In this episode, Ezra Vancil interviews me about my forthcoming debut single On Top Of The World. We cover the history of my songwriting, the process of songwriting, using public proclamation as a source of accountability, various technical challenges I faced in writing and recording the song, the players involved, and the forthcoming video.
On Top Of The World drops January 8th, 2021. Download it for free at Robonzo.com.
Our discussion covers themes common among creative individuals. Taking the leap from “wanting” to sing one’s own music to actually writing and recording a song is one example. Ezra and I are both acquainted with brute forcing our way through certain aspects of the creative processes that apply writing and recording music. We’re also familiar with the dilemma of knowing when we’re done with a song, its lyrics and even specific parts. When is a song good enough? These are among the many things that can keep musicians from moving forward with writing and recording endeavors. Our conversation also explores the uncertainties, insecurities and obstacles.
This interview was put together as promotional piece for the song. Because Ezra is such a great songwriter and lovely human being, we were able to bounce between my experiences and his. The resulting conversation was helpful to me in many ways. I hope it will be equally so for you.
There’s a very unsexy part of the creative process, when you’re making your way toward a finished song. It’s the part where you brute force your way through certain aspects that just have to happen in order to get to the end goal.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Ezra Vancil
- A Hidden Album Collection Discovery–Ezra Vancil (Ep 42)
- Keeping Your Side of the Street Clean–Ezra Vancil (Ep 182)
- Guitarist and Studio Engineer In Demand–Chris Raspante (Ep 186)
- Chris Raspante on Serendipity, Networking, Reputation, Nashville, and The Wonders of Today’s Talent (Ep 002)
- Tranquilo Retreat
Unstarving MusicianRobonzo 0:02
This is the Unstarving Musician. I am your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with indie music artists and industry professionals, and me. All intended to help independent music artists better understand the marketing, business and creative processes that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
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Welcome back to another episode. This one is all about me. I’m just kidding. It’s a conversation with me and Ezra Vancil about my new song On Top Of The World which drops January 8 2021. You’ll be able to hear it on all the platforms digitalis at that time. Until then you can hear it and even download it for free at Robonzo.com. My artist website, powered of course, by Bandzoogle. This was put together as part of my promotional campaign for the song, the promotional campaign I’m in the midst of putting together. The idea was to have a snippet of audio content or some snippets based on two or more interviews that I lined up, like this one, of me being interviewed that is. But Ezra, because he’s such a great songwriter and just a lovely human being, we were able to bounce between my new song and his experience as a seasoned songwriter and recording artist, which adds a lot to the conversation, I think. I must mention that we, I was using video for one of the first times in my podcast recording career, with Zoom; and because it’s a new element in my world of podcasting, it made, I made the mistake of being a bit too far off from microphone, so I compensated, but at times my voice may be a wee bit low. So my sincere apologies for that. So Ezra and I cover the following: the history of my songwriting, the process of songwriting, the leap from wanting to sing to actually writing and recording a song, making it publicly known that I was working on and the recording and release of my own song for the sake of accountability, that publicly known part, for the sake of accountability, something that Ezra does as well. We also talk about brute forcing our way through certain aspects of writing and recording, the honesty of my song and me as a songwriter like, for instance, my limited guitar vocabulary, the my absence from the drums at the time, I started recording, various technical challenges, etc., the influences that others hear in our music, and in my song. We also chat about the hardest part of writing or the writing process. For me, it’s something he asked me about. And the great question of “Am I done yet?” And I think that applies to anything creative, right? You’re like, Am I done yet? Is it good enough? Is it good enough? Am I done yet? And we also chat about the many things that keep us from moving forward with writing and recording our music, talking about everybody who writes or wants to write, the story of the players on my song On Top Of The World, and the video, back at the beginning of the process. We talked about things that are changing, because I still haven’t actually started shooting it. And so some things have changed. We don’t talk about a lot of those changes, but I’ll get into those probably in another episode. But what you’re going to kind of hear what was happening at the inception, we recorded this man, when did we record this? I’m not sure I don’t have that date in front of me. But it was weeks ago. As I record this intro on the 15th of December. Twenty twenty is almost done! And then you know, Ezra, I love this conversation because Ezra shares his relatable experiences and struggles, comparing them kind of, or contrasting them to my journey, which really makes for a nice conversation. So I hope you enjoy it. I know Ezra would hope for the sam. Hopefully he enjoys it when he does listens back. I think he will. Okay, here is me and Ezra Vancil.
Ezra Vancil 5:05
I find it interesting, when I talk to someone that is like a drummer, someone that’s sitting in the back of the band a lot that steps forward. And one of the things that was, when I first heard your song, is surprising because it, I love how voices come out from a talking voice. It’s always, your singing voice surprised me. It doesn’t fit your your talking voice.
That’s funny. I would say, you know, it’s funny because I, you’re one of those singers that I hear your talking voice when I hear you sing, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. Because I’ve heard many a singer and go, wow, that’s that person?
Ezra Vancil 5:47
Yeah, it’s always surprising to me, because sometimes it fits. And then sometimes you’re like, wow that voice comes out of… Where did you first start singing? When was? Do you sing apart? I know, you play and you play with bands? Were you always singing with the bands? or so is that been a part of your life? The singing part of it?
You know it has, but I only started really taking it seriously in more recent years, maybe like the last 10. And it feels like as I’ve gotten closer to the point of doing the song that I’ve been getting more and more serious about it, because I’ve been trying to do it for decades, right? but I was always very nonchalant about it. And then as I started getting around people who were really good singers, I would try to pick up what I could you know, to learn from them. Never taking a voice lesson, I actually took my first lesson here recently, because I did my my demo, and I’m like, okay I want I want to try and do better. So I called on a friend who’s got a lot of great experiences for… She thought, man I think you just need a quick lesson for what you’re trying to do. But so, yeah, it’s been something I’ve really been focusing on more and more the last five years, but I have yet to answer the question more directly. I’ve always sang behind the drum kit. And then there’s been the occasional, you know, there’s a drummer around, let’s bring him up front for something.
Ezra Vancil 7:08
Okay. Well, when’s the first time that you dive dove into songwriting? Was that when you said, we talked at one point, and you said when, it was you’re younger, you kind of touched on it. Tell us a little bit about that. And, like, where did it start, your first songwriting experience?
You know, my first and my most recent are so far apart. It’s funny. I was still living in Texas, and I want to say is maybe the 90s, early 90s, if not the 80s and, dating myself now. But yeah, I wrote a probably penned I think, I want to say three, it might have only been two songs, and they got they got demoed and but you know, they didn’t get published or anything. And, and actually, at that time, I just, I wrote lyrics, and I had some bandmates that were, you know, competent guitar players and, and worked on some arrangement stuff. And, you know, we went out and played that stuff a bit. I think the band might have been together, two or three years, and that was that. And then I just kind of forgot about it. But I think that with the advent of the Unstarving Musician podcast and the book that spawned that idea, I started writing more and more and more. And then I started, since I’ve been in Panama, I met an ex-pat from Canada, who hosts writing workshops for people who want to write fiction, at this really cool place called Tranquillo Retreat nearby. And so I attended some of those and really enjoyed them. And it made me think a lot about staying creative. Because for for a blogger, for me, it was always easy to just run out of things to say, you know, and it really as the saying goes, it really just takes practice, right? So once I started getting in those workshops, this person who runs the workshops, her name is Lynda Alison. She’s really special to me, but she, she, she knows I’m a musician. And she knew I had aspirations to write a song. So whenever I was at a workshop, she just would always provide input about the work that I did there from the perspective of a songwriter, so she was subtly encouraging me. And like I mentioned to you before we started rolling, I picked the guitar back up. Maybe it’s been a couple years, I think it’s probably been about a year that I picked it back up and had the good fortune to be playing with some guys that are good musicians. So they’ll sit down with me, you know, and show me some things and gosh, I just laugh. I laugh at all the tools that kids have now to learn an instrument that did not exist when when I was younger.
Ezra Vancil 9:58
It feels like cheating, doesn’t it?
It does. It has to be frustrating for people, you know, who want to teach and that are teaching, but you know, they’re just laboring over this free content. But I know they, you know, they get some students too. So yeah, I mean, it was January of this year when I came to the circle of writing again and wrote the song, and now I’m actually working on new ones, too.
Ezra Vancil 10:21
So how many, so when you came back to songwriting, that’s interesting that it came through fiction that you were inspired to go back to songwriting. But you know, do you find I find, because I actually, I write novels too, just for fun, you know, actually just enjoy the writing process. And I find that things feed upon each other. So I’ve actually painted. I’m not that great at it. But I find that if I go paint, or I go work on a story, it inspires the part of me that is that I’m a little bit better at. Yeah, but they feed on each other, you know? Did you find that, has your songwriting kind of kicked alive your fiction writing?
Yeah, I’m not really pursuing writing fiction. As much as I enjoy it. It just seems like such a monumental task to me. So, you know, I have a lot of admiration for people who do it. But I mean, at the same time, when I’ve been writing, I guess, might almost constitute what they call flash fiction, which I didn’t know anything about. It’s just these really, really micro stories, you know, but but I’m, I agree with you. The same is true for me, rather that everything for, I mean I got a lot of ideas from podcast, people I met through the podcast, who I never, you know, I’ve never even, I’ve haven’t met most people through the podcast, like I’ve actually met you and your fam, your wife. But when I talk to people on for the podcast, I feel like I’ve met you, and stories come out. And so when I went to those first workshops, there were some things that were inspired from conversations. And then of course, those pieces of prose work themselves, one of them worked itself into one of my songs. But outside of songwriting, the same is true when I’m, you know, now I’m learning that much of what I do can cycle through these different parts of the, you know, the podcasting community, that is my world, because I’ve got these episodes, these topics we talk about, I share them with, you know, email subscribers, I create a small video snippet from something that I said in the email, and then I have this other podcast that you may know about for small businesses that will often use some of the same content for because they’re so they’re so parallel. Yes.
Ezra Vancil 12:39
You know, it’s interesting that like, you’ve actually done something. So I’ve been playing since I was a teenager. And of course, when you’re playing music, I meet a lot of musicians and I’ve had lots of time with musicians. And I’ve met so many people that are maybe a drummer that’s really good at the drums, but they desire when you get to know them, to write songs to be on, you know, at the mic, or bass player or vice versa. And I can’t tell you how many of them never have gone as far as you’ve gone now, I’ve met these people they’ll show me a song in their studio they’re working on, a decade passes, maybe another song that I never hear. I’m like send me the recording and I, you know, you need to do that song or whatever you know encourage them. But what do you think that is? Did you face any kind of maybe like resistance in actually doing this? What was the resistance your faced in stepping out behind the drums behind the podcast and walking over? you know writing the song and then pushing it all the way through to through production and release. Tell me a little bit about that.
Well you know there’s still resistance because I haven’t ran the final mile yet. There’s still the task of release, but yeah all the way there was, and you know when I did? I just heard somebody talking about this yesterday. I’m attending this great, it’s funny I’m attending this great, well trying to I’ve been so busy with these projects, side projects I’m working on have nothing to do with music. I haven’t. I’m gonna have to try and watch replays but I’m watching this conference put on by Teachable, those guys that have the course plat, you know, course creation platform, and there was a speaker on there who was talking about this, and now I can’t remember what he said, but I’ll tell you that you know, for me there was just, Oh, I know what it was he said that putting putting it out publicly that you’re going to do something now, is one way of building accountability. And I have been putting this up publicly, a couple of things. I’m gonna put together this recording, you know, set up. I’m gonna put up this video studio setup which I still haven’t done by the way, so I can do some stuff, you know, be a drummer on Instagram kind of thing. That’s a big thing, right? And I’m gonna write a song, I’m writing a song, I’m gonna record this thing. I’m putting it out on the podcast and on my, into my email list. And I’m actually, in my email list says, Well, here’s the update on my song. And that was a nice push, I think. But, you know, I always say that what holds us back in life is inertia, right? We get comfortable in the inertia of whatever we’re comfortable in. And it’s just so easy to let it keep going that way. But yeah, that was it. I think, just accountability and hey man, you know, life’s passing by I don’t have all day. I don’t have that much time man.
Ezra Vancil 15:33
Yeah, I know. You know, and that’s really neat. That’s what I do. That’s actually the same technique I’ve used for years, is I actually book stuff. I’ll talk about it, I’ll get people expecting it. I’ll even make artwork for something I haven’t created yet. Like, you know, these this album series, I didn’t even have the album’s written and I made the artwork and like, put it out. So this new three album series I’m doing, that was all for me. Because like, you’re saying, I’ve got to have this incredible inertia to continue on. Because the inertia of my my natural inertia, and I think a lot of musicians, is to fiddle I love my, my, I love all my gear. I love to play around in here. But to actually get the other band members to work it all through, that takes another part of my mind, that’s organizational, of finally completing this song, you know, where it’s cohesive, and I can show it to somebody, get the drums, get the arrangement. That’s all a part of my mind that has, I have to just start flight and fly through, you know, and it’s the exact same way I do it. I just put it out there. I’ll book stuff and make myself, force myself into, you know embarrass myself to get it done.
Yeah, I’m in good company, then I guess. You know, it’s funny, there’s this very unsexy part of the creative process, you know, getting your way through to a finished piece of product, just one little thing, like a song that you want to have a video for, and some sort of actual release, there are all these components that are just like, you know, right now for, for example, it’s me trying to get up at anywhere between 5:00 and 5:30 in the morning, when, when my, you know, not look at anything except the screen that I have some prose written on and start writing. And you, I know you’ve done that before yourself with improving your guitar skills. So yeah, there’s just this part where you’re, you’re, I don’t know, you’re brute forcing your way through certain aspects that just have to happen in order to get to the end goal.
Ezra Vancil 17:37
I think that’s that’s a very, something that’s overlooked when you’re when people are dreaming of this. Even a musician that’s are already learned an instrument because I’ll still forget that, like, I’m trying to pick up mandolin, you know, I play mandolin, but I want to be good at it. Well, you know, I forget how hard it was to be good at the guitar and then songwriting, and I forget that there is some heavy lifting, and it’s not. It’s almost like this curve of just trudge, trudge, stretch, stretch, and then all sudden, one day, you know, as a musician or songwriter, that bam, something happens and you’re at a new level. But, uh, it is, there’s hard work, what do you, what is your process look like? Like, I get up in the mornings and do my songwriting? Like, do you have a regular visit with your, do you writeon the guitar? Or is it in the mornings, or?
Well I’m at a funny place, because, um, you know, if you if you listen closely to the trajectory of my musicianship here, my songwriting career, you know, there was a lot of years of not touching the guitar. So where I’m at right now is, spending morning time to write some prose, that’ll eventually be, I’ll have some frameworks for lyrics. And I’m, I booked time to spend with that Lynda, who’s who’s, I was gonna say that that writing mentor who doesn’t know she’s a writing mentor, with Lynda to write with her. And, and then in the afternoons, you know, my goal has been, I haven’t been great at this. But you know, my goal has been to get the guitar back into my afternoons for a bit, because this is a really weird part for me, I’m not a I’m, I’m a very marginal guitar player right now. It was. It was. I mean, it wasn’t luckier, I guess, but, you know, if you listen to the song, it’s got a decent progression, but in a way, it does feel kind of lucky, given my limited skill set there. So I have to spend some time over the coming months for new songs to develop, you know, broader vocabulary, and maybe collaborating with people though to get there, because I don’t know if I told you but, a friend of mine who’s still In the business is, he’s got a new label venture he’s working on and he heard my song when it was, he heard it before it was completely done. He heard it when it was done, he goes, he goes up write an album, I’ll put it out on my label deal I got going on. And so I thought about it talk to him a little bit. And I’m like, Well, what the hell? And my wife? Of course, it’s like, well, you have to do it. So, you know, I have I have all that ahead of me that have to have to figure it out one way or another, I’ve got to either. Well, I’m sure it’ll be a combination of improving my guitar vocabulary, and probably collaborating. So I’ve been thinking about that, as I meet, you know, start to look at and listen to people a little differently than I used to.
Ezra Vancil 20:40
Yeah, and Kompoz, you’ve done a few interviews with those guys from Kompoz, which is a great place to do that. Yeah.
Yeah. In fact, I just, I’m releasing an episode tomorrow, as we record this, with the one guy that I’m actually contributed tracks for one of his projects on Kompoz. And I haven’t said this to him publicly, but I thought he might be an interesting person to work with, you know, on this album, hopefully, that hopefully comes to fruition. He might be interesting person. But yeah, you know how it is, like yourself, I’ve met a lot of musicians and you start thinking about maybe this guy can play some piano and maybe write a song with me or something.
Ezra Vancil 21:19
Yeah, and that’s, that’s, that’s one of the neat things about working with other people is that especially as a songwriter is and this might be what you’re doing right now working with somebody on composes that, you’ll find that when I bring somebody else in, it influences how I write, like, for a year, I had a piano player, I’d never had a piano player in the band. But when we had one, my song started changing for that worked really well, with piano players. You know, it’s interesting. So I guess if you bring a, you know, an oboe player into the band, all sudden, you’ll start composing songs and have a great little section for an oboe solo or something. I’m making up a scheme off the top of my head. Now, so what do you, so coming at it with a limited guitar vocabulary, what was the first, this song On Top Of The World? What was it like? How did you structure this? Was this written lyrics first, and then you came up with a melody, or did it kind of gel together at the same time?
Um you know, I figured, well, the two biggest challenges would be for me, in my head, were going to be to execute a good vocal track. And the other one was to just come up with the melody with the music. So I started with the melody in the music, and I had just been sitting down with the guitar, and I had this riff, you know, going on while I was playing, and I had this idea in my head. It’s so funny when, you know I don’t know if you’ve experienced this before, ike I said, I’m a young songwriter, so I’m like a baby, this is all new. But I’m thinking in my head, like, Oh, this would be great. It has this sort of Who’s Next kind of feel. And, and so and, you know, as I’m playing it, that’s how I’m hearing it in my head. I don’t think that’s the way it’s actually sounding. So I cobbled together a demo of an acoustic guitar and vocal demo and send it to this friend of mine in in Arlington, Texas, not far from you. And I respect him a ton as a guitar player. And he does I know he does some some engineering and production stuff. And he’s got a nice rich history, good singer, everything. And I asked him to give it a listen and see if he liked it. And he’s like, Yeah, man, I dig it. And like, I was hoping you’d play guitar on it. And so he, he asks me what I was looking for, what what styles I shooting for, and I’m like, well, I got this kind of Who’s Next vibe, you know, in my head. And anyway, I worked with two other guys, him, he did a lot of instrumentation on it. He’s doing all the guitars and little things you might hear in there. And then I got a bass player, I was going to use another guy in Arlington, but the timing didn’t work out. So he’s one of my other good friends from San Jose. And, but, you know, you get this end result. So what I felt when I first as soon as I heard it with a guitar solo on it, not because of my vocals or the lyrics, I thought this song sounds a little Tom Petty, but I don’t mind that, you know, at all. And I also by the way, I had this grand vision for these Keith…
Ezra Vancil 24:09
I picked up that up too, Tom Petty.
Yeah, I had these grand visions for like, Keith Moon sort of attack on the drums. But here was another funny thing too, you know, I just have not been playing that much. So I’m like, Okay, this is pretty. I’m just gonna, I’m gonna do this and it’ll be nice, you know, so I settled on what I played, but I was happy with it. And then I tell my bass player about my original, you know, I kind of wanted this aggressive bass and he actually he actually did do that. I think, you know, I was kind of hoping for something somewhere between John Entwistle and what is his name De Leon? I forgot his first name from STP. And yeah, so he sends me back what he’s got. And then, you know, what’s really funny is between the Tom Petty and what other people have said about it, I’m like, huh, really well. I mean, I’ve heard everything from from Rush, which I think comes from the baseline to David Bowie. I’m not sure where that comes from, but it’s a lot of fun and It’s it’s funny.
Ezra Vancil 25:01
His name is Steve Storm,
Ezra Vancil 25:04
Strom. So, yeah, you know, I got that what you just mentioned the Tom Petty thing, Rush, which I thought was kind of from your vocals a little bit. [okay] Also the song structure has kind of a Rush, kind of the lyrical structure actually. But that’s always interest, that’s fun too, because you have people just pick up all kinds of things a lot of times, with me, I didn’t even, it’s not anybody I even listen to, but I’m that’s interesting that you hear that. And that’s, it’s neat. You know, it’s part of the songwriter, the joy of songwriting, like you were talking about where I do the same thing. If I get an idea, it might not directly go to a song, or an artist specifically, but I’m hearing, probably a production. That is some other artist’s that I’m not identifying. But it’s the same sort of thing. And that’s where I get this, the entire thing is like, I want to create that. And then sometimes it is like, I can hear like a Tom Petty type thing. And I’m like, I want to not create exactly that. But I want to create what that makes me feel like, you know, and so, having that initial feeling driving through it. What did you now? Did you write the lyrics all out? It sounds like it all kind of kind of happened as you’re going. But did you have all the lyrics written out? When you when you started writing it? Or when you send it off to your guitar player?
Um, no, you know, and yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t, I probably didn’t fully answer the last question. But so yeah, I put together the melody and the structure, really the entire structure of the song on the guitar. And the first demo I sent him. I’m trying to remember if it even had the lines in the chorus. But the very first demo I created that I shared with another friend had a verse, maybe two, and it had just me humming the melody of what I thought would be the chorus. And then I had this, I had prior to that, I’d gone to some prose I’d written and, you know, shaped that into into verses. And, yeah, at some point early on, the chorus came to me, and I, you know, it’s funny, all these influences I had in the back in my head, I, I sort of, for me I recognize this quick rush, like, not rush as in the band, but they’re like this quick rush to the chorus. And back to it again. And I felt well, REM had a lot of success with that, it’s coming naturally. I’ll just do it in the song, you know, the song will feel kind of short. And you know, I know they had success with that. So I’ll just go with that. You know, it can’t be bad. Right? But, yeah, the lyrics in total, though, came completely together, after weeks, but for the most part, I would say they were, you know, 90% done. In the first, I don’t know, maybe a few weeks, as I was, you know, spending time here and there to get it recorded. The initial demo done.
Ezra Vancil 28:05
What’s the hardest part for you? The lyrics, the melody, the arrangement? Arrangement is what kills me. So what’s what’s like, ugh?
You know, for this one, I mean, given that, I feel like there were a lot of challenges, but quite honestly, when I look back on it, it sort of just flowed. It wasn’t. It wasn’t really that hard. But I had challenges, like, the room that I recorded in did not look like a room I could record in. But I worked it out. I didn’t have any of the recording gear, I work that out with an obvious means, you know, the obvious means. I was concerned about executing a, you know, a decent vocal part. Certainly, I couldn’t have played the guitar on it. So you know, that would have been the hardest part. And then maybe, beyond all that, it was, it was getting a drum track that I was happy with, I had to run it by some people and say, you know, am I done? You know, I feel like I can do it again. I could do it. I could do it better. But you know, is it is it good enough? And, and I got I got enough votes of confidence on it that that? Yeah, leave it like it is. So those were the hard bits?
Ezra Vancil 29:22
And that’s a big question, because that’s, that’s one of the hardest questions for creatives to answer is, am I done? How did you how did you It sounds like he kind of brought people in, but how did you know when things are? Like let’s this parts done? Let’s move on to this, you know,
Yeah, well, you know, you take the first inner circle feedback and the biased feedback, and then then you start to seek feedback outside the circle, to make sure you know, and you have to listen. I mean, I had to listen for that too, send some things out and pay attention, pay really close attention to what some people say that you might not expect, you know them to say anything,I guess either way. But did that, Does that answer the question?
Ezra Vancil 30:09
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s always a, to get to the place of Am I done for me? It’s always different. Yeah. I never can answer the question.
I think I was lucky on other than the drum track. Well, the drum track and the vocal track like, is it good enough? That was that was the biggest Am I done? Those were the biggest Am I done questions, but like, the song and in total, like, I think I knew the lyrics, or what I wanted. I knew the melody was strong. And in the end, I knew the drum track was strong, I think as a you know, a young, not, I mean figuratively young singer, that’s the tough one, right?
Ezra Vancil 30:48
Yeah. And it sounded really good and technically sounds good. So I guess you worked out your recording issues in your in your room? Because I don’t hear anything to me that sounds amateur about the recording of the vocals or the singing. It…
Well, thank you. I mean, I think it should be encouragement to anybody who might hear this if they hear this in entirety, but to write music and don’t let gear be a limit, because let me tell you, I have a cheap bass guitar, I recorded the demo on and, and it did the trick. I’m using the same, you know, stage mic I’ve sang on for years. I don’t have a high end studio mic here. My my overheads are a couple of SM 57s. My drum sets not a cheap drum set, but I don’t have $1,000 snare drum, that was really bugging me. But you know,
Ezra Vancil 31:43
The drums sound great.
Yeah… Thank you. Um, you know, I have, I have two cymbols here. I thought I really need to get another symbol. But you know, my friend who was doing the, who did the guitar work and other instrumentation, and was mixing, and he’s done a lot of recording, and yeah, he was really, he was happy with what I sent him as far as the the engineering of the drums, the sound of the drums. I even said something about the snare to him. And he said it sounds pretty damn good. You don’t have to have. You don’t have to have $1,000 snare or two $2,000 overheads?
Ezra Vancil 32:19
You know, it can fall into, my brother. I’m sure this is just a regular term, but GAS gear acquisition syndrome. Yeah. And, you know, I think as relating to that first, one of the first questions I asked you is that a lot of that you have to see as resisting you actually doing it. [Sure] It’s like, Oh, I should get a better snare before I do this. Or I should get, you know, a better guitar, I need to, you know, work on my, go work with a vocal coach longer. It’s really about, like, what you did, it’s just pushing through getting people involved. And all that stuff just happens. And it’s neat, because when you look back, so you know, you’re new back into songwriting. But when you look back in years, you’ll think the sound and the drums and everything couldn’t shouldn’t have been any other way. Because it really kind of captures where you are, and then maybe next time your gears a little bit better. But still, it doesn’t matter that much. But it’ll capture where you are right then. And it’ll have something to do with the feel of the song that when you look back at it, it’s like, it had to be that way. You know, I’ve seen every song that I’ve done, you know?
Yeah, totally. I, you know, I actually thought of Jack White, who I don’t I don’t know very well from the, the whole, like fan perspective. I do like a lot of stuff he’s recorded. And I have I’ve seen him in some interviews, and I don’t remember which one it was, but I heard him say that. And I don’t know if this was bullshit, or, or, or really Jack White, but it was still kind of inspirational for me knowing that I had these gear challenges here in the room challenges and he was talking about some of the instruments he use used for certain recordings, and maybe he still does, again, I don’t know if this is for real, but the guys, there’s a little out there. I don’t know if he just said step two for the sake of you know, saying it, but he said he really enjoyed struggling with instruments. Like he kind of wanted them to be difficult to play and get right sometimes. And I thought, you know, just remind reminding myself of what Jack White had sai like, yeah, you know, okay, I got some I got some challenges in a couple struggles here, but we can make it work. So
Ezra Vancil 34:37
Yeah, no that is very interesting. It reminds me of like, Daniel Lanois. He’s a producer and a singer songwriter. He produced like, Bob Dylan, U2, Peter Gabriel, all that. But he talked about I think it was Bob Dylan’s album, Time Out Of Mind. I read this somewhere, so it had to have happened. Bob Dylan actually got pissed at him after the album and isn’t gonna work with him anymore, I think. Anyways, so he did Oh, Mercy and that one. But he recorded Bob Dylan and the band working it out, and didn’t tell him. And in the end when he finished up, he pulled those tracks in, with with them just, with him just fooling around in the control room. And which is some of the truck takes that made the actual album with him in the control room, just fiddling around and trying stuff out. And, you know, cuz in the end, it’s about that, that mood and that spirit that you we put in there. I’m sorry, I went off on all this stuff now.
Now, I wish we could capture all artists that way. Even if it’s just like extra bonus content or whatever.
Ezra Vancil 35:45
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Cuz you can really, you can produce things to death, you know? And that’s where that where do I stop thing is his case, you can produce the life out of it, you know, he can write the life out of it, are you? So you’re writing regularly? Now you’re writing prose? Are you writing music? Also?
No, I’m working on a couple of writing projects. At the moment, some working on the second edition, this has been many months in the making, too. It’s one of those another project, I finally had to start putting it out publicly, but the second edition of the Unstarving Musicians Guide to Getting Paid Gigs. So that’s kind of a rewrite. But it’s taking a lot of new information that I gathered over there, you know, a couple years that I’ve been doing the podcast from talking to people like you, and and then I’m writing, I call it writing prose. So, I worked on some stuff that I got, that I did at my last visit to Tranquilo Retreat here with Lynda. And so I finished that fairly quickly. And then I thought, well, I’m gonna do what she’s taught me to do. And I’m gonna go look for some writing prompts, you know, and just see what I can come up with, because that’s how, that’s how my song kind of came about. And then sometimes, with writing prompts, I think about, you know, you guys, those of you I’ve spoken with on the podcast, and that gives me like a story to create. So in a way I am writing fiction, you know, and then, and then turning those into song, that’s my intent. But, you know, at the same time we get, I found myself writing about the current, you know, climate of life right now the other day. And also, with the desire to write some, you know, like some romantic tunes, I was thinking about how to, well, what I could best latch on to, to, to get something going. And so I was, one of them I was working with was a past relationship that never really started. And, and certainly, I have to write the greatest love song of all times, at some point for my wife to outdo Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney. So…
Ezra Vancil 37:43
Right. You do that. I’m still working on that myself. I’ve written their three albums now, and I’m not even close to the, the greatest love song. [Yeah. Yeah.] You know, that’s very, that’s very interesting how, you know, pulling ideas for songs. It’s such a, from when I was young songwriting, and the music and all that stuff was real blurred between being a passion that I loved, and, and an ambition. You know, so I didn’t consider it that much. I was always more concerned with getting stuff done and stuff. But now the stuff you’re talking about is just the things that I love about it. Because at some point, it’s just, it’s just who you are, it sounds like, you’re, you know, you’re going to Lynda, work with Lynda to write more and to be creative in that way. And, and bringing it back and allowing your imagination to find outlets and sub, you know, to come into this world into stories. That’s like the beauty of songwriting. You know, that’s the thing, when we listen to you know, how to get gigs, and, and how to get our album out on Spotify, we forget that this is a beautiful way to live your life. You know, do you find like, is it meditative for you and you write in the mornings or when you’re songwriting? Is it something of a that you look back at your day that you feel like you gain from? Is it this basically I’m asking? Do you feel like that too, like when you’re working on this stuff, is it something of a a meditation of, something that even if nothing comes out of it, you’ve gained from this work and kind of allowing your own imagination to play into your life?
Well, you know, yeah, Tranquilla Retreat is a it’s what it sounds like. It was appropriately named. That’s a pretty special place. So when I go there, it does feel a little more meditative. there’s a there’s a vibe there that is just it’s it’s pretty incredible. It’s kind of gonna be the romantic story of my songwriting. I think, you know, this place that, you know, the songs were born from, but, but when I’m when I’m up early writing or this last Saturday, I think I was writing a little later in the day. Because I just needed to do it, it was kind of it was the not so sexy part, it was on my schedule, I needed to do it. You know, sometimes you just that day, I actually felt pretty good about it. I don’t know, there’s something gratifying. When I do it in the mornings, I just I know I’m, I’m doing a good thing for myself. And, you know, I feel like I’m in a creative, particularly creative period of my life. So I feel like I’m doing something good for myself to knock it out in the morning. Because, you know, before I start draining my head by looking at emails and, and websites, you know, that I’m working on or whatever, or even a podcast, I mean, the conversations I have for the podcast. So before I make it sound like those are draining, the conversations I have with the podcast are so energizing, they’re so energizing. But there’s the other part of it all the production stuff that’s kind of a little mindless, but kind of draining. So if I waited till too late to do the writing, it would be harder. So I think I feel good about doing the early sessions, because I know I’m, I’m kind of being responsible for, for my own creative self.
Ezra Vancil 41:08
Yeah, you’re almost taking it by the horns. Because when I’m, when I go through my day, anybody, we only have so much bandwidth. And I don’t know, if I’ll use it up by evening. But I do know I have it all when I first wake up. So you know, I can predict that I can do things creative, I can use that energy. And like you’re saying, I can give that to myself first to my, to my life and to the things that matters. And then I can give what’s left to everybody else.
It’s a good point, though. And you have more to give when you do that.
Ezra Vancil 41:44
Yeah. And also inspires you. So you might have more even more bandwidth and energy to give throughout the day. But I started songwriting in the mornings, and rehearsing and all that, because I found out I could never predict what’s going to happen as even just to my energy as the day goes on. But I almost always know what I feel like when I wake up, you know?
Yeah, I think you know, I think unless you’re a single person who’s mastered the art of, you know, keeping things at bay. Yeah, going for it first, that the early part of your day, whatever time of day. That is is a is a great idea.
Ezra Vancil 42:21
It’s a great good for all the reasons you just said.
Ezra Vancil 42:24
Well, let me ask you about your so your band sounds fantastic. The, who is the Chris Raspante? How do you?
Ezra Vancil 42:38
Yeah, guitar sounded wonderful on that production, the mix. How did you meet up with these guys? What is your band? You had mentioned at one point that I don’t know if they came down or just one or one of your bandmates came down and y’all did some house concerts before?
That was a different guy. That was Johnny Burgin. He’s a fine blues player. And uh…
Ezra Vancil 43:00
How did you meet up with these? This band that was basically, you worked online to record this whole thing?
Yeah. Well, funny thing Chris Raspante and, and Steve Strom have never met, or spoken with one another to my knowledge. So I met Strom in the South San Francisco Bay. So Sami and I were living in San Jose, in that area, or in San Jose proper during our 17 years in that area, and Steve Strom is actually in the, he’s kind of in the threadwork of the Unstarving Musicians Guide To Getting Paid Gigs. Because when I tell the story of you know, having being booked a year out, he was part of that story. He was, he was one of the, one of the the extras if you will, but a very important one. We played in a couple of bands together and eventually started doing various little one off things, together with another couple guys that we know, sometimes is a trio. And he is, so he was an introduction to me actually. He was he was a guy who was subbing for a bass player, vocalist in a band that I had had the drum chair for. And then we started doing all this other stuff. But he’s one of those special musicians that lifts everyone else up around him. He’s very encouraging. He’s always very positive. He’s got a great sense of humor. And he’s like, all those things are what I aspire to be as, you know, someone who I play yeah, as a bandmate and someone who’s sharing the stage with me. He’s one of those guys. And he’s a stellar player. And great theory, you know, great ear a lot. And then Chris, I think it’s been three years now. Well, maybe in December. So I have this circle of friends from many years in Dallas Fort Worth, who are in the Tarrant County area. Mostly they’re in Arlington, Fort Worth and one of them invited me down to play this, he was doing this kind of controled jam for Christmas at this venue called Bronco’s Sports Bar which is a pretty big live music venue for many years. And I went down there they just, they have a, Broncos has this beautiful stage lighting back, just a great place to go see a live band. And so my friend had who was orchestrating the jam, he was another Chris, he pulled together a lot of great musicians, some of whom I’d never met, some of whom I played with. And Chris Raspante was one of them. I’d never met him before, but he was one of the standouts for me. You know, my jaw kind of dropped when I heard him playing, and and then I heard him sing. And so I started following him. A lot of the guys I knew before we left Arlington to move to California, had known him for quite a while, we’d just never met. I think he was in Nashville for much of the time that I was fumbling around in the bar scene trying to get get gigs. He was off in Nashville, you know, recording with some some fine people. And yeah, that’s where I met him. And he was my very first podcast interview.
Ezra Vancil 46:07
I was so impressed with him, I was like, I’m trying to think of people I know that, you know, I can do my very first ones with and it was an almost disaster. I got 20, least 20 minutes into it, and I said, Chris, I’m so sorry, but we’re not recording. So we had a good laugh, and we started over, and I haven’t had him back on since but, um, hopefully he’ll be on again sometime soon. But yeah, so I tried to see him whenever we’re in town to go see him play. And we’ve not, we have hung out a little bit too. He’s one of the guys that will come out to, whenever we’re in town, I’ll try and scare some people up as you’ve gotten some invitations to you know, to get together have some beers or whatever we can do. And he’s one of the guys that will come out sometimes. So, yeah.
Ezra Vancil 46:51
Well, good deal. Well, what’s the what’s what’s next, I know that the release is next. But beyond that, just the release, not just the release, but you have the album you’ve kind of talked about, how’s this playing out in your head?
Well, so I was laughing inside my head because now I’m doing what feels like the songwriting process over because of all the creation that I’m responsible for is a video for and this will be another first. [Yeah] This will be another first. I said, I say the song was first because it really was all mine, right? But yeah, so there’s a video and then I have to…
Ezra Vancil 47:28
Stop right there real quick. Tell me about the video, cuz that’s nowadays that’s like super important portion for releasing a song. What are, what what are you going down? What are you facing with the the video production?
Well, I, I know I’m acquainted with a pro videographer photographer here in the area. Really nice guy who expressed interest when I asked about, you know, doing a video for me. And he showed me some that music videos he’d done. I didn’t know, when I think I knew he’d done some he’s been recording a lot of live music because he has a he’s a live, he’s a venue owner. But so that excited me and what I thought we might get into was he was going to help me create some of this, you know, like, help me with the vision of it. And I I realized and no, no, no discredit to him, but I realized I kind of need to do this, I guess, not because he does not because he’s, I don’t want him to do it. I’d be all over it. But he’s, I think he’s really busy with whatever he’s got going on, including a business. And, and I don’t know, maybe this wasn’t, you know, maybe that part of it really isn’t his thing. I’m not sure. So I created a script for it, I want it to be I don’t want to it’s not gonna be like a performance video, it’s going to be a scripted thing. So I’m trying to be a little cinematic with it. But they’ll only be two actors myself and, and a female who won’t even won’t be in the same scene. So it’ll be predominantly the female character in the video. And I’m just going to try and take the song through a little bit of story trajectory and make it visually interesting. So we’re doing it here locally. I don’t even have I have one of probably half a dozen locations sussed out. I think I just found my heroine. It looks like she’s very excited. Never done anything like this before, but I said don’t worry, I think we can work, I think we can make you look good. So yeah, I hope, I don’t know when we’re going to start shooting but I’m just, it’s kind of like the song now. I can feel it, you know. I’m just trying to do a piece of it everyday so we can get moving. And I’ve revised the script. This was funny because I have the script. I I wasn’t even sure how to ask people like if you would, you know, putting together this music video, I’m looking for a female to play, you know, this part. Would you be interested in seeing the script? Don’t worry if it’s not your thing, and I want you to even give it a second thought. But so i i thought you know, maybe this is the way ask them if they’d be interested in seeing the script. And so I sent it out to a couple people one I haven’t heard back from, I’m not sure why, but this other one was very excited which told me, even though I gave her a draft that was incomplete. She spoke specifically to the script. And I’m like, okay, that’s a good sign.
Ezra Vancil 50:07
She actually looked at it.
Yeah. And she liked it. She was like, Oh, yeah, I can envision this, you know. So that was good feedback.
Ezra Vancil 50:14
That’s really neat. And something, videos are a lot like, now I get them done. They’re not something I so much enjoy doing, as much as making the song. I get them down, because I have to, but I try to make them fun for that reason. But they are something that I found over time, and after doing a lot of them, that we find the right people, they just want to be a part of something cool. And so you know, and you kind of just got to reach out to enough people to find people that become like your go to crew, your go to actors. You know, I’ve done that so much, or they’ll point you to people. And I find out it’s just like a song or recording because people love making music. So of course, if you’re going to do a recording, there’s going to be all kinds of people are like, yeah, let’s, let’s make an album, let’s it’s the same way with video is if you’re really the person that’s pushing this through, you know, you find people that are ready to jump on board.
I remember you kind of taught me this. In one of our conversations for the podcast, I tried to share that with a lot of people. Because I found it so interesting. I didn’t, I didn’t really understand, you know, when when it became clear to me that you weren’t paying a lot of people to do this, you know that that’s this isn’t in the budget, you know, and I’m so fascinated with how you put it all together. And when you explain this to me in more detail as I remembered it.
Ezra Vancil 51:38
Yeah, and it’s good to give you another tip is if you go and you work for a day, or somebody, take them out to dinner that night, if you’re not paying them, take them out to dinner, you know, or bring dinner make, you know do something as simple as that makes it all the work. Because hopefully they’re getting something out of it too, which is a cool video, you know? Just… Oh, so the videos next?
Yeah, I feel like I have the makings of about another four songs already, you know, started. So I have to start thinking about the music for some of those really soon. And then, yeah, I’m trying to learn all this as much as I can for release. Thank you, by the way for sharing all those nice tips that you did. And I have been doing funny enough. I’ve been doing these, just like this week surveys, phone surveys for the second edition of the book, and some circling back to some of my podcast guest friends, to talk to them who have, they just have experienced things that I don’t and those are the things I want to I know they have and I want to share those with other people. And so one of my selfish questions in there is like, what’s your current release strategy for a new song? So that was really, in two conversations I had today. It was amazing. And what I learned, so
Ezra Vancil 52:57
Yeah, very cool. And what’s what’s the, Do you have a date on it yet? Are you still kind of?
Oh, I should, shouldn’t I?
Ezra Vancil 53:04
I mean, I don’t want to I don’t want the year to be passed before I get this video together and release it right?
Ezra Vancil 53:11
Yeah, you got it. You got to have a date. I said, hmm? Because I held off on a date for so long on mine, but I found you got to put the date on it. Because if that date makes stuff happen, yeah. That way you can move on to your album, your next project, you know.
In a way the video might be easier, maybe. I don’t know, with with getting the song recorded. Both of the guys I was working with they’re, because they are talent as talented as they are, they have a lot of work coming at them. So I was in the queue a lot, you know what I mean? [Yeah] And, and even my own stuff was in my own queue. It wasn’t like I just dropped whatever the hell I’m doing and go, you know, try and sing a verse or whatever, just, you know, I got to schedule stuff. And I got other people demanding my time. So…
Ezra Vancil 53:59
I put a date on my album, finally. And I realized I’m not putting a date on it. Because I couldn’t music videos done. And so I finally just put a hard date, put it out there, actually pre released on Spotify. The only reason to force me into getting the music videos done.
That’s a good, it’s a good idea.
Ezra Vancil 54:19
And it’s the same way like people can’t, I’m in their queue. But still it pushes me to like, push them or to find somebody else that can help you know. Yeah, because it just goes on like he said, the inertia is just I’ll keep going down this little you know, easy route that the rivers on but now instead of
Yeah. And then there’s that life happens thing you know, and which is what happened to one of my musician friends that I couldn’t get on the album. You know, life was happening for him some things that the timing wasn’t good. And so you got I think you made an important point earlier is you know, have a network of people, because not everyone’s available when you want them.
Ezra Vancil 54:59
Yeah, and make sure they all understand that. So they they understand, hey, if it doesn’t happen this time, that’s cool. I’ll be back. We can work on something else, you know, this has got to move on. And keep that relationship. Everybody knows it’s just a, it’s this rivers rolling.
Yeah. Good advice.
Ezra Vancil 55:16
We’ll catch you on the next loop, you know?
Ezra Vancil 55:20
Oh, no, go ahead.
No I was gonna say I don’t want to keep you too much longer. We’ve been at it a little over an hour. I really appreciate all the time.
Ezra Vancil 55:30
Yeah, yeah. I hope that there’s something in there you can use
Ezra Vancil 55:35
For sure. I’ve actually, I wasn’t expecting this. A.) I wasn’t expecting we would talk this long. And I’m not sad about that at all. I enjoyed it. But I was saying, gosh, we’re talking about such great stuff. I think I have to make this a podcast episode.
Ezra Vancil 55:49
Do that. I think I’m incapable of not talking long. That’s why I’m hidden off in this room in here. Because if somebody comes over as I was over, I’m just out there talking for hours. So I have to hide away to get my work done.
Yeah, no it’s good. I think we we hit on some really great stuff. And I’m confident that I picked up a little snippet I needed or two for for content.
Ezra Vancil 56:12
Yeah, I’m glad you got it. And I’m glad to help you. If there’s anything else you need. Just let me know. It’s no big deal. Yeah, I just enjoyed talking to you.
Thank you. Likewise, I look forward to seeing you next time. I’m in town whenever that is gonna be.
Ezra Vancil 56:25
Yeah, well give me a call. And if I’m, I might be in East Texas or I might be up here, but
We’ll plan and I’ll hopefully catch you.
Ezra Vancil 56:34
Okay. Good to see you man.
Take care of give give your family our loved man.
Ezra Vancil 56:38
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