Mix Tape Stories

Is my music any good? 

The question occurred to me during a discussion with some muso mates about the reasons why gigs seem so hard to promote sometimes, and why potential audiences seem so hard to reach. 

We freely blame venues, conditions, competing priorities, the seemingly endless list of options for entertainment… sometimes, frustratingly, musos even blame the audiences themselves - “if they only knew…” 

Rarely though have I heard someone ask, “is my music any good?” 

And believe me, when you ask that question of yourself, it can lead to some intense thoughts. 

I’ve been quiet lately, I can’t even remember the last time I wrote to you. I’ve been working extremely hard on my next record and you know what? Sometimes I’ve hated it. Honestly, it’s been hard and I’ve doubted my decisions and abilities almost every time I’ve sat down to write or rewrite or arrange any of the songs. 

Please don’t think that means it’s not any good. I really think it will be. Just the process has been uncomfortable at times, testing too, though very instructional. The process, working with a producer for the first time ever, has also given me moments of incredible happiness and satisfaction. I have produced things that I am so proud of and so excited to share… I am convinced that in a few years I’ll identify working on this record as a pivotal point in my creative life. So I’m thankful. 

All of this however has revealed things that my previous recordings haven’t - so I started thinking, really thinking, “is my music any good?” 

The truth is some of it is and some of it isn’t (I’ll leave you to decide which songs belong in which category!) but I’m not scared of this anymore. I know I’ve released work that was undercooked or overdone. I’ve released scraps of ideas that I didn’t respect enough. I’ve tried to cover up my voice and guitar playing with effects ‘cause I didn’t think they were good enough. Recently though I’ve started thinking that it is possible for me to create music that sounds good, is well produced and means something to people. This is what I want. 

What I think is happening is that I’m finally realising what an amazing privilege it is to be able to write songs and share them with people. That it plays a massive part in my life and I get an immense feeling of achievement from doing so. 

All this to say the record, “The Soundtrack of Our Lives”, is gonna take a while longer. 

It’ll be worth it though. 

Thanks for listening, and being a part of this wonderful musical life I have. 

Clint 

PS Hear a bunch of my songs here! 
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5lT4d4yjS27MvaiUTMlaAO

Album #2 Inspiration  

Talking to a mate the other day and the topic of mood boards came up. I’ve never been a particularly visual person, but I know people swear by them. It’s probably a reason why my output has been so varied (some would say scattershot). 

One Proud Monkey releases contained 90s inspired grunge rockers and sweet waltz ballads. My own first record had straight up rock songs alongside time-shifting prog-pop and finger-picked acoustic laments. 

So I’ve decided to change things up. 

I’m currently writing album #2 and, while not a mood board, I put together a playlist to inspire my direction. 

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2TAzv2rpCpleYEn8jzXAEv

When I fell in love with music (Part 1)  

Like many of you I’m sure, music was always around the house. For me it was usually the local radio station (an AM station specialising in not-modern songs) or, when I got a bit older, getting up to watch and tape Rage on a Saturday morning. 

I also used to get a typewriter and type out the songs as they came on. Yes, at 7am on a Saturday… sorry, parents. 

This story is pretty well told in the One Proud Monkey track, Olden Days. 

I always related to music but I don’t think I really loved it until March 11, 1995. 

None of us knew what we were getting into, a bunch of country kids jumping in a van to venture to the big smoke. 

I’d seen live music before, loud stuff too - the annual pool concerts at the Dubbo pool were a highlight. I remember being blown away by Liquid Chicken (what a name!) and some of the people who played at my school assembly were temporary musical heroes. 

But this was next level, this was THE band. This was with 40,000 people. This was what music should mean. 

In a way I’ve been chasing it ever since and I’ve always thought how good it would be to give that feeling to someone else - that feeling I got when I realised that the bloke standing by himself on stage, singing “Throw Your Arms Around Me” in the afternoon sun… was Eddie Vedder. 

I hope music has made you feel this way. I’d love to hear your story. 

The setlist, if you’re interested https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/pearl-jam/1995/eastern-creek-international-raceway-sydney-australia-13d64d15.html

How do you listen to music? 

I was talking to a mate the other day about discovering new music, and it’s something that I’m almost fanatical about - every Friday the first thing I check is my Spotify Release Radar playlist, I just can't imagine missing out! 

It’s almost as if I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m not one of the “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff” crowd, or that I’m still young ‘cause I listen to new music. 

There comes a time when you’re faced with this choice I think, maybe early to mid 30s (agree?) when you start to think that “the music that kids these days listen to is rubbish, not like my day” and it’s an intense battle… and we don’t all win it. 

Sometimes we don't even choose to fight it. 

What got me thinking was a little project I’m trying to put together with musicians playing their favourite songs from 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001. I was reminiscing about how I used to listen to music when I didn’t have every song ever released at my fingertips. 

Did I appreciate music more because I had to choose what I bought to listen to? Was it because I had more time? 

And I got a little sad, because there’s something about the solid memory of putting on my headphones, listening to Stone Temple Pilots’ second record while I read along to the lyrics in the CD liner notes that I just can’t replicate now. Searching for lyrics on Genius and queueing up a track in Spotify doesn’t feel the same. 

Maybe technology is the problem. Maybe it’s “kids these days”. Or maybe it’s me. 

How do you listen to music?

Embracing Change 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately* - plunged into another lockdown, friends losing their gigs and other opportunities and a lot of clamouring for some kind of normal, although I’m not even convinced at this stage that’s going to help. 

It occurred to me that musicians and the music business aren’t always the best at adapting and embracing change, seems we’re much more likely to bitch about why things are so hard now (now being anytime from the beginning of time until the end) 

My first firsthand taste was when I was working for Warner UK in London. iTunes hadn’t come to Australia yet but we had millions of lines of royalties on spreadsheets that had no home due to misspelled artist names or incomplete records. That’s no exaggeration either - it could have been tens of millions, we lost count. 

You may remember that prior to this musicians were trying to sue Napster, American record labels were suing kids and pirates were earning more money from ads on their websites than musicians could ever dream of. Still, it took a tech company to come up with the solution - even then record companies argued about everything before finally giving in and accepting this was the future. 

Why is this relevant now? Well again, a non-music company developed the solution we didn’t know we needed. As live streaming took off during the first wave of COVID, DIY artists everywhere were going live from, well, everywhere. This was the saviour! But then the pros got in on the act and the production level skyrocketed… all of a sudden, someone singing songs with a guitar in their kitchen went from “intimate” to “boring” while bands that could were hiring soundstages and aircraft hangars to put on “unmissable” shows. 

I feel the fatigue. As both a performer and an audience member - I was so keen at the start to see bands I loved playing gigs, I would have bought tickets to 10 or more shows, and usually they were good. In the last few months I’ve seen one, and “x person is going live” passes me by without a thought. 

I’m sure I’ve said it - but I’m increasingly disturbed by musicians starting conversations with the line “people should…” - like it or not, we all carry a little bit of entitlement about what we do. 

People should pay for music, people should go to gigs, people should support ME!!! 

People *should* do a lot of things, but they don’t. And what responsibility do the entertainers have? We should engage people, bring meaningful experiences, create amazing art… musicians also should do a lot of things they don’t. 

Maybe it’s time we recognised that normal isn’t coming back, not the normal of 5, 10, 20 years ago - accept that it’s time for something new. Our audiences deserve nothing less. 

What that new thing is I have no idea, but I’m committed to searching - ‘cause I want these things that (I believe) all artists should want. 

Sometimes it’s healthy to say “maybe there’s another way”. 

...and I’m up for any suggestions you might have! 

Thanks for listening, 
Clint 

*I figure there must be some similar thinking going around at the moment because as I was about to start writing this I heard very similar sentiments on The Musician to Artist podcast created by Craig Honeysett from Dotted Eight Studios in Orange - shout out to great minds! ;) check out Craig’s excellent stuff here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVGhJIExayoFAQ2nDW0zw-I_5rSqxlPv6

What's the value of music? 

I pulled my first guitar out of a rubbish pile in my shed the other day. I have not looked after it. At all. I nearly gave it away - in fact I'd agreed to and then reneged after talking to some friends and family who were adamant, "you can't do that to your FIRST guitar." 

From a money perspective it's pretty close to worthless, but even just holding it and feeling the memories come flooding back, its value was instantly well understood. 

A good friend recently released an album and we were stuck in conversation about value - how much is an album worth? How much should he charge? How much would people pay? I don't even know how related these things are any more. 

Stadiums full of people can watch sport but musicians can barely play to a crowd. People want free gigs but will pay $40 to see their team play terribly, rant about it for a few days and then do it all again next weekend - I've never heard anyone say, "that band was terrible... got your tickets for next week?" 

As a soundtrack to our lives I don't think we really know the role music plays, or at least don't truly appreciate it. When I can't play music or perform, I know it affects me - regardless of if I ever make another cent, it has value. 

If you have a muso mate, give their song a share. If you can, go see some live music. If you need a new shirt, buy one from an excellent local band. 

You will make a difference. 

Thanks for listening, 
Clint

Album of the Month - January and February 2021 

I'm not going to pretend that there's any scientific algorithm at work here but I wanted to make sure that I had something arbitrary for these "...of the month posts" - so I'm using my last.fm data, send me a request if you're on there 'cause I'm interested in what you're listening to as well.

JANUARY 2020 - Reluctant Hero - Killer Be Killed

I do love a good supergroup, and these guys are a GREAT supergroup. Their album of a few years back was a favourite but this record steps it up big time, especially with the epic closer and title track, "Reluctant Hero".

As a big fan of Mastodon, it's really the presence of Troy Sanders that drew me in but contributions from the others (including Max Cavalera!) just make this the perfect package.

https://open.spotify.com/album/1P5v6wJrkTzer6Mpg3ctkK

 

FEBRUARY 2020 - (tie) Glastonbury 2000 Live - David Bowie and Escape Planet - Kids of Yesterday 

A tie you say? As I mentioned in the intro, this is statistically based to stop me picking albums that I think make me look cool [or, of course, ones I'd forgotten about]. I had been listening to a great podcast about Bowie [name escapes me, sorry] and felt like I needed to dig a bit deeper - and I still think that "live" is a great way to do that. All in all, a good listen. 

https://open.spotify.com/album/6frjpRu2P0fdF9xSS9stjY

And Kids of Yesterday... honestly I can't tell you much about them but I heard their anti-gambling / anti-animal cruelty track "Horsin' Around" and I was very intrigued. I mean, have a go at these lyrics:

I went to the racecourse 
And I saw a fucking horse get killed! 
The Jockey took a tumble 
Heard the grumble of the stumbling patrons 
I could express atrocities of images I saw that day 
But the cash I lost my hard earned clay 
Might as well have paid for the poison

I have to say it aligns with some thoughts I've been having lately!

https://open.spotify.com/album/17P4AtDGkfxdgAntiEJhF8

Album of the Month - November and December 2020 

I meant to post these, I really did but... well, who really knew what they were doing in 2020...

Let me know if you've listened to these as well!

NOVEMBER 2020 - Cannot Be, Whatsoever - Novo Amor

If there was a more beautiful album released in 2020 I didn't hear it. These songs just drift on the air, playing out in a perfect dance that moves and relaxes you. It reminds me a lot of Bon Iver and I really only came across the artist after Shazaming(?) a song that was on an ad in Indonesia. Granted, not the usual way that I come across my music but still an incredible find.

https://open.spotify.com/album/1KkBDNtkZDW8COUNKAWRPw

DECEMBER 2020 - The Modern Medieval - Something for Kate

I had a friend at uni who was an absolute acolyte for this band. Truth be told I didn't get it. The music wasn't presented in a way that made sense to me and the singer's voice was... different. I mean, forgive me, it was 1998 (I think - maybe '99?) and having grown up with only terribly bland lunch rock radio stations this piece didn't fit my puzzle. Then Echolalia happened. I started trying to figure out these songs on guitar and I realised I didn't get it 'cause I didn't understand its genius. I joined the Paul Dempsey club that day and have never left. When one of your favourite bands takes this many years to make a new record you get worried, but I shouldn't have been - it's a work of brilliance.

https://open.spotify.com/album/01Bn2fpfFmzZ9oD6rP0fbg

The Music Advantage 

I'm about to embark on another chapter in my professional life - high school music teacher - and while it scares the life out of me for some reason that something I've wanted for so long is so close, reading this book calms my nerves... music can do so much good in the world! 

Epiphanies and discoveries 

Something I look forward to every year with an astounding amount of enthusiasm is my Last.fm listening report. I've been using the service for well over a decade - it's heaven for stats nerds (of which I may be one).

Cool thing about 2020, I listened to more music than I ever have [well any year since 2007, probably not ever] - 10,580 tracks. That's 29 every day or 30 hours and 6 days worth of listening. Funnily my first reaction is... "is that all?" - music is a massive part of my life, yet I've only listened to music for 1/12 of a year - anyway, a challenge for 2021!

What I like most though is the "new music" section, where it tells me how many artists, albums and tracks I've listened to for the first time in a particular year - and 2020 had some great debuts - Cold Years and Chris Stapleton being my top picks, and new albums from Pearl Jam, the 1975, Slowly Slowly and Dua Lipa keeping my year fresh.

Hopefully 2021 is as full of good new music as 2020 was. Bring it on.