“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

 

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

Reflections on my songwriting – Sad songs say so much….

So last night was a night like most others save for the fact that a new song started to take shape. I posted the rough first take to Soundcloud and asked the missus to take a listen.

She reacted the same way she always does. “It’s sad.”

We have this discussion every time I write something new and I go back through my demos and point to this song or that song and say “look it’s happy, it’s even in a major key!” and she says “NO…it’s SAD!”

She’s hears my music differently than I do but last night as we were going back and forth on the nuances of sadness verses melancholy I finally had to admit that yes, the new song, and even the song I used as an example of a happy one, are both kinda sad.

That got me thinking.

This morning I played through my entire track list on Soundcloud.

She’s right…there is an undercurrent of sadness, of reflection, self-doubt, and melancholy that runs through everything I write.

Last night, and often when this discussion comes up, she asks me if I am a sad person and takes it personally when I confess that, well, yeah…I have always kinda been more of an Eeyore than a Tigger…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m “sad.”

I’m content with my life. I think I have a great life. My wife and I have built something pretty awesome. We have a beautiful home full all the luxuries middle class America (and credit cards haha) can afford us.

Most importantly we have the most gorgeous, perfect, incredible child anyone in the world could ever wish to have.

My parents are a blessing and, while I have but a few friends, they are true friends.

But that doesn’t change the fact, I am very melancholy. When I think about myself it’s usually in terms of what I can’t do, what I didn’t do, what I should have done. I worry. A lot.

I always have. There’s just no getting around it.

Two years ago, on my 38th birthday I wrote a song and the line says “Funny you should ask, yeah it’s birthday. 38 and still full of my teenage angst.”

That’s as true now at 40, as it was then at 38, at 28, and at 18. I’m sure it will be true at 48, 58, and 68.

The song also says,

“But through it all I’ve found myself in a good place
I’ve got a good wife and a kid on the way.
Though I’m always down, and I like to complain
That’s just how I’ve always been and always will be.
But oh my love, I love today.”

I think, as much as anything I’ve written, that last bit captures where I’m at in life, certainly since getting married and even more so since the birth of my son.

As much as there are parts of my day-to-day, parts of my overall life that infuriate me, depress me, or act as a hot wet blanket, I am very grateful, very humbled, and yes “happy.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not still addicted to my sad. I still bathe in self-loathing, doubt, and the frustrations that come with carrying a lifetime of baggage around with me…but that’s just how I am.

It doesn’t mean I’m not “happy” with my wife, son, and life in general. It just means…well, I guess it just means I’m “THAT” guy…I’m that guy that writes sad songs because, well, it’s how I get it out.

I don’t write songs with anything in mind. I never have. I began writing songs out desperation. I needed the combination of words AND music to get certain feelings out of myself. Most of those feelings, I guess have been sad in one way or another.

She challenges me to write a “happy” song. She’s not the only one to have done so over the years.

From the perspective of a songwriter, someone who approaches it as a craft, it makes sense to stretch myself but when I’ve tried to do that, it feels disingenuous. I’ve never sat down to write a song as an artistic exercise…at least I’ve never succeeded in completing a song like that. I always toss it away because it just doesn’t feel right.

When I sit down to write, I’m not thinking about quality or structure or style, I’m just trying to get something off my mind, or out of my guts.

Sometimes I sit back and listen to what I’ve created and I think “hey, that’s not a bad song.” It seems almost coincidental though…like I managed to get my feelings out AND it might be enjoyable for someone to listen to.

I don’t know. That’s not really for me to judge though. I just sort of judge my songs on whether they sound good to me and whether they expressed what I needed to get out.

Bottom line, my songs are a reflection of who I am…obviously. And while it’s true that there has always been a thread of melancholy in both my life and my songs, it doesn’t mean my wife has failed me or that my son does not inspire anything short of jubilation.

Besides, “sad” songs are almost always “better” anyway haha…when I  think of all the songs that cut to my core, that inspire me, that embrace me soul, they’re all sad songs. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.

Like I said, I guess I’m just “that” guy…38 (well 40) and still so full of my teenage angst. 😉

You can visit my “sadcloud” here. 😉

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Be well and kind,
Jason