Ezra Vancil joins me for his second feature on the podcast. I first spoke with him back in March of 2018 for episode 42 of the Unstarving Musician.
Listen to Ezra’s first appearance on the podcast
This conversation was sparked by an email exchange we had where Ezra mentioned an arduous trip to Florida for a festival he was performing during the onset of the pandemic. In that email, he also said he’d decided to throw in the towel on his music career. Thankfully, he changed his mind on and continues to make music.
In this conversation, we also discuss:
- Where he thought he was going next, and where he ended up following his travels to and from Florida
- His new album The Family Songbook, on which his daughter Cozy makes her recording debut
- His depression (bipolar), the changes in his life, and some of the tools he uses to cope
- His sentiments about live streaming
- A bit of tribute to a friend he recently lost, and something that friend recently did for him
- Subscription based fan support
- And much more…
Mentioned in this Episode
- Ezra Vancil Official Site
- Unstarving Musician Episode 42: Ezra Vancil Part One
- Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
- Radical Acceptance: Awakening the Love That Heals Fear and Shame
- Unstarving Musician Episode 4: Lara Price
- Unstarving Musician: Starting Over in Austin–Lara Price
- Unstarving Musician Episode 166: Lara Price
- Unstarving Musician Episode 52: Ray Prim
This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I am your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. It’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing, business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
Hey, the Unstarving Musician is made possible through the generosity of listeners like you. If you love the podcast, please visit our sponsor page on UstarvingMusician.com/crowdsponsor to learn about the different ways that you can support the podcast.
Welcome to another interview. [Laughter] Welcome to another episode. Thank you for coming back, or joining me for the very first time. This is kind of a special conversation. It’s with my friend, Ezra Vancil, who appeared back in Episode 42, way back in March of 2018. I’m recording this intro, well actually, we recorded this round two interview the 20th of August this pandemic year 2020. Ezra and I haven’t known each other a super long time. In fact, we met on that, well we met on the socials prior to our 2018 conversation for the podcast. I have met him in person since then. He lives not too far away from my hometown of Fort Worth, in Oak Cliff. He lives in Oak Cliff, the town where Stevie Ray Vaughan was born, and a great little place to visit. Got to meet him and his wife there for breakfast. It was great. And I’m hoping to see them again someday soon when I can travel again. So in this episode, we talk about a couple of really good stories in this conversation, we talked about an arduous trip that Ezra took with his family, for a festival, well to Florida for a festival he was going to be performing. And this trip was during the onset of the COVID pandemic of 2020. It’s a bit of a horror story, in my opinion, moments of which were a bit of The Stand variety; and I’m talking about the Stephen King book The Stand. Fortunately, it didn’t go that sideways, but it was kind of scary nonetheless, when when I hear it, and you may find the same. Where he thought he was going next and where he ended up going is another topic of discussion we have. We also discuss his new album The Family Song Book, on which his daughter Cozy makes her recording debut. I say that, I’m not 100% sure about that. But it is a recording debut with her father on, first time she appears on one of his works. I’m confident in saying that part. She sounds great. Ezra also shares quite a bit about his battles with depression, the changes in his life that he’s made to deal with that and how he copes with recurring ups and downs, some of the tools he uses for that. And then a completely different topic, we talked about his sentiments on live streaming, he shares a really heartfelt tribute to a friend he recently lost. We talked about subscription based fan support. And back to that friend he lost is something this friend did for, this friend and his friends family, did for Ezra, after he left us. It’s pretty touching. I’m gonna have links in the show notes to Ezra’s prior appearance on the podcast, as well as some other people that we mentioned here. Well, without further ado, here’s me and Ezra Vancil.
You know, I think the thing that inspired me to want to talk to you was the email exchange we had. You were responding to a question I had about Bandcamp, and then I’m on your list as you probably know, list is probably kind of big, but I also just get a lot of cool stuff from you. But since that day, I didn’t look at the date, I was kind of rereading the email and grabbed some notes from him. But since that day, I’ve been watching a little more closely what you’re emailing out, just kind of curious what things are happening. So maybe we could start by talking about that that day. I had actually emailed you to ask how your Bandcamp subscription thing was going, because I was just looking at, you know…
Ezra Vancil 4:22
I unloaded on you.
Yeah, no it was great. I was like, Oh my gosh, you know, it was at first I was a little sad. But then you know, you ended on a positive note because you were feeling upbeat about it. I’d love for you to kind of tell for listeners, what, what you described to me about the festival. And maybe if you can remember the sentiment of your response to me, when you say you unloaded.
Ezra Vancil 4:47
Yeah, I probably won’t completely remember it. But the festival for sure. So yeah, when you wrote me I was in, I was not a happy, I wasn’t happy camper. And so this year, I got back up a little bit because from our last conversation it was years ago, but I was venturing out on really like a small, private concert direction. And I had just dialed it in 2020. It was it was working it was, things were happening in a way that I had always imagined they could with these. And so that’s where the frame of mine was when I went off to a festival that I was really excited about going and playing and also playing with some different people down in Florida. And that’s when it wasn’t I don’t watch TV a lot like as a conscious effort, I don’t entertain my, you know, self with with TV. So I don’t know what’s going on a lot of the time. So I started hearing little whispering, so wait, there’s something going on? And I was like, Yeah, well, we’ll figure it out when we get there, kind of thing. And people like, well, they’re probably gonna cancel that thing. And I was like, What? I mean, this thing’s been going on for 20 something years. I was like no, And as we were leaving, I was an hour out of Dallas, and I got a call. We’re sorry, we’re having to cancel the festival.
Ezra Vancil 6:20
Now, I decided not to tell my family, because I was also going to use this as a time to go be with my family, you know. And I don’t want to tell them because they’re all excited. So I drove all the way to Florida, without telling them, because we already, there was, you know, accommodations for us and all this. And so we went there, we actually had a wonderful time, we had our own concert in our little bungalow there and it was beautiful. And on the way back, and over there, I started digesting kind of the news of what was going on. And, you know, this is a serious deal. And so we decided to cut it short. They, we had arranged that we could be there for a few weeks, and we decided to cut it short and get back to Dallas. But it was… it was traumatic, getting home. It was like I had walked into a walking dead movie, almost, although not the carnage of it, but just have this ghost town kind of feeling on the way home. We drove, I don’t know, eight hours trying to get home and there was not one place that would get let us use their bathroom when we would go to stores. And people would be I mean, lined up trying to use the bathroom, they wouldn’t let them in the doors. And this was all the way home and eight hours straight. And so, you know, I can’t lie. It freaked me out, you know. So when I, when I got back, and I kind of digested all this. I was feeling quite frankly kind of exhausted by my music life at the time. And you know, it takes a lot you know this, everybody that listens to this knows that it takes so much effort without a lot of financial reward, with great emotional award rewards sometimes, but not all the times. But you just keep going. And I’ve been going at this since I was like 17 years old, and I was getting like worn down. And this one thing, I first of all just had the feeling that this is not going away. Nothing happens like this, where it’s just going to be at we’re going to be back at it in a month. And then after that I just started seeing concerts cancel home concerts, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel all the way up to September. And so I was a bit down in the dumps. I decided I had this desire to go back to my writing, I’ve written like four novels, and never can get to finish it. Always something in the music life comes up. And so I decided to turn it into a positive, that’s probably the positive note I left on is that music will continue. I can’t help make music and do it with all my heart. But I was going to turn my free time and my attention into finishing these novels. And that’s where we left off and everything has changed since then. That’s where I was on that day, you know, and so much has changed since then.
Okay, so let’s pause for just a couple things. One comment I wanted to make. You know, I have not heard a story of someone who is traveling when all this happened. And do you recall the date? The exact date?
Ezra Vancil 9:37
It would have been early March. Right?
Ezra Vancil 9:40
It was early March. [Yeah.] I’d have to ask my wife to get the exact date.
So it’s probably… probably the first two weeks of March.
Ezra Vancil 9:47
It was literally, it was before anything shut down, even, and [Oh my gosh.] I guess Louisiana might have shut down while we were in Florida that day. [Okay.] It might have been a day before, but it was right there when states started shutting down. And if people find it hard to believe that I, I remain blissfully unaware of what’s going on, but I consciously do that. And I hear enough of it from everybody that I feel like I’ve watched news all day long. But we practice that as a family, we just don’t. And, you know, we don’t absorb too much of what’s going on. So, for us, you know, it was really kind of a shocker, because I hadn’t had the buildup of whatever buildup was there of days or weeks, I don’t know. I’d only heard little rumors of people talking. So it was quite a shock to us, you know?
Well, I would, I would say, I mean, I’m, we’re a little like your family, my wife and I, in that we, you know, television news is never on in our house. My wife reads financial news, which kind of covers a lot of stuff. So she will hear about stuff. And of course, I can’t open my browser without seeing, you know, something about, you know, what’s happening in the outside world. And then people were talking. But what I was going to say is that, you know, I’ll just keep it to myself, but for what it’s worth people way smarter than me, there were very few of them that knew how serious this was going to be that early. I think most of us were just like, Okay, and then Oh wow, this is real. And then, Well it’ll probably blow over, you know, for I mean, I don’t think anybody imagined it would turn into what it did.
Ezra Vancil 11:34
In fact, when I came back to me, so that is what I saw of it was, I mean, it was the scene of these of every town, we stopped my little girl begging to go to bathroom. And people not letting us in
It’s almost like the zombie apocalypse. I haven’t I hadn’t heard anything like that.
Ezra Vancil 11:51
And so when I came back, this is how slowly it moved. And I started telling people, y’all this is, this is the thing. There’s something huge, and most people I knew were like, man, they knew the news. And they’re like, Oh, yeah, well, did you just go to bathroom outside or whatever, they didn’t take it seriously, almost like the it was this weird day we had or something. But to me, it was a sign that it, the hammer was coming down in some way on, on this country, on the world or whatever. And so I saw it much more seriously than most people did before it came in just to be experiencing that.
Sure. Frightening. Um, the other thing, I if you’re comfortable talking about it, I suspect you are based on our prior conversation for the podcast, but you’d mentioned you were having a particularly down day, the day you responded to me and and then later in this thread, you’re saying things have completely changed, then I was reading, reading through a few of your last emails, and sort of reminded to yourself admission that you can be a little up and down. [Yeah.] Do you? Do you? Have you been as of late struggling with depression or…
Ezra Vancil 13:01
No that’s a good topic, that really is. Oh, yeah. So my past is that I was diagnosed bipolar and later Schizoaffective. Though I never my me and my wife, nobody really bought that one. But so in my early life, it was insane. It was a decade of our life just pretty much wiped away. That was just dealing with me. I’ve had an incredible change in my life. That happened, some it’s getting close to eight years ago. That is very complicated to get into, but it changed everything. In a lot of ways. I have not changed in the way that I can go up and down. But I’ve learned to harness it, and to actually use it in my life for the things that we need to get, by the way, you know, the way I’ve learned a way of life that has worked incredibly for this. It’s a good question because yes, this falling down on this, the pandemic coming in, has threw me off kilter. It was like a bat to the side of a head, experiencing things I haven’t experienced in like I said, like seven or eight years at all, you know, difficulties in my life that I had not I had, my system was working. And it was a well oiled machine, not just me, but this is a whole family thing of us working together make it a beautiful life. And it really just sideswiped me. I did go through some depressions that haven’t had that kind of depression in a very long time and they were very short lived. I used all my tools and got back to where I needed to be. But it has been completely life changing in emotionally in my emotional life, and everything. Life Changing, but I only see it as, okay, this is a new, a new era, it’s a new time in my life where I have these new pressures. I had of all pressures before. These are new ones that I need to work with. And I’ve spent, since we’ve talked, probably spent those months really working on my life and getting it back in a balanced place.
Ezra Vancil 15:25
But I definitely have been through, and I don’t want to go off on this too much, but probably the first thing that hit me, when all this was coming down, because I’m in a community of people. I’ve kind of, my life has become about being around and helping people like me, not just with that, but I’ve struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. And that was my first thought while people were worrying about businesses shutting down and, and old folks homes and all this, my first thought was suicide, it’s going to fly. Because I literally know people that are wrestling daily, with just getting out of bed and dealing with the world that was already there. And it just frightened me to death of what could happen to especially artists. You know, artists are, I’ve just known this, and you probably know this, is especially empathetic people they take on a lot. They have their emotions are like laid out there, and when this was coming in, and I got shut down a lot, because that was my concern was was people’s emotional lives and what that would do, how many deaths would we have from that? You know,
Yeah. Are you comfortable talking about some of the tools that you have leaned on as of late that, assuming that it might help someone else who hears about that?
Ezra Vancil 16:43
Yeah, definitely. You know and there so you know, I could have in the first years, I could have, like, probably even had it all written out, how my daily structure and routine, it’s so integrated into my life now that it is our way of life. The first thing you know, so I have to, I have to back up a little bit with that too. Because though I do have these mood swings. I learned the first thing is that, I was I was a severe alcoholic, and now it was onset by this me trying to control it with with a substance. And the first thing was to get other things out of my life that were in any way affecting that that mood. So really, so I could see what I really was, because I had been on medications, way too many medications. And I was mixing all kinds of things in there. To the point where I had to know, what am I dealing with? I’m not even sure. So the biggest part of me was just really getting sober and dry. And, and, and being very conscious and aware of who I am. And that was probably the hardest part for me. Because, you know, I also dealt with daily panic attacks for years, they were just every single day all day long. I had to sit with those. And I got all these ideas from finally just in desperation, I started looking into research on people that live with chronic pain. And I’m like, how do you do it? Because I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t know how to live anymore. How do you do it? And it was radical acceptance. [Yeah.] They they’re, you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve read that material, but it was about embracing this pain into your life, because it’s there. And it’s something has to be done with
Is it… Can I ask you a question? [Um, yeah.] Radical Acceptance is a book, among other things. Yes.
Ezra Vancil 18:37
Oh, I don’t know that. I say that. Maybe I’ve caught that through when, I actually read like papers on the internet [Got it.] About that kind of chronic pain. [Okay, and it’s probably…] I don’t know that book specifically.
No, it’s probably just a well known concept and I think, I’ve heard this recently. And it makes me think of Tara Brach, who’s a pretty famous meditation teacher, who’s written a book that has a maybe that title or something very similar. But anyway, I digress.
Ezra Vancil 19:08
That name’s very familiar to me.
Yeah? I digress. So please, continue.
Ezra Vancil 19:11
Yeah, I pull in. It’s hard for me to cite things because I’m, I’m also an avid reader. So I mean, literally, if I pointed my camera around, there’s about six books open. So I don’t always retain where I’m getting a lot of things. I’m there for a reason to look for help, you know. That’s a, that was a main one was was this acceptance of my panic, of my anxiety, of my pain and sitting with it? Meditation was definitely the first thing that came into allow me to start dealing with panic attacks. This all played into the bipolar stuff because a panic attack would send me off for a week, you know, I’d end up in a hospital. And so they all work together. So meditation came in and very simple meditation at the beginning was just finding it five minute breathing meditation and arresting panic attacks as they happened. Very hard work to do that, you know, it was it was not, is not. I’ve talked to somebody recently with panic attacks and they’re like, you know, I can’t do it. I can’t just stop in the middle of things I can go, Mmm. Yeah, well, I don’t know what the other options were, because I had to get it, get some power over these things. The the actual depression and mood swings. So that was anxiety in that a lot of anxiety I found was an, and I get I pull all this from the 12 steps also, it’s a life that I had never inventoried. That’s a word from there. I had just all these things, all these decisions, unfinished things all people I’d hurt, you know, I’d been hurt and I had never finished it went back to look at it. I had never, I didn’t know what my life was. And so anxiety to me, personally, was wrapped up in undecisiveness. And that met with a lot of fear. So I started on a, and this was actually from a book and I can’t remember it, but I started deciding on things that I didn’t really need to. If somebody says, Where do you want to go to eat?, I would make the decision, because I wouldn’t do that. I’d always go wherever you want to go. And I started exercising this decisiveness in myself whether it’s right or wrong, it didn’t matter. That, the lack of decisions in my life was causing major anxiety. And so I exercise that. The actual depression and the mood swings, to be honest. I started calling my superpowers. And I get this partly from a biography I read, I think about Beethoven and think it’s Beethoven. Was he the one that dealt with mania? I don’t know.
Good question. I’m not sure.
Ezra Vancil 21:56
It’s one of those guys. Okay. He would actually, he figured out in his low times, he wrote a certain, Oh, this wasn’t Beethoven. Okay, just go with me, it was somebody.
I’m hanging with you.
Ezra Vancil 22:09
He could actually write a certain, he could write poetry. and it actually was very, it worked very well, with this side of his his creativity and this type of work he could do when he was in depression very well. He could hone in, kind of like, I think I talked to you about my guitar practicing craziness. That was in a deep depression, you know, but I could hone in and I must just be a flesh being working on my muscles, you know? So finding those things. What is my, what is this depression useful for, my mania? What is that useful for? And where do I set some boundaries, where when signals are going off that it’s gone on too far. And so that’s really like, the main thing, there was all kinds of little tactics in my life, I had shut down days. That this, that’s what involves my family, is that at any point, I could just shut everything down, cancel everything, cancel, not go to work, not get up, not do anything, and be with my family. And strangely enough, that was like the medicine I needed to be with them. Because life, you know, in this time, I was still busy. And I would be pulled off this way in that. And I would just, people didn’t like it, I just cancel everything for a couple of days, and just be Ezra, and allowing that power in my life that I can cancel anything, you know, it was a drastic step. And I had to do it, though. And that went on for years where I had anytime could cancel anything. I didn’t care what the consequences were, because it was my life or death thing. But, and I could I could probably just ruminate and go on and on with that. But those are a few of the tactics that I used and acceptance is is the very foundation of everything, though.
Yeah, it’s good.
Ezra Vancil 24:05
And that’s how I live now is in complete acceptance of, you know, I don’t live, that came off wrong. I don’t live in acceptance. I live a life that is working and trying to accept everything in my life.
Sure. Well, that’s I’m sure that is is helpful to me, it’s helpful to a lot of people are will be rather. I don’t have a history with a lot of depression. I have had a couple of episodes in my life. One of them somewhat recent, since we’ve been here in this particular home and in Panama, and the one the prior one was way back. But I recognize recognize it now. And anyway. Yeah, thanks for sharing. It’s really good stuff. And there’s probably an extended extended toolkit, right. So you should probably write this up for people.
Ezra Vancil 24:53
I could probably do that. I wanted to drop one more in there, because you had mentioned I’d written an open letter, and that actually has some of the tools that I use today in that open letter on my website, which is because, you know, I have the 12 steps in my past to so a higher power became a part of my life. And so I do still spend every morning orienting my life kind of looking at the day before, this is kind of I’ve seen it kind of pop up in stoicism, I’m like, oh, maybe that came over from there, of actually taking account of m day, and then at night, and waking up thinking about my day. And, and having that time where I, you know, basically except what is before me and give it to my higher power.
Does that. What does that involve for you? I’m familiar with this practice. And I’ve, I’ve done it very off and on, more off than on but I like, it’s an attractive concept to me. But does it involve, for instance, you know, journaling, some stuff or more of a mental visual visual inventory.
Ezra Vancil 26:00
You know, so there’s different ways to do it. There. There is some stoic, like, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, some writings where they actually have some technical ways to do it. I know Benjamin Franklin has a book on how he did something very similar with this with a blotter on a calendar, the way I do it is the 12 step way, which is, is literally an inventory as if my life is a business, and all the things and all the people and all the relationships and the pains, and the fears are this inventory on the shelf. And so it is a way, in that philosophy of the 12 step philosophy, you spend a part of the beginnings of working these steps in, in a massive cleanup, and going back everywhere, and you make this, you know, for me is a huge inventory. And after that, it’s called keeping your side of the street clean, which is a daily thing, because if I let go of this, and I do too, I’m kind of off and on too. But if I let go of it, I will all sudden just be completely out of sorts, and not know why. And really can’t even point at anything, because I haven’t kept any kind of track of what my life and all the inventory of my life and the relationships. And so it’s really a way of tackling things with little bites, instead of just waking up one day and having to get the bulldozer out and go overhaul your life. You know, but it literally is a writing down of an inventory almost like I was a business. You know, [I like that.] taking account of these things.
It’s a good visual. I don’t know what it’ll take for me to be more on or a little more on. But I do like to certainly talk to me about it as inspirational. So maybe I’ll give it a shot tonight. Again, see where it goes for the next day. So let’s talk about getting the album done, The Family Songbook. And I guess there is also a nice story about Cosi in here. So yeah, tell me, tell me about about it.
Ezra Vancil 28:02
Look, it’s it’s a nice story about COVID and Cosi because it’s all kind of runs together. Yeah. You know, and I’m always I’ve got to look for, you know, a bright spot in the storm, and this kind of came about during all this. Not, I was in the middle of making an album, and suddenly, nobody wanted to, you know, come over anymore. And nobody wanted to work in a studio, right? So I was completely separated from people and everybody just kind of fell off. And I was sitting here with a nearly finished album. And mostly it was a female vocalist that I love working, I have a few female vocalists that I work with and I love working with them. But they weren’t going to be able to be there for finishing this album. And I thought I’ve got a daughter in there who’s taking voice lessons, and loves to sing, Who’s been sitting next to me with her little guitar all her life, so I brought her out in the studio. And long story short, during this lockdown period, we ended up writing one of the songs together a co written song. She’s also been practicing learning guitar and writing songs. We co wrote a song, which is probably the best song on the album, that just completed the this 12 song album it just made it all, so it was almost, it was meant to be. Then we started, she sang on and completed some of the stuff that Laurie and Kim couldn’t complete. And we also have written a fully EP. We have a band website. She’s working on T shirt designs, and we’re starting a band as part of her, it’s really kind of she, we homeschool her, so it’s part of her curriculum. I want to, I don’t want, my parents just thrust me out into rock and roll world and be like, Oh, that’s great. Go for it. No went off to LA. I want to go in there with her. Now at some point she doesn’t want the old man behind her, I’m sure. But to kind of show her the lay of the land, or at least of what I’ve learned and, and it’s really incredible. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s one of the most beautiful things in music to sit down finally, it is always with somebody else that’s learning to give this away to somebody, but with my daughter is just extra special, you know, and we’ve developed this music relationship. We’re constantly talking about lyrics. This song and that, it’s really cool.
How old is Cosi.
Ezra Vancil 30:27
She is 13. [Wow.] She was 12 when we started our little musical venture, and she just turned 13.
Well, I know she’s filling some big shoes, both figuratively and literally, based on the recordings you’ve done in the past. And especially you have a female bassist, right that you’ve been using
Ezra Vancil 30:45
Ezra Vancil 30:46
And she’s all over this album. Of course, she’s, she’s been with me over a decade. And we’ll continue on. There’s, we did have to kind of pull some strings to get the album done because musicians weren’t, a lot of them weren’t willing to to get together. Studios, of course, we’re closing. And so, but they’re all over, my regular band is all over the album.
Oh, good. You know, it’s funny. I keep mentioning this like it’s a plug on every every episode here that for the past couple weeks or a few weeks, but so I recorded my did my first bonafide solo recording ever. And it just finished the recording process. But I happened to be in a situation, not just because of COVID, where I was dealing with remote musicians. So I did invest in recording gear for recording acoustic drums at home and recording some voice and doing a guitar demo for to give to a real guitar player. And so my primary collaborator is actually located in Arlington, Fort Worth or Arlington. I forget. Oh, yeah. And he happens to be a wonderful engineer. And just a great musician. And then the the third guy is someone I played with in California, who I didn’t know was actually set up to record. Ee was at the tip top of my list with another guy who’s neighbors with the Tarrant County guy. But [Okay] one was set.
Ezra Vancil 32:11
And what is the guy in California play?
Oh he plays bass. Yep, plays bass. And he’s a, he’s one of the more formally educated players I’ve played with, he’s really got a great grasp on theory, he’s got an amazing ear. And on top of that, he’s one of these people that really knows how to lift everybody around him. And it’s really amazing. That’s one of the nicest things about him. It’s just a fun person and a great player. So, you know, one guy wasn’t set up for recording was trying to get there. And life was sort of happening for him. But the other one in California was ready to go. So anyway, I’m just kind of laughing because for me, I didn’t have any choice but to record, you know, remotely. In other words, no going to studios or meeting up with people anyways.
Ezra Vancil 32:56
Yeah. [Anyway.] Yeah. And you know, there’s something really neat about that, too. I embrace both worlds. And, and sometimes it’s out of necessity, some of my players are in Nashville. So I do have remote work that I do, too. Wow. And it is a different, it’s a different feeling. It’s I get a different result that way. [Sure.] But it’s still a good one, and it, And especially like you mentioned if we have this relationship, and it’s more than just Hey, I’m sending this off to some guy. It’s about us creating something together. It’s all there all the magic still there.
Yeah. Well, I mentioned it is different. I have a friend who’s like yourself. He’s been in the business a long time. And he was actually in a really big band for a long time. But he’s, you know, like, in the last few years, launched his first ever solo career to a completely changed face of music. But he was telling me, he’s doing his, he’s finished his second album. It’s not distributed yet. But he was telling me he just, he loves to be at a studio with other players. And that’s just part of how he gets into it. But I don’t, he’s never done it another way, because he’s not, he’s set up to do demos at home, but he’s not really, I don’t think he feels like he set up to do anything high quality at the moment, even though he totally could. But you know, not everybody wants to mess with that.
Ezra Vancil 34:13
Yeah, you know, and I think I’m definitely one that likes the real person experience in sudios. [Sure.] I left that for many years, though, so excited with all the technology, but I found that I can’t say I mean, the songs I’ve created remotely, are beautiful. They’re one you know, there’s some of my favorite songs. So it’s not so much about the recording so much as I love that in my life. I love that feeling like the album, I put an album 2018 called You. I made that in Austin at a studio. We locked up in there and we slept in the studio. And so that, that is just something, I’m not gonna, I’m always looking for a way to, how can I expand the experience of my life while I’m doing you know this work, and that’s one of them. [That’s nice.] As much as possible. I get together with people.
Yeah, I read, I have this. I think it was in Keith Richards book he had one of the stories of recording was in, there’s a few of them, of course, but it was in France for Some Girls, in some tiny little dumpy place, but he really just has fond memories of the sound. And here I am, and you know, and I know a lot of people that on this has been through this, I’m in this acoustically challenging room that doubles as a guest room. And unlike when I first started I’m like, how am I going to make this work? And you know, there’s barely space and you know, where I’m recording right now. In fact, I call it the hole because it’s not really properly set up for any sort of work, but I just made it work. But it would be fun to go like you say to have, there has to be a lot of fun and going and having a different experience whenever you can when you’re recording.
Ezra Vancil 35:54
You know, and it accesses a different part. Like my studio sounds like yours. My my engineers literally screams at me sometimes it gets so frustrating with all the noise and the weird, you know, frequencies build ups and stuff. But uh, you know, there’s there is it accesses a different part of me when I have somebody else running the controls that it and like I said, I don’t know that musically how much it changes, but it certainly changes the experience that I have in making a recording.
Yeah, I would imagine, I would imagine, like the whole sleeping. It’s a little romantic. We’re sleeping in the studio.
Ezra Vancil 36:34
Yeah, it was. Yeah, we’re sleeping. I’ve got funny stories about that one, but sleeping, they’re, creating stories. You know, there’s a video up there called the making of Settle Down Good. But it’s some of the footage from when we were there. And it was just really neat.
Yeah, that’s a good album. I think, hold on. I think I have a nice copy of it right here.
Ezra Vancil 36:56
Hey, Looky there you got it.
I wanted to have it on my backdrop. Here I am. You know, I just shoddily put this together with some painters tape except for this guy here who’s not even in full frame. But yeah, I need to get like a board. So I wanted this to be such a cool look and cover.
Ezra Vancil 37:15
You want to do like it? You know, a lot of studios I go into they’ll have a one. Now, of course, people don’t really do CDs much anymore. But they’ll have a wall of albums that they do. Yeah. And you could have interviews, maybe people would send you a CD or a record or something. And you could have a wall behind you of all the people you’ve interviewed.
Yeah. Yeah, I thought about that, because I got Johnny Burgin here. Actually, you probably can’t really se him to well, but I actually played my first house concert, which was a big build up, in February. He came he came here and we did we did a little club date, then we did a cruise, private cruise thing, and then we did this house concert in a really lovely venue close by. And he’s just such a fine player and singer. But we were, we we got involved, my wife and I got involved in a restaurant called Rockin Taco. And we had mentioned him we wanted to adorn the inside of it with music memorabilia. And so he don’t he made one of the first donations and an autographed.
Ezra Vancil 38:16
So I thought that’s the kind of stuff you need.
Yeah, I figured if enough people see that they’ll start sending me. So yes, shout out to him. He’s a cool guy. Yeah, I didn’t realize that. You had geared up so heavily for house concerts. And I, I feel for you, I, for me, I’ve been enamored with the idea for over a year before it happened. And then I was able to make that one happen. And I just feel like so lucky that it happened the month before all this, but like you I have, there’s this couple that lives in. I believe they’re in Washington State and at a loss, trying to remember that but they, for years, her whole their whole livelihood cycle was in January, she was completing an album, a new album, every January, they would start reaching out to their community, which is all over the country. And they would strictly do house concerts. And that’s it. And he was, he’s her producer. So he would go and kind of be a road producer. But now they, out of necessity, they weren’t sure what they were going to do, but they switch to they actually use zoom and they’re trying to make it an immersive experience, I actually attended one, but he gets to play now which is an upside, because before he wasn’t able to, just because logistically it didn’t make sense. So he can actually perform with her but it’s it’s interesting. Yeah.
Ezra Vancil 39:42
Yeah, you know, yeah, everything It was so it was becoming so much of my life that I felt like except to distribute music. I didn’t need the internet anymore. Yeah, I was making more new listeners were coming so fast and it was so much more, there was so much more connection there with the fans that I was making in that way.
Through house concerts?
Ezra Vancil 40:03
That I was getting further and further away from. I was forgetting to post anything on the internet, you know, though, we would do live streams too, because there’s always somebody, they can’t make it or, you know, or there’s people across the country that want to sit in on this house concert, you know. [Yeah.] I really loved that era, and I put it to bed with with a good feeling in my heart. It was, it’s once again, it’s just a beautiful era in my life. I don’t know when or where or how, what it’ll look like when it comes back. But for me right now, I just see it as a I’m, like you said, I’m so grateful that I had those years [Good.] to have those experiences. You know…
That’s good. Well, I hopefully we’ll both get to do it again, at some point. But if I…
Ezra Vancil 40:45
Oh yeah, let’s hope, knock on wood.
If I don’t, it’s, uh, you know, I did it. So that’s good. I’ll live with that. [Yeah.] What’s your son working with you on, which may have nothing to do with music? I don’t know. But you said your son’s working with you.
Ezra Vancil 40:58
Yeah well, this is so strange. Everything does wrap around COVID. Like my entire life has it, it looks completely different. So it’s another thing that I’m extremely grateful for, is that I, I finally, with the decision, to to lay off of music and the way that I had been doing, I got a job, and this actually happened before COVID. And I hated it. And I was just like, Oh, I was so deflated and felt so horrible that I had had went back to the normie world, you know, and that wasn’t running around with my guitar. And, and, but there’s all these really neat things that happen. First of all, I needed to hire somebody. And so I hired my son, who’s 21. And I’m basically I work in Marketing. And when COVID hit, everything that I was deflated about this new career and everything, I saw how blessed I was, and so I’ve completely embraced it, embrace it as a time that I get to spend with my son every day. And so, but it’s really it’s my, my main gig right now of making money is that and I’m just as, I think I’m more busy in music, and other art things than I was when I had it all all to myself to do, because I just come straight home, and I’m just ready to do to spend the night doing things.
And is the I know not all jobs are this way. But it’s it kind of like when you’re when you’re done for the day, you’re kind of done with it until the next day.
Ezra Vancil 42:26
Yeah. And yeah, and that’s something I didn’t realize, either.
Ezra Vancil 42:31
I forgot, because I’ve had real jobs. I’ve had jobs in marketing. And I had forgotten there is a payoff for this is that I can now put it in the corner of my life, and work and making money with just, you know, through music, and I did all kinds of side jobs when I needed to pay the bills was chaos, because I never knew when anything was coming. I didn’t know. I’d be working all night this night. And then I’ve got a drive out here. You know, it was, and so there’s something really nice going okay, that’s done. And now I can I’m free. You know, cuz it never ended. It was 24 hours a day before.
Yeah, And not to like, advocate to everyone to get a job. But are you…?
Ezra Vancil 43:13
Jobs are good.
Yeah I know. Yeah. Yeah. Are you actually also unencumbered musically in a way, because you don’t have to worry as much about making ends meet now you can go just do your art.
Ezra Vancil 43:26
Yeah, and you know, there this is a huge thing, little things that I realized I remember. Yeah. Because they I mean, I had a good five, six years of just music really. And I would do side jobs, but it was mainly. And so I forgot that, and I didn’t realize how much I spent just trying to get money for recordings, when you’re touring stuff is breaking constantly. And I was broke every moment of every day. And just trying to get my albums done and trying to make them not with 50 bucks, you know. And so it was that again, that there is a lot of relief in that and that I can now budget that and be a little more free with how I work in music, you know.
That’s cool. I have a, you know, another repeat offender on the podcast. Her name is Lara Price we met in California, but she lives in Austin now. And she’s a wonderful singer, songwriter. And I don’t know if it was a decision decision right when she got to Austin, but we’re mutually acquainted with a guy named Ray Prim out of Austin, who for, he had a full time life in music years ago, but for many years, he’s just, he’s had a job and he plays music how and when he wants to and he’s really good. He, she said to me, I decided I was going to take a page out of his book and go find a job, but the last time I talked to her, she so she did find a job, I guess, you know, whatever, 2,3, 4 years ago, and when I talked to her somewhat recently, she, she basically has upgraded her job. She’s got quite a nice job now. And the thing she said to me, she says, I don’t have to play covers anymore. And, you know, metaphorically speaking, I guess that’s what I was reaching for there that that sort of…
Ezra Vancil 45:25
I think we all know what that means. Because I love playing covers, but when you have to, it’s a different thing.
I forgot what song she mentioned, but we all have one or two of these, you know, and she said, I don’t ever have to play that song unless I want to. Yeah. So yeah, but yeah, there was a certain clearly a certain freedom. And I also read, so Derek Sivers recently,
Ezra Vancil 45:46
The CD Baby guy?
Yeah, he recently published a series of books. And the one I picked up, much of the stuff I’d read through some blogs and interviews he’d done. But he had this passage in there about, the most successful artists that he knows are the ones who have jobs. Because they’re the happiest, and they’re, I guess, you know, it speaks to that unencumbered facet that they have with their art, once they’re not worried about and having to deal with all the overhead of trying to run the business of the music or the painting, or whatever it is, or both.
Ezra Vancil 46:21
Yeah, and it’s really, really true. And you know, and I was just getting to a point, when, when everything fell apart, that I could see, like, the job that I do have now was built for touring, like, I’m remote, I can go into an office, but it was built for my music life to continue on, just like I’d always done, though, now, I’m just treating it as my full day. But there is a lot of comp, let’s say temptations of compromise, when I when my music is my business in my income, I would do a lot of things that I don’t have to do now, you know, and I would play shows that I don’t have to play, and I didn’t want to play him in but um, you know, it was that or, you know, the water was going of, you know, but it also like in the deeper realms of the artists mind, it can get into the writers room, and it can get into how, what song I’m going to put out first and what the way I produced this, and for me in very little ways decisions were being made about the business of music before, then, let’s say they threatened that that ecosystem that I love, which is making the music, and that’s all about that, but I could see it starting to encroach on that. Even down to like, I have popular songs like everybody does that. When I would play I had to play the popular songs to you know, for these type of venues and everything where I was off for that of years off of those songs, you know, yeah. And I don’t have to do that so much anymore.
Yeah. You can Kurt Cobain and or Michael Stipe it and just say I don’t go there anymore
Ezra Vancil 48:07
Yeah I’ll just turn around on stage and not look at anybody.
That’s nice. And then someday you’ll be comfortable playing those again.
Ezra Vancil 48:16
Yeah, and they come back around, you know, yeah.
Let’s see what else I got here. I’m not I’m not tweeting, let’s see some more stuff to talk about. As we approach the end of our time together. You know something I found kind of interesting, you said, you described how you feel in this new age of, I guess live streaming, those weren’t your words, but just sort of where you’re not as much perhaps I’m, I’m putting I’m putting words into it in between the lines, but maybe where you’re not interacting with people as much.
And the particular thing I read was one of your emails and newer, had had an opportunity to do something with a local station, I guess, it was KBTX? And you did a live thing for them. Um, I know probably a lot has transpired in that short time. But how do you feel today about doing, being involved in the live streams? Would it only be something if it’s by invitation, and they’re doing all the heavy lifting? I’ll be there and I’ll show up and play and do my best or do you do them yourself? Will you do them yourself?
Ezra Vancil 49:23
You know, I’m still kind of, I have done a few more since then, And I’m still kind of on the fence about the whole thing. I think what describes it best, I was with some friends and one of them is putting together a whitewater rafting trip, and somebody asked is that live or on Zoom? He was asking everybody if they wanted to go and that describes everything to me. Is that the experience now, You know, I’m kind of jealous of people that are just like you mentioned somebody just coming into this. Maybe to them, it’s just what it is, you know, for me, this is not why I do music. I do,and I say particularly, for what I was doing was something much more than, And I don’t want to say pomp, sound pompous or anything, but it was it was literally about a human connection. And it was [Sure.] about the closeness of people. That was part of the formula is cramming them as close as possible, and in the smallness of venues and having the relationship. That’s, that’s really the only reason I played live anymore. I’ve played, you know, the gig thing and the festival thing. I’ve done all that to death, and I was experiencing what I always thought it could be, which was relationships with people and creating experiences that are profound. And it’s not just me doing, I’m just there facilitating this group of people having an experience of a lifetime. And so, when I say all that, you know, pulling up the zoom, and doing that kind of thing is so foreign to me, I don’t, I’ve tried it, I’ve tried it in better situations, and, and that one situation was just a, an easy one to do. And I don’t know, if I’m gonna be able to climb on top of this, you know, and, you know, there’s something because I have to back, like, a lot of people listening probably don’t, we’ve talked that, you know, my life is kind of, my musical life, you can’t put it in a business plan, because it’s personal. [Sure.] And I had an experience that was, it defines my life, you know, I was just wanted to kill myself for 10 years, I tried to and I nearly succeeded. And I woke up. And so when I, when I came out of that, I realized that I really have a quest in music. And it’s something that I don’t know, that I can do in that way, you know, and not to say, I won’t do it, but I can’t pour myself into something, a whitewater rafting trip on zoom every week, you know, because that’s what a live concert is to me. It was a profound experience with people in a room. [Yeah.] And so it’s so different to me, I can’t wrap my head around it, you’re honest.
I understand, especially with the time that you’d put in both performing live at, at public venues. And then the songwriter festivals, and then however many months you were doing the house concert thing, and from what I have learned about house concerts, only having done one, but I spent a lot of time learning about them, and talking to people about them. I can imagine where this would be tough. There’s a guy that I’m going to send you his Facebook thing because he does live streams live a couple times a week, is a longtime friend I played with and he he’s not he’s not done enough writing in his life. He’s done a little bit way back when but he just loves performing. And he loves entertaining people. And it was with some reluctancy he got into it. You guys have had very different paths. But with some reluctancy he got into it into streaming live. And I invited him on the podcast after I watched one of his shows. And we talked about it. It was pretty fun. It was interesting, but I don’t know if he’ll be any sort of inspiration or just like a an interesting, interesting thing for you to see. [Yeah.] How someone who kind of has come at music in a different way is is dealing with it. Now he’s you know, he’s kind of still in that music is all I do. It’s all I know. So he’s still doing it. But I think he’s having fun. And he’s, and he’s getting well compensated and he, one thing he said to me that I’ll never forget when we had talked for the podcast about it. He said, I could kick myself, I could kick myself, I could kick myself for not setting up like Venmo and PayPal A long time ago.
Ezra Vancil 52:24
Yes, you know, and I’m not knocking at all. I actually one of my best musical friends is a full time musician, his name’s Paco Estrada, and he was a touring artist, no he is on the online thing. He knows it. He’s, I bring this stuff up to him and he just kind of looks at me, like, what’s your problem you know, like, get up there and do your thing. So I know some people adapt very well to it. I just, you know, I I have to have a huge carrot to put all the effort I do and do what I do, as we all do. Yeah. And that carrot isn’t looking really yummy to me right now, you know?
Well, I can I can relate in that. Like I have a tough time getting on and just doing a 2, 3, 4 minute live thing on, you know, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and which is something I really should do for people, you know, to sort of build awareness for the for the podcast, and to offer stuff that will help musicians hopefully, and I just had the toughest time and I’ve started doing it, you know tip-toeing in and it’s kind of train wreck ish, you know, but I think that’s, that’s also part of it, but you bring up a good point, you know. What’s the what’s the carrot? What does it look like? What’s it taste like?
Ezra Vancil 54:54
And you might have seen this, if you’re following me, I would do that I would jump on Instagram and do live. things and yeah, all my home concerts, all my concerts are streamed live. But it was all in course of doing my mission and life. There was all part of that. And now I’m like, What is it part of, you know. So, you know, it’s something mentioned that, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But this next phase, what was supposed to happen in 2020, for me, was to take this intimate concert and this relationship that I’ve have with people. And I went and played for an aunt that was in an old folks home with my daughter. This is way before COVID. And she had a roommate there, and then other people were coming in the door, most beautiful musical experience I’ve ever had. And so we would go back and play there. And also got an opportunity to play at a prison. And, and talk, you know, also, in all the experience of my life is part of the most beautiful musical experience I’ve ever had. And so phase two is to take this intimacy even further not even asked the old folks home down the street if we could come on Sundays and, and play a concert. [Yeah.] I was checking in, I was starting to talk to some people I know and prison work to see how can I get in there? Because, you know, it’s, it is about the music. It’s about the toys of music. It’s about all the recording and the fun stuff. I love it. I love all that stuff. But it’s gotta connect deeply to what my life is about, and give something that that I’m going to take with me are, it’s it’s just not going to make it in the schedule. You know, I’m not wanting to schedule, it’s just not gonna make it there.
Yeah, yeah. Well, I hope that happens.
Ezra Vancil 56:44
I do too.
I hope that I hope that your books get published.
Ezra Vancil 56:48
Yeah me too.
And I look forward to hearing your daughter on the new album. That’s really cool. I want to thank you for spending time with me a second time for this round two. I am going, I wanted to tell you one last thing. I’ve been thinking about this off and on, but it came in my head today, maybe because we were talking about your first conversation for the podcast is one of a few that stick out that has a really nice story within the entire conversation. And I I wanted to put together a series of episodes that just have like my favorite stories that were told on the podcast. And they’re usually, actually they’re almost always pretty heavy. But I wanted to make sure and include that one in there.
Ezra Vancil 57:31
I might have rich things in life.
Yeah, I was thinking as we were talking like, I should run these by you see what you think of them to hear you know what some of these other people have said on there, just to see what you think.
Ezra Vancil 57:39
I wish I could switch my screen round I was gonna show you maybe that’s a new screenshot. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts anymore. I used to a lot. But you are one of three music podcasts that I still will let it run through. So I still listen to our episodes.
Nice. Thank you.
Ezra Vancil 57:55
So, you know, I do I love what you’re doing. I’m glad that you just keep doing it. And you know, just keep going with it. Because I think it’s a real special thing. And you have a way of interviewing that is really neat. I’ve done a lot of interviews. And it’s always like a just a nice conversation with you. [Thanks.] And I want to throw something in here. I hope I hope I don’t extend you past any deadline. That might be kind of neat. It’s something I want to I had a friend that passed away on Monday, actually, when you called I was just trying to get all the crying out of me. [I’m sorry.] Like, I don’t know what this podcast is gonna be like. And it but it goes to speak to so much of what I talk about is he wasn’t he wasn’t just a fan. He was a friend and a lifelong friend. And, but he was my biggest fan. And he supported me. And unlike anybody I’ve ever known. And his name was Peter Salicco. I wanted to honor him by saying that, but also, you know, I switched from Patreon to Bandcamp a while back. And our conversation was started from you asking about that Bandcamp, and it’s really neat. So right before this interview, I saw his son call me and I was like, I can’t pick it up. I’m just gonna start crying.
Ezra Vancil 59:14
We’re gonna, I’m just gonna sit here and cry on your show. And what he had done is somebody had given his father a grant. And they wanted to know, my Bandcamp because they said, you know, we want to give it to something he would care about. And of course he would, he would support Ezra.
Ezra Vancil 59:31
And it just, it’s, it’s the, the thing that I’m talking about, you know, it’s just that I, I’ve always been trying, I’ve been trying to get my audience smaller and smaller, so that I can have something of this rich experience that’s really like, you know, that somebody you know, and he’s more than a fan, but but it goes to speak for, of having something in their life that is profound enough that I am Part of that, through the music and experiences are brought to people, you know, and the money doesn’t even matter. It’s that sentiment that, that my life meant something, you know, that the work that I do, whether I don’t care if it’s I’ve played all the shows with two people in the audience, I want it to matter today, I want it to be a fun night to be an experience. And, you know, I thought that was kind of neat, you know, bringing it back to like the Bandcamp thing. And the subscription thing of that, too, is a relationship, you know. [Yeah.] And that these relationships are the most important things we have.
Yeah, well, first off, I’m sorry for your loss. And secondly, thank you for sharing that. And thirdly, I guess, nice way to bring it full circle.
Ezra Vancil 1:00:48
From its from all those days of podcasting, you know.
Ezra Vancil 1:00:52
We tied up in a nice bow at the end.
Yeah, totally. Well, thanks, Ezra. When I get back in town when I can travel from here to there. Because I want to see see my brothers. We’ll have to get together for breakfast again, I hope and [Absolutely.] it’d be a blast, man.
Ezra Vancil 1:01:08
Yeah, and you know what, this time I have a drum set in my living room because our band is rehearsing here, so it’ll be ready for you. You’ll come over, breakfast and then we can jam.
That sounds great. I have listened to the drums on your albums and go man, I’d love to just hear what that snare sounds like in the room. So anything that you record with I’d really love or contemplate recording with. I’d really love to hear the tuning on it. So that that would be a blast. I’ll take you up on that for sure.
Ezra Vancil 1:01:35
All right, well, come on over.
All right, man. Good talking with you, buddy.
Ezra Vancil 1:01:40
You too. Nice Good seeing you have a good one.
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- The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs, by Robonzo
- Bandzoogle– The all-in-one platform that makes it easy to build a beautiful website for your music
- The Musician’s Profit Path: The 5-Stage Blueprint To Create Massive Growth In Your Fan Base and Sustainable Income For Your Music Career, by Bree Noble
- No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour, by Shannon Curtis
Visit my Resources page for more musician resources.
Pardon the Interruption (Disclosure)
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