Tag Archives: A.V.A. Live Radio

Releasing Your Own Music in a Nutshell

Releasing your own music in a nutshell.

Since I frequently get asked a lot of questions regarding distribution and releasing new music by new or newer independent artists I thought I’d write this hopefully short blog to answer a few of those questions. This is nutshell, not comprehensive!

You have a single or an album and you want to release it. First make sure you copyright your work. Go to copyright.gov to do that. Next, if you are in this for the long haul, you’ll need a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) such as BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC which are among the most recognized. Personally, I use ASCAP for both my publishing arm of my own label and personally as a songwriter, copyright holder. Go to their respective website and signup. It’s easy. Having your works registered in the database is also a bit of insurance if you run into a copyright issue and you need to prove that your work was created before a certain date.

You’ll also want to register with SoundExchange for collection of digital performing rights. Now you you need distribution. I can’t tell you who has the best prices and gives you the most of your cut, but considering the cut major labels take, this should be the least of your worries because the cut you take from ANY independent friendly distributor is WAY more than any major label will ever give you (and many indie labels as well.) So there is no sense in nickel and diming at this stage of your game.

Fact is, you are not going to sell a lot of physical or digital copies at first unless you have huge money backing you for marketing and advertising.
So the best bet is to go with an independent friendly distribution service like CD Baby. I have used CD Baby for my band Barley Station from day 1
of our first release back in 2012. And I used them prior to that for a previous band and have always have had great service and communication
with a myriad of extra benefits.

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Here’s an example of one of my own releases to the right —>

So, without sounding like an ad for CD Baby, I must say I have not felt the need to shop for other services as I have been very happy with all they have to offer. And what they have to offer answers a lot of the other questions I get.

CD Baby has a lot fo benefits for the independent artist. For one, they have been doing this for many, many years. They have made the connections you won’t need to spend the time making, if you even can.

If you need digital distribution, they cover it. They will get your music to your choice of paying platforms and/or a combo of non paying platforms as well. They get your music to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon MP3, Deezer, Tidal, Google Music Store, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Groove, Rumblefish, and many more. And they are always adding what is new.

In addition to this, they offer YouTube content ID and make sure you get paid if someone uses your music for anything on YouTube, and in general, protect your copyrights there. This is an option they provide so you want to make sure that that option is for you.
And now that you have registered with SoundExchange, when you are entering your release data while signing up your single or album, they will send your release info to SoundExchange.

And if that is not enough, you need UPC bar codes? For a small amount more (usually only $5) they can assign you a bar code so that purchases of your album get registered with Soundscan and are tracked (if you want to eventually hit the charts after you sell a lot copies) OR you can always request your own UPC barcodes.

If you want radio play of various sorts you will want ISRC codes attached to your track.
(International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. These codes are unique and permanent identifiers for your song and are like your songs fingerprints and are used to track your spins and collection of royalties. You need these! CD Baby can assign these as well.

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Another benefit is that CD Baby often partners with other services that you may need, such as Easy Song Licensing if you want to release a cover song, and services like RadioAirplay.com if you want to test out your music on radio and have great stat analysis. And they have a number of other helpful partners, blogs, and newsletters to offer the DIY artist.

Not only that, but CD Baby has tracking and trending reports of services such as your Spotify Streams and iTunes sales before they hit your account as monies. All these services are with a basic album signup and not the Pro package. That has its own benefits but is not necesary unless you just want everything all in one place, such as ASCAP collections if your are with ASCAP.

And yet another benefit is you can opt for brick and mortar distribution so that when the demand comes for your album, CD Baby can supply that particular store for you. This is, of course, unless you’d rather do your own consignment, but I find it is much simpler to allow them to handle that unless you enjoy doing paper work and following up with all your consignments and tracking them yourself, which eventually can turn into a real pain.

The question also comes to me of having any legal issues hassles when you part ways is not a question I have had to worry about thus far because the service with CD Baby has never lacked for me and I have not as yet felt any need to part ways with them. But since they are professionals, that is not something I would worry about. The fact is, if you happen to get a major label deal, your new label would handle the legal aspects of all that for you.

Others may have other opinions, but I speak only from my own experience.
In short, CD Baby is a service I highly recommend to handle a lot of needs and keep your own work load down and get the biggest bang for your buck without having yearly fees and as many worries.

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Review/Interview With Katie Belle Akin

by Randy Wayne Belt (aka: Barley Station)
Previously Published as the Artist Spotlight in Starlight Music Chronicles

There’s no question that Katie Belle is someone with passionate songwriting vision. She knows how to bring the song right home and make you feel what she is feeling as if you were there listening in her own backyard in the U.S. state of Georgia. The song “Georgia Moon”, will potently make you drift off and make time stand still as you feel you are watching the world disappear just as in the lyrics: “All time stands still when your with me here – I’ll watch the world disappear – with you – under a Georgia Moon.” That part of the song will be stuck in your head forever, as well as the powerful lyric: “and the stars align when our hearts collide – in the clouds feels so right – with you – under a Georgia Moon.”

(To Hear it and buy it on iTunes click Here) and/or (To Hear the full version of Georgia Moon on YouTube Click Here)

The song will draw you in by its pure passionate believability. It is, in fact, about a direct experience, in the form of a much hoped for date/romance that ended up not coming to pass. But we’ll find out more about that in the interview. When you hear it, there will be no question that the artists truest emotions went into the writing and production of the song. “Georgia Moon” gives you a down home country feel as well, and stays relatively acoustical until the chorus… then a pulsing bass drum kicks in driving the song home.

Then the snare drum works its way in on the downbeat further driving the song home around the two minute mark. And shortly thereafter, a violin solo ( or fiddle solo, as we call it here in the country) smoothly rolls its way in – it a perfect fit, adding an extra romantic mood to the song in almost serenade fashion and providing the song with the perfect bridge.

Katie Belle

The dynamics of this song make it, what I call, “a stayer”. It is something you could listen to again and again, and the more you listen, the more you like it and the more you feel it.

It is something that if it had the opportunity to go onto charts like Billboard’s Top 100, would find a nice comfortable place and just stay there inching it’s way up until it’s peak and then staying there a long time in that area.

Showing a musical maturity well beyond her years, it is clear that Katie Belle Akin will be around in the music industry for some time to come.

All she needs to do is never give up. If I could personally pass the country music torch of Taylor Swift to a new recipient, based on integrity, humility, likeablity, and pure talent, it goes to Katie Belle Akin.

Her consistency in good songwriting is verified by her other songs, particularly for me, her single, “Fallin For You” which is a very powerful melodic piece, and shows her flexibility in songwriting and vocal delivery. (Click here to listen to “Fallin For You” on YouTube)

Katie now holds the title of Miss US Nation Teen Georgia, and many kudos to her for using this as an opportunity to bring awareness to an important social issue, and one which is a topic that needs to be discussed more. Now, I normally don’t like to pull much from other interviews, but I feel this is a very important message, and before I go into my own interview with her, I am going to quote from Katie’s interview at the beginning of August on A.V.A. Live Radio where she talks about her participation in the Teen Nation Tour (TNT).

Katie writes: “Teen Tour…I have traveled and co-headlined with the Teen Nation Tour ( TNT) this is an anti-bully message tour which travels through out the US to mainly Middle schools and High Schools. I performed with this tour for 16 weeks between late 2012 to late 2014. I have been bullied in school , it started in kindergarten and continued on and off while I was in both private and public school. I suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide.

“I don’t try to hide these things because I feel it is important for others in similar situations to know its possible to overcome these hardships. Teen Nation Tour is a platform for sharing with teens and performing music , it was an incredible experience in many many ways. I have made some wonderful fans through this and am very grateful for having the opportunity.” (To Hear Katie on AVA Live Radio Click Here)

As you might guess, Katie is a very busy young lady and balances a very intense schedule, so catching up with her isn’t always easy, but I managed to catch up with her recently and I suppose since I’m on the topic of tours here, I guess I’ll start my first question in relation to touring!

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Interview

Randy: If you could tour with any other artist or group, what would your top 5 picks be?

Katie: Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown

Randy: Fantastic choices! And what artists/bands were you exposed to growing up and how did that impact the music you have been making and will make?

Katie: My parents are always listening to music; classic rock, jazz and pop rock and country. Music is associated with “setting a mood”, “feel good moments”, “memory making”… when I am songwriting I visualize the reaction my listeners may have, will it make them happy, will it evoke a memory…. This is the type of impact I strive for with my music.

Randy: Do you come from a musical family then? Anyone else involved in music in any way? I always ask this, if you don’t mind.

Katie: My family is artistic but not necessarily completely oriented toward music. My Aunt and Great Uncle are both artists, my mother has a very strong alto voice, my grandma and her grandfather were concert pianist… I am the first to be a singer/songwriter/performer..

Randy: That all counts. Is there a moment for you where you just KNEW you wanted to do music for a living? Tell me about that moment.

Katie: I have been enthralled with performing since I was in elementary school. I took dance from age 3 up through the 6th grade. In middle school I had to make my first major decisions on what to persue… it was either dance or my music. I had known in my heart for a few years music was a passion for me. I had my first songwriting session when I was 12 and literally fell in love with songwriting and the entire process of bringing a song alive through performance and recording.

Randy: Your song “Fallin For You” is one of my personal favorites – I am such a melody driven person. I love a great melody! When you look back on that song, how do you feel about it now?

Katie: “Fallin For You” was a venture in pulling in some R&B influences and producing it with a country influenced sound. I love this song and have it in my set list for most of my performances. My music originates from real life events and you know…. When a cute boy walks by…. What pops in your head??

Randy: I know what its like to hear your own song a million times and get sick of it, but after a break from it, it can give a refreshing view on it once again. Do you still like that song? Have you gone back and heard it again with a fresh perspective?

Katie: I still love this song, and if time allows it is always my set list!! As far as a fresh perspective, girls are always checkin’ out boys and it’s fun to have a song that speaks to those feelings you get when you are around someone you think is cute, sweet and makes your heart race.

Randy: What projects are you working on right now? I’ve heard rumors of a new EP possibly?

Katie: Since the release of my last EP “ Next Thing in Tennessee” in spring of 2014, I have been writing new music. I released “Georgia Moon” in April of 2015 as a single and this song has done real well. Plans for 2015/16 do include an EP or maybe a full album. Myself and my main co-writer in Nashville are still focused on composing additional songs for consideration for these projects. Also, I am always looking at TOP 40 hits to do re-mixes on and release as singles to give my fans fresh material. My team and I are working on a webisode series to incorporate the cover song LIVE sessions and song requests.. looking forward to getting that under way.

Randy: That sounds fascinating and engaging for sure! So, what song – out of the ones you already released/written, means the most to you? And why?

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Katie:  The song that means the most to me at this point in time is “Georgia Moon”. I wrote this about a summer romance that really never came to be. I had met a really nice guy at spring break in Florida. He is a Georgia boy but lived about 1 ½ hours from me. We talked and planned our first date, we were going to go fishing in the evening and stay out till the stars came out… well as the summer wore on I realized this was just not going to happen because our phones got farther and farther apart and he stopped calling me. The date never happened and that was the inspiration behind writing Georgia Moon.

Randy: That song is has such a romantic vibe to it, so I kind of wondered if that one would be the one that meant a lot when you wrote it. Are you planning any collaborations or duets?

Katie: I would love to do some collaborations/duets. I have been approached by several different male artists but the timing just haven’t worked out. Also, I am kind of picky about song choices and styles and branding awareness…so just haven’t met the right peoples to collab with

Randy: Yeah, people need to be aware of what style(s) that would work best. That’s great forethought! Now tell me, what has been the defining achievement of your musical career so far?

Katie: Every year I can reflect and choose something that in hindsight reveals itself as an achievement in my 4 ½- 5 years I have been dedicated to developing my music. This year I would say I am doing more shows where I am being compensated than “exposure” shows which generally offer no compensation. That has been great, but a bigger achievement has been the success of “Georgia Moon”. The song has received several nominations in a couple different awards shows as Song of The Year, Modern Country Song of The Year, and for me: Songwriter of The Year.

Randy: I saw and that’s great! So happy for you! As a recording artist myself, I always have to ask this question: What is the writing process like for you? What do you come up with first? Does it vary? Chords, a melodic progression, lyrics, etc.?

Katie: The writing process is not a “scheduled” thing, I always am writing down one liners, adjectives, chord ideas etc…. every day or sometimes just once a week. I rely on all these notes to get things flowing when in my “official” songwriting sessions which I mainly do in Nashville.

Randy: And when you write, do you write on guitar or piano? Or what? How does it work for you?

Katie: I am not a huge guitar player, I prefer keyboards so I work out my chords there first. I typically record to my phone to preserve the idea or my ipad.

Randy: Yeah the phone recorder comes in handy for sure. So speaking of phones and ipads, what’s in rotation on your own ipad… what music are you listening to right now? (like in the past few weeks or so)

Katie: I listen to everything! Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lorde, T Swift, J Cole, Beyonce, Keith Urban, Classic Rock, Lana de Ray… the list goes on… if I hear a song I like I BUY IT!!

Randy: What do you consider the best album’s (as a whole) in the past 10 years?

Katie: I am a singles person: meaning I mainly purchase singles off of albums, so a few of my top favorites are: Zac Brown, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Dierks Bently, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood , Kayce Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Lorde, One Direction, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Christina Aguilar, One Republic, ColdPlay, Ed Sheeran…

Randy: Well, I guess I’m an old school album guy but those are good choices and so varied. If you could play at any venue you wanted at least once in the entire world, where would it be?

Katie: My own hometown, a sold out show at Phillips Arena, and all my solid fans getting the best seats and box seats.

Randy: What words of advice or inspiration would you like to give to anyone who may have a dream to be a recording artist, or be a singer, or dancer, or really anything that is a dream to them?

Katie: If you get the bug-sting young like I did, get involved in musical theater, acting, dance and musical instrument, go to your local songwriter nites and sit in and absorb everything you can. Start songwriting….don’t be shy, get out there and around others who have gone before you. This is a long term thing if you want a career in the music industry…everyday do something… for adults who have that yearning to jump in I would think a lot of the same things apply.

Randy: Tell me about your best and/or worst most memorable live performance

Katie: My best performance: I traveled with Teen Nation Tour in 2012/13/14. I remember one Friday afternoon we were in Evansville Indiana and their first football game of the season was that night so the students were ready to be out of school for the day. I gave my talk about “self-worth” and started in on my original INVINCIBLE ( this song has a really good beat and the lyrics are empowering ) the students picked up on the beat and were clapping and stomping their feet , We all started dancing …my second song was 22 by T Swift and that just took them over the top,,,it was magical to have 2500+ students dancing, clapping, screaming etc…. My worst performance: there really isn’t one, I am a very positive person, “worst” is not in my vocabulary…. I try to learn from all my experiences… and love my audience whether its 5 people or hundreds of people.

Randy: That’s such a great attitude! The top 5 most important things in life to you are?

Katie: God , Family, Education ( including music ), Friends and Health ( I need to stay physically fit with my schedule )

Randy: Do you have any upcoming shows or events you’d like to tell about?

Katie: I am excited about 3 upcoming Red Carpet/Awards Shows: Women in RadioAtlanta, The Josie Radio Show Awards, Nashville and The International Music and Theater Awards, Atlanta. I am nominated along with my single “Georgia Moon” in multiple categories, several local shows are booked and my complete show schedule can be found on my Reverb Nation page.

Randy: What are you most appreciative of for all your successes thus far?

Katie: I am so appreciative of the help and support from my parents and I would not be in this stage of my music if it wasn’t for them. I hold in high honor their love and guidance along with the wisdom and love I receive from my relationship and prayer with God.

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Back Poster

georgiamoon cover

Katie’s Social Links:

Website: www.katiebelleakin.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/katiebelleakin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/katiebelleakin

Twitter: www.twitter.com/katiebelleakin

You Tube: www.youtube.com/katiebelleakin

Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/musician/katiebelleakin

New Single Released: “I’ve Got News”

The new single by Barley station is now out titled: “I’ve Got News”
Those who have heard it have been saying it is one of our best yet.

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This new song is the second single released this summer and is a blend of mid western
rock, a little  country and unforgettable guitar riffs.

Get it right from the website at http://barleystation.net

Or for the Apple enthusiasts, on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ive-got-news/id1023309536?i=1023309728

Expect a new album to be out before the year ends as well!

Video for “Younger Summer Memories” Airs on Bongo Boy TV Episode 1057

Barley Station’s video for “Younger Summer Memories” is now premiering Coast to Coast on “Bongo Boy TV Episode 1057 “What About You”.

The Bongo Boy Rock n’ Roll TV Show series has exclusive national airtime to over 15 million viewers in the USA on 9 major cable companies.  (NBCUniversalComcast, FiOS, CableVision, Time Warner, RCN, AT TUverse, Verizon FiOS, Charter Communications, Suddenlink)

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The video will be on Heavy Rotation on 33 TV channels.
This will be on permanent broadcast times in Nashville, Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Francisco, New Jersey, Down the Jersey Shore, Nevada, California, Montana, New Mexico and many other cities and towns across the US. Also International with Go Indie TV Roku Channel in the UK, Canada and The USA.
Bongo Boy TV is filling the void on Television that MTV once dominated.

Barley Station music video “Younger Summer Memories” aka winner of the BEST MUSIC VIDEO – Americana /Rock won Best Video Award by the Akademia Music Awards to American Television.  (And the song itself won Best Song Award as well in Feb 2015)

Music Video Director: Poppy Zhu

Alice In Wonderland Teams Up With The Mad Hatter

Review and Extensive Interview With Plike

By Randy Wayne Belt – July 13, 2015

In Plike’s newest sonic adventure, Empathetic Apathy, you have Alice in Wonderland teaming up with the Mad Hatter to give us a creation of sounds that explore unrestrained imagination.  Set to be released on July 15th, 2015 it might not be what you would expect out of Austin, TX, but this music is a great fit for any number of gaming formats or movie soundstracks. And in fact,  in the upcoming independent feature film, Windsor Drive, Plike has three tracks that will be featured in the movie!

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In Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you have a girl who goes down a rabbit hole to find herself shrinking or expanding depending on her circumstances.  One can’t help but wonder if there isn’t an unintentional or subconsious reference to the very real but mysterious Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, in which people, usually children, suddenly see things change size.  ASH and Em_1700pix

Now, it’s probably not a well known fact that one of the alternate titles proposed for the famous Caroll story was Alice Among Goblins.  That title didn’t quite work out for Caroll, but had it been the title, with a slightly different story and a bit spookier, and had that work been created today, recording artist Plike may well have been selected to create the soundtrack.

Plike’s sound is self-described as hauntingly beautiful and disturbingly dark, an eccentric layering of natural and organic sounds against heavy digital elements.  I couldn’t find better words than that to describe the music.

From the opening track “Attachment Theory” to the ending “Lessons in Futility” there is a consistent pattern of haunting sounds that lend the music to a few popular formats.  For instance, the song “The Clockwork Girl” perfectly captures the feeling you might have while listening to a series of clocks ticking, only musically, and you’re in a dark room waiting to get out.

It is perfect background music for a video game.  For example, the music would fit well instrumentally with the Number One Best Horror Game of 2013, the indie horror game “Outlast”, and to a lesser degree, the sounds would also work with something along the lines of Skyrim or Fallout (both games made by the same creator).

Mad Madam Em
                                   Mad Madam Em

I could also imagine some of the music working well with some of my own favorite Hidden Object games.  Add the vocals, and you have entered a realm beyond that.  The female vocal samples throughout brought me to think of perhaps Evanescence – only an Evanesceance who who may have been traumatized and was struggling with depression and has overcome it via music as therapy.

In a similar vein of thought, oddly, it has been my experience, that often a very sad sounding song can have the opposite effect of cheering one up.  It’s funny how that works for some people.  So naturally, the concept and inspiration from their last album, the EP  47th Helen was born from Plike founder Mad Madam Em’s own struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that affects 7.7 million adults in the United States.

I discovered Plike while listening to Em’s interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio back in April of this year and was intrigued by Em’s statement “Depression and anxiety make people feel alienated. Sometimes just hearing a song you can relate to can give you the strength to pick yourself back up and keep going.” Such a true statement!  And it was nice to hear someone willing to take on such a subject that tends to be overlooked and ignored and pushed under the rug.

You can listen to that interview and hear the track “Catherine” from Plike’s last EP here:  http://avaliveradio.com/behind-the-music-em-of-plike-on-having-strength/

So to test out my Alice and Wonderland-like assumptions about this newest EP by Plike and see if I’m really on target here, I caught up with the group’s two compositionists, Em and Ash recently and got to hear the new EP before it is released and got to chat by phone about the music and throw out some of my own interview questions for them.


Randy:   This is probably an unusual way for me to start out a recording artist interview, but considering how I’ve just described your music, it makes sense in the fantastical Alice in Wonderland method of interviewing.   What are your top 5 or 10 favorite video games of all time?

Ash from Plike

Ash

Ash:  Silent Hill 2, Skyrim, Bioshock, Final Fantasy VII, Journey

Em: Alice: Madness Returns, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, L.A. Noire,  Katamari Damacy, Heavy Rain

Randy:  I’m not surprised there.  Your music is so fitting for some of those games!  So, music… What made you want to create/do music?  And is it the number one thing you want to do for a living?

Em:  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been drawn to creating art. For years and years I painted and sketched, and I wrote short stories and novellas and screenplays. As a kid I took piano lessons and then guitar lessons, but I didn’t appreciate those lessons until much later on when I started playing bass.

It was about that time that I realized how much I loved writing music. Painting and writing went on the backburner and music became my everything. I found I could express myself artistically through music in ways I never could through painting and writing. If I could choose any career in the world, I would love to score independent films and video games full time.

Ash:  We both grew up in musical families, and later on in life it became an escape for both of us. It was like therapy – a way to cope. It’s absolutely the number 1 thing I want to do for a living, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Randy:  Tell me about that.  How were your families musical families?

Em:  My grandma played fiddle and grandpa played the upright bass and the whole family would sing and have fun playing bluegrass type music.  Ash’s grandparent’s were travelling musicians, I guess they were the blacksheep of the family travelling around playing music in an RV!

Randy:  That’s wild!  Musicians often get a bad rap just because we are different.  And I’ve found that music often runs in the blood.  So now that we are going back in time, what bands or recording artists were you exposed to growing up?

Em:  Up until I was about 13, it was mainly a lot of great music from the 60’s – Simon & Garfunkel, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and especially the Beatles. My godmother was a Beatlemaniac when she was a teenager and gave me all of her old Beatles records. I must have played each of them 1000 times!

Ash:  I have three older brothers, so I grew up on a pretty steady diet of metal music. Tons of Slayer, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, that kind of stuff. Then Nirvana came along and they were game changers. They pretty much blew my mind, because their sound was so new and different.

(After being sidetracked in a long discussion the Beatles, we continued…)

Randy:  What kind of impact would you say that music has had on your music today?

Em:  I didn’t realize until a few years ago what a huge impact the Beatles had on me as a musician. They were so innovative. I fell in love with vocal harmonies because of them. The grunge bands I fell in love with as a teenager in the 90’s definitely had a massive impact on me, especially Alice in Chains. The first time I heard them was the first time I really started wanting to write my own music. They were so real and authentic, and they weren’t afraid to write about taboo topics like depression and drug addiction. I suffered from severe depression from an early age. Listening to them, I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore. That’s one of the main reasons I write music today. I want to use music as a way to reach out to others who are hurting.

Randy:  That’s noble and beautiful.  How about you Ash?

Ash:  The artists I started listening to in my teenage years had the most impact on the way I write music. When I first heard bands like Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory, I guess it just kind of encouraged me to push the boundaries of what you can do with digital music. Since the old school rock format was getting stale at that point, I was looking for new and creative ways to make music. When Fear Factory’s Remanufacture album came out I was pretty blown away – I’d heard metal before and I’d heard digital before, just not together.

Randy:  On now into the present, what recording artists are your biggest influences personally?

Photo from the Empathetic Apathy Photo Shoot

Photo from the Empathetic Apathy Photo Shoot

Em:  I’d have to say Radiohead and The Dresden Dolls. Radiohead is one of the most innovative bands I’ve ever heard. Every album is so different, but no matter how much their sound changes from album to album, you still know it’s Radiohead. That just blows my mind. I hope to continue to grow and evolve as a musician, to keep pushing forward with no creative limitations or boundaries. The Dresden Dolls are such incredible artists, they’ve definitely had a huge impact on me as a musician. Amanda Palmer is so talented and passionate, so raw and real. Authenticity in music is something that I think is very important. I think it’s absolutely crucial to stay true to your artistic vision and write music that comes naturally, instead of trying to write what you think people will want to hear.

Ash:  Björk has probably been one of my biggest influences. Her Debut album is still one of my all time favorites. Her sound was so different from anything I’d ever heard. Squarepusher has been another big influence of mine. I have always had such an appreciation for digital musicians who aren’t afraid to take risks and push boundaries.

Randy:  What’s playing on your ipod (or whatever you use to listen to music with) lately?

Em:  I’ve found so many amazing indie bands and artists this past year! IX is one of my new favorites, their new album “7302” is phenomenal. A few other incredible indie artists at the top of my playlist are De-Franco, Anodic8 and Eyemouth. And soundtracks – I’m hopelessly addicted to soundtracks! Currently I’m hooked on the Oblivion film soundtrack by M83.

Ash: Lately I’ve been on a kick listening to a lot of Purity Ring and The Ditty Bops. Bob Marley is an all-time favorite and he’s pretty much on constant rotation on my iPod. I’m a big fan of soundtracks too. Austin Wintory wrote an amazing score for the video game Journey. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard.

Randy:  Do you do any live shows? How would you describe them?

Ash:  We’ve been so busy in the studio creating new material that we haven’t put a lot of focus into live performances yet, but we’re definitely contemplating it and putting together some ideas for a live performance that will be visually exciting for our audience. It will depend on what opportunities come our way, I think.

Em:  I haven’t been on stage since I was a kid, but I am really looking forward to playing live! We have so many ideas and we want to put together the best visual show possible, so it might take a little time to get everything organized, but I definitely think we’ll be doing gigs in the near future.

Randy:  What was your best or most memorable performance? (best or worst experience, whatever you like, or even both!)

Ash:  I worked as a professional DJ for several years, and I’ve seen a lot of hilarious happenings, but the worst experience I’ve had was doing a last minute gig with a buddy of mine in Carbondale, IL. I was in college at the time, and when we were offered the gig we were both pretty stoked about it. We drove to the place, which turned out to be the diviest dive bar of all time, in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. All we had was my drum machine and a guitar, and we had no idea what they were expecting us to play. We just got up on stage and winged it. All things considered, I think we did a pretty good job, but it was definitely nerve-wracking.

Randy:   Do you plan to stay as a duo for Plike?  Does that seem to work best for you with how you work?  In other words, do you find you do your best work alone, with another person to bounce ideas off of, or in a larger group? How does that work for you?

Ash: That’s a funny story actually, because we had both worked on music independently and together in the past, and I used to always work best on my own because it allowed me complete creative control. But I’ve come full circle, and now I greatly prefer working with Em because we’re both on the same wavelength and we can easily bring the best of both of our styles together. It just really clicks. ASH and Em_2800teapix

Em:  I totally agree. It took a long time for me to figure out exactly which direction I wanted to go musically. We’ve run the gamut – rock, alternative, industrial, metal, electro-metal, ballads, ambient tracks and a lot of crazy experimental stuff. We’d both gotten frustrated trying create the exact “sound” we wanted the music to have. But now I feel like we’re both on the same creative path. Writing solo is definitely great because you do have total creative freedom, but I’ve had a lot more fun working on the new album with Ash. Our styles mesh perfectly and compliment each other.

Randy:  Have you done any collaborations?  And do you have any plans in the future for collaborations?

Em: I recently did a collaboration with Rob Bryant of Bare Island called “No Time”. He is an incredibly talented musician and producer, and we had a great time working on the track! We actually wanted to try to tackle another collab, but we wound up realizing that neither of us had the bandwidth to make it happen.  (Em sent me the link for that and here it is)

Ash: I’ve done many collaborations in the past, but with Plike’s current momentum, I doubt I’ll be tackling any new collaborations any time soon.

Randy:  If you weren’t doing music, what is the next thing closest to your heart you would be doing?

Ash: I realized early on that it’s crucial to be able to do something that you at least somewhat enjoy, if not love, for a living. We’ve all had soul-sucking jobs that get you nowhere, and life’s just too short. That was what ultimately led me to pursue an education in audio engineering / composition, and today I’m working professionally as a sound designer / composer in the video game industry. Being a hardcore gamer, it’s a good fit.

Em:  The next closest thing to music that I would really love to focus on as a career is narrative design / scriptwriting for video games. I majored in creative writing, and I actually did work in game design for a while. My only claim to fame was penning dialogue for Mark Hamill to read, and actually getting to sit in on the voiceover session! I grew up absolutely obsessed with Star Wars, so that was a pretty major fangirl moment!

Randy:  If you had to pick just one, which of your tunes means the most to you personally?

Cover Plike's debut EP '47th Helen'

Cover of Plike’s debut EP ’47th Helen’

Em:  I would definitely have to say “Lucy”. 47th Helen was inspired by the trauma I’ve experienced, and each track represents a different aspect of coping with trauma, whether it be a step toward recovery, a behavioral or emotional struggle, or a specific symptom that arises for trauma survivors as the brain attempts to process the trauma. My grandmother’s name was Lucy, and she was everything to me. “Lucy” was my attempt to express acceptance, but at the same time it’s an expression of my own struggle to let go of the grief of losing a loved one. This song has actually helped me to move forward and focus more on all the wonderful memories I have of her.

Ash: For me, it would be “Lessons in Futility”. I actually started writing the track about five years ago, but I had hit a brick wall with it and wasn’t sure which direction to take it. When Em suggested we resurrect it to see what we could do with it, I never would have guessed that it would come out as well as it did. We both like for people to take their own meanings from our songs, but with this track we wanted to make a strong statement about the futility of nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and the inherent fear that those weapons of mass destruction foster in our society.

Randy:  As a recording artist myself, one of the questions that is always intriguing to me is this: What’s the writing and recording process like for you?

Em:  I actually have a little ritual that I do every time I go into the studio, before I start writing. I have a little statue of the Buddha that I set next to my keyboard, and I light a candle. I find it helps me to clear my mind and focus on the work. I generally write songs one piece at a time, so I’ll start with the intro, and usually either a simple drum beat or a bass line. I build on the intro until it’s completely where I want it, then I’ll move on to the first verse, or the next part of the song. Once it’s complete, I’ll move on to the chorus. I used to write everything with headphones and then do the final mix after the song was written, but I’ve found that mixing as I go is so much easier!

Ash:  I usually start with the drums. I think of them as the “skeleton” of the song. Once I get the drums finished, I’ll start on a bass line and build on that. Sometimes the drums will change here or there, or I’ll add additional beats or swells, but usually once the drums are done, the rest of the song falls into place.

Randy:  What do you find most challenging about being a recording artist?

Em:  The toughest thing for me is the challenge of trying to get a message across in a song. I’m not a singer, so it really takes a lot of time and patience to piece together vocal samples to get them to express what you’re trying to say. The other challenge would be mastering. I’m just now starting to learn the mastering process, and it is intimidating!

Ash:  The biggest challenge for me is time. Like so many musicians, I work full time, and quite often I have to put in overtime hours, which leaves me only a few hours a day during the week to focus on music. It’s also been tougher since I’ve been composing music and doing sound design for a living. By the time I get home, I have major ear fatigue, and sometimes even the thought of working on music after work is exhausting.

Em Baker
“Mad Madam Em”

How would you describe yourself as a person? (i.e. funloving, carefree, wild n crazy, introspective, mysterious and brooding, etc) Em, you first:

Em:  I’m very tuned into the people around me, so I tend to feel whatever they are feeling! I’ve been called an “empath” so I guess I’m Counselor Troi from Star Trek. Kidding!! J In all honesty though, the thoughts and feelings of others are truly always at the forefront of my mind, so I guess you could say I think emotionally, and tend to be very sensitive to the emotions of others around me.

Randy:  I can sense that.

Ash:  Em always calls me “Spock” because I tend to think logically rather than emotionally. I’m definitely introspective. I guess the truth is out now that we’re both a couple of Trekkies!

Randy:  If you could tour with any artist you wanted who would it be and why?

Ash:  Definitely Aphex Twin. Richard David James is a true artist when it comes to electronic music, and his style has been so incredibly influential to the way that we think of and view digital compositions.

Em:  Gary Numan, hands down! I’ve been listening to his music for twenty years now, and his sound and style are just incredible. He also has had the courage to tackle some really heavy subjects in his music, something that a lot of musicians shy away from. I just have so much respect for him!

Randy:  I agree!  With the release of your new EP, do you have any thoughts or plans for what you might do next? Or has any new projects been thought about or discussed?

Em:  We actually have two songs already in the works for our third EP, which we’ll be releasing in December 2015. Going forward, we’re planning to release a new EP every six months, until we’re able to focus on our music full time. After that, the sky’s the limit! I’m also working on composing a score for an independent film, and I’m about to start working on a remix track with another electronic artist for a compilation album that will be released by FLOE Records.

Randy: Achievements come in all sizes, big and small.  What would you say is the most crowning achievement(s) for Plike up to this point?

Ash:  Having our music accepted by Pandora Radio was such an honor, I’d definitely have to say that would be our crowning achievement so far. It’s just incredible to have our music played alongside so many other fantastic artists that we have so much respect for.

Em:  I’m incredibly proud that three of our tracks will be featured in the upcoming independent feature film, Windsor Drive. I got to see a private screening of the film a few months ago, and Natalie Bible’, the director of the film, is truly an artistic genius. I really think this film is going to knock people’s socks off!  Here’s a sneak peek:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vacs4-KrBM

Randy:  That’s great!  Best wishes with everything for Plike!  Thanks for taking so much time to chat and let everyone get to know you and your music more.

Em and Ash:  It was so awesome to have the chance to talk with you today, we really enjoyed chatting with you! Thanks so much again for doing this, you’ll never know how much we appreciate your kindness and generosity!!

You can connect with and find music by Plike at the following links:

Homepage:  http://www.plikemusic.com/

Email to:  info@plikemusic.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/PlikeProject

SoundCloud:  https://soundcloud.com/plike-1

Buy on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/katherine/id942729543?i=942729549

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvgHSfR_-8-J4NgzxKbpu6Q

Song/Video review: “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

 “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

Article/Review by Randy Wayne Belt    June 14, 2015

It was no surprise to me when I learned that “A Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive from St. Paul, Minnesota had been nominated  Best Alternative Song for 2014 by the Hollywood Music Awards. And in September of 2014 Bongo Boy Records included “A Taste of Heaven” on their first Compilation CD release to the  Asian market, among many other accomplishments for this artist including music that has been used on shows airing on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel and having signed to Artista Group, an international management agency.

Produced by Chris Garcia, who is known to bring the best out in engineering and vocal production, this song is certainly no exception in bringing out the best.  The vocals on this track are smooth, relaxed, and deliver the type of vocal this song needed. Neither would it surprise me that this song is doing well in the European market as vocally, Radio Drive’s man behind the engine, Kevin Gullickson, has that distinct European tone to his voice.  In many respects his voice and delivery remind me of Neil Finn.

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Kevin Gullickson

“A Taste of Heaven” is an uplifting song that will just leave you in a good mood.  Not a jumping-around-good-mood, but a good mood where you feel a certain contentedness and satisfaction for the moment.  This track is full of layered sounds that give an effective backdrop of sound to the track from the very start that drives home the feelings and moods the artist wanted conveyed.  The song opens with nicely textured melodic guitar bits and builds into background vocals leading into the verse of the song, and the video for the song enhances this experience with it’s imagaries, subtle flashes of light, and scenes of two people enjoying each other’s company.  I would venture to say that if you’d like to hear U2, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, with a touch of Neil Finn, all rolled into one song, then this is it.

The video flows along nicely with various interesting scenes where time seems to go by faster than normal.  I got the idea that this was meant to convey, intentionally or not, of how the relationship the song seems to be speaking of (and video seems to convey) makes you lose track of time and days and hours. Time goes by… unnoticed.  You’re in love. There’s that sense of timelessness when you are lost in the moment – you are enjoying the here and now, outside of time, just like heaven.  So I’m on the right track here aren’t I?  Well, just to be sure, I checked in anyway to Kevin’s interview on A.V.A. Live Radio with Jacqueline Jax from May 27, 2015 to find clues

(check out interview here) http://avaliveradio.com/behind-the-music-radio-drive-kevin-gullickson-on-a-taste-of-heaven/

and here’s what Radio Drive’s Kevin Gullickson says about the song: “A Taste of Heaven… was written to capture the time when I lived in New York City. I moved there in the month November back in the 80s and met my wife shortly afterward. It was such a care free time for us, living in the big city, doing whatever we wanted, all the excitement and variety the city had to offer – and of course being in love.”

Ok, I think I got it right! And my favorite lyrics from the song are (drum roll please) “you fill up and saturate my life with heaven”.  Now go watch the video:

What was I saying?  Oh yeah.. And now back to the nuts and bolts of it!  The song is saturated with good melodies and harmonies which always wins points with me because, well, I’m a melody guy.  As the song and its video progress, by the time you get to around the 3:50 to 4:00 mark, you have a pretty clear picture of what the song is getting at.  There you will find the overlapping of clouds giving a fitting backdrop to the song to relate to the imagery of the lyrics (heaven) overlapped with the artist on his guitar (on earth).

Rays of light, sunshine and positivity dominate and it becomes apparent by then, that the artist is painting a picture of a relationship that is more than just a “taste of heaven”, but at moments, may seem to be heaven on earth, or heaven meeting earth. This leads to the outro with a string arrangement sound that is fitting for such a sonic atmosphere relating to the imagery in the song. And that reminds me, did I mention this is a well constructed song? Kevin-Gullickson-Radio-Drive-752x440 It seems to just fly by and at no point was I feeling like I just wanted it to be over already. Rather, it ends by giving the listener a sense of completeness of the song and what he wanted to convey with it.  As an artist, it is always a good feeling when you can look back at the production and know that the producer caught your vision for the song as a team, and the team delivered it effectively.

Connect with Radio Drive on the homepage at  Radio Drive Home

And on social media: Radio Drive Facebook  On Twitter  @radiodrivemusic

And subscribe on YouTube:  Radio Drive’s YouTube Channel

The Musical Art of Naomi Psalm

Naomi Psalm can best be described, by this reviewer, as a very creative music artist in the realm of indie pop that really brings the word “artist” back into play again.  After all, it is supposed to be art isn’t it?  With a music industry so far away from musical art and relying on overdone formulaic sound patterns instead of actual musical painting, Naomi brings a much needed refreshing of sound to the music scene.

I’m sure her own music scene in Boise, Idaho is the richer for having her there.  She writes, she sings, she plays guitar and ukulele. Oh, and she can play bass as well. 1618538_10153846410705608_2003472706_nPsalm has a knack for knowing what to do with her voice in a given song.  Her vocals make good use of her dynamics and she sings with a passion that you can feel in the emotions of what she is singing about.

Her voice has some hints of Sarah McLachlan in her tone and melodic expressions at times, but she has a voice all her own.

Currently working on a new  album, we must go back a little first to look at some of the musical art that precedes what is to come. Perhaps it may foretell?

First, we journey back to her last single.  In her April 21, 2015 interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio, http://avaliveradio.com/behind-the-music-naomi-psalm-music-is-freedom/  Naomi gives a glimpse of what her single “Losin It from 2013 might be about when she says, ” It’s based on a true story….lol! I lost more than a few things one day that prompted me to make the best out of it and use the experience for a song. It’s one that everyone can relate to.”

“Losin It” is a fun and lighthearted song that will simply leave you in a good mood. The song opens with a well recorded Ukulele.  Now, a ukulele will always get my attention right away, so the intrigue begins the song.  A rich bass guitar comes in next with drums driving the song home, and then unexpectedly, the chorus brings a change that brings in a swingy feel that makes one think of the type of experimentation you might get on The Beatles’ White Album in a vaudevillian song like “Honey Pie”.   It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it makes you drift off into somewhere else. The song will definitely leave you wondering what she will do next or what she may have done before. 11150212_10155456204290608_6075027914761612038_n

Now we go to 2012.  A single titled “Fitted Sheets” was released that year.  The sound on this song reminds one more of a mid-western Sheryl Crow type feel and with a west coast laid back vibe behind it and accompanied by a more progressive bass line.  It’s unique – which always gets points with me.  Though not a bad song by any means, neither did it strike me as a smash hit, but it’s no matter because this song gives a display of the artist’s continuing creativity and uniqueness, which is a more desirable trait.

So let’s go back a little further.  On Naomi Psalm’s six-song 2011 EP Stare you get a feel for her continuing creativity where pictures are painted with carefully crafted words.

400x400xf6afd07a10be61d997be508a6d93efad_JPG_pagespeed_ic_1411486622 In the song “Ink” for instance, the song opens with the lines: “Pain turns to ink, ink becomes words, words become melodies, flowing like tears”.  The verses of the song captivate you right away with their iambic beauty, driving beat and haunting melody.  

I can’t tell you what the song is about, and I don’t like having a song ruined by someone telling me exactly what it’s about because I like to stay guessing.  But to me, the song speaks to my own soul of the inherent therapeutic value in music and in creating music. This song is a personal favorite and the one song that would be that unexpected hit song by the artist.  A song that would slowly rise on the charts and just stay there for a long time somewhere near the top.

The brush Naomi paints with is streaked with colors of old and new, with experiments and fusions of sound with a twist of pop likability to it In fact, if you watch the video for the song “Ink”, you will notice there is painted art all throughout the video perfectly fitting my opening description of this artist being an “artist” in the truest sense of the word. I definitely recommend watching the video for “Ink” here:  https://youtu.be/eg1ohMThDrk

In fact, so much is she the artist that you will find an art section on her webpage. The title of this artwork is Leaves.

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Now – back to musical art. Another real powerhouse of a song and what I would call the first of two hits on the Stare EP, for me, is the opening track Already Hit Send” which is a powerful song that will just leave you feeling in a good mood, well, depending on what mood you started at maybe, but it did the trick for me.

It features what I call an acoustic-guitar-driven-rolling-smoothness on the verses, then on the chorus the bass changes to a slap type bass sound with a synth/keyboard piece behind it giving an extra musical hook to highlight the vocals and brings the song to a new level of goodness! One thing notable to me, as a bassist myself, is the way the drums and bass guitar stay locked together in this and all of her songs, providing a tightness that I often find lacking in many independent artists.

IMG_4534Another notable song from the Stare EP is the song “Gazing”.  It is a song that will hook you into it on the chorus, and shows this artist is capable of creating more than just one or two good songs.  In the closing song “Listen”, you will find considerable vocal control demonstrated in the delivery and emotional conveyance of the song.  Now that we’ve gone back a ways, the question is, “what’s next”?

With a new record in the works, Naomi describes what she has so far recorded for it as “more in the vibe of Imogen Heap and Ellie Goulding with an electronic, industrial feel”.  Considering what she’s done in the past and how she describes what’s coming up, one can’t help but be intrigued to hear how the new album will sound!  A release is hoped for in late autumn of 2015.  And in October look for a song Naomi Psalm wrote to be in a movie titled Ghostumentary.

Having already received various music awards, I’m sure there will be more on the way for this artist! So stay tuned with that, and be sure to connect with Naomi Psalm on her homepage and her social media here:

http://www.naomipsalm.com

https://twitter.com/naomipsalm

https://www.facebook.com/naomipsalmmusic

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBlueCinemaMusic

on iTunes: http://www.iTunes.com/bluecinema