Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ancient History, New inspirations, and a New Perspective

In the Beginning…..

As a child, I took music lessons on piano, trumpet, and guitar. Much of this was at the insistence of my mother, who like many mothers, desired to expose her children to the wonderful world of music. As I got older, I played trumpet in the school band through middle and high school, while at the same time enrolling in the music theory class the public school had to offer. Being a person of small frame, I developed self-esteem issues. As soon as I came to the age when I discovered what girls were for, I came to the painful realization that the female gender has a tendency to be attracted to taller, larger framed guys. Over time, however, I discovered I did have one advantage over my taller brethren; chicks dig guys who play guitar! Subsequently, I aspired to be a rock guitarist through my teens and early twenties. I practiced several hours a day, grew the hair, and rehearsed relentlessly with my rocker peers. By the tender age of sixteen, I was playing in bar bands and acquired a level of local celebrity.

A New Direction

At age twenty, I met a young lady, Stephanie, who would wind up winning my heart. Her love and dedication for me far exceeded the local “groupies” I so often encountered. I decided this was the girl whom I would make my wife. It was a major life change for me. I figured if I was going to make a suitable husband and father, I’d need to pursue a career which provided a more stable home life. So, in 1990, I made the decision to pursue a career on the other side of the studio glass as a recording engineer. For the next ten years, my occupational focus was on attaining this goal. Performance was moved to the back burner. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say I took if off the stove. Sure, I always kept a guitar lying around the house in case I got the urge to play. But it was only a hobby at very best. Meanwhile, my dedication to my career eventually led to my joining the faculty at Fullsail University in their Recording Arts Department. While it hasn’t made me rich financially, it has made me rich in fulfillment. I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with my students who remind me so much of myself at their age.

Midlife Crisis?

Was it a midlife crisis? Perhaps. But around the turn of the century, I started having that itch to perform again. I guess I wanted to determine whether or not I still “have it”. I started work on putting together a band that eventually would be named “Sugarglider”. In contrast to my younger endeavors in the “Heavy Metal” genre, this was a somewhat more subdued, all original Blues-Rock band. I suppose one could best describe our sound as something like “The Black Crowes” with a chick singer. We played the local Orlando club scene and actually developed a rather healthy local following. Unfortunately, “Sugarglider” would eventually succumb to that number one killer of bands: “Creative Differences”. Our personalities just clashed, and so the band dissolved. I was also coming to the realization that the rehearsals and performances caused me to neglect my family, so the guitar was once again banished to the corner of the room.

New Inspiration

In the initial post on this blog, I discuss what has influenced me musically in the past as well as what serves for inspiration in the present. I won’t rehash all that here. But much has come from the group, Celtic Woman. Now anyone who’s familiar with the fan community of this group knows that fans have a tendency to have their favorite “Celtic Woman”. Anyone who reads my initial post would know who mine is due to her skill as an instrumentalist, just as other guitarists and violinists have inspired me, some of whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet over the years. But something occurred this past week that took it to a whole new level of inspiratude. On a whim, I sent a track that I had played on to Máiréad.

I’ll include a link to the Soundcloud account at the end of this. But for some background, it was recorded at the time I was working on putting together “Sugarglider”. I can’t take credit for the composition of the tune. A friend and colleague of mine, Louie, approached me saying he had written some tunes that he wanted to record and asked if I would engineer and produce them. When we arrived at the studio, he says: “I’m more of a singer than a guitarist. Would you mind laying down guitar tracks?” (of course I wouldn’t mind!) He also wanted a female backing vocal. He brought in three girls that sang straight harmony to his lines. But he wasn’t happy: “I’m just not feeling it. I want something that reaches out and grabs you.” I suggested we bring in my singer and see what she could do. The soulful inflections and call and response to Louie’s lines were all Shellie. She heard the song once and said: “OK, I’m ready to do this”. She nailed it on the first take. Incredible! Louie was ecstatic!

So I sent this to Máiréad via Twitter. She graciously listens to it and tweets back positive comments. Now I ask, how often does a fan get positive feedback from an internationally known, multi-platinum artist? Not often, particularly considering the number of followers they have and the resulting heavy twitter traffic. Máiréad, if you happen to read this, thank you so much for taking the time out of your break to listen to the track and respond with such wonderful comments. You are one class act!

I’ve been practicing more lately. But after receiving this response, I’m inspired to REALLY step it up. I haven’t practiced this much since my younger days! Ideas are forming again which leads to songs. I’ve rearranged my music work area to make it more conducive to capturing random ideas before they leave my head. All instruments as well as the recording device are within arm’s reach whether I’m practicing or watching television. I managed to reconnect with Louie. We talked on the phone recently and he’s talking about moving back to the area. We discussed the possibility of getting a band together. My daughter is grown and married with a daughter of her own. My son is approaching his teens. It just might be time for Grandpa to hit the stage again! Watch out!!! Regardless of the outcome, I will start writing again. If something comes of it, fantastic! If not, at least it will feed my soul.

Update of the CW fan experience

I now feel the need to re-visit some of my comments in the initial post. When I had written it, I had only attended one M&G. It was with Chloe and Lisa Kelly in Orlando, 2011. The vibe was a little strange for me. It was my first, so I was green. The ladies hadn’t met me and didn’t know me at all (and many people aren’t sure what to make of me at first impression anyway). 2012 was WAY better! I attended two M&Gs plus a signing. I felt I was able to build a stronger rapport with the most engaging Chloe, and got to meet the effervescent Lisa Lambe, the stunning Susan, and the illustrious Máiréad. If 2012 was better, 2013 was off the charts! The format was changed. Gone were the distractions of autographs and tables. This allowed for much more engaging conversation. In lieu of an autograph, you got a photo. For my money, I’d much rather have a nice photo than a signature anyway. I wanted mine to be unique and humorous, and the ladies cheerfully obliged. I felt I built a better rapport with Máiréad this tour. We even engaged in a wee bit of “tech talk”. Way cool! I’m really diggin’ the new format, and I hope it works better for the ladies too. I also hope this is kept in subsequent tours.

As far as my opinion on the operation of the fan forums. That still stands. At the time there was a sharp division within one of the forums on how it should be run. I won't rehash it here. There were also issues between some fans and the establishment. That's all water under the bridge now. The thing that weighs on my mind now is that I made comments on the initial post that may seem I was making assumptions regarding the feelings of the ladies. This was not my intention. If they happened to see it, and it came across that way, my sincerest apology goes out to them. They show so much appreciation to their fans when they’re “on the clock” as it were. Outside of that, they should have their space. It’s not unknown for them to engage fans outside of shows, but that should be on their terms. They say in their podcasts: “Tweet us!” And we do. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get a response. If they do respond, wonderful! If they don’t, don’t take it personally. They have their private lives to live. Not to mention they all have men in their lives. These guys would naturally get priority when it comes to “off the clock” attention. Hell, I hate the fact that Steph and I work opposite shifts! I can only imagine what they go through!

Well, that’s quite enough on that subject. I’ll post again when I think of something actually clever and interesting to write. Until then, keep the faith!


Photo Timeline: Warning!!! Some images may cause indigestion or, in more severe cases, Dementia!!!

"Sabre" at "The Rock Steady"-1984

Rock 'n' Roll Party-1986

"Check this Tasty Riff"-1989

"Terminus" publicity photo-1989

At a crossroad in life with Steph-1990

Behind the glass-somewhere in the 90's

A one-off performance with "The Danny Jones Band". That's my little bro on drums-2000

"Sugarglider" collage used in our CD inserts-2003

"Sugarglider" Halloween gig-2003

Redesigned music area-2013

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

First meeting at last

As of February, I did get to meet Máiréad. It was so cool of her to pose for this photo with my wife and I. Photobucket

Friday, December 30, 2011

Experiences of a Celtic Woman fan


It has been a while since I’ve posted on here. I created this blog as a school assignment and made blogs on two of my interests: Guitars and Snakes. Feel free to check those out if either interests you. This blog is about a third interest of mine, Celtic Woman.

My reason for revisiting and posting on this site is inspired by my reading of a blog from a gentleman whom I’ve come to consider a good friend over the past year, Scott Manke. This past year has been quite the roller coaster year for so many on many different levels. I’m not an economist, so I won’t comment on that. But I will comment on said roller coaster year for Celtic Woman fans. With that said, I do want to make it perfectly clear I make these comments freely and unapologetically as an individual and is in no way a reflection of the forums or sites I am a member of. I am not in a leadership role in any of these, nor do I have any desire to be for reasons of my own. I’m just a fan.

There were positives this past year: the Atlanta taping of Celtic Woman’s new DVD, the symphony tour, and, for me personally, the attendance of my very first show in February. Thanks Scott. There were also some negatives that unfortunately got a little out of hand. I won’t go into these in detail, but merely give some of my thoughts and feelings I have as a fan.

First, I’ll give a little background of how I was exposed to Celtic Woman. As a rock guitarist since the age of fifteen (I’m currently 43), I naturally looked up to famed guitarists who were known for “shredding”. My admiration eventually spilled over to other string players, most notably, rock violinists such as David Ragsdale, Mark Wood, and Robbie Steinhardt to name a few. One evening in ’07, I was hangin’ with my best friend, songwriting partner, and at the time, bass player. He says to me: “Dude, you’ve got to check out this little elven chick who shreds on the violin”. He then showed me excerpts from A New Journey. I was very impressed with Máiréad’s chops, phrasing, and stage presence, not to mention the fact she’s cuter than other musicians I’ve looked up to. I bought the DVD, watched it a time or two, then really didn’t give it much thought afterwards, until about a year and a half ago. I was doing a paper on Artist Management and decided as the subject to compare the fan/artist relations of Máiréad and Orianthi, a female guitarist/singer/songwriter whom I’ve also come to admire (and one who rivals Máiréad in the “adorable” department). It was while doing research for this paper that I came across Máiréad’s fan forum and decided to join. In doing so, I’ve made friendships that I highly value.

Now, in his blog, Scott recently mentioned that Celtic Woman is not a group to be worshipped, but rather, a group whose music is to be enjoyed. I agree heartily. In fact, I will make a confession here to my fellow fans that I have not nor ever will on the fan forums as they’re not the appropriate place for it. Celtic Woman’s music has NOT changed my life. I enjoy their music and listen to it when the mood strikes me. I am not one who follows them across the country. I’m not saying that I look down upon those who do. In fact, the girls do seem to appreciate that support on some level. They’ve made mention of it in interviews and they apparently look for familiar faces while performing. If you have the time and resources to do so, and you get enjoyment out of it, then more power to you. But I would implore anyone not to make CW the center of your life. If you have hopes of befriending these artists, I can tell you, it’s not going to happen. I discovered Orianthi years ago on Myspace when she was just a small time guitarist in Adelaide playing local gigs. We exchanged a message or two from time to time. But since she’s become famous, she hasn’t found time to communicate with me. It’s just the way that it is. Keep in mind that when you meet these girls in M&Gs, they’re still performing. I would even go as far to suggest that perhaps an overwhelming amount of attention might make them uncomfortable.

This brings me to my opinion on how these fan forums should be run. Again, I’m not in a leadership role. Any way the admins choose to run the site is their prerogative. I’m only giving my opinion. It’s often been said that these forums should be first and foremost about the artist. In fact, there are those who argue the forums should be solely about the artist. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I contend the forums should be first and formost about the fans. I know…..Heresy!!!! But allow me to give my own perspective on this. Beginning in 2002, I played in an all original band by the name of “Sugarglider”. We developed quite a local following, had a handful of fans in the Tampa area, and quite a few in England as our singer was a recent British import who had a following of her own before coming to America. Subsequently, one of our computer savvy fans created a fan forum in our honor. Now granted, it was nice to hear people say how good they thought you were, how much they enjoyed a show, or how they were looking forward to an upcoming show, etc. But honestly, it gets a little old after a while and starts sounding a little contrived and can be a little embarrassing if it’s spread on too thick. I always much preferred learning more about the fans who were supporting me. Granted, I wasn’t a big celebrity with a massive fan base. Do the CW girls care about our personal lives? Most likely not. But I’ve gotten word that Máiréad has said that she only reads “Messages to Máiréad”, “Fiddle Tech Talk”, and “Show Reviews” on her own fan forum. What does that tell you? She wants to read what people think of the shows, she’s interested in the opinions of other violinists concerning the instrument, and what her fans have to say to her personally. But even with the latter, she doesn’t respond. The bottom line is that a forum is a gathering of people with a common interest, nothing more, nothing less. They should not be shrines dedicated to the worship of an artist. Rather, they should be a living community of people sharing some common interests, yet with their own individual lives and individual opinions. The forums should be about the bond these people share, not a vehicle in the attempt of getting the artist’s attention.

Having said that, I now come to the aspect of CW that HAS changed my life. That has been the bonds and friendships I’ve made within the fan community. Before joining this community, I felt my marriage was slowly coming apart. It wasn’t that we had a bad relationship. It was just that we had grown apart and spent all our time in separate ends of the house. After hearing the stories of my peers on the forum (us old guys), I came to realize how lucky I was to have this lovely woman by my side for 20-plus years (some say she bears a vague, passing resemblance to Máiréad….go figure). We still have our separate interests. But over the past year, we’ve made conscious efforts to set a side much more time for us alone and resurrect the passion we once had for each other. I’m very grateful for that. But the friends I’ve made also mean so much to me.

“Moscapoet”, your dedication to CW has not been in vain. You’ve gained a lot of good friends. Count me as one of them. You mentioned moving to China to teach English. If you do that, make sure you keep in touch. And you have to stop by Florida so we can have a barbeque and pound a few Guinness’. But even if you decide not to go to China, I’d encourage you to pursue the education field. As an educator myself, I recognize that you’d make an awesome teacher. It doesn’t pay a lot, but it’s steady and recession resistant.

“Mr. Peabody”, I’ve known for sometime your dedication to CW has been unparalleled. But since I met you in Atlanta, I consider you a friend. I’ve come to know you as a highly intelligent and respectable gentleman. I enjoyed working with you on the fan documentary in spite of your “nit-picking”. LOL. Actually, your knowledge and experience in photography and videography allowed this old audio cat the opportunity to learn a lot. It also allowed us to create a DVD that was the best it could be given the resources available to us. I look forward to sharing the Nashville experience with you.

Wendy and Jen, my “Florida girls”. I’ve felt I’ve made a real connection with you ladies. I look forward to our “date” in Gainesville.

“Heathbrae” and “Rotten Rebel”, while we haven’t met in person, I feel we’ve made some sort of connection in that we seem to think alike. I’m praying that 2012 will be a much better year for both of you.

“Apollomoon”, we also have not met in person. But you were the first one I felt a connection with when I joined the forum, as well as whose story first made me realize I need to savor my marriage. Over time, we’ve come to fierce disagreement over forum content. But that’s OK. I do respect your opinion, and I’m willing to agree to disagree if you are. I have to admit, your method has allowed you direct contact with Alex and LL. Congratulations on that, and I’m looking forward to having that beer with you in the future. Perhaps even jam on some Hendrix.

“Starman”, it was a real pleasure to get to know you in Atlanta, even more so to have the opportunity to jam with you. We definitely need to do it again.

There are so many more of you that I’ve made somewhat of a connection with online and/or briefly met in Atlanta, but haven’t had the opportunity to get to know you on a more personal level. That’s something we’ll have to rectify in the future.

As far as CW and the shows go, I intend to attend a couple of M&Gs this coming year. It would be such an honor to meet Máiréad. But if I don’t, it won’t have a negative impact on my life. Honestly, while I’ll strive for front row seats for concerts I do attend in the future, I’m thinking these two will be the last M&Gs I attend. Frankly, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my musical heroes in my capacity as faculty at Fullsail University. I would much rather meet artists under these circumstances than to spend an obscene amount of money to spend a few seconds with them under controlled circumstances. Case in point, I once had the opportunity to share a bottle of Kentucky Mist with Dave Mustaine, the frontman for the band Megadeth. Now Dave was always potrayed in the media as a very abrasive person, to put it nicely. But getting to meet the real Dave, he was actually a really nice guy. Apparently, his media persona was his image as a gritty heavy metal star. I would rather get to know the real person as opposed to the “star”.

There’s been a lot of fan speculation regarding CW management that has caused a lot of negative feelings. Let’s keep in mind that, all of the speculation aside, one really doesn’t know what’s going on without being inside the organization. I tweeted Scott Porter myself on the Pittsburgh proposal. My reason for doing this was I thought perhaps what we fans were proposing wasn’t making it through the “filters” to Scott. Scott, if you happen to read this, I sincerely apologize if it rubbed you the wrong way or caused you issues. As the one who bears the title of Producer, it is ultimately your responsibility to see that these shows are amazing experiences for the fans. There is no question you fulfill this role impeccably.

There has also been speculation management has been running these girls into the ground with the heavy schedule over the past year or so. Perhaps. They’ve said themselves that it is quite consuming. But let’s remember that no one is holding a gun to these girls' heads and they can leave at will as many have. The remaining members have said in countless interviews that this is their passion, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. When they decide it’s time to move on and pursue something else, no doubt they will.

Let’s just be supportive as fans as they allow us to be. As in giving well wishes to Scott and Lisa on the new addition to their family, and Máiréad and Jim on their recent nuptials. I’m glad she chose someone who can accompany her on tour. I wish them all extreme happiness, and I appreciate the music they perform for us.


Update: ....and let's give a warm welcome to Susan.