Life List #2 Record an EP and Video of my Songs about my Cancer Journey


I know you are a caring person wanting to make a difference like me, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. I’m looking for advice and assistance on this project and I want to gift the results to the Cancer Society so that many people can benefit from it.

Music is a great healer and I used it as one of the tools that helped me and continues to help me through my journey. When I first was told “You Have Cancer” and got past the initial shock, I watched shows like The Voice and saw the stories of people who had turned horrific times in their lives to good purpose, wondering what did it take for me to do something positive and values driven.

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Where we leave our clothes when we go in for radiation treatment

I decided I wanted to do something too, which started with setting up the Facebook page Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies, I also wanted to try to do something really positive for other cancer patients and their families and friends.

 

So my Life List goal #2 is to complete an EP and music videos to help tell the story of my journey in terms of a cancer patient that may help other people relate to this horrible illness.

It’s 24/7, it’s scary and in many cases results in anguish, fear, depression, pain and death. The story isn’t unique, it applies to other conditions too like dementia.

Last night I watched the movie ‘Glen Campbell I’ll Be Me’ on TV and had tears in my eyes throughout the whole movie and my heart goes out to people suffering from dementia, which our family is also dealing with.

One of my songs for the EP is called “Who Stole My Words” which was about an experience I wrote about recently about falling out of an ocean kayak and due to my condition wasn’t able to come up with simple words like current and tide after I swam it to shore, not having the strength to get back in because I am not producing cortisol (i.e. no adrenalin). For a wordsmith, not being able to recall simple words is pretty scary.

So my challenge is that I need to fund this work and then make it available at no cost to people who are going through the same experience, because even with insurance, having cancer is very expensive and many people have to sell their homes or spend their life saving to help pay for their treatment or even to travel for treatment if they don’t live in a town where it is available. We had to spend a 5 figure sum to top up the gap for my treatment to date, so I know what it’s like. So I’d like to gift the album / video to the Cancer Society when it is complete.

I’m going to need additional musicians, possibly a backing choir for one of the songs, a videographer, editor and more people to help me. I’m going to need a studio, a sound engineer, a cast of several people and then there’s production and distribution. It’s pretty scary.

I’m keen for advice and help. First of all, where do I go for money? I’m thinking about whether to use New Zealand’s ‘Give a Little’ service. To raise funds because this is a charitable exercise. The finished product will be gifted to the Cancer Society and anyone who can benefit from it for free. There won’t be any profits.

Then I need a bit of a team to help me make this happen. Can you help with advice, or would you like to join the team? I can write the songs and I want to perform them with various artists, but that’s about the limit of my expertise.

So will you help? I need people and I need advice. You can contact me via Twitter Facebook by joining the group Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies, LinkedIn or Email.

 

Helping Soldiers with PTSD through Music


As you know, a few days ago I set up a new Facebook page called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. It is about people helping other people. Today I came across a group that help soldiers with PTSD by using songwriting to express themselves and tell their stories in a trust environment, which is helping a lot of people, even those who are not musical themselves, or don’t realise they are.

Several years ago I wrote a song called Another Stretch in Iraq. You can hear a demo on my Reverbnation page. It was motivated by a newspaper story of a service woman who came home looking for some love and normality only to find that her man had left her for another woman. A common story sadly.

I joined a military blogging (milblogging) site and spent a good year or so talking to military personnel, mostly serving overseas at the time to get a feel (as much as that is possible, given that family members who served almost never spoke about their experiences when a civilian was present).

They trusted me and I learned a lot about their lives, their hopes, their agonies in losing brothers and sisters, general life and the isolation from their families where their fellow soldiers in fact became their families such that many could not and still can not adjust to civilian life without their brothers and sisters from he service.

When I was in Orlando some years ago, I played a couple of sets at a biker-friendly bar in Longwood and my song Another Stretch in Iraq was one of the songs I played with some great backing from the house band. I wish I had taken some photos because it was the classic bar with 30 Harley’s in a neat row out front, sawdust on the floor, the sort of place that Kiwis only see on movies and TV shows and that the cab driver thought I had no place being until he saw the friendly bear hug greeting I got from the woman who ran it.

After finishing the song a group of 6-foot something burly men came up to the stage. The biggest of them all came up to me with tears in his eyes and I thought I was about to become roadkill. He and his friends looked me in the eye and then he shook my hand and said I took him right back to the theatre at Desert Storm. He re enlisted twice and his son had just left for Iraq a week ago.

It was so rewarding to me that I had captured the emotions and environment with integrity and that the song gave them some comfort. I haven’t worked harder on a song and would love to record it professionally. It is on Reverbnation as a free download and is also on a couple of sites of free MP3 downloads that is made available to all serving US military.

Back to the Facebook page. There are thousands of returned servicemen in dozens of countries who suffer from PTSD. They come from all walks of life and many of them play musical instruments, or used to. Many of them can no longer motivate themselves and need a hand. Some of them join groups like the one in the video above. Many will not join groups, either because they can’t or won’t ask for help, because they don’t want to appear weak, or because they are still in service and don’t want to jeopardise their careers by showing weakness.

The concepts in this Facebook page mean that all they have to do is talk to a few friends and family that they are close to and trust. Then all they need to do is ask for a little encouragement, it’s as simple as that. For those who wish to or are able to contribute stories, I am hoping they will join the Facebook Group because it can only grow and flourish if they know about it.

I’m hoping that if you know people like that, you will share this post or the link with them so that they can be made aware that help is available and whilst it is not easy as it sounds, with a little help from their friends it can happen.

As John Lee Hooker and my idol Carlos Santana sang, Blues is a Healer. It heals those who play it as much as those who listen to it. If you can help someone pick up their instrument, or raise their voice and break the silence, you can have a profound influence on people’s lives and it can be as simple as my mate Rob sending me a TXT message saying “pick that gat up and play for 10 minutes man.”

If you know of anyone that could benefit, please share the Facebook group with them and perhaps join us yourself. My thanks on their behalf.

New Facebook page Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies


cropped-feb12-004.jpgSo there’s no point in saying you’re going to do something if you don’t do it, so I’ve set up the new Facebook Group called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. I couldn’t resist the pun because there are plenty of other conditions where people suffer similar effects which stop them from playing, practicing and plying the craft they love.

I would love you to join the group dear reader, whether you have a condition or not, because somewhere along the line, with 1 in 3 people getting cancer, then there’s depression, PTSD, Crohn’s, chronic fatigue and you are going to come across someone who could do with a little helping hand.

Since I told a few friends that I was going to do this, I have had messages and encouragement every day and have played every day. I’m not saying it has been easy, but I wouldn’t have played every day without them.

We are also doing Relay For Life again in March and if you have a spare dollar, you’re support there would be most welcome Last year I only managed about 20 km but my friends helped me raise over $1,500 out of a goal of $1,000.

Anyway, my Hairy Audacious Goal has begun and I want to thank Jane McGonigal and her book SuperBetter for helping me to motivate this, because it isn’t about me, it’s about thousands of musicians around the world who are struggling with cancer or other conditions.

If you have time, check out this short video about the book that got me motivated to start this new mission. It is about how we can use gamification to help with life challenges and ask for help from our friends.

 

Sydney Song Summit S3 2008


When you spend a lot of your own money to go overseas to a songwriting conference it is a major leap of faith and this week my faith was rewarded with an amazing conference in Sydney, sponsored by APRA and PRS. I have a new notebook full of ideas which I am hoping will have a huge impact on the future of my career as a songwriter. I am now motivated more than ever, not just to write songs but to write Number One Country Music hits.

I had tears in my eyes through personal presentations by Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb. The latter amazed me when I realised how much his music influenced me. I didn’t realise how much of an impact the chord progressions on songs like By the Time I Get to Phoenix and McArthur Park had on me. I must check out his new album.

The highlight by far was a one hour speed presentation by Ralph Murphy of ASCAP. I learned more about Hit Song songwriting from him in an hour than I have in the last year and I have totally made a personal commitment to use it. It does mean more research and work than I anticipated but I have to admit that much of it was work that I had been procrastinating about anyway. One of my weaknesses is MySpace and communicating with my network. Not that I’m going to stop doing that, but I have to remind myself that this is not just a hobby, it is my future business.

So here I am in the Business Class Lounge at Sydney Airport, an hour early because I didn”t realise that Daylight Savings started this morning. Anyway, here’s to an awesome music year for me in 2008.

Carlos Santana Live Your Light Auckland 2008


Carlos Santana graced Auckland last night with an amazing concert at the Vector Arena last night. Starting with Jingo and ending with favourites such as Black Magic Woman, the man who is on a crusade for world peace showed that te decades have not slowed him down.

While most people probably didn’t get to hear the old favourites they were hoping for Carlos and an outstanding band of drummers, percussionists, brass, keys and bass got an Auckland crowd onto their feet and showed that he still has the magic. This isn’t a man living off his old songs, this is a musician, a master craftsman who constantly reinvents himself while still paying homage to his roots.

He and his band played for a solid 2 1/2 hours which for most of us could have happily extended for another hour or more. I can’t remember the names of his band, but would go and see any of them on their own. Carlos is not afraid of being outshone by his musicians, rather he brings the best he can find and gives them all a chance to show their chops.

The only negative is that the Vector Arena still hasn’t got their sound sorted. Sitting upstairs with one ear facing the speakers and the other ear getting the echo it was probably far more noticable than for the people sittingdownstairs facing the stage. Every beat started in the ear facing the speakers and then came back to the other one. This would have been novel once in one of the awesome drum solo’s, but after a while it got a bit tiring to a musician who likes to hear exactly what is happening. The sound people never got the vocal levels right either and it was often difficult to hear the lyrics and I don’t think they did the singers justice. Of course in general a Santana fan doesn’t go to hear vocals butwhat we heard sounded like they could have been very good.

Other than that, I now have a new Santana concert to remember and even more admiration for a man who not only keeps growing musically and spiritually, but seems true to his convictions and for all that he has achieved, remains a humble man.

A final note, Blue King Brown from Australia who were the supporting act couldn’t have been better for the job. Their music was authentic but in a similar vein and they warmed up the crowd superbly. I’ll be checking out their MySpace Page and looking out for an album. I’ll be watching out for their next visit here.

Song Summit Sydney S3


If you make the effort, good things will happen is what I tell everyone. While people wait around looking for a break from their living rooms and look at people like Sandi Thom and say how lucky she is, my message to them is the harder you work, the luckier you get.

So in that vein, I registered for the 3 day conference yesterday, booked my flights and sent in 3 songs Another Stretch in Iraq, I Tilted and my latest song Old Flame, through Sonic Bids hoping to be heard and critiqued by some of the great singers, songwriters, publishers, managers, broadcasters, producers and A&R people. The blurb in the program says “Not for the faint hearted but a wonderful opportunity for songwriters to receive genuine constructive comments on their songs.”

So hopefully I will get a chance to play for them and also in one of the evening showcases. It will be great to get some feedback fro the people I am trying to get attention from. It will also get my name in front of them so that if they do like what I am writing or feel there is potential, I will be in with a chance.

If you missed my bio, my main goal in life is to be a professional songwriter and I have been working hard over the last 2 years writing and performing in New Zealand, the USA and Jamaica. I have music on around 15 web sites and as of this year have finally hit the free to air radio, including in Canada which is very cool since I have never been there. Over there my most popular song is Another Stretch in Iraq.

I don’t know half the names of the presenters and haven’t decided which of the presentations I am going to (most time slots have at least 3 concurrent sessions and some of course co-incide with the Listen to the Music critique sessions which I hope to learn heaps from.

The most exciting one of course is Paul Williams. How much can I learn from the guy who wrote:

  •  Just an old fashioned love song
  • We’ve only just begun
  • Rainy Days and Mondays
  • Rainbow connection (kermit the frog owes some of his fame to Paul lol
  • You and me against the world

and hundreds of other geat songs.

Anyway, now I need to do a load of homework and find out which presenters and sessions are going to help me the most. It’s interesting having a different perspective in going to a conference. I’ve been to dozens, hey I’ve presented at dozens and even chaired a few, some representing my own business wth Mission Control and the NZ SmartPhone and PDA Academy and also in my role as President of the New Zealand Wireless Forum. I’ve been to conferences in New York Singapore, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Tokyo and the list goes on. But this one has perhaps the greatest importance and potential for my future of any I have had the good fortune to attend. It’s also probably the first internationally where I have had to pay all my costs personally.

Anyway, I’ll be posting as I go along my journey over the next month before I get to Sydney and maybe share some of the things I see and learn.

Liverpool 8 watch a 65 year old innovate


Last night I saw Ringo Starr on the Late Show, playing the lead song to his new album Liverpool 8.

Here’s what’s different. The album is a 2GB Flash Drive embedded into a rubber bracelet, of course the name of the album is on the bracelet and the price is around the same as any new album. $20 from memory. As well as the album the contents include a music video, interviews, photos and more.

If you buy the album, you will probably want to wear it because it is novel and this being the first time it has been done (to my knowledge) it will become a colectors item. This could become the ultimate fashion wear for 2008. What are you listening to? Check it out on my wrist. The only drawback is that you can’t plug it into your car stereo or your iPod, but that will no doubt come if the concept takes off.

Storing multiple albums could be a bit of a problem, but I’m sure there will be appropriate refinements.

About 8 years ago I tried to get the local media to publish a story I wrote, saying that if the music industry doesn’t take care of their music buying public and take advantage of the capabilities of new media such as adding video, interviews, photos etc to albums, they will have a hard time competing with downloads. But if they add so much material (that they have anyway and don’t generally sell) so that it isn’t worth the hassle or cost of downloading everything, they will be in trouble.

The media didn’t want my story because it was controversial and probably because a lot of there advertising revenue came from the record companies. Hey guess what, yeah I was right. Now I’m not super clever, I’m just being logical. I think the record companies were arrogant and had the attitude of some Japanese manufacturers of a decade ago, who said to their customers, we will tell you what features you want on your products and how to use them, but that’s another story.

The point is, we are in the world of new media. Consumers have loads of choices. BUT, they are prepared to pay for value. EMI, Sony etc. if you want to keep your market, you need to give value. If you don’t you may just find that you aren’t needed or wanted any more. It’s not too late, but you need to understand, its not just about the media you print your music on, it’s about being innovative, listening to your customers and being innovative, fun, inspiring, sticky and giving value for money.

Instead of sacking your staff, sacking your entertainers and making them do their own promotion, how about talking to them.  There’s a novel idea. Here’s the question. It’s 2010 and the music industry as we knew it has collapsed. It has taken with it major printing companies, media companies, wholesalers and retailers and increased unemployment noticeably. If you were able to go back to 2008, what would you do differently?