WBKM Live from Robot Dog with Tim Lewis Volume Three 2019

Several songs on my album were actually recordings made during these sessions at Robot Dog Studio, courtesy of Tim Lewis, WBKM, and Ryan Cohen and Sam Marks of Robot Dog (many thanks again to all).  One of these songs, “The Last Coral Left Alive”, is now included in a new compilation of songs (and interview snippets) from the series available to stream or download for free! This is the third season edition and includes a wonderful cross-section of Burlington’s diverse music scene:

Season three includes performances by Ver Sacrum, Troy Millette, Happy Spangler, Jesse Taylor Band (though solo), Radio Underground, Jeremy Gilchrist, Smokestack Lightning, Jessica Rabbit Syndrome, Cricket Blue, Green Chapel, Late Night (Peter Danforth, Annie Costa, Chanon Geoff Bernstein), The Steph Pappas Experience, Jason Baker, Blowtorch, Bethany Conner, Dirty Blondes, Clare Byrne, Sad Turtle, The Red Newts, Wolfhand, Comrade Nixon, Community Garden, Matthew Mercury, Andriana Chobot and Josh Glass.

2019 Year in Review

Now that it’s actually over…

Let’s hit the “highlights”:

My measures of success have changed

Previous year-in-review focused on songwriting productivity: how many songs did I complete in the calendar year? I find it hard to count up the songs this year, as so many are works in progress still. I have surely completed at least 20 songs, some of which are included in the latest album.

However, the realities of being a recording and performing artist sank in this year: I have spent as much time promoting existing works as I have creating new works, and spent time developing skills quite tangential to songwriting itself. That’s not bad, but does take time away from songwriting and developing those skills.

It was fun to go on radio shows like Tim’s, and also WRUV Exposure and WOMM-LP The Radiator’s Rocket Shop to talk about the album and play the songs live. I also did a TV show called Vermont Treasures with host Rachel Hamilton on LCATV, a regional local access channel.

Better songs, more people

I made some conscious decisions to be more careful about the selection of songs for Common Man Blues than I was for America Dreams.

I took songs for feedback to two different groups of songwriters, AND to two different mentors when any deeper question came up. Being open to the suggestions given really helped several songs improve, and the feedback of the groups was instrumental in choosing which songs made the cut.

I also invited guest musicians Rik Palieri and Janice Russsoti to play and sing on my album, and that was an enlightening experience itself, and improved the arrangements for those two songs immensely. Working with different studio engineers (instead of doing it all myself) was delightful, and while I am also glad to note my “home studio” recordings stand up to the pro studio stuff, it was way better to have someone else handle all the microphones and mixing.

This year I tried to do more “jamming” and collaboration in general, and it’s been generally beneficial. People seem to really like my slide guitar playing. I will be incorporating more of that into my songwriting. The Burlington Songwriters Holiday Celebration allowed for a small group of us to form a little impromptu harmony group. I expect to incorporate that in future songs as well.

What are my specific plans for the new calendar year? Subscribe to this blog to find out next time!

Now tell us your plans for songwriting in 2020 in the comments section! Always love to hear ideas for everyone to try…

 

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!

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!

 

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!

 

Celebrating one year as a solo performing artist

The story of the snowstorm

If you haven’t read my blog recently please check out the story of the snow storm which I recounted back in November, then come back here!

No storm this time!

Radio Bean graciously scheduled me to play on the same date, February 7th, an earlier evening gig starting at 5:30.

More of a dinner/happy hour crowd at this point in the evening. Both the diners and the folks at the bar seemed entertained and did applaud. I used this opportunity to introduce a mini “ukulele set” towards the beginning of the show, and that seemed to go over well!

Got my two drinks and made $5 American and one Canadian loonie in tips. I took the Looney as a good sign for my upcoming trip to Montreal for the 2019 FAI Conference.

Thank you to Radio Bean for allowing you to play every month for one whole year.

Second Thursdays at 8:30 at Radio Bean

I now seem to have the second Thursday of the month at 8:30 as a regular gig at the Bean for April, May and June. Stop in for drinks, food,  and “socio-political Americana”!

Next gig there is March 7th!

See my show schedule here!