Monthly Archives: April 2009

How to Describe your Music

When I meet someone in a band, or a solo performer, I ask “what kind of music do you play”. Frequently they’ll say, “I don’t know, I can’t really describe it. My music is original and unique”. That doesn’t help me decide if I want to pay money to go see them, or buy their cd. “Original and unique” is great, but it doesn’t mean I’ll like it.

But that’s exactly what I do when people ask me about my music. I fumble around; I’ll say it’s a little this, a little that… I really don’t know how to describe my music.

That’s a problem. It doesn’t help get people interested in coming to hear me.

There was an interesting blog about this by Derek Sivers, a video with Ariel Hyatt about the need to be able to describe the your music in a short phrase, see

So I’m trying to come up with a description that’s reasonably accurate that would help people know what kind of music I play.

Several months ago I put some songs up on the website just to see what sort of reactions I would get. A songwriter friend told me, “you know, you’re music isn’t folk music at all”. Another songwriter friend told me “you know, you play true folk music”. Aarghh! Not helpful! Or is it?

I’ve been playing solo acoustic for the last few years, but that’s only because I got away from playing electric guitar in bands to focus on songwriting. Once I get a bass player and drummer, I plan to pick up the electric guitar again. Then I doubt anyone will use the term “folk” to describe my music.

Last year I asked some friends to describe my music, and they wrote some wonderful things, which I put on my website, and my myspace site. That was great, and I’ve been using those quotes. Tim Riordan said I’m “a rock and roller and raconteur with an acoustic guitar”. I like that. But I still need a simple category that most people will understand.

I suppose I could say “acoustic rock” or “folk rock”.

“Alternative rock” lost its meaning a year after it was invented. “Alternative” quickly meant “mainstream”. I fear “indie rock” will soon suffer the same fate.

Any suggestions for me? Got an opinion on this subject in general?


Recording a 2nd EP

Today I scheduled a recording session at Swallow Hill in Denver for May 21. As of now, my plan is to make a 5-song EP of songs I’ve been playing for the last year or so. I’ll record the 3 songs I wrote a year ago– “Like a Child”, “Me”, and “You Could Have Had Me”, and two of the first songs I wrote that I didn’t put on my DIY record, “Daddy’s Little Girl” (2004) and “I Miss Me” (2005).

“Some Songs I Wrote” was a DIY record I recorded myself in my basement 2 years ago, mixed and mastered it, played all the instruments, and did the artwork–even took my own photograph. This time I’ll have Swallow Hill’s recording engineer and live show sound man, Brian Hunter, handle the technical duties. And I’ll have my violin player who’s been accompanying me the last two years, Julie Oxenford O’Brian, record her parts.

The tentative title is “More Songs I Wrote”. It will come out in a cardboard sleeve (I HATE jewel cases).

Of course I reserve the right to change my mind on any and all of the above. 🙂


A singer-songwriter has 4 jobs

It’s not just singer-songwriter; it’s not just two things. It’s four:

1. composer of music
2. lyricist
3. musician (guitar and/or piano, or whatever you perform with)
4. singer

In the “old days”, one person composed the music, another person composed the lyrics, a band of professional musicians played the music, and the singer sang. Sometimes it’s still done that way today. Singer-songwriters are trying to do the jobs of 4 people. No wonder this is so hard. I’m not whining or complaining; I love it. But it explains why it’s so difficult to be good at all 4 things (see my previous blog, “3 Types of Songwriters).

I began as a guitar player. Then I took singing lessons. Then learned how to write songs. Others do it in a different order.

I took piano lessons a few years ago, and took more last year. But my focus for the last 5 years has been songwriting (music and lyric composition). As a result, I’m starting to feel more confident in my songwriting. So now I’m taking singing lessons again, because I think that’s my main weakness.

I’ve got 4 jobs. Not counting my paying job.

When I look at it that way, I don’t call myself lazy anymore.