November 1, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: My next guest on the show is musician, Jacob Moon. So we’re going to listen to a song from him, and get him on the line, and we’ll talk to him about his music. The song is called, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’ So let’s listen to that, and when we come back, he’ll be on the line, and we’ll talk to him about his music. Here we go: Jacob Moon, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful song by Jacob Moon called, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’ It’s off of one of his older albums. He’s got a new project coming out very soon, and it’s called, ‘Maybe Sunshine.’ Welcome to the show, Jacob.
Jacob Moon: It’s great to be with you.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful sound. Tell me about your style a little bit. There’s a great clip on your site, of course, where you show how you play a little bit on the roof. You’re a fantastic guitar player, and you’ve got some interesting techniques. Tell me a little about it.
Jacob Moon: I’ve been playing for a bunch of years by myself. When you do that, it kind of forces you to make some choices about how you’re going to have to approach playing solo: are you going to strum the three chords and sing, or are you going to kind of get interested in some other techniques? For me, really the looping pedal has been something that I started working with about 12 years ago. That’s helped me to fill out the sound a little more, and take some of the other roles that maybe people in a band might take, like the drums, and the bass, and the lead guitar, and put those into my sound to try to make it so that people aren’t too disappointed that they’re only coming to a solo concert, but they’re hearing a few other things to keep things interested.
Dr. Kent: Touring by yourself like that, were you nervous at first? Did you always like it? Have you played with bands?
Jacob Moon: I like playing with bands a lot. It’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s hard for me to make the same connection that you can when you’re playing solo, because people can really hear the words, and everything kind of becomes about the vocal and the guitar, and you’re not competing with drums or it’s pretty hard to screw up a mix that only has two tracks. It’s a little easier to make connections with the audience, and that’s always been my goal. My ambition is to really have an intimate audience every night. That’s sometimes hard to do when you’ve got a band behind you.
Dr. Kent: So your music is also often times deeply spiritual. Talk about your songwriting. What’s it been like through the years. How have your songs changed?
Jacob Moon: The songs, they’ve come at various times. Like all songwriters, you write some of your best stuff when you’re going through your hardest times. It takes a lot of effort to sit down and write a happy song. I managed to do that on a couple of songs on the new record, so that’s been kind of cool, because there was some really genuine joy that I was writing out of. The trick is to write in such a way that it communicates that without any of the sugary sentiments that might get in the way of it being received. My songwriting process has always just been sit down, start dreaming aloud on the guitar, come up with some melodies, some chord progressions, some guitar riffs, and then let the vocal sort of arrive. It always does. Sometimes it takes a little longer than other times. It’s a strange thing: you start by singing a line that doesn’t make any sense, which I call a ‘dummy lyric,’ and then that’s just basically standing in until you can find out what the song’s really about. Sometimes you end up going with the dummy lyric because it’s the key and the clue to what the whole song is about. If you follow that lead, you discover kind of like a sculptor would, by chipping away at something, you find out that it actually already has a form, and you’re just discovering it.
Dr. Kent: Cool. Now in terms of the gospel music that you do, what’s the difference in audience between say a House Concert, a church audience, a coffee shop audience? What kind of shows do you do?
Jacob Moon: I play all over the place. I play churches, House Concerts, clubs, coffee houses, theaters. I just kind of let the audience tell their friends, and they tell their friends, and it kind of evolves organically from there. It’s very much a grass roots following that I have. Sometimes people hear me on the radio or see me on television, but by and large it’s by touring that I’m able to keep doing what I do. I play and I try to pay the audience a compliment that they can take whatever music I’m going to throw at them, whether it’s a bluesy style, or a jazzy style, or folk or gospel. It’s all coming from the same guy, and so hopefully that’s kind of unifying, and people are able to find something in that mix that they like, and maybe their ears are attuned to something new they didn’t know they liked. I often find people, older folks, who come away and they like the stuff that I would imagine younger people would have liked even more. I’m pretty sure that they don’t have record collections full of youthful music at home, but they liked what they heard that night. They end up going away with the CD, so it’s kind of cool.
Dr. Kent: You’ve got a blog site that I stumbled across when I was doing some research on you. I have two kids that I sponsor with Compassion, and it looks like you went down and visited down there. Tell me about El Salvador.
Jacob Moon: El Salvador was amazing. It’s just a small little country in Central America that has gone through a lot of war and difficulty and economic problems over the years. It’s a developing country. We went down there to really see what Compassion was doing to help the lives of young children and families in some of the poorer areas of that country. They’re doing a lot. There’s over fifty thousand kids enrolled in Compassion programs every day. That’s an incredible thing when you think even of just that number. All of the kids that we met were so fired up and so full of energy and life. The older ones who were graduating from the program, they had this incredible vision for what they wanted to see their country become, and how they were going to be a part of bringing about change in their families, in their churches, in their communities, and ultimately in their nation. That to me is the best defense you could ever make for whether a program is working or not. I was just really blown away by what they did.
Dr. Kent: People can check out more about that online at your blog site, and there’s a link to that off of your main website: JacobMoon.com. There’s also this deal on your site for your newest album, and I’d like to just for a second ask you about House Concerts. We’re partnering up with Concerts in Your Home folks and featuring a lot of musicians that do House Concerts, and you’re one of them. Tell us about House Concerts and what it’s like to do one, and what it’s like to observe one.
Jacob Moon: The new record’s called ‘Maybe Sunshine,’ and it’s just a six-song EP, but I’ve been preselling it online for the last month or so. If people do order it before next Saturday, then they can receive that copy in the mail. They’ll be among the first who receive it. Also, for as many CDs as they order, they’ll be entered into the draw for a free House Concert. I’ll go anywhere in Canada to do that at this point, because I tour all over Canada. It’s always nice to see different parts of this great country, and I love some of the States as well. It’s always a lot of fun. [Indecipherable] a Canadian contest.
Dr. Kent: So you’re on the road all the time. How many dates a year do you do?
Jacob Moon: Basically, I probably play somewhere around 150 a year, so it’s not too bad. Some guys play a lot more than that.
Dr. Kent: It’s plenty, though. People can check out your profile on JacobMoon.com, and again, I want to put in another plug for Concerts in Your Home, a great little organization where you can find out a whole bunch about some known musicians and some less known. That’s where I first saw your subdivision’s YouTube video.
Jacob Moon: Sorry – you’re breaking up a little bit. I was having trouble hearing you there. I’m on a cell phone.
Dr. Kent: It’s been such a pleasure talking to you. Jacob Moon’s new album, if you go and preorder it from his website: JacobMoon.com, it’s called ‘Maybe Sunshine,’ maybe you can win a free House Concert in Canada. If you are in Canada and listening to the show, that’s awesome. If you’re not in Canada, maybe you should rent a place in Canada just for that House Concert.
Jacob Moon: Absolutely. That would be great. If people want to hear a preview of the new record, they can go to the site, and I’ve got a little mini-podcast up there right now, and it plays some clips from the new songs.
Dr. Kent: Cool, and actually we’ve successfully uploaded a track from the new record, called, ‘Sara.’ Do you want to give us a little [indecipherable] about it?
Jacob Moon: Fantastic. That would be great!
Dr. Kent: Tell us about it.
Jacob Moon: That song there is called ‘Sara.’ It’s all about the sponsored child that my wife and I met when we were in El Salvador. An incredible eight year old girl, full of life, beautiful and funny. We spent the whole day with her at a children’s interactive center in El Salvador and just had a blast. We came into that experience kind of with heavy hearts. Some personal stuff had been going on for us, and we just really needed what she brought, which was joy. She didn’t know what she was doing, but she was lifting our burdens. For that, I thought it was really a good tribute to pay to her to write her that song.
Dr. Kent: It’s such a beautiful relationship that you can have through these sponsorships. It’s extraordinary. I really like Compassion and how they do it. Some of the happiest days are when I get letters from my sponsored kids.
Jacob Moon: Yes, I know. Truthfully, their happiest days are when they get letters from us, and pictures. They keep them in a box under their bed, wrapped up like a Christmas present, and they get really emotional when they think about those letters and what they mean to them. It occurred to me that for some of them, it’s their first contact with unconditional love. I heard the one guy say, ‘Yes, these people on the other end of the world, they don’t even know me, but they love me.’ That meant so much to him, and the light kind of turned on for me, and I thought, wow! There’s something about this relationship that is really redemptive and really beautiful for these kids and for us. I just encourage those who are already sponsoring kids, write them, send them pictures, because it actually makes a huge, huge difference: more than we know.
Dr. Kent: It’s been such an honor to chat with Jacob Moon. ‘Maybe Sunshine’ is the new record, and we’re going to listen to a track from it called, ‘Sara.’ Thank you so much for talking to me today.
Jacob Moon: Thank you so much for calling me, man, and all the best with your program.
Dr. Kent: We’ll talk again sometime.
Jacob Moon: I would love that.
Dr. Kent: Alright, JacobMoon.com. You can go and check out his album, and like I said earlier, and like he mentioned, you can preorder ‘Maybe Sunshine,’ and be entered to win a House Concert in Canada if you’re so inclined. You’ve got to do that before Halloween, October 31st. Let’s listen to a track from that new record, ‘Maybe Sunshine,’ by Jacob Moon, and it’s called, ‘Sara.’ Here we go.
Dr. Kent: And that was the first part of a song by Jacob Moon. It got cut off a little bit there, but such a gorgeous song. You can go and listen to the entire track at JacobMoon.com. Earlier on in the show we listened to ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ from his earlier album. Of course, there’s also some great YouTube footage that he’s done, where he shows some of his incredible guitar techniques where he layers guitar sounds, one over the other, with a great looping pedal. Well it’s been an honor on the show today to welcome the award-winning author of ‘Skinny Bitch.’ She’s a New York Times bestseller, and of course, the book has done extremely well, selling millions of copies. As she said, Posh Spice has even posed with a copy of it. Of course, it’s a huge hit around the world. Before that we talked with Dr. D.A. Henderson who’s the author of ‘Smallpox: Death of a Disease.’ Fascinating, especially in a time when we’ve been talking so much about H1N1 virus and about vaccines. They’re so important, vaccines. Vaccinate your children. It’s just so important. Before that at the beginning of the show we talked to Glenn Bachman, who wrote, ‘The Green Business Guide.’ He gave us a great insight into how to be green and what being green really means. I really hope green businesses are going to be a profitable model for the new century. At the end of the show, again, we just listened to Jacob Moon and a couple of his songs. I’d like to go out with one more song by Jacob Moon. It’s called, ‘The Great Beyond.’ This is, again, from one of his earlier albums. Check out his website at JacobMoon.com. On the flip side, I’ll be gone. So have a wonderful week, pick up a great book, pick up Jacob Moon’s wonderful CD. He’s got that great special deal online. You might even win a House Concert with him. We’ll see him the next time. Visit me online at SoundAuthors.com. Thank you so much to Jamie and to Amber, the producers on this show, and I’ll see you the next time.
November 1, 2009 | Comments Off
From His MySpace Page:
When audiences first hear Jacob Moon in concert, often their first question is “Why isn’t this guy famous??” To see and hear this Hamilton-based singer-songwriter in action is to be filled with wonder, and more questions, like “How does he make the guitar sound like an entire orchestra?” and “Where do I get my hands on these songs?” To answer the question of what Moon has been up to for the past few years, he’s been very busy recording CDs for the Signpost label (Steve Bell’s imprint), and touring all over Canada and into the United States. He has played hundreds of theatres and churches in his quest to reach new audiences with his songs and stagecraft. He has taken the grassroots approach to marketing and promotions, like his friend and mentor Steve Bell, and it has rewarded him with a following that is passionate and loyal. His CDs have been played on radio stations across the country, and have sold over 25,000 copies. His passionate vocals and inspired lyrics are given flight by his total command of the guitar, which at times sounds like an entire orchestra, owing to his use of the JamMan, a live looping device that allows him to more fully realize his onstage ambitions as a solo artist. The opportunity to hear and experience a Jacob Moon show is not to be missed. His newest album, ‘Maybe Sunshine,’ can be pre-ordered at his website: www.JacobMoon.com
October 8, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: My next guest on the show of course, as always, is a musician. The show is called Sound Authors, and that goes for sound authors and authors of sound both. And Victoria Vox is certainly an author of sound. She has beautiful music, and I’m going to play a track from her album, and this is called Jessica. And after we listen to that track we’ll be talking live to Victoria Vox, and come on back for that. And listen in to this song from her latest album called Jessica.
Dr. Kent: Well that’s a beautiful track from Victoria Vox. She’s got a brand new album out, and she’s a ukulele player and she talks about that “sad songs are hard to find” on the ukulele, but that was a gorgeous tune, and I’m really excited to be talking to her live on the air in just a minute. Are you on the air with me Victoria?
Victoria Vox: Hello.
Dr. Kent: Hi, how are you doing?
Victoria Vox: Can you hear me? Good, how are you?
Dr. Kent: I’m great. And you are my Twitter friend, and that’s how I found out about your music. So social media does indeed work.
Victoria Vox: (laughter) I like to Tweet.
Dr. Kent: And tell me about this latest album. It’s such a gorgeous sound. Is the sound kind of emerging from your ukulele playing in some ways?
Victoria Vox: Yeah, thank you. It’s that, my latest album is called Chameleon and it’s, my debut ukulele album that came out in 2006 had a kind of retro feel to it, a little more sparse production. And I wanted people to, I guess I’m kind of an ambassador for the ukulele in that I feel that the ukulele is a completely legit instrument, and as a singer songwriter performing, you know, kind of a little off the center pop rock, that the ukulele can still be used and with drums and bass can sound really cool.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, and it’s got, that last song that we listened to, Jessica, which is from the album Chameleon, of course, it has kind of the jumpy feel of a ukulele. And I like the first line of your bio that says that sad songs are harder to come by on the ukulele.
Victoria Vox: Yeah, they are. I don’t know if you, there’s a lot of artists that use, you know, that will have a ukulele song, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard any. But when they have a ukulele song it’s like the one happy, upbeat, fun song of the set. And that’s because it just, it naturally brings out this kind of old timey jazz, fun, light, happy sound. So I’ve been now playing the ukulele for almost six years, and pretty much play that primarily as my accompanying instrument live. And so yeah, it is, you know, because of my time growing with that instrument and just really embracing it, like now it’s, you know, I can write about anything and it can be sad or happy, and it can go always, just like a guitar.
Dr. Kent: Well, and you’ve had a lot of success in sort of fun places. Your first album was featured on NPR which is a huge honor, of course. And tell me how this album came about, Chameleon.
Victoria Vox: Well, Chameleon was just, it was a follow up to Jumping Flea, and I knew that I had kind of established, people seemed to really latch on to the ukulele playing and they loved my voice with it, and I did have, I did produce four acoustic guitar driven albums prior to my Baby Ukulele album, and some people were, you know, they were saying, “Are you going to bring the guitar back? What’s going on?” I really would say I’ve written some new songs with the guitar, but that missed that release because it was an all ukulele album. So I knew with Chameleon I wanted to do, it was kind of like a half and half. It had some guitar songs on it and then the ukulele tunes, and yeah, I just wanted to give it kind of a fresh new feeling. (inaudible) had heard of me doing Somewhere Over the Rainbow or a couple songs from the 20’s, and then my originals, to the do a full original album and you know, just kind of funk it up a little bit. And just keep some, cause you know some songs still have that kind of old timey vibe, but then there’s other stuff like Jessica which is definitely more contemporary.
Dr. Kent: And when did you pick up the ukulele?
Victoria Vox: Someone gave me a ukulele in September of 2003. And it goes back to that Somewhere Over the Rainbow song, I had started performing that on guitar, but in the style that is real kamakazebo ole style on the ukulele. And someone heard me do it and said, “Oh, you have to do that on the uke, here’s one to play it on.” And then I just started writing songs immediately, as a new songwriter does when they pick up an instrument that’s completely unknown. You know, you just start making mistakes that sound good.
Dr. Kent: (laughter)
Victoria Vox: And then you have a song.
Dr. Kent: And what’s the, you must have had tons of people ask you since then all about the instrument. What do you know about its history and all of that? I don’t know much about the ukulele.
Victoria Vox: Well the ukulele, ukulele as it’s correctly pronounced in Hawaii, it actually originates from Portugal. And it was brought over to the Hawaiian Islands in 1879. And it was kind of like it was, the ukulele was a cross between Portugal’s machete and braguinha. And then that became the ukulele and so now it’s, for what we know it, it’s a Hawaiian instrument. But I always thought that was funny because the very first time I toured to Hawaii in 2005, kind of as a pre-release tour for that debut album, the very first show I had a string of 12 dates over there, and my very first show I was asked to stop playing the ukulele because I’m a white girl from Wisconsin, you know. And some local guy walks in and he’s like, “What’s she doing playing.” So I had to finish the deal on guitar, and I thought the tour was going to be absolutely doomed, and then four days later I was on Maui. And then I got an email from Koaloha Ukulele, from Honolulu, and they wanted to sponsor me.
Dr. Kent: Wow.
Victoria Vox: At that point I figured I was doing something right. At least 99% percent of the people liked what I was doing.
Dr. Kent: It’s a fascinating little instrument. And I’ve played around with one, how do you find enough chords on it?
Victoria Vox: Well, I think the beauty of it is that it’s so simple that it really makes me get down into the song and the songwriting. And so I feel my songwriting has improved drastically since I picked up the uke. And then because there’s only four strings, being that there’s only four notes that can be played at once, and depending on the arrangement of those four notes, it could be a different chord. So it just depends on the key you’re in, so you could finger a chord the same way but in another key it could be a completely different chord. So you know, it’s kind of confusing, but I love it. The most thing I love about the ukulele is just its percussiveness. It’s just a very rhythmic instrument, so when I do a lot of shows solo it’s like I can, the one thing I’m missing is bass, but I can do chords, but then I have a back beat constantly going with what I call a chalk, which is just kind of kneading with my nails on the strings, so it has a certain beat.
Dr. Kent: And you went to Berkeley, which of course is the place where all amazing musicians go, and it didn’t kill you as a musician, which is saying a lot
Victoria Vox: Yeah, I think with my Berkeley education, when I started Berkeley I had only been playing guitar for a year. I had been songwriting since I was 10, but it wasn’t, you know I didn’t really know anything about songwriting. And so when I showed up, I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin, where no one really even knew what to do with me and my musical journey and here I show up in Boston and there’s this amazing talent around me left and right. And you know, it’s hard to stay in that kind of school just even emotionally. Because everyone is so good.
Dr. Kent: Yeah.
Victoria Vox: So I think all I could do while I was there is focus on myself and just say ok, what am I getting out of this and what do I want to do with this. Instead of constantly comparing and trying to be or sound like someone else. So I just kind of took what I felt like I needed at that time. And I think that it ended up being a really good thing.
Dr. Kent: Cool. Well, I mean, the music is amazing on this record, Chameleon, and you must be proud of it also. You had a great producer.
Victoria Vox: Yeah, everything, you spend quite a bit of time on it, but it was, I was really glad we could take the time and really, Mike Tarentino was very generous with his time and really explored the song. There’d be days that we’d be in the studio recording something and then you know, we got completely distracted and be like no, that’s not it, let’s try something else. And that doesn’t happen every day, to have the opportunity to discover the songs, as you were quoting.
Dr. Kent: You’re on the hard touring circuit, you’re in the dues paying days still. What is it like being a touring musician?
Victoria Vox: Well it’s a full time job for me, I’m a full time touring musician and I’m also a full time booking agent, and I do what promoting I can. So I kind of wear all the hats, so that’s probably, you know, the hardest part. I love the business aspect of what I do, and I almost wish I had more time for that, and then I wish I had more time to just focus on songwriting or just focus on practicing, playing. But it’s fun to, I rarely, I probably pay for two to three hotel rooms a year. So I have this amazing network of friends and strangers that, you know you get a good vibe from, and have slept in all different houses and interesting places. And it’s just really cool to get to travel and see how other people live, and just meet amazing people from all over. So I feel very lucky.
Dr. Kent: And what’s your, what’s coming up next? Are you going to keep hitting the road and building your following?
Victoria Vox: Yeah, I’m going to be touring through October, and then I’ll be taking a little break to start working on the next album. So I have, at this point I have about 9 songs ready to go, and I’ll just see what I write or see what happens between now and October and then hopefully get in the studio sometime in November for like an early 2010 release.
Dr. Kent: Well, it’s very cool –
Victoria Vox: And then I’m back on the road.
Dr. Kent: I’m going to play one more song here, and it’s called, and I don’t speak French, maybe you could say the title.
Victoria Vox: It’s called C’est Noye.
Dr. Kent: And you spent some time in France and your website is translatable into French. Tell me just a bit about that.
Victoria Vox: When I was 16 I left the country for a year and I went to live with a family in France who didn’t speak any English, and went to high school there, just to learn there language and culture, and that I think to be the best year of my life, moving over there. I learned so much on so many levels, and I go back probably about once a year. I got to go back twice last year, once for the Paris (inaudible) Festival and then another time just for six days in France. And I started performing more French songs for high schools and universities and full sets of French music, but C’est Noye I was at a songwriting festival in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and just had the inspiration from the water and the bridge, and the festival is a fundraiser for the old steel bridge in Sturgeon Bay. So the song is about being free out at sea, where there’s the wind and the sun, and if I have troubles they’re drowned.
Dr. Kent: Well, I’m excited to listen to that, and the album of course is called Chameleon. And we’ll wait to hear the next album. And her website is victoriavox.com, and if you want to follow her on Twitter like I do, it’s twitter.com/victoriavox. And I’m excited to see what you write next on Twitter. You do indeed like to tweet, I think.
Victoria Vox: I will @reply you.
Dr. Kent: Very nice. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me on the air.
Victoria Vox: Thank you, Kent.
Dr. Kent: And we’re going to listen to a song from Victoria Vox’s latest album, and the album is called Chameleon, and it was produced by Mike Tarentino, who also produced James Blunt and a bunch of other people. And here’s a song called C’est Noye, which is completely wrong, but let’s listen to the song, it’s a beautiful track. Thank you so much for being on the show, Victoria.
Victoria Vox: Thank you.
Dr. Kent: All right.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful track from Victoria Vox. Check out her Twitter account at twitter.com/victoriavox, that’s v-o-x, or her website. Google her online, there’s some amazing songs on there, and you should go check out one of her concerts, she’s all over the place. It’s been an honor chatting with her today, as well as my other author guests, they’re all Sound Authors in some way or another. The first guest on my show was Adrian Goldsworthy, he’s the author of How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower. Then I talked to Lynne Serafinn, the author of Garden of the Soul. And then I spoke with Michelle Karen, author of Astrology for Enlightenment. Very interesting speaking to her. I’ve never been a huge fan of astrology, but really some incredible insights that she gave me, and she has such a beautiful book. I’ve already paged through much of it. And of course at the end has been Victoria Vox. Incredible ukulele inspired music, beautiful songwriting ability. Check her out on the web and buy her latest album called Chameleon. So until next week, pick up a good book, and I hope you’ll all be very safe. Have a great Fourth of July weekend. We’ll talk to you the next time.
October 7, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: Well that’s a beautiful song from Johnny Helm. His album is called Divide, and I became a fan of him hearing his music on CD Baby. I can’t recall exactly the time, but it’s a gorgeous sound. Welcome to the show, Johnny Helm.
Johnny Helm: Hi. How are you?
Dr. Kent: Pretty good. Tell me a little about this album.
Johnny Helm: Divide was kind of a, I’d been recording since ’96 was the first time I really went in and did some recordings, and I had been working on a project that was supposed to be Divide, and it wasn’t coming out the way that I wanted it to. So what I did was I wanted it to, so what I did was I went back and I looked at some of my earlier recordings and I kind of picked through a bunch of recordings that I liked and some older recordings, and kind of pieced together Divide. And so Divide was kind of, it was divided amongst, the title of the album was divided amongst kind of the different recordings that I had, that’s where I came up with the idea.
Dr. Kent: And it’s a great sound. And just hearing you talk I can hear you’re singing with your real voice, it’s not contrived. When did you start singing?
Johnny Helm: I started singing probably right around 16 when I started to really listen to music. One of my friends picked up a guitar, and so I followed suit and then just kind of started trying to sing the songs of different people that I was listening to at the time. And some of those bands, I listened to a lot of Grateful Dead when I was younger, and I listened to a lot of Neil Young and so I just kind of tried to mimic them when I first started. And then it, as I got a little older, once I got off to college I started to write a little bit. And then the sound sort of started to develop and it’s what you’re hearing, I suppose.
Dr. Kent: And you’ve hung out a little bit in Hawaii, and that was a big part of your development as a musician, right?
Johnny Helm: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been here, I’ve been in Hawaii since 19, on and off since 1993, and so there’s a huge influence, there’s a songwriter named John Cruz, and he came out, you know, he’s had a couple albums come out, but he was a huge influence. I heard that guy play for the first time and I was blown away by the songwriting and the stage presence and everything, the performance. And so I kind of just asked him if I could open up for him, cause he had a weekly gig in Honolulu, and I just started to, he just kind of took me under his wing. And so that’s another huge influence of mine would be John Cruz and definitely the music of Hawaii, there’s great music in Hawaii.
Dr. Kent: So tell me about that song in particular, Shed, that we just heard. When did you write that?
Johnny Helm: Shed was written, I actually, I also, I was in radio for a long time out here as well, besides songwriting I worked as a production director for several radio stations, and I did a lot of on air work, too. But I was working for a station and I was sitting in a room and I had some free time, so I started to piece together some drum beats, which is, it’s a really simple drum beat, it’s just a kick and a snare basically. So I pasted those onto a wall, and then I took a couple bass notes from a sample, and I pasted those together, and then I started writing a song, and at the same time coincidentally I had a friend who had been through breast cancer and a divorce, and she was feeling pretty awful at the time. She was like, “I just need something to cheer me up. Could I, you know, it’d be really cool if maybe I could pay you some money and you could almost like write a song around my situation, and it would make me feel really good if I was a part of something artistic, even though I’m not artistic, maybe I could offer you some money to do that.” And so I was like, oh, you don’t have to offer me any money, I’ve got a song I’m kind of working on right now. So Shed was kind of like this woman shedding her skin of all this negativity, shedding her skin of the divorce, this cancer, and starting a new life. And so that’s what Shed was about. And the good thing about that story was that the woman ended up fine, she ended up great. She’s in a great place now. She’s cancer free and she’s, and cancer free in maybe the form of a divorce too, maybe he was her cancer.
Dr. Kent: So she was able to shed a lot of stuff.
Johnny Helm: She shed a lot of things. And so was I. That song was healing for me, too, writing it was healing.
Dr. Kent: So how is this, how has your music developed through the years, your being into the Dead and from your bio I get that you played in a band called Cat on a Tin Roof.
Johnny Helm: Yeah, Cat on a Tin Roof was like a college band, it was actually kind of started as a joke. And I would say out of all the musical endeavors I’ve had that was probably the one with the biggest fan base and the least amount of talent from all of us. We had a huge following in college, and I think we all agree that we were pretty bad at the time. But for some reason, I just guess just cause you know, a good network of friends, and the word spreads pretty easily in college that you can get the word out. But for some reason we packed up this place every single week. If I had that fan base now, I think I’d have a lot more money.
Dr. Kent: I hear you.
Johnny Helm: Yeah, it was one of those weird things, now I have a hard time getting three people to come to my gigs, you know.
Dr. Kent: You’re working on a new project, is that right?
Johnny Helm: Yeah, the new project is, basically where I’m at right now is I gig out, I’m a gigging musician, so I gig out for the tours, you know, Waikiki and that. I do seven gigs a week and then I’m working on a, my songwriter side of music, not my gigging side. I’m working with a guy named Jed Leiber out of Los Angeles, California. He’s got a studio called Nightbird, and his father was on the writing team Leiber and Stoller, they wrote like Stand By Me and many other great hits. But anyway, he owns a really nice studio in L.A. and so we’ve been working out of that studio and we’ve also been working with a drummer named John Michelle, who’s done a lot of studio work. So we’re kind of five songs in right now, and it’s starting to sound, shape up, it sounds really good, I think. Actually it is probably the project I’m most excited about so far.
Dr. Kent: And you said you play seven gigs a week?
Johnny Helm: Yeah, actually I do seven, sometimes eight actually.
Dr. Kent: Wow.
Johnny Helm: But they’re all, they’re all at established, you know, Hawaii’s got a lot of hotels and that kind of thing. So most of it’s just tourist gigs where I’m playing for the tourists.
Dr. Kent: That’s a lot of gigs, that’s, you’re a hard working musician.
Johnny Helm: But it’s, what’s that?
Dr. Kent: And do you do most of them just by yourself? Do you have a little band that you pick up sometimes?
Johnny Helm: No, it’s either, sometimes I’ll do it solo, and sometimes I’ll do like a duo, like I have a, either I’ll have a guitar player that plays lead behind me, or I’ll have a percussion player and, you know, it’s very rare that I’ll put out maybe, you know the funny thing about gigging, when I first started gigging I tried to play as many original songs as I could. And I sold a few CDs. And then I realized that the people that are going to places that I’m playing at, they don’t want to hear original music, they’re there to have a good time and drink, so the more I played cover songs, the more of my CDs I sold. So I rarely ever play covers, you know, I’ll play out of every ten, I’m sorry, I rarely ever play originals. Out of every ten covers I play I’ll play one original tune, and then I’ll sell more original CDs that way than if I sat there and played all originals all night.
Dr. Kent: So you know, they’ve been around a while, but it really has opened up the ability of musicians to make a little money on the side. Have you found that to be the case?
Johnny Helm: Yeah, I would say, I mean, it’s definitely the case. I mean, I was in stores in Hawaii and I barely sold any out of stores. I mean, very few out of stores and I sell way more at my gigs.
Dr. Kent: And I think I originally found you on CD Baby. I’m not sure how or why, but I really dig –
Johnny Helm: I’m glad you did.
Dr. Kent: I dig the sound of your album, for sure.
Johnny Helm: Well, really I’m happy that you found it, and CD Baby is great. I love CD Baby.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, it’s amazing how one organization can kind of open up a world to independent musicians, and just make it available for the world, you know?
Johnny Helm: Yeah, definitely.
Dr. Kent: Well, tell me about, we’re going to listen to one more track here. Tell me about this upcoming song, Staring Up at Trees. Or, sorry, Staring Up Trees, right.
Johnny Helm: Yeah, it was a song, I’d lived in New York City for a little bit. It was a very short stint in New York City, but I lived in an apartment, and the trade off for my rent was to walk this person’s dogs. And she had two dogs, so I’d take the dogs for a walk from, I think it was 16th and Broadway or somewhere around there, and walk it straight down Central Park, or I should say straight over. And the song’s pretty much, it’s a narrative about a walk to Central Park and back, basically. It’s about what I see as I go along. There was a, they closed the street off on that particular day and they were having tent sales, people setting up tents and selling things. So you’ll hear about that. And it just talks about the things I passed on the way down there.
Dr. Kent: Well it’s been great chatting with you. Johnny Helm’s website is johnnyhelm.com, and folks should go there and check out some free sound clips, and go to CD Baby and pick up his album Divide. And when are you thinking this other one’s going to come out?
Johnny Helm: Well, we’re really close to having 5 really good, we’re demo-ing them first, so we’re doing a pre-production phase right now, so I want to say we could have it done in 6 months.
Dr. Kent: And are you going to shop it around, or are you going to produce it yourself?
Johnny Helm: I don’t know, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Shopping it around nowadays, yeah, I’m sure we’re going to try. Sure, why not. But I think we’re probably going to end up –
Dr. Kent: It’s a different industry.
Johnny Helm: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think we’re probably going to end up just, if we’re going to shop it, it’s just to get the finances to put it together, and then we’ll just put it out. I mean, I’m in it at this point, at that level, just to get good music.
Dr. Kent: Yeah.
Johnny Helm: And the musicians I’m playing with are solid, and I think the songs are really solid. So I think people will really dig it.
Dr. Kent: Yeah, and I love the sound. I mean, there’s no question the sound, even with this album Divide, I think it’s a very unique, and for me it’s all about the voice. So you know, I hear a lot of pretty crappy music out there and I really dig this album.
Johnny Helm: (laughter) Well I’m glad you don’t think it’s crappy. I’m glad you like it, and I’m glad you found it, and I’m glad I got to talk to you on the phone, this is really cool.
Dr. Kent: This is very cool. We’re going to listen to the song Staring Up Trees, and it’s been an honor chatting with Johnny Helm. Thank you so much, and we’ll get in touch with you when the new album comes out, or talk online or something, and we’ll talk to you again.
Johnny Helm: I would love that, that’d be great. Thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Kent: All right, take it easy. And let’s listen to Staring Up Trees, and this is from Johnny Helm and the album Divide. His website is johnnyhelm.com. And here we go, Staring Up Trees. We’re having a small technical difficulty, in one more minute we’ll listen to the song here Staring Up Trees, this is by Johnny Helm, and here you go. In fact, we’re having severe technical difficulties, but it’s been an honor today chatting with several guests, from Johnny Helm all the way back to Ian Buruma. And we’ll see you next week on Sound Authors. Go check out Johnny’s music at johnnyhelm.com. Have a great week and pick up a good book.
October 3, 2009 | Comments Off
Dr. Kent: I’m excited to move on in this wonderful Sound Authors show. We’re featuring all these authors of sound. My next guest on the show is Rosi Golan. She’s an amazing singer and songwriter. Welcome to the show, Rosi.
Rosi Golan: Hi, how are you?
Dr. Kent: I’m great. You won this ASCAP Robert Allen award for songwriting excellence, you’ve performed at the Lincoln Center. All sorts of great things happening. Tell me about what’s going on for you.
Rosi Golan: I’ve released a record independently last year, and have been touring on it all year this year. I’ve had some really great luck with film and television placements. At the moment I’m in the middle of a house concert tour.
Dr. Kent: A house concert tour. Wonderful. Tell me about house concerts in general, because most of the musicians we feature are actually through Concerts in Your Home, and you remember them as well. Tell me about house concerts.
Rosi Golan: I did one in January when I came to Utah, which is where I am at the moment. I was in Utah for Sundance, and someone asked me to do a house concert; I’d never heard of them before. I was a little apprehensive at first. Then we agreed to do it, and we had such an awesome experience, that I decided later in the year to put a full tour going across the country together in houses. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I have a few club dates in between as well, because most house concerts happen between Thursdays and Sundays. It’s been a really great experience. I get to meet all sorts of interesting people. People actually put you up in their homes as well, and you just learn how nice people really are.
Dr. Kent: Are there screaming fans waiting outside the house every time you open the front door?
Rosi Golan: [Laughs] No, nothing like that. I do have fans in difference cities that have been allowed to come to the house concerts, which has been really great of the people who are hosting to allow people that they don’t know as well to come into the house and watch the show.
Dr. Kent: Very cool. I’d love to listen to a song. Let’s start out with ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait.’ Tell me about this song.
Rosi Golan: That’s actually a song I wrote not too long before I made my record. I always say this; it’s kind of how I try to live my life. I think that’s the best way to sum it up.
Dr. Kent: All right. Let’s listen: ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait’ by Rosi Golan. Here we go.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful track from Rosi Golan; she has a voice of velvet. Where did you learn to sing? Do we have Rosi on the line? I think we’re having some technical difficulties. What a gorgeous song that was. I think I might play another track and then get her back on the line. What an incredible voice. So we’re going to listen to another track from her, then we’re going to talk to her right away. This song is called, ‘Think of Me.’ Listen to this, and then we’ll talk to Rosi right after this.
Dr. Kent: That’s another beautiful track from Rosi Golan. That one’s called ‘Think of Me,’ and before that we listened to ‘I Don’t Wanna Wait.’ Welcome back to the show, Rosi.
Rosi Golan: Thank you.
Dr. Kent: Beautiful songs. You have such an amazing voice. Where did you start learning how to sing?
Rosi Golan: I think, not really until I was 20, so pretty late on. When I was younger, I liked singing. I kind of sung a little bit, but I didn’t really try because I didn’t think I was really good at it. When I was around 20, I decided I was going to pick up a guitar and see if I could do it, and that was it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Dr. Kent: You’ve got so much international travel in your past. Does that affect your music?
Rosi Golan: Yes, I think so. I think if you listen, lyrically – I didn’t actually ever really notice it until someone pointed it out to me – I happen to sing about leaving a lot [laughs]. I think it’s because I’ve moved around so much. That’s definitely kind of stayed in my blood. I called my record ‘The Drifter and the Gypsy,’ and that’s kind of how I’ve always been. I’ve always moved around a lot.
Dr. Kent: What amazing songs. Again, the album’s called ‘The Drifter and the Gypsy,’ Rosi Golan. It’s a beautiful record. Now where will you go next? Where are you right now, and where’s your next group of concerts.
Rosi Golan: I’m in Utah right now. I’ve got a house concert tonight. I’m playing a benefit tomorrow. Then I’m going to California. I’m going to be doing probably about eight shows in California, up and down the coast. I’m really looking forward to it. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it’ll be really nice for me to see some friends and family, especially after being on the road for a straight month; I’ll be somewhere a little bit more familiar. I’m just excited also to play my home town.
Dr. Kent: Well, it’s a beautiful record, and thank you so much for coming on the show. I hope we talk again.
Rosi Golan: Yes, thank you so much for having me; I really appreciate it.