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!

 

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!

Review of America Dreams in Issues Magazine #26

I am pleased to announce a review of my album America Dreams has been published in Issues Magazine #26.

Here is the text of the review:

This is a traditional folk album with a slightly jaunty twist in the music.

The lyrics are political and generally left wing. They lend to be long-form slow-motion tirades against greed, apathy and injustice.

Jason sings well. He hits the pitch correctly and on time.

The approach is ironically quite conservative, but then again, folk music is all about tradition so that makes sense.

The songs have a bouncy rhythm. They’re made up exclusively of voice and acoustic guitar.

If you like folk check it out.

Download Issues Magazine #26

Thanks to Issues Magazine for the review!

Burlington Songwriters News!

It’s official! Burlington Songwriters has a new home!

Our next meeting is Tuesday, March 26th, 7 p.m. at the C.O.R.E. Center at 20 Allen Street.

We have greatly appreciated the generosity and our association with Big Heavy World. When they moved to their new space, however, the location and schedule just wasn’t going to work for many of our active members.

So, for the past couple of months, we have been searching for a new meeting place. That search eventually led us to talk to Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront. Specifically, we met with Candice Holbrook, the program manager, about possible meeting space at the Center of Recreation & Education (CORE). Our group seemed like a good match, and Candice suggested that we partner with Burlington Parks & Rec, which allows us to meet at the CORE center.

The Center of Recreation & Education (CORE)

The CORE center is the old Catholic school at 20 Allen Street, across from St. Joseph’s church.

There is a parking lot entrance on North Street. There may also be street parking on Allen Street. Either way, you should plan to enter through the main door in the front and center of the building.

The CORE center is on the second floor–one set of stairs up from the street level. Our room assignment will appear on the chalkboard in the main hallway, but I’ve been told that we can plan to meet regularly in the “Community Room”. That’s where the senior meals program is hosted. That means that tables and chairs will be available for our open mic’s! Perhaps this also means that there will be a local community to invite to those open mic’s. I’ve very excited about the possibilities here.

It’s typical, lately, to have some business to discuss, but this should otherwise be a regular song sharing session. Remember, please bring copies of your lyrics to share. Mostly, I expect we’ll take the first couple of meetings to get used to the new space, and to work out the logistics for our open mic sessions.

Looking forward to it!

Gig Updates: El Toro and Radio Bean

El Toro Sat Feb 23 2019 7 PM

I played El Toro in Morrisville, Vermont for the first time in a while… they had stopped having live music for a short period of time.

I guess they have some new staff to go along with the renewed commitment to live music, as there were some changes:

  • The staff was welcoming, polite, informative and accommodating when I arrived to eat  early and set up. Not that anyone was impolite the last time, just not attentive in this way.
  • No amplification was desired this time: if you play here, be prepared to project your voice.
  • More tips than the first gig. This time I left with $18. Thanks to all the generous patrons!

Thanks to El Toro for having live, acoustic music again! I look forward to a return engagement on April 13th.

Radio Bean Thu Mar 7 2019 7 PM

I played what has become a regular gig for me: Radio Bean in Burlington, Vermont.

The crowd was a bit thin at the start, but came in from the cold in small bursts of cold air from the door (the stage is RIGHT next to the door). Mostly plowed through the album, skipping the slower numbers, and got some of the expected laughs at the lyrics, and applause at the end of each number.

By the end, I was feeling looser, had time, and took time to dedicate my song “Together” to the Progressive Party candidates who won election that week, and to the defeat of a ballot item to privatize a large part of downtown in that same vote. That caught some ears, I guess, and the F-bomb in the beginning of the song got a BIG laugh, and I am pretty sure this guy with dreads dropped a $10 bill in the donation bowl right then! Since I made $11 that night, it was greatly appreciated!

Radio Bean is my local neighborhood coffeehouse, and I am grateful to them for letting me play there every month. I will be playing the second Thursday of the month for the next three months! Next show: April 11th at 7 PM!

NEXT SHOW

This coming week I will be at Gusto’s Bar in Barre, Vermont again Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 5 PM – 7 PM!

 

Christmastime Blues live!

I recently played the Ripton Community Coffeehouse open mic and debuted this song I just “officially” released on my website for streaming, and thanks to the local community television station, have video of the performance to share. Full version with intro here. See my YouTube channel while you are there for a version without the talking, and other performance videos!

 

Musical communities and social music

 

After the Burlington Songwriter’s Open Mic Meetup last week, there were two other musical meetups I went to:

Feedback, but the good kind to listen to…

First is a monthly “songwriter’s workshop” held as part of the Burlington Writer’s Workshop and taking place in their offices on the second Thursday of the month.

This is a place for sharing works in progress for feedback and constructive critique. It was fun this time to share the results of a collaboration from the month before with a lyricist named Karen Edwards:

This song may or may not be in it’s final form… Karen may use some of the feedback to make changes…or not! What do you think of this song as it is? Tell in the comments!

Uke-ing It Up at the Library…

Once one person ukes at the library, then there’s a chain reaction and more and more people start to uke it up too!

The invitation did say “uke it up at the library”, so that’s where that comes from.

This group meets the second and fourth Sundays of the month at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.

A group regular was very handy with printouts of popular songs, many with ukulele chords on the page. The group this Sunday was a bit bashful to lead songs, so I led songs that I knew and the group really sounded nice!

 

 

 

Saturday Song Prompt #11

Write for a genre: Heavy Metal

Write a song for whatever you think of as “Heavy Metal” music. The subject matter should fit the style you choose, or you can even choose a specific artist to write for.

If you can’t decide, two words: Spinal Tap.