Archive for January 2013

Playing in a band   Leave a comment

It hit me hard yesterday – how much I miss having and playing with a band!

With the recent recordings I’ve played all the instruments, usually starting with an acoustic guitar or piano and going on from there, adding more guitars or piano/keyboards, strings, and individual instruments for a particular track – dobro for Country Tales, harmonica, banjo etc.

As we record the song’s arrangement develops.  Tim Palmer, my wonderful co-pilot who engineers everything, gives me the space to try things, ideas that are in my head.  Four out of five times they don’t work but when that one does ……..  It’s great to have Tim to bounce ideas off and being a musician himself too he has valuable input.

What I miss though is bouncing off a group of musicians, musicians who are far better at playing their instrument than I am, and sitting together in a room, in various studios, in a field (we used to practice our harmonies in a field just outside Cardiff), or harmonies on a beach in Santa Barbara, (there have also been some not quite so nice rehearsal places, one in LA comes straight to mind, but that’s another story!).

I’ve always said that I’ve been blessed with playing with top musicians, right from the first band I played in when I was thirteen or so in Cardiff, with an outstanding guitarist, Ian Devine, who played with Ludus, and also Stratton and Devine.  I’ve mentioned Ian before and hopefully he’s going to play on a track for one of the albums this year.

Another fine guitarist I played with in a later banc was, and is, Tony Crooks, so emotional, so talented.  Tony played with Leo Lyons of Ten Years After in a band called Kick who released a couple of albums, (Leo of course was used to playing with a certain Alvin Lee……. enough said). Tony is about to launch a solo career after being in a successful UK band.

The last band I really had included Marty Grebb, who was Bonnie Raiit’s saxophonist and keyboardist; Chet McCracken from the Doobie Brothers and Chris Pinnick on guitar from the band Chicago.  We recorded at Danny Hutton’s studio in Trancas canyon in Malibu (Danny was of course the driving force in Three Dog Night, and he sang harmonies with me). 

This was quite a few years ago, it’s been that long but you’ve got to up your game with players like that.

I wish I was a better guitarist or piano player but when I pick up a guitar or sit at a piano, I usually start writing, not practising.  Being proficient on an instrument though means you can hear, and add, more elaborate parts, play a riff better or of course provide a breath-taking solo, all of which adds to the finished track.

There’s also of course the magic of playing live with a band that really clicks ……..

It opens up though the debate about songwriting and who does what in the band and gets what royalty.  Spandau Ballet appeared in court a year or so ago, three of the members sued Gary Kemp for a share of the songwriting royalties.  Songwriting is where the real money is.  Kemp won, and deserved to. 

For me, the person who turns up at the rehearsal, and sits down and plays the basic chords with the lyrics and melody is the songwriter.  The rest is arrangement.  Should George Martin have received songwriting credits?

Many bands now make an agreement to share royalties, Duran Duran for example.  Le Bon usually writes the lyrics and various other members have written the music for their different songs but all the songs are credited simply to the band.  Lennon and McCartney of course used to credit each other, regardless of who actually wrote the song.  In later years of course they hardly wrote together but the agreement stood, (Lennon often spoke about getting credit for Yesterday for example and admitted he hadn’t written a single note or word of it, it was all McCartney’s song).

It is one of the main causes of discontent in a band – one member, the songwriter, is able to buy the mansion, buy the classic cars, the others struggle – East 17 are a perfect example of this, with songwriter Tony Mortimer still enjoying the financial rewards of writing songs like Stay Another Day whilst the others are broke.

So, I’m going to be looking for musicians.  In Nashville of course you’re spoilt for choice with some of the best musicians in the world being based there, so it’s exciting and nervy at the same time but I can’t wait.

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Posted January 30, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Send in your vocals today and join our backing vocalists!   Leave a comment

So ………….. I had this idea!

I’m always having ideas.  They always seem straightforward, simple and logical – until that is I speak to someone who knows what they are talking about!  When I had the theatre it became a running joke.  I’d say “I’ve had an idea,” and everyone would disappear! I would try and sell these ideas as two-minute jobs.  They of course in reality took a lot longer but they do work – usually.

So the most recent idea I’ve had was two weeks ago when I started thinking about a duet for the new album and the possibly logistics of recording the female vocalist.     It’s common knowledge these days that the two singers don’t even meet; they can record their vocals thousands of miles apart.  They then send their vocal as an attachment or through Dropbox to the producer, who then mixes the two vocals together.

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Tim Palmer and I are finishing recording my Country Tales and Hobo Trails album, putting on the vocals, and the idea came  – why not get people to provide the backing vocals to the chorus of the title track.  Could we make this work?

I spoke with Tim and told him the idea.  I thought that if Tim, as a great engineer, couldn’t do it, it couldn’t be done – but it seemed so simple!

Tim edited two lines from the track, the chorus ‘hook’ line, with scratch vocals.  I uploaded it to Soundcloud, nice and easy for everyone to download from.

We provided a link to the clip on Soundcloud through the media and the websites etc., and just told people to record themselves singing along with the two lines, either in harmony or the same as it’s sung on the track.  They can record it easily on most mobiles as a voice memo and send the recording as an mp3 as an email direct from the phone – easy!

Those more technically minded can download the clip on to Garageband, Logic, Cubase or any music software, record themselves singing with it and again send it back to us as a mp3.

In return for doing this everyone who sends in a copy of them singing the hook will get a name check on the album. All clips sent in will be used.

Once we get them all back Wizard Tim will sprinkle is magic dust, mix them all and then add them to the song.  A truly international choir.

No, there is no charge or fee for this.

If you haven’t done it yet, why not do so?  Amateur, professional, whatever, just for fun, and of course it’s completely free, there’s no charge or anything. 

No, there are no royalties, no rights, ownership, claims, nothing, this is purely for fun – and no, we won’t use the recordings sent in in any other way but by sending them in you do consent in full for us to use them of course!

And it seems to be working so far but let’s get as many people from as many countries as possible.

The link to the Soundcloud clip is: https://soundcloud.com/jon-johanson/country-tales-chorus-ensemble.

The email address to send your recording is: countrytales@outlook.com.

The deadline is January 31 so get recording!  Tim and I are looing forward to getting your recordings – and who knows, maybe we’ll find the female vocalist for the duet as well!

Posted January 19, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

2013 bucket list!   Leave a comment

Americans love their signs for their homes.  Stores sell a vast range of signs – motivational, religious, family orientated or just cute quotes or phrases.  I’ve noticed recently in the UK this is another trend being adopted from the States.

I have to admit to liking them.  I believe in having mantras; goals and ambitions.  One of my favourite signs reads “Reach for the moon; if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars”.

I’ve always reached high, always been ambitious, I “dream big!”.  Not always good but actually I always try to make my dreams come true, especially the persistent ones.

I remember as a kid reading SImon Templar books.  In one of the books author Leslie Charteris, who created the character, (aka the Saint), had written a chapter where Templar was chased and shot at and was in real danger of being either killed or arrested the next day, yet was still able to go to bed, turn off the light and also turn off his mind from the days events and the possible events of the next day.  This has always stayed with me as I wish I had the ability to switch off like that but I can’t.  I tend to go over plans as I lay there in the dark; some of my best ideas have come during the night or early morning.  McCartney is of course famous for dreaming Yesterday – that’s one dream I wish I’d had!

Over the last couple of years I’ve been playing with my writing and my career – that’s how I feel about it anyhow.  I’ve never wanted to be someone who plays the same very small venues in the same small town for over fifteen years just to boost my ego and ‘keep the dream alive! – someone is telling you something!

Last year I released a four track EP The Rodeo to a good response.  A couple of my books have sold reasonably well too but recently the response to everything has really made me think.

Nearly every professional artist I know (professional means you make your living solely from your work!) is insecure, seeks approval, whether they are an actor, musician, film maker, whatever.  I’m no different I’m afraid, I wish I could be.  It’s not about the money, it’s about having your work praised, building confidence.

With a new year come resolutions and the one I’ve really made myself is to stop playing at this and doing it for real.  Setting myself realistic deadlines and targets. A bucket list for 2013 if you like.

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Telegraph Road has just been properly released and the response has been overwhelming.  This again gives the confidence needed.  We had lined up a couple of releases for early this year but realistically we’re not going to make the desired release date.  I just want to get my material out there but we’re running behind schedule slightly so we’re going to revise the dates.

The first album release will be as planned Country Tales and Hobo Trails.

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Tim and I have nearly completed the recording, just vocals to finish so new release date is March 1.

The second album is Songs From A Trailer Park.

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Songs is also nearly finished as it comprises demos and home recordings of songs, some of them feature on other releases; Songs for example has an acoustic version of Telegraph Road.  It’s a very raw, very honest album, recorded on my iPad.  The release date for Songs has been changed to March 25.

The main change is for the third album.  This is an album of ballads mainly and was originally called Today was Tomorrow Yesterday but I felt that the title didn’t go with the songs; the title is more autobiographical so we’ve changed the title to The Loneliness of Night.

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We’ve already recorded a couple of the tracks but a realistic release date is now june 3.

And finally music wise, the aforementioned Today was Tomorrow Yesterday is now indeed going to be autobiographical with songs from my Cardiff days right up until today.  

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The title is about just how quickly life goes by.  The songs are written but only one recorded at the moment so again a realistic release date is November.  I really wish I could wave a magic wand and that they were all available now; patience has never been my strong point.

As for my writing the main book is Summer; A Trilogy.

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The book is almost written and now has a publication date of April 8.

Two other projects are a new play, Circles into Squares, and the Christmas short story, The Body in the Snow which was postponed from last December and will be published December 2.

Finally, and at last, comes the first Jackson Woods book,  When you Can’t see The Woods …..

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Again this is written but to be brutally honest, I’m not happy with it, I’m still trying to ‘find’ Jackson, so I’m about to start a total rewrite, a third.  I’m hopeful of a publication date in October!?!

The one goal I’ve really set myself is to play a few select shows.  I really wanted to play last year but again was dreaming really.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve really played live – a few songs at the Penny Theatre years ago and when I performed my play at Edinburgh – that’s it. This is where I need my confidence but I’m sure it will come.  Bonnaroo, Coachella and Farm Aid plus a show in Mount Juliet on the lake, but we’ll see.  I play all the instruments on the recordings, with Tim’s valuable input too, so getting a band together is another exciting yet terrifying challenge.

So, hopefully I’ll read this in a year’s time and be able to tick off everything.  I am very honest with myself; I hate failure.  I also do tend to do things backwards – I’m not a teenage kid just signed to a label with a known potential market, far from it, but I actually think that that will be my strength.  

I need to build on what we’ve achieved so far – over 5,000 likes on my FB music page, over 2,000 on my writing page; The Rodeo video has had 8,000 views, and as I write this I am currently number 28 in the Nashville singer songwriter charts!  Telegraph Road is available in selected stores including in Nashville and Cardiff and selected radio stations, in the States and in Europe, have both The Rodeo and now Telegraph Road –  get requesting them!!!! ha ha

A new website is on the way, interviews are lined up and there are the live shows…..  It’s a huge challenge but an exciting one.  If I fail then I must at least be able to say to myself, honestly, “well I tried my best:, and know I did.

I must finally say a quick thank you again to Tim Palmer who records me.  Not only is he a fine hugely talented musician and engineer he is a great guy, laid back, encouraging.  If he can’t do it, it can’t be done!  

Time will tell ……..

Posted January 14, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Snowball   Leave a comment

It’s a new year, difficult getting back in to a routine after the holidays but getting there!

Things are beginning to snowball – which is apt as snow is forecast for later today!  20,000 friends (artists always give their fans a unique name don’t they?); into the top 30 Nashville songwriters chart; 8, 000 views of the Rodeo video; mobile apps for iphone and Android available and more.

Lining up a few selected shows for this year, being realistic.

Recording has been delayed due to a persistent sore throat which is finally better now so hope to start next week.

Really missing Nashville at the moment but all good really.

The sky looks ‘heavy’, perhaps we will get the snow tonight and over the weekend.  Keep warm!!

Posted January 12, 2013 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized