The Wideband Sideman

jamming on making music through the web and beyond

Today I’m going to write about how cool it is to be a musician and a producer in this wacky world of internet technology and modern travel.

 

(Picture above – International bunch headed to Seldovia, Alaska for a concert after the Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp with camp director, Joe Becker; Scotland’s Jill Jackson ; yours truly (from Canada) and legendary Nashville mandolinist Roland White.)

I live in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, not exactly a major music centre by any means but with todays technology I am able to work with musicians from all over.

Lots of times, I don’t even have to leave my basement to do it.

Shoot, I don’t even have to get dressed. (oops, maybe that’s too much information!) 

As a Dobro player and slide guitar specialist, I get my fair share of session work from musicians hailing from all over. They simply send me whatever they want me to play on , usually through email or dropbox.  I play on it in my small home studio and send it back. I love it!

studio

(Pictured Above – My home studio – small and simple but I have produced music here and contributed to sessions for projects from India to Africa, from Europe to the United States and of course,  Canada.)

I usually send 3 versions of their song back to them and they can chose which parts of each take to use.

  1. The first take is what I think of as keyboard ‘pads’, a more atmospheric background part that can be fully or partially used in the mix.
  2. The second take is a more melodic, counterpunctual approach where I think of the Dobro as a second voice to the lead singer or the lead instrument – this usually includes a solo section and I will often send alternate solo takes as well. I usually edit and compile these takea at home before I send them off. That way, I know I can live with whatever they use.
  3. The third take is usually a more loose approach – more like what I would do live.

Two of the more interesting sessions I have done in the last couple of weeks include a session for Jill Jackson’s band, The Chaplins (pictured above) and California-based artist Dan Navarro. For those who don’t know,  Dan co-wrote the song he sings in the video link above – have a look – I bet you know it!

Dan and I both currently serve as board members for the Folk Alliance as well, which is another way of networking if you don’t live in a major centre. Plus, it’s a wonderful community and a blast to attend the conference. But that’s another blog.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative part of being a musician right now, especially if you compare the current situation to what is used to be years ago – and it’s only getting worse in regards to failing royalties and less gigs – but it’s important to remember the positive in all this.

stick

  • I love playing music. I get to play music with really cool people.
  • I am fortunate enough to have found a career I love.
  • I have made many lifelong friends in the music industry and have watched many of them grow and succeed.
  • beyond making literally tens of dollars, what else is there?

I get to work with musicians from all over the world in live situations and this is largely thanks to the web. This past weekend, I played the Islands Folk Festival in Duncan, B.C. , with a brilliant musician who is also often thought of as a sideguy, Radoslav Lorkovic.

doug&rad

Rad lives in Chicago, not really that close to Vancouver Island but we are planning a CD together and most of the rehearsal work/planning will be done over the web. It’s hard to remember how significantly different this makes things just over the past few years!

There are other things I do on the web to help supplement my income as a player.

I compose and record music for film and TV and have had numerous placements in that world.

I teach via skype.

I learn lots through the hours and hours of youtube stuff.

I complain about how easy it is to find everything you want to learn or listen to for free and then I take advantage of it.

And I buy stuff from other musicians and pay for lessons when I can.

I study online with Berklee  which is an amazing thing to do from my humble home in Cumberland, BC.  Isn’t it?

I guess my point is the world has changed. I hear many musicians complain about that and I complain myself. But it’s actually amazing what’s going on. It’s an amazing time to be an artists if you are interested in the world around you – we all have access to it.

What do you do from your basement to reach out to the music world?

 

I look forward to questions and comments. However, any behaviour I deem to be abusive towards myself or others will cause your comments to be removed and you will be blocked from being able to participate on any future posts. I don't mind disagreements so long as the conversation remains positive and friendly!
Also, any posts used to advertise yourselves or pitch anything to me will be removed and you will likely be blocked from further involvement. No offence, but that isn't what this space is for.
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8 thoughts on “The Wideband Sideman

  1. I loved this piece Doug!I think the most important thing that I picked up on while reading this is that You Believe In Yourself.And some of that probably comes with the fact you’ve proven over years of working in the business that you can do it.You’ve found your niche and a place you belong. Proud to have known you throughout.
    Recently the Pan am games were espousing to us how sport breaks barriers and crosses cultures. So true for music also. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Thank you Linda! It is nice to get to the age where you just want to do stuff and don’t care so much about what others think, to the point where that stops you from doing stuff, isn’t it?

  2. If I read this right, from your perspective as a music producer, crowdsourcing the industry is liberating, but has many more moving parts. If you contrast the business now with what it was when you first came into it, is it an upgrade or not? In the beginning, how did you find acts to play with (I’m imagining little classified ads in the back of Guitar magazine)

    For consumers, it’s all good news. Winners are chosen by the audience, not the label/radio good old boy system (the nice people that gave us disco), and the era of one-size-fits-all bands is giving way to more acts tailored to specific tastes.

    • Hi Andy, good questions/comments. I’m not so sure it’s an upgrade or a downgrade, just different. I think it was easier to make $$ before as there were more reliable sources. I did find people to play with in my early days by posting ads in local papers and music stores.
      I remember spending hours in the music stores perusing the local notices. After that, I would start my own groups and carefully pick band members based on who I knew and word of mouth recommendations. And every now and then, I’d get asked to join a group. I have a young daughter right now who would love to be in a band and doesn’t know where to look. Probably harder if you are a young girl!
      I partially agree with you about winners being chosen by audience but I also think there is still a huge machine behind the making of most very successful groups – even more sophisticated than ever! Cheers and thanks for the response.