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Why I Am Doing This

The big, long-winded explanation of how I got here

My name is Joe, and I'm the keyboard player for Blue Funk. I am or was the President/Owner of termite terrace studios, a web development company.

A little history (skip it if you know already or just don't care)

I've done a few things in my life so far. I guess I was always interested in music, but never really got anywhere with it as a kid. Growing up, I was very interested in computers (geek alert! glaven) and did a bit of programming. As I got into high school, I got into cars, which led me to studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. Go Terps! I had some of the best times of my life there, and enjoyed engineering as well.

My roommate back then, Eric Fogleman played guitar, as did Andy Staff who lived in the room directly above us. They'd get together and jam, and I'd join in on a little Casio that Andy had, after Eric would show me some simple triads on it. That led me to buying my own keyboard (CZ-3000 - at least it had full size keys) and taking some piano lessons from my neighbor back home, Rebecca Dunnell.

After graduation, I got what I thought was my dream job with General Motors. It was in the hell of Flint, MI but I was doing the work I had set out to do. I was lonely and bored, but work was good and I threw myself into that as much as I could. I spent my spare money buying some better gear (Korg SG-1D, Ensoniq EPS-16+, and some other bits) and I wrote a few tunes in the period. But, the job turned bad, so I wanted out. Around that time, I met Lori, and moved to Texas to be with her.

While I looked for a job in Houston, I hooked up with a friend of hers from marching band who played guitar, Joseph Thompson. That was the beginning of what would become Blue Funk. I came up with that name while driving home from the job I finally found (that engineering job was pretty hideous and we will not discuss it further). I was thinking of songs like Red House as done by Jimi Hendrix on Electric Ladyland, and that low-key, trippy sort of groove songs like that, Dazed and Confused, Voodoo Chile (not the Slight Return version also done by SRV) can get you into. I just thought of what that vibe was, a name for it, Blue Funk.

I went to grad school to study Environmental Engineering, but I realized too late that was not what I wanted to do with my life either. While I was in grad school, I rediscovered my interest in computers. I had become a Mac guy by then, and hoped to get into Mac programming. There was really only one place I knew of in town that I could get a job where they programmed Macs, Alsoft. After a false start at another job, I landed what I had described as my second dream job with Alsoft. I did a lot of things there, and discovered a bit of a creative side while I was there. I ended up learning a bit about graphic design as part of my work, and combined with my programming skills, I decided to have a go on my own with web site development. I thought I had a few potential clients lined up when I left Alsoft to do this, but it turned out to be slow going instead.

What, Am I Nuts? The reason you're reading this post

After six years of doing this (I actually filed my DBA on April 30, 2002), I've decided it was time to make a change. The band has been doing pretty well lately, and we really feel like we're making music. For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm a bit more than just the guy sitting behind the keyboards. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm all that, but I feel like I'm capable of doing something when it comes to music now. I've written a few songs that the band has played, and the experience of that is just amazing. I cannot describe how cool it is.

So what I was thinking was, what is the difference between the web stuff and the music for me? And then it hit me. The web stuff was never my calling. It was something I was decent at, and at times I could create a cool site, solve some interesting problems, make clients happy. But, I realized that the problem was that these web sites were never mine. I'm not a selfish person, in fact I think and hope quite the opposite, but there are times you have to do things for yourself. If you don't eat, you can't help anyone else, right? Similarly, if whatever is in us needs to be expressed, so be it. Making music, playing writing, makes me happy. Really, really happy.

I realized that my lack of enthusiasm for the web work was an underlying problem all along. I struggled to market my web business, and that's clearly why. I recently bought one of those Guerrilla Marketing books, and found myself thinking about ways to use the techniques to promote the band instead of my business! My good friend Suzn Hilvers, who is a graphic designer and also a musician currently in Kenefick has often suggested ways to promote my web business like breakfast networking meetings, networking happy hours, etc., and I've often thought to myself, "ugh, I don't want to do that." My heart was never in the web business. At first it was a learning experience, both technical stuff and about myself, but I don't find it terribly interesting anymore. There are technologies that have changed that I have not kept up on, and don't have a huge interest to do so now. I can tell the difference when someone would ask what I do and I say, "I'm a web developer" versus what I say now, "I'm a musician."

I figured if I'm not going to be making money, I might as well do what I want to! The web stuff wasn't making me much money and I wasn't terribly happy doing it, so I wasn't getting either. Maybe if it was doing better I might have stuck with it, but at this point I doubt that. At least doing the music stuff the plan is for me to be happy.

The plan well, not really a plan

I don't know where this is going to take me (if anywhere) nor how exactly I'm going to do it and I don't expect to make a dime doing it. I'll keep doing some web stuff, hopefully wrap up a few projects sooner rather than later, and preferably wean myself away from that work. The important thing to me is that any music stuff I do is at least collaborative, because if I have to do it completely for someone else, that's gonna suck the fun and the life out of it for me. Maybe I'd do those kinds of things for other people once in a while, but to me the joy in music is what I create for me so I want to focus mainly on that. If other people like it, great, if not, so long as I like it, that's what matters to me right now.

The worse case scenario

I write songs for my band and we're the only ones who do them.

The worst case scenario

I write songs for my band and they hate them so I'm the only one who likes my stuff.

The dream

My dream, the far out fantasy that I would love to get to, is to become a Doyle Bramhall, a Stephen Bruton, a Charlie Sexton. (I hope this doesn't jinx it!) Each of those guys, as well as a few others, are great songwriters, work with other people all the time, whether it's writing songs for them, co-writing, producing, etc. I'd love to do that. I'd love to write songs with and/or for artists I admire and enjoy and work with them on their projects (so long as it's working with them and not for them. I'll probably explain this in more detail in a later post). I realize I may never get to that point. "The dream" may never happen. But what is cool is there are a lot of places I can go between here and there.

If the dream or something close to it does happen, I'd still plan on keeping Blue Funk around. At the very least, they'd be my band that I take out once in a while when I perform locally or just to jam with. There are a few artists like that who I really dig, and they always do different stuff with people and once in a while, you get to see them do their own stuff. I'd like to be like that. Oh yeah, and if I'm working with someone, and we need something that one of them can do musically, of course I'd ask if they were interested.

Another option for Blue Funk depends completely on them. We all got into this under the auspices of "we all have day jobs." But, if this adventure means that Blue Funk becomes a bigger thing, that is as much up to them as anything. We can take it to whatever level we all are happy with, should the opportunity present itself.

One possibility is that I spend my time working on the band stuff and all they do is show up and play. 😉 If that's what my "job" becomes, that could be cool. Or, if we stay at about the level we're at now, that's fine too. Totally up to them. I'll fill my time with whatever.

This blog is about the whatever. This is a New Adventure for me, and I hope to document it here. I am really excited about what might come of this, and want to share it with y'all. Check back often for updates, and I hope to have the RSS feed up soon too.

P.S. If you don't want me to put something in this blog, please make it explicitly clear to me.

Posted 2008 04 09 at 9:31 AM

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