Tag Archives: indie

“Like Destiny” Coming Soon!

On Thursday, January 21, 2016, Barley Station will release a new single titled “Like Destiny”.  Blending folk and rock with progressive beats and pop sensibilities, this one has been called the best yet by those who have heard the song. The song will be available at most digital retail outlets.

Here is a sneak peek of the album art:

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Snippet from a Pre-release review:
“You’ll want to find a pretty spot under the old oak tree by the river and let Barley Stations new single ‘Like Destiny’ flow right through your soul.

“The unique instrumental in the song pairs perfectly with Vocalist Randy Wayne Belts ‘tranquil fluid motion’ vocals transcending one into a heavenly place of peace also known as: bliss… Infectious and pretty, this song is one for the iPod ‘favorites’ playlist for sure!”
~CA Marshall editor of Starlight Music Chronicles and Magazine

(Click here for a sneak audio from the track “Like Destiny”)

 

Album art by Candice Anne Graphics & Photography

 

 

Review of “Christmas For Two”

Review and Interview with Olivia Penalva

by Randy Wayne Belt

(first published in Starlight Music Chronicles Magazine)

As a connoisseur of original Christmas music it’s always great to find something new that is full of festive joy, delight, and fabulous vocals!   “Christmas For Two” by Canadian recording artist Olivia Penalva is just one of those songs.  With a fresh clean sound that has a somewhat Jazzy and R&B old motown rhythmic feel combined with a very contemporary vocal and lyric, Olivia delivers a song that reminds us of the joy of the season, and just enjoying life and having fun.  It is the perfect Christmas feel-good song!

 

As a singer, not only on this song, but in all of her work, her voice  has a timbre and character that make one think of a voice like that of Andrea Wittgens, Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillat.  Olivia’s voice has a mature tonal quality to it and a special warmth with a sultry yet innocent character to it that will capture your heart and ears.

Perhaps it’s that innocence of youth that can best create the atmosphere of a joyous life-is-good Christmas song.

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At a mere 15 years old, Olivia has already begun making a splash in music, and the addition of “Christmas For Two” to her repertoire will only further the ripples created by the waves she’s already making.

This new Holiday song has already gained some radio play alongside other well established artists with Christmas songs on this years Christmas playlists such as 103.5 QMFM in her home area of Vancouver, BC; Majic 100 in Ottawa, ON and more. But this isn’t her first airplay.  

Then there is Miss Penalva’s recent single “Ferris Wheel”, a song that has a carefree atmosphere with a strong rhythm section, once again, giving a solid beat behind the song which is, more than less, a celebration of life.  With another powerful vocal performance, the song will simply leave you in a good mood!  The control she has over her voice allows her to naturally move around her notes and move in and out of vocal inflections with great ease.  This is a very note worthy song also garnering airplay support.

(Official video for “Ferris Wheel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMcmCV9-aBM    )

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Another song I should mention is a song called “Forgettable” which Olivia co-wrote and collaborated on with a Canadian DJ Group called Project 46 who released it as part of their own album called “Beautiful”.  And indeed it IS a beautiful!  At this stage in her career, the music seems to be defined by strong rhythm section and very powerful vocals.

(Listen to “Forgettable” at this link:   https://soundcloud.com/djproject46/forgettable-ft-olivia-free-gift-info-below  )

So don’t shrug off the “fifteen years old” part because her voice is like that of an experienced 20-something, and one only needs to be reminded that when LeAnn Rimes came out with “Blue” and floored everyone with her mature sounding voice at age 14, they said the same thing with a similar “Wow” effect.  Her voice simply commanded respect and admiration.

So naturally, one of the questions I wanted to ask leads right into my interview:

Click Here to read my interview with Olivia in Starlight Music Chornicles Magazine

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

Recording Vocals

Recording Vocals

This isn’t about mixing vocals, it is about recording them. They are two very different things. I will address mixing and EQ-ing some other time. But right now I will address some very basic but important and sometimes overlooked things about getting a good vocal track. A famous saying in my studio is “do it again.”

Having a background in musical theater and formal training in singing, I act as the vocal coach for my own band and for myself, though I am always learning something new. The learning never ends.

When recording your vocals take your time.  Do it right. Listen carefully. Did you got the right feel? Did you capture the right mood? Don’t be afraid to create the right atmosphere during recording. If your studio is set up with lights that make it feel like someone’s office cubicle, you may well get a sound that makes you feel like you are at work or somewhere you don’t want to be singing the song, much less listening to it. It will reflect in the recording.

Set up some lights that reflect the mood you need for the song. It could be candles you need, or colored lights. Or bright whites if that’s what you’re going for. No matter what your recording space is like, with lighting, you can always create an atmosphere that will help you get the song out the right way. I keep different colored bulbs on hand for just this purpose. Strings of Christmas lights of various colors will work great too and they are usually on sale cheap right after the winter holidays.

As for gear, if you don’t have an expensive tube mic, never fear. There are inexpensive ways to get around that and get a good clean warm tube sound. ART’s Tube MP Project Series Tube Microphone/Instrument Preamp is under $80 and will really get you the warmth you need in your vocal. And it works great for other instruments as well. A handy little tool even if you already have great expensive gear. In which case, great, you are lucky and all good to go and there’s no reason to hear a recording that is less than stellar. photo (300x291)

If you have the luxury of having your own studio, take the time to do it right. Take lots of ear breaks and don’t be afraid to just leave it be for awhile. Go back to it again completely fresh. Take off a week from that song. Or even longer. It could be that a new approach is what you need and a fresh view of the song. Ask the opinion of a 10 or 12 year old. They will be brutally honest. Ask the opinion of an 80 year old. They will be brutally honest too. But then take it all with a grain of salt.

Are you singing with the emotion that the song needs and that inspired you to write it? If not, get it back. You’ll need to try different positions around the microphone. Do want it more airy? Do you want it more gutsy? Do want it more plain? You need to ask yourself all these things and position yourself or the microphone to capture what you want.

Do you hear something that makes you cringe? Then do it again. It will probably make others cringe as well. Do yourself a favor and become a better vocalist and do it again until it’s right. Unless you are using autotune as part of your style, ditch it. You won’t get better that way.

If you constantly use cheat machines, you are only robbing yourself of the ability to improve. They can be useful, I’m sure, but there’s nothing that beats the self satisfaction of knowing you pulled off a great vocal performance without using machines. A live audience will certainly appreciate the time and effort you put into bettering yourself as a singer. It won’t happen overnight, so don’t expect it to. But it takes constant practice, just like when you learned to play that guitar, the piano, or those drums. Your voice is an instrument and needs to be practiced.

Now, if you are singing harmony parts, there’s some things that work great if you can adjust your voice. Again, it requires listening carefully to every nuance of the way the lead or other vocal is bieng sung. I will go back and listen to a part over and over again to figure out how my band mate sung a certain part or phrase and I will make my voice match that style to get those perfect sibling harmonies everyone covets.  Is it a breathy whispery phrase? Then your harmony needs to match it for it to be effective and not sound out of place.  An example of this would be the song “True” from my own band’s album After All.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/barleystation/true-1
Or on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/true/id507047384?i=507047521

Listen carefully to how the vocals and harmonies match each other and the mood of the song. That’s what makes it work. We have distinctly different voices, but in harmony it is often hard to tell who is who when they are effectively sung. That’s your sibling effect. (It’s what I call it anyway)

Learn to harmonize with yourself and your bandmates if you have them. You need to grow as a vocalist.  In the studio, feel the right notes. Close your eyes. See the notes in your head. Find them, hit them, and remember what you did to get them.

You can be your own vocal coach if you can’t afford one if you are self-disciplined and not tone deaf. There are great voice teachers who often give good free advice online (I didn’t say free lessons) and have written helpful things, like Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams whose clients have been folks like Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Ben Folds, Keith Urban, and Jason Aldean.

But whatever you do, make sure you are using proper technique so you don’t ruin your voice. There are also plenty of videos that can explain it so you can understand it. Experiment with your voice but don’t mess it up.

Your voice is your paintbrush and the sound is your canvas and this is your art. Take the time to do it right!

The Story of Door Henge

The Story of Door Henge

by Randy Wayne Belt / also published in American Pride Magazine May 5, 2015

backpossible4It’s a peculiar story of how trash becomes treasure. A story of how album art was made from the changing landscape of an American city.

How often have you driven by somewhere where you lived and were, or at least, were very familiar with, only to find it completely changed beyond recognition years later?  You say to yourself, “It looks so different!” Or perhaps, “I wish I would have known that would be torn down so I could have gotten pictures!”

It isn’t anything spectacular or mind blowing like the Eiffel Tower or the St. Louis Arch you’re thinking of, just a piece of your childhood memories perhaps. Or maybe simply a scene you drove by and it is all changed.  You marvel at how one place can look so different years later.  Oh, to have gotten that last picture!

For many locals in a section of St. Charles, MO right near Lindenwood University, and close to the old Lewis and Clark trail of which we all learned in history, there was a permanent change of scenery that may have them wishing for a piece of that history.  When land owned by the University was sold to allow the building of a supermarket, the result was the destruction of the old homes that rested in their aged place there on that historic land.  The homes people lived in are gone and in their place – a grocery store. But in between those two – came art! Door-hinge-Missori

(a never before seen picture from behind the doors where you can see the surrounding historic homes that were not demolished)

Though the images of history before the homes were destroyed are not available to me, a fascinating artistic scene lived a brief life, speaking its message of desolation, of loss, and of art itself or perhaps a symbol of a doorway to what is new, depending on your artistic perspective.  For what must have been a personal disaster for those who lived in the homes that were tore down, something strangely beautiful showing that from what was old to what is new, sometimes there’s that little in-between that doesn’t last very long but gives a glimpse of art, a gleam of glory, in its own fascinating way.

This interim scene between demolition and construction, was captured and is memorialized in the form of music album art.  I don’t know who took it upon themselves to create the artistic scene that they did with the broken pieces of homes, and memories of the lives of some, but there it was – in it’s own artistic showcase – Doorhenge!Door-hinge-Missori-photo

(this is the original picture that became the artwork for the cover of the album ‘Damaged Goods’ by Barley Station)

And the story goes something like this:

As the homes were being demolished, someone took the pieces and used them to make an artistic statement.  Or maybe they were just being silly or trying to be funny, who knows? But the final result ended up being art no matter how you look at it.  And that art became forever memorialized as the artwork for the entire album package of an album known as Damaged Goods  by Barley Station, a band on its own Independent Label – Barleyfields Records, with one member who lived a mere two blocks from the scene of what is known amongst us insiders now as “Doorhenge”.

For a band whose sound is often defined as earthy, organic, and rustic beneath it but with a view towards tomorrow, this became the perfect album art.  The symbolism of doors that lead to the future and open to the past were perfect.  If you hear the music, you’ll understand why this artistic concept worked so well for the album.  The scene brings to life the albums concept of the lyrics, “We are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

As the album begins, you hear the sounds of broken glass, junk, and other imperfections. And then the album takes many twists and turns.

—————————————–

We wanted an album cover that reflected the theme of the album, naturally, being this is a semi-concept album.  So we spent a couple of weeks working out a really nice album cover collage of various pieces of damaged goods – old things, rusty stuff, pieces of junk and so on. Brian Kious, one of the two vocalists/and guitarist of the double fronted band, put together most of it, sent it to Randy Wayne Belt (the other of the two vocalists/ and its bassist) for final edit, who shared it with then drummer Nil De Silva for his approval. We all liked it a lot. Door-hinge-Missori-photo-3

A lot of work went into it! But then… on one partly cloudy day, Brian was driving past his old neighborhood in St. Charles, MO where he grew up only to discover it was being torn down and utterly leveled to the ground to make room for a huge strip mall, or some type of shopping center, or grocery chain store.

What was once his old neighborhood was reduced to piles of rubble and all the homes were torn down. There were piles of debris, tractors, bulldozers, and torn up trees. He came upon one area where someone had arranged the doors, presumably from the houses that once stood there, into a Stonehenge like display.

Always one to have an eye for art and things that seem to scream ART by their very existence, he snapped a picture of it with his ipod and sent it to Randy suggesting it might be a good idea for the back cover of the album that we had just finished recording.

Randy agreed it was good. Really good! In fact, so good it should be the cover. Now after spending so long working on what was going to be the cover, it takes a good bit of humility to accept the fact that you’ve just taken a snapshot of something that you didn’t even work that hard to get and it just surpassed all the hard work you put into what you thought was going to be the album cover for a really great album.

(I’m sure all of you artists out there know what I mean) Just that stroke of pure chance at the right moment and you have exactly what you were looking for. After a flurry of texting back and forth, we all knew, that this was going to be the album cover. It just demanded to be. We don’t know who set up the doors, but whoever it was just gave us a fantastic album cover!

Now the picture Brian took wasn’t going to work because the resolution and quality was not high enough to convert into artwork without ruining the shot. And, someone was tearing down the doors!! We had very little time to act.   With a high resolution digital camera, we needed to go back… fast!

Here’s the REST of the story – in Randy’s words:

“The sun had to be right in the sky and we needed a day without rain to cause problems. On a day shortly thereafter, I decided it was THE DAY to get the shot. Being a photographer as a hobby (and used to have my own black and white darkroom) I decided the day was right and announced to my family, “we’re going on a little trip today to see “DOORHENGE”. I didn’t use my Chevy Chase voice and we certainly don’t resemble the Griswolds, but it was almost as exciting as traveling to the UK to see the real Stone Henge! This was better than going to the art museum, or the structure park it seemed.

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(the original picture that serves as an inside booklet page with the CDs artwork)

“When we got there it was the most surreal scene. We were really in awe. And when a little kid is in awe of it, it’s really special. It was a strange awesomeness because it was accompanied by a certain sadness for the neighborhood that disappeared and for the people who lost their homes (to whom we dedicated the album).

But in the midst of it all, someone had created this work of art made of doors.  Someone took what was a tragedy for someone else no doubt, and turned it into something that will be the cover of something else that we hope will bring smiles and happiness.  I didn’t even recognized the place anymore. If not for the street signs I wouldn’t have known where I was.  It was strange. This was Brian’s old street!”

Randy continues, “I got picture after picture, angle after angle of this fascinating array of art. Then we drove by one last time and said goodbye to “Doorhenge”.  We knew we wouldn’t see it again.  I asked myself ‘Did they really have to tear it down’? ‘Couldn’t they keep it as a monument even in a small little area in honor of the old neighborhood?’

It sometimes puzzles me the coldness and heartlessness of the way business is done. I’m just only glad that this work of art, this memorial of what was a lot of people’s homes or dorm rooms, or place of residence, will be memorialized in time by our Album cover, the name is perfect:  ‘Damaged Goods’. damagedgoodscover1000pix

Several days later, Brian called me, and said ‘it’s gone!!!’ So, indeed, we captured the photo in the nick of time!”

That’s the story behind the album cover. The songs contained within and the pictures in the artwork all have a story to tell!  In an imperfect world, “we are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

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(a crop from the artwork inside the CD booklet – the two singers/songwriters and front persons for the band, Brian (left) and Randy (right))

Story and Photos by Randy Wayne Belt  @randywaynebelt

Barley Station:

 
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