Tonight is the benefit for Brickton Montessori School called The Big Leap. A bit of wordplay there because the schools mascot is a frog. A Fierce Frog to be exact. Fighting Frogs don’t quite fit the school and I for one like the uniqueness of the Fierce Frog. Well I decided the frog needed a theme song and in one of those motivated/inspirational/get’r done moments I wrote a song for the aforementioned Fierce Frogs. Having the song wasn’t enough because once written it NEEDED to be recorded (if only in my head). My kids really liked the song and my wife did as well so… after calling a couple studios on short notice with no luck I called a friend (Kevin Carney) who does remote recordings and with the help Cheryl Lacost (Head of the School) arranged for the song to be recorded at our school. The I got fellow parent Dave Degand to sing on it and Brickton Teacher John Huber to play on it (banjo was his idea) as well plus Frank and Don of the Poochamungas. A rough track was sent to everyone involved so they could practice at home and John and I got a rehearsal in on Friday and Saturday last week we laid it down. This as in last Saturday! The recording went well. John Huber’s banjo playing ended up driving the song as well as Dave’s expressive vocals. It was still missing something (again my artistic vision). Just needed to add some piano because in my head the piano is needed and managed to get Alton Smith (Poochamungas) to play and add harmonies and John Abbey to record on a Wednesday afternoon and then delivered those tracks to Kevin that night which he mixed and had to me by the next morning. You would think that’s enough but if your gonna have a theme song you should have a video to go with it. Wednesday I also spent the morning shooting clips in the school for the song which we had just recorded. Many thanks to Chris Wyer for coming out with his awesome HD camera and helping capture a Brickton School Day. So Kevin finished the song Wednesday night. Phew… But that’s not all. Fellow Brickton parent Joe Somers is edited all the video to go along with the song for the fundraiser tonight! TONIGHT! Saturday, February 15th at 6:30pm. TONIGHT!!! Which he has just dropped off and it looks AWESOME!!! All I can say is thank you to eveyone who helped it was a lot of work but a lot of fun. If yor interested in seeing the video it’s World Premiere will be at the benefit tonight and tickets are still available on the Brickton website.
Here is a shameless plug and link to all the artists that sent me CD’s for the benefit. Many thanks!!! Go support one of these kindie artists today!!!
Posted in family, Kindie, Recording, songwriting
Tagged Brickton, Frogs, kindie, Kingsize Sound Labs, Montessori, music, Poochamungas, School, theme
The Ramble holds a special place in our hearts here at A Man, A Band and A Plan… Sort of. This was the song that my daughter choose for her first ice skating solo last summer. It had already been one of our favorites and The Golden State album is one of my recommended choices for people entering the world of Kindie music. I met head songwriter/ Hipwader Tito Uquillas at my very first kindiefest (definitely a theme around here). He is a full time paramedic (still working 24hr shifts for a private ambulance is a rare thing these days) and I am a full time firefighter so we had a few things to talk about. It’s always fun to exchange stories with people in the EMS industry. We also share a music making philosophy – Get in a band with musicians better than you as we both consider ourselves songwriters first. Well we didn’t exchange CD’s at that time (my usual way of obtaining music), it was at another kindiefest 2 years later and Hey Josie (also on The Golden State) was a big hit on Kids Place Live at the time. It seems after that first kindiefest, on his last day, he went and spent a day in Central Park roaming. Having already visited many NY destinations (Greenwich Village, Wehawken, etc) connecting all the things he had seen on TV and movies while growing up. He then set off on an adventure of a different sort. The goal that day was to walk through Central Park and head to the Museum of Modern Art. Being a California guy this open space in NYC came a bit unexpected. He came upon a cool foot path that took him through the trees and rocks, winding through arches and over bridges, through bushes around ponds… Then he found out the name of the path was “The Ramble”. He had an idea and quickly sang into his phone. The original version he says was more of a hop scotch rhythm to it. More of a chanting version sans bass, drums and guitar. So he takes this back to California and has a version of this song in mind. He also has some other songs and the band goes and road tests them- meaning they’re rehearsing them and putting them in their live shows. The Ramble has started to morph. He looks up birds of Central Park and finds a warbler which works. After a year of practicing all the new stuff they head into the studio. By now the Ramble is completely different. The chanting rhythm has been exchanged for a drum rhythm and the full band version is rocking. They now have a tom-tom dominant drum line (Tito wanted more tom like Christopher Walken wanted more cowbell) and the guitar riffs and bass line are set. They now need a studio to record in as they are ready. Through a series of events they end up at Studio Trilogy and record with Willie Samuels. Willie has a great story as to how that ever important drum sound in The Ramble came to be…”I do something when recording drums where I have my “standard” microphone set up, but I will usually throw up one or two “oddball” microphones in random locations around the drum kit just to see if any “magic” comes from them (usually not, but its a fun experiment). On those sessions, I put up an old RCA 77 ribbon microphone about 5 feet out in front of the drum set. It was a weird, and funky sound that didn’t seem to contribute much to the drum sound. BUT while mixing The Ramble, I was having difficulty finding a drum sound that fit the vibe of the track. I pushed up the fader with that RCA microphone on it and everything just came to life. It gave the drums this great old Bo Diddly quality that really fit what Nick (Hipwaders drummer) was playing with all the floor Tom work. I took it a little further and pulled back all the other mics and the drum sound on that tune ultimately ended up being almost completely just that one microphone”… Basically he’s saying most of the drum sounds came through the one mic. Which is not how you usually record drums. So very cool. Which is why you hire a good engineer. Which is a story for another day. Moving on… Tito is an inspirational type of songwriter. He can go six months without writing anything and then write six songs in two weeks. He usually writes the chorus and melody and then fills in the rest. Occasionally he’ll find a guitar riff and work from there. Go have a listen to The Ramble and the rest of The Hipwaders catalog as it’s some pretty tasty stuff. They’re headed back into the studio this year for a yet to be named new CD. I’ll be looking for it and you should as well. Go support a kindie artist today!
Posted in family, Kindie, Recording, song reviews
Tagged California, Central Park, Children's, Kids Place Live, kindie, music, NYC, the hipwaders, the ramble
The process of songwriting fascinates me and nothing beats listening to a really well crafted song. Mr. Kurt (Gallagher) is a singer/songwriter from New York who actually plays to kid/family audiences year round and makes a living at it. Over 20 years! That in itself is really impressive as those who make a living as strictly kindie musicians are few and far between. The fact he supports his family doing it is even more impressive. He has 6 CD’s finished and performs in a different place every day. Schools, libraries, camps, etc… A very working musician. I met Kurt at kindiefest a few years ago and we bonded over a few beers and have remained friends ever since. He also wrote one of my favorite songs. I featured it in Songs I Wish I had Written earlier this year. Click the link to give it a read. The song is titled Peace and Quiet on his 1,2,3,4 CD and what a great song it is. Kurt says that it was actually left over from his previous recording effort. All he had at that time was the first two lyrics and a whole bunch of other songs he needed to complete. Seems the previous album called Let’s Go was based on the idea of an older brother narrating about his “crazed” little sister. You know the sibling who’s always in perpetual motion and never stops moving. Biking, running, talking, playing with dolls, digging up gardens and always pestering her older brother. She’s THAT sister. Along with the sister he’s got a couple hyper pets as well demanding his attention. That’s one harried big brother! Kurt took those lyrics and proceeded to finishes them. Then he added the music which is how he tends to write. He writes lyrics and or he writes music. Each one as a separate idea. Then he tries to match the lyrics he’s written with the different music he’s recorded which is pretty cool. So he writes the guitar part as a Chuck Berry slow Memphis Shuffle thing and uses the pre-chorus chord progression similar to Heatwave from Martha and the Vandellas (the mans a walking music reference guide) for his chorus music. Armed with those ideas he heads into the studio to record having sent the rough recordings to fellow band members to practice and bring new ideas. Well his accountant/guitarist (can’t make this stuff up) comes up with another guitar part to drive the song which is what you hear on the recording with the Memphis riff in the background. Kurt calls it a Grateful Dead groove thing. Now the tuba bass line… Yes the TUBA bass line (Dragging the Line, Tommy James) is brought in by the tuba player who had an idea and it so works. Until Kurt told me this I thought it was some kind of bass compression pedal. This all happens organically as the band grew with the song. Then I had to ask about the counting and Kurt informed me that in his live shows he incorporates showing rhythm by using different counts in different languages. It totally works here. Peace and Quiet is a great song that deserves to be heard by many. Kurt is also working on putting out a new CD and looks to start recording a new batch of songs in the spring.He’s going to self-produce focusing on good writing and good guitar which is what the song Peace and Quiet has in abundance! Go have a listen and buy some of Mr Kurt’s work today. You can check out the words to the song below. Next week The Hipwaders!
My Little baby sister is out of control
She’s got a tiny little body and a big gigantic soul
She’s driving me crazy every night and every day
All she ever wants to do is run and jump and play
I never thought I’d want to try it
But I could really use some peace and quiet
1 and 2 and three and four and
1 and 2 and three and four and
My crazy kitty cat is drivin’ me up the wall
Trouble in the winter, spring, summer & fall
Jumping on the kitchen table and the counter top
only knows how to go, Doesn’t know how to stop
My little puppy dog is totally insane
Nothing but marbles rolling round my doggies’ brain
Runs around in circles when he wants to go outside
When he starts barking the house rocks from side to side
Posted in family, Kindie, Recording, song reviews
Tagged Children's, chuck berry, Gallagher, kindie, kinsiefest, Kurt, martha and the vandellas, Memphis shuffle, music, New York, Peace and Quiet, the hipwaders, Tuba bass line
The other day on Facebook a really good conversation thread about Kickstarter was started by Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids fame. He was inquiring why musicians needed to raise so much money to make a CD these days. Many great replies from Zooglobble, The Rock Father and others. It was a very valid question. Why is it, it takes 10K to make a CD. I know a couple things about making a CD having produced 2 in the last 5 years (and not much more). While making music is free… Recording it can be a bit expensive. Unless your a talented engineer as well as musician (see Todd McHatton) and have your own studio (which is a sizable investment in itself) you are going to have to pay someone to record your band. Now how much depends on who you hire and how long it takes. Do you pay a set rate or are you paying hourly? Is the band ready to play the songs? Do you need to hire musicians and or singers? How much to Mix? Master? Are you traveling the recording studio (I know a lot of folks travel to record with Dean Jones) or is it local. Are you paying for a producer or self producing? How much does he charge (I’ve been quoted 5k for a producer). The whole idea of making a record is to make the best music you can and get it to your fans and make some money so you can do it again. Phew! Recording is a lot of fun but paying for it sucks. Recording costs ranges from 30 – 100 dollars an hour. You can get weekend rates, some places have a flat fee and others discount for pre-paying for large blocks of time. Know this. You get what you pay for and a good engineer is priceless. No matter how good you are live recording is a completely different animal and the guy recording you is critical. Know your budget and expect some costs you didn’t consider. Know that mistakes will be made and re-recording is a reality. Some bands record the bass and drums and then lay tracks over that. Poochamungas usually record as a band with my vocals and guitar as a scratch and then fill them in later. This works for us because it’s more energetic, efficient and cost effective. Then we add vocals, additional guitars, etc. Then after recording there’s the oh so important mixing part. Some people specialize in only mixing. This is also critical to your sound so get someone who knows what they’re doing here as well. Know that hearing in things in the studio is different than hearing things for gigs. All of the above takes time, effort and money. This leads to success or failure. Mistakes usually means spending more time and money. Lets not call them failures but learning experiences. Which then leads to success. Which happens when your creating art. Which is what making music is… ART. I know very little but I know this. If your goal is to just sell records you get lousy art. But if you go out to make great art you may get to sell some records (Which by the way for kids artists means pressing CD’s and more money). Making great art takes time and time costs money. For some it cost more than others. Is 10k unreasonable. Depends on the perspective.
We have finally arrived. Todays the big day! Tell your family, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, acquaintances, coworkers and colleagues! Block Party! has hit the shelves and you should be buying many copies as treats for tricker’ treaters and stocking stuffers for Christmas! Thanks to everyone who made the CD possible and thanks to everyone who supported us! The road hasn’t been easy to get here but I think it has definitely been worth the journey. Plus it’s National Fire Safety Week and we have a Fire Engine on the front of the CD and a great Fire Engine/Truck song called Big Red!
Art by Joe Somers
We just got a few more great reviews so check out the links below and then go buy it on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.
Posted in family, marketing, Recording
Tagged CD release, Children's, family, kids, kindie, music, National Fire Safety Week, New CD, Poochamungas, Swing Whistle Zing, The Rock Father
Art by Joe Somers
It’s the Tuesday of CD Release Party Week and it’s an exciting time in Poochamungas HQ. I wanted to take this day to remember those that have helped the Poochamungas musically on the journey. I’d like to start with Shawn Clarke who was the original lead singer. He has recently joined the ranks of fatherhood. Congratulations! Thanks for helping get the Poochamungas party started. Karen Kestin who was sang with us awhile before she moved away and became a mom. Jerry Paulson who played slide and banjo on the first CD and was an original member and transcribed many of the tunes into read-ability for the rest of the band. Andy Shoemaker who recorded the first CD and a few other songs along the way. Frank Rose for his brilliant saxophone work on the first CD as well as this one and his general knowledge of sound for live gigs. I think his playing on Refrigerator Box is brilliant. Nancy Rose for her wonderful vocals and amazing artwork. She’s great on Valentines Day. To John Abbey for making us sound so doggone good whether recording or playing on a track. Don for being the reliable Cool Cat he is in a band full of dogs and holding up the bottom. The Izzo Family for providing not one drummer but two. Original Pooch Joe Izzo and now regular Drummer, Joe’s dad Frank. Thanks for keeping the beat. Alton Smith who so brilliantly produced the new CD. He hears the things in the studio that make the songs whole. Pete Cunningham for helping me start this whole mess to begin with. Your guitar playing has been essential to the sound we call Poochamungas. The CD release Party is this Sunday, September 29th at 2pm. Schubas is hosting and Koo Koo Kanga Roo gets the party started at 2pm! Stop on by…