them on my thumbdrive. The mp3’s are uploaded onto my computer and checked (skimmed before parting) for audio fidelity & length, meaning all songs are clear, and none are cut-off short. That is what an artist expects & needs from a producer after recording.
These mp3’s are “prints,” meaning raw stereo recordings with no processing. This is what the artist listens to and determines if there is a song that can be produced, or if it needs more work, re-recording, etc. Pictures are shared & reviewed, and we discuss the ones we like, and how they are to be used. Cover art is a collaborative effort, where we both share thoughts & ideas, and then I let Tom do it. Meanwhile, these liner notes are written [12-2-20], while everything is still fresh in the mind.
“Primary Colors” & “Bitter to Better” were recorded on March 1, 2021 in Sanford, FL. Pics by Tom. In total there were 5 recording sessions in Sanford, from August 2019 to March 2021, to get 7 songs. The coronavirus pandemic was the primary reason for the long process in making & releasing this EP. Tom recorded the electronic beats & drums to “Millennial Whoop” & “Patch Me Up Doc” at his home in Tavares, FL sometime in 2020. Ask him for details on that.
As an artist, stay connected with your producer during mixing & mastering, and LISTEN. Production is not your domain, otherwise you would be doing it, so the producer gets the final call on sound. The producer has the song(s), and how long it takes depends on: 1) how good are the recordings, 2) how good is the producer, and 3) how much it costs? Choose wisely.
These are hard truths. As an artist, transition your efforts into online marketing by publishing videos, pictures, press releases to encourage discussion among fans, friends, etc. Use friendly forums, your website, preferred platforms, etc. This is how to generate content & promote– DIY.
Below in bold type is the template I now use for releasing songs as singles on my site. It can be as brief or as long as needed, rearranged, etc, but this is a professional press release. This is your first chance to promote your new song, so do it right.
liner notes & discussion
tags: album title (year), official mp3 release
Once all the singles to this EP are online, I then publish these liner notes as a post, and create a permanent Media page for the album on my site. I also update my Free Music Downloads page by adding the new mp3’s as they are released. Every song is released onto Spotify, iTunes, and all the rest of the streaming services for maximum distribution, along with the thumbnail videos on YouTube. That’s all you can do when you’re blacklisted.
Everyone says “organic is best” for promotion, but the rub is that it’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of censorship, with nefarious spamming, hacking & de-platforming across the internet. The world goes on 24/7/365, and no one can be there for all of it. So be smart about putting up media that keeps working for you. Pick your spots to be active, and engage in real debate on serious issues, when it matters most. That will attract people on all sides, because EVERYBODY is sick of the pablum from the fake media. Everything you see, hear & read here is an alternative to MSM.
The message is that we have a choice in deciding on what the future of music will be. It’s the artists who create the culture and it’s the cool young kids that are hip to it who promote it. That is who this music is for and why it was created. Tom & I hope you enjoy it.