Kickstart My Art

Okay, so I know that two weeks ago I promised to review the new Van Halen album “A Different Kind Of Truth” the week it was released. This, of course, meant that you should have seen my review last week, which, as you may or may not be aware, you totally didn’t. And for that, I apologize. When Whitney Houston died, I knew I wanted to shift my focus to that topic for the post I planned to write at that time, and therefore figured that putting off a Van Halen review by one week wouldn’t really cause anyone any serious harm. (Might even have spared a few of you having to read a bad review…..you can thank me later.)

Truth is, though, that I was going to put off that review anyway…..for two very good reasons.

First, I always want to give any album I review multiple listens so that I have some depth to my commentary….and I had only heard the new Van Halen once as of my last blog posting. Listening to something one time very rarely gets you a well-thought-out and multi-faceted review; it usually gets you something that is based off initial, quick-hit impressions, or whatever knee-jerk responses you have while you’re listening. For example: “That song sucked,” or “Cool!” or “This guitar solo is obnoxiously loud,” or “If they can write crap like this and make a million dollars, how come I’M not a rich musician?” (Okay, that one may only be me….) It’s actually like watching a movie; seeing it once lets you get an initial impression of how you feel about it, and a sense of what was good and bad. But multiple viewings peels the onion layers back, lets you pay attention to secondary things you may have missed while focusing on the general story the first time out, reveals details and lines of dialogue and character actions that enrich the movie and let you better speak to not only what it was that you liked or disliked about the film, but, most importantly, to WHY you liked or disliked those things.

So, there’s that. Needed to listen more.

The second reason I was going to put the review off was that I wanted to use this space to promote some independent music, and highlight two Kickstarter projects that friends of mine have started. Superstars like Eddie Van Halen are superstars, and are usually wealthy enough that they only have to worry when their album will be made, not if. Independent musicians, on the other hand, always seem to be behind the proverbial eight ball when it comes to making their music. More and more, the traditional music industry is collapsing in on itself, labels are becoming irrelevant, and independent artists find they have to give away their music just to get it heard by a wider audience. I don’t have to tell you, however, that giving away music results in pretty much NO profit, and doesn’t quite fill the coffers of the musician so that they can save up for their next CD and keep the process going. Because of this fact, it’s extremely difficult for musicians in this day and age to make a living doing what they love.

(And don’t even get me started on how underappreciated pursuing a career in the arts is nowadays. As a demonstration, try this experiment: complain about your college loan debt to someone, let them ask what you majored in, and reply that you majored in art or music. Watch their faces very carefully…..you can translate that expression you see as, “Well, what did you expect? You should have been a doctor or lawyer.” Yeah, great response. Now why don’t you go dance to absolute silence at your daughter’s wedding, or go watch a movie with only dialogue, or enjoy surfing up and down your radio dial, finding only talk radio stations? THEN get back to me about how unnecessary and frivolous being an artist is.)

With this in mind (and because I AM one), I wanted to do whatever I could on my blog to support my fellow musicians who are attempting to create. And given the fact that the two projects I’m about to highlight are ones that involve people I actually know, that makes it even more personal and important to me. But first, a word on Kickstarter for those of you not “in the know.”

Kickstarter is a website where a creative person (doesn’t have to be a musician) can go with an idea for a project they would like to make a reality, but lack the necessary funding to do so. It can be any type of creative project: recording music, making a film or a piece of art, creating new technology, producing a cutting-edge fashion design, whipping up a new food product, or even just publishing that book you’ve been working on for years. You go to Kickstarter and create a proposal for your project for all the world to see, and each proposal essentially follows this template: you (the fans or complete strangers out on the interwebs) give me the money to make my project a reality, and I (the artist) give you cool prizes. This creates a lovely fan-funding situation; people read about a project and would like to (for whatever reason) help make it become a reality. The creative person is grateful, so gives back to those who have so graciously donated their hard-earned cash to make the dream come true. Win-freakin’-win, baby!

Now let’s take a look at the two projects I came here to help promote, and you can see what I mean (if you don’t know already). And who knows? Maybe you’ll even love what you see and hear enough to be one of those contributors that helps make a dream come true!

The first proposal is from a coworker of mine named Schuyler Whelden, who hopes to gather enough funds to record and manufacture a debut album for his new group The Bold Type. Schuyler actually has been in a band for a while that Boston-area music fans might know pretty well named Miss Fairchild, but he decided a little while back to start a new project and has been writing and rehearsing with this new group for the past year. You can watch the proposal video here (which, if you end up visiting a lot of Kickstart pages, you’ll find to be where a good deal of the fun is in potential projects), and see what you think.

Personally, I really like the song “Welcome Back” that you hear over the video credits, and the first song in the video is pretty rockin’ as well (and for additional fun, you can watch a different edit of the proposal video on The Bold Type’s YouTube page). I think if these guys can sound this good in a small little room with a few mics, the final mixed studio album will be pretty tasty! You can see a list of contribution price points on the right-hand side of the page, and the prizes that come with each level of gift. This is the key to any good Kickstarter campaign, and you can really end up finding some unique prizes listed when you’re considering contributing.

Anyway, The Bold Type have eleven days left to reach their goal of $7,001, or they lose everything they’ve gained so far (which is one of the other interesting things about Kickstarter…..you set a goal and people contribute towards that goal. Miss the goal in the time you’re given? The public’s credit cards are never charged, and you lose all the money that was donated. How much does THAT suck?). With this in mind, if you like what you hear in the video, won’t you contribute? Time’s a wastin’ to make a dream come true……

The other project I wanted to highlight for you is one by a very talented lady I went to school with at the Berklee College of Music. With only fourteen days left until time expires and all the money donated so far disappears, singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Ayo Awosika is in need of your help. She too is working on her first record, but, instead of the rock-oriented soul of The Bold Type, Ayo comes from a more classical/jazz-oriented background. She’s still heavy on soul, though, and you can hear it in her voice…..just check out her Kickstarter proposal video, and pay particular attention when you reach about 1:44 in. This is where the song “We Best Not Wait” can be heard, and I assume this is a track that will be appearing on the album she hopes to make. I’m a big fan of the track….it’s got such a chill vibe, but is still very plush and organically soulful. Don’t know whether or not this song will be fleshed out with a full band or not on the final album, but, if it is, I hope she includes this version as a bonus track. There’s something very….honest about it. Again, if you like what you hear, please donate while there’s time!

Two different projects, two different styles of music. I’m sure most of you will appreciate one or the other, and if so, please consider making a contribution. Most musicians realize that they’ll never be mega-superstars, but they still have a song inside that they want to share with the world. Often they take day jobs that end up (unfortunately) paying barely enough to cover their bills, let alone the extra expenses it takes to pay for studio time and musicians to help them realize their musical ambitions. For less than the cost of a movie or a fast food meal, you can help bring new music into the world, and claim a piece of a project that you can believe in, that couldn’t have been made without you. And when you’re done looking at these two projects I’ve highlighted, why not surf around Kickstarter and take a look at all the other types of projects that people all across the country are hoping to see come to fruition? Perhaps you’ll find something that really resonates with you, and you can be one of those sparks that helps someone get their dream off the ground. Stranger things have happened, folks….

Catch you next time, with my long-awaited (by who, I have no idea) review of the new Van Halen album! Have a great week!

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