industry

play at your own risk…


“I want to risk hitting my head on the ceiling of my talent. I want to really test it out and say, ‘Okay, you’re not that good. You just reached the level here.’ I don’t ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.”-Quentin Tarantino

 

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that is an interesting quote from Tarantino. he’s one of my favorite directors and i love that he is talking about risk. i find it fascinating that he seems to be saying a failure is an end to his talent. i would say that if you are a risk taker, then failure is the beginning. you’ll never know how good you are until you’ve failed numerous times. but maybe i’m not grasping the context of the quote here. maybe he’s talking about failing at the very height of the ceiling, or maybe he is just saying he doesn’t like to fail. i don’t think any of us do, but i think we need to learn to embrace it if we are ever going to reach the apex of what our potential is. and there is a huge difference between failing and wallowing in that failure. i’ve been there. failure shouldn’t define us, it should inspire us to drag ourselves back up and do it again. so push through. allow yourself to create ceilings that you can bust through so that failure is the launching pad for the greatness within you. if you never take the chance, you will have a whole bunch of maybe’s and almost’s to talk about someday.

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a book i picked up….


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called “the Film-maker says” has been of enjoyment to me as of late. it’s little snippets and quotes from movie directors. i’ve used a few of them here as i write. they make great conversation starters, and i’ll use them in my classes as the year winds down.

i love a good quote. and this book is brimming over with not only great words, but contradictions on side by side pages. there are some quotes that are funny. some are sad. some are very thought provoking. it gives a little bit of insight from behind the camera that you might not always get. i recommend it for something to break the ice, or provoke thought.

“With some pictures, people leave the theater and it’s forgotten. If people see a picture of mine, and then sit down in a drugstore in a neighborhood or have coffee and talk about it for fifteen minutes, that is a very fine reward, I think. That’s good enough for me.” Billy Wilder

on writing…


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Give me a good script, and I’ll be a hundred times better as a director.

George Cukor

I read somewhere that David Mamet said there are no good actors, only good scripts. fitting coming from a playwright. i believe there are good actors. great interpreters, but i also believe they have to have great words to speak. i’ve seen so many great actors in plays and movies alike be horribly under-utilized and the limitations had to do completely with the story and the script.

so i say to all of you that write. write well. and i will say to all of you that act and direct, interpret well. the world needs better stories and better performances.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”  John Keating-Dead Poets Society

a dream of sorts


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i have a few dreams for the creative things in my life. i want to make a record of songs written or co-written by me, and i want to make documentaries. i’ll be 43 this summer and sometimes i feel like the window is closing to do those things. there are a lot of songs, but i don’t know how many of them are album worthy, there are some great ideas for movies, but i often put those aside because of time and equipment contraints. i’ve written about fear before and that is a factor as well. i guess my question is, why haven’t i already started to make these dreams a reality? there can be a ton of excuses, but it really comes down to me just doing the things i need to do. not to worry about the money aspect of it. i could easily do a kickstarter campaign. not to worry about the creative part of it. i could easily ask a lot of my friends to contribute. not to worry about the equipment part. i have a good camera, all i need is a sound rig and a lens, heck i could even film on my iphone.

i wonder sometimes why God would allow me to have such great ideas, and not let me finish them, and i think it’s because He wants me to make them happen with other people. i realized this last week that creativity and the work can very easily be about one person. i naturally want the credit for greatness and i don’t have all of the tools to be great by myself. i have some of the components to make something great, but those components need to be shared with others while allowing others to share their greatness with me. i think that is why we need community. i love people, but often i will isolate myself from community. haven’t figured that one out yet. i do know that i am not an island and i need to create in the confines of community. i need to make the time to work with other people. i need that and so do they.

I tend to put down the auteur theory because a lot of people embraced it as a one man/one concept kind of thing, and making a movie is an ensemble.  Clint Eastwood

recovering a post


i wrote about my top 5 bands last year, and the post got lost, so i thought i would recover it today and add a band making it my top 6.

so here they are:

6. The Black Keys
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if lo-fi is your aim then Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have you covered. lyrically they are prolific. musically and rhythmically they always keep me wondering where they will go. i love their scaled back approach and gritty sound. also anyone who would name an album after my favorite classic automobile has to make the list.

5. Travis
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i first came across these Scottish rockers in about 2003 when i was living in the Houston area. i heard a cover of Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, and i was sold. many people describe Travis’ music as a soundtrack to park a running car in a garage, but they haven’t heard “Sing” if that’s the case. i’ve always thought that Coldplay just wished they were Travis.

4. Ben Folds Five
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Ben is one of my favorite artists ever, and when you put him in this power trio, magic happens. Robert and Darren’s bass and drums are the perfect complement to Ben’s keys. it’s like a jazz trio from the 50’s except they play balls out rock and drop the F bomb a lot. Ben calls it “punk rock for sissies”. they are known for pranking their audience at shows, and the Nashville concert from Ben’s studio that was broadcast live on myspace was pure magic. their live album is one of the 4 cd’s i keep in my car. it’s that good.

3. Gungor
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i met Michael Gungor in New York in 2006. he had won a grammy for “Friend of God” and “Say So”. he had a guitar strapped on his back and was a genuinely nice guy. fast forward to 2010 and the recreate conference in Nashville. Gungor debuts the album Beautiful Things live at the conference. mind. blown. i had not seen such artistry and musicianship in a long time. i’ve seen them about 6 times since and have not been disappointed. their live show is absolutely not to be missed. go buy their records now. now.

2. Wilco
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my friend Todd bought me “A Ghost is Born” in 2005 and i never looked back. i had to have every record by this Chicago alt-rock outfit. Jeff Tweedy is just a genius and has surrounded himself with a most amazing band. lyrical perfection coupled with controlled musical chaos is how i would describe Wilco. they unleash tasty musical fare followed by 2 minutes of frenzy. i got to see them live in 2011 and it still stands as my favorite concert of all time.

1. Radiohead
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if you follow me on instagram, it says i like radiohead, you should too. i discovered the band as many people do with “Creep”, but knew there was more as i dug deeper. Thom Yorke has infected me. i can sit and listen for hours upon hours to their music. it wavers between melodic perfection and trancelike repetition. i hope someday to see them live. it’s a bucketlist item for me. and no i’m not pretentious.

so there you have it. my top 6 bands. go check them out.

six strings, three chords, and the truth


so my top 5 today is one that i’ve approached before, but it is one that has morphed a bit.

this list is based on my personal opinion and style with little regard to technical prowess and speed. really for me it’s about line and musicality. there are many players who could go on this list, but this is where i am right now.

so here we go with my top 5 guitar players.

5. Jared Scharff

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this guy is the lead player on SNL and basically he just rules everything he touches. he is one of the most versatile players i’ve heard and his solo work going to commercial breaks is amazing. i like how he approaches things with simplicity and his tone is amazing.

4. Gary Clark Jr.

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Austin local and total badass. this guy can flat play. you hear shades of Stevie Ray in his playing, yet he takes things in a different direction. not just straight blues. it’s definitely his own signature sound. again tone and simplicity coupled with amazing creativity make GC one of my new favs.

3. Nels Cline

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to say that Nels Cline creates musical magic would be an understatement. this guy has created several of my favorite moments in music and is equally adept with a lap steel or his ’59 Jazzmaster. the thing is, he’s not a hot shot soloist. he adds beauty, or power by the textures and lines that he plays. being as he is the lead player in my favorite band, Wilco, of course he makes this list. for pure musical goodness check out the solo starting at 1:46 in on the song Either Way from Sky Blue Sky.

2. Matt Bellamy

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one word. MUSE. this guy is the genius behind that sonic goodness from England. in addition to being an incredible virtuoso on guitar, he’s also a classically trained pianist. MUSE continually makes music that is through composed and full of complex ideas, rhythms and textures. Bellamy’s use of effects is on par with all of the gear greats, and the built in KAOSS pad on his Manson guitar allows him a palette of sounds unavailable to lots of guitarists. oh, and the dude can sing too.

1. Jack White

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if i ever get to make a real record, i would love to have Jack produce and play on it. he is the epitome of hard luck, hard work, blue collar American rock. all you need to do is watch “It Might Get Loud” to hear his vision for his music and style of playing. his idea of fighting with his guitar speaks to me. it is a battle and he plays every note like it might be his last. and that’s what makes him a favorite. he hits things hard with passion. it’s not about the notes or the technique, it’s about the blood left on the strings at the end of the night.

so who are your top 5 musicians right now?

random thoughts today…


i was watching a little bit of the Grammy Nominations Concert last night.  there were some nice performances. as a result i went and looked up the nominees.

one of my chief complaints about the Grammy’s is that the voters really don’t listen to the more obscure categories. they typically vote on name recognition, so some amazing albums lose to artists who have won in the past, but don’t have the best work. i wish to be a Grammy voter that you actually had to listen to every entry and make a educated decision, but that just doesn’t happen.

this to say, i was a little disappointed with the offerings for Album of the Year.  There are some amazing records out that obviously none of the voters heard or cared to listen to. i hope that Bon Iver, Foo Fighters, the Civil Wars and Gungor are recognized for there amazing work this past year. so Grammy voters, if you’re listening, just go take a second listen to those records. thanks.

while i’m shelling for new artists…


(i always thought i would make an amazing A&R rep for a record company BTW)

another artist i’m really liking right now is Jason Gray

my buddy Ken Kubitz turned me onto his live record “Acoustic Storytime”

great stories and songs.  he goes into a story about having a stutter which he thought would keep him from being who he wanted to be, but God had other plans.

his songs are melodic, fun and thoughtful.  his guitar playing is percussive and rhythmic.  i especially love his cover of  Tom Petty’s ” Won’t Back Down”

check out his website (great entry art and mobility) and also this version of “Just Like Fallin In Love”

i got the opportunity…


to worship with Audrey Assad at the recreate conference in February.  we were all especially enamored with a song that she and Matt Maher had co-written called “Restless”

fast forward to yesterday.  i saw on twitter that her debut album had released.  so i went and downloaded it from itunes.  obviously went right to “Restless” to see what they had done in the way of arrangement and production.  it was beautiful as i expected.

then i began to delve into the rest of the album.  typically on a debut album there are a few clunkers, you know those songs that were just thrown on to make sure we had ten tracks, not so here.  the songs are rich and vibrant.  the lyrics and melody are soaked with the Spirit.  i was able to worship just listening.  Audrey’s amazing voice soars above the mostly piano driven tracks.  she has such a command of these songs.  the arrangements and instrumentation are so well done.  kudos to Audrey and the producers.  the mix is amazing and just further enhances these wonderful songs.

i would encourage you to go and get this album.  if not for the sheer musicianship and production than for the wonderful spirit of worship that overwhelms the record.