Week 13- "Who's Better Than You" (Part 1)?

Hello friends, back at it on this rainy tuesday. I'm looking forward to that break I was promised in a few weeks. Anyways, this weeks topic is about the importance of playing with other musicians, and the proper mentality to effectively create and improve. Realistically, it doesn't matter who you are, you will play with another musician at least once, and if you want to play more than once, you'll learn how to act. Cool? Cool! Let's get into it.

There is no one in the world that you aren't good enough to play with. 

Nope, it's just not true. Look, there are amazing musicians in every town of every area of the world. Seriously, there's an unfathomable amount of talent. But because of that, you should realize that you are just as valuable as them and just as able to create and express. Ideally, you should remove the phrase "better than me" from your vocabulary. It's negative reinforcement and if you do end up playing with someone like that you'll be trying to outshine them or shying away from playing; either way, it's not healthy artistry. If you feel like you need to identify the difference between you and another player, it's "He/She is better than me at _____ (Blues, Writing, Singing, etc.), but I have my own talents". And is that worth saying? Most definitely. Do not be intimidated by the players you respect. Instead, get close to them and show them how you would love to learn from them. Even the top players remember what it's like to meet idols, large or small. A determined and open minded individual can go a lot farther in that situation than someone who just plays well and doesn't quite care beyond that. Remember that half of your battle as an artist, player, writer, producer, etc is just being likable and giving people good reasons to have you around. When I went to Nashville last spring, a very big producer told me and other Berklee students something very important- he called it your "Hang Factor". That means how fun you are to have in a studio, how reliable you are- it's a very important quality in most successful musicians. You want to be the type of person that improves whatever environment you're in. That will breed better musicianship, creativity, and all in all, put everyone in a good mood and keep them there. That will take you very far. The best musicians gravitate towards the people who let them have the most fun (while still being professional of course) so always keep that in mind. 

I'm running just a bit short on time, so I think I'm going to call this part 1, and part 2 will be out next tuesday, keep an eye out for it. Sorry about that! Have a great week everyone! 

 

Week 12- "Thankful To Be Thankful"

Hello my friends, it looks like winter is finally here! If this ends up being a short article, it's because my fingers finally gave way to the cold and have unfortunately fallen off my hands. Solid starting joke, some A+ material (yes, it's sarcasm; go ahead, have your fun). 

Anyways, so this week will be less musical than most. This week tackles a mindset that I believe has been the most reliable tool for me in continuing to grow week to week as both a musician and a person. As I'm sure most of you know, this week is Thanksgiving. Now as those of who you know me would surely guess, I am not planning to get into the pro's and cons of the holiday. But what I will do is give a few things that I am thankful for, and more importantly, the way that I practice appreciation. Let me start here; Life was never meant to be perfect, and I do believe that if everyone made a list of all the troubles they had in their life, we would all have good reason to feel bad for our friends- but that's not how society works and not how any person who wants to better themselves should ever approach their life (So what was the point of that whole sentence? I could not quite tell you, but it's [probably] important). Here's what I am thankful for, and I think that you should be thankful for some of them too, they do not apply solely to me.

1. I have passion in my life. I have things I love to do, I have people I love, I have things I aspire to be. And I love those who have love. When we open our minds to the gift of pursuit, the magical feeling of chasing something rare or elusive, or being rewarded with the compassion of another human being, we are at our best. Start your day with a quick moment to appreciate that today is an opportunity. Always. Never stop keeping a place at the table for passion in your life (I guess I just tied that into Thanksgiving, but I don't think I meant to). 

2. I can learn from both failure's and successes. We have been given quite the blessing as a society, where we will be able to experience both scenarios. The question is, what follows? I've talked before about how I believe both should be handled. But at the core, you are always able to learn from it, whether you've advanced in life or you've been set back, there is a lesson, and you are now that much wiser. I get mad about failures, I do. I'm also elated by success. But regardless, I analyze my actions and I end up in a place of greater self awareness, and I know how thankful I should be to be able to have those experiences.

3. I have a beautiful dog at home. Nothing to add here. If you don't have a dog (or a cat, bird, fish, pterodactyl, etc.) at home, I would recommend you invest. 

4. I live in the community that best fits me. I have the blessing of attending the music school of my dreams, but believe it or not, this does not only apply there. It should never apply only to one place. You must take your positive attitude with you wherever you travel, because every single place on Earth has something to offer. Even if it's not perfect, there's upsides, and happy people are not happy by accident, they embrace their surroundings and enjoy life because that's their mindset. Your internal truth will always take precedent over your external, never forget to be the positive change that you wish you were part of.

5. We have a beautiful world to make our own. I hope that those who are struggling remember to look up at the sun and realize that the world still turns. I know there's unfathomable hurt and anguish in this world, but it will not stop unless we turn our minds to the positive future. There is always resources to turn to. Always a hand to hold. I offer mine to those who need it, I hope that those around me do the same. When we embrace each other, we can heal any wounds. I hope that you find the love in your heart going forward and be the best version of you that you can be.

Well, my laptop is slowly quitting on me, so I suppose it's time to end this weeks post. Thank you all for reading, have a lovely holiday!

-Jamie  

Week 11- "No, You Don't Have Writer's Block"

So at the end of this semester, I'm proud to say that I will officially be halfway done with my degree here at Berklee, and so I wanted to take this week to share one very important thing that I have learned. 

Writer's Block is not a CONDITION, it is a CHOICE

I can see how some would be offended by me saying that, but I promise you, it is the truth. You might have a slump of bad songs like everyone else, but you are not blocked up. You are lacking inspiration and motivation. But good news; both are all around you, always. Rejoice! From this point forward, you should never give yourself the writer's block excuse again. It's a mentality, and an unhealthy one at that. I've gone through month long stretches, one even close to a year, where I felt like I couldn't produce any quality work and whatever I did manage to write was all white noise. But I never stopped for a second to find new inspiration. I wasn't reading new books, listening to new music, traveling to new places. I was very complacently living life, and yet somehow I still expected my mind to procure interesting and new topics to write about. How is that ever feasible!? It's not! 

So what specifically are we talking about? How do you truly connect to the inspiration that has been eluding you? Open your mind. Remember that children's book that your parents read to you when you were young? At least 10 good songs in there. Have any friends who have a life more interesting than your current one, or maybe they could use a pick-me-up song to help them work through some struggles? You'd have to be crazy to think there isn't hundreds of songs waiting. If you take that mentality, you are unstoppable. Songs are in books, movies, and general ideas (yes, I know it references Writer's Block, but agree to disagree- there's good ideas in that list). 

If you feel that your songs are lacking originality, or that they are all sounding the same, it starts with your inspiration source. If you're writing to your anger all the time, or your unrequited love for someone, well it's not too surprising that the other pieces of the song follow suit. You need to find the unconventional ideas that are floating around in the auxiliary parts of your mind. When you write about love, be creative, the audience will understand from the get go that it's a love song, so you need to throw in a twist in there that revitalizes the meaning and the importance. Or find a new way to say "I love you". Angry songs, I've been there, you just want to spew it all out at once and wreak havoc on whoever is on the receiving end- but that just will not translate to the audience. And I don't believe that you'll like listening to it either when you're in a good mood and you're trying to sing your way through it. If you need to write that song, incorporate a new emotion, like remorse, or pity, because unfortunately hateful songs will not quite hold up on their own when its just unrelenting degradation. The bottom line is, if it seems like something you've heard before, put in something new that makes it yours again. Maybe instead of attacking someone, make the situation into a metaphor and disguise the scenario. Maybe instead of talking about your undying love for your counterpart, tell the world how miserable the world would be without your partner, how they brighten everything around them. Now it still says what you wanted, but it puts a much more concrete image in your audiences mind and they get to peak into the story and make their own conclusions about what the song is supposed to be about. Generally, people would rather get their own input as opposed to having the meaning forced down their throat. There's no greater compliment then when a member of the audience is so intrigued by a song that they come up to you after a performance and try to know more about the background of a song. We're all human, start relating to people and favoring their curiosity!

I don't want to go on all day about this, I think you've all gotten the point. But really, you have a job as an artist or a creator of any sort, and it's to brighten the world with your abilities. Make the world feel your emotions, and allow your audience to unlock theirs. I don't have to tell anyone currently living in America that what we need the most right now is compassion and empathy. Regardless of your political views, this is a unified nation and the only people who will be harmed by fighting or violence is ourselves. I know in my heart that there's been a call from the establishment as a whole for new and vibrant art that lets us all push the reset button as we move into the future. Yes, your song may not travel far and wide, but if it affects even one person positively and convinces them that we need to collect ourselves as a nation, then you have outdone yourself. Keep writing (or painting, or dancing, or speaking, anything expressive) guys, it's what the world needs. 

Thanks so much for reading as always, I'll be back next week.

-Jamie 

Week 10- "No, I Am Not Talking About The Election"

Well the title should tell you at least what today's article won't be about. Yes, I have my opinions just like the rest of you, but I don't feel like being crucified for supporting one side or the other, or neither. It's a discussion I'll save for 2020 when Kanye runs. Anyways, I hope your respective candidate wins, unless that is not the candidate that I support, in which case you can soon expect a barrage of some factual, some not so factual information supporting my claim splattered on your Facebook wall. 

So this weeks topic, in the spirit of gathering a group of like minded followers and leading them to high places, is about the effectiveness of social media. In 2016, we as artists, producers, engineers, thinkers, comedians, household pets who somehow created their own instagrams, know that social media is the best form of distribution and promotion that you can get for free. You can reach millions of people with the touch of a button, you can connect with fans thousands of miles away who you have never met, the possibilities are endless. But, here's the catch- you have to work to get there. The thing with social media is that there's always this white noise buzzing in the background, someone is doing something somewhere, and they're most likely getting attention for it. And since attention is a finite resource, obviously you are going to be competing a little bit for other users time when you want to reach them. Yes, you are unique, and you are most likely an incredibly talented and poised individual, but you're a small fish in a big pond. So for the fun of it, lets talk about how you evolve to the point where you can grow legs and walk right out of the pond where everyone can see you (And yes, I suppose we'll also assume you can breathe air by that point- thanks Bill). *Disclaimer- I have not claimed social media fame as a priority, and therefore I am not someone who has had monumental success- but I feel that through extensive research, I can tell you what you'll have to do to reach that point. 

First off, you must be committed and consistent. One good post every few weeks is just simply not enough to interest a potential fanbase. Plan on posting 3-4 times a week, and if it's not a decent quality photo or video, or a clever inspirational quote or piece of advice, forget it. People notice when you're running out of things to say, or songs to perform. Now that being said, those things should not happen if you start to schedule your posts for yourself. Make a day out of it, maybe every wednesday is a new age cover of an older song. Maybe every friday, you do a quick 30 second video looking back at the week behind you. People start to accept those things as habitual and feel rewarded when they can anticipate it and eventually they will want some sort of involvement in your posts. But without your consistency, there's nothing to really gravitate towards and slowly they will miss the things you post and your audience will start to shrink. The second habit that you will need to get into is engaging your audience. Find some dedicated people who like every single thing you post and ask them what they like about your page, what are some of their favorite posts from the past. Did those posts do well for you? Well, it would be pretty stupid to go away from what works. Reach out to your followers and see what really interests them, is it covers, or small blogs, funny or inspirational messages, sharing good music from your contemporaries? There's definitely more that you could be doing to please them. Make it known how much you appreciate the support, and respond directly to people whenever you can, it goes a long way. A lot of the people who support you will also have their own interesting and exciting pages, make it your priority to be active on their pages as well. Don't just "like" something, leave a comment, tell them what you actually liked. It's easy to convince yourself you don't have time to do that, but you do, it's just not as easy as pretending like everyone should just love you and your posts with nothing being given in return. The more you can establish strong relationships with fans online, the more reach you will have when you want them to tune into something. This brings me to my next point, the 7-to-1 rule. The rule is simple; For every 1 post you self promote with, there should be 7 that are just simple entertainment, advice, or engagement towards your audience. The endless self promoting may or may not feel necessary, but I promise that after a bit your followers will not look so fondly upon it. Use that one post to highlight an important event, like a contest you've entered or a gig you really want to get people to. There's times when this rule should be interpreted more loosely (i.e. when you release an album), but generally, this is the trend you'll find on major pages. Don't ask for too much of an already dedicated audience, they're doing more than enough by just supporting you. Self promotion must be shown wisely, when you're careless, it leaves a real bitter taste in everyones mouths. So the last point, and I am always going to be a broken record on this one- Be You. Look, not everyone is an extrovert that's always prepped for a photoshoot and constantly interested in getting themselves out there. Personally, I do not have that trait and I don't possess that type of mindset when I approach social media. But I don't act like someone I'm not. You should always be cognizant of the fact that some of these people know you in real life, and if they're expecting a fireball of emotion and a big personality, and get none of that, it's very detrimental to your image and by extension, your success. People will eventually see through it, and while it's important to try and please people, you have to do it in a way that truly reflects your spirit. That's just so important. Don't compromise your integrity just to get a few more likes on something. Be true to yourself, and other people will join up to your truth. I promise. 

Well, I'm off to a guitar lesson now, I hope the election works out your way, and if not, remember you can always move. Have a great week everyone! Thanks for reading!

-Jamie

Week 9- "What is 'Good' Music"?

So I've been trying to answer this question lately (Nope, there's no friendly intro to this, we're going full steam ahead my friends); "What makes music enticing? Why does some music stand out so easily"? To this point, I don't have anything concrete, but I've got a few strong feelings and well, what are blogs for right? Exactly, I don't really know either. Let's do this.

**WARNING; This post has a lot of quotes- I mean it, there's so many "Quotes". If it makes you more comfortable, say "Quote-Unquote" to yourself every time I use them, it'll be pretty entertaining.

It is impossible to say what "Good" music is. It's subjective at every turn. Now, moving past that, we can certainly distinguish strong, thoughtful, well-crafted music from the opposite (I bet you wanted me to call out a certain genre or artist here, but I respect Pop Punk and people like Lil Yachty too much to ever do that). What separates the top artists is the attention to detail, the undeniable confidence in the inner workings of the song. It's no accident that Top 40 songs become Top 40, and it's also not surprising that music from the 60's and 70's still lives on with us today- it's worth the loyalty and attention it garners. If I was going to get technical, I could pass everything off to just opinions and suggest that really none of them matter, but thats just plain untrue. Collective opinion determines the success of a song, no matter what level we're talking about. Now, I want to be very clear on this; If you're not writing for you, you're never going to truly love the song. There's exceptions, of course, if you actually are writing for another artist, but in this blog I like to assume that people are primarily writing for themselves and aiming to express themselves in their music. Realistically, we're human, we will not connect with every single song. Stop treating yourself like some sort of fruit that can be endlessly juiced. It's impossible to get deep with every song. But you should be always be trying. Contrary to popular belief, deep songs with a lot of emotion don't always have to make you feel vulnerable. You're an artist because you express what others have trouble with, don't shy away from your ability, embrace it! Your emotions, along with your flaws, your achievements, your mindset, your charisma, they all make your songs uniquely you. And realistically, that's where the "Strength" lies in the song. Does your audience hear the song? Or do they listenKnow the difference- when they hear your music, they should want to listen because it makes them feel something that they love feeling (and oh hell yes that can be sorrow too- just because people are afraid to be sad doesn't mean we don't all need moments to release a bit!). Authentic music speaks volumes (Ha music pun) over well produced music with the top musicians on the tracks. That's not to say that the sonic quality isn't extremely important- of course that matters towards your professionalism, but unfortunately spending time and money on those things for a song you don't truly believe in, well that's just a waste. I write more "Bad" songs than "Good" ones, but that's because my emotions don't always show up. When they do, however, I almost always end up with something I love, or at least a song with tangible raw potential. 

One of the issues that every artist will encounter is that your "Best" music is not your audiences "Best" music. So what do you do when the golden child song of yours gets an "Eh" (Hope you're still sticking with the quote plan here) response from your friends? First off, do not get angry. The reality is their reaction to your song is not their reaction to you as a person. If they're giving you an honest opinion, you thank them and then you reflect. Trust me, it's not them misunderstanding you. The people listening to your music are the ones who dictate where that music will end up, and they should not have to work hard to like it. If you feel like you still know better than them, maybe you should watch this video from a pretty successful guy who explains this a bit more in depth. The reality is if people aren't responding to the music that you believe in, and you've covered the bases on production and you're not sure what else to do with the song, then chances are you're not giving the most honest representation of yourself. I've made the mistake for years of basing my songs off the feedback I receive and never considering that I'm not trying to change internally. You can dress up a song to be perfect for a listener and they could still quite easily tell you it's not their favorite, because really I think they will know that it's not where YOUR heart is. I can tell this is getting more and more unclear, so to summarize; MAKE MUSIC YOU LOVE BEFORE EXPECTING OTHERS TO LOVE IT. And if they still don't love it? You keep writing what you love, because there's an audience out there for it that has been waiting years to find someone like you. 

Well, that's my article for this week. I hope you "Enjoyed" (I'm thinking about removing the quote button from my keyboard for next week) it! Let me know what you think makes a song great! Thanks!

-Jamie

P.S. No one tell Lil Yachty about this article, seriously, I respect him so much. 

Week 8- "Working Through The Rough Patches"

Hey everyone, hope you're all finding this well. This is midterm week here at Berklee and I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line in another month and a half. So yeah, that's how I'm doing. Anyways, this week will not be as dark as the title seems. I want to approach the setbacks for artists, because realistically, none of your idols have become your idols without some pretty intense frustration and perseverance. Let's get into it.

I'll be very honest, I am struggling at the moment. Struggling to write the music I want to write, struggling to advance my career, struggling to figure out exactly what my career is supposed to be. And I am so frustrated. But in reality, I'm doing fine. Why? Because I have come far enough to face these questions. I know that success can be just over the hill and it's perfectly natural to trip a bit before you keep going. Hell, I trip more than I walk some weeks. But that's part of the experience. What's to appreciate about success if you didn't earn it? The hardest fought battles are the most satisfying victories. I know I am never alone in my struggles. There are many artists who are way more talented, business minded, and creative than me who have the same struggles. That's how I know that it's not necessarily something I'm doing wrong. I won't sugarcoat it though, knowing this does not make the struggles easier. In fact, it makes them more aggravating because the seem endless. 

OK, we've talked more than enough about me, so here's the real blog post;

"You're doing what you're supposed to be doing"

Soak those words in. Artists don't get to hear those words often (until they've reached a biblical level of fame where they can pretty much do whatever they please). I think the reality is it doesn't matter what you're doing; whether you're a Musician, an Entrepreneur, a Writer, a Doctor- if you're struggling, it's because you're pushing yourself, it's because you're digging out your path in front of you. If that was easy, we wouldn't respect you so much for doing it. You've set an intense goal for yourself, and you know deep in your heart that it would feel trivial if it was handed to you. Naturally, humans go away from pain and towards pleasure. You're doing something incredible and inspiring, and there's nobody that can put a stop to your progress except you. I can't begin to say how impressed I am by the hard working people who put their heads down and make their dreams into tangible successes. How do they do it? There must be some sort of silver spoon, or maybe they caught a lucky break, right? No. No way. Look money is money, fame is fame, you can put forward all sorts of excuses as to why you will not succeed and why person X did, but at the end of the day, person X just made it happen. I'd be willing to bet quite a bit of money that it wasn't without some otherworldly stress, some tears, and a lot of shutting out the noise that says they should give up. I'll bring myself back in for a second- I think all the time about what if I just quit? Just stopped the music and picked a new career? I could. I might. But not unless I KNEW that it was what I truly needed. But for the moment, I have a dream and nothing can cut me off from it, not even myself. OK- back to the important thing; You, and your "soon to be" successful and amazing career that will offer inspiration for everyone who someday follows in your footsteps. If I can offer you one thing to get through the struggles it's this; DO NOT CUT CORNERS. Did you catch that? Hang on.

DO.NOT.CUT.CORNERS.

Look, it is so easy to want to just write your song, it's "good" and you pat yourself on the back and then feel like Leonard Cohen for a week (If you are a songwriter and don't know who that is, please look him up, please). But really, if you want this music to spread its' wings and take off, it has to be "Amazing". The kind of song that your friends keep on replay, the one people ask you to play at shows. Maybe they even know the words to it. And on the business side, if you want something to happen, don't wait on people to make your career happen for you. They won't. Sorry. You need to be quick on every response, don't be afraid to follow up two or three times with a venue- they're seeing your emails, trust me. Be a fighter and don't feel ashamed of how hard you will push. Be the kindest, most courteous and consummate professional that you can be.  It goes further than someone liking your music. You need them to love working with you. Don't be cheesy, but you should make it known to every potential employer that you appreciate the opportunity to the fullest. Give respect to get it. If you follow this model of living, the world will eventually give into you and your struggles will slowly break up. 

You're going to have some dark days. We all do. Sometimes that's life, other times its because you're being tested. Stay resilient, go seize your dreams. Thanks for reading, I hope anyone who is struggling currently can push through soon, feel free to reach out to me if you need an open ear. Have a great week!

-Jamie

P.S. I love this article, it's short and it's honest and informative, go take a look! It's very specific and a good place to start when you're looking for new angles to work. http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/how-to-succeed-in-the-music-industry-on-your-terms.html

Week 7- "Smile (Or Make A Really 'Cool' Face)"

Welcome! So I got a bit smarter in the past week- the title is now at the top, you don't even have to scroll! And that revelation only took me a month and a half! 

So anyways, down to business. This week I'm going to talk about the importance of image in the music industry (and all other industries for that matter). Before we begin, let me clarify that I am not basing image off of "Attractiveness" or some other subjective and useless term. I'm talking about making yourself into an established and conceptualized "brand" of sorts. A very good friend and advisor of mine Danielle Kolachik (You can and should go see her unbelievable photography- Danielle has taken countless pictures for me, including two album covers!) introduced me to this idea about a year ago and I have had a great time incorporating it into every decision I make these days. Basically, your brand is your personality taking shape as a business. It's something you want your audience to support and buy into, and like I have mentioned in past blogs, they will eventually come to know you as you've branded yourself. Are you very artsy and down to earth and you wear a silk scarf 365 days a year? Perfect, make that look iconic. Are you very introverted and you don't really have a distinguishing feature? Well that sounds somewhat unfortunate, but if you go and own that, you are now unique with your image. Simply conveying who you are goes a long way with people. After all, a fan doesn't want to feel like they only know your music but not you. If you're quirky and they're quirky, they won't have to work too hard to love your sound because they've already signed on to you as a person. What Danielle loves to have me think about is the small details for things, like color scheme (if you're not familiar check this out), and really figure out what colors speak to my personality and how that will affect the viewer. We also talk about things like hand positioning in pictures as well as when speaking to a fan and the way that your hands can show the demeanor you bring into an environment. If you really want to know more about this, I am not the expert, I am just a student, but there's countless articles online detailing creative ideas for branding in businesses of all varieties. Branding comes into play at every turn of musicianship. The website that you are currently reading on was designed with very specific concepts and colors in mind (yes, yes, I know the blog is black and white, but legibility is important too, there's always a balance to find). Realistically, the only restriction on designing anything for your brand is that it has to speak to YOU. It's not going to matter if I or someone else doesn't quite gel with it, if it's authentic and it embodies you, it's bound to find it's place in people's hearts. So stay at it, don't be deterred by some opposition at the start, it's part of defining yourself and your image. 

That's this weeks post! Little shorter but I think you all get the point. Also, if you're looking for a killer photographer/videographer, wanted to give a shoutout to my friend Kevin Prunty- he's an Arlington graduate currently studying film at Pace in NYC and I promise you he is great at what he does and he has a fun time doing it so hit him up! Anyways, thanks for reading everyone, see you next week!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 6

Hello friends, family, boys, girls, dogs, cats, ok- whoever is reading this, thanks for tuning in! So I'm going to dive into something a bit personal this week that some people might not look favorably upon, but I write with the intention of connecting with others who are in my place, my profession, or just want to know a bit more about the day to day life of being a musician. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, comments are encouraged!

Week 6- "How To Take Criticism (And When You Need To Stop Listening)"

Before I start, let me say that I am the worlds biggest fan of good, honest critiques, but there's a difference between that and criticism. We are going to be talking the "What if they don't like me..." question today. I will most definitely be covering the value in seeking out trusted opinions at some point, but today will be the look into the reality for most musicians; You can't please everyone. Sometimes, you can't please anyone! Sometimes you'll please your mom, your close friends, maybe even your mom/dad's coworkers, but no you will not please everyone. But, the good news is that's not your job. Your job is to make music that you absolutely love. Until very, very recently I was making music that I felt like everyone should like, instead of songs that I like writing and listening to. And no surprise, when I share the songs I actually love owning, I almost always get a better response than the songs that I "designed" to please an audience. Now, here's the part I hesitate to get into, it's going to most likely come off as self pity, but I promise I share this experience only to show musicians the light at the other end of the tunnel. Ever since 6th grade, I have struggled with immense self doubt, onstage and offstage. I fear the constant talking about me and what I perceived to be shortcomings. Reality was, those voices that I tried to run from or ignore usually never existed. I played, sang, and wrote with this tiny chip on my shoulder for so many years, citing the idea that "no one really wants me to succeed, so let me go and show them". I know now that I am wrong, I have amazing friends who support me in this endeavor, but let me focus in on the criticism aspect. Sometimes, I was subject to criticism, especially for my voice, and at a certain age, I was laughed at a good amount for having a dream. So in terms of handling that, I did a terrible job of it-let me tell you what I did. I LISTENED. I got down on myself, I would kind of pretend that I wasn't serious about my dream, that this was a hobby. I figured if I just made it seem like I was sorry for promoting my work or posting too many videos on Instagram, that people would stop talking or I would at least have a viable defense to the criticism. That behavior stripped me of the individuality that I knew I worked to own, but my only concern was being liked. Not appreciated, or listened to, just liked. I think it should go without saying that what I did was unnecessary and detrimental, but I know that I am not the only artist who has been subject to these feelings. And I am not naive, there's always going to be people who will think maybe I should stop writing, or stop singing, maybe stop playing music altogether. But here's the difference now, I make music for me and show it to the people who I know can use it. That sounds cocky, but I'm not rephrasing. I have been writing things that I fall asleep singing at night and I can dwell on my own lyrics because they carry real sentimental value to me, they are no longer just marketing based. That's not to say I've never written honest songs, I have a handful from the past, but I finally found my place of peace musically, and that's the point of this weeks post. When you hear that awful thing someone said about your music, realize that the one's you're out to please are the people who will be affected the same way you were writing it. If someone reaches out to you with a good critique- "I really liked this, but maybe you can try (insert fantastic idea here)", then you owe it to them because they have actually digested your music the way you wrote it to be. Don't ever turn those people down. But if they put you down, try to take away from your creativity or freedom, you need to understand that your happiness should not be being held in their hands. You determine that, only you. Artists thrive on expression, it's the central principle and the reason to partake. I understand the obvious "Well how are you going to make a living" question, but I will promise it's not from writing songs you don't believe in. I know this post was more emotional than informative, but that's kind of what I want anyone reading this to understand- emotion is what draws people in. It's not the only way of communicating to an audience, but it is the most visceral thing we can offer as artists. If you want  to silence the critics, silence the demons in your mind, that's always going to be the real issue. If you write through those, jump off the edge of the cliff, there's a group of fans waiting to catch you.

Truthfully, I've never been more excited for the future. I have music that feels the right way, I have a direction for it, and I know I have amazing friends out there who will provide the best audience I could ever want. So I know this post really was all over the place, but thank you so much for reading, and I will see you all next week! 

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 5

Hello everyone! I'm back, a little late, but I'm back nonetheless. I've been hearing from various people in my life saying they actually read these posts so I'm excited to dive into this weeks. So without further ado (minus the 3 days since I was supposed to post this)...

Week 5; "Finding Your 'Thing'"

When it comes right down to it, successful people know why they're successful. They know themselves down to all the finer points, strengths, weaknesses, people they work well with, people they need to avoid. And for everyone one of those people, they have a trait that makes them "Them". It's their hallmark, the thing everyone knows them for. They'll have plenty of other skills, but there's one that is top quality. And not so strangely, thats the one they'll advertise. Why? Because you gain notoriety for being a master in one thing, rather then a participant in many. That's not to say you shouldn't have plenty of tools that you bring to the table in any given situation. I can confidently say that I could play 3 instruments for anyone at any given time, record them, mix (not well, but I can), and I am an experienced writer that's eager and ready to collaborate. But when someone wants to know what I do, I am a Singer Songwriter, and then take that a step further, I'm a Pop Rock Singer Songwriter who is always going to entertain and attempt to create inspiring music. That's my calling card. It doesn't have anything to do with my perception of my own ability, fanbase, or anything else. I know who I am, what I am, and I am confident in my convictions. That's what most industry experts need to/want to know right off the bat. The thing that really separates professionals from amateurs is an X factor. Can you play 2 guitars at once? Do you pull out a puppet at your show and be a ventriloquist for 5 minutes? Great! Make it known to people. If you're an engineer, pride yourself in precision and timeliness, if you're a writer, make sure people know that you'll spend any amount of time that they'll need to write the best song. All that being said, have I found my X factor as a performer yet? Nope, and I'm in no rush. It comes with time (or so i'm told) and when it does, it will be authentic. Authenticity is vital to creating a real buzz. I am personally not the guy to deliver dramatic monologues at shows, or show up in costume, I won't have flames shooting out of my guitar, I know my demeanor and I want to be the same person on the stage that I am off the stage. However, if you're a dynamic individual, then be yourself, don't be shy to go off at any performance, you will develop a name for yourself based on how you deliver a show. Regardless of how you act on stage, trust me, you want the crowd to feel like they know you as they leave the room, and better yet, you want them to tell their friends about the experience, whether it was wild, subdued, intimate, violent, amazing, etc. you want to leave your mark as "that artist". Like I said, this comes with time. But when it's there, you have something priceless that is uniquely yours. So if I wanted to sum this week up; Be you, and be the best at being you. Nothing will make a louder statement than having an honest and believable image. That's what the "thing" is, you're you and everyone knows you for it. So I managed to only be slightly cheesy to this point but here comes the downpour you were most definitely expecting. Keep being amazing at what you do, it's going to show if you let it.

Thanks for reading!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 4

Hey everyone, another busy week but better to be busy when you're trying to make your way up in the world. Hope all my friends in school or at work can feel the same way. So let's get down to this week's topic;

"How To Handle Success"

I was reading over my past posts and I realized that in week 2, I talked about all types of failure and dealing with those feelings, but I totally forgot to mention the (much more fun) counterpart. What do you do when things go your way? Your band got the gig, they picked your song, you're playing the venue you always dreamed of! First of all, congrats! Success is never an accident, or luck, so don't write it off or take away from your achievements. You worked hard to get to where you are, appreciate it! However, the tricky thing with success is that it usually marks the ending of a period, rather than the beginning of a new one. Success is that "release" feeling where we take a load off, and revel in a bit of our glory (born from weeks, months, or years of frustration and perseverance), and I'm not here to say that it's not deserved, but remember- strike while the iron is hot. You're confident, keen, and on top of your game. You're entitled to your day or two of satisfaction, but these windows of opportunity are gratifying for a reason-they're only occasional. I could compare it to building a house of cards, it's a magical feeling when you've stacked up the second level, but the longer you wait to keep constructing it, the more likely that something will happen to set you back. Enjoy that analogy, it's probably one of the last one's i'll try to force in the blog. Anyways, so how do you build on the success? Same way you got there in the first place, only at a higher level (Now my analogy makes more sense). You'll contact bigger venues, strive to sell more music, get a record deal with an established label, etc. It's a slow process, but you'll be riding a strong wave if you coast off the successes you achieve (is that an analogy too? I hope not). I may not be the example of someone who has built their career, but I do know that I am much farther along in my development than I was a year ago. I didn't believe I could ever reach labels, or open for well known artists, it just wasn't something I could picture. But when I got small chances, opportunities, I turned them into bigger ones, and kept working at it. I think the secret is constantly being motivated by the feeling of success, without ever letting it consume you. I have always been afraid of coming off as conceited, so I tend not to broadcast every small step I take on the journey, but I do think about it as I spend hours searching for new places to gig or making new connections, and knowing the accomplishment that I will feel when something fits into it's place. If I can suggest a piece of advice for other artists in my place, it's that I firmly believe that the artists who exercise a healthy work ethic while staying happy are the ones who rise to the top. It's not easy by any means, but that's why we're allowed to be proud of our successes. We dedicate our lives to them, and they give us direction in our lives. Fair tradeoff to me. 

So unfortunately, I am going to have to head off to a voice lesson, but as always I hope this finds you all well and helps some of you, and if you want to tell me how you deal with success, I know I could learn something from you! Thanks!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 3

Hey there everyone! As always, welcome, and thank you for reading! I have to say I'm starting to enjoy this blogging experience. I was a bit skeptical from the start, worrying if anyone will read these, but what I'm finding is that even a few people connecting back to me makes it more than worth it. I hope that this weeks post serves you all well, and if it does, please reach out to me. I really do love hearing back from anyone! 

Week 3; "Should I Feel Bad About Self Promoting"?

While I am not entirely sure that I'm the right voice to tackle this, I know that this is a struggle for artists of all varieties and businesses alike. In my past blog posts, I have talked about the endless amounts of work that we will do to achieve the art that we have envisioned. Eventually, it gets finished, and sits in front of you on a kitchen table as a CD or on your computer screen accompanied by the iTunes toolbar and it's "Now What"? Well, this is the part where everyone has their own feelings, so I'll stop speaking universally and just speak to my own intuition. When I have invested hundreds of hours of my own time, I feel that promoting my work is not just necessary, but deserved. If I have created something that I believe is a quality album (EP, or any creation for that matter), I do believe that I would be doing myself a disservice by hiding it away upon completion and only telling people about it if they asked. The issue in my case is that even though I think of self promotion as necessary, I fear that I'm not getting my music out there, I'm just bothering friends who may have gotten a bit tired of my repetitive posts talking "Check this out, check that out", etc. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we tend to measure our likability based on our social media reach and the reactions of others. In my case, I have never had a large presence on social media. I've grown to understand how powerful it is, but I am by no means an expert. It does seem, however, that the more I use it, the more I wish there was a better way to reach people with an honest message.

I started to get off on a bit of a tangent (Better saved for another week), so let me refocus; I do not self promote because I think I am just "that good". I promote my work because I made it for other people. I promote my work because I do believe that some people out there will connect with my songs. I promote my work because I believe that the world always needs new music. I don't know if people see it that way, in fact I assume that for the most part they don't, because really it's not their job to constantly watch my every move. But the reality is part of being an artist is committing to expression and finding the eyes and ears of an audience who may or may not have a reaction to it. We need to stop feeling as if self promotion is taboo because it seems "conceited". The reality is everyone deserves to feel rewarded for achievements at least from time to time. The good news is that it is not hard to make someone feel valuable in the course of a day.  I know that it can change my day, my week, sometimes even my month getting a small compliment from someone who I didn't know even heard my music or was following my progress. It goes a long way, and I think you can do yourself a favor by being there for others, even just with a like on a post or a quick text. 

Thanks for reading everyone, I would say this post was a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of emotions for me, but I hope it finds you well and maybe offers some insight or some reassurance. I'm really hoping to hear other people's thoughts on this whether you're an artist or not, you definitely have valuable input into the conversation. Next post in 1 week!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 2 (Inspiration and Experience)

Thanks for tuning back in to those of you who read (and hopefully responded) to my first blog post last week, and to those just seeing this for the first time, thank you for checking this out! I hope this is helpful to you or makes you more confident that you're not alone in the world! 

Let's call this Blog Post Week 2 

"What Qualifies As 'Failure' and When Should You Care"?

Start here; Failure is not a deterrent. Failure can mean any range of incomplete tasks or attempts at achieving something, but to be more specific to music, most of the time it will mean you didn't get the gig, you didn't land the deal, your album did not reach a certain amount of sales or plays online. And guess what? That's what any good musician will eventually thrive on. Failure for me has been contacting over 200 different venues in a summer, all personal emails or phone calls, and only getting 15 of them to have me play. I also never got to the end of a record deal with a label that had displayed mutual interest to begin with. Both stung, both made me feel inadequate, and so I kept working at my craft, kept pushing myself and started to move forward. When something doesn't work out for you, be quick to remember that the only way to guarantee success is to be the best at what you do so no one can refuse it, and that even at that point, they'll still refuse it sometimes. I used every venue that didn't answer, every label or group who didn't quite like what they heard, as motivation instead of condemnation; No, I'm not saying I'm some sort of Cinderella story. I'm saying that as creators, musicians will always have hurdles to clear. The key is to learn that you can't run faster until you jump higher. Inspire yourself with the possibilities that lay before you. The worst thing you can do is quit making the music that you express yourself with because some mythical venue owner in the faraway land of (insert somewhat cheesy venue name here) has not felt the emotions you had hoped he would. I'm not saying that venue owners don't deserve respect, but they're just people like you and me, and if they don't quite gel with your music, that's alright. Keeping in mind that they're also running a business, you might just be looking in the wrong place (Never send an email to a potential venue without knowing what sort of music they normally host!). My point is when you get turned down, maybe a few times, by different venues that you KNOW you're a good fit for, be reflective, and be O.K. with critiquing yourself. Are you writing sincere emails that are quick to the point, include your info and links to songs? Are you making sure that you tell the venue what YOU can give them? Sorry, just food for thought. If we don't try to use failures or rejections as springboards for success, then we'll get dragged down by them. It's a never ending battle, because at every level you'll have your share of both. The only way to truly fail, is to give into failure, which you'll never do because you're a driven, talented, and knowledgable musician, right!? I'm reminding myself of an infomercial, and I'm probably starting to run off topic, so I'll wrap this up. We deal with failures on a large scale because (P.S. This part is for everyone, this transcends all occupations) we believe in our work, and we know it has it's place in this world. Somedays will be harder to fight than others, but life is predicated on doing what you want to do with it, and nothing makes success sweeter than a struggle to get it. 

Thanks for reading! Check back in next week for Blog Post #3 and if you have anything to add to this article, comment on it! What kind of failures did you deal with and how did they push you? Did you succeed in the end? Looking forward to seeing some responses! 

-Jamie

 

Welcome To My Blog

So as of this past Sunday, I'm officially a young adult, and my teenage years are behind me. I've been trying to think to myself how I'm going to move forward and keep building on what I've been working at as a musician and as a person, and with the help of a close friend, came to realize I have things I'd like to speak about. I'm a very introverted person, which gives me excessive time to think about life and what i'm doing with it, and I'd like to work on my socializing skills and make that an open forum. I'll be writing in this blog once a week, hopefully until I'm too busy to do it every week, but I have a lot of topics I want to discuss, and I want my peers and people I haven't yet met to talk with me and we can all get stronger and smarter, as well as share a few laughs along the way. Thanks for tuning in, hope to hear from all of you!

Week 1; "Who Am I? And Who Are You?"

After 20 years, I thought I had a pretty strong sense of self identity, but the past summer has really opened my eyes. I got serious about my music and my career, and studied the music industry and how to be a successful DIY musician. I wore several new hats that I had never thought I could take care of myself as my own booking agent, publicist, and producer. I came out with a debut EP and I'm now promoting it (more to come on how self promotion is the most necessary evil in my life). Things have changed a lot for me as a musician and as a person. I'm now embarking on my second year of college at Berklee College Of Music, I've moved into a Boston apartment with a long time friend of mine, and now I'm blogging (that is definitely the biggest surprise to me). My approach to life has changed significantly, and now I don't question my independence, as a student or a musician. That being said, this was a long summer. I was lazy in the way that I didn't get a job, but to say I stayed busy would have been an understatement. I took "Free Time" and really put it to use by building the frame for a career in music and establishing connections as well as starting to put myself out there as a viable performer and writer. I want to share a small experience that I had with my EP because it totally changed my outlook on how to approach my craft. The EP from start to finish took 6 months. That shocked me. I spent about 3 months picking songs, revising and rewriting, making new demos, and then another 3 recording, working with the engineers on the mixes and masters, and then ultimately releasing it and creating CD's for it (they're available on this site if you're interested!). I've never been good at taking my time, I prefer to jump on things and get them done right away. That doesn't mean I never cared about quality, quite the contrary, but I never was willing to do 20 vocal takes for one line, or spend 10 straight hours comping takes for a song. It teaches you about patience, and also giving time to let the dust settle so you can really make sure you're doing your work justice. It was a valuable lesson to me, even though I could get frustrated at times by not getting what I wanted out of the work, I learned to let things take their course while I work. I'd recommend that same mindset to anyone tackling a project in their lives, or even day to day activities or tasks. I did not have a normal college summer, there was no beach trips, or baseball games (played a gig outside of a baseball stadium though), but I feel what I have accomplished and my growth has made up for that. It's interesting how sometimes the experiences that really stick with you are experiences that span months, and conclude over a period of days. So to the title of this first blog post; "Who am I?" I'm a hard working, driven musician who is starting to get his bearings on what he'll need to do to succeed in the industry and will always be trying to learn and grow from experience. Now the better question is "Who Are You"? What are your habits when you work? What motivates you to get the best work? I'm always trying to speak to the people who inspire others with their actions and I have a feeling that if you've read to this point, you've probably experienced similar feelings while working and I'd love to know about what you do! Thanks for reading, tune back in next week for a new blog post! Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter while you're here if you enjoy staying up to date with this, and as always, I appreciate the support!

-Jamie