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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



'But I still like CDs!': why it's OK if your audience are webphobic.

December 4th, 2008 · Comments Off on 'But I still like CDs!': why it's OK if your audience are webphobic.

one of Ben Walker's excellent graphs. Clever man.This morning I read a really excellent blog post by Ben Walker.

It’s headed Wake Up And Smell The Evidence and outlines via statistics gathered from Ben’s own audience just how little of this social media webby geeky stuff gets through to ‘your average music fan’.

So are we wasting our time? Not if, like me, you see David Jennings amazing book, Net Blogs And Rock ‘n’ Roll as the handbook to understanding this stuff.

The Cover of Net Blogs And Rock 'n' Roll by David JenningsDavid addresses the very issue that Ben is most concerned with in the book, and in this blog post entitled Participation And Influence In Social Media in which he introduces us to a pyramid in which the 3 categories of participant in social media – as categorized by Bradley Horowitz – work as follows:

  • Creators — 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
  • Synthesisers — 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
  • Consumers — 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers

So when we put all this stuff out there, when we make our blogs and music and widgets and all that geeky bollocks sharable, we’re actually doing it for only a small percentage of our audience.

We can actually take heart that 1% of our audience are likely to be creating their own widgets, writing their own blogs about music and generally making a fuss about the things they love. If that happens to be us or our music, so much the better.

The next 10% are the ones who care, who share and who are very often there to bring friends along to gigs – they aren’t doing youtube mash-ups of our songs and clips from US teen TV shows, but they are very much aware of what we’re up to, and are more than happy to pass the info along.

And at the base of the pyramid we have the other 89%, who just like what we do, who listen, who put it on while they do the dishes. Who buy CDs, who listen to the radio, and use the internet to write emails to relatives and to passively stalk old school friends on FriendsReunited. They don’t really care (at the moment) about downloading and RSS feeds and twitter and tagging and all that other stuff we’re so excited and passionate about.

But then they don’t need to. Hopefully they’ll find out about us because one of their 10 BFFs is doing that for them. and then maybe…

…1 of their 100 work colleagues has started his own internet radio station,
…and he digs mellow loopy solo bass post rock goodness.
…So he plays me.
…And then Mrs FriendsReunited hears it because, hey, he’s a nice bloke to work with, and he even went to the trouble of emailing the link round.
…Most of what he plays is very odd, but there was this really gentle bit in the middle, sounded like the soundtrack to a mellow film.
…etc. etc.

The evolution of web-tools will always be targeted at these three groups differently. While Ben and David and I are all trawling the net for news of great social apps that we can add as plug-ins to our wordpress blogs, our keen friends and fans are happy to click on the ‘share this’ links a the bottom of each blog, and send it out to their mates on facebook. The better the facebook integration with our blog is, the better the chances are for them to share that stuff. And given the size and reach of sites like facebook and myspace, you never know, Mrs FriendsReunited may well have a facebook page, and get sent a link to a post about my new album, and hear it, and think ‘hmm, that reminds me of that thing on the internet radio station’ and about 3 years later she’ll serendipitously find out that they were one and the same, and will buy a CD…

So please do read Ben’s post. It’s excellent. But the situation is slightly less bleak than he makes out, as the marvellous David Jennings makes so clear in his post. I’m glad I have such wise and talented friends. (and no, for the record, David didn’t steal the idea from me… 😉 )

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Featured Artist at Reverb Nation…

November 26th, 2008 · Comments Off on Featured Artist at Reverb Nation…

steve lawson featured on reverb nation's front page. Monday night’s album launch was amazing – thanks to all who came along. More on that v. soon, as well as all the other blog posts I’ve been promising to write for so long…

But in the news dept, I’ve just had an email telling me that I’m a featured artist this week on the front page of Reverb NationReverb Nation is what Myspace should have been like if they hadn’t found it more interesting to give old dudes a way to hit on teenage girls instead of making a site where people can actually find new music. It’s a great platform, and the speed at which it is evolving, growing and improving is remarkable. Do check it out if you haven’t seen it before.

They also get how information posted on social networks needs to be ‘tearable’, portable and aggregate-able, so just about all the data you put on there can be embedded anywhere else as widgets, and you can add your twitter account as a status update on there, and link it to other services (including myspace).

Anyway, my Reverb Nation page is at www.reverbnation.com/stevelawson – and from there you can download an ENTIRE free album – Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II. It’s a pretty good introduction to what I do when I play solo.

(you can download another free album from Last.fm here

Tags: Music News · website recommendations

Myspace friend-cull. Who, How, Why.

November 23rd, 2008 · Comments Off on Myspace friend-cull. Who, How, Why.

Steve Lawson's myspace friends.I’ve just spent a most enjoyable few hours of the last couple of days removing over 90% of my Myspace ‘Friends’. By ‘removing’, I just mean from my list of myspace friends, not anything more sinister!

My reasoning was fairly simple – with just over 8000 friends, I was finding Myspace to be completely unusable. I wasn’t getting a play-count that suggested any sizable number of those friends were checking back in to see me, and the same went for blog-views. The way that Myspace’s interface is set up, it’s pretty much impossible to sort by region and send targeted messages (there is that option in the event invite, it just doesn’t work as they neither require location info from people signing up, nor do they make it clear why it would be useful. Even then, you still have to add people one by one.

If you’ve got over 5000 friends you can’t get a list of who’s online, or search within your contacts and there’s no sensible way of grouping them (yes, they’ve just added categories, no, they don’t really offer the kind of granularity of data that I’d want).

Basically, the myspace platform is a distaster. So why stick with it?

Well, let’s have a look at what Myspace has going for it:

#1: Ubiquity.
#2: ….

Uhm, that’s it. Pretty much. But it’s a biggie. Lots of people unfamiliar with the rest of the internets still use Myspace to find music. Promoters often use it as their first port of call when looking at a band as a potential booking (goodness only knows why), and there are just millions and millions of people on there who think of it as a music site.

So I’m going to try and make the best of it. I’ve started by removing everyone I don’t know, don’t recognise, and don’t remember having had any proper communication with, as well as all the huge bands I’m a fan of but never talk to. In the process of doing it, I’ve almost certainly deleted a load of actual fans, some of whom probably had me in their top friends list. Hopefully, they’ll come and find me, add me again, and we’ll have a chat we otherwise wouldn’t have had. If not, it means they haven’t noticed, or don’t care, and that’s not a problem either.

Now, when I look at my friends list, I have context for all of them. I want to talk to them, message them, read about them. Myspace is going social in this house. And I’m not accepting any friend requests from anyone who doesn’t send me a message with it.

Lobelia did the Myspace mass-delete about a year ago, and saw no drop-off in the number of plays she was getting. She just stayed in touch with more people. So I’m copying her. 🙂

If you do want to add me on myspace please click here and do so.

And if we’re already friends over there, check out the blog post and all the comments over there too.

Tags: Managing Information Streams · Musing on Music · tips for musicians

Best Practices In Social Media.

November 20th, 2008 · Comments Off on Best Practices In Social Media.

Weeks and weeks ago, I was ‘tagged’ by the very lovely and talented Ben Ellis of RedCatCo, in a blog-meme about best practices in social media. It’s a great subject, because with social media stuff being as young as it is, we’re not as clued up on how to ‘use’ it as we are with say, a phone. No-one talks about ‘using the phone‘ as a business strategy, and people who misuse the phone (prerecorded spam calls) are generally vilified for being a total pain in the arse. The same could largely be said of email.

But social media has a different engagement curve than phone or email – the one-to-many nature of the conversations lends itself rather too well to getting the balance wrong.

So my suggestion for best practice surrounds the idea of parity. Parity in terms of messages out to messages in, followers to followees and the nature of the information you throw out there. So much of the strategising people do with social media (be it facebook, twitter, myspace, linkedin, or whatever else) still treats these platforms as a broadcast medium. I can’t stress strongly enough, social media is crap for broadcast. If you want to carpet-bomb web-users with info about your product, just buy some dodgy email spam software, and stop misusing twitter as an ad medium. It’s not designed for it, it doesn’t facilitate it, and the rubbish lengths you have to go to to try and shoe-horn your strategy into the platform make you look like a berk.

So, if you’re lost in the midde of it all, try to keep a degree of parity in terms of the numbers of people who follow you and you are following. Moreover, with Twitter, don’t follow more people than the number of tweets you’ve sent – it’s not a hard and fast rule, more a best practice for easing your way in. The excitement of joining in with the fun on twitter often leads to people ‘following’ tonnes of people before actually posting anything, but it just makes you look like a spammer. So slow down, use the ‘reply’ button liberally, don’t feel the desperate need to tweet the link to your site every third tweet. Just have fun, and talk to people.

If you see it as a conversation, and talk the way you’d want to be talked to. If you get annoyed with people who do nothing but talk about their business, don’t become that person.

So beginners best practice?

  • Back off,
  • seek a degree of parity,
  • listen as much as you speak,
  • follow as much as you’re followed,
  • give as much information as you take,
  • offer more free advice than the amount of service-related tweets you do for your own product.

Bottom line – friends are more likely to be into what you do than strangers. So make friends first, and let the other stuffs take care of itself for now.

Tags: Geek · Managing Information Streams · tips for musicians

Solobassteve's Social Media Surgery

October 17th, 2008 · Comments Off on Solobassteve's Social Media Surgery

I’ve finally got round to writing a page on this site about social media consulting – helping out other artists, labels, students etc. with understanding how having a conversation with your audience is preferable to shouting at them.

I’ve been doing this kind of work for years – over the last 7 or 8 years, I’ve had various musicians come to me asking for help with releasing their own music, both the logistics of getting CDs pressed etc. and then how to make their music available and talk to their audience. A lot of people confused new tools with old media, and spent ages trying to rack up as many 10s of thousands of Myspace friends as they could before realising that all of those friends were using them in the way they themselves were being used – as someone to try and broadcast at.

So after the disappointment of trying that, a fair few musicians – from singer-songwriters to fellow solo bassists came to me for some help.

More recently, I’ve been talking about this stuff in Universities, writing about it here and on sites like MusicThinkTank and Creative Choices, and running informal sessions with groups of musicians, as well as continuing to consult with individuals.

And then this week I’ve been helping out on a PR job with a new digital download service, finding bloggers and social media enthusiasts with a connection to the subject who might want to check it out. Having the huge range of connections I’ve made through the disparate bits of my career – all the way back to my days writing for Bassist, Guitarist, Total Guitar etc – has really come into its own. 🙂

So I’ve written a page, bringing all that stuff together – if you or someone you know needs some help and advice on such things, read the page, then drop me a line!

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What my musical friends are up to…

October 9th, 2008 · Comments Off on What my musical friends are up to…

I’ve been telling you a lot about what I’m up to musically of late, but I’ve got some rather talented friends who’ve been busy too, so here’s a quick and incomplete round-up of what a few of them have been doing:

First up there’s Ben Walker – fellow Tuttlist and fab singer-songwriter. He was writing 50 songs in 90 days, a few of which he wrote one Friday morning at Tuttle. One of those was called ‘You’re No-one If You’re Not On Twitter’ – here’s the video, which has been watched almost 300,000 times! (warning – it’s insanely catchy…)

Then there’s Jonatha Brooke – I met up with Jonatha in New York in January and she told me about a record she was about to record, featuring songs with words by Woody Guthrie for which she’s written the music. She was very excited, and I’m really happy to say that finished album shows the excitement wasn’t misplaced. I reviewed the album for this month’s Third Way magazine – It’s a truly exceptional album, and here’s a clip of her teaching Joe Sample (jazz legend, out of the Crusaders) how to play one of the songs:

Uhm, who else now? Seth Horan – solo bassist singer/songwriter, recently toured the UK. He’s doing an interesting thing with the production of his new album, that you can be involved in – here are two blog posts about that: Part 1 and part 2.

Iain Archer has an AMAZING new album out, recorded and released entirely under his own steam. Judging by the record, it was a VERY smart move. Beautiful stuff – check out the tunes from it on his myspace page.

And of course Lobelia – we’ve had some great gigs together of late, and here’s a lovely clip of her playing from the same gig as my ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ Vid’ –

More friends-news coming soon. 🙂

Tags: music reviews · Musing on Music · Uncategorized

Buzz experiment thoughts: Measuring Levels Of Connection…

June 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Buzz experiment thoughts: Measuring Levels Of Connection…

The other day I wrote my first post for MusicThinkTank.com – a really great collaborative blog with contributors from across the spectrum of ‘what’s happening in the music industry these days?’ – I was really excited to be asked to blog for them, as there are some fantastic thinkers writing for the site that I’ve learned a lot from over the years. (please feel free to read the post and comment over there)

One of the really nice things about writing for them is the brief to be brief. So my first post is just that – short and to the point. But it does mean that I get to expand on the thoughts over here 🙂

So, as I say over there, one of the things that the buzz exercises are making me think about and be more aware of is the whole area of ‘level of connection’ or ‘depth of impact’. There are two vague levels on which this stuff can be measured – abstract and metric. The abstract level is probably best summed up as ‘your own perception of the level of ambient awareness’ – or just the sense that more people seem to be clocking who you are and what you do.

The metric level is actually a whole series of interlocking metrics measuring LOADS of different ways that people engage with what you do: from audience attendance at gigs, CD and download sales, free download hits, web page hits, return visits, RSS feed subscribers, mentions on other people’s blogs and web forums, quantity of email interactions… etc. etc.

What’s vitally important to remember here is that what you’re dealing with is not a set of statistics that need improving, but a number of unique individuals who are all engaging what an aspect or aspects of ‘that thing you do’ in subtle and unique ways, and are all in a position to be drawn closer into what you do, if only it is presented to them in a way that is relevant and of value.

But in order to understand and quantify where each of those people are in their relationship with you, we first need to come up with some vague staging posts along the way, from no knowledge of even the area you work in to becoming a patron/sponsor/financier of what you do.

Let’s have a look at a few of those introductory stages:

Notice that a person’s level of connection with you begins before they even know who you are: knowing something about your field is a level of connection – it’s latent, but can prove vital to them a) finding you and b) understanding what you do. So for me, it really helps whenever anyone else is successful as a solo bassist and/or musician using looping. Every time KT Tunstall or Imogen Heap does some live looping on TV, it expands my pool of latent connection. Every time Victor Wooten plays a solo spot in a Flecktones gig, and a bunch of non-bassists see how cool solo bass can be, my pool of latent connection expands.

As and when those people are drawn into my orbit, they’ll have some frame of reference for what it is that I do, something to relate it to, a peg on which to hang their labels for it, beyond ‘nice music’. They’ll see it as a cool hip thing, and I’ll piggy-back on the residual level of cool that solo bass or looping has for them. This, in my experience, has way more real-world lasting value than the pretense that what you’re doing is utterly unique and groundbreaking. The majority of people connect better with familiarity than they do with ‘extreme novelty’…

The first level of actualised connection is name recognition. How many times have you had a conversation with someone who says ‘do you know ******’ and you say ‘I’ve heard the name’… and often you have. You know precious little about them, if anything, but their name is there, in your sphere somewhere.

If that happens 2 or 3 times with the same person, your curiosity is tweaked and you may google them, especially if you’re sat in front of a computer when it happens. And name recognition turns to first level engagement with what you do – finding whichever web-presence ranks highest in google for you and checking it out… So they’ve found you, and have done so based on the feeling that they might be missing out by not knowing about you…

The obvious point to make here is that this relies on them meeting 2 or 3 people who are inspired to talk about what you do – something that is latent in a lot of your audience, most likely. There’ll be a whole load of people who like what you do who don’t think to talk about it, cos they don’t realise you need it. As I’ve said many times, and will keep saying til people realise it’s true, I’m utterly reliant on word of mouth to get people to hear about what I do – both because I can’t afford broadcast ad-space and because I dip under the radar of most mainstream music media channels… the occasional play on Radio 3 or 6Music and the very occasional article in the national press can’t sustain any level of buzz enough to help support a career – though it’s great to have listeners now who first heard me on Late Junction or read about me in a mag (I’ve been interviewed by, reviewed by or featured in The Sunday Times, Jazzwise, Bassist, Guitarist, Bass Player, Bass Frontiers, Total Guitar… etc. etc. and lots of music related websites. Sounds a lot bunched together like that, but means precious little when spread out over 9 years in the context of building a career… …more on the real importance of reviews and interviews coming soon!)

But how is that measured? We as musicians need to make ourselves available for feedback – whether it be email, forums, tweets, myspace comments, blog comments, last.fm shout-box comments… Encouraging a culture of “letting artists know that we’ve found them and we like them” is a huge part of making music ‘sticky’, so that it pollenates beyond our ‘primary reach’.

So, comment thread: other than me (though if you’ve just discovered me, you can tell me where too!), who was the last independent artist you heard that got you excited? Feel free to video comment and play some of the music in the background 🙂

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Social Media thoughts Pt 1 – my background and history.

May 15th, 2008 · 3 Comments

The last couple of months have been a really interesting time for me in terms of getting to experiment with, understand and conceptualise about the world of interactive web tools refered to as ‘Social Media’. Next week is the first London Social Media Cafe Musicians get together (we need a new title!) – so I thought I’d throw in some thoughts on social media and music over the next few days:

It’s not as if the idea is new – I’ve been interacting, networking and building knowledge about what I do as a musician on the web since the late 90s via email discussion lists (I joined The Bottom Line in early ’98, I think), forums (been on talkbass since early 2000, IM and music chatrooms. But two things have changed drastically since then – firstly an understanding, both academically and amongst users, of ‘social networking’ as an enterprise in its own right, and secondly the range of tools and web resources to make it happen.

A lot of what’s happening now was happening in a secondary way ages ago – your profile page on a web forum wasn’t that different, conceptually, from your Myspace page, but no-one thought of it in that way. Very few people sought to build an identity there and promote it as a site to visit to find out what they were into. There was no social capital in directing people to your talkbass.com profile page, for example.

Myspace was one of the first to really go huge with the whole Social Networking thing, and invert it from the web forum thing – they made it possible (in a hideously clunky way) for people to build their own page as a shop front for the world, and then to promote that via the various groups on the site, which all had message boards and discussion sections. The groups and forums on myspace have been a relative failure, for a number of reasons – firstly, the design is horrible, but more importantly, Myspace has always been about branded space: people customising their page to make it say something about them. The hook-up with music and bands was what sent them over the edge – they weren’t the best by any stretch, and are no hopelessly behind the game in every conceivable way, they just have 150 million registered users. That helps!

So I got a myspace page in late 2005, and started to search for people who were listening to people I liked, and add them as friends. I did this with about 3-4000 people, over a period of almost a year, with fairly diminished returns. I sold a few CDs as a result, and the general level of awareness of what I do in the bass community was certainly heightened, but it was a scattershot approach, and crucially, when I finally realised that MySpace worked best as an interactive media, not a broadcast one, I was left with a completely unmanageable, uncategorisable list of people I knew very little about, with no way of grouping them geographically, or by their level of interest (I couldn’t tell who’d added me and who I’d added). So my Myspace page, en masse, is still a pool of hideously underused potential, thanks to the completely rubbish way the site itself makes data available. I did a fairly major purge at one point, deleting a couple of thousand ‘friends’ who weren’t interacting and appeared to have nothing in common with what I was doing, but the numbers are now back up close to 8000…

The other social network I joined before Myspace was Last.fm – a much more focussed site, infinitely better designed, MUCH harder to spam, and built to slowly proliferate music that is considered ‘good’ by the regular users. Thanks to me getting in early on last.fm, my music is heavily tagged and associated with some fairly well-listened artists, so my music crops up on a relatively high number of people’s personal radio stations there.

Fast forward 3 years, and I now have a ‘portfolio’ of social networks, including Myspace, Last.fm, ReverbNation, Facebook and Twitter. I’m still involved in a few discussion forums, but largely, I prefer the friend/contact culture of social networks to the bear-pit/lowest common denominator world of most web forums.

For musicians, the onset of the ‘Social Media Age’ has meant an end to the tyranny of broadcast media, to our potential career and audience being in the hands of record execs, radio and TV programmers and big concert agents. We can build relationships with our audience, talk to them, ask for their help spreading the word about music they love, and also help out the musicians we love. The traffic is now moving in every direction, from us to fans, from fan to fan, from fan to us, and even via facebook from our non-music friends and family, to their friends as they use their connection with ‘real musicians’ as social capital on their facebook profile. The flow of information has been somewhat democratised, and the potential for us is huge.

I’ve been talking about this in universities and colleges for a couple of years now, and in the last few months have had the chance to start to conceptualise about Social Media with curious participants and thinkers from other worlds – from the mainstream media, from business, from hi tech industries, from marketing companies – via the various networks of geeks, primarily the weekly marvels that are the London Social Media Cafe and Creative Coffee Club – but that’s part 2…

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Twitter-peoples: welcome to my e-world, dive right in!

May 7th, 2008 · 12 Comments

Image cut from Steve Lawson's Twitter page, illustrating this page about twitterOK, so you arrived here via my twitter page, and want to know more?

Short version – I’m a musician, music teacher/lecturer, 1/5th of New Music Strategies, writer and social media tinkerer. I blog about my music life, specifically the various things that are now possible for musicians thanks to the joys of ‘tinternet. I’m also a consultant/thinker about Social media in a wider context, particularly as it relates to creatives. I co-run a social media event help organisation called Amplified.

Your best places to start finding out what I do are my blog (set aside a while, there’s a lot of it!), and the music pages. It’s worth having a listen, honest, cos all this other nonsense is related to the music – that’s the centre of the wheel, the hub around which all the other stuffs rotates.

After that, you might want to find me elsehwere: Facebook, Last.fm, YouTube and some other places.

You’re also welcome to check out the gigs page in case I’m out and about.

Oh, and if I followed you first, the chances I found you were recommended to me, or retweeted by someone. It may also have been that I found you via something you tweeted about music… Whichever, it’s just that your feed looked interesting, so I’m checking it out – feel free to follow back or not! If you do follow me, and I tweet too much, I shan’t be in the slightest bit offended if you unfollow. My own sister did 🙂

If you followed me in the hope that I’d follow back and I haven’t, it’ll be because of two things – firstly, I don’t get notifications of new followers – there were too many, and it was taking up loads of time. I do go and have a look about once a week to delete all the spam and wrongness, so then I follow people I know.

The number of people I’m already following (2000-and-change as I write this) is already functionally too high, so I’m only adding people that REALLY interest me. If I’m not following you, it doesn’t, of course, mean that you can’t reply to things, or ‘@’ me for specific things – that’s all cool, and if we get a conversation happening, it may well be that I end up following you. But please don’t be offended if I don’t. It’s honestly nothing personal, I assure you 🙂 x

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Getting the ingredients right: thoughts on Improvisation

May 6th, 2008 · Comments Off on Getting the ingredients right: thoughts on Improvisation

Sunday’s gig with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds went very well – thanks to those of you who came along. The venue, The Brickhouse on Brick Lane in East London, was suitably strange – on three levels (ground floor and two balconies, the top one had beds on it!) and amazing food, and we had to get them to move the stage away so we’d have room to set up all our toys.

For those of you just catching up, the Dodds/Lawson/Wood trio is a project spawned by my Recycle Collective venture – when it’s running, it’s a monthly music night, featuring amazing improvising musicians spontaneously composing in different combinations. Quite a few of the combinations I assembled for it are planned to become ‘bands’ of one sort or another, but many of the musicians involved are so busy that it’ll be years before it happens.

However, the trio with Roy and Patrick is one that was so good we’ve all made it our priority. I’ve been playing with Patrick for years (he played at the first ever ‘proto-recycle’ improv gig at Greenbelt in 2005), and have been listening to Roy play with other people for just as long, particularly in Theo Travis’ band.

We did a Recycle gig at Darbucka in October last year, and then went into the studio in early December to record in the same way – just set up and start playing. Since then we’ve been mixing and editing the improvs (which has been interesting for me, as I usually don’t edit) and have come up with a record that we’re all really proud of (more news on that ASAP).

So Sunday was only the third time we’ve all played together, but the musical chemistry is amazing.

And that, for me, is what improv is all about – the ‘composition’ part is just choosing the right players. At its best it’s about getting musicians together who respect each other so much that they never feel like going with someone else’s idea is a bad thing. Musician who listen more than they shred, whose default position is deferential. It means that the music tends to evolve slowly as each new ingredient is added and the the others react to it.

So I may start with a groove, or some spacey ambience, or patrick may lay out some kind of harmonic territory on guitar or keys, and then the others react to it and the initial idea is modified, developed, morphed into a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Every time I sit down at the start of an all improv gig I wonder if we’ll have run out of ideas, if we’ll get 20 mins into the gig and just start playing a 12-bar blues or something.

One of the things on Sunday that triggered these thoughts was when the DJ who was hosting the day said he’d play a few more record and then we could ‘get up and jam’ – I was really taken aback, as I’ve never thought of this as ‘jamming’ at all.. it’s a whole other headspace to the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach that defines most ‘jamming’. It’s spontaneous composition, acknowledging that each of us as an acutely refined sense of what’s ‘good’ even when nothing is laid down to define what’s ‘right’. It’s not about finding some simple changes we can stumble through to make ourselves feel better, it’s about exploring our shared music worlds to find music that otherwise wouldn’t exisit, about listening, reacting and trying to add to what the others are bringing. This is 300% music – it’s 100% Patrick, 100% Roy and 100% me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt, playing with these guys, that my own musical vision is in anyway compromised or stunted, but I frequently feel my own playing elevated by the genius, sensitivity and creativity of the other two. We never have to ask the others to do something specific, as we each recognise that we are the masters or our own musical discipline – I know what ‘steve lawson music’ should sound like better than anyone else on the planet, and likewise Roy and Patrick. If I start telling Patrick what to play, it assumes that I know more about what he does that he knows. That’s insane.

There is, however, a deeply psychological streak running through all this, in that it takes a while to develop that kind of deep trust, to develop the ‘abandonment to the moment’ and to foster to confidence required to take the music where YOU feel it should go. With Patrick, this is part of a 6 or 7 year improvising relationship – when we first got together to play, he was rather puzzled by the idea that I didn’t want to play written songs, that I didn’t want to discuss keys and stuff, but just wanted to play. But the fruits of it is where we are now, exploring this unique shared musical space that the three of us occupy.

I’m really excited about the future of this trio, and the record release. With this, my solo stuff, the duo with Lobelia and Open Sky, I feel like I’ve got such a rich portfolio of music to work on, and feel really blessed to have the opportunity to explore the respective styles and approaches of the projects.

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