... and it hit me
There comes a time during a music project (or any project for that matter) when it hits you... You made it. Unfortunately for me, this is a pre-mature realization that comes in four parts. You, my friends, have set things in motion and that means I have work to do!
Part 1 - Kickstarter Campaign: Let's give this a try
I first heard of Kickstarter through my lovely wife, Kate. She said I should take a look at this website that helps fund creative projects. As most husbands might, I said, "I'll get around to it." A few months later, singer-songwriter Alex Vans (Washington, DC) contacted me about a tour (Pitt, Cleveland, Chicago, NYC, Philly, Bmore, DC) that he was doing. He was looking for a bassist, and I had the time. During that trip he was monitoring his Kickstarter project to fund his new album. From that moment, I knew I needed to do my research and check it out. I called Beaird Music Group because I really trust them and have a great relationship with everyone that works there. I figured out what rates I might get if I recorded a bunch of my songs instead of one at a time. The savings were great. I selected my goal of $3500 and began. As you may have guessed, Kickstarter takes a small percentage of each plegde (and I'm sure the credit card people get their cut as well)... so I knew I needed to shoot for about $3500 to cover all those little costs. I had no clue that we'd not only make our goal, we surpassed it. UNBELIEVABLE. I'm a pretty unassuming fellow... so with each day that passed, I became a little more stressed about it. It's just hard to comprehend that you believe in me. It's another thing to say that you believe in someone... and you have "put your money where your mouth is." For that, I am extremely grateful. Songwriting is one of those Catch 22 businesses. "You're only as good as your last hit" in Nashville, and I don't yet have one. Artists and publishers are way more likely to take songs from people they already know who have a proven track record of writing. It makes it a little tough for someone like me to break into the scene. I have, however, been very blessed with a musical mind from the good Lord. I know I have hit songs in me, and getting these next ones recorded is the next big step.
Part 2 - Rewrite/Edit/Submit/Rewrite: Moving from ok to awesome
Most of you should know what the writing process is like from numerous high-school and collegiate papers. The process is similar for me in this situation. On top of the lyrics and rhyme schemes I have to think about chord progressions, melodies, harmonies, song structure, music theory, and a strong gut instinct for what makes a "hit song." I have a very good relationship with The Nashville Songwriters Association International. The songs being recorded in this project have been submitted to them (sometimes more than once) for a professional critique. Kate, and NSAI, are both quick to note that these are "subjective" critiques and that I need to take what they say with a grain of salt. Although I'm a pretty confident person who does his own thing... I have to take what they say seriously. Some of you have heard my originals and have given me feedback. I take all critiques and suggestions to heart because I want my craft to improve. I want to write the best songs that I can and this rewrite/edit/submit/rewrite etc process is brutal. I can tell you that when I'm waiting for a review my mind and stomach are on edge. This morning I am still looking at my lyrics wondering how they can become stronger and better. Perhaps there IS a word that rhymes with that word that is stronger. Well... maybe there isn't. Or is there? Will Google know? This is my life.
Part 3 - Nashville Bound: Press Record... Instant Hit
I wish it were that easy! I have already booked studio time in Nashville. The Jenny Leigh Band (jennyleighfreeman.com) in which I play has a show on April 29th in Baltimore, MD. That evening I'll board a plane, guitar in hand, to Nashville, TN. At 8:15 the next morning, I'll be meeting with producer Larry Beaird to chart and arrange the songs that will be recorded that day. I will sing all of the "scratch vocals" so that the band can hear the melody. Over the next few days, I'll bring in pro vocalists to record the final versions that you'll hear. I've requested some of my favorite musicians in Nashville and the band is being assembled as we speak. I'm hoping a few of the major artists aren't on tour that week because they'll take their musicians back. I was fortunate to work with Reba's lead guitarist (Jeff King) on my last recordings, and I just loved what he added to my songs. It's always interesting being in the studio and hearing what's going on in the music world. It's even more interesting to hear everyone's comments about the songs they just recorded. Everyone wants the song they just recorded to be a huge hit because it gives their name more credibility in town. I love being in the studio, and working with Beaird is just a huge blessing. They have recorded some of the best demos in Nashville, and some of them have gone on to be mega hits for huge recording artists. Here's hoping.
Part 4 - Shopping a Song: It isn't over until a big artist records my tune
At the end of the week, I'll be handed a few copies of my songs along with the original recording sessions (should they need to be used again). As far as the hard work of writing, editing, submitting, reviews, revisions, divisions, recording, etc... all in finished. BUT. This is where the actual work takes place. I might have theeeee next number one smash hit single by (Artist to be named later), but it won't do me any good sitting in my hands. Beaird Music Group will connect me with professional publishing companies when my recordings are complete. I won't know who is interested in my music, nor will I know which artist is looking at my music. All I will know is when they call me up and say, "Ryan, we're having a publisher in and would like to meet with you. Can you be here?" - Last time this happened I was fortunate to have meetings with Sea Gayle Music Publishers (Brad Paisley's publishing company) and This! Music. Even then, I won't know who has my music or if it's even being pitched to artists. Through the contacts I've made, people I will meet, my performing rights organization (ASCAP), through the band members, through my producer, through anyone... I'll start working to get my finished product into the right hands. There is just no simple equation for this process. The running joke is that you really hope that the intern got the publisher's coffee order correct when they listen to your song, or you're doomed! There are stories of songs that have sat in publishers hands for years before they got recorded. I mean, for every song that gets recorded and placed into the hands of a publisher who then says - "Oh, Carrie Underwood is recording this week and should have this song!" - there are a million other stories of doom and gloom. Once the recordings are done, I might be calling you to ask for prayers, star alignments, fingers crossed, or anything else that might help. ;)
I want to thank you from the very depths of my heart. I hate asking for money. I come from a hard working farm family who takes chances every day. They rely on seed, rain, sun, faith, and just a little luck to help them get through each growing season. These are uncharted waters for me... I am a play-it-safe kind of guy. I do feel like I was made for music, and that music was made for me. For those of you that know me, this should come as no surprise. I grew up taking piano lesson and playing every other instrument by ear. I listened to music all day long. I'd recreate new endings and boogie-woogie bass lines to Bach and Beethoven. I wrote music for occasions like graduation and church and for people like you and me. I do believe I have hit songs in me... and I want to thank you for believing in me too. I hope to do us all proud!
... more updates to come (and I'll try to make them shorter)!