Ghosts and excuses
I’ve had a bit of a long walk in the dessert. I’ve been lying low on the promotion media front. Trying to put it in perspective.
Trying to accept the turbulence I see and sometimes engage in, on social media and wondering how art fits in as an agent for positive change.
Trying to finish things. Life can get in the way and you begin more things than you can complete.
When I express this openly , some kinder voices will say ‘It’s called introspection. The work will get done in the right time and place.”
Some others will ask "WTF have you been doing, you lazy bum, call yourself an artist ? Where’s the results? Come On!"
The little boy inside convinces himself that both voices are real. And when you hear both messages simultaneously, It can be…. paralyzing.
I took on this great project. Years in the making….. when I was 19 I wrote a song about that unheralded Irish Patriot Sir Roger Casement. I discovered that he was an extraordinary humanitarian who’s efforts saved many tens of thousands of lives in Africa and South America.
About 2012 I discovered looking at his wikipedia page that we shared the same birthday separated by exactly 100 years. So I found three biographies, his Amazon diaries and attended and performed some newly inspired songs at a conference in Tralee 2013, Ireland. This Gathering was entitled 'Roger Casement ‘A Glocal imperative’.
There, I met some of the authors of the books I had read, film makers and scholars who had worked on his legacy. It was eye opening.
Historian Kurt Bullock kindly shared Rogers poetry with me, published and un-published which he had painstakenly gleaned from Rogers remaining writings in a museum in Dublin. I felt compelled to tell his story in song using his own words. The idea of a play with music came up and I actively researched and recruited who might help me with this. There were showcases and readings, shows and musical lectures.
The plan was to release the work in 2016 to coincide with the anniversary Rogers execution for treason Aug 3rd.
Life can get in the way…… that deadline crept up quickly, came and went.
I found myself back home in Kells, County Meath in my Child-hood bedroom on the night of August 2nd 2016.
I had returned to perform at a local anniversary event marking his execution.
I read again Rogers letter to his sister Nina, he had written in the days before last.
It was filled with regret, his sorrow at knowing that he would not be there to care for her. He begged her for forgiveness for any hurt he caused her. In that moment he could not see his own nobility , his greatness, his achievements, but only his flaws and failures.
He was leaving the world at 9AM with his lofty noble goals unfulfilled, spending the night alone.
I woke up at 8.45 AM. I counted down the seconds. Felt him fall through the gallows, having breathed the same number of breaths as I,… to that point in my life.
I was in the right time right place to feel a profound sense of grief. A sense of my own death and how that might affect those that I love. What have I achieved to leave this place better than I found it?
How will I face my death? Will i look it in the eye?
His executioner later stated "Roger Casement was the bravest man it ever fell my lot to execute”.
Ghosts and commitments
I’m commiting to getting The Casement work finished this year coming 2018. At the very least it will be a body of songs that mark moments in his life and realisations he had along the way.
I’m glad now I didn’t push it.
In the 17 years since I moved to NYC, The music industry has been in turmoil, and has not yet settled or transformed. The old paradigm is dead. A Ghost
Fans don’t have to pay for music.
I know I don’t.
So how do artists survive?
Well,I don’t know.
Spotify is truly a great platform, for the consumer. The middle men still take the bulk of the streaming revenue. A negligible amount filters down to the artist. But its way ahead of itunes and Pandora.
I’m using Bandcamp too. I plan to put up some more obscure recordings only available there and there is an option for fans to pay. And honestly this has worked extremely well for me. Some fans have been extraordinarily generous. They have acted more like a ‘patron of the arts’ rather than a fan paying for a product. It has helped me finance ‘getting it done’ when I actually ‘get it done’.
So what now?
I’ve been following a blog by Bob Lefsetz.
In it he talks about the importance of consistency as an artist, staying relevant by being present and current. Building a body of work. If and when you have your major break with a song ( and its all about the song)
Then your whole catalogue is there to be discovered.
If you are inconsistent, are absent, your fans move on distracted by the next thing
He says Spotify has put the fans in control of who listens . Terrestrial Radio is no longer relevant.
Major labels are still effective but only show an interest when there is already traction on Spotify.
Hip Hop rules because these artists engaged early with this model .’Chance the Rapper’ and ‘Logic’ are major successes . Millions of daily plays on Spotify and did it with no radio and no label until the labels came to them.
Umm …. Interesting.
In 2018 I plan to follow Bobs advice. At least with the consistency thing ….
Besides the Casement project,I’ve spent the last year or two working with others.
I’ve been enjoying collaborating.It keeps me responsible. It’s a commitment to another person.
Deadlines can be good. There are many plates spinning.5 or 6 . I hope I’m old and wise enough to know what I can handle and complete and still young enough to give each collaborator the energy they deserve.
See here what projects are in the works.
So, as I march on, I will focus on Spotify and Bandcamp
Sole and Heel of the same shoe.
I will endeavor to be both
Authentic and consistent with the material I release.
A different kinda shoe
Soul and Heal of a right time and place.
Onward to 2018.
Hope to see you down the road