Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tender Mercies: A Timeless Essence

Interview by Jessica Klausing

Tender Mercies can be simply summed up in six words: Indie folk rock at its finest!

 The music's stripped down  to the core without the use of today's technological fillers. It sounds like a bunch of friends sitting around a room making homegrown music. The album has this timeless essence like a classic vinyl approach to Gram Parsons and Neil Young.

 From the soft guitar intro in "Safe and Sound" to the beautiful mandolin in "Almighty Trial," this record provides a nostalgic mellow listen. The kind of songs to listen to on an afternoon road trip.

Even though it took twenty years to release the record, Tender Mercies have been around since the early 90's. Dan Vickrey (Vocals/Guitar) met Patrick Winningham (Vocals/Guitar) at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco. The two would soon play many gigs along with Kurt Stevenson (Vocals/Bass), Charley Gillingham (Vocals/Keyboard), and later on Jim Bogios (Vocals/Drums).

 The band came to a halt in 1993 when Vickrey left to join Counting Crows alongside Gillingham. Songs such as "Four White Stallions," "Mercy," and "Wiseblood" have been kept in the Counting Crows set lists throughout the years. It wasn't until last year that Tender Mercies reunited and decided to finally release a record.

It's difficult for me to recommend favorites. I would just end up naming half the record. However, "Scarecrow" and "Angeline" receive honorable mentions.

"Scarecrow" is perhaps the 'bluesiest' song on the record. It stands out among the quieter tracks with the exception of the Honky Tonk-esque "Ball and Chain." Plus, the guitar outro just slays at the end! You can almost feel the raw energy bursting out of the guitar!

 "Angeline" is a song that really strikes a cord in me. It's been a long time since a new song has actually made me cry. This might come across very cheesy but I get teary eyed every time I listen it. Infused with gentle slide guitar, violin, and mandolin among the heartfelt lyrics just makes it such a beautiful song.

Overall, I highly recommend the album. It's a nice listen for the alt-country fans at heart.

I even had the pleasure of talking to Dan Vickrey and Patrick Winningham about the album, musical influences, and upcoming plans.

You guys have had several band names. How did you finally settle on Tender Mercies?

Dan: We didn't have anything else (laughs). At the beginning we took the name Bakery Boys after the bakery we used to rehearse in. For a while we were known as the Patrick Winningham Band. But Tender Mercies just seemed to be the most fitting name.

Patrick: I just really loved that Robert Duvall movie (laughs)...just kidding. Back when I worked at a club, I played in a band with Jeff Trott, Charley, and Kurt. We didn't really have a name. We would just use my name whenever we played mostly my stuff. As far as Tender Mercies, I have no idea where it came from.

How do you divide lead vocal roles?

Dan: I just sing my songs and he sings his songs.

Patrick: We sing our own material. Originally Dan wanted me to sing "Perfect Hour." Jim and I listened to Dan's demo and thought he should sing his songs.

After listening to "Four White Stallions" It sounds like there's a lyric difference in Tender Mercies and the Counting Crows' version. 
This is what it sounds like to me:

Tender Mercies: "There's nothing left of me in her."

Counting Crows: "There's nothing left of me and her."

Dan: The stallions lyric is the same in both versions but the pronunciation is different. The actual lyric your hearing is "There's nothing left of me AND her."

Patrick: I wrote that song in a heartfelt place at the time. We change the interpretations from time to time. We do the same with other songs as well such as "White Freight Liner" by Townes Van Zandt.

How did you become interested in guitar?

Dan: I started playing by ear since I was 14. My neighbor wanted me to join his band. I'd listen to records such as John Mayall, Tom Waits, Eric Clapton, and The Beatles.

Patrick: I started playing around the age of 14-15. I played rhythm guitar in my friends' bands. I was influenced by Neil Young, After the Gold Rush era, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Nick Drake, The Beatles...all the good stuff!

How does the songwriting process work?

Dan: I generally just write my own stuff. Kurt wrote "Mercy" and Patrick just added lyrics on his own to it.

Patrick: Most of the songs such as "Wiseblood" are worked out on the spot. We'll just start playing and decide if we want a guitar solo here or another lyric there. Sometimes we'll even get Dan Eisenberg on piano to add a quieter feel.

What about the recording process?

Dan: It went great! We hired an engineer to set up microphones and Pro Tools in the music room of my house and just recorded everything live in that room.

Patrick: It was a very enjoyable experience! We recorded in Dan's house for a mellower live sound. We sat around in the room and just started playing. That's the beauty of the happening! I think it was Bob Dylan that once said "let it roll because you never know what your going to catch."

Do you have a particular favorite song on the album?

Dan: I'd have to say "Wiseblood." It was the first song I first latched onto around the time I met Patrick. It holds such fond memories for me.

Patrick: It's hard to pick a favorite. The songs are like my children! "Perfect Hour" holds a special place in my heart. I also love "Mercy," "Safe and Sound," "Four White Stallions," and "Almighty Trial." There's also this one song we do that's not on the record called "Penny in the Sky" that I'm real fond of as well.

How do you go about making your set lists?

Dan: Patrick and I usually come up with the songs on the spot that we want to play. Other times we just improvise.

Patrick: Usually Dan and I bang them out, Kurt doesn't care, and Jim will speak up if he doesn't agree with a particular choice.

I really like the album art! Who's the kid on the cover?

Dan: The artwork was done by my friend, Oliver Arms. That's his nephew in the picture. Oliver and I worked together at Tower Records back in the 90's. He's a talented artist so I went to him for the cover art. Inside the album is a picture of a ferris wheel that I took in Australia and my music room.

Patrick: The cover art was a picture from Dan's friend, Oliver. We were looking for album art ideas while searching on Dan's computer one day. I was looking for a picture of a guitar but stumbled across that ferris wheel picture. I thought it was the coolest thing and told Dan we had to have it on the album!

Are there any upcoming plans for the Tender Mercies?

Dan: Patrick is the process of assembling live recordings of some of our shows.

Patrick: We hope to start working on a second album sometime in October or September. The newer stuff will be a bit darker than our old stuff.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tetrarch's Will to Fight

Interview by Jessica Klausing

Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Tetrarch is a thrash band like no other. The sound can best be described as an old school mix of Metallica with a newer twist of Bullet for my Valentine.

 The style is similar to Disturbed in that the music has heavy riffs but doesn't over do it. Tetrarch formed in 2006 by Josh Fore (Vocals/Rythmn guitar), Diamond Rowe (Lead guitar), and Tyler Wesley (Drums).

 Wesley was replaced by Jared Vann and Ryan Lerner (Bass) was later added to the line up. 

Their first EP, The Will to Fight was released June 5, 2011. I'm usually not too big into the thrash scene but these guys are well worth the listen! They focus more on singing than the screaming aspect as opposed to the traditional death metal format. I also found the lyrics to be intense with profound underlying themes.

For example, one of my favorites is the title track, "The Will to Fight." The narrator sings of the human nature to fight for something to believe in. A never ending struggle in which we can all relate to. You can almost feel the intensity in Fore's voice.

 Ryan Lerner and Diamond Rowe took time off in the studio to chat about their musical influences, songwriting and their new upcoming EP!

Tell me about the uniqueness of Tetrarch's style?

Diamond:  Well I think today a lot of bands focus more on how heavy and "brutal" they can be, or how many breakdowns they can have. I feel like we are different because we try to focus as much as possible on writing great, memorable songs. We love to mix the heavy parts of modern metal with the structures and catchiness of older bands. 

Ryan: I think we definitely stand out. We sound a mixture of the old school with the new school. We're not too extreme but we do have something for heavier listeners.

I recently read that you guys are releasing a new EP. What can you tell me about it? 

Diamond:  Yes! It's called Relentless and its going to be released early September We recorded our new EP at Audiohammer Studios in Sanford, FL with producers Jason Suecof and Eyal Levi. It is definitely something that we have wanted to do for a while now and it is great that we have finally gotten the chance to. The songs definitely sound different than anything we have ever done but they also have Tetrarch written all over them. We really wanted to focus more on song writting on this one. Really catering to the songs and trying to make people feel something more so then riffing out like we used to. There's still some great riffs on this EP but they are done really tastefully!

Ryan: The new stuff will be a bit heavier than our previous work but it'll be more singable. The theme deals more with wrath and angst. We draw our inspiration on experiences that have happened around us.

How do you approach the songwriting process?

Diamond:  When it comes to songwriting, usually Josh and I will sit down together and look through some of the ideas that each of us have. One of us may have a riff that we want to build on or even a full song. Once the music is done, we try to ask ourselves "how is this going to make people feel something". Whether its the dynamics of the songs or the lyricsthe most important thing is that people feel an emotion while listening. That is the best way to connect with anyone

Ryan: It's mainly a mixture of swapping/passing demos between each other. We try to figure out how we want them to sound before getting in practice. Josh and Diamond do most of the songwriting. Occasionally, Jared and I throw in suggestions. It can be a bit distracting to build a song when everyone's around. Josh is an independent songwriter and comes back to share what he's got then we all put together what we have each worked on. When I'm creating my bass lines, I listen carefully to the rythmn to emulate sounds that reflect the tempo. 

Diamond Rowe (Photo by Angelo Valentine)
 Diamond, How do you approach writing your guitar parts?

Diamond: When writing guitar parts, neither me or Josh approach it as if we are super technical guitar 
players. We like cool, intricate riffs, but riffs that you can sing back. We kind of compliment each other though because I always like things to be super heavy, and Josh is the complete opposite (laughs). So we generally meet in the middle.

 Diamond, I know that on top of your duties as lead guitarist you have also pulled doing double duty as the band's publicist. What kind of responsibilities do you carry out for the band?

Diamond:  Well, fortunately we just joined with a new Management. We are now with Outerloop Management so that is going to be GREAT! But I just try to get the bands name out there in anyway I can. That can be getting us interviews, posting things on our facebook page, spreading the word at shows etc. You really start to see the benefits from promoting and its very rewarding.

What are your musical inspirations?

Ryan: As a group we are inspired by Metallica and Bullet for My Valentine. I love Rush and Iron Maiden. Josh likes Green Day, Jared is a huge death metal fan and Diamond is more into the hardcore bands as well.

Ryan, Do you have a favorite song to play live?

Ryan: My favorite song would have to be "Set the Flames." We usually open up our shows with this song. It's a great song to get pumped.

Ryan, What kind of challenges did you guys face in the studio and on the road?

Ryan Lerner (Photo by Angelo Valentine)
Ryan: Cramming everything into a time limit. Bass and rythmn guitar takes a couple of hours but vocals and drums take a while. As far as being on tour its mostly just learning to live in a van and how to be an entertainer. 

You recently completed a mini tour last summer. Were there any memorable moments?

Ryan: It was a big turning point in our lives. We really came together as a live band. With our new drummer, Jared, our music has become tighter and flows more smoothly. Our goal is to tour a longtime and to take over the world!

Diamond: (Laughs). Well there are definitely a lot of memorable moments. We went on a thirty two day tour of the east coats. Basically the whole trip was amazing. We definitely learned a lot about each other and played a lot of fantastic shows. We cant wait to get back out there.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tyler Stenson: The Last True Artist

 Interview by Jessica Klausing.

Although Tyler Stenson has been in the music scene throughout the early 2000s, this singer/songwriter from Portland is just starting to get the attention he deserves. He was recently named "Best Male Artist" at the 2011 Portland Music Awards and was a lineup in the 2011 SXSW. Stenson served as the frontman and songwriter for his former bands Lander and Rhetoric Tuesday but soon left the rock-n-roll scene to pursue his western roots as a solo artist in 2007.

He released his first solo album, Bittersweet Parade in 2010 and has continued to release beautiful americana albums that takes the listener on an autobiographical journey through human existence. Stenson does this through the grace of his acoustic melodies in a minimalist approach that remains true to his sound without ever conforming to the industry standard. I highly recommend checking out Stenson's songs. It's not everyday you find endearing lyrics that simply soothes the soul.

Tyler took the time to talk to me about the challenges of the music industry, the songwriting/recording process and his newest album release Another Gleam.

What gave you the inspiration to make music?
Tyler: My mother can ultimately be credited with my love for music...she didn't necessarily inspire me to begin making my own music but she instilled the love, the passion and the basic appreciation for the art. Since I can remember she filled our home with music and has had me singing along. She was also the one to place me in voice lessons my senior year of nigh school (more or less against my will) soon after, between my mother and my vocal coach, I realized I had some ability and adopted it as a person.

Ultimately, it was Garth Brooks and Dave Matthews that inspired me to begin making my own music. In high school I loved country music so Garth was always my vocal idol but seeing Dave Matthews on VH1 Storytellers hit me like a ton of bricks. It inspired me to write abstractly and pushed me to look beyond simple country songs. It showed me the art in music, not just the commercial side. I had written a couple of songs prior to seeing that episode of Storytellers but my songwriting world was rocked upside down from that point forward.

What gave you the decision to become a solo artist?
Tyler: I was always the "songwriter" and the driving "vision" behind my groups but my vision inevitably veered off course when I allowed things to be democratic. My songs on stage didn't sound like the song I painstakingly crafted in my room. They got away from me.

It got to the point where I was trying to wear all of the creative, administrative and managerial hats at once and running myself ragged as a result. All of this, coupled with the role of making sure everyone in the group was happy at all times, started to detract from the music. It turned a passion into a job. It turned a stress release into a stressor. I knew something had to change. I came to the realization that my musical road might be more enjoyable if I walked it alone. Just me and my guitar and no external weight.

How do you think you have evolved musically from your earlier bands, Rhetoric Tuesday and Lander? 
 Tyler: The biggest difference between my art then and now is that I have refined my craft. It's simply more mature. If you look at my earlier music, especially with Rhetoric Tuesday, my songs were typically 5 minutes long but now, most of them are around 3:30. The most exciting part of this growth is that I haven't sacrificed the integrity of the content, in fact my lyrics are tighter than ever, I've simply cut the fat. Each year I've learned more about my processes (and music in general) and I believe the maturity is tangible.

You've been recognized as a straightforward folk musician. Is there a particular reason your partial to folk music? Also, Do you have any major folk influences?
 Tyler:  Because I grew up listening to Dan Fogelberg, Garth Brooks, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel, my folky singer-songwriter leanings were pretty much engrained. So, it was no surprise that when I fist picked up the guitar, I ultimately envisioned myself as a country singer (and learned about 10 country songs before anything else). Of course, like any college kid in the early 2000s, I eventually stumbled upon Dave Matthews and Counting Crows and that's when I started writing more pop-oriented tunes, however, that's when I started to feel a bit insincere. I was emulating rather than innovating. To bring it full-circle, in the late stages of my pop-rock band Lander, I then found a singer-songwriter named Josh Ritter and with a lightning bolt, I was inspired to return to my roots -- from that point forward, my style is a lot like pairing the dramatic delivery of Adam Duritz with the rustic poetry of Josh Ritter and laying it over the folky melodic bed of James Taylor.

Have you ever had to overcome any obstacles in the music industry?
Tyler: Each and every day is an obstacle in the music business. I'd say it's more of a mental match than anything. Some days you feel on top of your game and within arms reach of your goals and the next you feel like a foolish little fish in a huge ocean. It takes really thick skin to wade through the tens of people to find that one that may enjoy your brand of music.

The fact is that my music is not for everyone so I experience a lot of No's before hearing any version of Yes. The road is filled with self-doubt and fierce competition. The obstacle is balancing that doubt against your courage and blindly pushing forward- ignorant of obstacles.

How does technology help an artist like your self make it easier to record music?
Tyler: Technology is a beautiful thing--it allows me to record clean tracks in the comfort of my bedroom with nothing more than a laptop and a microphone. With this humble set up, I have the luxury of testing songs before I spend major money in a recording studio. It allows me to work out the bugs on my own time and finesse my songs long before they see the recording studio.

The beauty of technology is that the cost of recording if forever reasonable. Equipment is becoming more affordable which allows for a greater number of quality recording studios to enter the market place. The more studios there are, the more competitive the engineers will be when it comes to pricing. All of this equates to the fact that technology is giving musicians more options for places to record while keeping the price down. 

How does the songwriting process begin for you?
 Tyler: I am much more limited by my composition skills than I am my lyrics, therefore, I always come up with a guitar part first -- it's easier for me to craft lyrics that sit within the music, as opposed to crafting music that supports the lyric. Once I have a guitar part that is remotely unique, then I usually establish the title of the song and craft a series of lyrics that support the title and that lay within the chords I've chosen. In fact, of the 110+ songs that I've written, I think only Babysitting the Cowboy was lyric first -- and I think that's somewhat obvious based on the odd cadence of the tune.

NOTE: For a complete explanation of Tyler's songwriting process, here are two great resources where he explains in to much greater depth.

Spoken (start at 31 min mark)

Your newest album "Another Gleam" is a re-recording/re-mastered version of your 2008 "See that Gleam" album. What was the decision behind this?
 Tyler: Oh, what a learning experience! To put it simply, I recorded See That Gleam before I had made the "turn" in my artistic maturity. It was produced by a younger me. Upon completing the album, it just never sat right with me, in my gut, but I couldn't put it into words or even explain to myself what the discomfort stemmed from. After releasing it, I pretty much just listened to fan feedback and observed the download and licensing trends -- it quickly became clear that A) Nobody was really talking about it B) In all of my licensing opportunities, it was being completely ignored. Of course, this raised the alarm. So, the reasoning behind my decision was 2 parts:

1) In my heart, I believed the songs were good but the recording did them no justice. It wasn't the songs themselves that didn't sit right with me, it was the production value. I suppose I got what I paid for ... but was determined to right the wrong.
2) When it comes to licensing your songs on film and television, it is very important to have both the vocal and instrumental versions of your songs (not having the instrumental version can sometimes exclude you from a song being placed). That said, because See That Gleam was recorded live (vocal at the same time as the guitar), I didn't have a purely instrumental version -- hence the tracks being ignored for licensing. That said, the decision to re-record was business. In order for me to have a vocal and a pure instrumental version, the record was going to have to be re-recorded from scratch, therefore, I bit the bullet and made it happen.

In the end, Another Gleam is the same record as See That Gleam, only this time done right.

I know that your music deals with sentimental and sincere themes such as romance, heartbreak, nostalgia, etc. I even read somewhere that "The Road" was inspired by a Cormac McCarthy novel. Is there a major reoccurring theme that is the basis for "Another Gleam?"
 Tyler: While most of the songs on my records are written within close proximity of each other (usually a one year span), and therefore share a common state of mind, the interesting thing about Another Gleam is that it is a collection of songs from a very large window of time (a span of about five or six years). The whole story behind See That Gleam in the first place is that I had written a number of songs up to that point; some that I felt were cool full-band songs (eventually recorded by Rhetoric Tuesday and Lander) and some that I kept for myself. Later, when someone asked for a recording of Better Be Us All, I didn't have one because it was one of those ultra-intimate songs that I had kept away from my former bands, therefore, that sparked my first solo album -- See That Gleam -- a collection of brittle ditties that were always intended to be solo songs. I hate to disappoint but, long story short, the songs on See That Gleam and Another Gleam are not that closely related -- the only thread being that they are the intimate songs that I deemed sacred enough to withhold from my bands at the time.

Do you have any favorites among your songs that you especially like to perform on stage?
 Tyler: I share the sentiment of Jewel when she said her favorite song to play is "whatever is newest." 
However, I will say that Babysitting the Cowboy is my personal favorite song that I've written and, if a crowd is willing to sit and pay it proper attention, I get a rush each time.

How would you like to be remembered as a musician?
Tyler: Timeless. When I'm writing songs, I write fearlessly for myself and have always attempted to stay true to my art rather than the industry. I have a deliberate style and brand and I'm therefore more concerned with maintaining that than playing the pop game.

With that said, my goal has always been to establish a cult following rather than any kind of mass appeal that involves a sacrifice of my musical integrity. I am self-aware enough to know that not everyone will like my songs but the hope is that those that do, will love them. I can deal with 9 out of 10 people not liking my songs as long as that one individual in the bunch becomes a soldier for my cause.

I want to be remembered as a guy that spoke his heart in his own way and carved a niche for himself...even though it didn't mean superstar status...he stated true to the art. I want to be forever appreciated for my authenticity and widely known as one of the last true artists. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

In Memory of Davy Jones & Leslie Carter

I wanted to make a special post in honor of  Davy Jones and Leslie Carter. Both of these talented artists are near and dear to my heart. I was devastated to have heard of both deaths, but after watching Jones' tribute on Good Morning America, I kept thinking about the prior month when I read in a local magazine of Carter's death. I couldn't shake the fact that two of my favorite artists had died just a few months apart.  I have been listening to The Monkees and Leslie Carter since elementary school and will proudly continue to do so. They were the first artists that inspired me at such a young age that it is cool to like different styles of music


I was in the second grade when I first discovered The Monkees. My mom had bought a couple of VHS tapes of their 1960's tv show. I was enamored. I must have watched those videos about a million times. I even remember listening to their CD non-stop on a 6 hour car trip to Florida and still not growing tired of hearing it. I was a 90's kid stuck in the 60's. As far as who my favorite Monkee is still a tie. Micky Dolenz cracks me up no matter what mood I'm in but Davy Jones was simply a heartthrob. Like millions of other girls, I was dazzled with Davy's boyishly cute looks, optimistic personality and flirtatious accent. Whenever I think of Davy Jones, I smile. His music is upbeat, fun, and reminiscent of innocent times. The shows of today will never withstand the test of time like The Monkees have done.

"Daydream Believer" was Davy's most popular song but "She Hangs Out" is my all time favorite Davy song. Plus, this song was featured at the end of my favorite Monkees episode. The one where the two Russian spies are watching Davy break out into a song and dance number to "Way Down Upon the Swanee River." Davy will always be remembered as the adorable entertainer.



In my opinion, Leslie Carter is one of the best pop bubblegum artists of the Y2K generation. Her music is highly underrated which as a result only her single, "Like Wow!" was the only music ever released. She formed a pop/rock band, The Other Half, which disbanded in 2009. The song, "Like Wow!" is the definition of what 90's pop music was all about. It was about the campy and cheery feeling of being in love. When I listen to the song it reminds me so much of my carefree childhood memories. A time of innocence before fully understanding the trials and woes of becoming an adult. 

The "Like Wow!' music video has been rarely seen by viewers. I think its a shame that the world could not have seen more of Leslie's talents.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recording with Counting Crows' Dan Vickrey

This article was originally published in RECORDING Magazine.
Interview by Jessica Klausing with Lorenz Rychner.

Photo by Andrea Henn
When Counting Crows emerged from the San Francisco Bay area in the early '90s, home studios were not nearly as common as they are now. Counting Crows is one of the most successful bands to have created music in a home studio. The band made reference to their albums as being recorded "in a big house on a hill", beginning with their first multi-platinum selling album, August and Everything After.

 Counting Crows continue making groundbreaking albums, such as their newest release Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings.

 I had the pleasure of speaking with Counting Crows' lead guitarist Dan Vickrey during a telephone interview, and learned about how the band turns ideas into albums at home, with an emphasis on getting signature guitar sounds thanks to Dan's role in the band.

Dan, talk to me about some of the guitar equipment you use in the recording studio?
Dan Vickrey: My Fender Esquire 1954 is amazing! It's very flexible and the pickups help give a more "twangy" rockin' sound to a song. Also, my Epiphone Casino is great for reducing microphone feedback.

My secret weapon involves using my White amps (Forrest White Fender models) from the '50s for picking parts. The White amps give a different personality to a guitar, they have a transformer that doesn't sound anything like the other Fender amps. My other amps include a 1966 Fender Vibrolux, 1982 Marshall JCM800 50-watt head, 1964 Vox AC10, 1964 Vox AC30 TB, Magnitone 280, and 1960 Fender Vibroverb.

What about effects?
Dan: I love my ZVex SHO pedal, it can sound like sparks are flying from it...I have other pedals, like the Tech 21 SansAmp, Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere, ElectroHarmonix Memory Man, DOD FX10, MXR Distortion+, the BOSS VB-2, DM-2, HR-2, PN-2, and PH-1, Way Huge Red Llama, and Danelectro DanEcho. All the pedals are powered from a Custom Audio Electronics [Bradshaw] rack, it controls up to 16 individual effects pedals on true bypass loops. That rack has a controller that allows you to program presets for each song or part of a song. There is also a 4-channel amp switcher included in the setup.

How about distortion and feedback?
Dan: Smaller amps with 8' speakers tend to give me a better frequency response with distortion. A small amp turned to eleven can have a greater effect than a distortion pedal. So that's what I use on songs like "Hanging Tree" from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings .
 Feedback can be controlled, or it can sneak up on you as a happy accident, like on "Angels of the Silences" (from Recovering the Satellites) where we ended up liking the chaotic vibe it gave so we decided to keep it. We re-visited the idea again with "Cowboys" (from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings) and used it on the guitar solo, with a Les Paul through a Marshall amp in the beginning. For a much louder sound they recorded me standing in front of that amp cranked to ten while playing [laughs].

Do you use loops?
Dan: We're not really a looping band, we all like to really play our instruments, but on "Sundays" Jim (Bogios, drummer) brought in a percussion loop that the engineer then put into Pro Tools. That was a neat exception.

Tell me about the writing process?
Dan: It could be that Adam (Duritz, lead vocalist) begins with playing the piano and the rest of us listening and focusing. Usually me or Immy (David Immergl├╝ck, guitarist) start to play, and Dave (Bryson, rhythm guitarist) joins in. Songs such as "Insignificant" and "Come Around" (from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings) were created from everyone's improvisational input. We decide then if we want two electric guitars and one acoustic or vice versa. You just play what you want to play and then tape it. We experiment by trying different combinations of guitars.

It seems to me that your band has no fear in taking chances. Does the improvisation come as naturally in the studio as it does on stage?
Dan: There are a lot of guys in the band, so we mostly listen to each other and make the decision if someone wants to jump in or if too many people get involved. There are moments during a song where it will be left open if anyone wants to take it.
The key to success on stage as well as in the studio is simply listening. Anyone in a band has to listen carefully to how the other one plays to make the decision in which direction to go in the song. Sometimes you have to know when to back off or not overdo it, which can be very hard for a guitarist...

What's the order of tracking?
Dan: We usually start with a scratch track where most everybody plays, with vocals, too. Then we use that as a guide for individual overdubs--starting with the drums, bass, rhythm etc.

What about tracking guitars?
Dan: Generally all three guitarists are in the control room, with the amps out in the tracking room (s). We do very little reamping if any at all. We like close-miked guitar amps, typically with Shure SM57 mics up against the grille.

Has playing for Counting Crows matured you as a recording musician since your earlier years playing for The Naked Barbie Dolls as well as for Patrick Winningham?
Dan: It has for me on a personal level. I like to think I'm playing more passionately and just using my own style. In much earlier years, when I was just learning guitar, I would listen and try to match and emulate sounds of musicians such as Eric Clapton and George Harrison. In the end you should just be playing what you want to play and working to generate your own sounds. If you're not doing this and enjoying it then you should not be playing at all.

What advice would you give to a fellow recording musician?
Dan: Just make sure your main tactics for making music are love and passion. Don't be afraid of working to create and experiment with your own sounds. We are in an era of music where it is more convenient to record at home than in an actual studio, so basically just explore, to find what sounds right for you, and go for it!

Check out the Counting Crows website for any additional information on the band.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Social Networking's Impact On the Music Industry

Written by Jessica Klausing.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube are popular social networks that have revolutionized the music industry. Major recording labels have lost CD sales and marketing revenue because of the free downloads offered on the internet. In the past, artists and fans were at the mercy of the record labels. An artist’s success depended on getting signed to a major record label. Major record labels had the money and sole power to influence mainstream audiences. These record labels could sell music, create music videos, and distribute artist information to all media outlets. However, the recent emergence of social networks makes all this possible to everyone. Fans and artists alike can now share music, tour dates, videos, information, and pictures on the internet that reaches a diverse audience. According to Neilson SoundScan, CD sales have dropped 18% in 2007. The rapid evolution of the internet cannot be stopped but it can be controlled. Many record labels have teamed up with social networking websites to take advantage of this mass marketing.
  • In the early beginning, social networks were geared towards teenagers and young adults in their early twenties. However, in the last year, social networks have been able to attract the older generation, according suite 101.
  • Social networks allow fans to share music with their friends or find out what other people with similar interests are recommending according to Spinner.
  • According to Wired, on social media sites, users categorize themselves into useful demographics based on media consumption, so music-oriented sites can offer advertisers more value than the ones where all people do is talk.
  • The music industry realizes that social networks allow marketers to learn about specific interests. According to Catherine Halohan , social networks allow anybody to create an account for free to gain access to the same number of people as large corporate businesses.
  • Facebook’s iLike application gives marketers insights to specific fans’ interests.  iLike notifies fans when their favorite artist is in town, which sends them links to Ticketmaster or to iTunes to buy music.
  • 139 million users access MySpace, 175 million uses Facebook, and 344 million uses YouTube.


In 2006, Warner Music demanded all of its copyrighted videos be removed from YouTube. Warner Music hoped that users would seek out the Warner Music official website to access these videos. YouTube appeals to the most internet users regardless of age or gender. Users can obtain videos of their choice without payment. The official website required users to pay for these videos. The label hoped to regain some of its lost video revenue.  Despite the label’s efforts, audiences were still finding ways to beat system.
  • Warner Music copyrighted videos were still being shared across the internet to other networking websites such as MySpace. Fans refused to pay for something that they could easily obtain for free.
  • Once someone obtains a video through file sharing it becomes viral. There is no exact way to trace a source or to stop the video from re-appearing. Using these free services is a great way to cater to fans’ needs.
In 2008, MySpace created a specialized division for artists to sell and market their music. Top record labels
 such as Sony BMG, Warner Music, and Universal Music unveiled MySpace Music, which allows fans to listen to online music for free and buy songs for download, along with concert tickets and merchandise.
  • MySpace Music offers fans exclusive secret shows of their favorite artists. The secret shows are offered for MySpace users only. The record labels and the social network work together to generate the most users.
  • Black Eyed Peas, Bruce Springsteen, and Good Charlotte, and many other famous musicians have premiered music on MySpace, allowing fans to preview upcoming CDs.

Another popular aspect of social networks is they allow fans more personal time with the musicians.
  • Twitter has become a great way for artists to interact indirectly with their fans (Topping, 2010). Artists such as Kanye West have taken advantage of their “tweets” to promote a new album or make an instant personal statement, according to
  • Fans can obtain the “tweet” and then re-tweet it for others to see or pass on.
  • Fans can follow their favorite band to learn about upcoming concerts, watch videos, or read online interviews.

In the social media panel video, social network executives talk about their plans to continue to promote the music industry.
  •  Jason Kirk, executive of Ustream says 15% of its broadcast is dedicated to live music.  "Fans are interested in obtaining on demand web streams. "



    In conclusion, social media is constantly evolving. The music industry has also faced many phases of evolution.
    • Similar to vinyl and cassettes, CDs may fade out of style for a while. However, music has always remained a major impact on our society. I think that social networks will continue to work together to promote the music industry.
    • In the earlier years, we were used to reading about a band in a magazine or watching a music video on MTV. Now, we are in a high technological state where we can obtain all this and more with the click of a button.
    • We are increasing our demand for instant online notifications. Someone reading an artist’s “tweets” might also be watching their video on YouTube at the same time. We will continue to move forward with technological advancements and evolution.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I wrote this brief post for my telecommunications blog back in 2010 (which I no longer use anymore). I thought it would be a fitting post introduction here.

The media program that I feel strongly about is SiriusXM Satellite Radio. On February 19, 2007, Sirius Radio and XM Satellite Radio combined into a single satellite radio in the United States. SiriusXM offers customers more than 160 channels of music, news, sports, and talk. The best part of all is the stations are commercial-free!

I have to say there is nothing quite more annoying than being stuck in downtown traffic with nothing to listen to but a sales pitch or a boring radio announcer droning on about a useless topic. As a SiriusXM subscriber, its nice to just listen to nonstop music without having to change channels or CDs constantly. SiriusXM transmits all types of digital radio services. The other annoying thing about radio stations is losing the signal while outside of the station's zoning. SiriusXM listeners can listen to their favorite stations anywhere without minor interruptions. The Apple iPhone and Blackberry offers the downloadable SiriusXM application with just the press of a button.

SiriusXM has about 18 millions listeners and growing as of 2009. The enhanced sound quality and specialized programs have certaintly changed the way we listen to radio. Below is the recent 2009 major marketing SiriusXM commercial. SiriusXM has not had a major commercial since 2009.