reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the moose and the pig and me. [k.s. friday]

it is said – and clearly there are many people in the news now’days who subscribe to this – that any press…good or bad…is better than no press. you have to wonder.

way back in 2002 i released this album. ‘as sure as the sun’ was the culmination of much writing, practicing, arranging, driving, singing, hydrating, listening, reviewing, re-writing, more singing, more practicing, more driving, recording, listening, sitting and watching my producer, more sitting and watching my producer, re-recording tracks, more practicing, more driving, more hydrating, more singing, more writing, more listening, more reviewing, re-writing, practicing, singing, hydrating, more driving and a lot of worrying. i recorded the album in nashville and drove back and forth for sessions, in between which i spent my time finessing each piece of music, each song i had composed for the project.

as an independent solo artist and not a complete band with others to lean on or a label financially chugging it forward, it was a big project, a big investment in heart, time and money. my producer and i had to believe in it to keep it going. bottom line, i had to believe in it to keep it going. when it was done and i drove home with a mastered CD, it was with a mix of feeling proud, wiped out, anxious and full of dreams. ‘as sure as the sun’ was my sixth album and the first that was a full-length vocal. it was stepping out of my comfort zone. it was the edge.

i hired an agency to help with its release and a radio promoter to aid in its adds to radio airplay. i don’t recommend either. to the tune of almost $40,000 they took me for a ride and i wonder now how this was possible. but when your professed dreams come knocking it is hard to turn away and do it yourself. in retrospect, i should have just continued doing it all on my own as i had done with all the instrumental albums that preceded it. but ah, that whole retrospect thing is such a fine perspective arranger.

amazon, and various other entities, added the album to my lineup online and radio stations added songs to their airplay. ‘slow dance’ charted at number 13 on the secondary adult contemporary radio chart. i’m not really sure how important that was now – at the time, however, it kept me paying for the promoter. i suspect that was the goal.

i played concerts and interviewed on radio and drove around to wholesale and retail shows with product, selling to large box brick and mortar chains and small privately owned shops that played music and displayed cds for customers to purchase. at the label in our offices on lake michigan we put together more cardboard display boxes than i can count, shipping out displays and cds regularly. it was busy and fun and a time when people still purchased actual cds.

in the zeal of the after-release glow, i looked everywhere for reviews of this new album. i wanted to know how it resonated with people, how it measured up, what i could learn by reading others’ commentary.

and then there was this.

the title was just the start. dang. sounding like a “hoofed mammal in heat” or a “squealing pig” was a tad bit much, i thought. the first-grader-lyric-writing comment was, well, kind of first-grader-like. i noted the misspelling of norah’s name. and, much as i appreciate his style, i really wouldn’t use “soulful” to describe jim brickman’s vocal music. but i digress.

i was stunned to have such a review and didn’t know what to think. i spent lots and lots of time, an inordinate amount of time, pondering who might have written such a statement. for some reason, i did not give as much time to the emails i received, the notes, the non-promoter-sought airplay, the adds in box stores and shops around the country, and the thousands of cds that were shipped out. this review nagged me.

it’s funny to me now how i let this one commentary puncture a pinhole in my confidence. but that’s the way of negativity. to stand firmly rooted, to take on the edge, to step new steps, to grow, to believe in your ability to shift gears, sway in the wind – the inner job of every artist. one moose and one pig should not be enough to undermine you and yet, there it was.

somewhere along the line i mostly forgot about this review and got on with the business of the music business: making more music. nine albums and several singles followed this album’s release. but i never really looked for reviews. i listened to what was inside and kept stepping. one of these days, maybe when i decide that i am still relevant, i will step again.

artists of every medium adjust and re-adjust too often to the whim of the viewers’/listeners’ fancy. they lose something every time in their pursuit of wanting their work to be liked by others. yet, the artist is most certainly riding the value-train with every project released. for that project, the last project, the next new project – all represent making a living. they represent a vulnerability not broached in other life-work paths. they represent a piece of someone’s heart and soul, hoping against hope not to be pounced on. all together – the projects of all artists of all mediums – they represent the woven fabric of our narrative, diverse and rich.

as my sweet momma used to say, “if [someone] has nothing nice to say, [someone] should say nothing at all.”

though i generally like moose and pigs and am in good company either way, i trust the moose and the pig agree with her.

*****

listen to music in my little corner on iTUNES

listen to music in my little growing corner on PANDORA

read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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twenty years later

my sister sent me this.  i don't know who to credit, but it's brilliant.

my sister sent me this. i don’t know who to credit, but it’s brilliant.

a year ago yesterday i wrote about an anniversary….it was 19 years since i released my first album. well, that makes this year’s yesterday 20 years since the release concert for that first album! i looked at someone last night and said, “two decades!” which makes it sound like forever ago. in some ways, it is.

fifteen albums and several singles after that first release i sit here at my piano and get lost in thought. thoughts of what next? thoughts of direction – looking back and looking forward. thoughts of relevance. (yes, i have used that before in writing. but it’s so…relevant.)

at 56 i am a different composer, a different performer, a different dreamer than at 36. it doesn’t seem as important to fill any concert venue in order to have impact, in order to resonate with someone in his/her life. i wonder where the next two decades will take me. sheesh, where will the next one decade take me?

i face different challenges now than i did at 36. i’m not writing in interrupted bursts at the piano, in-between toddlers’ requests or needs. i have more uninterrupted time to sit and compose, to write lyrics. hmm…i find that i’m actually better when being interrupted.

my songs are different too. lyrics at 36 were designed for airplay – 3.5 minutes or less. more than that was the kiss of radio-death. lyrics at 56 aren’t designed. in fact, i’m wondering who will listen. how many other pianoplayingsingersongwritercomposers are out there?

i was listening to pop radio while driving the other day and was floored at all the lyrics i would never have written. the lyrics “i’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble” would never occur to me. so i’m guessing (newsflash!) i’m not cut out for this pop radio thing any more. that’s a no-duh, you’re thinking. and yet, i know that people are still listening. i get feedback (jay’s word:) from people who generously take the time to sit down and jot a note to me about how something i have written touches them. this is huge. this is what makes writers keep writing, composers keep composing…the idea that something they have to say resonates with someone else. although the muse forces us all to continue regardless.

so….where am i going? i’m thinking about recording a new vocal album that is ukulele-based. not because i am a good ukulele player, but because i am not a good ukulele player. it will force me to really think about the lyrics, the melody, the stuff of emotion. i won’t be able to rely on those familiar and beloved 88 keys. it would make me change; it would make me grow. both are good.

i’d like to find a way for all the music that i’ve already recorded to be accessed more…in a fiscally rewarding way. the 319,954 downloads in the first quarter (see post from September 22) didn’t actually help me make a living. and that same thing happens each quarter that goes by. i’d like to think that everything that has been invested in all those albums – all those pieces of music – all that heart – might be able to help me pay my bills. $0.00079 royalty per download isn’t really the way to get there. and all the radio promoters and marketers i’ve paid in the past didn’t need the income from my music to pay their electric bill. they needed the income i paid them. big difference. but genuine iTunes downloads or licensing for movie scores or some wildly lucky viral hit would help.

in the meanwhile, i have to decide to decide. that it doesn’t matter, ahead of time, to know who will listen or what will happen. that if music is to be written, it just must be written. i have no real control over the rest.

twenty years later i think i get it.

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood