BLOGGING AND VLOGGING FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Out and About




Here's something you'll probably never see again - Canada's two pioneering blues bands, Powder Blues and Downchild, on stage together last night at Massey Hall. The occasion was Downchild's 45th Anniversary. I may not have been around for the early days of the Downchild Blues Band but I've had the pleasure of attending several milestone events in their illustrious history, not to mention having their rhythm section playing on one of my CDs and having a surprise appearance by Mr Downchild himself to play harp with me on a couple of tunes at a festival appearance a long time ago.
Here I am backstage with Donnie and I should note that the guy who got me that festival gig a long time ago, "Sab" Sabourin, was sitting right behind me for the show Massey Hall last night. Sab has been fighting a battle with the big "C" and he was looking a little worse for wear but his indomitable spirit will surely pull him through. He's a full-tilt blues rocker but he saw something in my quieter approach and put in a good word for me on many occasions and I will never forget it. The Downchild celebration featured an opening set by Tom Lavin and Powder Blues, although Tom Lavin was using a local crew for this gig, some "ringers" that he picked up while he was in this part of the country. Ironically, he couldn't use his regular eastern crew because most of them happen to play with Downchild but his "B-team" was as sharp and solid as he could ever want, Tyler Yarema on keys, Tom Bona on drums and Leo Valvassori on bass - whom I hadn't seen in ages.

Leo's the guy who recorded "New Folk Blues" and we had a nice chat with Michael Fonfara - reflecting back on some of the recordings we made together including a song I wrote about Loreena McKennit. I had recorded it with the Downchild rhythm section and it was quite an epic tune, 8 minutes or so, with different sections and tempo changes (you don't get that very often in a Brian Blain composition). But alas a friend of Loreena's and her publicist, Richard Flohil, had both cautioned me that Loreena would not appreciate having her personal tragedy (the drowning of her fiancee and her subsequent abandonment of her music career) as fodder for somebody's blues song. So I shelved it before we even mixed it and just the other day I was going through an old hard-drive looking for some files and tried to find a rough mix but alas there was nothing to be found. I guess it's gone into the ether. All I remember is the chorus, "Sad Loreena, Lady Broken Heart, oh Loreena, don't put down your harp."


There were many more great musical moments at that Downchild show. Phillip Sayce cruised into town from LA to make an appearance - he came a long way to play one song but he made a big impression.

A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on


Phillip talked about Jeff Healey and Jeff's spirit was omnipresent in that hall last night. Tom Lavin had a great story about when he met Jeff and Jeff told him about hearing Powder Bluesat the old rotating stage at Ontario Place (his mother had taken him). Ten years later he still remembered Lavin playing some high notes that are not reachable on a standard guitar neck and he asked Lavin how he did it. Lavin told him he was bending the string on the metal pickup cover of his Gibson guitar. Jeff told him "I've been wondering for ten years how you did that!" (Jeff played a Stratocaster and it doesn't have metal pick-up covers). Also great to hear Steve Marriner and the Monkey Junk guys - I will see Steve again when he plays with Harry Manx in Hamilton later this week.

Missed a couple of great shows this week (only because I was attending othe great shows). Anthony Gomes was playing Hugh's Room at the same time as Downchild and on the Thursday night, I was a Jordan Officer CD launch and had to pass on the Harpdog Brown CD launch. When it rains, it pours!

And here's a couple more Instagram clips from this week. Jordan Officer and Alex Pangman. Both shows were a real pleasure...

A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on




A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Ghost of Clinton's Tavern




Happy Halloween from Brian and Joel

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brian Blain & Raoul Bhaneja - Overqualified for the Blues

Another Lefsetz Rant

...if you didn't already see it on his blog

The hardest challenge facing musicians today is getting people to listen to their new music. Awareness campaigns are a thing of the past. They make people know you've got new music, but it doesn't make them listen to it, at most it gets them to sample a few seconds of a track. Which is fine if you're not about the new music, if you've got enough old hits to power a show people want to see, but not if you're starting out or truly want people to know what you're up to.

1. YOU'RE A FULL TIME MUSICIAN

You practice every day, right? So why do you only drop new product every couple of years? Open the doors to the public, show your warts, reveal your personality. The key is to keep people engaged on a regular basis. This is a huge sea change, but the most notable one in the business today. YouTube is the medium of choice. Put up a video of you practicing, doing covers, works in progress. The key is to speak to your hard core fans, who will continue to talk about you to their buddies and will spread the word on anything truly great. And don't worry if it's not great, it just gets plowed under beneath the endless tsunami of clips posted every single day.

2. KNOW WHO YOUR FANS ARE

Selling/promoting to those who don't care is completely worthless, it's so 1980s. Everybody's so busy that if they don't have an interest in you, you won't be able to convert them via endless publicity, which is either namby-pamby whitewash or shock value quotes. Never forget you're selling your music, your only goal is to get people to check out and keep listening to your tunes, everything else is irrelevant. Fame won't put asses in the seats.

3. REACH OUT TO YOUR FANS

This is what the youngsters do so well with social media, primarily Twitter and Instagram. If you're an oldster and you want people to check out your new tunes be on social media a year in advance, a minimum of six months, revealing truth, bonding your fans to you. This is much more important and dividend paying than a story in any newspaper. The paper is one day only, tomorrow they're flogging something else, social media when done right is an ongoing conversation.

4. HONESTY

Credit to Bono for admitting U2's Apple mistake, but not only did Mr. Hewson apologize, he gave an explanation, he humanized himself, which made me feel warm about him and his band. Don't let your handlers speak for you, Guy Oseary never should have taken that victory lap. You have to stand up for yourself.

"Bono apologizes for putting U2's new album in everyone's iCloud library": http://bit.ly/1w81QPF

5. HITS

This is the most important element. You have to create a track that those who know you, that those who are interested in checking you out, will hear once and need to hear again, it's just that simple.

It's not about what radio thinks, it's not about what you think, it's about what the consumer thinks, and the consumer pays your bills.

We're all listeners, we all know what grabs us. Stop asking your friends whether they liked your new music, but how many times they listened to it. If it's once, you're toast, sorry.

Forget about radio, forget about filters. You know who your fans are. Do they want to hear the new track again and again?

Taylor Swift has embraced this paradigm, realizing how tough today's landscape has become, unfortunately she has gone lowest common denominator with "Shake If Off." You too can do this, if you know Max Martin and the usual suspects, but that does not mean you cannot do it yourself, that you cannot shoot higher. But we can only listen to one song at one time so what you cut has to have the catchiness of "Shake It Off."

No bitching. This is the story of all media today. Check out the movie business, it's either a blockbuster or it's a stiff. If you're happy with a stiff, be my guest, but you're not allowed to complain you've got no audience, that no one cares.

6. ALBUMS

Stop thinking about them and stop making them. You start with the hit, if you haven't got one, keep trying to make one. Without one, you're sunk. If you have a hit, people will want to hear more of your music, so then you can build around the hit. You can release four other tracks that are ear-pleasing but might only be listened to by fans. Then you need another hit. And know in the streaming universe, the album makes no sense. The CD allowed shuffling, the ability to play only the songs you wanted to hear from the collection, streaming doesn't even force you to buy the LP to begin with! Don't overload your audience on Spotify and its ilk, it's too confusing when someone goes to check you out. In other words, put a plethora of material on YouTube, but only the limited, authorized stuff on Spotify. You're not making albums, you're creating a body of work. Listeners don't care if you cut it yesterday or a year ago, or even five years ago. And to force people to wait for years to
overwhelm them with product is a mistake.

7. TELEVISION/EVENTS

I'm not a big Foo Fighters fan but their HBO show is a masterstroke, going with the true Tiffany network to showcase excellence without commercialism. The same show is a stiff on another network, the Foo Fighters are piggybacking on HBO's cred. And with no ads, HBO is the antithesis of the modern world. People hate the endless selling and commercialism. It burnishes your image to avoid it. But, once again, you must have hits. And, once again, a hit is something that many people want to hear over and over again, it doesn't matter if it's played on the radio or not.

8. GENRE-HOPPING

The rappers have been doing it forever, dropping in on pop songs. Today's country is yesterday's rock and roll. Want to expand your audience? Play with today's country stars, who can play, and likely are fans of your material. We're all in it together, and only the biggest of stars can go it alone.

9. NO SHORTCUTS

They leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouth. If your face is everywhere, if you force your music upon them, backlash will begin. Money and connections will get you press, but the truth is in today's music world it might be working against you. Used to be the press was tied in with radio and MTV, which everybody listened to and watched. Today, your music can be completely ignored. When your face appears in a non-genre-specific publication, trolling for fans, the readers laugh and make fun of you.

10. TAKE A JOKE

We live in hater culture. If you're going to respond at all, have not only a sense of humility, but a sense of humor. There's no need to immediately apologize, then you look like one of the TV drug addict nitwits. Stand your ground, but be three-dimensional, wink your eye.

Everywhere I go I quiz people on the new releases. Consensus is the Thom Yorke album is already over. The inane press release wherein they said there were a million downloads, was laughable, they had very few PAID downloads. This is the worst case example, where the press trumps the music.

At least U2 got to perform their song at Apple's shindig. If only it had been a hit. It was very good, but you never needed to hear it again.

As for Tom Petty, I'm a huge fan, but when he appeared in every publication known to man and exuded grumpiness in the process and came out with an album without one repeatable track, it was just sad.

That's right, your A&R man said he couldn't hear a single.

But today your A&R man is your audience. And it's not their job to listen to your new music. And chances are there is no radio single...radio, radio that counts, doesn't play your music, your single is for your fans. And your single is a repeatable track. Because no one's got time for less than great.

And we're constantly in search of great, which is how Lorde can come out of nowhere, but now, more than ever, it doesn't matter what you've done in the past, but what you've done for us lately.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

No More Moving Parts

I used to joke about the day that I would have a computer with no moving parts and this week I made it happen.  The 500 gig hard drive in my Macbook Pro was pretty sluggish, probably because I never clean up and never thrown anything away.  I just wait 'til it grinds to a halt then I get a new drive. My son the DJ was encouraging me to do what he did, replace the CD/DVD drive with a second drive bay and add an SSD drive for the operating system and the applications.  Instead I went for the whole enchilada and replaced the original drive with a 500 gig SSD (Samsung) for $250.  When I think back...waaay back to mid 80s when I bought my first hard drive. My Mac SE had no built-in hard drive so I got an external 40 meg hard drive and I recall it was darn near a thousand bucks (the Mac SE, with Southworth MIDI interface & software but no hard drive was $5000.)  I got to know Bill Southworth (he was a genuine MIDI pioneer except his product was the "Beta" to ProTools' "VHS") I remember one day an excited Bill holding a new hard drive in the box bragging "I just got a 140 Meg hard drive for $1400! Can you believe only $10 a meg?" Let me do the math...oh, never mind!

Now this computer moves so fast that sometimes I don't even notice that I've already arrived at the page/site/doc that I clicked on....Lovin' it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Validation

Following the misfortune of my guitar's broken headstock, there were a few bright moments.  Ego stroking, I guess.

A couple of days after the accident I got two nods to Brian the songwriter - one was meeting a musician who was part of an event that is chronicled in one of my songs and then later that evening I saw a young female singer-songwriter and she can't believe that she's running into me because earlier that evening she had been working on one of my songs.  How's them apples?  Meanwhile I still can't afford to get that guitar fixed properly - which will require splicing a new headstock onto it.

Then tonight, to top it off, I was surfing around the web and saw a link to Rdio which took me to the Brian Blain "station" where I just sat back listening to random selections from two of my albums - some of which I haven't heard in a while - and which I couldn't play live if my life depended on it. It has a slider where you can select "Artist Only" or move it further to play tracks by similar artists or not-so-similar if you select "Adventurous"

http://rd.io/x/QVvSlDFUYns/