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Darn That Dream

Last night after rehearsal, Ant had a band meeting and asked me to stay. He asked me what I wanted to do with the band. The band members were impressed with how honest I was about some things such as my fears. I told them that was all out in the open because of this crazy blog, so there was no point in holding back now.

Ant wanted to know how I felt about playing with them after this gig. This is something I thought a bit about on the way home. In essence, if I had to spend this much time on the material throughout the year and I had no time for my own things such as Blue Funk, my songs, and the general piano-playing technique that I want to build, then I would say no way. But for a few gigs here and there, I should be able to manage. Also, I think and hope this will get easier as I do it more. I hope next time I'll at least know a few of the songs!

The funny thing is, the band is talking about their plans for the future, and they are big. In theory, it would be great to do it with them. But I know that in my heart, this band is not the only thing I want to do musically. As I said before, it's a great band and great music and I'm finally starting to enjoy playing the material. But in order for me to be fully happy, I have to do my own thing. I think even if I wrote songs for CH and they liked them and did them, that probably would not be all I wanted to do (though this could change, like anything).

Personally, I would not be offended if Ant found a keyboard player that loved this music and fit them personally, and made me the backup. I think if he found a player like this, he should grab him or her with both arms. There's little better than having a musician in your band that just loves the music you're doing and it suits them perfectly.

Thinking about all this led me to a confusing thought. What do I want? Would I be happy writing just songs for other people, even if they were some of the greats? Would that be enough for me, even if I got to play on their albums, produce, whatever? Or do I need my own band in the end to be truly happy? I don't know the answer to this. I've gotten so used to thinking of Blue Funk as a hobby thing because the rest of them have (or are at least supposed to have) day jobs, that I have trouble seeing them as anything near a full time band at this point. I guess one fantasy scenario would be for me to get famous (enough) as a songwriter/musician, and then being able to come back to Blue Funk and get them playing much more based on that, where they could actually justify the time playing due to the money they'd be making. That would be cool. More realistically, we'd probably just play around when we could fit in gigs around everyone's schedules, including mine.

Tue, 2008 12 09 at 6:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

P.S. A Post About Postings

This Ain't All My Cracked Head Is Up To Be

I have a characteristic where I tend to talk about things more when I don't feel comfortable or confident in what I'm doing, and less when I do feel confident. Most of my posts about the CH December 20 gig were me feeling out and thinking through what I was going through more than anything. I also wanted to document for myself what has been happening so I could look back on it (and probably laugh, possibly cringe). You'll notice that my previous post didn't really say much. That's because things went well, and to say even that is a lot for me.

Now that you know that, you'll probably observe that trend in past and future posts. I am trying to write through it all and cover everything in a balanced fashion, but it won't always work out that way.

Sun, 2008 12 07 at 10:07 AM |Permalink for this entry

I Had a Song Quote Title For This Entry, But I Forgot It

Wishes Really Do Come True!

At yesterday's rehearsal, we found out that one of the singers for the December 20th show has been eliminated (like American Idol or Survivor, I guess) and another is possibly going to be cut too. This cut five songs from the set, though one was added, leaving us with 18 songs. So at this point, what am I complaining about? (I'll find something, I'm sure.)

I have to admit, things have been going fairly well. I'm gradually getting to know all the songs and I thought rehearsal went pretty well for me yesterday. Even the one new song we did yesterday that I had never heard went okay, though I'm going to try some ideas I have for my part this week. We (well, really the bass player and Ant) came up a really cool arrangement for one "traditional" song that I think will surprise people. You will just have to come to the show to find out what it is.

Friday night we saw Buddy Guy at House of Blues. Now, you know how that was. What I want to talk about is his opening act, Tom Hambridge. Tom produced Buddy's latest, Skin Deep, as well as wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on the album. He's worked with people like Susan Tedeschi, Chuck Berry, Johnny Winter, Delbert McClinton, and others. People call him up and ask him to write songs for them and produce their records. Now that's the job I'm angling for! I'm planning on contacting him when I get a chance and seeing if he has any advice for li'l ole me.

Sun, 2008 12 07 at 5:33 AM |Permalink for this entry

Not So Random Thoughts

or, Oh no! What Have I done??!!

These thoughts aren’t random to me, they’re notable entries of what’s been going thru my head the last few weeks regarding taking the CH gig. Hopefully they won’t be too jarring to read.

I should have found out more up front. I accepted the gig without knowing how long it was, how many songs, nor how much I’ll get paid. Considering the band is quite different stylistically than stuff I have played before, and that I don’t know many songs beyond the ones Blue Funk plays, any amount of songs was going to be a challenge. This gig is currently 22 songs with three sets and two singers each set. Heck, we just saw the Black Crowes and they did 17 songs, many of which they’ve been doing for years. On the other hand, their keyboard player just joined the band, and they change their set list every night, so who knows how many songs he had to cram. I have to keep plugging away at it. More on that later.

As far as the money, it’s not that I’m worried about it, and in a sense I’m hoping this leads me to other gigs, perhaps with CH, perhaps with other bands, but also boosts my confidence to get those gigs. But part of me thinks the payment will go like this.

“Two quarters?”
“You deserve every penny. I’ve told a lot of my girlfriends about you and they have chores too!”
“Two quarters??!!”
“Bart! You didn’t say ‘Thank you.’”
“Listen Lady, I can leave without screaming, and I can leave without saying a bad word, but there is no way that I am saying ‘Thank you.’”
“You’re welcome. All right then, off you go, to spend it on pennywhistles and moonpies.”

Probably not, though. Maybe I’ll just look down and say, “I got a rock.”

The unfamiliarity with the songs has been a bit of a bear (bite of a bear?). One day, I’ll work on some songs and it will go well. Then, I’ll work on some other songs the next practice and that might go okay, but when I return to the first group of songs, sometimes I don’t even remember how some of them go at first. Or, I will, but I can’t recall what I’ve been playing for that tune.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I’ve probably just not been spending enough time with it. I probably should run through each known song every practice. The bad side of that method is confusion. There are similarities in some of the songs that can mix me up. But at this point, I think I need to try it. I have been thinking that I need to get more familiar with all the material so that it’s more part of me. That leads me to another issue.

I do love a lot of different music, but I tend to focus on what moves me the most. Lately, that has been blues, but that’s not to say I don’t listen to plenty of rock as well as jazz and other stuff. However, CH’s music is generally not music that I seek out. It’s not bad, in fact, some of the stuff is pretty good and very cool. I also totally dig how Ant, Chris, and B-Funk are so into this stuff too. For me, there’s the difference between good music and music that moves me. I saw this great quote this morning, and it applies.

“I like music that finds my resonance frequency and pounds it senseless.”

This music does that for them. At the moment at least, it doesn’t quite for me. I’m sure some of that is because I’m still caught up in learning it. I have had good moments with it. It is very cool when everything clicks. But, remember, I started on this path to do what I love. Maybe I could love this, but at the moment, I’m okay with it. Look at it this way. In a previous post, I wrote about whose jobs I was angling for. I can’t say that I’m angling for Nick Rhodes’ job, nor to play keys for some of these other bands. It would be alright, but definitely not the only thing I want to do with music.

I have been spending so much time getting ready for this gig, that I haven’t done any songwriting, nor have I been playing the blues, really. Both of these are things that I live for at this point. I think I need to be a little more selective with any future gigs to choose ones that really move me, especially if preparing for them is going to take up this much of my time. If I had more time for my own things, say if this CH show was shorter, or I would have had time to play with Blue Funk in the interim, that would be much better for me.

I feel I should make one thing clear after writing all that. There’s nothing wrong with CH’s music. In fact, a lot of it is good, really good. I also am having fun with some of these songs. It is just that I don’t love this kind of music. What’s the difference between this and music I do love? I don’t know. And again, it may be that I’m too caught up in learning it to really experience it. Maybe after the 20th, I will be loving it.

Thu, 2008 12 04 at 2:39 AM |Permalink for this entry

29 November 2008

Last we left our hero, he was feeling cocky and had just returned from the Black Crowes show.

We had a CH rehearsal on Tuesday and it went alright. I did feel much better than the first rehearsal, that was for sure. Only one of the two singers that was supposed to be there made it, so we worked on the songs we are going to do with her. We rearranged one of the songs to be a bit funky. I didn't that night, but I've been thinking about and working on my part being a bit more funky to go with it. I want to be funky, I really do, but I don't think I know quite enough about it to be as funky as I want to be. We shall see what I can pull off.

Practicing in general is much of the same as it has been in previous entries, with the primary changes being adding more pieces to work on two handed playing, and focusing on whatever material we are likely to do at the next rehearsal. We have one today with four singers, but I haven't covered all that material myself yet. Ah, winging it.

At the last rehearsal, Ant told me he had read my blog and was laughing about it. So there you go.

Sat, 2008 11 29 at 4:04 AM |Permalink for this entry

21 November 2008 and Black Crowes

That was a lot of hair!

After taking Wednesday off to relax from the self-induced stress, I finally got to practicing on Thursday after taking care of some other business. I started with my normal basic practice stuff, and did a few of those two-handed pieces I've mentioned before. Then I went on to the material for the upcoming Collective Hallucination (CH) show. I mostly worked on the songs we did at the rehearsal Tuesday, and I have to admit, I was really pleased with how well it went. It just shows how much of the "problem" is in my stupid head.

That night, Lori and I saw the Black Crowes at House of Blues Houston (Buffalo Killers opened). Every guy in both bands had some sort of facial hair, and most of them had that full beard thing going as well as really long hair. If you've seen Chris Robinson lately, you know what I'm talking about. Lori and I agreed that was probably the most hair we've ever seen onstage at one show.

At the beginning of the Crowes set, I was watching Chris Robinson dancing and having a great time up there. I thought, "man, that looks like fun. I wish I could have a job like that." Then I thought, "I already haz one!" 😉

Later, the keyboard player was playing a spotlighted solo and I leaned over and told Lori, "I'm angling for his job. In fact, I'm angling for the job of any keyboard player in a cool band. Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Little Feat, Carolyn Wonderland, Beth Black, any of 'em." I guess I was in a really good mood.

Edit: Added link to Houston Press review of Crowes show

Fri, 2008 11 21 at 7:24 AM |Permalink for this entry


I hope I'm not jinxing it

Note: I have replaced this calendar with the one you can find at my main site. This entry remains for historical reasons.

I've created a Google Calendar for all my upcoming performances. At the time of this posting, there's only one. But, in the future, you will be able to find performances of mine with Blue Funk as well as with other bands. Use the "Calendar" link on the top of every page in the site to get to this entry and see all upcoming dates below, or if you're a Google Calendar user, you can search for "Joe Stone" in the Public Calendars and subscribe to it. Tell your friends!

(Note that some performances may be private events. I will note that on the entry. Also, not every Blue Funk jam will be included. This is because sometimes we don't open them to the public when not all the band members are at the jam, or it's been so bloody long since the last jam we need some time to blow out the cobwebs.)

Fri, 2008 11 21 at 6:52 AM |Permalink for this entry

Don’t Go Chasin’

I'm harder on myself than anyone

Last week I contacted a band (Collective Hallucination) that my friend Marie told me was looking for a keyboard player. Even though they're a soul/R&B band (their MySpace page says "soul/jazz/funk" and I would agree with that), I thought I'd drop them a line. If you've been reading my blog, you know I've been very focused on blues with some blues rock thrown in, but you should also know that I like most styles of music. This would be a step out of my comfort zone. Most say that is a good thing.

I contacted Ant, the band leader, and he told me that they don't always use keyboard players at gigs, but he was looking for someone reliable for when they do. I thought, "cool, but I'll probably never hear from him, or maybe in six months or something." I've gotten very used to people asking about me doing web sites, then getting a "I'll let you know" and never hearing back.

Four days later on Friday, I get an email from Ant asking me if I'd like to play with them at a gig on December 20. I thought, "oh boy, I wasn't quite ready for that," checked my calendar, and saw I had nothing planned. Darn! No excuse there. I told him okay and he said I could pick up a set list for the show and CD at their rehearsal on Saturday, with our first rehearsal for the show the next Tuesday. At this stage, I'm a little concerned and nervous, but nothing I'd think about too much.

The next day, I dropped by their rehearsal to get the stuff and check them out. They were doing final rehearsals for the Prince tribute they were doing that night. I watched a couple of songs, and thought, "damn!" I knew they were going to kill them that night. (Word is, they did. Great job, guys!)

Shortly after I left, I started feeling… something. This band was really good, and I had 24 songs to learn in a month, only a few of which I had ever heard before, and all of which I had never played. They also were in a style I'm not familiar with. I have gotten very comfortable with our blues tunes, most of which have just a few chords, and not many if any tricky changes. Most of these songs, while not hard, are structurally more intricate than that. Uh oh. I could feel the muscles in my head tightening.

That night I started listening to the CD. Let me put my reaction this way. I can't tell you how happy I was when one song was clearly just three repeating chords from beginning to end!

It's really easy to psych yourself out with things like this. If I'm good at anything, it's doing the easy thing. So, I was overwhelmed and stressed. Over the next few days, I got myself into a tizzy, and a really bad one at that. I got the chord changes for some of the songs from Ant and worked on a few songs before Tuesday's rehearsal. I even found the chords for the three-chord song and got that one down. But, I would not say that I was comfortable with any of them yet, and I was still really nervous.

Tuesday night I went to rehearsal, and I wish I had recorded it. These guys are great. This kind of band needs a great rhythm section, and boy, do they have one. That will help me a lot. Despite my struggles, they seemed to think I did pretty well. Chris, the drummer who is also a keyboard player, said that what I played on one song was, "perfect." In fact, he came over and shook my hand to tell me so. I'm not bragging here, I'm actually amazed and sharing it.

Despite the apparent success of the rehearsal, after I got home, I was still feeling the stress, the nervousness, the tension. Jeez, will it ever go away?? What the heck is wrong with me? A lot of things, most people that know me will tell you. But in this case, I somehow, for some stupid reason, just freaked myself out. It's stupid really. I finally decided that the only way through this was to change my attitude. It has taken a while, but I think it's finally taken. It would not have happened without the support of Lori and a visit from Jeff yesterday. (I don't mean like a doctor's visit. We just hung out and talked about crap which helped get my mind off of it so I could remember what stress-free felt like. Sheesh.)

Am I still nervous? Yeah, I think so. Do I have a lot of work to do in the next month? Yep, no doubt about that. But, it doesn't seem overwhelming anymore. At least, not yet today. I'll let you know how it goes and update the blog as I go along.

[Disclaimer: I know Ant has read this blog and probably will read this entry too. I debated about posting it, but decided to because if I ain't posting the truth, then what's the point of having the blog? I'm the only one that might have thought he has anything to be concerned about regarding me. No one else I talked to agrees with that, so why should I worry. I expect he'll read this, and laugh. Hi Ant! :waves:]

Thu, 2008 11 20 at 5:51 AM |Permalink for this entry

13 November 2008

Cloudy days

It's kind of ironic that I'm making this post today as I didn't practice all day. I did some music related stuff on the computers like go through the band's songs and updated when we played them last, but nothing really significant.

On Wednesday, Jeff came over. We had lunch and then came back to my place to work on some of our new songs. His are good and will sound good whenever we get the band together. Unfortunately, I don't know when that will be. We were hoping to get another jam in before Thanksgiving, and then revive our Friday-after-Thanksgiving Thanksgigging, but we won't be able to do either. It's a bummer for me, because I like to have something to do on what's an otherwise lame-ass holiday weekend (Lori and I are going to see Arc Angels at House of Blues that Saturday, though).

I'm still working on the two-handed stuff as well as that jazz piece, but I've also added something else to the mix. I'm talking to a guy who has an R&B/Soul band about doing some gigs with them. They don't use keys on all their gigs, but he needs someone for the ones he does. So, I pulled out a book I have about different piano styles so I could learn some of that before I try to play with them. I don't know if it will help directly, but it's something else to learn.

Thu, 2008 11 13 at 4:23 PM |Permalink for this entry

9 November 2008

Still alive and well

The last few days have been much of the same sort of practicing as I described in my last post. I've been playing a few different pieces to work on the two-handed stuff. I think one of the issues is that I just have not been doing it. For that jazz piece, I've switched the melody part back to playing it straight instead of swing. This has allowed me to count the whole thing and do a better job with the tempo.

One question I have is, why am I self-conscious about practicing when Lori is home? That's pretty stupid. She has heard me play.

I've talked to a couple of people about gigs. One forwarded me info for a "soul" band that's looking for a keyboard player. I will need to see what they want and the level of commitment they are looking for. And, of course, whether they'd be interested in me. 😊

Sun, 2008 11 09 at 5:07 PM |Permalink for this entry

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