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I have written 50+ songs since i started writing songs in the early 80’s. Like any other time I’ve written a song I had inspiration which this time was the Covid-19 crisis. Over the years when I write, I work for a little bit and then I pick it up a day later and so on. The hardest thing about writing songs is following through and finishing! The last song I wrote called “Hey Santa” last November I wrote in about 15 minutes. This time I finished in about 20 minutes. Although I always reserve the right to tweak which I often do but that’s rock-n-roll! Just a few days later we tried to record it on April 17th 2020 and again on the 18th. I was a little depressed but I just didn’t know it well enough. Yes I wrote it but practice does indeed make perfect. I practiced all of the following week with the goal of recording on the 15th and the 17th as my backup. About 30 minutes into the session I nailed it! Was it perfect? No but maybe that is part of the charm. The thing I like the most is that it is a classic blues song but it has a creepy beginning and mantra throughout the song. So it’s original in it’s own way! No one has ever written about a happy thing when they sing the blues. This is no different. This is not a happy time but over the years this is the way I tell my story. At this point in my life I’ve never been so happy that I have always chosen originals over covers and the more I’ve written the better I’ve become. I’m still super proud of the the songs I wrote in the 80’s in my late teens and early 20’s and I still play them today they are like children. I’ve nurtured them, I’ve watched them grow, and I’ve watched them develop just like my kids Emily and James. Emily unbelievably is releasing her debut effort this week too!! I’m so proud of her. The apple definitely did fall far from the tree! LOLL
Dreams & Jams
I remember when I was a kid when I would stick my fist in my mouth and act like I was on stage as I sang to the radio. I was in 12th grade and after a poetry project I realized I had a knack for poetry. I was 11 years old and I was an amateur boxer and although my father played guitar he really did not want me to play because he thought it would take away from my boxing. No I’m not kidding. My parents split in the middle of 1978 and my mother, my brother, and sisters want to live with my grandmother in Severna Park. The first thing that I did was ask my grandmother to buy me a guitar. It was a harmony and believe it or not just the other day I strung it up for a left-hander my son as he plays drums and he also wants to play guitar.
It was in 1981 that I met Dr Dave. He lived three doors down and he played drums. He told me he played in a punk rock band before and he was a little crazy but a lot of fun. From there on out no matter what we did or where we went Dr Dave was always the life of the party. It was also around that time that I wrote my first few songs. The first coherent song I wrote was called December. “Whaho December, you have my frozen heart, it is the weather that keeps us both apart.” Nothing special but today I still love it. Once I learned to play guitar a little all I did was put a few verses together, add a few chords, and Walla you have a song. So I started writing and Dave and I started to play. My friends brother Mike heard we were jamming so he would hang out and listen to us play and one day he said he was gonna buy A bass and join the band. We laughed at him but he did and it wasn’t long before you know it we were jammin as a three-piece. It was really fun and it was really coming together but there was something missing. One day I went up to the Music and Arts store at the Severna Park Mall to pick up some strings and I met a guy working there named Bob. We talked a little bit and I told him we were looking for a guitar player and he said he played guitar. “Too cool!”
Bob came over and jammed with us a few times and we realized that the fit was good. We played together for a few years and I was really getting into writing songs. It was around this time I wrote “Light in the Night.” Right after I wrote it I put in on a hook in my grandmothers basement and played it and sang. “Well I told you before and I’ll tell you again there’s a light in your eyes and it’s magic my friend. Well I’ll tell you know more but I’ll tell you it’s right. This magic is love and it comes in the night.” I would just catch ideas as I went about my day and we wrote some pretty cool songs in the 80’s. I say we because although I wrote the lyrics and the rhythm guitar with a little prodding Dave made up the drums, Mike the Bass Line and Bob gave us character on lead. Almost every Friday or Saturday night we would get together and jam in my grandmother’s basement. We christened it “The Playground” and yes a song about it soon followed. “At the Playground I see all my friends. At the Playground the Party never ends. At the Playground we’ll be havin fun. At the Playground the play is never ever done.”
It was 1985 and even though I had been out of high school for a few years my job prospects were not looking very good. So despite the fact that I had not planned on going to college in the fall I started classes at Anne Arundel Community College. You know that guy singing in the car. On my way to class, I’m that guy. Bob was also taking classes there but we just kept practicing. We played a few parties playing a mix of covers and originals and the feeling I got after playing a really great original was over powering. “Do you remember when you had one of those long drawn out make-out sessions with your girlfriend when you finally had to come up for air? That’s how it felt for me after playing one of our best songs.”
We were jamming one day and Mike had to leave early and he said Doesn’t Time Fly When You’re Having Fun?” and I said “Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? A kiss and a beer and the evening is done. You wanna take her home so you give it a try. Sittin alone wondering why. You’re going crazy need her tonight wanna get down wanna get down get tight!” From there on out that was always our last song of the night and it always had a long drawn out ending and I loved playing it but I hated waiting for next time. LOLL
It was 1988 and my time at AACC was nearing an end when they had a talent show. We were really near our prime so we entered and they let us play last. Long story short, we sounded awesome, there wasn’t any real competition, and we won! I think they gave us $200. We went back to the playground and stayed up half the night reminiscing our win. We had to pick a band name for the contest as we had never done that before and it came down to Beyond Belief or 2nd Grade. I knew we weren’t beyond belief so 2nd Grade it was. I actually pitched Bob on a new song that night. “I’m in 2nd grade and I and I just got laid. I got it made cause I’m second grade. You know I got the jade. I got it made in the shade and I can’t complain. I got it made in the shade cause I’m 2nd grade.” Some times I could write a song n five minutes and others it took hours or days or sometimes I just couldn’t finish them. We thought we were really something so I figured we needed to record a few songs. Sure we had plenty of basement tapes but I wanted to take the next step. So we saved up some money and to the studio we went. We recorded 5 songs but we didn’t have the money to finish the 5th but the four we did were awesome. We sent one of the songs called Final exam Blues to Kirk McEwen at 98 Rock and he played it one night on “Home Tapes.” It was very cool and a lot of our friends heard it but we were really still just a basement band.
My Eighties Band 2nd Grade Time Be Hard for the White Man
With my Associates Degree in hand from AACC I was off to Towson State. I would go home on the weekends to do my laundry and jam with the guys but I was way too busy to day anything serious but we kept playing. In 89 a guy named Skizz who was once named Baltimore’s Top DJ helped us record a song called “Term Paper Blues’ in studio at Towson State. This really was the pinnacle of our music.
Well Towson was great but in the spring of 1990 they put a sheepskin in my hand and said you’re on your own! The good news was that I had met my future wife there. She was from Myersville. The bad news was the band was in shambles. We had a just a few more jams. One was even at the 8×10 club for open mic but that was it.
For years I tried in earnest to put a band together but everyone wanted to be the band leader and no one wanted to compromise and “NO ONE WANTED TO PLAY ORIGINALS.” So I was pretty much in music purgatory but I kept writing. The songs I wrote were few and far between but I did keep track of them all and by the year 2006 I had more than 40 to choose from. It was in 2006 that I purchased “The Man Castle.” A 4000 square foot McMansion in Mount Airy. One of the deals I made with my wife was that the biggest room in the basement was mine and one of the first things I did was purchase a drums set and a PA for “The Man Cave” to see if I could put a band together. It turned out my back door neighbor Tom was an accomplished base player and even though he was in several bands he said he would help me out. This was great. So as I ran into drummers I would ask for their interest and we had more than a half dozen try out and most of them were good but either I wasn’t good enough for them or they just didn’t like my music.
One thing I did have left over from the 80’s was a bunch of recordings on cassette. So I bought a digitizer and I converted the best of the best of my basement tapes with the goal of putting out a CD and in the spring of 2010 I put out “Time Be Hard for the White Man.” Eighteen songs from the 80’s that I wrote and we performed including the 4 from the studio we did. If you’re interested TBH is the number one punk rock song of all time! :”Hey I can dream right?” It’s still on iTunes today and I make $5 to $10 a month in royalties! LOLL The coolest thing about it was that I found out how to “self-publish music online and with the internet the sky truly is the limit.” Hey I was thrilled when I started selling songs online and over the next five years we sold over 500 downloads. I have even sold music in Europe! As of 2019 I’ve sold more than 600 downloads and had more than 16000 streams!
It was around the same time that one of my buddies named Erik got his first drum set and we played a few times but he needed work. So he was practicing and I was looking and I have to say he fell off my radar. My fiftieth birthday popped up in May of 2014 and naturally I was having a party and we had to have a jam. I really wanted to get the Dr over but I did manage to get Bob to show up. The only drummer available was Erik. So I told him to C’mon over and I have to say he surprised me. I wrote a song to celebrate called “The Blues of Jimmy” and Erik played it well without any practice. “My name’s Jimmy and I’m the man. You may not like me but I know you’re a fan. Like playing music on my guitar but still I’m playin in this same old bar.” HEY! So yes right under my nose was the drummer I was looking for. So we started to play and we talked about recording. He had a PA with a recorder built in so we figured we could record as a 3 piece though his pa and then add the lead with my 4 track digital recorder. So just after my 51st birthday Tom, Erik, and I started a musical journey with a goal of producing my first CD. “I Love Journey Don’t Stop Believing!” Things were going good but as we started practicing and recording I started researching other ways to record. We needed a way to record multiple tracks with the option to mix and edit if needed. I ended up purchasing a system called Studio One. It’s a digital mixer that offers 12 inputs, the ability to record, and separate multiple tracks. It also comes with software and it was a game changer. Erik got a Mac so between our instruments, a few mics and our new recording equipment, “We Had a Studio!”
I think it was July of 2015 and even though we had to start over things were really starting to happen. The new system gave us so much room for creativity and much needed room for error as we could now edit in anything we needed to finish a song or edit out anything we didn’t want including the ability to “Master our work.” The objective was to work on 8 songs with a final goal of 6 mastered songs for an EP and we actually finished our work as a 3 piece around the beginning of December. Now we needed some lead! I had taken some lead guitar lessons from a guy named Don Byrd. He teaches at Duet with Music at the FSK Mall. It was $20 for a half hour and he is one awesome guitar teacher. I specifically asked him to write leads for my songs and then teach me to play them. It was like a dream as now I was learning lead guitar but for my music! So I asked Don if he would play on my CD and he asked me why I wouldn’t do it. I said plain and simple because I want it to sound good! LOLL J Don is such a cool guy so he said ok. So I made a CD of the songs and gave him 2 weeks to practice. Sure enough like clockwork he came down to our basement studio and did it. It took him 2 hours to lay down multiple tracks for the 6 songs and multiple versions for each for us to choose from and “I HAVE TO SAY I WAS BLOWN AWAY!” He was incredible and I couldn’t believe that he would work so hard and play so well for me and my project.
I figure we spent 40 hours practicing and recording of all the songs we put on my CD but we were only half way home. The good news was that not only did we have the Pro Sonus software but we also used a free program called Audacity. With the two programs in tow we now had to choose from multiple versions of each song pick those out and then pick multiple versions of multiple leads for each. Erik and I clashed a little but he did give me the final say. I had to let him win a little because he’s a friend and he did work really hard figuring out the software and learning each song on drums. He also was helping me with my dream and the coolest thing was that he loved it!
So while the path to recording my music was uncertain the path to Mastering my work was not. Once we had picked all of the songs and all of the leads Don played it was really down to mixing and listening over and over and over again. The only effect we used was a slight echo on most of my vocals and a deep echo in a few strategic places. As we did all of this I kept my friends up to date on Facebook, more on my personal page that my Jimmy the Man page but it was fun as we closed in our goal. During Christmas break I came over Erik’s house at 6pm one night and we ended at midnight. It was really getting crazy as there is a fine line between being critical and being obsessive. I was critical and at times Erik was obsessive but we were a team and together we did it. Sunday the 3rd of January 2016 he sent me the first of four links to listen to. I would listen and listen on my stereo in the basement and write down my issues and call him and we would go over it. An hour or so later he would send me another. I was also watching football and as big a football fan as I am it just wasn’t as important as finishing this CD. So around 8pm that night I really thought we were done. I could have uploaded it but I was spent. So my plan was to do it first thing Monday morning.
The reason I was able to get my first CD online was that I found a company called Catapult Distribution. www.CatapultDistribution.com They have a connection to all of the major online music outlets including iTunes and while the first one cost more than $300 this one only cost me about $80. So I uploaded the first song and I even listened one more time within their system to make sure it was right. I uploaded the 2nd song but we hit a snag when it notified me that it was not in stereo. I called Erik at work; he went home at lunch, and fixed that one and one other. So I figure we finished it all by 12:30pm that day with an expectation of it taking as much as a week to put it online but that was ok we had done it and I was so happy. Being a business owner I check my email often so about 6:00pm that night I saw a note from Catapult saying it was done! I couldn’t believe it. The cool thing was that they provided us with a link to give out and even though we are not able to see our sales numbers from January until March 1st we can see the number of hits on our Catapult personal band page. In the first week as we told our friends and family it has already gotten more than 140 hits. The easiest way to find to check it out is to go to http://apple.co/1S0yxuK
You can also search Jimmy the Man on iTunes or any online music store to sample and download one or all 6 songs. They are 99c per or $2.99 for the entire EP. A majority of my friends are buying the entire thing and YOU SHOULD TOO!!!
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