Vote now!

Tired of waiting for the November election to vote?

You can vote right now! For ME!

Right Here: https://www.poll-maker.com/QJHSZ0O

Looking for a way to support a musician while there are no gigs? Please consider casting a quick 6-click vote for “Jason Baker” (including the click to get there).

I am a 2020 ISSA Awards Nominee in four categories (!):

  • USA Male Vocalist of the Year
  • USA Album of the Year (for Common Man Blues)
  • USA Male Songwriter of the Year
  • USA Male Emerging Artist of the Year

ISSA is the International Singer Songwriters Association

The voting is only open to the end of the week, so please help me out and get in practice for November!

https://www.poll-maker.com/QJHSZ0O

Thank you to anyone who can help. 🙂

– Jason Baker

Where to Begin… Again.

It’s been a while since I posted, so let’s have a recap of the situation since the end of February:

In our last “episodes”, I was feeling pretty happy about being included in a couple of great compilations, RAWA: Renaissance Artists’ and Writers’ Association’s Songs for Social Change Volume 4 (as a runner-up) and Live From Robot Dog with Tim Lewis, Volume 3. Please check those out!

I had done two recording sessions with Rik Palieri for an album of traditional, public domain folk songs. I was also trying to write and refine new material for my next solo album.

At that point, the Novel Coronavirus began a worldwide tour.

A global pandemic sweeps the globe, and ham-fisted so-called “leaders” drop the ball, choosing to sell and buy stocks based on the information rather than alert the public to the danger, and otherwise engage in self-serving and stupid activity that is almost universally harmful rather than helpful.

Well, that escalated rapidly.

So what’s a topical songwriter to do? Well, first we alter plans a bit: gigs are cancelled, recording sessions too.

Then we get writing, and since we are home anyway, recording. I am in the process of refining a group of songs now, and hope to release an album in a month or slightly more.

I also hope to be able to work remotely with Rik Palieri to finish the album we started, and release that as well. Timing: undetermined.

Do what you can, where you can, with what you have.

I did two live stream shows on Facebook, in a group called Live Stream Open Mic. I extracted some performances from the first one already, and have started posting them to my YouTube channel.

Also on YouTube is the whole live-streamed performance from Church Street for the 24 Hour Protest Song with Daniel Bernard Roumain.

 

You can support artists by watching their videos, streaming their music, SHARING both, purchasing downloads and yes, sending tips if you like what you hear.

Another way is to vote for them! More on this… next episode of…

Songwriter Tribe!

 

Jason Baker on “Vermont Treasures”

Check out this interview and performance on LCATV show Vermont Treasures with host Rachel Hamilton!

Upcoming Airtimes:
Wed Nov 6 12:30 pm
Wed Nov 6 4:00 pm

Or watch online anytime:

http://lcatv.org/vermont-treasures-0085

Thank you to Rachel Hamilton and Rebecca Padula for having me on the show!

 

Common Man Blues

Common Man Blues is completed!

Stream all tracks free, buy downloads, and share with your friends!

Common Man Blues

Or stream/buy/share from my website: 

http://jbakervt.com/#music

Coming soon to your favorite streaming service!

How do you get your music? Let us know in the comments!

Look for announcements as each of these streaming services or stores go live with Common Man Blues!

Want a CD? There will be CDs!

Very excited to be working with Discmakers from my old home state of New Jersey to produce CDs for this album. Look for an announcement here, on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up for my mailing list.

You are invited…

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week.

Of interest to songwriters (but open to all):

Burlington Songwriters meeting is Tuesday, August 27th at 7 PM at 20 Allen Street, Burlington, VT in the Community Room on the 2nd Floor. Open to all, this meeting is primarily for the purpose of sharing works for feedback.

Of general interest:

Denny Bean and Bob Devins on Wednesday August 28th at 6:30 PM at The Double E Performance Center 21 Essex Way in Essex Junction, VT

Jason Baker on Friday, August 30th at 5 PM at Gusto’s Bar, 28 Prospect Street in Barre, VT. I will play a two hour set. Come on by after work!

To Gig, or Not To Gig…

Are all gigs “good” gigs?

(TL/DR: SEND ME GIG IDEAS PLEASE!)

So, obviously, no… some gigs are in places that are hard to get to, difficult to load in, cramped to set up and/or lacking in walk-by traffic. Some places the staff isn’t nice or it’s just not a great experience for the performer for one reason or another.

Many times it’s the fact that it doesn’t pay. Other times, it might pay, but no one is listening, or worse, people are talking loudly over your playing and singing. These are the most common “problems” for a performing artist who is doing their own original material. So…

Is it better to be heard or paid?

Instead of saying this is an intractible debate, I will come down firmly on the side of being heard. Playing 2 or 3 songs at an open mic where there is an attentive audience seems far more personally rewarding than playing 2 hours and getting paid for it, but having no one listen or care at all.

That said, it sucks to play for no money, and tips are NOT typically enough to make it worth it (there are some venues that do more than others to help solicit tips for musicians, through on-table tip containers and reminders for example).

Since I feel that “people hearing the songs” is an important measure of success to me, I guess it makes sense that I feel getting heard matters most.

How does gigging meet your goals?

So, when you talk to a musician who earns their living on the road gigging, they will tell you they are playing well over 200 shows a year. They make a living that way, but they CAN’T reduce that schedule without doing something else to take it’s place: teaching music, etc.

I figure I am not likely to ever make enough money to make a living at this, even if I could get booked for 230 nights in the next year, as my costs are more than just supporting me: wife and two kids, mortgage and credit card debt. Not likely to make enough money as a touring musician at my age.

So, why am I bothering to perform at all? I guess it’s just about trying to communicate with people around me and make some kind of connection to a larger community. I am always hoping people will listen to the lyrics of the song and “get it”. When people do, and they like it, that is very important to me emotionally

Is gigging a worthy goal on it’s own?

Well, in the sense that playing music is good for you and fun, one could suppose that any gig, at least any gig that doesn’t have serious problems or red flags, is better than no gig. Getting practice on stage, even in front of a disinterested room, is still experience and helps make you a better musician.

If the hassle factor of the gig is causing more stress than is relieved by playing music (or getting paid), then it’s probably not worth doing again. If there is no pay and no audience, you may legitimately wonder what is up with the venue. They may just not be “happening” as a business, or it may be they are just developing their local scene, and you can help. Use some common sense: not much will fix a lousy location or no positive proximity to other businesses, institutions and amenities.

Reach that one ear

Many gigs will seem questionable or tiresome, but if you love playing music then you can focus on doing that and maybe, just maybe, if you do a good job and are well-prepared, you will reach one person with one song, even just catching their ear for a few seconds. It probably won’t change the world, or even their life, but then again, when it comes to how songs work, the truth is you never know.

Pay to play sucks

There are some legitimate times when sharing the cost of production makes sense, but for the most part, there are now a lot of “Pay-to-Play” scenarios out there that seem strictly predatory: pay for gauranteed review placement or getting included on a playlist is standard. Paying to play at anything other than an industry showcase is probably a rip-off.

I want gigs

I am open to all kinds of gigs, so send me what you got! Looking for New England, New York, Mid-Atlantic, and possibly Eastern Canada. Ideal: a listening room. Good: a bar or restaurant that pays. OK: a place that pays tips only. Also: I do originals and many songs have political content.

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments! THANKS!

A Common Blues, man

You know what’s not easy to do? Record an album with no money!

I want to finish recording an album but I really don’t have any money. Being a contractor I only get paid while at work and having a heart attack precluded that last week.

On the bright side, I am more than halfway done.

All songs are written.

7 of them have been recorded in some fashion:

2 in my home studio, 5 at Robot Dog Studios, due to the generosity of DJ/Blogger Tim Lewis and the studio.

Three to go, well, four…

So I am considering re-recording one song, as the arrangement has already changed slightly.

Otherwise I have three songs ready, but dread putting a home recording up against the Robot Dog stuff (the two I have are done with just enough reverb and overdubs to slide by, I think. May have to ask for an impartial opinion).

I have selected which song to use as the title track: “Common Man Blues”, a song loosely inspired by Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”. I even have cover art ready.

Digital distribution is already paid for, sending my stuff to YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and more. See those links to hear what I already have online.

Ok, but how to get there?

So I am considering how to fund recording the rest of the album, and possibly funding a run of CDs.

Should I even bother with CDs?

Should I try a Kickstarter campaign? Or some other way of crowd funding?

In truth, any suggestions are welcome folks.

Comment on this post to let me know your ideas.

Gigs and open mics

Burlington Songwriters Open Mic 4/9/2019

Burlington Songwriters held the first open mic in our new home at 20 Allen Street in Burlington’s Old North End, also now called the Old North End Community Center. I set up the tiny house P.A. and started us off with “Old Time Breakdown” and then tried a new song I haven’t recorded yet called “Highway 9”. Other members also shared original songs and we also had ice cream sodas! 

Radio Bean 4/11/2019

Radio Bean shows are interesting, as the audience rotates in and out quite a bit during the 7 PM hour. The staff now do recognize me and remember my name (although I wasn’t listed on the inside chalkboard!) and are very gracious. All in all, people are appreciative and I made $18 in tips.

Moretown Open Mic 4/12/2019

I happened to see a “call for performers” in the classified ad section on the Vermont Arts Council page for an open mic in Moretown at the old Town Hall. This event would be the closing event of their 3rd season of Moretown Open Mic. I called the number to see if they still had space for performers, and got a return call later that day from Jay Saffran, who is one of the organizers. He asked me if I would play an extended set! I was kind of surprised, but certainly flattered, and said I would.

When I got there, I was immediately charmed by the building itself, which has a lovely wood-floored main space with a raised “stage” framed with arches. I was equally charmed by the lovely people of Moretown, who displayed their own considerable talents, including storytelling, songwriting, singing and playing guitar, ballet dancing, poetry and more. Jay graciously introduced me as a “featured guest” and I played about a half hour or so in the middle of things. I decided to forgo the amplification and stand as close as possible to the audience of about 20 people, in a really nice “listening room” kind of setting. The old Town Hall has wonderful natural reverb and it really was nice to hear the folks singing along in there! They take summer off, but the Moretown Open Mic will be back in September.

El Toro 4/13/2019

El Toro was even busier than the last time I played there, which I wasn’t sure was possible!

They had a steady crowd for dinner and drinks, and I had to work to be heard with no amplification, which was requested by El Toro so the waitstaff can hear customers and be heard. They do sell food after all… really, really good food. MMMMMM….

Lucky for me they fed me dinner, and it was awesome! After that I set up in the front corner and played most of “America Dreams” and then a good helping of new songs and other material I have never recorded. Tips for the night: $22.

 

Gig Report: Gusto’s Bar

An End to Acoustic Thursdays

Apparently this was the last time for this Thursday evening time slot for an acoustic act. Not sure why, but the good news is I just booked four more shows this year at Gusto’s Bar for mostly Friday evenings (one Saturday evening).  It is a paid gig ($130 for a 2 hour set, bring your own PA, no food provided) so I am glad to continue the relationship.

A popular place!

Gusto’s Bar is a popular place, and finding parking was a bit tricky. I did the load in, and got lucky: one person pulled out of the perfect spot. I zoomed into it, and went in to set up the PA!

It’s a bar

So, yeah, people are busy drinking and talking, BUT… I started to see some body movement by song #2, which is a good sign. One fellow was clearly dancing. Eventually these folks started to clap between numbers.

One person

Now whenever I am there, there is always one person, not the same person, but always at least one person, who I connect with in some way. One time it was the guy in the hat who did a little dance throughout the tunes, another time it was the guy who was with his wife and wanted to sing her a song, which he did, impromptu, and so on. Good times!

This time, about 20 minutes before the end of my set, a fellow who had been sitting at the bar and occasionally glancing over his shoulder to watch for a few seconds, got up and walked right up to the stage and started a conversation with “That’s a nice guitar!”. It is a nice looking guitar it’s true, and I love it, so it’s a good way to start a conversation with me. He went on to say he was impressed by the range of songs I was doing, and that I remembered them all (I didn’t set up a music stand so I sang strictly from memory). I was very happy he took notice and offered him a card with my website and other info. I did have to let him know I had a set to finish, and made sure to say goodbye and thank you on the way out.

It’s just nice to know you are connecting with somebody!

 

Folk Talk with Rik Palieri : a new radio show!

Helping out, having fun

I was very flattered a couple of weeks ago when Rik Palieri, (pronounced Pal-air-re) a talented singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, and storyteller who happens to live in Vermont asked me to help him out with running a new radio show.

The show is on 99.3 WBTV-LP. WBTV-LP is a collaborative community media project supported by Burlington area community media centers RETN and VCAM in partnership with a dedicated crew of community volunteers, broadcasting to Burlington via the radio at 99.3FM and to Vermont and beyond online via 993wbtv.org.

Folk Talk 1

Rik did the first show solo, and had some technical issues, so he asked if I would help out. I felt very honored! I asked if I could talk to someone about getting an orientation, but Rik assured me it wasn’t necessary.

Folk Talk 2

Turned out we did have a few technical issues for Folk Talk 2, due to the previous DJ leaving things in an unexpected state, but after a few hectic moments and some confusion, we got a recording of an interview he did with Pete Seeger going and sorted the rest of the show out. It was certainly a “trial by fire”!

In the end it worked out with just a little dead air, and we had a laugh!

The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream

While learning as we go was a little “exciting”, it also gave us some confidence that the next show would be easier. To add some pressure though, Rik had another event scheduled, The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream!

This is a neat event Rik dreamed up, and is produced by Rik, Jeff Miller (of Burlington Coffehouse fame), Marianna Holzer, Rebecca Padula and others! The idea is to recreate the radio variety shows of old, but in the context of live internet streaming. Everything goes through a single microphone, and most performances are unamplified (The Starline Rhythm Boys were the first to “go electric” with a single Fender amp, but they get a pass, because: The Starline Rhythm Boys. ‘Nuff said.)

This one included The Starline Rhythm Boys, The Green Mountain Cloggers dancing to music by Leadfoot Louise, cowboy songs and rope tricks from Ernie Sites, and Storyteller Buzz Kuhns, along with Rik himself hosting. What a show!

I helped setup and “run” the Facebook Live Stream, which worked OK, but did crash two times during the show on the iPad Mini that was being used. I knew the procedure to restart the Live Stream, so got it back up and running in about 30 seconds each time. So if you want to check it out, you will need to view three separate FB videos on Rik’s timeline.

I will post links to the HD recording when it is edited and uploaded to YouTube.

Next one is in June, and will be honoring Pete Seeger.

Folk Talk 3

Inspired by Ernie Sites visit to Vermont at The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream earlier in the day, Rik thought a Cowboy/Western music theme would be fun. He was right!

We played a variety of classic western songs, and some lesser known gems as well. I was struck by the diversity of songs, the sophistication of the music, and the articulate lyricism of the music we listened to.

We had no real technical issues, and had some nice conversations about the artists. Here is the playlist:

  • Prairie in the Sky by Mary McCaslin on The Best of… (Philo)
  • Strawberry Roan by Jim Ringer on The Band of Jesse James (Philo)
  • Way Out West by Mary McCaslin on The Best Of… (Philo)
  • Rodeo Cowboy by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Cowboy’s Dream by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Reminiscin’ by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Ghost Riders in the Sky by Mary McCaslin on The Best of… (Philo)
  • Rattlesnake Dreaming by Lon Austin on Arizona Raccoon Tours (Independent)
  • Buffalo Skinners by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Night Herding Song by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Riding Down Canyon by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Under the Glow of a Western Moon by Patti Shannon on Gone So Gone (Independent)
  • The Return of Rocky Mountain Slim and Desert Rat Shorty by Woody Guthrie on Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Amazing stuff, and you should go find it, listen to it, and buy it.

So, producing a radio show is fun, if you do it with a friend!

Next Sunday: World/International/Indigenous music! Tune in!