If I only knew….

One of my goals in music as it is in life is to cultivate a collaborative environment where we not only help and encourage our peers but those coming in behind us.

I heard somewhere that the children are the future and that we should teach them well and let them lead the way…or something like that. 😉

I think back to when I was just a kid, exploring my dad’s record collection and then adopted his guitar. I was always surrounded by musicians, music, poetry, and literature. I bathed myself in it but the one thing I didn’t have was a how-to guide….other than Mel Bay’s Level 1 guitar book.

My father, having seen every angle of what a life in music could be was reluctant to encourage me to pursue it as a vocation. Too many incredibly talented musicians living hand-to-mouth, gifted artists toiling in obscurity, playing for tips in cantinas after their careers floundered…they left him wary of leading his son into that life.

Audiences are fickle, venues and managers are always quick to take advantage of the talent…too many reasons to name really…all had led him to nudge me towards a career in education while continuing my passion in music as a side project instead of attempting to make it a full-time career.

Thus, I never really made an “all-in” attempt at that life. I’ve worked professionally in business since the age of 18 while attending university and fitting music in where I could…always feeling like I was living two lives…never fulling fitting in either.

Today – as I begin kissing the tender age of 40, I often look back, sometimes fondly, sometimes with more than a hint of angst. Time is a son-of-a-bitch and I know so much more about musicianship, about practice, about how to approach songwriting, performance, contracts, venues, booking and marketing, and…most importantly, the incredibly limitless career opportunities there are for musicians.

So this is one of Cathedral Records’ primary goals – to redefine success in music, to pass on information and experience, and to cultivate a collaborative environment where aspiring musicians can fulfill their measure of their creative identities.

Tessa Cole, of Musicians DIY Fight Club, says it best when she recently remarked, “Nobody knows the right questions to ask someone in a band like someone else who plays in a band!!”

Exactly, and the other side of that is that no one has the answers to questions someone has about being in a band like people who have been in bands their whole lives.

With that in mind, I reached out to the Houston music community via Facebook and asked, quite simply, “what would you tell your teenage self?”

What I received was a collection of enthusiastic and reflective responses that I’ll share with you here.

One of the first responses I received was from Catherine Dietrich, CatZilla…also known as the “High Priestess of Music & Shenanigans at Stiletto Broadcasting, an independent online radio station that aims to empower, inform, and entertain the Houston music community with a passion for women in particular. She’s a perfect example of what’s possible if you open your mind and get creative. Her refreshing response was “I’d smack my little face and say ‘NO FEAR!'”

I know for me personally, fear and insecurity were both driving forces in all aspects of my life…and definitely musically. I didn’t have the courage to step out on my own, was afraid to put maximum effort into certain projects because I didn’t believe it would “work out,” whatever that means.

Ronnie Main, a dear friend, incredibly talented guitarist, and general manager of Guitar Center North Houston had a very practical suggestion: “Practice, practice, practice!” AMEN!

I would add to that, practice the “right way.” Be sure what you’re practicing is leading you somewhere and not just aimless noodling that doesn’t push you creatively. I’ve found over the recent years that my most productive practice sessions involve learning songs outside of my normal interests that have different chord voicings or patterns. I find that exploring different directions lead to new ideas and stretch my musical vocabulary.

Sarah Hirsch of Jealous Creatures had a great piece of advice that I would definitely have told myself as well. She said, “start a band earlier.”

Such a simple notion but truly invaluable. So many of us learn in isolation. I spent hours upon hours alone in my room digging through Beatles songs and learning chords, pausing/rewinding the tape player our lifting the needle and replaying passages trying to figure bits and pieces out. I wrote my first batch of songs in a complete vacuum. It wasn’t until after high school that I truly met a great musician about my same age and began collaborating, sharing ideas, and we started a band.

That idea of a bunch of kids who have no idea what they’re doing making a god-awful racket in the garage is the stuff that leads to magic. Never be too humble or scared or intimidated to just start a band.

This leads me to another fantastic answer, this one from Ashley Newman of Ashley Newman photography. “I would say to never sell myself short.” She continued, “We all start somewhere but what I had to offer, and offer now, is worth it.”

Yes it is.

One of the most important things I would say to myself, and to every aspiring musician looking for their path, is this: The possibilities are endless. It’s not just about being a world-famous performer like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. That’s not the only form of “making it.”

Being a musician does not mean living in squalor or in your parents’ house at the age of 40. There are full-time, financially and artistically rewarding career opportunities for musicians who have the drive, the skill, and the work ethic.

Music is literally everywhere. Our lives are bathed in it. Film, TV, children’s shows, commercials, marketing and public relations, video games…that music is made by professional musicians. Singer-songwriters need instrumentalists to round out their bands. Performers need sound engineers. Musicians, despite the explosion in home recording tools and resources, will always need studios with skilled and experienced engineers and producers. Public and private schools have music departments that need teachers and staff. And so on and so on.

Get rid of the stereotypes and myths about musicians. Say it loud, I’m a musician and I’m proud!

Embrace your future, it’s happening every moment of your life and a life in music is there if you want it…just open your mind to the possibilities and be willing to put in the hard work.

Music is no different than engineering, practicing law, or being a doctor. It takes sacrifice, dedication, and effort. It takes time to master your craft but if you commit yourself to it, you will be rewarded.

In closing, I want to urge my fellow community members – be good stewards, look out for that young group of kids that may be opening for your opening act. Introduce them to the crowd. Get to know them. Ask them to hang out for your set and then talk afterwards.

Community elders serve a vital role and we all have incredible experiences and a wealth of knowledge that should be shared with those following along behind us.

Thanks for reading.

Be well and kind,
-Jason

 

 

So who is this guy anyway?

As the last couple weeks have unfolded and I’ve made several new connections on Facebook, it occurs to me that a lot of you may be wondering, “Who is this guy and what’s this whole Cathedral Records deal? Why is he sharing all our content and where did he come from?”

Haha…makes sense really…so here’s a little about me:

I began playing when I was a kid and by the time I graduated high school my dear friend David Elbert (currently a member of The Glass, Apple Scruffs and Fake Believe) and I started doing what so many of us do…we started hitting the open mic circuit, acoustic guitars in tow.

After a while we really wanted to plug in but who was going to play drums?

Well, as the only one with a full time job and a credit card…haha…that responsibility fell to me.

I vividly remember going to Mars music and buying my first drum set. We threw it in the back of my Toyota pick-up truck and went to our new practice space in Francisco’s. Now mind you, I’d never played drums before. I put it together like some caveman and we counted off – him running through a 5150 head/cab and me at me behind my Sonor 5-piece.

Wait…I can’t hear him…he’s trying to sing. Crap. We need a PA…damn it.

We drove to Guitar Center and bought a PA and ran back to Francisco’s…set it up and we were off and running.

Our buddy played bass and came to join us and our first band was born!

We gigged semi-regularly for a good while…culminating with some great shows at the Oven and at Fitzgeralds…never made it upstairs but we played out hearts out…never made a dime…haha.

28555_400864420918_5197921_n

Then we briefly shuffled roles and I started singing and playing guitar (my main instrument) in a different incarnation that didn’t last long. For a time I went back to drumming behind a very talented singer/songwriter who played keyboards and ukulele and then began doing solo-acoustic shows around Clear Lake.

14453_178650520918_4855367_n

I’d always been going to school and working full time so time management was always a challenge and I never firmly planted my feet in one world or the other, business or music, daytime or night.

Around 2000 I took a full-time job at Guitar Center which I did enjoy for a while. I met a lot of really talented musicians and was able to contribute to the community in an entirely different fashion but the schedule really wasn’t conducive to performing…nor were my increasingly serious back troubles. I had my first operation in 2003 and was married shortly thereafter.

Around 2004/2005 I jumped back into performing, this time focusing on singer/songwriter material with a very talented player and we began hosting showcases around the Montrose and downtown but with very little success, crowds were sparse, we never found a venue that was really willing to invest and things sort of fizzled out.

In 2008 or so my dad decided he wanted to perform again…him asking me to be his principal guitarist was the single most validating moment of my life as a musician. After spending so many years practicing, performing, writing, and trying to hone my skills – to have the man who inspired me to begin with actually come to me and say “hey, I want you to be my guitarist and help produce these shows” was amazing.

We gigged regularly for a few years around Houston and in Dallas performing variety shows that combined jazz, Spanish boleros, pop standards from the American songbook, as well as a litany of songs from across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Working with these very mature, experienced, professional players was an incredible learning experience. It was eye-opening how little I actually knew about playing and performing and those years with the Rolando Becerra Celebrate Music Show really transformed my playing and songwriting. We played some big shows, the Arena Theater with Julio Iglesias the biggest…and we certainly took our lumps playing to some tiny crowds…but it was tremendous in every capacity.

249960_10150204879375919_4658252_n

As that wound down (it’s incredibly difficult to find venues who are willing to pay enough of a wage to support a 7 piece band AND provide sufficient marketing and advertising) I went through another back surgery, bought a house, finished my BA, started my post grad work and…most incredibly of all – had a son.

11694134_10152885648525919_7428100377643801155_n

As all this was happening I found myself realizing that my days as a performing musician were probably coming to an end. With my day-time career, my new family, and the realization that living that upside down life where I’m getting home at 3 am, loading and unloading gear was probably not in the cards anymore…not saying I’ll never perform again, I do want to…but I sincerely doubt I’ll ever find myself in a full-time band again. Maybe…never say never…but the circumstances would have to be perfect.

So…I built a pretty good home studio and entered the next phase of my life as a musician. I’ve been working on learning Ableton Live and going through the process of recording all my songs and writing new ones.

As I’ve been recording, I was wondering what I would do with all these songs. I want to self-publish and distribute but I wanted my own “company” or “label” under which to do this.

Simultaneously, I’ve often thought back to my adventures and I often think about “had I know this” or “gee, I wish someone would have told me about that” or “man, if there had only been a place where…”

Thus, the idea for Cathedral Records was born.

I want to create a place that young, aspiring musicians can look to for information, for guidance…somewhere that could help with whatever they needed but I don’t want it to be a “label” per se because I don’t want to own anyone’s publishing or copyrights. I don’t want to be that kind of gatekeeper.

Rather, I want to showcase talent, educate and inform, and serve as a conduit through which service providers, musicians, retailers, and fans can connect with one another.

I think this is the next phase for me as a member of the community.

Whether it’s encouraging promotion and collaboration or helping a venue organize a showcase or providing informative sessions where community members come to The Cathedral and teach aspiring musicians about any and every aspect of the business…I want Cathedral Records to serve as a good steward of our community here in Houston.

I believe in the old saying “leave it in better shape than you found it.”

I want to do that with our community. My son may be out there in the clubs, playing his heart out just like I did for so long and just like so many of you are doing every night.

I want to make sure the community is the best it can be for him and everyone else coming along behind us.

13626616_10153603068915919_2473410425209361936_n

Be well and kind,
Jason