If Not For You, George Harrison…

Yesterday, November 29th, marked 16 years since George Harrison died.
It’s hard to come up with something original to say about him or John, Paul, or Ringo for that matter, but I’ve never really written in depth about what he means to me and this seems as fitting a time as any.

First, let’s get it out of the way, I totally cheated with the title of this. If Not For You is in fact a Bob Dylan song, I know. BUT…I like George’s version better and it fits. 😉

The Quiet One

The early days of Beatlemania brought those kitschy nicknames we all know: John the smart one, Paul the cute one, Ringo the funny one, and of course George the quiet one…and in a way he was…but in a way, he certainly was not.

There was a rigid economy that marked his words and music. Like a successful athlete, there was no wasted motion. Everything he said or played meant something. I’ve always admired that, particularly given my struggle with saying too much, often at the worst possible time.

Don’t Bother Me

George always stood apart from the rest. He had a demeanor, evident even from those early press conferences and performances, that displayed a certain seriousness, the pensive stare of someone surveying the crowd, not quite interested in being there but not wanting to leave either.

He resisted giving all of himself to all of us in a way that may not have been true of his brothers-in-arms but when he did allow us in, it was glorious.

He seemed to simultaneously loathe and relish the attention, the wealth, his craft, and, at times, even himself. As someone often complimented for being “charismatic” or “funny” or whatever else but also one who receives just as much derision for my apparent bitterness and anti-social tendencies, I always found George’s music and personality to be familiar… comforting even. I’m not the only one who struggles with balancing my seemingly diametrically opposed needs for isolation and attention, my cynicism and empathy…all of which always seems to be an anathema for so many around me. There are many here among us who understand what I mean.

A little dark and out key

From the beginning, George’s songs and even their titles stuck out. Take a glance at the tracking listing for With the Beatles. “All I’ve Got to Do” leads into “All My Loving” and then to “Don’t Bother Me” and then to “Little Child”. Have a guess at which George wrote. Go on…have a guess.

While the boys were writing some of the great pop love songs of all time, George chipped in with “If I Needed Someone.” IF?!

“Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” are rightly among the most cherished songs in the Beatles canon but “If  I Needed Someone” has always been more significant to me…perhaps because I’ve been on the other side of the conversation depicted in the lyrics:

Had you come some other day
Then it might not have been like this
But you see now I’m too much in love
Carve your number on my wall

And maybe you will get a call from me
If I needed someone

I suppose too, I’ve been on both sides.

The wry and even biting wit found in “Taxman” or “Piggies” was written by the same man who created “Savoy Truffle”. Inspired by his friend Eric Clapton, it is both a clever ode and a sinister warning about Clapton’s lust for candy.

The lilting sparsity found in “Long Long Long” is a sibling to both the epic “All Too Much” and the massive and lush “Photograph” penned for Ringo’s 1973 album, Ringo.

Without the band his music further expanded and explored the seemingly endless battle between his biting disdain and the sublime meditations which defined so much of his life.

“Beware of Darkness”, “Let it Down”, “Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long”, “Beautiful Girl”, “All Things Must Pass” and so many others explore the spaces between love and love lost, hope and surrender, angst and joy, isolation and wanting.

So too was his playing. Go back and listen to “Long Tall Sally” again. His two solos shatter through the speakers, explode off the acetate. This is George Unleashed.

George’s later work, marked by the fuzz box and slightly off-kilter rhythms and melodies found throughout Revolver, helped define an era and has inspired every guitarist from Jimi Hendrix to Matthew Sweet. It is THE Fuzz Tone. All others bend their knee in reverence.

A favorite moment of mine, and one that further displays just how much rage George could conjure is found on John’s 1971 song “Gimme Some Truth.” By then George had embraced what would be one of his many musical signatures: the guitar slide.

From a scream to a moan, to a fading tender tear, to a joyous prayer, his slide and his finger-picked legato phrasing have inspired and confounded me my entire life. Two of my favorites may surprise you given the depth of his work but I love the solos he contributed to the Anthology songs “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”. As vibrant and soulful as any he played, for me at least, they “make” the songs.

Anyway, I can go on for days about this. About 18 years ago I wrote in a journal that I didn’t want to live in a world without George Harrison. Unfortunately he died shortly after…but he hasn’t really gone away has he? Not really.

Dhani, George’s son, an incredible musician in his own right, has done a masterful job of protecting and expanding George’s legacy and for that I am certainly grateful. He has worked tirelessly on remastering and preserving his father’s music and instruments, and organized George Fest back in 2014. The concert is available for purchase and clips abound on YouTube.

My want is that you all take a moment to dig through his songs a bit more than perhaps you have in the past. There’s so much more to his contributions than “Something” and “Here Comes the Son” or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”….and those are monumental testaments. They are truly among the greatest songs ever written.

But do yourself a favor. Go a little deeper even than “All Things Must Pass” (a personal favorite) and look at tunes like “Never Get Over You” from his 2002 posthumous album, Brainwashed. Check out the oft-overlooked “Apple Scruffs” from his incredible All Things Must Pass. (And check out my friend David’s fantastic Beatles band by the same name)

My true want is that we forever and profoundly carry George Harrison in our hearts. I think doing so makes us better.

Until Next Time,

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

 

 

Oh what a night!

So last week I found myself doing something I had not done in quite some time. After a long day at the office, I raced home to change clothes, pack up a couple of guitars, my amp, cables, music stand, and headed to spend the evening in front of a packed house.

Butterflies swirling, sweat beginning to bead on my forehead, pulse picking up a bit, I toiled away at soundcheck hoping to get things set up before the crowd filed in…most performers know that feeling we get just before the lights go on and we hit the stage. There was that minor panic when I flipped on the amp to find nothing coming out but it turned out to me a simple flip of a switch.

Oliver, my new roadie, is still getting the hang of things but I think he’s got real potential!

This was no run-of-the-mill gig though. Nope. I’ve played packed shows at the Arena Theater and George R. Brown, I’ve played in empty dive bars. But this ladies and gentlemen…this was The Night.

I was invited to sit in with Girl Scouts troop 114011, aka the “Sweet Squirrels” to help them earn their music badge.

That’s right, no smoky bar full of disinterested girlfriends staring at their phones, band mates complaining about the sound, or getting the stink eye from other bands on the bill. Nope, last night was perfect.

I spent the evening at their weekly meeting and helped these lovely and wildly enthusiastic young ladies earn their “Junior Music Badges” and “Music Fun Patches”.

I gave a brief presentation on the history of acoustic and electric guitars, how harmonicas work, and some of the great players and songwriters associated with each instrument with particular attention paid to some trailblazing women like Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, and a couple of modern artists like Norah Jones and St. Vincent.

We listened to “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles and compared it to three international versions. We enjoyed “Gul Gul Gul Är Var Undervattningsbat” by Sweedish singer/songwriter Per Myrberg, “Submarino Amarillo” by the famed Barcelona group Los Mustang, and then we listened to Willy Chirino’s salsa-flavored take from his 2011 album, My Beatles Heart.

We discussed the differences and similarities and then turned to lyrics and songwriting before taking our own stab at writing a verse using the same meter and melody of Yellow Submarine. Lastly the girls each took turns exploring the different instruments we had: guitars, piano, a little organ, some percussion instruments, and I made sure that each of them went home with their own miniature harmonica. (Parents, no need to thank me. The pained and knowing faces you made when you realized you now lived with a passionate harmonica player is thanks enough haha)

These young ladies were so engaged and enthusiastic that I could have spent all night answering their fantastic questions. They picked up on some of the most subtle nuances between the different versions of “Yellow Submarine.” One girl noticed that there was a tambourine buried in the mix of Los Mustang’s version while another picked up on a slight echo on Per Myrberg’s vocal.

Their questions came in rapid-fire bursts, hands rocketing upward in hopes of being the first to be acknowledged.

“Why is that guitar hollow, but that one isn’t?”

“What is that made out of?”

“When did electric guitars start getting really popular?”

“Who invented the guitar?”

So too were their answers bursting with thoughtful enthusiasm when prompted with a question.

“So who likes to write poems or stories?”

That question was greeted with a loud chorus of “ME! ME! ME!”

“Ok, so where do you get the words from?”

One girl’s answer exploded more quickly than her hand could even raise, “Oh I know, I know, I KNOW! My head!”

Another girl answered that she got her inspiration from reading other stories and poems while another shot up, almost jumping off the floor to say, “I get them from my heart!”

Are you kidding me?!

How can anyone sit in front of a group of kids like that and not be inspired, humbled, and thankful?

It was truly one of the most gratifying and joyful evenings I’ve spent as a musician in I don’t know how long. One of Cathedral Records’central goals is to cultivate creativity and music appreciation among kids who may have the interest but not necessarily access or guidance. It’s not just about promoting and assisting current artists, it’s about helping guide the next crop of players who are just getting started.

 

I’m truly grateful to the troop leaders for inviting me into their circle for the evening and letting me spend a little while sharing what little I have to offer with their wonderful daughters. I’m also very thankful to the young ladies themselves for being so wonderful and engaged. It really warms this cold heart and inspires me in so many ways.

I hope to have more opportunities like this because I believe nothing keeps us young and inspired like being around young and inspired people.
I encourage ALL of my fellow musicians throughout the community to seek out and embrace these kinds of opportunities. It’s good for the community, it’s good for the kids, and it’s good for you.

Until next time….

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

Forever the King

Forever the King

August 16 marked 40 years since Elvis Presley died. In the years since his music has been packaged and repacked, remastered, remixed, and re-released in so many ways it can sometimes be difficult to believe he actually died.

I’ve always loved Elvis. His was one of the first voices I heard as a child. His music and legend is as tightly woven into my life as anyone can be and along with the Beatles and Beach Boys, Elvis forms a sort of Holy Trinity of music. They lay the foundation upon which everything I love is built. Everything seems to branch off from there.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, Elvis continues to be thought of as a caricature. Kitschy memorabilia, horribly cheesy impersonators, bad Halloween costumes, tasteless jokes about his final hours, and a growing denigration of his contributions to rock and roll have all contributed to a very inaccurate image of who Elvis was, the incredible role he played in music and culture, and his phenomenal talent.

I can’t count how many times I’ve encountered someone who says “uh, I just don’t get it. He was just a fat guy…he didn’t ‘invent’ rock and roll anyway….he made all those crappy movies, and those jumpsuits! Ugh!”

It’s quite unfortunate and a lot of it has to do with the way his legacy and music has been treated by those entrusted to protect it. But, that’s another topic for another day.

Rather, I’d like to talk about what matters most, his talent and his music. Let’s strip away all the noise and let’s just talk music.

Go back and listen to some of those early recordings. In 1956, Elvis recorded “Blue Moon”, a song originally written in 1934. Give it a listen…listen close to That Voice, the delivery. Against a sparse almost non-existent musical arrangement, Elvis’ vocal range is on full display, gently lilting between his gorgeous baritone and a dulcet falsetto. The song is both haunting and romantic.

Three years later Elvis seems to channel is inner Buddy Holly with the release of “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”. With Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and Johnny Bernero providing the instrumentation Elvis sings:

Made myself a promise
That I’d soon forget we ever met
But something sure is wrong
‘Cause I’m so blue and lonely
I forgot to remember to forget

Anyone watch the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

Elvis of course ran off a seemingly endless string of hits throughout the late 50s and into the 60s. Songs like “Heartbreak Hotel”, “That’s All Right Mama”, “Teddy Bear”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and “It’s Now or Never” were blaring out of transistor radios and through TV sets around the world. By the time the early 60s arrived, the Colonel had thrown The King into the movie business and it didn’t take long for Elvis to become increasingly frustrated both with the quality of the film as well as the quality of the music born of those movies.

So, enter 1968. This is the year Elvis decided to remind the world just who the hell they were dealing with.

The famed Comeback Special, actually titled “Elvis” aired on NBC on December 3, 1968. It has a bit of late 60s schmaltz in terms of production and choreography but Elvis’ voice was stronger than it had been to that point in his career, and he oozed with a sexuality and confidence that betrayed the stage fright and insecurity with which he entered the project.

The highlight for me, and most others, is the stripped down performance with DJ Fontana, Scotty Moore (both original band members), as well as Alan Fortas, Charlie Hodge, and Lance LeGault.

At his core, Elvis was a gospel, rhythm and blues singer. This performance puts those influences on display with growling, sweaty renditions of some of his early hits. The best of which are “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, “Tryin’ to Get to You”, and “Baby What do You Want Me to Do”. I watch these clips on a regular basis (no doubt providing the missus with more than a bit of frustration ha-ha) and I’m constantly in awe. Gorgeous, confident when singing, shy when speaking, and That Voice this is Elvis in command, Elvis in most pure form.

The show also included what would become one Elvis’ most lasting songs, “If I Can Dream”. Perhaps the closest he would get to a “political” statement in his music, the song features one of his best vocal performances. Against the social and political turmoil of the times, he sings:

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
Oh why

There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question
Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now

I quote the full the song because it has a renewed significance given today’s social and political climate.

A few months later Elvis would begin the next and last phase, of his incredible career. Backed by a new band anchored by the incomparable James Burton on guitar and Ronnie Tutt on drums, the “TCB Band” would perform with Elvis until his death. He set up shop and crafted an entirely new show where he would feature old and new hits as well as reimaginings of contemporary songs by likes of Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, and Neil Diamond. 1972 brought him to Madison Square Garden, which was released as a live album and the following year gave us the seminal Aloha from Hawaii broadcast and album. This period saw Elvis at the peak of his vocal power. There was nothing he could not sing. Legend has it that he wanted to sing in an opera, or at least a duet, but the Colonel did not thing it meshed with The King’s image or appeal to his fans.

Songs like “Never Been to Spain” and “You Gave Me a Mountain” showcase his soaring powerful delivery but perhaps no other song does this quite like the 1976 song, “Hurt”.

This period also features two of my all time favorite recordings. Elvis’ gospel-fueled interpretation of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” His voice grew stronger with time, his command and range were never better, and he showcased it with these and countless other songs and his emphasis on his gospel roots became more prominent as he moved towards the end.

By 1976 and certainly into the early months of 1977 Elvis’ emotional struggles, the stress of financially supporting such a large army of musicians, family members, friends, and hangers-on, the loss of his mother, as well as his increasing discomfort with fame and the resulting isolation.

His gorgeous frame struggled to maintain the increasing weight. The medications his doctors pushed upon him in order to keep him up for performances and then bring him down to sleep, as well as to stabilize his moods clouded his once sharp wit and intellect. There’s plenty of unfortunate footage of him slurring his words or forgetting lyrics but that shouldn’t be the lasting image anyone has of this once-in-a-lifetime talent. His legacy should be his voice, his cultural impact, and contributions to American music.

So, I hope you all click a few of those links, listen to the music, and watch the performances. My hope is that I’ve perhaps provided a different perspective than what you may have had on Elvis Presley. He’s The King and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Until Next Time,

Be Well and Kind,
Jason

 

“It’s hard to choose between messing with knobs and dancing” a talk with Michelle Miears

 

This is the latest in a series of articles about some of Houston’s most fascinating female members of our music community. I’m not sure I meant for it to become a series but what began with wanting to showcase people who live lives in and around our community, juggle responsibilities, manage what often seem like conflicting goals, led me to the women you’ve read about here at Cathedral Records.

I’m inspired by people who live with their feet firmly planted in different worlds; musician and parent, spouse and business owner, band member and athlete, songwriter and business executive. That duality and those seemingly diametrically opposing forces are where the magic happens and where I find reassurance that my own ambitions are not impossible to achieve.

So with that, I give you this article about Michelle Miears. Her debut solo EP, “Who Will Save You” is amazing but you probably already know that from the incredible love she is receiving both in the press and from audiences who have been fortunate enough to see her perform.

This article, I hope, will shed a little light on the lady behind that powerful voice and those incredible arrangements. Her story is one of balance, of persistence, ambition, bravery, and certainly talent.

Her musical journey began, like that of so many of us. Her grandparents were avid musicians who performed regularly both on stage as part of multiple bands and in their homes for their children and grandchildren. One of her first memories of being attracted to commercial music was as a young child riding in a car with her mother as Enya came on the airwaves.

By 10, melodies were becoming imprinted in her mind and one of her first musical fascinations arrived on radio and TV in the form of three talented brothers from California, Hanson.

“I formed a little ‘band’ with my best friend and we would write songs while jumping on the trampoline day-dreaming about making it big” Miears explained.

The ambition and determination that have marked much her evolution as an artist began to take root early on as Michelle described her feelings at the time, “I took myself very seriously inside and I really thought this could happen for me and it was around this time that I taught myself piano.”

Piano led to flute in junior high band which she continues to play this day. During her high school days in band, Michelle even participated in the drum line challenging herself by competing and performing with players with many more years of experience. She cites the challenge as one of the “best and most rewarding times of (her) life.”

This notion of a sense of reward and empowerment through challenge and perseverance is a common refrain throughout her life and musical journey.

As the discussion turns to her influences she cites a long list of varied artists, two of the first being Paramore’s Hayley Williams as well as Imogen Heap.

“The first artist that made feel completely gutted inside (in a good way) and made me desperate to perform was Hayley Williams. I was living in California listening to (Paramore and Imogen Heap) on repeat. These two women taught me how to sing.”

A couple of start-stop band experiences led to an opportunity to join her brother’s band where she found her place within the word of electronic music.

“I had spent a lot of time listening to a few electronic bands in the past but in working with ZolotiNatioN I dug deeper into it. From that point, I felt like stylistically my voice fit better in this world than the pop-punk world that I had previously day-dreamed about.”

Shortly thereafter, hungry for a new band after ZolotiNatioN ended, BLSHS was born which further deepened her love of electronic music, composition, production, and expanded her horizons as an artist and performer. It was during a lull in the band’s activity that Michelle decided to take the massive step of writing, producing, releasing, and ultimately performing an EP of solo music.

When asked about the inspiration for the songs she doesn’t really have any artist or bands to rattle off.  Rather, her muse is born from the emotions and reflections of past relationships, her role in them, and how they have shaped her life and outlook moving forward.

“The songs on this EP were inspired by my own self-exploration and discovery of my relationship patterns, past and present, and my tendency to be codependent. I have a habit of assuming the role of caretaker, so far. Unfortunately I tend to measure my self-worth through feeling needed.”

These stark self-observations belie the powerful, passionate woman who commands the stage but give further insight into the high-wire act she walks between seemingly opposite forces: co-dependent and insecure but at the same time masterful and confident; inexperienced as a solo artist but having the focus and sheer force of will to craft an entire stage show while teaching herself an entirely new medium of performance in using Ableton Live.

The songs on “Who Will Save You” are meticulously crafted with a polished production that mask the fact that they were composed on an old keyboard with initial demos recorded not in Logix but on her mobile phone.

By day, she sits at a desk managing accounts for a staffing agency but by night Michelle becomes MIEARS as she anxiously races home, leaving her “civilian” life behind and embraces the world she much prefers, a world where “anything is possible.”

When the time came to perform the songs found on “Who Will Save You,” Michelle had a decision to make. She could perform alone, singing to her pre-recorded tracks or she could create something else, something more. The decisions to include a live drummer as well as a keytar were born of the same kind of duality that has defined so much of her musical journey.

“I don’t have the best self-esteem at times. I think the idea was originally conceptualized from my fear that people would be bored watching little ol’ me on stage by myself. I was actually terrified at the thought of being on a stage all by myself. The thought sounded very exposing and I couldn’t think of a more vulnerable position to be in.”

These words sound surprising coming from a woman with such masterful command of the stage as well as the creative vision needed to arrange the songs in such a manner that would allow space for live drums and in-the-moment performance using her cherished key-tar. “I love my keytar. I feel naked without it!”

That key-tar might as well be Thor’s hammer. As soon as she puts it on, the shy young lady I met in a parking lot outside Rock 4 Recovery becomes the incendiary performer who takes the stage night after night.

When asked how her busy performance schedule has been and how the process has evolved she expresses nothing but enthusiasm. The insecure, even shy young lady loses ground to the master craftswoman who values the kind work ethic that many fans or aspiring musicians may not realize are needed to reach the measure of their ambition.

“I’ve performed both with and without my drummer and I have received positive feedback in both circumstances. I am glad that I’m still pushing myself out there totally solo because it forces me to work on my confidence and stage presence.”

When the topic turns to Houston as a community Michelle’s passion is once again ignited. The environment’s collaborative and supportive nature that is often overlooked by outsiders is a huge source of inspiration.

“I am lucky to be emerging as a female solo artist at a time when there are so many other strong women surrounding me. I am so excited that there are women taking charge of the music scene like Mandy Clinton (of the Lories and Pearl Crush) who has a booking collective called DAMN GXRL which advocates for inclusiveness and diversity in the music scene. Teresa Vicinanza (Tee Vee) and Vicki Tippit (Black Kite) are pushing the boundaries of creativity and how an audience experiences live music. Black Kite recently wrapped up a series of immersive theater performances called Red House which completely blew my mind.”

Michelle quickly catches a breath and begins again:

“All three of these artists produce incredible music and I am a huge fan. Kam Franklin is touring Europe with her band, The Suffers, and taking on the globe one venue at a time. There are so many, it’s hard to name them everyone. These women are inspiring me daily with their creative journeys. I feel super empowered to be a woman in music and a woman in the Houston music scene right now.”

With the perspective and outlook Michelle has developed an audience may think her career is decades long when in fact Who Will Save You is her debut album (though the follow up is nearing completion). As I often say however, it’s not the number of years, it’s the number of miles and in Michelle’s case she’s logged enough to understand that the life of a musician, male or female, is not one to be entered into lightly.

While she can see no other life for herself because the thought of not pursuing her passion provides more pain than that of continuing and facing all struggles the road may bring, she is quick to offer both strong words of caution as well as a call to arms. (There’s that duality again)

“Being a musician requires a lot of time, work, dedication, and some thick skin. Somehow you have to force yourself beyond any doubt that you may feel. You have to put yourself out there, even when it’s scary and unsure of the outcome.”

Her advice to aspiring musicians?

“No matter what your age is, you can start any time. The time is now!”

Her words of encouragement ring as a sort of carpe diem, an anthem calling even the most trepidatious to step up to the microphone or piano or computer.

“Just take that first step. Whether it’s sharing a demo with a friend, finding a way to materialize the ideas in your head, learning to produce on your own in a DAW, learning to record at home with some basic equipment, learning an instrument or finally singing in front of people you have to take that jump!”
She concludes with a bit more self-reflection:

“I finally realized that every day I let slip by without taking another baby step is a day that I’ve lost at growing and being productive towards my dreams and passion.”

Oh and if that’s not enough to endear you Ms. MIEARS…she’s a Beatles fan…be still my beating heart. 🙂

 

 

Hello….how are you? Have you been alright?

 

Wow…what a few months.

If it seems like I’ve been away or like things have been quiet it’s because things have been more than a little busy…tumultuous even.

Quick rundown: I had a brief health scare that turned out to be nothing I can’t manage, nothing tooo serious. I quit smoking, and I hurt my back (again).

I’ve been drowning in school work, but the end is in sight to the point that I was able to take part in commencement. I even got to visit New Hampshire to visit the university campus. It was awesome!

 

 

I have to say, the Irish pub there in Manchester, NH poured me the most beautiful pint of Guinness I’ve ever had!

 

 

 

 

My home continues to be a hive of activity with Young Master Oliver evolving from a tiny baby to a not-so-tiny kid.

He’s stretching out, his weight redistributed and what was once a chubby adorable baby is now a lean, incredibly active little boy who lights up my tired, broken soul even when I think I’m about to drop.

How about them Astros?! My son and I greatly enjoy each evening as we cuddle up for bed and watch what might be my favorite incarnation of my beloved Astros. We even managed to go to a game with my dad a couple weeks back and we’ll be going again in June and July!

As far as music goes well…me personally I’ve not had a ton of time to write or record, save for a demo I posted to SoundCloud a couple weeks back. It’s called “Drink to Forget” and you can check it out here: https://soundcloud.com/jason-r-becerra.

I still hope to do proper recordings and work with some of my friends within the Houston music community with final mixing/mastering to release my first EP hopefully by year’s end but if there’s something I’ve learned over the course of this year it’s that I have to be careful about placing deadlines on myself.

With a baby and a house to run and a full-time career and everything that comes with all of that, it can be more stressful than anything to try and set deadlines.

One thing is setting a goal and striving for it. Another thing is setting a deadline and stressing about meeting it and then feeling awful because you missed it. Right?

So as of now, my plan is to finish up these last few weeks of school assignments and then take a nice break from everything. I want to take a month or two, or three and just relax knowing I don’t have weekly assignments to turn in, no research to do, no frantic weekends scrambling to write term papers…and more important than all that I want to enjoy what I’ve achieved.

People tell me all the time that they don’t know “how I do it.” They tell me how commendable it is to get a masters degree while working full time, raising a baby, serving as the operations manager for a household and trying to do something with my little Cathedral Records project and writing professional pieces for www.jasonrbecerra.com and LinkedIn.

So while I’ve never thought much of it and don’t typically stop long enough to congratulate myself, I think I want to do just that. I think I want to kind of sit around and see what it feels like to feel successful, like I’ve accomplished something.

But not for too long mind you. Hopefully by the fall/early winter I’ll hole up in the Cathedral and sift through songs and begin the process of making proper recordings with polished lyrics and arrangements. At that point I’ll be making phone calls to see who wants to help mix/master and then we’ll see.

I think it would awesome to do a digital release and have a few LPs pressed.

As for performing…I don’t think I have it in me to do it extensively but if the opportunity arises to share a bill or take part in a series of shows in a cool intimate storytelling setting then I may just jump on that…once Oliver is old enough and I don’t feel guilty about not being around for bedtime. We’ll see. Again…my new thing is trying not to put artificial, unrealistic, or stressful deadlines or expectations on myself.

That doesn’t mean I want to be lazy and remove all goals but it does mean I want to do a better job of managing stress and how much I take on at once.

Anyway – in the next few days I’ll be publishing what I hope will be a very well-received article about the one and only MIEARS! She was kind enough to take some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to discuss a variety of topics related to music, life, the universe, and everything.

Shortly thereafter the promised album review of The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl. I’ve listened to it several times on 180 gram vinyl and it’s just excellent. I’m fascinated by the technical undertaking involved with making that record what it is and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you.

Also, I’m putting my thoughts together regarding a look back on the Singles film and soundtrack. That album is essential listening for me and I seem to listen to it at least monthly.

Chris Cornell’s death has hit me harder than most deaths…his, Robin Williams, and Prince’s deaths have really impacted me.

I’ve been unable to really put pen to paper about it all in any formal way but I think it’s time I did…for my benefit more than anything.

Finally, support your favorite musicians and get out to live shows when you can.

MIEARS just announced a gig at Eleanor Tinsley Park on June 4th. That should be a great start to these incredibly hot and sweaty days of summer. Her EP continues to make for an dynamic and impactful listen. If you haven’t listed to “Who Will Save You” then make that top of list.

I just found out Ian Moore is playing Main Street Crossing in Tomball TX of all places! Mark your calendars, August 18th.

All of us outer-loopers love to talk about how none of the great bands come out to the ‘burbs…well, The Glass played Spring’s 19th hole a few weeks ago and Ian is hitting Tomball. TOMBALL!?

Raquel Cepeda played Katy not too long ago. KATY!?

We can’t expect these artists to come back to the ‘burbs if no one shows up to see them play right? So let’s do our part.

So that’s about it for now.

Until next time folks…

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

 

Women Rock!

I’ve been listening to Michelle Miears a lot lately. Her new album is stellar and I’m looking forward to publishing a piece on her soon.

I recently wrote a piece on Tessa Cole of PuraPharm and she did an incredible job performing our national anthem at a recent Houston Dynamo match.

Simultaneously I’ve been digging back through Juliana Hatfield’s catalog as her new record is about to drop. I adore her music and she’s written several songs that are cemented in my life’s mix tape.

All this feminine energy got me thinking about all the incredible women songwriters and bands that have been such an intrinsic part of my musical upbringing and have provided me with incredible inspiration.

So…I decided to put a bit of a list together…in no particular order here are some of my essential female artists from the 90s. Maybe I’ll do another article like this about artists from other decades so we can talk about my beloved Shangri-Las, the Ronettes, Darlene Love, Blondie, Janice, Mama Cass and so many, many others but for now let’s do this rapid fire style and keep it to the 90s because that’s what I’ve been listening to a lot these last few weeks.

Most of you will be familiar with them, if so, polish off those albums and give them a listen. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with some of these ladies, well…what are you waiting for?!

The Breeders

All respect to the boys in the Pixies, Kim Deal has always been my favorite part of that band. The Breeders are of one of my favorite bands and while I’m disappointed at not being able to see a “proper” Pixies show, I’m really happy that Kim is focusing on the Breeders right now.

I remember the first time I heard them. A dear friend and I would swap mix tapes and one of hers included three songs: Metal Man, Opened, and Cannonball.

Metal Man was so different than anything I’d ever heard. That rough acoustic intro, all by itself and then the big build that implies its’ going to explode but nope…drops right back down.

I was hooked. Over the years I’ve come to cherish Pod and Last Splash as much as any album from that time period and I’ve enjoyed following along as Kim and her cohorts have churned out some of the most interesting and passionate rock I’ve ever heard.

Veruca Salt

Jeez…what a great band. I had the pleasure to finally see them live in Houston a few years back. At that time the lineup did not include co-founder Nina Gordon but did include another female artist who I absolutely adore: Nicole Fiorentino who has played bass for some of the great bands of the 90s and 2000s including a long run with the Smashing Pumpkins. Their albums, beginning-to-end, are so raw and dirty and embody everything I love about that period in rock.

Garbage

I’m definitely not the only one who thinks Shirley Manson is a goddess. She’s gorgeous and sexy and commands a stage and audience like few ever have but it’s really all about that voice…that voice is killer. Garbage hit me like a truck when their first album dropped in 1995. I obsessed over every dimension of that insanely good record and they have followed it up over and over again with incredible albums and shows.

Juliana Hatfield

As mentioned above, so many of her songs have just become intrinsic to my soul. “Feelin’ Massachusetts,” “Supermodel,” “Spin the Bottle,” “Fleur de Lys,” and “What a Life” are go-to songs for me. And don’t ignore her work in other groups like the Lemonheads!

She is a classically trained musician who plays a bevy of instruments and I fondly remember reading her columns in Guitar World magazine. While the other artists were focused on teaching speed and technique she placed her emphasis on songwriting and melody…how to conjure the best from what you already have inside. That resonated with me…and still does. I’m incredibly excited to hear the new album because she is spitting fire and rage right now and I can’t wait for my deluxe pack to arrive!

Lisa Loeb

Oh my…Lisa Loeb. How I adore thee. In a way she is responsible for my marriage. I was working out the guitar part to her big hit “Stay” one night and this girl my brother knew wanted to be a singer. I didn’t have a band at the time and thought it would be cool to do a duo so she came over one night and we started doing that song. After a bit she suggested we go to the local Starbucks where some friends of hers were hanging out and playing music. We did. My not-yet-wife walked onto the patio and I was taken aback. Leslie walked up and asked what we were doing and I said I was working out the progression to Stay and she said she loved that song and started singing. So did the girl I showed up with. I ended up telling that girl to shush so I could hear Leslie sing haha…probably not the most polite thing to do but again, I was more than a little smitten.

Loeb combines that gorgeous sweet voice with a great turn-of-phrase and while many may relegate her to the one hit wonder bin, her catalog is full of wildly well-crafted songs. I particularly love “Alone,” “Do You Sleep,” and “Rose-Colored Times” from her 1995 release Tails.

Sarah McLachlan

Can you mention women artists without bringing up Sarah McLachlan? I don’t think so. Surfacing and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy are masterpieces. I’m not going to bother listing tunes because we all know them, and if you don’t you need to look them up.

 

Concrete Blonde

Jeez…is there a more powerful voice than that of Johnette Napolitano? Their 1990 album Bloodletting was another album I was introduced to via a friend’s mix tape. The album is great but the magic is in their live acoustic performances of “Joey” and “Tomorrow, Wendy.” She also performed with Steven Wynn on the track “The Ship Song” which again displays her incredible vocals.

Belly

Another band that I was turned onto via that same mix tape…jeez what a gift that tape is.

Tanya Donnelly has been a busy lady. Throwing Muses, the Breeders, and Belly were all part of the fabric of the times. Belly had their first hit with “Feed the Trees” off their first album Star but it was their second album, King,that featured a real favorite of mine: “Puberty.”

Dig a little deeper though and you’ll find two cover songs that blew my mind: Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” and Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.” Tanya’s bold fearlessness has always been a source of great inspiration to me…and again, that voice. Sweet and girly but not weak…there’s a troublemaker there.

Tracy Freaking Bonham

What an incredible talent…classically trained violinist and pianist who can blow the roof off any juke joint or stadium with a rage that  would intimidate Zack de la Rocha. “Mother Mother” was her big hit, and I love it (even tried to cover it once) but dig deeper and you’ll find gems like “Brain Crack” where she puts those violin chops to work.

The Cranberries

I’m in love with Dolores O’Riordan…have been since the first time I heard her voice and I pull out “Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We” on a very regular basis. The moodiness, the sweet melancholy, and yearning in her voice and the melodies she crafted over the Smiths-inspired music they so tightly crafted that I can’t imagine my upbringing without her or them.

 

The 90s were a spectacular time for women in rock. I didn’t mention above but 10,000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant, Tori Amos, and the Indigo Girls are also absolutely generational talents that are just as essential to my musical identity as anyone else.

There was Dido, Alanis, Natalie Imbruglia, Jewel, Sheryl Crow, Sixpence None the Richer, and so many others. We could do this for days!

It seems like some of that spirit is still alive in artists like Sara Bareilles, Lily Allen, KT Tunstall, and certainly Norah Jones. We also can’t forget about Lady Gaga. There are still great women out there killing but it doesn’t feel the same.

Maybe I’m old and out of touch. Maybe I’ve gotten to that point where I’m locked into “my era” and modern music doesn’t resonate with me like it did when I was younger.

Regardless, the 90s female rock scene felt like a movement. It felt revolutionary and so different.

Obviously there have always been fantastic female artists but man…during this time it seemed like the ladies were outdoing their male counterparts in a lot of areas.

Anyway, that’s it for now…just wanted to throw a few words on the page to let everyone know what I’ve been listening to and mulling on for the last week or two.

Until next time,
Be Well and Kind,
Jason

 

 

 

Strange Days Indeed – thoughts on Ian Moore’s latest album

Ian Moore has never been afraid to follow his muse wherever it leads him, even at the risk of leaving others bewildered by their inability to neatly paint him within the lines or the confines of traditional genres. Many struggle to define what he’s “supposed to be” but he’s never been one to let others tell him who he is.

A Little Background

My introduction to Ian Moore came when my friend David Elbert, of Houston’s The Glass and Fake Believe, announced with rabid enthusiasm that we had to make a trip to the record store to get the new album. That album was Ian Moore’s Got the Green Grass and it changed me. I began following Ian and his incendiary group of musicians through the years. And All the Colors, Action Company, Luminaria, To Be Loved, and El Sonido Nuevo…each album a perfect collection of songs that led me through Moore’s passion for the craftsmanship of songwriting.

Never afraid to tip his hat to those who influenced him, there were nods to the Beach Boys, Dylan, the Beatles, as well as the compact and efficient songwriting of the Brill Building. He blended this with the sweaty soul of Sam Cooke, Sly and the Family Stone…he even threw the Monkees in there.

Certainly volumes have been written of the blazing guitar style seemingly born in some netherworld smelting furnace bringing together bits of Eastern scales with grimy Texas blues, jazz, Django gypsy melodies, funk and soul, and good-ole country pickin’.

There is a reverence for those who influence him in every note that pours from Moore’s voice and fingers. That appealed to me, a child raised to cherish these classic artists and genres.

On a Journey

At the end of every show I ran to the car and made notes. The next morning, off to the record store or off to the internet because beyond the fact that Ian Moore’s performances were cathartic celebrations of all things passionate, joyful, and inspiring – he always left bread crumbs for me to follow. Names like Chris Bell, Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm…all new to me.

Jeff Klein, now of My Jerusalem was introduced to me at early Ian Moore shows and soon thereafter the connection between Moore and David Garza appeared. Both Klein and Garza have become essential listening for me.

In bringing all these artists into my life, Ian Moore opened a door to a world that had been soulfully churning and burning just beneath the surface – as if in another dimension – and these artists, like those mentioned above, are held dear to his heart…and have become so in mine.

Every show, every album appears to be Ian Moore exploring all these musical traditions…not as a simple tribute or review…not as someone who wants to ride any given wave. No. Each album seems to be the result of him taking these influences into his soul, letting them simmer as the world around him seasons it all in a pressure cooker.

What comes out is uniquely Ian Moore. What comes out may nod its head to what inspired it but Moore cannot help but be himself. While having an uncanny ability to play everything – he’s unwilling to play just anything.

Almost like a tormented alchemist, he always seems to be moving forward seeking new methods, new formulas, and new paths to unlock the truth within…to take things forward…always forward.

Strange Days Follows This Path

Strange Days opens with a dirt-under-your-nails and sweat-under-your-collar guitar lick that would be at home in any 60s R&B club with rumors of James Brown maybe showing up after his gig uptown. But then, JJ Johnson’s snare roll brings an urgency that immediately introduces these Strange Days.

I went out walking towards
A free man of conscious with my gun
Free will or destiny, you’ve got to choose
You might build an empire but sometimes you’ve got to lose

The refrain comes quickly; this album has no time to waste.

 “I keep on dancing just to know I’m ok, nobody told me about the coming of the strange days.”

Strange Days indeed.

This album, like those before, has a salient thread running through it…at least I perceive it as such.

This album explores Moore’s funk and soul inclinations. Bass and drums in songs like Hercules provide a pulsing rhythm that drives the song forward as Moore’s guitar lays back until it’s time to explode…the filthy solo sweats fuzz as he bends the will of the guitar but again, no time to waste on this album. It ends leaving those many fans inspired by Moore’s guitar playing hoping for more…and are rewarded during the fade-out.

Two songs, “Saturday Night” and “My Girl” get a more polished reintroduction as they first appeared as part of the “30 Songs” demo series.

“Saturday Night” has a tight and efficient craftsmanship that would make Holland-Dozier-Holland proud. Complete with “do-do-do-da-da-das”  and sugary harmonies its arrangement and melody mask a more somber lyric – again, master craftsmanship.

“My Girl” finds Ian’s angelic falsetto in full display, again nodding his head to the masters like Smokey Robinson.

“I Will Carry On”, “Indian Red”, and “How Can I” bring a sense of angsty wisdom…cynical but without surrender or resignation. The music again reflects the subject matter as he blends demanding drums that allow the bass lines to roam and beefy horns provide a wall of sound all his own that embraces his not-so-subtle social observations of these times in which we’ve found ourselves.

The album closes with perhaps my favorite song.

“MaryGoRound” reminds me of when Moore used to close shows with The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song” and of the roaming, fuzzy dreamscapes he crafted during the All the Colors and Luminaria albums and shows.

The echo-drenched vocals surrounded by acoustic guitar and a warbling fuzzed-out electric carry the song sans percussion.

The closing lyric:

I was wide awake
You were half asleep
I need you
You said you don’t need me
And then it’s over.

The album pulls me in. There are so many surprises, so many layers, so much to explore. It gets better with each listen as it unfolds Moore’s inspiration and intention.

As part of the Ian Moore canon, it stands on its own merit while seeming in some ways a natural progression.

After exploring spacey acoustic folk, psychedelia, Texas troubadour storytelling, blues, jazz and everything in between, it seems appropriate that we would get an album that displays such reverence and enthusiasm for funk, soul, and R&B.

Yet…it stands as its own testament, its own statement.  This album and artist are not derivative or predictable. Yes there is evidence of what came before but it is something altogether different.

The album’s urgency, acknowledgement of frustration with the current socio-political landscape, and defiant yet optimistic (even sweet) temperament make this another essential listen in the long list of Moore’s incredible catalog.

I don’t do “ratings” or “stars” or any of that stuff so let’s just say I dig the album and I’ll be at the show next week in my usual spot…just to the side of Ian’s microphone so I can peek at his pedal board and maybe get a wink and a nod from him if he recognizes me again.

Haha…he once looked down at Dave and I and said “Hey, it’s you two guys. Man, you’re always here.”

Yes we are Ian.

We’re here and loving every minute of the journey you’ve been leading us through for all these years.

You can purchase Strange Days and all Ian’s albums on his website or through the usual digital streaming channels.

He plays Houston on March 17th at Rockefellers.

Until next time….

Be Well and Kind,
Jason

 

Tessa Kole Tells it Like it Is – an artist profile

Tessa Kole is one of Houston’s most dynamic and outspoken musicians. She quickly pivots from passionate artist to outspoken activist to successful athlete with what, on the surface at least, seems like almost effortless ease.

The same agility is true even in how she speaks. Her southern drawl is as sugary and comforting as grandma’s ice tea served on the porch under the blazing Texas sun. In a moment it can transform into rapid fire expletives and a tone as sharp as any West Texas barbwire.

Essentially, Tessa’s personality and life are as widely diverse and far reaching as Texas itself. Full of passion and integrity, she seems to embody ideas, approaches, and goals that at some points seem to be diametrically opposite to one another. Yet somehow they blend together to create something special and unlike anything, or anyone, else. Like the Lone Star State, Tessa is not willing to settle or be defined by any one aspect of her life. In fact, just one of the many distinct projects she juggles in a normal day-in-the-life could overwhelm even the most committed go-getters.

Tessa fills her day with her students that require extensive lesson planning and organization, her band, in which she is a principal writer, guitarist, and vocalist.

Having trouble keeping up?

She also collaborates with extensively with Stiletto Broadcasting on radio programs and in championing women in music. Her passion for community inspired her to create the Musicians’ DIY Fight Club.

How many hours are there in a day again?

Oh, and she’s also a competitive swimmer which demands incredible training, diet, and more than a few scheduling challenges.

Such an ambitious lifestyle often comes with compromises and creative multi-tasking. Perhaps the most of which she detailed by saying, “(Sometimes) I make breakfast and eat it in the bathtub to save time. I know that sounds crazy, but when I need more sleep…I sleep as late as I can, and that means that certain things have to be done together to save time.”

Tessa life in music seemed to be predestined. Born to a classical pianist mom while dad, a band director, also owned an orchestra and band repair company. At 4, at the insistence of her mother, she began piano. Piano led to guitar and even to “dabbling” in bass. An accomplished musician, she has a mastery of reading and writing notation and insists on doing the later by hand. “It’s a more organic process to me” she mentioned as we discussed her approach to writing and about her role as teacher.

At an early age she was inspired by Siouxsie and the Banshees and cites two of Prince’s albums, Sign O’ the Times and Around the World in a Day, as among her favorite albums of all time. A fan of dynamic Houston bands like Glass the Sky, Jealous Creatures, Only Beast, Valeluna, and Whit she also deeply enjoys Hiatus Kaiyote. (More evidence of the diversity that define her spirit)

Her music, which includes the band PuraPharm, (in which she is joined by her husband Paul Adams) weaves between moody, textured rhythms employing programmed, often frantic, beats to authentic Texas roots inspired acoustic folk marked by her passionately belted vocals.

Her writing process is not marked by any particular or rigid method but rather finds inspiration and melody from wherever it can be found. “I’ll know when the melody is right. It just happens naturally,” she said. Despite her extensive musical vocabulary and knowledge of theory, she continues to explore progressions rooted in basic open chords, the same one she teaches daily to her students.

“It’s like pieces of a puzzle that they can be creative with and use any way they want. I’ll take open chords and move them up and down the fret board until I hear something that works well and (sounds) unusual. The more I’ve started learning about certain chord progressions and how they work when rearranged a certain way, plus using my own intuition, magical things happen. I’ve got so much new material coming to me right now it’s ridiculous.”

She laughingly mentions that one of the songs she’s currently sewing together includes a progression born during a lesson with a 9 year old student who was kind enough to approve its use. How’s that for community and collaboration?!

A fiery Texas gal, there is no shortage of hot topics that ramp up her passion. When the topic of the Houston music community (she refuses the term “scene” and all it implies) the flames burn a few notches hotter. She is quick to express her passion and loyalty, and shower praise on her peers but just as quickly can launch criticism to those venues or “middle men” who exploit artists by charging bands to play or take advantage of the inexperienced to forward their own success.

“They will praise you one minute and tear you down behind your back the next. The only interest they have is their own, and advancing their own agendas. Most of these bands are just a pawn in those agendas. I refuse to be a part of it at any level.”

Now her engine is revving as she continues…

“A lot of bands don’t understand this, or just don’t care about it, but I do and that’s why you don’t see me hanging out with almost anyone. I don’t trust most people anyhow, so I don’t talk to these types in the first place. It saves me a lot of bullshit down the line. I run my own operation and do things in a way that is best for me. I learned early on not to trust anyone. I’ve never been one to run with the herd and follow their program, especially when there are so many flaws in it. I stay safe, stay away from all of those people, and my life has been much more drama free and I feel more (free) to create and do anything I want. I don’t want to be associated with any of those people. They’re the biggest two faced hypocrites you will ever meet. They don’t really have our backs; they just play real good at it. At the end of the day, they’re all out for themselves.”

This passionate independence and desire to provide others with the resources and the benefit of her experience cultivated over a lifetime in music inspired her to begin the Musicians’ DIY Fight Club. Not a record label, nor a management company, it operates as a sort of collective comprised of like-minded musicians who wish to collaborate and share wisdom in order to facilitate aspiring musicians as they attempt to take control of their own destinies and the business side of their careers.

“MDIYFC isn’t an organization. It’s more of a place to come for education and also to vent. It’s for people seeking the truth behind the way the music industry operates and (who) want ways to run their own show without the intervention of some POS middle man. Honestly, in this day and age, you don’t need ‘em. Some people may WANT them, but really, you don’t NEED them. There’s a big difference. It’s a place to come and talk about solutions.”

She’s running on all cylinders now as we discuss what advice she would offer aspiring musicians:

“Don’t trust anyone! That’s my biggest ‘don’t.’ People will lie to you, talk shit behind your back, and make you empty promises every day of the week….DO surround yourself with positive, uplifting people. Anything is possible if you believe it will work. Belief and faith is the main thing.”

Her passion for advocacy and activism hardly end at her beloved music community. A proud Christian, she does not shy away from openly sharing her faith. “My identity is through Him. I am proud to say I love Jesus Christ.”

The immediate reaction may be to think a devout Christian may cause a measure of conflict within a community known for its agnostics and atheists but Tessa happily states that while always feeling like an outsider of sorts, her faith has never been an issue with her fellow musicians in Houston.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said when the topic turns to politics.

A long time conservative that voted for Donald Trump in the most recent election, Tessa has been an outspoken activist going back to her participation in the Liberty Movement in 2009. More recently, the toxicity born of such a controversial and heated election cycle has taken its toll on many and she is no exception. Tessa describes some of her relationships as being strained, to say the least.

She has become somewhat of a target for those who find her outspoken support for conservative values. The political climate and heated debates have created incredible stress and ended several friendships.

“This election has caused the greatest divide amongst people I’ve ever seen. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’ve been fucked with in every way possible, and I haven’t always responded well to that. I have been angry, hurt, frustrated, and depressed way too often and I have acted on those feelings in a manner that has not been healthy for me many times. I’ve cut ties with so many people I can’t even begin to tell you. Losing most of them has been for the best, but some I have really been shocked and hurt over.”

She continues with a heavy weariness in her tone, “There are people I will absolutely never speak to again. Then there are those that I’ve reached a level of pleasant discourse with, even though we completely disagree politically. Being a Trump supporter in the midst of a large group who hates him more than anything in the world has been really difficult.”

Refusing to let the drama bring her down, she chooses instead to focus on what inspires her and keeps her in a positive frame of mind: community, her music, her incredibly supportive husband, and finding solutions to problems through collaboration and faith.

“I’m really past the point of being upset about everything I’ve seen and experienced. I’m now to the point where I’m seeking better solutions. I want to keep things more positive. It’s a challenge for me. Once I get past the anger and hurt and frustration, I can get to the solution part. That’s where I’m headed now.”

In the end, Tessa Kole embodies the DIY individualism that has shaped Texas’ legend and lore for generations. She’s confident but not arrogant. She’s humble but not self-deprecating. She’s devoted but not self-righteous. Her music nods its head to her influences but could never be described as derivative. She’s sweet and polite like a well-raised good Texas gal, but mind your manners because like the barbwire that tamed the Wild West, she can shred you to pieces.

Her mantra? “Do no harm, but take no shit.”

Uncompromising in her beliefs and approach to music and life, she backs down from no one, stands up for everyone, and speaks from the heart no matter what. She’s exudes a gentle compassion for her friends and the community as a whole but to borrow from the famous slogan, Don’t Mess with Tess.

To listen to PuraPharm or Tessa Kole check them out on YouTube or Facebook.

 

 

I think there’s something you should know…I think it’s time I told you so

 

I’ve still got lots to say…

I haven’t picked up a guitar for any reason other than to noodle or entertain my son, Young Master Oliver, in two months. Two months ago I got struck by the muse and frantically wrote and recorded a rough first take of a song called “Can’t Let You Go.” It’s been even longer, years, since I performed my own music in front of an audience. That part of my life may be over…but then again maybe not. The desire is there. The love of the grimy greasy connection with a sweaty audience will always be there.

Though I’m at that age where many say “well, if you haven’t done anything by this point you’re not going to” I still have that need, that compulsion to write and to be heard. I’m looking forward to putting school in my rearview mirror so I can invest that time in releasing my first real record later this year.

I’ve been writing songs since before I could play an instrument. I was “that” kid with a spiral notebook full of lyrics and a head full of melodies. Thoughts and feelings have been clawing out of me for as long as I can remember and that hasn’t changed with age…in fact it’s only become more urgent. I still have lots to say and I’m not going to keep it bottled up inside.

There’s something deep inside of me
There’s someone else I’ve got to be….

I’ve often felt like I’m living someone else’s life…like I’m somehow going through the motions and wearing some kind of mask…like I’ve never fully committed to being who I really want to be, who I really am…like I’m walking a tight rope refusing to commit to either side.

I’ve never fit in.

I’ve had a nice professional career, solid resume and all that jazz, but I never really felt at home and always seemed like an outsider in this “business” world.

It has always felt the same way in the music community. I wrote songs and performed, sure, but I wasn’t a “real” musician…whatever that means.  I always felt “less than.”

It kind of reminds me of junior high and high school. I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a nerd, I wasn’t a burnout, I wasn’t, well, anything. I had friends in every group but I was never fully embraced, nor did I fully enter any given group.

But somewhere along the lines I really stopped caring about fitting in, about “being who I really am” and just sort of started being who I actually am. To my surprise this has happened without noticing or even trying.

Which brings me to my point….

My point is that I finally have a point. I know who I am and what I want to do.

Freedom!

Freedom has a lot of definitions. It can mean a lot of things. It can mean having enough money to tell anyone to go screw themselves. It can mean having nothing left to lose…so you can tell anyone to go screw themselves.

Or, it can mean knowing exactly who you are.

For years I thought I had to live in one box and the fact that I wasn’t neatly packed in the “musician” box or the “mature business person” box or the “whatever else” box created a lot of internal struggle for me…and for sure those around me.

But now…screw it. I’m all things at once. I can prioritize. I can pick something up and do it for a while and then put it down and do something else for a while.

In the end, I am who I am and I know who that is: father, husband, son, brother, friend…who’s just trying to write a few good songs along the way.

I may not sell out shows or “hit the big time” but that doesn’t really matter. I may not become CEO of some dynamic firm but who cares?

I want to write music and have it be heard. I would like to get on stage again at some point, both as that solo singer-songwriter on a stool but also plugged in with a greasy band in a dive and make noise that rattles walls and souls…but it will happen when it’s right for me…and not because I’m desperate to recapture my youth or make up for lost time or anything of the sort.

I also want to be a good member of the music community here in Houston. I want to cultivate solid, collaborative relationships through Cathedral Records and I want to tell our collective and individual stories.

We all have a story to tell. All those stories are important and should be heard.

That’s one of the most important things I want for Cathedral Records…to be a storyteller. To document our collective experience as we’ve lived this life in music. These lives we live, they’re so different yet we are bound by our passion, our creativity, our need to share our thoughts and visions and the voices in our heads and by being willing to put ourselves out there to the world…naked and unashamed.

I am a songwriter. Really, at my heart that’s what I am. I may not be a good one, may not be a popular one but that’s what I am. No matter what I’m doing in life as a father, husband, son, brother, friend…it always comes back to needing and wanting to write songs along the way.

Cathedral Records is how I stitch everything together. It’s the tie that binds all the different pieces of my identity. It is the label through which my own music will be published but it is also the medium I have chosen to provide support, encouragement, and maybe even a little guidance to the Houston music community and to provide a resource to the younger aspiring musicians coming up behind us trying to figure out how to do this music thing.

That will take a lot of different shapes. I’ll provide representation to artists I think need to be heard and help them get their message across. I want to help venues and artists connect in a healthy, productive and mutually beneficial manner. I want to advocate for independent artists. I want to encourage collaboration and cooperation among the artists so we can all benefit and I want to brag about and promote all the incredible people in our community.

I want to tell our story.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing stories about some of Houston’s most interesting, dynamic, talented, and passionate community members. I hope you all enjoy reading about them as much as I’m enjoyed hearing them tell their stories to me.

Until then….

Be Well and Kind,

Jason

 

 

What’s going on?

So things have been quiet in the Cathedral from a musical perspective. I’ve barely picked up a guitar, much less recorded anything in far too long but that hardly means my life has been that uneventful.

That in mind, I thought it would be important to bring folks up to speed because there’s a lot going on with me as well as with our beloved music community.

So let’s start there!

First off, I think the biggest thing going on right now is the work that Matthew Davis Buehrer of Yawp Records is doing in the community with Rock 4 Recovery. If you haven’t heard, he’s opened a non profit venue just outside of downtown devoted to helping returning veterans through the power of music and fellowship. Matthew has been instrumental in installing equipment, helping to get incredible sponsors, and spreading the word on the incredible work this organization is involved with. PLEASE make sure you visit their page, get involved if you can, and stay on top of all the great things that will happening there. It’s as worthy a cause as there is in this world and a great example of what our community can do to make the world a better place.

Also, a band that is close to my heart, The Glass, has just released their new single off their upcoming album. Visit their site to not just listen but watch an incredible video they shot in the studio. These are great people, fantastic songwriters, and I’m so very excited for what they’re doing. They have a show coming up on January 28th at Notsuoh so be sure to mark your calendars.

Jealous Creatures played a fantastic show at Notsuoh last week and we’re all looking forward the news of their next show. They continue to be one of the most genuine, encouraging, and supportive community members in all of Houston. We’re lucky to call them our own!

There’s so much more going on that it’s hard to include all of it but that’s a taste of what’s happening at the moment.

On my end, I am approaching graduation. I’ve got just a few courses left in my MBA program and will be “walking” in May. I’m glad I can finally see the end of this long challenge but at the same time, I’m already looking ahead at what comes next.

I’ve recently secured a new domain. I’ll be using www.jasonrbecerra.com to publish professional articles and share content related to my work outside the music world and building my “brand” in hopes of taking that next big step in my career. Right now the URL directs to an online portfolio with a sampling of different pieces I’ve written here as well as in other areas and am looking forward to what the future may hold as I continue to try and marry my professional interests in communications strategies, change management, disruptive technology processes and the like with my passion for music and social issues.

At home my son is evolving from a small little baby to a kid. It’s incredible to watch his personality develop. He’s headstrong and energetic, if not maniacal and relentless haha.

I’m looking forward to a break this summer after school lets out and as my son turns two in hopes that I’ll be able to join many of you out in the venues and shows. It’s of great frustration to me that time doesn’t allow me to do more in the community, enjoy live music, and visit with all of you.

As far as Cathedral Records, my biggest goal for 2017 is to launch the Podcast Series. I have invitations out to some fantastic and interesting community members and I look forward to sitting down with them to have some really insightful discussions about our community, music, their projects, life, the universe, and everything.

For now, that’s about it. Please keep tuned not just to Cathedral Records but to all my friends’ websites, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels because they’re the ones out there making magic every night, living the life, walking the walk, and modeling what it means to be great musicians and members of our great big family and community.

Until next time.

Be Well and Kind,
Jason