Weekend wedding gig

This wedding gig came up 2 hours before start time! I wasn’t too happy about it at first. I was going to refuse.  But when it’s someone’s special day to get married I’m not going to be the one to try and make their day not go perfectly.

"It's a little bit funny"...

“It’s a little bit funny”…

So I sang a couple songs and sweated up a storm in the spotlight.  Then after I did my short set a woman approached and asked if we could do a song together that I had never hear before.  We had 15 minutes so we rehearsed a couple times and nailed it.  It was a great little show for a happy wedding couple.

"Eh, there's a bar of 6 before the G".

“Eh, there’s a bar of 6 before the G”.

CHEEEEESE.

A special thanks to HappyShoot.jp (Boss and Jacky) for these pics.

2013 in a Nutshell!

Well 2013 was another great year.

Feel the pain in the thighs.

I trained hard with “Da Boyz” and raced a lot. I rode over 10,000 km’s and I also won 2 races. One of those races was by a lot!

That's Me at the Top.  Woot Woot

That’s Me at the Top. Woot Woot

I really love cycling in Japan especially where I live in Numata. The mountain roads around here are clean and hardly used. Some early morning rides it feels like the road was made just for me. I’m looking forward to next year already. I will upgrade my bicycle group set Dura-Ace to the 9000 mechanical and probably buy a new training wheel-set.

Financially things were great, too. My best friend Ward did wonders with his day trading bringing me in over 17% profit over the year. I could “almost” quit my day job but not just yet. Also, Capital Clean Seed stock which I have some big money tied up in has finally started to climb and I’m excited to where it’ll go this year. If things go as predicted my move back to Canada won’t be as scary as I think. I will pray to the money gods on that one! It would really give me a lot of options on how to take care of my family which is the main reason I’ve been working so hard in the first place.

My little girl Victoria is now almost 2 years 6 months and she just gets cuter to me every day. She’s talking and developing her own personality and fortunately she loves playing together with daddy. She starts my days off by saying “Good morning daddy” and she never shy’s away from saying “I love you daddy”. What more could a father ask for? People tell me it will one day change and if they’re right, I best absorb every moment I can right now. Nothing makes me feel like I have a purpose more than my daughter.

Let's rock 2014!In August, I took 2 weeks and headed to Nashville Tennessee to record my latest album. I called up Aussie Greg Arnold again to produce it and we met up in a hotel near downtown Nashville to bash out the songs in pre-production before heading over to Alex the Great studio to have Brad Jones engineer and co-produce. The recording went well and it was an incredible experience. Brad would drive us to a different restaurant ever day around 3 to experience Southern food. The cool thing about the studio was that it was attached to a guest house which was included in the studio fee. I slept in the big studio room every night trying to finish off lyrics.  It was so cool looking around the room at the double bass, the grand piano, the drums all mic-ed up, and the foam carefully placed for sound just before closing my eyes and dreaming.  A kid in a candy store! The album is finally out and in boxes but I don’t plan on releasing it until January 2014. It’s titled, “Every Sunrise”.

Newest album, "Every Sunrise"

Newest album, “Every Sunrise”

Recording

I also hooked up with my brother in Nashville. He flew in for 2 nights to see me. It was really great to spend quality time with him. We had no family distractions and it was the icing on the cake to make it a memory I will not forget.

My Bro and I in Nashville 2013

I had a good year of gigging too. I am very fortunate to have my job at Lockheart castle. Without that second income things would be a lot different for us. But I also landed a few new gigs that could promise to become a regular event.

The worst thing of 2013 was word that my father has cancer in his liver and lungs. He’s on chemo now as I write this but I should point out that he got a phone call 3 days ago saying his last CT scan showed “a significant decrease of cancer in his liver” which has a lot of us family members excited. I will pray that the drugs continue to work and that my father kicks cancer in 2014.

Love my dad

Love my dad

So 2014 is just around the corner and if there are no hick-ups along the way I expect I will continue to do all the things I love, like look after my family, train hard on the road bike, race hard, gig every weekend, save money, write songs, sell the new album, and do my best to stay healthy and happy. Thank you 2013 and hello 2014!

Recording an album in Nashville

Hi

How are things?   Hope you’re enjoying August!  I had a great time.  As you probably know, I went down to Nashville Tennessee for just over 2 weeks.  After 3 long years since my last album which I recorded in Australia I embarked on a journey to Music City.  I’ve always wanted to record there so with a lot of emails and time management it happened.  I got there a few days early to help fight jet lag and to lock myself in my hotel room and try to finish off some lyrics. I accidentally chose the perfect hotel for that because there was nothing else around that area.

first hotel in Nashville.  Dive of a place.

first hotel in Nashville. Dive of a place.

After a couple days I moved to a hotel near the downtown area.  Producer/singer-songwriter Greg Arnold flew in from Australia and met me there.  For the next couple of days he would come up to my room with his guitar and we did some per-production of the songs.  We worked on a few arrangement and lyrical ideas as well as pick the songs which he felt were the strongest of the bunch to go on the album.  I had written well over 20 songs for the CD knowing full well, they all weren’t going to make it.

Playing the piano

From the 18th until the 23rd of August we recorded at “Alex the Great” studios.   The cool thing about this studio is that it’s attached to a house so we had all the luxuries one needs when not immersed in recording.  Sleeping there was a huge savings on my budget.    Half owner of the studio is legendary Brad Jones.  It was extremely exciting to have the opportunity to work with both Greg Arnold and Brad Jones who both have credentials as long as a roll of toilet paper.  Their creative ideas, skills and personalities made the recordings vibrant and fun.

The living quarters of Alex the Great studio

The living quarters of Alex the Great studio

I was also lucky enough to get drummer Steve Bowman (former Counting Crows) who not only is a killer player but if he wasn’t a drummer could have been a stand-up comedian.  I thoroughly enjoyed his personality and more so the vibe he put on each song.  I think the feeling was mutual as he came in quite often after his parts were done to share stories and see how the songs were progressing.

Kell and Steve StudioMulti-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin (Robert Plant band member etc) also came on board and threw down a variety of ideas on a handful of tracks.  He was fast and dead on with the thoughts we were relaying to him.   He really added some extra flavor to push the mood of the songs up even more.  I was very pleased to have him contribute.

Fats KaplinEvery day around 3:30 we would take a lunch break and Brad would drive us to his favorite restaurants.  He wanted us to experience the local cuisine and we pretty much covered it all.   We had Mexican, Barbecue, Southern Fried dishes and more.  It was a great time to talk about things other than my songs and for me to learn a little more about personalities behind the talent.  One of the things I learned was the 6 degrees of separation in the music business.  Especially down in Nashville.  Everyone that has talent seems to have worked with everyone else.  Some of the stories that were shared are priceless but they’ll remain behind closed doors.

Good Mexican food

Good Mexican food

When the last day came we were close to finishing up most of the tracking but there were still a few things that need to be done.  Brad will do those on his own time since both Greg and I had to fly out of Nashville.

Greg Kell Brad Studio

Brad was quick to tell me often that he really liked the songs but in particular thought my voice was special.  Steve Bowman said my voice reminded him of Freedy Johnson.  Greg said he feels this album is extremely strong.  He said it’s much stronger than “These Days” and he’s excited to hear the final product.  The positive feedback from top guns can do a musician good sometimes!

IMG_2798

It was tough to turn around one last time, shake hands and say “until next time”.  For now, I’ll enjoy the spices that this album has to offer.

I hope to see you on the journey.

Kelly

Flossie Gateman

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends along my musical journey.  Some of them have seen me play often at my concerts and others I have befriended me via the internet as far back as MySpace yet we still haven’t met.
When I was cycling through Japan on a training ride I was reflecting at how lucky I am and how supportive so many have been over the years to help me chase my dream.  I truly am blessed.  Some have given so much for the simple act of enjoying my music.  I want to acknowledge those people.  My idea here is to share with you those that have helped me out.  I won’t be able to get them all in and I apologize now if I miss you along the way.
Everyone, from the person who flew 1000’s of miles to see my show, you who shook my hand and said they enjoyed the concert, to the critic who gave me something important to think about and grow from and of course all of you in between, THANK YOU.


FLOSSIE GATEMAN.  
Living in Calgary Canada.

Every musician needs friends who believe in their music and offers friendship, encouraging words, and support.
Flossie Gateman is that and more.
I’ve never personally met her despite feeling like I know her and have become her friend for over 5 years. She is a team supporter for the great Canadian band Jo Hikk and they introduced us. She helped rally a large community of people to vote for me in an international contest that I was in with my album FUEL. Thanks to her and many others, I won.

Flossie is a passionate music lover with a big heart and she is highly motivated. She has done some very unselfish acts to help promote those musicians she believes in. I feel fortunate to consider her a friend and I want you all to know.

Thank you Flossie!

You’re friendship is not taken lightly.

20 year old song gets new life.

Anyone remember these?

Anyone remember these?

Back in the 90’s when I was busking every day at the seabus and going to University I wrote a song with a woman named Kate MacColl.  I had this chord progression I kept playing but that was it.  She came back the next day with these lyrics and moving melody.  We recorded the song on my guitar and her vocals at a studio just to “have it”.  I really never thought about it much until 20 years later when she contacted me to tell me she entered it in a contest and it got runner up.  I went to her website and had a listen.  It’s still got legs all these years later.  You never know in the music business when your songs will finally mean something to someone.

Use to busk at the terminal. The seabus departed every 15 min. & we would make some serious money.

Use to busk at the terminal. The seabus departed every 15 min. & we would make some serious money.

You can here the song here if you wish.

Kelly

Lyrics Lyrics Lyrics!

Lyrics lyrics lyrics!

It's still blank!

It’s still blank!

Why is it I find it so hard to find them!  My life is full of stuff happening all around me yet I can’t seem to write about it.  I decided to just start jotting down anything that comes to mind in this book and then start pulling out the parts that mean something to me.  Last album I was staying up all night the last days before recording because of the same problem.  This time I want some leeway so I can refine and rewrite a few more times.

I best get away from this blog and back to that area of my brain where the creativity sits.  Just have to find it first!

Making an Album is Sadly a Fond Memory

There is something ironically sad about looking back on fond memories.  They were so wonderful that you want to relive them.  But you can’t.  So you file them into a happy place and visit them from time to time.

I would love to jump on a plane bound for Australia again and say hello to the guys that made my 5th CD “THESE DAYS” a reality.  I’d like to walk down the same beaches that helped inspire lyrical ideas, or swap trivial stories with the locals, stare out the window of the downtown trams at the passer-by’s and of course, step back into the studio with the blokes who helped create the album.  Fond memories are usually moments you would love to experience again.

I could sing any lyrics and you wouldn't know!

I could sing any lyrics and you wouldn’t know!

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons making a CD is something I absolutely love.  It’s not just about the song.  It’s about the whole journey.  It’s about the hard work, the goal of making this dream a reality, the great friends that share the same interests, the challenges, the small details, the life long memories, and ultimately the final product.  Then you have it. All wrapped up and stored onto a compact disk in the palm on my hands.

That’s what’s left.

For me, “These Days”, isn’t just an album of tunes.  It’s a chapter in my life.  A challenge set out and completed.  It’s an idea that started with a chord on a guitar, a melody in my head, or a lyric stolen from a street sign. It’s a search for a cheap airplane ticket, it’s hotel rooms, a new city, new friends and a common goal.

Shibuya, Tokyo.  Promo pic.

Shibuya, Tokyo. Promo pic.

I see a million small tasks that I must do for my dream to finally become reality.   I see the inspiration of family and friends and above all, I see myself doing something that gives me a sense of self-accomplishment.   When it’s finally done, there is an immense satisfaction I hold but at the same time a yearning begins to do it all over again.  An addiction to the whole process.  A desire to be better.  The drugs have kicked in and I’ve started new memories.  I’ll be recording the newest CD in Nashville come August 2013.

Live at the Bunkakaikan

Live at the Bunkakaikan

Organizing Your Own Concert

kelly's concert 048

As I get older and pick up more responsibility, I find myself working harder to secure a good life. This involves hours of implementing and employing new marketing strategies to make money as an independent musician.

One of the new ideas I have turned into reality has been organizing my own concert and drumming up people to come and watch.

As opposed to getting hired to play a gig somewhere (which can still pay well), I wanted to set the bar higher and take control of the whole concept.

Thanks to some great advice on the internet and support from friends and fans, I have successfully done this 2 times now.

Here is a stripped down version of some of the major details required to hold a live concert.

1) Find a great place to hold it.

You need to find somewhere convenient and make sure it has the acoustics for great sound. I chose a local community theatre here in Japan that has an amazing stage already equipped with lighting, speakers, and all that jazz. It’s also relatively cheap since it belongs to the community.

2) Design the tickets.

I made sure to design some tickets that look professional. The cheaper they look, the less professional you appear also. Do these properly and people will feel like they’re going to watch the real deal when they pay for one.

3) Getting the word out.

This is probably the most important and most difficult part of the whole process. You must do everything in your power to find people to come to the event if you want a successful show. Here are some things that I did.

a) make colour flyers

b) make posters

c) make small pass-outs

d) ask for a radio interview. I went into the local radio station with two other members and performed live.

e) Make an audio commercial about 30 seconds long that you can use on the radio (if you want to pay a small fee for air time) and also you can burn it onto a CD rom with three songs from your CD and pass them out. This was quite successful. I passed out a lot of CD’s as PR and with three free songs and a quick spiel on the upcoming show.

f) Get a street team together. Ask band members and friends to help out. I promised some fans they could come for free if they help sell tickets. You’ll be surprised what a lot of fans will do because they believe in you. I also promised the band two different guarantees. I told them I’d pay them “X” amount of money more, if we sold over 80% of the tickets we made. I was really surprised at the effort they put into helping out.

g) Make sure you start the campaigning a good 2 months in advance. People need time to plan and spread the vibe of the event.

h) Talk about it all the time. Don’t push it in peoples faces but there are ways of talking about the event that don’t come across as sales. “I went to bed late last night because I was rehearsing with the band”. You never asked anyone to come but you refreshed their memory that you’re working hard towards the gig.

i) Offer prizes like t-shirts (if you have them), or free CD’s.

j) Ask local shops if you can put a poster on their window.

k) Play at local CD stores for free.

4) How can you make the show unique?

In other words, how can you justify charging people to come to your show? For me, since this was my second time doing this, I wanted to step up the game and make it better than the first time. The first concert I held on my own consisted of 4 band members. This time, I invited two friends (who are pro musicians) to come spend some time with me in Japan and do the gig making it a 6 piece band. They wanted the holiday/experience and the Japanese were thrilled to have two professional foreign musicians adding heaps of colour to the show. I should point out that I held this concert in a relatively rural area. This was to my advantage because more of the local people don’t normally get an opportunity to see a rock concert so close by. It was easier to convince people that they’re about to see something normally held in Tokyo.

5) Practice.

Let’s face it, if you want to impress your fans and make them leave the concert feeling they spent their money wisely, practice hard and make the band tight!

_MG_5020

6) Please those around you first!

If you want to do this again in the future then your name is important. Don’t get too greedy and try to keep every single penny you made from the gig. You might want to do this because you worked 99% harder than anyone else did to make this happen. However, paying the right people and doing it fairly is good business. They will be willing to do more for you next time and you’ll even find more doors opening for you.

7) Make a to do list.

Organization is key to everything running smoothly. I had several lists and still found it hard to keep everything running well.

"There must be someway out of here said the ~".

“There must be someway out of here said the ~”.

8) Day of the gig.

Check your lists. Be prepared for things to go wrong. Try to stay calm and don’t snap at anyone. If you’re going to have a moment, find a place to chill for a minute.

9) Showtime!

Get out on that stage and play like there’s no tomorrow. Do your thing and do it as best you can. Don’t leave anything behind because this is your moment to prove that you’re worthy to be there!

10) Sell CD’s.

Sell them at a low price and come out into the lobby with the band and sign them. Chat and take pictures and be personable! Leave a sheet they can sign with their email address and contact info. This is really important for future contact.

kelly-on-marque-copyweb

11) Next day.

You’re still not done. Now, you have lots of thank you’s, and last minute payouts and things to do. Don’t just leave your fans forgotten. They are your bread and butter so personally thank as many as you can!

I’m sure there are other things that I’ve forgotten to mention but in general these are the basics. For me, the key to success is not leaving it all to the last minute and more importantly, making sure that everyone is happy.

Go get ‘em!

Aw man, is my fly undone?

Aw man, is my fly undone?

How to write radio friendly songs.

Putting the final touches on an original song.

I wrote an article several years back (that I just added to this blog site) called “7 Steps to writing a song you’re proud of” and I was surprised at the amount of readers who found it.   In that article I talked mostly of “my” process on how to get a song from inside you out into one that you are happy of.

In this blog, I want to explain some common ideals that are present when trying to write songs to be commercially viable.   Please note that these views, while fairly standard, are just my opinion and they are not written in stone.  Many have bent these rules slightly and if you’re not interested in writing “radio friendly” songs, then this isn’t for you.

OK.  Let’s start.

To be clear, I have a love, hate relationship with radio.  Most of the really big stations are monopolized by major corporations and with payola’s and money running the show, it’s almost impossible for independent musicians to get heard.  However, thanks to the internet there are now many more opportunities for your music to get out there.  So, you have many chances to find fans.  But in order to do so, you should understand a few things.

1).  Most people are in a hurry.  And in today’s world, we get things given to us immediately.  So when writing a song, you should get to the Chorus as soon as possible.

2).  Intro’s should never be very long.  Again, people want the meat and not the salad.  I usually have a 4 bar intro and for the most part I recommend not going any longer than that.  Sometimes it’s even cool to start a song immediately with vocals.

3).  As I mentioned, get to the Chorus soon.  Sometimes doing 2 verses before the first Chorus is fine but make sure you don’t leave your fans waiting too long.  Unless the Chorus is to die for then they might be willing to forgive you.

4) Usually after the 2nd Chorus a common theme is to go into a bridge (a third and unique melody that goes slightly in a different direction musically and lyrically). It’s often refreshing for a listener to hear a bridge when it’s done right.  A great bridge often leads back into a final Chorus effortlessly.  Often the last chord in a bridge will be the 5th chord of the root (if the song is in D then the last chord in the bridge might be an A or A7 so when the Chorus hits, the listener is unconsciously relieved with the root chord D returning and therefore more punch when the Chorus comes back).

5).  I could write a lot on chords and chord changes but that’s a whole different blog.  Let me say that for the most part, 3 chord songs have made artists millions of dollars but there is something special about adding more color (chords).  You can often replace a major chord with its relative minor (for example turning G into Em etc).  Only you and your friends who are listening will know what works best for you song.  But don’t be afraid to try alternative chords underneath your melody. It might even make you find a better melody.  Experiment.

6).  The Golden Rule of radio?  Keep your songs short.  3 to 3 1/2 minutes is usually enough to get your song across.  Yes, Stairway to Heaven, American Pie, and Hotel California are classics and they’re long.  But how many others do you know of?   The listener and the radio equally don’t have time for songs like that.  If your song is over 4 minutes I bet it’s too long for both parties.

7). Here is just one example of what a song could look like:

a)  verse 1

b)  Chorus

c)  verse 2

d)  Chorus 2

e)  Bridge

f)  short solo over chorus or verse chord progression

g)  Last Chorus X 2

e)  ending

Sometimes you can have 2 verses before the first Chorus as I mentioned earlier.

8).  Lyrics.  This is tough.  Why are 95% of all the songs out there written about love?  Because that’s the emotion most songs bring.  You can bet, everything you’re going to write about has been written about.  The idea is to find a different way to say what has already been said.  Find a catch saying that captivates people and work a song around that.  Whether you hate country music or not, it is usually full of amazing lyrics.  Have a listen to the way the songs are penned.  Sometimes taking a common phrase and twisting it is popular  (For example, instead of “Better luck next time”, you could say “Better luck next guy”).          ….You get the idea.

So again, let me clarify that I’m just sharing my opinion.  Some of you might not agree with what I have to say here.  That’s fine.  At the end of the day, songwriting is a craft like guitar playing which requires a lot of work, a lot of hours, and a lot of heart.  You might have heard industry professionals say that until you’ve reached over 10,000 hours of practice in your craft, you’re not ready.  Granted some are just born good.  Most of us though, work at it.  Enjoy it though because it’s such a wonderful thing to do.

If you want, click on this link and download 20 of my songs for free(3 of these songs are in consideration for major motion pictures, another won best song of the month on ABC radio, and many have received radio play).  If you don’t mind me saying so – my latest release “THESE DAYS” has received a lot of praise from fans and critics alike.  Yes, I’m still trying to write a song that some 20 year old famous singer will buy but until then I’ll enjoy the process because I love it so.

I hope you write a song that you are really proud of.  Better yet, one that makes it on the radio.

~Kelly

Melbourne Australia. Songwriting.

7 Steps to writing a song you’re proud of.

Playing iive at the Bunkakaikan in Japan.

There are 7 factors that I require when writing a  song that makes me happy and they are:

1) Emotions: The best place to find these are through the turmoils of your life.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  They are the driving force behind wanting to write something in the first place.

2) Catchy melody: Usually my songs start with some sort of chord progression on the guitar but not always. Then a vocal melody wrapped around the chords in an interesting and satisfying way. If you interviewed most famous songwriters, they’d tell you most of their best songs seemed to channel through them in an almost effortless fashion. If I look back on the songs I’ve written, I’d agree that my stronger songs were the ones that seemed to write themselves.

3) Strong lyrics: If you put strong lyrics with a very catchy melody then you’ve got something to be proud of for sure. Don’t ignore the importance of lyrics.  I’ve only recently realized that they are the “icing on the cake”.  A great melody gets you far but if you have lyrics that connect, they you’ve made a fan or two.  Write from the heart.  Write about something we all can relate to but do it in a way that you feel hasn’t been done before.  For example, write a love song without using the world “love”, or write a happy song with “minor chords”.  Whatever you do, make it ‘yours‘. 

4) Re-writing: This is where a lot of people fail miserably. They’re always too damn proud of their first take and are afraid to throw away something to make the song better because they really like one line.  Don’t be afraid to trash a line even if it was your best line.  If it doesn’t fit, save it for something else.

Changing Chords and melody can lift a song too. Sometimes for example, you can replace the root chord with a minor 6 and give it some mood.

5) Play it live: Play your song to your friends and ask for honest opinions. Don’t let the negative vibes get you down either. A lot of the time, you’re friends won’t know what they’re talking about- but a good song is pretty much universally liked and you’ll be able to weed out the good from the bad and generally get a sense of what is strong.

6) Write lots: You’ll get different opinions on this but for me, writing a lot of songs just makes me a better songwriter. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you practice every day, you’re going to be much better than if you play it once a month.

7) Sleep on it: It’s weird but often I’ll wake up in the morning and play the new song again and it doesn’t have the same impact on me. That’s a sign that perhaps it just wasn’t the hit song I was planning on retiring on.

But I’m sure I’ve got one in me ready to surprise the world.  It’s just around the corner!  🙂

Good luck fellow songwriters.

In Melbourne Australia with the legendary Greg Arnold.