Posted: May 7th, 2013
“Haunt Me” displays an artist’s attempt to understand the act of performing, selling, and making music. How do these three things interact? Are all necessary to be successful as a musician? Kehoe shows the self-consciousness prevalent in the minds of all artists; half of art is giving it to the masses and allowing them to respond as they see fit. That being the case, it can be hard to completely open oneself up to making art, knowing the public is waiting (or not) for whatever it is you have to say.
I personify lyrics I write to you
They’ll never be true; they’re afraid to be seen
The errors I make, the steps that I take to destroy myself
and come clean again
It’s a lesson in trusting you and
There’s a chance I’ll be mistaken every time
Whenever I attempt to write to you
There’s a fear that seems to never come around
If you’re blessed, you will haunt me too
Given what I’ve done, I can say for one
I’m ashamed to stand in front of this band
And jump across the stage
Just put me in a room, tell me what to do and I will try my best
It won’t be much
But at least I won’t be paid to sing and dance
There’s a lesson here, I don’t know what it is
Something about the art of love
There’s no payoff in the act of fooling you:
I am no singer
I’m no performer
But if you’re blessed, you will haunt me too
Posted: March 26th, 2013
I’ve started podcasting with my friend Jake Sliva. It’s a conversational/funny podcast; typically an hour of us talking with our friends. Hope you enjoy.
Posted: March 12th, 2013
So I went through my Last.fm listening history to aggregate the songs I typically listen to in March. The playlist ranges from Madonna to The Whigs to Beach House to Stone Temple Pilots. It’ll get you through the oddest month of the year.
It’s an odd/bipolar soundtrack itself. Fitting.
Posted: March 8th, 2013
“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”
- Will Durant
What are you ignoring? What things are on your banks, steadfast, consistent, good? Don’t worry about the news cycle, the negativity, the fleeting cynicism: all the crap in the river. Focus on the banks. I’m going to try to, as well.
Posted: March 5th, 2013
Eric North and Russell Rockwell sit in a corner of Wealthy Street Bakery, sipping coffee and conversing about music amidst the din of the lunch crowd and the intermittent spurts of jackhammer-like blenders operating at full power.
This scene is their band Momcat, imagined: thoughtful lyrical conversation surrounded by loud rock and roll.
North and Rockwell do not shy away from thoughtfulness, even if Momcat inhabits an aural domain of grit and spontaneity.
“Strong, lyrically driven rock and roll is really special,” says North. Musically, the two-piece garage rock band drops the same record needle as traditional blues, rock group The Kills, and another Grand Rapids band, Bangups. Lyrically, however, Momcat evokes thoughts of American storytellers.
“The Knife” is “actually a storytelling song about love and betrayal; it’s a little bit violent,” says North. He nearly conceals his lyrics in dastardly, screeching guitars and Rockwell’s bludgeoning drums. But the music buttresses the emotions of the words.
“Wild One,” a new track, “rose out of a song suggestion from [Rockwell] about the American notion of progress; I was disenchanted with America’s ideas,” says North.
They tackle large issues in song and in our conversation. I ask the two if they have anything they would like to discuss.
“Success,” says Rockwell, “How do we define it? Where is the line between risk and reward in music?” Tough questions.
Their Indiegogo campaign helps to tackle these issues. The tool will fund their debut LP and is online, waiting for supporters to donate to the band’s cause. The album will be produced by local engineering genius Peter Fox at Stone House Recording.
“Peter is simply awesome,” says North. Momcat seeks $1000, barely enough to produce an album, but, says Rockwell, “our fans have given so much already, $1000 from the Indiegogo campaign seems managable for everyone.”
Their thoughtfulness is matched only by an exuberance about making music, playing live shows, and deliberating the future of the band. Rockwell and North both gush ideas, as if they couldn’t get them out quickly enough. For fans of their music, this is encouraging; an overflow of ideas results in prolific musicians.
Rock and roll, thoughtful lyrics, a focus on the big ideas, and a strong connection with their fanbase: Momcat maneuvers into the big new world of album making with intentional ambition.
But I shouldn’t over analyze it; they just want to play rock and roll for you. Enjoy.
Donate to their Indiegogo campaign here.
This article appeared on therapidian.org.
Posted: February 28th, 2013
There are these books that you see everywhere nowadays. How to make it in the new digital world. How to get a leg up. How to use social media to become a millionaire. How to work 4 hours a week.
They interest me. But I have a hard time believing most of them/they basically boil down to “work harder than anyone else.” And typically they’re about either A. finding your passion or B. doing well in the business world.
In other words, self-help books rarely translate to the arts, especially music.
I see a music culture still unsure of where to go after being controlled by corporations for so long. WE’RE FREE! It’ll get better, but at the moment it’s still in transition. A bit shagalabagala, as they say in Swahili.
What’s the future of music? How will music be distributed differently? Are albums still necessary/relevant? Do people still buy albums?
The future of music: small, niche bands, selling all of their merch/touring to a loyal following of a couple thousand people. No one becomes millionaires, but more and more musicians will be able to make a living doing what they love.
Back to the self-help dudes. I consider Gary Vaynerchuk an interesting, important guy. I don’t care much about his particular business, but how he does it is what matters. He understands it:
You make great content and network like crazy. You remain completely honest and transparent. And you expect nothing in return. That’s how he’s become successful. That’s how it works nowadays.
Posted: February 26th, 2013
The act of setting up my band’s merchandise provided me an anchor for a night at The Jammies (“This is where I put my coat, this is where I meet my friends if I get lost”). But I knew that passively leaning on the merch table wasn‘t acceptable, so after I was yelled at by an Intersection employee for filling up my water bottle without his permission, I ventured out and up.
In the sea of faces, aged 1-100, personalities familiar to the Grand Rapids music scene emerged. The WYCE leaders–Nicole, Kevin, Pete, Matt–seemed to be everywhere at once.
Pete was simultaneously leading folks to the stage to accept their awards while managing the free CD table at the opposite end of the building. I saw him do it.
One could assume: “Well, they run the thing. They promote the thing. It’s their job to be everywhere.” But their tireless effort is simply a response to loving Grand Rapids and the desire to grow the music community within.
To the musicians’ credit, they make it easy for WYCE to foster a robust music community. One look at Friday’s schedule: “This is free? And you are telling me that, geographically, this is a local lineup? But how? This talent!” I was utterly discombobulated.
Bouncing back and forth between the stages, I tried to listen to each band. Soul followed by horns followed by Celtic followed by a woman standing on an upright (temporarily sideways) bass followed by sweet lyrical prowess. A Bell’s beer thrown in for good measure.
And then my band had to play. We were continuously smiling throughout the set, amp troubles be damned. What did we expect? The night was a music marathon, like walloping the crowd over the head with a rolled up copy of that “The History of Music” poster. Man-made equipment couldn’t withstand this sort of transcendent experience. We finished the set, but we all wanted more.
We joined the main room as crowd awaited The Big Jammie announcement, and most of us knew it would be going to the closers, The Soil and The Sun. Absent were their face paint and feathers, replaced by neckties and slacks: an olive branch, an air of reverence and nervous excitement.
Folks of all ages watched in wonder as this irreplaceable evening culminated with Woodstock for the digital age, the climax of all that is Grand Rapidian and music.
After the night ended, dazed, I walked back to my merch. My coat was still there, but my CDs were gone: eagerly given and willfully accepted. So goes music.
This article appeared on therapidian.org.
Posted: February 25th, 2013
I signed up for a six week songwriting course, taught by Pat Pattison of the Berklee College of Music. It’s free via Coursera, an awesome website/the future of education.
Last week Pat sent the students a list of 21 songs we will be studying throughout the six weeks. When I saw some of the songs, I couldn’t stop smiling; some of my favorites are on tap:
“Still Crazy After All These Years” (Paul Simon) performed by Paul Simon
“For No One” (Lennon/McCartney) performed by The Beatles
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Reid/Shamblin) performed by Bonnie Raitt
“Sweet Baby James” (James Taylor) performed by James Taylor
I believe the deliberate study of anything that interests you is beneficial. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of learning about songwriting, and I’m curious to find out more.
The course itself will be interesting: What will I disagree with? What will I learn? Is there anything truly objective about what makes a great song?
Join me here.
Posted: February 22nd, 2013
In 2005 I was a college freshman and the Jammies loomed large over my head. The awards ceremony was the sign that you “made it” in the Grand Rapids music scene. While Duffy, my band at the time, toiled away at the faux-college town of Allendale, MI., truly great bands were performing on a wintry Tuesday nite in Grand Rapids. We were probably snowed in on campus, unable to attend.
Fast forward through the years, and it’s safe to say my 18 year old self would be happy. I’ve gone to the Jammies several times, been nominated for about 12 awards, and even won a Jammie for my work on the Valentiger album “Oh, to Know!” (Still proud of that LP).
Today my new project, currently titled Eric Kehoe and the Quartermasters, was asked to play. This is my first time playing at the Jammies and I’m pumped. My album was even nominated for 5 awards. I’m a bit humbled and dumbfounded about sharing the stage and nominee list with so many great acts.
This is a special event; I see it as the yearly application of glue that holds the West Michigan music scene together.
You should come to the Jammies tonite.
Posted: February 21st, 2013
When I am in the middle of writing a song, enveloped by the creativity, in the flow, the zone, the moment, focusing all of my attention on playing music, I never feel more connected to the act of living.
Sometimes I will sit down with a guitar or at the piano and randomly play chords. Then, once I have some chord structure lined up, I begin to hum or sing jibberish/nonsense. I freestyle. Sometimes I’ll pick a note in the key I am playing music and and say “Okay, I’m going to start this song singing this note. Here it goes.”
Once I stop singing, I’ll continue to play the same chord progression, but I’ll be actively thinking about where to go next. The chords continue, but in my mind I’m searching for the next move.
Most of the time I’ll record these brainstorming sessions, and typically nothing good comes from them. Once in a while, however, things click and the beginnings of a song are formed.
Randomly throughout the day melodies will pop into my head. In the past they would have probably come and gone, but recently I attempt to record any new idea that appears, however banal. Having an iPhone comes in handy for recording on a whim.
These moments of pure creation are rare. It is a feeling of euphoria when all of my energy is focused on creating music. I’ve welled up with tears from pure concentration. I don’t know how it happens but it does. I wish I could teach myself to make this concentration last longer, but it’s typically fleeting.
What does help is to marry yourself to production. If the idea of songwriting (or whatever) becomes a daily habit, things perk up.