Month: November 2010

Recording in Isolation

When I write and, especially, when I record for a new album, I tend to do it in isolation. Meaning that I don’t listen to other music.I know it sounds odd that a songwriter and musician doesn’t listen to other people’s music. It’s like a writer not reading, which of course, is essential.

But while recording I don’t want to get overly influenced by others, especially those whose music I love. I want to avoid sounding in any way generic or derivative in my production and execution of the song.

This latest album, Treehouse, came from writing a whole bunch of songs for a forum called “50 songs in 90 Days” run by (which I didn’t get anywhere near to completing!) In late Sept I noticed that I had enough songs that I liked for a new album, plus I wrote a few more along the way.

So from October onwards I have listened to very little music other than my own, which has been very tedious for my kids as I do a lot of listening and tweaking while driving to and from school and activities. My musically picky 13 year old daughter is very handy in her criticisms on these rides! She is a huge music consumer (and I make her save up and buy her music!) so she makes up for me during these times!

Now I am done the CD (mastering gets done this week and then artwork gets sent to Now we can all start listening to other music and we are all relieved! First thing I did after giving the album a final listen before sending it to the masterful masterer, Hans DeKline, was find some Bon Iver and crank it up! Ahh… nice to hear a guy voice for a change!

And when I am done my own albums I tend not to listen to it much again, unless I’m assessing tunes for submissions. I move on to the next thing very quickly… although I have no idea what that will be right now.

I am going to take Dec off (yeh right!) and put up decorations and bake with the kids (gonna try!) and now I need new music to listen to… any suggestions in the alternative folk ish genre?

From BC to LA with Taxi.

This year has been the year of conferences for me and last weekend was the biggest I have been to so far.

In case you don’t know – Taxi is an independent A&R company and as a member you can submit your songs to be screened and then possibly forwarded to publishers, producers, music supervisors and ad agencies.

As a member you also get to attend their annual Road Rally for FREE… that’s right… no money!

So, as a 3 year member I thought it was time I took advantage of this, so I booked my ticket and hotel and flew off to hot, sunny LA for 4 days. Leaving BC in 5 degrees and arriving in LA at 90 degrees in Uggs and a wool coat was not the best decision, but thankfully I never left the air conditioned hotel.

I knew that around 2000 people usually attend the Road Rally. The other conferences I had attended I had some friends or points of contact so this time I knew that I was going to be entering a sea of musicians where I knew no one. This was daunting but I just told myself to breathe and relax and smile.

I needn’t have worried. Within hours of arriving and wandering aimlessly I suddenly hear “Hey, it’s Helen Austin, we love your stuff”. I look around a guy is introducing himself to me as Michael Laskow… only the owner and founder of Taxi. How cool was that! Then a few minutes later, the same thing happened again and it was Craig and Carl, a couple of lovely Taxi staff members. I had forgotten that they have the advantage of knowing what I look like from my Taxi profile and it turns out that, thanks to Karen McKinnon, I look a lot like my photos! This served me well at the mentor lunches where the Taxi screeners easily remembered me and my music.

Hooray! I have new friends. It just snowballed from there, meeting all sorts of new people, but somehow I always end up hanging out with sound guys and techies… must be something to do with the husband techie thing!

Next, I sign up for the open mic and play When We Were Young and got a lovely response, but before I could leave the stage, Carl, the MC, grabbed me and started telling the audience about my high ratio of Taxi forwards and how they were doing a class because of that the next day called ‘How to get more Taxi forwards’ (I found out later that they played my music in the panel as examples). Now I am just grinning from ear to ear thinking “I love this rally’!

I get an early night because Friday is a big day. The week before I had gotten selected to be one of the 4 songwriters to play a tune to be ‘Pimped’ by ASCAP’s Ralph Murphy, a man with hundreds of hits under his belt!

Friday morning was the start of the panels and it was opened with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Michael Lloyd, a guy who has done it all for 6 decades. This guy looks like he’s still in his 20’s and has the most amazing amount generosity and humility. It was an inspiration to hear him speak about the business!

After attending many of the very informative panels it was time to get pimped!

I chose When We Were Young and arrogantly went in thinking that this is my best song, what could he possibly change. Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. I think it was hard for all 4 of us to be told that our ‘babies’ weren’t up to scratch but with a little change here and a big change there they would be good. I decided to do as I was told, not resist and went away to make the changes. We had until Sunday morning to rewrite and it was already late Friday afternoon.

I made some more friends and got to say hi to Ariel Hyatt and Carla Lynn Hall from CyberPR. What lovely ladies they are!! And very smart!

Friday evening I finally got to meet one of my publishers, Keatly Halderman, co founder of pigFactory publishing. We had a great dinner and very interesting talk about my career and they are very interested in having my whole catalogue of songs which left my head spinning for the rest of the evening.

Saturday was packed with more amazing panels and lots of chances to get my music played in front of some really big guns, but hundreds of musicians put their CDs into the drop boxes and it’s just luck if you get picked. I didn’t get picked, but felt I had already had plenty of luck so far so that was okay. Saturday evening I finally got to meet up with Hans DeKline, who does all my mastering. I made him stand in line for an hour so I could get a spot in the final open mic, which he very graciously did. We had a great time chatting and it’s always nice to finally put a face to a name and a facebook conversation!

Sunday morning it was time to present my new version of When We Were Young. While making the changes I kept thinking that it was all wrong and that those changes were taking away the heart and pathos of the song. But when I performed it, the new changes came to life and it was worth it just to see Ralph Murphy beaming when I had finished. We were both very happy with the results.

One of the Sunday panels had Tanvi Patel from Crucial Publishing. Crucial is my other publisher, which has gotten me placements but has thousands of songs and many artists, so I didn’t have the same personal relationship with them as I did with pigFactory. Well that’s changed. When I met Tanvi she was immediately enthusiastic about my music. We ended up having lunch and discussing my career and she hated the idea of losing any of my songs. I told her it would have been much easier if she had been stand-offish and dismissive, but she wasn’t. I asked her lots of hard questions and we had a lovely lunch. I can’t tell you how wanted I feel by both my publishers. I really am a lucky girl!

So what have I come away with from the Rally?

First of all, I have come away with a beautiful new Blue Blueberry microphone courtesy of West L.A. Music.

I have a whole heap of new friends both Taxi staff and Taxi members.

I have more knowledge than I can fit into my brain right now… which is why I have a computer.

But most of all I have come away knowing that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. Knowing that is everything.

Thank you Taxi for providing such a great service and for really caring about your members… and for the FREE Road Rally.

I will be back next year and recommend to anyone who wants to seriously further their music career go too!

And here’s a pic of Michael Laskow at the end of it all still smiling and having time for everyone! Michael, you put on a great event!