Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it's time to record again

Seven or eight years ago, I stumbled across an amazing singer/songwriter named Amber Jade at an open mic. I bought her CD and began seeking out her performances.

After a few of her shows, it occurred to me that she almost never played any of the songs from her CD. I asked her why. Her response was something to the effect that her newer material was more interesting to her.

I didn't get it, but whatever. Her non-CD songs were good too.

Fast-forward to the present. Ron the Drummer and I are gearing up for this year's Acoustic Battle of the Bands. We only have 15 minutes to play, so we have to choose our songs carefully. As we deliberated during rehearsal, I realized something. My top picks didn't include one song from our album. Ron felt much the same.

Now I get it.

Set lists evolve. We have to rotate older songs out to make room for newer ones. When deciding what goes and what stays, we've given the songs from Highways and Hiking Shoes preferential treatment. Why? Part of it is that we used some of our strongest work for our album, so it floats to the top naturally. The other part is promotion. If listeners hear and like specific songs from our album, the logic goes, they'll be more likely to buy it.

We released Highways four years ago. That's four years of heavy rotation. We're still proud of those CD songs, but we're ready to play something else now.

The obvious solution is to record again. If we make another CD, it expands the number of songs that we need to promote.

We're working on ways to make this happen. Stay tuned.

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Note: Remember how, at the end of my last post, I said that "next time" I'd talk more about vagueness and specificity in songwriting? What I should have said was, I'll talk about this the next time I have a lot more time to contemplate the subject. Hopefully this weekend or next. Hang tight.


Jannie Funster said...

Hanging tight as I can here.

The shifting sands of the musical artiste cannot be caged. They drift constantly to new lands of awareness. The present moment is always the best.

DeppityBob said...

I've always wondered about that, being a writer. When you're a writer, it's always about something new. You don't write the same novel or story over and over. Stage actors give performances with the same lines, the same directions, often for months or years. And I wonder how Mick Jagger can still get fired up over "Satisfaction" 45 years later. Eventually, as a musician, if you have a popular career, you can do an entire several-hour show and never leave your greatest hits. The real greats, though, like Bruce Springsteen, either present lots of new material with some hits, or find new ways to present old material. Maybe you can find new ways to tinker with old songs, too.

cinderkeys said...

You know, that's true. If you're a writer of novels and you finish a story, you don't have to recite the chapters every month. You move on to the next project. But as much as musical artistes might drift to new lands of awareness, we still have to sift through the sands of the old every time we perform.

Honestly, if I were Mick Jagger, I'd never want to hear "Satisfaction" again.

Billy Joel is another good example. Back when he was still putting out albums, he'd play whatever he needed to promote on tour, and then he'd revert back to his stuff from the '70s. While I preferred the earlier phases of his career, I always wondered if that drove him nuts.