Sreyashi Mukherjee

Can we have your story?

26 posts in this topic

Hello!

I understand that a lot of members here are very serious about their music, whether they are in it professionally or as a hobby. I’m really interested to know the story behind your drive to pursue music in the way you are. Was it an obvious thing all along? Or a light-bulb moment? Or a case of “I don’t know.. let me give it a try.. viola, it’s working!” Or something else?

I’m not trying to be an interviewer here :D  But as I search for more clarity about my own place in music, it would really help to know your little stories. It could possibly inspire some others, too.

Thanks

Sreyashi/Sumi

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Wow you're gonna regret asking that question. I'm gonna ramble on about myself because then I can pretend I'm being interviewed by the music press...no doubt plenty of others will...it'll get really annoying... 

 

Well, Sreyashi... It all started in the mid 70s after a chance meeting with David Crosby over at our mutual friend Joni's place in Laurel Canyon... kind of... well not exactly... it was my mum n dad's house in Moston North Manc...but Moston and Laurel Canyon were really similar except one was beautiful, sunny and smelled of sinsemilla. and one was a rainy, sh*t hole which smelled of coal, tar and garbage. Anyway...there, aged 8ish, I spent most of my non-school time in headphones listening to whatever I could find in mum n dad's record collection... mostly Del Shannon, Buddy Holly and The Dave Clarke 5. Unlike most kids, I listened thoroughly (because I'm better than everyone else), I can't stand background music. And so the spirit of music possessed me.

 

Soon I was performing to crowds ... Usually Mr Gribbins (psychotic old pervert) class... since he thought making kids go to the front of class to sing was amusing punishment (not as much as he enjoyed putting our heads between his legs to smack our arses)...with such classics as 'Skinny Dogs' and 'Dylan The Fairground Man'. I got the bug.

 

Later, aged 13ish, I began sketching out my master plan...literally sketching it... inventing my new band, recruiting top non-musical talent from Mr Braithwaite's (miserable old git) history class to form the ultimate rock group - 'Satan's Avengers'. And inspiration for our first shit came when my good friend Shaun (school nut job) revealed his latest creation from beneath his school blazer... DEMENTON! (An action man/ GI Joe, which had been mutilated so it was just a head stuck onto one leg)...I wrote the song immediately  -

 

Just a head on one leg,

That's Dementon!
Just a head on one leg,
That's all!


Yeah just a head on one leg,
But a mind built for war,
He'll tear out your brains,
And eat them still raw,

Built by the dark lord himself,
Aaaaargh, built with pride,
Are you ready to die?
Let Dementon decide.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, prepare to meet his maker!

This received rave reviews such as "Headmasters office!...NOW!"

 

And so a star was born... I'll spare you the middle stuff between then and now...

You asked! :) 

 

 

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Hi Sreyashi

 

Good topic.

 

For me it has always been there. Making music was and is, as essential as breathing. Just like breathing it happens automatically, my default setting.

 

As a kid my mum sang opera with the Scottish National Opera and the BBC, and she taught piano. So at 4 I started learning the piano. Singing was always there, so I am not sure when that started! After seeing Yehudi Menuhin on TV I was determined to learn to play like that, so at 7 I started learning how to play he violin. My mother rolled my sisters and I out to perform at  social events, and I picked up the performance bug there, although even at 7 I was already performing through clubs etc.

 

Although I kept playing both piano and violin, over the years my interest became focused on how music was composed and arranged. I started to learn other instruments so that I could understand them, and How they all worked together. Not only that, it was a challenge and it was fun. I sang with a choir and took part in the odd competition, I started to learn how to play drums and played in a competition pipe band. In our grade we won national and world titles. I learned how to play the bagpipes and played in another pipe band. All along I tried every instrument I could get my hands on, bugle, trumpet, clarinet, viola, cello... I tortured them all lol

 

I am not sure exactly when I started writing. I know I wrote lyrics, and I know I wrote music from a very young age, but writing full songs, I am not sure? 12? 13? When I was maybe 14 or 15 I took up the guitar. My world transformed. Until that point, unless writing my own melodies, I had worked almost exclusively with the notes written by someone else, represented on a manuscript, with me interpreting and performing those notes. When I started playing the guitar I stepped away into improvisation, and playing purely by ear. I remember working on mainly rock music with some folk thrown in for good measure. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple was many a guitarist's first notes. I remember working out Stairway To Heaven, note by note, and playing it on a terrible acoustic with a ridiculously high action. My guitar became my main instrument, saving for an electric guitar, exploring blues, heavy rock and heavy metal, funk, jazz, folk... just music every day. Soon I was learning bass guitar, mandolin, even didgeridoo! lol learning circular breathing for that wax a challenge believe me! I started playing in bands, people I knew through school, playing school gigs etc. Good fun at the time, but also good experience.

 

My sisters both played and sang. My eldest sister sang in choirs, was a concert pianist who took part in pretty prestigious competitions. My other sister was always more interested in pop culture, Elton John being on of her favourites. Both sisters would duet on piano and singing. They were certainly an influence and through them I experienced pop and Rick music much earlier than I would have as a single child.

 

Similarly, I had an aunt and uncle who loved music. In the 60s my uncle had become a huge Dylan fan. He used to go to gigs in and around London and record them on his 4 track recorder. The earliest Hendrix gigs, The Who, Yardbirds etc. He even had a recording of a jam between Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison lol He has so many rare recordings, in many cases the only recordings of events and gigs in the late 60s and 70s Freak scene, mainly in London and the South of England, but elsewhere too. I am not sure exactly when they started going to festivals and gigs in the USA. Nowadays they still travel to gigs all over the UK and the odd Dylan gig in the USA. (Years later the BBC made a documentary about one of his recordings, a "lost" recording of Bob Dylan in London). Both he and my aunt were friends of Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) and Roy Harper, and they were involved in the vibrant folk rock scene in Britain in the late 60s and 70s. My uncle ran a Bob Dylan fanzine for many years and he still travels all over the world to see them.

 

I mention my mother, sisters, aunt and uncle, because my family were a huge influence, helping to fuel and nurture my passion and interest in music. Fair to say that my interest in music was quite diverse, and that I was far more interested in how music was created than anything else. I got jobs working in recording studios, live events, played in bands sometimes professional, some times semi professionally. I rode motorcycles, had long hair, partied like there was no tomorrow, but music was always front and centre. One band had quite a large following, got loads of press coverage, played festivals and large gigs was on the brink of being signed, for it to fall away as the band imploded after a few years of playing together. A common enough story. I did session work too, that was fun. :) 

 

It should be said that, what little regard I had for wanting to be a celebrity died away at this time. It had never been a huge motivational factor, but for a variety of reasons, mainly being hugely uncomfortable with press intrusion on my life (even at that minuscule level of celebrity) and being recognised going down the street, became something I didn't want. So here I was, a musician and writer, who loved performing, wanted to play bigger gigs and record my music... but I hated celebrity, what it stood for. I wanted attention for my music, but no attention for me lol. A conundrum!

 

Then I injured my spine. I went from playing gigs several times a week to lying on a floor for 18 months and what was to become decades of pain and extended periods of incapacity, operations, stacks of pain killers, injections, hundreds of hours of physiotherapy. I could no longer reliably perform. I couldn't work as a roadie, or sound crew, or even as a recording engineer. So I went to night school, got the qualifications I needed to get to University, studied and achieved an honours degree in Electronics with Music, which was mainly about designing music tech, but also using it, composition etc. I played in bands all through University, and I honed my music making skills and applying my creativity to technology and the business of music. It was a mind expanding period for me, literally. I played on TV, live gigs on radio, did my share of TV and magazine interviews,  Fun years.

 

By now I had built a lot of experience of music marketing and promotion, learned a lot about the making of an artist, managing bands, recording and producing, even the kinds of music deals around, and the ways that the music business worked, how it ticked over, common strategies etc. I had seen bands that worked inrehearsal studios beside us, go from nothing to the top of the charts in the UK and the USA, and had spent a lot of time talking with people behind the scenes, including band managers and entertainments lawyers, publishers and Record Label staff.

 

I started work with Motorola while my musical focus turned towards what I could do at home, recording using computers, electronica, and towards the fledgling internet as a great way to meet and work with other musicians. I was producing local bands and started working with a female singer. We made chill out tracks, were getting featured on Radio One in the UK by Pete Tong and others, we were meant to be tour support for Groove Armada, things were happening again.... and then my back went again. The old injury came back hard, another few operations... and while lying on my back, still full of creativity, frustrated as hell that I should have spent so much time learning all these skills, and they were just going to evaporate away, as if they never happened, when I came up with the idea for Songstuff. If I couldn't do things myself, I wanted to help others, pass on what I had learned. The internet was still pretty new. Google didn't exist! I still made music in my home studio, I still worked with other musicians, but gradually Songstuff took over. I really enjoyed helping other musicians, connecting with people, learning about the internet, how it was used and how it could benefit bands. I transferred over a lot of skills developed in the real world for the old music business, and tried to bypass issues that the internet was throwing up, investigated what worked and what didn't and how successful bands used different strategies on and off the internet, and how they combined the two. Another mind expanding period! I added a community onto Songstuff, and the rest they say is history.

 

I have met a load of famous people over the years, even at a very young age, and was aware just how ordinary they are (out with their sometimes exceptional, sometimes little better than average talent) We put them on a pedestal. Some remain good, untainted, others believe their own hype and really are not that nice. I've learned many lessons along the way, but amongst the most important lessons related to success, I would say are these:

 

  • Always give attention to detail
  • Be creative in all that you do (music, image, business, everything)
  • Work to as high as standard as you can at all times
  • Work hard
  • Work harder
  • Work harder still

 

That is the essence of the work ethic that is required to make original, engaging music you can feel proud of... no matter if it is as a professional, semi-professional or enthusiastic amateur. Happy accidents occur rarely.

 

Everything else is just noise.

 

A long post (as if I am not known for them lol) but on a bright note, I didn't write an entire book) :D

 

Hopefully it adds to your picture of who I am, and maybe even what Songstuff is. Why Songstuff is. :)

 

Cheers

 

John

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ROFL! Dek :D:D  Thank God I asked :P

 

This is exactly the stuff that celebrity interviews are made of! And we learn the valuable lesson of finding a golden opportunity even in a Dementon..

The in-betweens would have also been interesting, but I get the drift ;)

 

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Thanks, John! That was such a lovely insight into your musical journey and your thought process behind setting up Songstuff. As life shape shifts, so do our perspectives and goals. But holding on to our passion without losing focus or morale is such a challenge. Stories like your's help in keeping the faith :)

 

I do have another question : There are so many artists who do every part of the music-making on their own (maybe leaving aside the branding and marketing part). I can see that you have also dabbled with the different aspects of making music. Of course, it gives more creative control over a song. But my question is - Do you think that being such an all-rounder has a greater edge over one who would want to focus on fewer aspects (but really work hard towards the best quality of those few aspects)? What does your experience say? 

 

 

 

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I wasn't always into music deeply though I enjoyed its company. I remember picking up a guitar for the first time when I was 15 years old (being 24 now). Maybe that's when my interest in music increased and kept my teenage mind occupied. Being in India and coming from a middle-class background, my only source of international music back then was the radio. Every night at 9:00PM, the local radio would air the feed of Top40 with Ryan Seacrest or Casey Kasem and I used to fall asleep to it. The more I recall those nights, the more I realise how significant it has been for me to ever have my doors open to this wonderful world of music.

 

Around the same time, I came across and heard 'Gravity' by John Mayer. That changed everything. I'm sure there is always one moment in life for every single person that proves to be monumental in deciding what the rest of their life is going to be. Listening to Gravity was mine. Never was I so moved with the words being sung and the music going with it. That's when my fascination with songwriting, making music, expressing was born. My frustration with my noob guitar playing skills further motivated me to write my own words and melodies. lol That's how it began.

 

From there, I would try to find every opportunity to sing in front of an audience. Since I was in school, most of that would be singing competitions. I guess being part of those competitions really helped me gain confidence in myself to stand in front of an audience and perform. There was no stopping me from there.

 

And then Songstuff & John happened. 

 

For those of you who know Derek Sivers is would also know that he was an active blogger/writer as well and was open to discussions with any person who would send him a mail. I did so, seeking music advice back in 2011. He said that the best way to get better at what you do is to share it with like minded people. He suggested I find communities online. And obviously, the first one to pop up was Songstuff. [smiley=acoustic.gif]

 

I joined Songstuff in Feb 2011 (I just checked, it marked my 6 years of Songstuff just yesterday) and I was quite the excited one. John noticed. I started getting involved with more things Songstuff and we started talking more about music and what not. Back then, I had a very basic phone with internet capabilities at the lowest. I had no computer, no equipment. In fact I had no room of mine either & was living in a room with my two brothers and my mom. But I had these songs. And John suggested I put an EP out with those songs. Now, note that I'd never performed anywhere but in school and college. I had no equipment, no money and quite evidently, no sense of challenge. And John says - "If that's where we've got to start from, then let's start".

I did all I can to put some money together (saving lunch money, claiming that I needed lunch money from friends lol) and then went to a studio and recorded 5 songs and called it Beyond the Door. It was just one guitar (with barely average guitar playing) and my voice. But I did it. That's the point John had all along. Use what you've got and work with it. As if there was any other choice. I put the EP out online, sent it indie radio stations all over the globe (I did get my songs aired in a handful of radio stations and podcasts in the UK, US and Japan. I think that was super sweet of the people running the shows), got a 'music video' prepared with the help of my brother. A few people in the city took notice, invited me to perform at a few places for free. Two venue owners saw me there and offered me my very first paid gigs and on I went on my journey to become a full time musician. 

 

With John's direction always being there, I continued to stay active and build my music career while in college. As you would know how it is in India when it comes to parents pressuring you to pursue a more 'meaningful profession', I ploughed on as I finished my bachelor's degree in computer science. I worked for about a year and then made the decision to call it quits and pursue music full time. My parents were obviously against it but being stubborn, I did it anyways. John and other friends helped me to be smart about it. Being a singer-songwriter in India is not exactly a financially stable option lol I had to make sure that my education loans were still being taken care of as well that nothing changes in the financial equation I have with my parents. I wasn't a kid anymore. I did have a responsibility.

 

It's been two years since I called it quits. Looks like things haven't gone to the shits yet lol I don't plan on it to. My parents came to a gig of mine a couple of months back. Their very first gig. After years of quarrel, fights, debates and what not, my dad on his way back said "I understand what he's doing now". He's not opposed my music or has shown distaste towards it ever since. In fact, it has been the opposite. Over the years, I've got to support some of the best bands in the country. I opened for Lucy Rose and Luke Sital-Singh when they came to India. I got to perform with Christian Galvez, one of the best Jazz musicians in the world which was a life time opportunity. There is a LONG way to go. And being a full time musician is a real struggle every single day. But it's all worth it! Every single bit.

 

Years have passed and John has continued to mentor me in my career. He's been a greater friend and has helped me in the toughest of my days even when I was at a stage where I was 'hurting' myself. And it is such a mind-boggling thing for me to comprehend how someone on the other side of the world who has never met me in person has had so much selfless concern and passion in helping me. Well, helping people. I mean, this is what Songstuff is all about. 

It sounds like I'm exaggerating but believe me, John is probably THE biggest reason for any success I have earned and will ever earn in my music career. I try to remember that every day. 

Well, that's me. :)

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Cash is in the post Mahesh ;) lol

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6 hours ago, Sreyashi Mukherjee said:

Thanks, John! That was such a lovely insight into your musical journey and your thought process behind setting up Songstuff. As life shape shifts, so do our perspectives and goals. But holding on to our passion without losing focus or morale is such a challenge. Stories like your's help in keeping the faith :)

 

I do have another question : There are so many artists who do every part of the music-making on their own (maybe leaving aside the branding and marketing part). I can see that you have also dabbled with the different aspects of making music. Of course, it gives more creative control over a song. But my question is - Do you think that being such an all-rounder has a greater edge over one who would want to focus on fewer aspects (but really work hard towards the best quality of those few aspects)? What does your experience say? 

 

 

 

 

I think it is good to at least try other areas. It gives you insight, which can change how you do things. You can also discover you actually enjoy and / or are good at other roles. It can give you a better understanding of contract negotiation, the implication of contract clauses, make you better when interacting with others doing those roles, and help you keep cost under control at earlier stages of your music career / hobby. Of course the balancing factor is the extra time it takes. There is a balance to be had. 

 

In general I would say do what you are good at and what you are passionate about, but don't be afraid of trying new things.  My only caveat is where time becomes short, that you are ready to relinquish extra roles to allow yourself to focus on your core passion.

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1 hour ago, john said:

Cash is in the post Mahesh ;) lol

lol, Amen!

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On 2/25/2017 at 7:58 PM, Mahesh said:

I wasn't always into music deeply though I enjoyed its company. I remember picking up a guitar for the first time when I was 15 years old (being 24 now). Maybe that's when my interest in music increased and kept my teenage mind occupied. Being in India and coming from a middle-class background, my only source of international music back then was the radio. Every night at 9:00PM, the local radio would air the feed of Top40 with Ryan Seacrest or Casey Kasem and I used to fall asleep to it. The more I recall those nights, the more I realise how significant it has been for me to ever have my doors open to this wonderful world of music.

 

Around the same time, I came across and heard 'Gravity' by John Mayer. That changed everything. I'm sure there is always one moment in life for every single person that proves to be monumental in deciding what the rest of their life is going to be. Listening to Gravity was mine. Never was I so moved with the words being sung and the music going with it. That's when my fascination with songwriting, making music, expressing was born. My frustration with my noob guitar playing skills further motivated me to write my own words and melodies. lol That's how it began.

 

From there, I would try to find every opportunity to sing in front of an audience. Since I was in school, most of that would be singing competitions. I guess being part of those competitions really helped me gain confidence in myself to stand in front of an audience and perform. There was no stopping me from there.

 

And then Songstuff & John happened. 

 

For those of you who know Derek Sivers is would also know that he was an active blogger/writer as well and was open to discussions with any person who would send him a mail. I did so, seeking music advice back in 2011. He said that the best way to get better at what you do is to share it with like minded people. He suggested I find communities online. And obviously, the first one to pop up was Songstuff. [smiley=acoustic.gif]

 

I joined Songstuff in Feb 2011 (I just checked, it marked my 6 years of Songstuff just yesterday) and I was quite the excited one. John noticed. I started getting involved with more things Songstuff and we started talking more about music and what not. Back then, I had a very basic phone with internet capabilities at the lowest. I had no computer, no equipment. In fact I had no room of mine either & was living in a room with my two brothers and my mom. But I had these songs. And John suggested I put an EP out with those songs. Now, note that I'd never performed anywhere but in school and college. I had no equipment, no money and quite evidently, no sense of challenge. And John says - "If that's where we've got to start from, then let's start".

I did all I can to put some money together (saving lunch money, claiming that I needed lunch money from friends lol) and then went to a studio and recorded 5 songs and called it Beyond the Door. It was just one guitar (with barely average guitar playing) and my voice. But I did it. That's the point John had all along. Use what you've got and work with it. As if there was any other choice. I put the EP out online, sent it indie radio stations all over the globe (I did get my songs aired in a handful of radio stations and podcasts in the UK, US and Japan. I think that was super sweet of the people running the shows), got a 'music video' prepared with the help of my brother. A few people in the city took notice, invited me to perform at a few places for free. Two venue owners saw me there and offered me my very first paid gigs and on I went on my journey to become a full time musician. 

 

With John's direction always being there, I continued to stay active and build my music career while in college. As you would know how it is in India when it comes to parents pressuring you to pursue a more 'meaningful profession', I ploughed on as I finished my bachelor's degree in computer science. I worked for about a year and then made the decision to call it quits and pursue music full time. My parents were obviously against it but being stubborn, I did it anyways. John and other friends helped me to be smart about it. Being a singer-songwriter in India is not exactly a financially stable option lol I had to make sure that my education loans were still being taken care of as well that nothing changes in the financial equation I have with my parents. I wasn't a kid anymore. I did have a responsibility.

 

It's been two years since I called it quits. Looks like things haven't gone to the shits yet lol I don't plan on it to. My parents came to a gig of mine a couple of months back. Their very first gig. After years of quarrel, fights, debates and what not, my dad on his way back said "I understand what he's doing now". He's not opposed my music or has shown distaste towards it ever since. In fact, it has been the opposite. Over the years, I've got to support some of the best bands in the country. I opened for Lucy Rose and Luke Sital-Singh when they came to India. I got to perform with Christian Galvez, one of the best Jazz musicians in the world which was a life time opportunity. There is a LONG way to go. And being a full time musician is a real struggle every single day. But it's all worth it! Every single bit.

 

Years have passed and John has continued to mentor me in my career. He's been a greater friend and has helped me in the toughest of my days even when I was at a stage where I was 'hurting' myself. And it is such a mind-boggling thing for me to comprehend how someone on the other side of the world who has never met me in person has had so much selfless concern and passion in helping me. Well, helping people. I mean, this is what Songstuff is all about. 

It sounds like I'm exaggerating but believe me, John is probably THE biggest reason for any success I have earned and will ever earn in my music career. I try to remember that every day. 

Well, that's me. :)

Mahesh, so it turns out that another perk of my joining Songstuff was to come across your profile :)

 I was going through your posts and music in detail today and to see a professional sounding voice, music and production like your’s trying to make it big is both an exhilarating and sobering feeling. The former reason being, this is potential star-material that can help promote quality international music through local talent (maybe even making it big globally). The latter one being, a great part of the Indian music scene is not about the kind of music that you and I have started to appreciate. I admire your courage to fight the odds and stick to your decision to make this a full-time pursuit. I was an active performer in school and college levels but never gave it a thought of going further because I couldn’t see the viability. Turns out that the heart’s stirrings have a greater strength than the mind’s calculations :D   So, as a thirty-something who’s finally beginning to polish her voice again, I find your story really motivating. My best wishes for you and the exciting times ahead! Will keep picking up tips every now and then :)

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On 2/25/2017 at 9:54 PM, john said:

 

I think it is good to at least try other areas. It gives you insight, which can change how you do things. You can also discover you actually enjoy and / or are good at other roles. It can give you a better understanding of contract negotiation, the implication of contract clauses, make you better when interacting with others doing those roles, and help you keep cost under control at earlier stages of your music career / hobby. Of course the balancing factor is the extra time it takes. There is a balance to be had. 

 

In general I would say do what you are good at and what you are passionate about, but don't be afraid of trying new things.  My only caveat is where time becomes short, that you are ready to relinquish extra roles to allow yourself to focus on your core passion.

 

Yes, John, I understand. It’s also a case of “you never know what will work out and how”, so better to be aware of the know-how. I’m terrible at time management, though, so that’s a steep learning curve  :-P

Thanks for all the detailed pointers… will look forward to exchanging notes as both time and I make progress..

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I was forced into it by my next door neighbour!

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On 27/02/2017 at 2:36 AM, Steve said:

I was forced into it by my next door neighbour!

 

Oh Steve.. then there's hope for all of us! :D

 

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Steve is telling the gospel truth, Sreyashi. His dog told me so.

 

I fell in love with rock music in the late 60's, listening to bands on television. The Beatles. The Monkees. Steppenwolf. Joe Cocker. Even Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Later, in the 70's, it was Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Robin Trower, Styx, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, and a hundred others. When I say I fell in love with it, I mean that exactly... I loved rock music, and I wanted very desperately to be a rock musician. Or, more accurately, I wanted to be a rock star.

 

In that time, such a dream was a very, very real thing. As real as dreaming of being an astronaut, which was another fantasy young boys enjoyed and aspired to then. Anyway, in my case, my parents were diametrically opposed the the idea, or anything bearing even the slightest resemblance to such a career choice. So learning the trade, as it were, was a working impossibility for most of my youth. One exception was singing. I had a voice, thankfully, and so was able to sustain the hope of perhaps joining a band as the singer.

 

Which was exactly what happened.

 

When I was 16, I went with friends to watch a band practice. For a group of high school kids they were good. They played everything from Lynard Skynard to Steely Dan. Not exactly your typical high school rock band repertoire. As it turned out, the evening I went to watch the band practice, their singer got fired. He wasn't very good. I asked for the chance to sing a song. They gave me the lyric sheets for a couple of songs they knew well, and placed me in front of the mic. An hour later I was the singer for the band.

 

That band lasted less than six months. But it hardly mattered, I was officially a rock singer, and was bound and determined to remain one at virtually any cost. Nothing I had ever done, including several starter level fumbling sexual encounters, had ever felt half as good as standing behind that mic in front of that band, belting out song after song. Practices always ended too soon, and it was always too long a wait until the next practice. And gigs? Forget about it. I was prepared to run away from home, brake up with ANY girl... basically do almost anything to make a gig. That band only ever played out a hand full of times... a couple of parties, a battle of the bands (which we won!) and one tiny local bar that had to sneak us in the back door... but those moments were seared into my soul. They became a part of my DNA.

 

My parents hated it. I eventually moved away from home at the age of 17. I worked a lot of dead end jobs to make ends meet, but I was ALWAYS in a band. I spent both time and money cultivating the proper look and attitude. When VHS became a big deal, I rented or bought every hard rock and heavy metal video I could get my hands on. I studied them with the same intensity that any serious student at any Ivy league school might study advanced courses in their major. At the age of 19, I started learning how to play rhythm guitar and bass. Skills I still pursue to this day. I wanted to be a rock musician as a full time career, and I did everything in my power to make myself as good at my job as I could be.

 

In the mid to late 80's I had a three and a half year run in a very good club band. We played 35-45 weeks a year, and made a modest living doing nothing but playing gigs. The whole band shared a 3 bedroom apartment. We drank a ton of liquor and beer, smoked a lot of pot, spent the night with a ton of lovely gals, and played a double ton of loud, party rock. Mostly covers, but we also had a dozen or so solid originals, Most clubs would allow us to play one original each set. We had been adopted by a local biker club and had bikers for roadies and managers. We stayed in Red Roof Inns and Motel 6's, ate a lot of pizza and Chinese take out, and I loved it with all my heart and soul. I was in heaven.

 

Later, after that band broke up, I got married. This forced me into a more mundane but better paying career. I continued to play in bands, but at a much reduced level. Then after my kids grew up and left home, and following a divorce from my first wife,  I got back into playing out more, and with the full support of my second wife, I was in a couple of pretty good bands in my late 40's.

 

Severe health issues (now under control) eventually forced me to retire from both my career and from playing out with bands. Now I have a modest but well equipped home studio and I make both original and select cover songs form there, working with musicians from all around the world. Sometimes the songs get posted for sale, but I don't do it for the money.

 

I do it because I still love it, in the same way as I did when I was 10 years old, listening to bands on TV, and on 12 inch lp's and eight track tapes... dreaming of the day when I might get my chance...

 

I don't know if this sounds hokey to you, or even as if I made it all up. I wrote this because I thought you might appreciate hearing what it was like at a time when the dream of a career in music had a different meaning than it does today. Rock stars were living gods when I was a kid. They were super heroes and super stars. They ruled the world, and if, like me, a kid entertained a real desire to have that life, it was as big a dream as any a young kid could have at that time.

 

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

 

 

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On 11/03/2017 at 7:58 AM, RobAsh15 said:

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That's what matters in the end, doesn't it, Rob? The ability to stick (to anything). And music seems to be a very good adhesive for everyone here :)

 

Thanks for sharing!

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On 2/26/2017 at 4:06 PM, Steve said:

I was forced into it by my next door neighbour!

 

My neighbors were always complaining abut my music, and that made me even more determined to do it.  Is that what you mean too? :) 

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On 12/03/2017 at 10:10 AM, HoboSage said:

 

My neighbors were always complaining abut my music, and that made me even more determined to do it.  Is that what you mean too? :) 

 

Here's hoping your neighbour doesn't read this and start complimenting you!

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My idea of the next-door neighbour story was something similar to that of Mary Jane inspiring the "superhero" in Peter Parker... please feel free to clarify :P

 

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Posted (edited)

To actually answer the question:

 

When I was kid in elementary school, my parents bought a pretty nice upright piano for me and my four sisters, and my mom made us all take piano lessons - she didn't play.  The piano was pretty cool because it had built in rhythms - metronome, samba, rumba, shuffle, a 4/4 pattern, a 6/8 pattern, etc. - that I guess were recorded loops of some sort.  It was pretty revolutionary for the time.  So, I've had rhythms the play to from the start - which no doubt greatly influenced my love of rhythm.  My piano teacher was really cool as well.  She recognized that I wasn't very good at reading music, but that I could play really well by ear and had a strong sense of rhythm.  So, instead of having me learn from the same standard piano books my sisters and other young students had to learn from, she got me sheet music for boggie woogie songs, and she'd play them for me so I knew how they were supposed to sound.  That kind of got me hooked with making music, because I also almost immediately started coming up with my own piano instrumentals.  For my first and only piano recital, I played a boogie woogie (I think it may have been something by Fats Domino) and one of my own original compositions.  My best friend from the neighboorhood Karl had the same piano teacher.  His mom had made him and his brothers take lessons as well - and I wonder now if that's where my mom got the idea.  Karl quit lessons right before I was forced to start. My mom let me quit after a year, because I got "older" and taking piano lessons didn't seem cool, and practicing and lessons wasn't something I wanted to do during summer. But, I never stopped coming up with my own stuff at home  Eventually, I got Karl interesed in coming up with his own stuff at home too, and so, we kind of kept encouraging each other that way over the next four years or so.

 

When Karl and I were 15, Karl started teaching himself to play acoustic guitar using some old steel string that sat in the corner of his living room which no one played.  Well, it just so happened that my older sister had quit guitar lessons, and her nylon string acoustic was just gathering dust under her bed - so I stole it.  It didn't take long for Karl and I to figure out how to use the guitar chord schematics on all the sheet music each of our families had left over from piano lessons to guide our fretting fingers.  And, since we each were good at playing by ear and knew how the popular songs we had sheet music for were supposed to sound, we were playing songs in no time.  After awhile though, Karl and I wen't on divergent musical paths.  He kept buying sheet music to learn how to play James Taylor, and I started doing my own songs - with words - that I sung.  I've been doing it ever since, first with that classical nylon-string acoustic, then with a steel string acoustics, then with electric guitars, then with synths and MIDI and multi-track analog recording . . . and now also with my DAW.

 

 

Edited by HoboSage
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Posted (edited)

Interesting topic!

 

In short, when I was in both primary and school, I would often imagine strange things and scenarios, and with these scenarios, I also imagined their respective music.  Outside of my imagination, I did like to listen to a few particular real songs made by real people; some of them are still my favorites.  The problem was that the music that I'd imagine would only be temporary and eventually forgotten, and some of that music really sounded cool to me!

 

So, several years later, I finally got my hands on some technology that enabled me to be able to create and record music freely, and thus preserve/immortalize what creations came about my mind.  As of today, the majority of the music that I listen to is my own.  I was in high school band for 4 years + 2 more years in college band, however most of my musical knowledge was derived from strict high school band experience.

Edited by TripMX
Sentence structure

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On 14/03/2017 at 11:01 PM, HoboSage said:

To actually answer the question:

 

My piano teacher was really cool as well.  She recognized that I wasn't very good at reading music, but that I could play really well by ear and had a strong sense of rhythm.  So, instead of having me learn from the same standard piano books my sisters and other young students had to learn from, she got me sheet music for boggie woogie songs, and she'd play them for me so I knew how they were supposed to sound.  That kind of got me hooked with making music, because I also almost immediately started coming up with my own piano instrumentals.  

 

It didn't take long for Karl and I to figure out how to use the guitar chord schematics on all the sheet music each of our families had left over from piano lessons to guide our fretting fingers.  And, since we each were good at playing by ear and knew how the popular songs we had sheet music for were supposed to sound, we were playing songs in no time.  

 

 

 

That's really cool. I identify very well with the issue of not being able to effectively study music in its traditional sense; and would face these hiccups while taking training in Indian classical music, too. But my learning has predominantly and extensively been through the ear. Not sure if that's the best technique but it obviously seems to have worked quite well for some people :)

 

Thanks for sharing your story!

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On 15/03/2017 at 1:16 AM, TripMX said:

Interesting topic!

 

In short, when I was in both primary and school, I would often imagine strange things and scenarios, and with these scenarios, I also imagined their respective music.  Outside of my imagination, I did like to listen to a few particular real songs made by real people; some of them are still my favorites.  The problem was that the music that I'd imagine would only be temporary and eventually forgotten, and some of that music really sounded cool to me!

 

So, several years later, I finally got my hands on some technology that enabled me to be able to create and record music freely, and thus preserve/immortalize what creations came about my mind.  As of today, the majority of the music that I listen to is my own.  I was in high school band for 4 years + 2 more years in college band, however most of my musical knowledge was derived from strict high school band experience.

 

Hey TripMX,

 

That's an interesting viewpoint of your's.. but doesn't it sometimes feel like one needs to listen to what's "out there" that he or she can measure their music against? Not from a competition-point-of-view but more from that of greater awareness or inspiration? 

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On 3/16/2017 at 2:04 PM, Sreyashi Mukherjee said:

 

Hey TripMX,

 

That's an interesting viewpoint of your's.. but doesn't it sometimes feel like one needs to listen to what's "out there" that he or she can measure their music against? Not from a competition-point-of-view but more from that of greater awareness or inspiration? 

 

Hi Sreyashi,

 

Of course from time to time, I listen to others' music and have gained that awareness and inspiration that you speak of, infact, 15% of my music creations are remixes of songs by other popular artists that I liked.  Now don't get me wrong, I do listen to music that some unpopular/community artists release from time to time as well mainly because I too, am one of them, and I know the struggle.  Granted I don't spend nearly as much time listening to music outside of my own, but I surely have made the efforts to give others an honest listen. :) 

 

I make all my music on iOS (iPad app), so trust me, I know exactly where I stand, haha!

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Wow...good topic.  I've always been interested in music, in singing, playing guitar and drums...(I sang "Country Roads" in my Vacation Bible School class to inconclusive reviews) and broke dozens of drum sticks by beating them against anything I could find.  Unfortunately, to say that my mom and step-dad were unsupportive would be like saying the ocean is a small pond.  Eventually, after a few years I gave in to "what was expected" and pursued a more conventional track and "rewarding" (pardon me while I yawn) career.  Fast forward 45 years, then something truly magical happened.  Out of nowhere I got a call from a private eye who was commissioned by my biological father to find me.  He and my mom divorced when I was three and he had been trying to find me as I moved around the country over the years.  I was skeptical of course, but he did provide convincing evidence.  When we met, it freaked my wife completely out because we were virtually carbon copies of each other.  Same build, mannerisms, hair (he had much less than me...yikes!)  I found out that he had played in a band called Southern Comfort for many, many years as a drummer, and also my brother D (who I met for the first time then as well) is an accomplished bass and guitar player.  So I picked up a guitar again.  I really had my doubts when I started playing again, and had no confidence that I could even write a song but he kept telling me "goddam boy, it's in your genes, don't let no one tell you no different.  Do what's inside and t'hell with 'em."  and that's where I started writing my own songs.  I looked around for some time trying to find somewhere to get more feedback on what I was writing and then I stumbled into Songstuff and the great group here.   And I've never regretted it.  Thanks John for putting together this site, and all you folks who write, perform, and produce music that take the time to critique and help. ~ JH

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Wow... JH... that's quite a story! Amazing stuff!

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I've always enjoyed songwriting. I've always written country music songs and then I wrote my first rap song back in 2016 dedicated and inspired by my son who had some rough experiences in the early stages of his life. I consider myself to be a true story lyric writer so I base all my lyrics off my experiences or the others around me.

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