Posts Tagged ‘manhattan’

Elizabeth Seward and 'Song a Week'

Monday, May 31st, 2010

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CS: Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got to where you are today.

ES: Well, I grew up in a small town in Ohio called Marietta. I started writing my own music around the age of 12 and by the time I was 16, I was constantly playing every show or open mic I could land within an hour or so drive from Marietta. I moved to NYC when I was 18 to pursue music, played some solo shows when I got here, but it didn’t take me long to form a band. I started a band that sounded nothing at all like my solo music when I was 20 called Devola. We toured a lot and worked really hard, but members quit and changed and it all started to fall apart just as I was starting to write songs again on my own. I’ve been getting back to my songwriter roots for the last two years. Most of my songs have been unpolished low-fi recordings birthed in Garageband and right now I’m just writing and recording obsessively, trying to be as good as I can be.

CS: You live in New York now, but you’re from Appalachia. Does your rural background influence your songwriting?

ES: Oh, I think so, yeah. It’s difficult to expect your home culture to not affect your art. Sometimes I feel a little too ‘in it’ to really see the influence Appalachia has had on me, but other people tell me they hear it all the time. The blues, the hint of country twang, the burden-ridden lyrics that you’ll find most frequently with country music, the finger-picking you’ll find most frequently with bluegrass and folk music. Come to think of it, I use a lot of country imagery in my lyrics–I mention nature, particularly hills and forests, more often than I even realized…until just now.

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CS: Tell us about your ‘Song a Week’ project.

ES: The ‘Song a Week’ project was an idea of my close friend and fellow musician, Ben Britz. He has always complimented me on how quickly I piece together songs and at the end of 2009, he challenged me to start an online project that would hold me accountable to my fans online. He said something like ‘do a song a day’ and I said something like ‘ummm, no, how about a song a week.’ And then I just started the Tumblr page for it. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that I’m still going strong with it, but it’s been a remarkable process. Putting yourself in a box can sometimes be the best way to come up with something you’re happy with.

CS: Are there any changes in your songwriting process when you’re forced to create new songs so often?

ES: Definitely. I’ve been fiddling with my melodies more, working myself harder with my guitar parts, playing around with the idea of using loops, playing piano here and there, etc. When you’re forced to create a new song every week, you strive to make each its own piece; to breathe life and individuality into each of them. So I can see how my songwriting has been changing over the course of this year and really, it’s a nice thing to sit back and watch. I’m not sure anything else could have cornered me into expanding on my style.

CS: You’ve written on your blog about your enthusiasm for D.I.Y. culture. How do you feel the Internet has changed the relationship between you and your fans?

ES: I’m such a big fan of the Internet. It has changed everything! When I started playing music and taking my career seriously, it seemed like there was one way and one way only to make fans: a record label. Everything you want to do you can do yourself. With the expansion of the Internet, I’m constantly thinking and making lists of what I can do next. The huge change the Internet has made is that I’m now in control and my fans can reach me. They can literally just send me an email and expect to hear back from me, leave me a comment and wait for my comment back, vote on t-shirt designs, etc. I’m excited to be a musician during this time.

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CS: What’s next for you as an artist? Working on any cool projects?

ES: This project has taken a lot of time just to get started and keep afloat, but now that I’m in the swing of it, there’s a long list of collaborators I’m planning on working with for the second half of 2010. A group project I’m not really allowed to talk about yet is underway, as well as a new band I’ll be going public with sometime this summer. Other than that, I’m just trying to organize my songs, get better recordings, release them as I see fit, and continue down the long road of songwriting improvement.

Listen to Elizabeth’s tunes at http://www.myspace.com/elizabethsound

Other Music: Confessions of a Professional DJ

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

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I remember reading a newspaper headline about six months ago, saying something to the effect of: laid-off workers going to deejay schools trying to get a leg up on a new career. I gazed at that headline with such an incredulous, slack-jawed stare, wondering who convinced these people that this was a great new career choice for workers in a rut in NYC.

If anything, 2010 is one the worst times to try to break into the DJ scene locally. Yet, everyday at least one person asks me for my advice on how to do it. While I’m still trying to figure out how I did it, here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

Plan on losing more money than you make for the first year you DJ.

When you’re just starting out, most bars will give you a weeknight that you have to build up yourself, and the only way you get paid is if the bar gets paid. Most places will only pay you 10% of whatever the bar makes at the end of the night. So if you have a Wednesday residency, you could easily play for five hours and only earn $50 for your efforts if only a few people show. That’s almost guaranteed to happen every other week that you play. And I don’t care if you only use two iPods with mp3′s downloaded for free off the Internet, you’re still losing money. So if you have a day job, KEEP IT!

Your social networking skills are just as important as your DJ skills.

I know quite a few brilliant, technically gifted DJ’s who can’t keep a residency because they never leave the house when they aren’t playing and because they’re too self-contained. DJing is a lot different than being a musician because you’re really only worth something to promoters or clubs if you can bring a crowd, or if you’re affiliated with a certain scene, or if they see you around. If there are certain DJs that you love and respect, go out to their nights and support them. Dance, socialize and get to know likeminded individuals who share the same taste in music that you do.

Two or three heads are always better than one.

I threw a successful party with two other likeminded individuals called Negroclash and we all met and formulated the party because we all saw each other out and we were all fans of each other’s DJ’ing. This party was very expensive to throw and we never made as much money as people thought we did, but our audience got bigger and there have been so many opportunities that each of us gained on an individual level because we teamed up with each other.

Multi-task like a mutha!

I just finished a remix for a friend’s band yesterday and as I tippity-type this, I’m also listening to potential songs to select for a new DJ mix I’m making to post on the Outsdie Broadcast blog I share with another DJ colleague, in order to promote the party we’ll both be playing at. One of the easiest ways to build an audience is to put up DJ mixes. There are so many tools you can utilize to promote whatever it is you do. It can be something as simple as posting a link to a mix that you made on your Facebook status or writing reviews for your roommate’s blog. These things help out quite a bit and keep people interested. Everyone’s attention span is pretty short these days and the more things that you can do expands your audience and keeps your core loyal.

Be open-minded about music and potential gigs at all times.

Not all DJ opportunities are exclusive to clubs and parties. I’ve played fashion shows, photo shoots, clothing stores and VIP rooms at award shows. A lot of times people forget that you don’t necessarily have to play big clubs or European festivals in order to be successful. You have to be open-minded about where you play out and what you play. One of the most successful DJs I know got bored with playing in expensive mainstream clubs and is now exclusively doing weddings every weekend. He’s not only having a great time, he is making a lot more money doing than he ever did in the clubs. There’s a whole lot of music out there and almost every genre has something interesting going on. All of my fave DJs are the ones whose palette runs the gamut and who are passionate about all kinds of music, even if they specialize in playing one specific genre.

These five things helped me get to this point some 14 years later. If I can do it, anybody can do it I guess, but it wasn’t without a lot of help and support from others. I have no clue how long I’ll be DJ’ing professionally, but I can say it’s been one of the most rewarding and creative jobs I could have ever hoped to have.

Stop by Other Music and you’re likely to find Duane hanging out, and for more on his DJing head to Audio Archeology.

Noveller Diary: Part Two

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

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Noveller Tour week 2: More friends, long drives, and shooting stars.

Day 8: Austin: Elaine Joins Us Finally!

Our friend Chris lost his wallet in Houston, and despite our truly best efforts, we could not find it. Chris ended up back at the Police Department until nearly 5am, where he was challenged by the on-duty-officer on why his lost wallet was her problem. In spite of this, she took it upon herself to go back to the venue to search for it and ended up finding it. The whole situation really solidified our collective trust in humanity and we spent a good few minutes being floored before realizing we were very hungry and had to search for a specific hotdog stand on the very, very busy streets of Austin. We had our friend Elaine with us finally, who would be accompanying us on the remainder of the tour. We tried to psych ourselves up for a 15-hour drive from Austin to Tempe.

Day 9: Somewhere in Texas: Many Weird Ghost Towns

It was a Sunday. We had no idea where we were beyond “somewhere in Texas.” Every restaurant we found on the Internet turned out to be boarded up and closed, and probably had been for months, if not years. Plus, we had just sprung forward and then lost an hour with the going-west thing and none of us knew exactly what time it was. We found a bodega-looking place advertising burritos, but when Chris inquired about them he was told, “no burritos on Sunday.” We found a sandwich shop and then kept driving. It was Elaine’s first shift, and she ran over a curb pulling out of the parking lot.

We had given ourselves a 2am cut-off for driving and figured we’d just try to find a motel when we got tired. I was doing the late-night driving shift, and pretty much as soon as I got behind the wheel I saw a big, bright shooting star very close to the horizon. The sky is completely black in that part of the country. I was also kind of delirious and got really confused at a border checkpoint. I very nearly ran us off the road. I pulled it together enough to get us to a tiny town somewhere in New Mexico, where we found the last motel on earth and had to smuggle Elaine in.

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Day 11: Tucson: Crushed Coins and Haunted Hotels

There were train tracks behind the venue, so Chris and Angela from Xiu Xiu put many coins on them. Trains came through twice during Sarah’s set, and afterwards, they found their smashed money. I got jealous and put some out as we were leaving, but no trains came then. I vowed to come back in the morning to look for them.

Also, it was Sarah’s birthday! We stayed at the Hotel Congress, which is haunted! Elaine was convinced that if she kept her computer on all night with the mic on, she would hear some heavy breathing or electromagnetic frequencies or something, but really all she heard was the sound of me waking up at 4am to the bright light of the screen and sleep-yelling at her to turn off her computer. Also, I did go back to the tracks and I found my quarter and even someone else’s quarter. Maybe it belonged to a ghost.

Day 13: Los Angeles: I Liked it This Time

We stayed at Sarah’s friend Carla’s house, which was incredibly beautiful. It’s a Spanish craftsman in a really cute neighborhood, the sort of place you walk into and immediately feel cared-for. Carla told us amazing stories about her cat, Runaway, who is basically the very definition of nine lives.

The show was at the Echo, and it was packed. Afterwards Carla took us to a taco stand in a supermarket parking lot and I ate the best $1.75 taco I’ve ever had in my life. My sleeping nook was a tiny wood-paneled room with a tiny bed which enveloped me in cozy warmth. I decided I could handle LA, if it was Carla-shaped.

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Day 15: San Francisco: The End

How can I express our sadness that tour was almost over? Let me count the ways: Sarah and Elaine were driving straight back to LA after the SF show so Sarah could play a show with Carla, and then they had to hightail it back to Austin so Elaine could catch a flight back to NYC. Chris and I stayed behind in San Francisco, where I would stay for another day and Chris would be for another 2 days. And Xiu Xiu would head north and then back across country to finish their tour, so we tearfully bequeathed them our beloved goodluck and godspeed talisman, Neighveller. She is keeping them out of trouble, I’m sure.

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