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An Interview with Bill Payne of Little Feat

This is a cross-post from my personal blog but due to his influence on me and the topic, I felt it was worth posting here as well.

It was my pleasure and honor to interview Bill Payne, keyboardist and founding member of the iconic American band, Little Feat. They have just wrapped up celebrating the 45th anniversary of one of the great live albums, Waiting for Columbus, and will soon start The Albums tour, coinciding with new releases of Sailin’ Shoes and Dixie Chicken, doing one night of each per city.

Thanks to David Holloway (and Paul Bindig, whose absence allowed me to fill in) of https://keyboardchronicles.com for letting me participate in this interview. I’ve been a fan of Little Feat and Bill since my college days, which coincided with their reunion. Since then, I’ve both gone forward with them as well as back through their earlier catalog and loved every minute of it, so getting to interview Bill was a huge deal for me. Fortunately, I seemed to have kept my cool and didn’t go “Chris Farley” on him.

You can find these episodes of The Keyboard Chronicles wherever fine podcasts are streamed, as well as on YouTube where I have provided the links below.

https://youtu.be/tvOOuyMJS4A

https://youtu.be/fDP1jwJmZe4

Wed, 2023 08 09 at 11:27 AM | Permalink for this entry

“New” Recordings Available

These aren't really new.

I mentioned in my post earlier today that there were some songs we did with a singer a while back. The final original mixes of those songs are now available on my web site at the Music tab or directly here http://joestone.rocks/joestone-music.html in the second group under "with Joanna DeJarnett."

I might do some editing or remixing of some of them, but it depends if I think I can get anything interesting done with them. I also have a "studio" version of one of my originals that I might publish if I dig it enough. Meanwhile, enjoy the tunes with Joanna!

Mon, 2023 07 10 at 2:28 PM | Permalink for this entry

Installing Pro Tools???

It was a pretty good idea and fortunately worked out.

A number of years ago, I was in a band who had a great singer, but she was moving out of town. Before she left, she paid for a studio session for all of us so we both could have demos to use. After the session, I got the files from the studio, which included the Pro Tools files as well as the final mixes. However, I never owned Pro Tools in my life and had no plans to. I have always wanted to access these sessions because the audio files I had from them didn't line up so I couldn't simply drag them into Logic, the DAW that I use.

Over the weekend, I had an idea. Pro Tools has a free, fully-functioning 30-day trial (Ultimate version). I know how to easily create a volume on a drive and install macOS on it. I realized I could install the Pro Tools trial on this separate volume and not litter my working drive with all the bits Pro Tools would probably install everywhere. I would be creating a separate sandbox where I could do whatever with Pro Tools without worrying about making a mess and possibly conflicts (probably not, but still) with what I use regularly.

The short version of the story is that yes, I was able to create "track files" of all the tracks for each song that I could drag into Logic and have everything line up. I even remembered to take screen shots of the mixer so I could start out with similar panning and levels. It all worked out in the end.

But getting there was another matter. When you install Logic, you buy it from the App Store, it downloads, and it's mostly ready to go. The only other thing you might do is install the "Additional Content." But it does that in the background if you want. On the other hand, Pro Tools is installed using some app from Avid, and you have to create an iLok account if you don't have one, and then you have to go to the iLok site and "reset" your password so you have it, and then you have to enter your username/email and password in Pro Tools, and you have to approve several of the plug ins during the install process even though you told it to do everything, and if you launch Pro Tools too early, it launches the basic Pro Tools Intro version which is pretty limited and not enough to open studio recordings with many tracks like this one, I think it crashed at one point during the install, at one point I would swear it said "installed" when it wasn't and then somehow I got it back to "installing", etc. My reaction was that I cannot imagine that most people getting into this wouldn't be overwhelmed by having to go through this process. I long thought that studios that are using an old version of Pro Tools are doing so because of the "if it's working, don't upgrade or mess with it" philosophy, but I suspect it's as much because the install process is beyond them. Once it was installed and working, it seemed fine, but I'm a technical person and I was frustrated by the process. I won't even go into the slightly convoluted process of selecting all the tracks and "consolidating" them so they could be output as full length tracks because I don't know if other DAWs do it any better, but I did have to go to several sources before I found the track selection method.

I know Pro Tools is the "standard" in many studios and many people use it because of that despite there being other very good options. I just hope that other third-party DAWs aren't as difficult to install. Once I was in it, it wasn't horrible and I'm sure some of the difficulties I had were simply differences between it and what I'm used to in Logic. I'm also happy that I have it *over there* and have a few more weeks to jump into it if I need something else from it, and worse case, can subscribe for a month to get into the full or a larger version later.

Mon, 2023 07 10 at 8:17 AM | Permalink for this entry

What’s the Point?

This has been going around attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, but I think that's a mistake. A little digging turned it up as a reply on this page. Whoever wrote it makes a great point and I thought it was worth sharing here. Just don't attribute it to me, either!

'When I was 15 I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

'And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

'And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

'And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.'

Wed, 2022 01 05 at 1:51 PM | Permalink for this entry

A Quick Post About Nerves

My response to someone asking about nerves in a jazz piano group I’m in

I’m getting better at being in the moment, being detached from the outcome, and enjoying the journey. I can’t even say how I got here, but lately it’s been kind of cool to see this in myself. I used to get VERY intimidated not by audiences but by those auditioning me or whoever it was I was playing for the first time. Now, I don’t care, at least to the point that I mostly don’t let it bother me. Maybe I’ve been fired or rejected so many times I’m finally used to it.  :lol:

I do try to work hard at getting better, but once I have to perform, I can only do what I can do. If they don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do about that right now. I can go home and work on it for the next time, but that’s about it. I’m trying to enjoy what I’m doing right now and I hope they do too. If not, at least I did!

addendum Another thing that might be helping is meditation. I’m finding I’m much more equanimous and I think it largely has to do with that and what it brings to me in other situations as well.

Wed, 2019 11 27 at 10:15 AM | Permalink for this entry

You Don’t Know What I Did Last Summer

You might know I played with a big band for a bit.

This band has been around since the 1950s and some of the members might have been there at the beginning, or close to it. I won’t go into some of the odd dynamics between the members, but I will say that one saxophone player and the guy who did most of the running of the band got into an argument the second time I was there and the sax player walked out and quit.

I found out about the band from a drummer who plays with them who I met at a blues jam I go to. He told me the piano player goes away for a few months every summer and they often have no piano player for that period. I was hoping to meet the piano player before he left but I didn’t. I went to one rehearsal after he went on vacation but didn’t play at first. With some encouragement from the guitar player, I started playing after their break. Even though it was a struggle to read some of the charts as well as keep up, it was fun. I came back the following week. I started copying the charts for my own library. I bought a couple of the books. I redid some of the charts for myself. I worked on some piano parts like the intros to Mr. Lucky and Take the "A" Train. My sight reading was improving, as well as my ability to keep up (though I still got completely lost sometimes). I was subbing for the vacationing piano player and I was having a blast. I hoped that I could parlay it into something I could do with them after the regular piano player came back. Maybe I could help them with their charts, many of which were in poor condition after having been through Hurricane Harvey as well as simply being many years old.

After my fourth rehearsal with them, the guy doing most of the running of the band came up to me and thanked me for coming. It was funny timing because since Lori had the next day off (it was the third of July), I had brought her with me to check things out. I thought, "uh oh, him saying that isn’t a good sign…" He went on to say that they had another piano player coming the next week "and he’s supposed to be pretty good." He didn’t know much about him, just that and that I wouldn’t need to come back the next week. After that, it would just depend, "maybe it’s not his thing."

I was disappointed. I loved playing this music. There were definite difficulties playing with these old characters, like some of them having that "old man who is either deaf or obstinate" thing. But I was learning and growing a ton just from the few weeks I had played with them. Even with no gigs scheduled that I knew of, I didn’t care because I needed this and was getting a lot from it.

A few days later I got a call from the guy and turns out the other piano player wasn’t coming the following week after all, but the week after that, so if I wanted to come back for another week, I was welcome to. I didn’t really want to, but I did so as not to burn any bridges. It was hard to have my heart in it when I knew I was being replaced. The band leader described the other player as "a ringer."

Needless to say this other piano player played with them for the rest of the summer.

At the end of the summer, I got a call from the band leader because the regular piano player was not going to be back for another week and "the ringer" was back in school. Unfortunately it was the same day as the rehearsal and I couldn’t do it that night.

I still think about that band and miss it sometimes. There’s another big band in town whose piano player is moving at the end of the year. I’d love to play with them, but they are all the top players in town and frankly I don’t think I can hang just yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on myself, it’s just that I suspect they can get someone who can jump in and play as opposed to me who could have used more rehearsal time with this old big band before I was ready to play with this other band. Still, I’d love to be playing with a big band right now. That stuff is just too much fun. I know some piano players who don’t enjoy playing with a big band because piano is not as much of a focus as it is in some other jazz ensembles, but I totally dig it. I hope I can find another opportunity to do that again.

Wed, 2019 11 06 at 3:30 PM | Permalink for this entry

Jazz is Better

Jazz is freedom—freedom of expression

In my last post I discussed how jazz is worse when you’re a perfectionist. The other side of that coin is how jazz is better.

I’m a control freak (why is it called that? Reading it, I don’t like the word “freak” there) and I don’t like being told what to do. This is why certain musical situations do not work for me. “That’s not how the song goes.” A lot of times, bands hire keyboard players to cover all the parts the rest of them cannot. I know very talented keyboard players who put a lot of work into recreating the sounds of the original records. It’s quite an achievement and I give them credit for that.

However, that’s not my thing. I like to be able to play what I’m feeling or hearing at the moment. If today I feel like the song calls for an organ, I’d rather play that. Or for a jazz piano gig, maybe I want to take a tune at a different tempo, with a different left hand or bass part, or comp it a different way. Maybe I want to play (“sing”) the melody a bit differently today.

Today, I heard Dick Hyman say that jazz is a gift black Americans gave the rest of us. I think that’s true. Jazz is about freedom, freedom of expression. In so being, it’s truly an American art form.

Thinking about this in the context of my last post, I’m looking to focus on this aspect of playing music. I’m trying to let go of the perfectionism and getting it done with a bow on it, and relish in the freedom of expression the music provides.

Tue, 2017 05 16 at 10:00 AM | Permalink for this entry

Math, Music, and Perfectionism

When I was a kid, I was pretty much brought up to do math and science (the reasons are another story). That can be very appealing because, for the most part, your answers can be right or wrong. Sure, for longer problems you can get partial credit, but overall, you’re right or wrong. If you’re wrong, you can find out exactly why and and get it right the next time.

In music, it’s almost the opposite. While there are some schools of thought that will say a person is playing a piece correctly or incorrectly, the fact is two people can play a piece “correctly” yet one can be judged to have played it better than the other. I think this is very common in classical music, but I have seen it in pop music styles as well (think of the beginning of the movie Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg for instance).

In jazz, it is even “worse.” * One can always play a tune differently, better, or with a new technique. I have a friend who says, “the great thing about music is that there’s always something new to learn. The drag about music is that there’s always something new to learn.”

Don’t get me wrong. It is great to have many different ways to play a song and decide depending upon how you want to interpret it that time. But the never ending quest, the fact that you can always play it differently, that it is completely subjective whether you are doing it right or wrong can be very difficult for someone used to the perfection of math and science, who likes to get something done, get it right, and move on. And who is somewhere on the obsessive-compulsive scale.

* Jazz isn’t really worse, I’m just referring to the problem this post is discussing.

Mon, 2017 05 15 at 10:19 AM | Permalink for this entry

Gotta Get Back

The fire and fever of why I started down this musical path in the first place

As a keyboard player, I get offered a lot of different gigs. “Keyboard player” can mean a lot of things. While I like a lot of different music, the reason I got into this is because of the music I love. The music I love features keyboards that sound like keyboards. That means pianos, electric pianos, and organs for the most part. It doesn’t feature keyboards sounding like strings or horns nor any other real instruments. For people that want to do that, that’s fine. It’s just not my bag, and I also feel like that doesn’t sound good in the kind of music that I love.

Right now, the top style of music I really want to get good at is swingin’ jazz. This stuff is a lot to learn, but when I hear the kind of jazz I love, I wish I could play that. After that, my love is blues and blues-rock. Again, there’s stuff in here that makes me want to jump up and play.

It’s this kind of stuff that made me jump into this crazy business. That is what it’s all about for me. So when I get an offer for a band that’s making music that doesn’t float my boat like this, I have to turn them down. That’s hard. I appreciate the offer and it’s good to learn new stuff as well as get some more work. But it can be hard to know if the band will be as interesting as the music I normally enjoy. I have had fun with bands like that, but in the end it didn’t kick my ass like I want a band to, musically.

Fri, 2016 08 26 at 10:00 AM | Permalink for this entry

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Well, some of it is you, but it’s mostly me

I have long believed that you get what you expect. Jobs, waiters, bands, relationships, auto mechanics, you name it. Sometimes, you don’t realize what you expect, and that’s when it gets tricky. If there’s part of you that thinks all auto mechanics are con men, then you will find they are all con men. That doesn’t mean that some of them aren’t con men. It doesn’t even mean that all the ones you’ve encountered aren’t con men. They might be. But why do you always find the bad ones? Because you expect it.

I discussed in a previous post bands that call themselves “pro.” Well, I did it again. This time, I knew the guy starting the band and, liking the way he played, somehow completely missed that he said he was starting a “professional” band. That’s on me. But once again, I was with a band that missed the boat on what’s truly professional. It’s a shame too, because like the old adage, I think everyone in the band is better than me, so that should have helped me up my game. However, several of the band members ways of interacting are unacceptable to me and less than professional. There are other issues I won’t get into here. Maybe in another post.

I am left asking myself why have I gotten into another one of these situations? While there are issues on their side, I need to look at myself and see why I did this again. Why is part of me expecting this sort of train wreck, instead of finding a good situation?

The best answer I have so far is my expectations or lack of from myself. Maybe I think I’m not good enough to find a good situation that just works, that I think I don’t or can’t play well enough to hang with players like that. If that is the case, I need to recalibrate somehow. One way would be to be lucky enough to find a band that was willing to “put up” with me (my words, not theirs and just an expression. I’m not into beating myself up and avoid it as much as I can) as I got up to speed. Another would be to start my own band with some quality players. A third would be to stop pursuing this for now and let go. If I can let go of preconceptions about myself and the bands, I think the right situation can come to me.

Tue, 2016 08 16 at 10:00 AM | Permalink for this entry

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