More on studying music full time

Last week, I went up to Manchester then Perth in Scotland to do two University masterclasses. Luckily for me, neither of them were billed to specifically, so I got to get up and play a bit, then talk about a mixture of musical things and business things. The reaction was largely wonderful, as I’ve already mentioned, and I’ve had quite a few nice messages via email and myspace from the students saying that they were inspired to think differently about their career, their creative path and what it is to be a musician… That’s magic, and I’m delighted that what I was TRYING to say actually got through…

Here’s a summary of a few of the things I was telling them – much of it was the same as I posted here last week

College is the only place where you get the time and space be absurdly creative without considering how to pay the bills – it may be that you’re having to work a job to pay your way through college (I did for a while), but your actual college time should give you space to do the kind of absurd creative things that you probably won’t have much time for once you’re in a band that’s trying to get gigs and find their niche. You’ll have some time for it then, I hope, just not as much. So make the most of it.

Being a great musician is not guarantee of work – I know lots of great musicians who aren’t making a living at it, and a fair few shitty ones who are millionaires. So think about the business now, think about what’s important to you now, start thinking like someone who is going to spend their life making music now. Cos the only concrete difference between you as a student and me as a ‘pro’ is purely financial. The rest is perception.

Music is way too important to be wasted on fame – fame is, by and large, the penalty you pay for musical success. If your aim is to be famous, write to Trisha about your unnatural love for large breed dogs, don’t devalue music in your own life and that of the people around you by trying to use it to chase fame. The chances of you finding ‘fame’ are minute, and when you get there, you’ll probably hate it… So instead, look for a way to make money playing the music you love. It is possible. Tough, but possible.

If you were there, can you think of any other things I said that helped? Oh, yes, I talked about finding your voice as a player, and made my regularly made point that if you’re looking to absorb an influence, don’t write music that sounds like their music, aim to write music that makes you feel the way their music makes you feel – it’s no use me trying to sound like Joni Mitchell, or else people will just say ‘he sounds like Joni Mitchell’ – no-one says that about Joni, or if they do it’s a way of highlighting her originality, not her derivativeness! Instead, when I listen to Hejira, I try to be aware of what I feel like, what mood it evokes, what it is about it that makes it such a special record. And I try to embody some of that honesty, integrity, transparency and narrative clarity in my own music…

photos from last night's house concert in Anstruther

steve lawson playing a house concert

Once again, I haven’t really got time to blog extensively, thanks to my lappy now being on, but being wedged in a drawer to keep it on (I think there’s a dry joint or loose connection that requires it to be suspended from one corner in order to work!!)

So, instead, for your viewing pleasure, here are some photos from last night’s most enjoyable house concert at lovely G and J’s. A select gathering of very lovely people, and a fine time was had by all.

The two days of masterclasses in Perth and Salford were a lot of fun too – lots of talk about the future of the industry, about creativity, finding your voice, marketing, myspace, downloading, looping, practising… some good questions, and a lovely response at the end of each session (not to mention a few bassists walking out cos It was bassy enough for them – one choice comment ‘he’s more like a singer’… which I’m sure was meant as an insult, somehow, but I’m definitely taking that as a compliment!)

If you were there, please drop by the forum or the myspace page and say hi (I think I accidentally deleted one or two myspace comments, thanks to the broken lappy, so if I deleted your very nice comment, please feel free to repost it!)

more on the future of music v. soon – I’ve been getting some thoughts down via voice notes on my phone whilst driving around, so need to get time, space and a working computer in order to write those up… some good stuff coming up! :o)

Another nice lil' feature for keeping up with gig news…

after consulting with lovely Drew earlier via mobile AIM, whilst on the bus, I found a way to add individual calendar adding links to my gig listings page on my site – so if you’re looking there and see a gig you want to go to, and you use iCal or google calendar or outlook or loads of other calendar apps, you can just click on the link next to that entry, and it’ll add it to your calendar, thanks to the wonders of the hCalendar microformat.

All future gigs added to the blog will have it in there as well. Hurrah for me!

Been a few interesting new news features and articles posted on the whole future of music/Media 2.0/download licensing front, but I’ve had no time to get my thoughts down about them, and probably won’t for a couple of days, as I’m in Salford tomorrow for a masterclass, then Perth in Scotland, then a house concert in Fife, then seeing my mum in Berwick, then back to London on sunday… But then, you knew that cos you’ve all got the calendar feed anyway. ;o)

booking gigs…

Been a rather frantic time for gig-booking, trying to fill in extra dates on the European trip for March, and getting dates booked in for the UK in April when i get back… Been chasing some more masterclasses, and have been invited back to my old college in Perth, Scotland – just need to sort out the date. I love going back up there – it was a great place to study, and as I’ve said before, the head of bass there, Pete Honeyman, not only taught me how to play, but taught me how to teach – he was very ‘hands off’ in that it wasn’t about just giving us some piece to learn and ticking it off, but more about pointing us in a creative direction and letting us run with it. It’s an approach that definitely favours players like me, and can be uncomfortable for players that want to be spoon-fed, but it definitely produces more creative thinking musicians than doing graded exams does…

So thanks, Pete – there’s your blog mention – see you soon! ;o)

and the rest of you, email me if there’s somewhere near you that you think i should play, or a festival you’ve got a contact at that might be cool for me this summer…

four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
2. last.fm
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)