A few weeks ago I ordered The Ballad of Paper Ships, a collection of gorgeous moody folk songs by Odessa Chen, a super-talented Bay Area singer-songwriter. She even took the time to write a note!
yay free shipping! Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? You can’t replicate this sort of experience on iTunes or Spotify. Odessa’s album is supposed to come out sometime before the year ends. Keep your ears peeled :) In the meantime, enjoy this performance of “Made Up My Mind,” my favorite tune from her album:
A few months ago I entered a performing songwriter competition held by the organizers of the Texas Independent Music Expo (TIME) in Dallas, Texas. Ultimately, I wasn’t chosen as one of the ten finalists (but I got honorable menton woot!) but I thought it would be fun to attend the actual expo.
My dad and I headed out early morning Saturday to start our 3 hour trek to Dallas. Along the way, we picked up my little brother from his college in Tyler since he wanted to come along as well. We arrived at Sons of Hermann Hall, the venue of the Expo, around 1 PM; unfortunately, this meant we missed out on the vocal warm-up workshop. We did, however, arrive just in time for performances from the finalists in the performing songwriter competition. It was a pretty eclectic bunch of performers, from Taylor Swift-esque troubadours to country singers to dudes that echoed Josh Ritter, Jason Mraz and even delta blues! My favorite was a guy named Ramoth-Gilead, who absolutely slayed the crowd with his deeply soulful vocals and his potent blending of R&B, gospel and hip-hop.
one of the Performing Songwriter Contest Performances
After the performances, the rest of the afternoon alternated between music industry workshops and other performances from various singer-songwriters. The workshops were pretty helpful, ranging from copyright law, getting song placements on film and TV, and song analysis.
I had also signed up to have my song “Believe” critiqued by a panel of judges. My major goal for the next 12 months is to become a better songwriter, so I thought it would be a good idea to get song feedback from more seasoned folk. My panel consisted of the president of the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA) and a local music attorney; needless to say, I was a bit intimidated. My anxiety went through the roof when the CD I brought wasn’t able to play on either a boombox or a laptop; with no way to play the CD, I ended up having to sing “Believe” acapella. What a super-weird experience — it felt like I was auditioning for American Idol or X Factor. To my surprise, the first thing the panelists said when I finished was that I had a great voice; guess all those vocal warm ups are paying off. Then they started into the criticism; they thought the song was a great start, but it needed more focus in the lyrics and song structure. The super-stubborn part of me was yelling: ”I like the song as it is!” But who knows…if I try and tweak the song according to their suggestions, I might like it even more. Never hurts to try :) So I’ll be revisiting “Believe” in the coming weeks and months to see if I can tighten it up. Overall, my song critique experience was a very valuable experience and taught me a lot about my inner songwriter.
After my song critique I grabbed some free pizza courtesy of the Expo and sat through a few more workshops and performances. Then it was time for the first open mic event of the night! It had been almost two months since I last performed, so I was both excited and scared to get back on stage, especially in the presence of so many talented performing songwriters.
James Michael Taylor
I was the last performer scheduled; when my time came, I strapped on my dad’s old classical guitar and walked over to the stage. I sang two of my originals,”16” and “Last of the Cowboys” (you can watch below):
The performance felt really good, and it seemed like I was able to connect with people, which is the most amazing feeling. It was incredibly validating when people came up to me afterwards to complement my performance. I even made friends with a fellow songwriter (David Stewart, in one of the pics above) and exchanged business cards.
I’m glad I went to the Expo. I could have just stayed in my comfort zone, tinkering with songs at home, but I took a chance and ended up learning a lot, things I wouldn’t have learned as quickly on my own. Being around such talented and kind songwriters really inspired me to step up my craft.
Time to start working on those songs…
P.S. If you’re in the Dallas area, definitely hit up Alligator Cafe. Great cajun food and some rockin’ bread puddin’ (makes me weak in the knees, sooooo goood!).
P.P.S.: Bread Pudding Lovers Association = best association ever. Ima start the Halo-Halo Lovers Association (HHLA). holla!
Wooo! A music post! Yes, I still play music, and lovin’ it! :)
Last Tuesday, I played at the monthly FOLK U! showcase, subtitled “Backless to School” and held at Route 196. FOLK U! is an amazing haven for singer-songwriters who desire a safe space and attentive listeners to share their original music with. It’s definitely one of the things that I will miss when I leave Manila in 5 weeks time (!!!)
Last of the Cowboys
Unfortunately I didn’t get video but there were cameras all over the place — I’ll update the post if anything pops up. But the set is the same as my Red Couch concert back at Stanford if you haven’t seen the vid yet; I’m really proud of it :) Watch here!
Pics of my performance, taken by Piya Constantino:
P.S. the writing on my guitar is from Freddie Aguilar. He wrote it in Filipino - “Mabuhay ang musica” - but it roughly translates to “long live music.”
-Watching Fando and Liz perform. They have such cinematic songs. And Ledh, the singer, also is the one who puts on FOLK U! Thanks Ledh for inviting me time and time again :)
-The Pittsburgh med students coming in for the last song of my set. They were a fun bunch to hang out with!
-The singer-songwriter Kate Torralba, who had some really great songs with a Regina Spector vibe. Her song “Video” has this rad piano-electric bass interplay with JM Quiblat that makes me want to boooooooogie in an angsty way.
-Another singer-songwriter, Miro Nicolai Capistrano Valera, who totally had this 90s-alt-rock-ballad-Creed thing going on, but had a killer voice and catchy melodies.
-The host, Kristine, who was hilarious and energetic, even though I couldn’t catch half of her Tagalog (ok, more like 80% of it). She remembered me from the last FOLK U! and mocked my deep voice hehe, all in good fun :)
Ah, this was a fun one. This week of Music Success in Nine Weeks (MSi9W) centered around connecting with fans through the ol’ mailing list.
Before beginning with the MSi9W program, I had a mailing list set up through HostBaby but barely used it at all. Like a lot of musicians, I don’t really comfortable sending out emails to the list unless I feel like I have something to talk about. So when I started with MSi9W back in August, I launched that songwriting project I keep yapping about, Year of Song, so that I’d have something that I’d be excited to talk about with my fans, even if nothing else was on the plate.
So eight weeks in, I’ve gathered just shy of 90 followers and have sent out 6 newsletters, about one per week with songs + blog entries.
Sounds like a good time to assess who my fan base is so far.
I got my list compiled into a .csv and went through it, noting certain trends, etc. It wasn’t too hard, as the majority of them are good friends that I’ve met through playing music; I just had to sit down and think about it.
How would I describe my fans? Hard to say, but here are a few interesting factoids and gleanings from interactions over the years (and list statistics):
2:1 ratio of females to males
80-90% fall in the twentysomething crowd (either recent graduates or still in college)
love eating. food is often the center of socializing, whether it be cooking, restaurant-ing, or boba (BOBA!)
an interest in the visual arts — many designers and photographers
they’re super-connected in the social media world; Facebook and LinkedIn are the most used, with Twitter slowly catching up
YouTube is tops when it comes to procrastination
enjoy outdoors-y activities, from running to hiking and hanging out in parks (holla, golden gate park!)
many peruse the New York Times
conversation topics: life, “what does it all mean?,” love and relationships
Using this information, I brainstormed ways to better engage my fans through my newsletter:
A bi-weekly/monthly video greeting
Survey on what fans would like to hear in my Year of Song project
Talk about my favorite music/visual artist at the moment
Start a running/hiking club
Have periodic meet-ups for boba, coffee, etc.
I decided to try the video greeting for this week’s newsletter; I’ve copied and pasted it below — sign up for my mailing list at http://andrewplan.com to receive any of the goodies listed :)
I hope you had a wonderful weekend! On Friday I played my first show in almost four months (!!!) at the Red Victorian Hotel in San Francisco; I was really nervous, but in the end it was really amazing to be back on stage belting songs I really cared about. It was also a lotta fun getting to meet the awesome musicians there as well as reunite with some good friends. Thanks so much to everyone who came!
In other news, I’ve now moved Year of Song to a podcast format — if you’ve been following along, please subscribe! You can subscribe through iTunes here or visit the podcast site to subscribe to the RSS feed. All future Year of Song releases will be released primarily through the podcast; this way, there’s a centralized venue for you to download new content as well as comment on it and interact with each other!
And what better way to celebrate the new podcast than a new song? This week’s song is called “One of the Boys,” and it’s a real rockin’ number despite being a reaction to violence in relationships (the email subject line makes a lot more sense after listening to the song).
Disclaimer: This song is part of a songwriting project called Year of Song, in which I release one new song for free each week. To get first dibs on the songs as they come out, sign up for my mailing list at andrewplan.com. Thanks for listening!
This week’s song was inspired by a conversation I had with a good friend near the end of senior year. We were discussing religion and the challenges posed by dating outside one’s religion. At one point I was trying to justify that it was possible for a religious person to date an nonreligious person successfully — I had cited another good friend of mine, a Catholic who is happily in love with an atheist. But in response, my friend responded that that person was putting her love for the atheist above her love for God; how could she love God fully when her partner can never understand that part of her? To my friend, her love for him became her God.
I couldn’t shake that sentiment for the longest time. A lot of self-destructive relationships I’ve seen (and been in) center around being extremely beholden to something, whether it be a person, idea, experience…when people hold on at all costs to that love, that feeling, whatever, it hurts not only that person but their loved ones as well.
here we are again, losing fights all the time, and i am overcome, i am seeing you grow old, tide is turning red, and i am feeling what you said, every cry and plea holds you back from something more
his heavy memory, with a dose of novocaine, you say it’s what you wanted, but have you checked the score? i visit every day, i’m afraid you’ll fall asleep, you search my face for answers, no i won’t make the leap
who’s your God? no, he could never be your reason why who’s your God? who’s gonna save you from yourself
yes, this is the end of all that we can feel, you ask is it over, but i don’t know what you mean but i just sit and smile , no i can’t help myself
doctor says you’ll move again, it was lady luck this time, but don’t you test her hand, there’s no stopping this decline it’s quiet on the 101, as i walk you to your door, another night yeah, we made it, how many more of them in store?
who’s your God? no, he could never be your reason why who’s your God? who’s gonna save you from yourself
“Family Is King” was inspired by good ol’ family drama. When I was back in Manila a few weeks ago I talked to my grandma about her life. Up to this point I really haven’t had much interaction with her; she spent most of my waking life in the Philippines, so this was one of the first substantial conversations I had with her. But to hear her open up about her life and the secret pains behind our family made me angry for what she’s gone through. So this song came out, saying what I was feeling at the time — this blind and misguided allegiance to the family was forcing her to suffer in silence. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in the goodness of family. But even within the family, people can be pretty cruel to each other…
i think i know how we’re gonna break, quartered by virtue, thrown to a silent storm we tell ourselves that we’ll make it through, but we’re drifting away on an endless, endless sea; an endless, endless sea
even though we tried, yeah we both lost faith just say you’ll remember me, say you’ll remember when you wanted this, you used to want this life but even though we tried, yeah we still said goodbye no I can’t stay here anymore, or even call this home there’s nothing here i own forgive and forget, for the family is king no matter how we break it’s the family that’s king
we’re running changes under the weight of a loaded gun, you and i just watched as we slowly frayed apart how can you stand it, you were all i had, but you just had to have her, left me shackled to your reign
i could’ve loved you if you ever let me in, you never let me in (but you always knew) i could’ve loved you if you ever let me in, can’t you let me in?
so forgive and forget, for the family is king no matter how we break it’s the family that’s king you see what we made, in all we forsake, for the family is king