Aug 3rd, 2010 by Dave Piersall
One Mans Struggle to Own His Musical Destiny
I am 41 years old today and been playing several instruments for 35 years now. I have played over 200 gigs in my life and been in 6 or 7 bands. I have gotten a lot out of those days and made a lot of mistakes like the one I about to tell you about. Mistake or not today I always remember to chalk days like this this up to a great learning experience and a new chance to grow from it. If I only thought that way back then. Remember to look for the good in all your errors as if you look hard enough there is always a lesson to be learned.
The Crossroads Vs. The Die Hard Musician
It was about 9 years ago my boss cornered me in the work place cafeteria and stated “You look like shit Dave, you played a gig last night didn’t you?”. I worked at an Office Equipment seller at the time, had worked there for 4 years, and had just been promoted to the position of Sales manager months earlier. My boss was right I had placed a gig at a popular club in Naperville, IL called Keywester the night before, a gig that paid the band $850.00 . That was a lot of money back then and it is a lot now too. I have to admit I did look like death warmed over after the 8 drinks the prior night and only 3 hours of sleep. I told him I was a little tired and he replied “You need to decide whether you’re a Sales Manager or a Rock and Roll Star”, and he wanted an answer right then too. With a wife and 2 kids, daughter of 3, and a new born Son, I replied I was a Sales Manager and quite the band the next day. You see while playing in the band was a a lot of fun and musically rewarding it did not exactly pay the bills solely if you know what I mean.
Almost a decade passed by while I was growing the family nest egg and building a family plus one more, my loving daughter born the Summer of 2002. I had not actively played in a gigging band since the summer of 2003 and to be honest I had not thought about it too much for some reason. Back in the day, and normal for me, I would write 2-4 songs a week but for the past 5 years I had hardly written a single note. The thought had occurred many times in the last 5 years that maybe that part of me might be dried up. Even my wife was surprised by the dry spell and every time I reminisced about the old days and the music she would say “You should really do something with your music it is too good to just waste”, and I’d say “Yeah your right” and do nothing.
So I find myself eating lunch with an old friend an ex band mate Jeff Sawalski, during the Winter of 2008, when he asked “Have you written anything lately?” I actually had written some new songs ironically enough after the long dry spell and I thought they were pretty good too. That evening I called him and played one over the phone, as I had many times in the past, and he told me he thought it was really cool. Later that evening I got to thinking about what my wife always asked me, and I asked myself, what was stopping me from doing something with the tunes anyway? The answer was nothing and I started thinking about how I would accomplish that new plan as the 3 kids, house that needed fixing, and the wife who wanted to see me once in a while would make it very tough to be in a serious gigging band. My wife had been doing Internet marketing for almost 3 years at the time and had had some great success, and I always heard that the Internet was a stomping ground where many artists were selling their songs, some of them doing well too. In that moment the vehicle to become a serious music Blogger, get better known as an original songwriter, and sell my songs had been chosen.
Now that I had picked the vehicle I needed to find out what the hell that meant as I had absolutely no experience on the web in that regards. I did not really know where to go for the help, other than my wife, who I already knew would lead me to the water, but would not possess the time to do it for me. I also knew she would not want to answer the 100 questions the way I needed them answered, like I was a 5 year old learning to read for the first time. So where did I go for my information? Where else The Internet! I was amazed how many articles and videos existed at places like Artists House, and the hundreds of great Blogs dangling shinny little jewels about how I would conquer my monster I had created. I knew I would need help from someone I trusted on the business side of things, so I enlisted my long time friend, and entrepreneur, Tom Vail. Tom had many successful businesses, and could tend to the business side of things while I handled the music, and building my new band.
We had decided to professionally record the songs, as putting an inferior product out just did not make any sense. We needed a band to do that. I enlisted my old band mate Jeff Sawalski for the lead vocal spot, even though I had sung very successfully in several bands years earlier. For this project it was not about egos, or anything like that, it was about putting the best people for the job in place and Jeff was head and heels a better singer than I was. I called up Stevie Boy my old bass player who loved recording who grabbed the spot in a heartbeat. Having great friends and resources was a blessing and the only thing that remained was lead guitarist and drummer spots to fill. I called Tom Allen another old band mate who agreed to take the lead guitar spot. We got lucky on the drummer ,as my brother Bill Piersall, who worked at Guitar Center, found a drummer he worked with who came out and was great and wanted to join. With that the band was formed and we were ready to conquer the world.
We agreed to practice twice a month and it was going pretty well until the day Tom Vail and I gathered the guys up to sign the recording musician contracts. Tom Vail and I researched the process and found that most studio musicians received between 1 and 5 percent of the total take with exception to publishing and songwriter royalties. We decided to give the guys 3 percent of everything even publishing and royalties. That evening everyone agreed the offer was fair except Tom Allen who felt he deserved 20% of the take. If we agreed to give Tom Allen that everyone would have to get that cut too and 20 percent would be left for Tom Vail and I to split in the end. That said we did not think that sounded quite fair so we told Tom the 3 percent was the only offer on the table. Long story short things did not work out with Tom Allen and I called my long time friend Larry Kucera a great blues guitarist to take Tom’s place. We thought our troubles where over but we were wrong. If losing Tom was not enough our miracle drummer went missing in action and after 2 no shows at practice with no return phone calls we needed a new drummer. Taking the advice of Larry Kucera our new guitarist I put an ad in Craigslist for a drummer. To my surprise drummers came rolling out in herds and 90% of them were great drummers too. Now it might be old age or the failing memory of a 41 year old man but back in the day I remember finding a great drumming was harder than finding a stack of hundred dollar bills laying there in the street for the taking. We auditioned 5 great drummers and settled on a drummer who believe it or not worked at the Guitar Center too , small world huh?. So with that the band was complete again.
Our day came to hit the studio and we were all more than excited as we had been practicing for 9-10 weeks with all the false starts and line up changes. We recorded 3 songs and thought we had a pretty good start but Memorex did not lie. For some reason the drums that sounded so great while recording them did not sound the same when listening back. They just did not crack the way we needed them to. In the name of time and money I agreed to let Mario Massi the studio owner take a stab at fixing them with EZ Drummer a drum software. Now the funny thing is when I was interviewing him he told me I should not use real drums as getting the rhythm section right is tougher than I think. I remember drum machines from 10 years earlier and was not about to let that happen to my babies but now I needed a solution. To my surprise the software that uses midi samplings of real drummer Nir Z sounded exactly how I wanted , what a relief. We had to rerecord the bass lines to get the pocket right and a few other things I really don’t want to go into as that is a sore spot for me after not listening from the beginning to Mario. Today I simply have Jeff Sawalski who goes by Jeff Anthony these days (Anthony is his middle name) singing, Mario Massi of Mario Massi Studios playing all other instruments, and myself recording the songs and it is a well oiled machine too. Getting it right for yourself might be something different but I would suggest you explore the possibilities of EZ Drummer too. Remember the more cooks you have siring the soup the more chance there is your soup could turn out tasting like a pot of swill you dump down the sink painfully one evening. Every man and woman’s path is different so beat to your own drum as long as you get it right.
I started this site a little over 2 months ago now and feel blessed I was able to find great help for the Blog posts from Jeff Anthony, Bill Piersall my brother, and Chris Morrow an old band mate drummer as without them I am certain this all would have taken a different fate. Today I have over 50 visitors come to the site a day and the traffic is growing all the time. That said I have to admit looking at traffic statistics on day two, after putting up 4 new Blog posts the prior day I was really excited about was a very sobering moment. I found out that only 3 visitors had come to the site for the previous day to see those great posts and I realized this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. I wrote a post called “Build It And They Will Come” a couple weeks ago, a sort of sarcastic title, that outlines what to do to get traffic to a site should you be looking at your traffic stats today having the same panic attack I had 2 months ago. I also wrote a great post called “How To Build Your First Music Website” should you be an artists thinking of taking on this struggle too. This Blog and site is dedicated to helping out others like me get to the next step in sustaining their dream to becoming an expert as an Internet Marketing Guru. I am not there yet but I learn something new everyday that makes me say “Wow that is really cool” As I learn you can be sure I will share it with you all here at Euphony Productions.
So Jeff and I are plugging along and last night we went to the Songwriters Showcase at Backthird Studios in Aurora Illinois owned by Benjie Hughes a well know Internet marketer and songwriter. We were looking for new avenues to experience what was next and this was a great time. 9 artists played including Jeff and I while the other 8 rated each others songs. The best rated song is to be showcased on June 2nd 2009 and the artists gets to perform with their full band this time not just acoustically. Whether we win or not really does not matter as we had a great time and met so many great people there. I suggest you find something like this in your area, and always remember to network, as it is the best thing you can do for your musical career. I am really happy with the direction the site and Euphony Productions is taking and hope these last 5-6 weeks have been as helpful to you all as they have been rewarding for me. I never knew there were so many artists out there like myself floundering with choosing the right path, and struggling with the limitations they had set upon themselves. Choose today to break free and remember if you need a little direction shoot me a note I am glad to help.
Until next time we wish you the best in your musical endeavors or what ever you are working on.