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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Voices to Hear Interview

A while back, we received several opportunities for podcasts and interviews, all of which were great fun, and a few actually turned into friendhips and long-term contacts. One of the more unusual was a quick call I received from John Holland at Voices to Hear. Interesting questions, I thought, and worth sharing here, I hope.

1. For many artists, they cite a defining moment for themselves when they knew they wanted to be a singer. For many it was the appearance of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, to another generation it was the Beatles’ appearance on Sullivan half a decade later. Is there such a defining moment for you?

Not really a single moment, but every time Emerson Lake and Palmer would release a new album, I was always in awe of Greg Lake's rich voice and the passion and intellect of his lyrics. He was my inspiration both as a singer and as a bassist. Pirates is still a song I aspire to be able to do justice and I love performing From the Beginning and Lucky Man. Closer to Believing was our wedding song 27 years ago!

2. When you’re not creating music what are you listening to? Who are some of your favorites?

I love Train, Live, and Collective Soul. I also grew up on old-school prog, so spend much time with classic art rock acts like Yes and Jethro Tull and contemporary progressive artists Porcupine Tree, Shadow Gallery and Spock's Beard. My tastes for vocal music are pretty eclectic, though, so I may be the only person in Colorado with Roger Whittaker, Dio and Juluka in the same car CD case.

3. What would you say is your greatest moment so far as an artist, either on record or live?

Live, Mikey and I got to perform onstage at a benefit concert with Patrick Moraz (Yes, Moody Blues) several of Denver's top musicians of the time and a 100 voice gospel choir in a huge historic theater downtown. Absolute music Nirvana!
In the studio, working with producer Steve Avedis at Colorado Sound last summer was made even sweeter by the music for "Burn the Ships" coming off exactly the way I'd envisioned. That's a rare gift for an artist, I think, and very satisfying.

4. Do you believe music can change the world or is just something to listen to? How much can music influence current events?

The transcendent and transformative power of music can't be denied on any level, I believe. Johnny B. Goode is the rockin' voice of humanity out in interstellar space on the disc attached to the Voyager I probe. Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues tied together hemispheres of society that never would have touched otherwise. All Along the Watchtower, Buffalo Soldier, Smells Like Teen Spirit, My Generation, California Dreamin', Ohio, Every Breath You Take, Drops of Jupiter...songs like these not only defined their genres and outlined their times, but captured the souls of their players and audiences.
And influence current events? "Fortunate Son" and the Vietnam War, "Land of Illusion" and The Reagan Years, or Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and the early Civil Rights Movement were all moved sharply by the music. I could give examples all day (the teacher in me escaping, a bit) Music is the language of the times in joy, sorrow, protest and patriotism. It's the voice of the soul of events that inspire and provoke it.

5. How has technology affected the music industry? How has technology affected your career as a musician?

If the record companies had realized early on the potential of the internet for marketing and promoting music and capitalized on their resources and market share then, the industry would look VERY different today, with the majority of music production still in centralized control and independent businesses supporting its functions. For good or ill, though, they didn't move quickly enough and small indie businesses quickly dropped, gutted and ground the beast that was the music business and has been serving up the burgers ever since. Between the accessibility and speed the net provides and the availability of quality home digital recording, it's now possible to produce high quality recording at home for comparatively nothing. Unfortunately, this also means that (and this is my own figure picked out of the air) if 10% of the music that used to be made was great, 10 awful and 80 middling - and 10,000 new albums came out every year - there were already 9000 middling to awful albums bouncing off the top of the cumulative pile. Now, with gawd-only-knows how many new CD's coming out every month from everywhere, there's an enormous creaking tower of un-noteworthy tunes crushing everything in its path while the quality music struggles to find the high ground. Luckily, there are a few great outlets, podcasts and services helping weed through the harvest, including Pandora, Voices to Hear, Club Indie, and others. Finding and promoting excellence between these sources and artists is key to keeping quality original music thriving.
Personally, having been out of the business from 1996-2006 as I focused on teaching, the return has meant a very sharp learning curve, as everything is now done differently, from booking and promotions to recording and songwriting. While it's a little intimidating to have total access to information and markets also providing a never-ending view of the vast numbers of other artists trying to reach listeners, I've enjoyed very much having high-tech tools such as loop libraries and music computers for developing song ideas, desktop publishing, HD video capability and music-related social networks.

6. Now for my Barbara Walters question: If you were a pair of shoes what type of shoes would you be?

This is Colorado...gotta be hiking boots, baby!

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