Years ago, Randy Stonehill had a song called, "Turning 30" which I thought was really quite funny as it seemed so far away! Whoever would have thought those lyrics could now be sung, Turning 50? My kids thought I was "over the hill" when I turned 40!
My whole life I have been a dabbler. This has led to fear, panic, some humor and lots of frustration - mainly at myself. My patient wife deserves a medal!
It's not that I can't finish a project. I have produced or engineered hundreds of album projects, written completed songs, a few scripts and some stories. But for some reason this proclivity has put me firmly in the "jack of all trades, master of none" camp. I just seem to have too many interests. I think in doing some self analysis there are plenty of reasons for this, but the bottom line is what do I do to handle that reality. (a subject for another time perhaps?)
For the last 7 years or so (for reasons too complex to get into here) I have felt like my creative life has left me. Not that I make any aspirations of greatness either as an artist or a producer of art, but I have felt like the creative juices have slowly been sucked out of my soul, leaving me like a dry prune in the desert. I have taken to calling these "the desert years".
The joy that I gleaned from even listening to music seemed to have vanished. For those of you who know me, you will find that hard to believe! I used to get such energy from music. Laying on the living room floor listening to Peter Gabriel's So or Sting's Ten Summoners Tales or many other fine recordings brought me energy, ideas and spiritual refreshment. Even my love of reading seemed to be forced. I haven't drawn a picture, carved anything or painted in years. Not even doodled!
This last year I have seen a glimmer of hope for the creative life once again. At the encouragement of one of our children, I started writing a few stories about growing up in a very conservative environment in the middle of the prairies of Alberta, Canada. This has not been only personally rewarding, but it seems like many of the stories have resonated with the reader judging by the many notes and emails I have received. I am grateful for this and in a funny way, it has maybe been the "jump start" I have needed. I am thankful and humbled by the editors that are giving my little stories another life.
This year two momentous events occur. I turn 50 and Cathy and I will have been married 30 years. We feel blessed. Our lives have been rich and full (maybe too full at times!) As I reflect on the years to come, I have given much thought as to what those years could and should look like. I even obtained the book, FACING 50 by Jim Smoke, to see if there might be some clues contained therein. Another good book I have read is called, HALF TIME by Bob Buford.
The conclusion that I have reached is that I want to continue in a creative capacity and focus more on giving back. Providing resources that will help and encourage others in their creative pursuits. I have come up with a small outline in the hope that by putting it out there, it will give me some structure as well as maybe in a strange way give me some accountability to you the reader who can check up on the progress and kick my butt on occasion.
So here you have it. The plan as it looks now:
The next month or so will see the launch of www.prairieboy.com The blog thing is cool, but it doesn't really allow me to stretch out and paint a bigger picture. My stories aren't really "blog material" in the traditional sense and I would like to be able to blog as well as continue to write stories. The website will allow me to do all of that along with being able to add more content - pictures, articles as well as to be able to focus on other aspects of the business, etc. I get emails and calls from parents of potential musicians and songwriters as well as artists themselves seeking advice on their music or the music business. This will allow me to start small useful articles that I hope will be a help to many. A couple of the first ones will be titled, TEN KEYS TO PRE PRODUCTION, THE NASHVILLE NO, and WHY THE SONG MATTERS. If you know of people who would benefit from this type of information, please direct them to the web site. And it's free!
I never thought I would say this again, but here goes. One of the huge issues in running a small record company is distribution. Having myself, survived the demise of at least six distributors of our music over the last 20 years, it has almost been insurmountable to have sustained many of these financial hits. Along with deep discouragement on the part of artists, employees and myself, it was a continual uphill battle on every front. In some ways, all of that has changed. As most of your know, the music business is in a huge crisis. The old ways aren't working anymore and the control of the business is not the purview of just a few. The playing field gets more level everyday and I strongly feel that in every crisis comes opportunity. There is no real consensus among the "experts" on where this is all heading as the opinions are many. That being said, I will be relaunching the record company this year. Starting off we will release a lot of the old catalog in a digital only format. As to future plans we will just have to wait and see. So, if you have been looking for some of the old HMG catalog, wait no longer, it will be available once more.
Many of you know that I have had a keen interest in radio going back to my grade school days. From my underground station in high school ( http://stephenjrendall.blogspot.com/2010/04/calling-occupants.html ) to my work at KTFC in Sioux City, IA after high school, radio has been near and dear to my heart. With the advent of the internet I have decided to start my own radio network. Don't worry, this time it will all be legal! The first channel will be called - MIXED UP LIFE and will be a very eclectic mix of music in a commercial free environment. I have a sense that many of you are like me and appreciate a format that is not so narrow casted. My vision for this channel is that you may hear an Over The Rhine song, followed by Sting and then maybe the Beatles, Allison Krause, Jars of Clay, Emmylou Harris, Andrea Bocelli, the Eagles and on and on. Perhaps I will sneak in a few of the artists that I have been privileged to work with over the years - Jill Paquette, Jaylene Johnson, Matt Brouwer or Starfield. Just good music with GREAT songs. - could it get any better? I would like to add more channels as we go that would incorporate some other ideas as well, but I'll start with one. I feel as the web becomes more accessible in vehicles, on mobile devices and whatever might be next, the opportunity to build this type of station is now and target a global audience. You will be able to tune in at work, at home or on the go! Stay tuned for more details about - WWHRN - MIXED UP LIFE
My book, MEMOIRS OF A PRAIRIE BOY is slowly coming together. My goal is to try and get it published by next summer. I am very excited about the format as it will have a ton of pictures, quotes and other surprises. It will be available in paper form as well as an ebook. I have listed about 100 stories that I hope to finish and publish in the book relating to my first 20 years on this planet. I am thrilled at the discovery of a picture that I hope to use as the cover. It is a photo of me as a small boy saying goodbye to my Dad when he was leaving on a tour.
A NOVEL IDEA
For many years I have had an idea for a novel ruminating around in my head. Taking many of my experiences in the music business and threading them together with a good story I think I just may be on to a little something. Many friends and colleagues have encouraged me over the years to get it written so that is another goal for this year. Tentatively titled, SINS OF MY FATHER, the story is about southern gospel, rock 'n roll, the music business, fame, addiction, racism, a little hanky panky, forgiveness, and redemption. More to come . . .
In this new world we are living in, it opens up a world of opportunities. One of those is the ability to publish books economically as well as make them available electronically for the growing amount of e readers. One of the things I hope to do this year as well is to start a publishing company that will get both my Dad and Mom's books back into print. I will be working with my brother and a team to make this a reality. We will start with about 12 books and Dad is as of this writing proofreading the first one. We will be updating them with new covers, some new content, etc., and making them available world wide. As many of you know, Mom had one book with Moody Press that sold over 100,000 copies back in the day and had just finished another one at the time of her passing that was never published. I can think of no better way to honor her than to see that book to fruition.
Hoping to finish the complete Hollywood Heroes project this year (www.hollywoodheroesmusic.com) in addition to other projects, I am excited to be working on a "Mystery Project". I hope to be able to give you more details in coming weeks.
One of my regrets is that I have not done more mentoring and teaching. I have done some and each time, I have found it both rewarding and fulfilling. To that end I have started a youtube channel called: prairieboyTV. This will be a place where I hope to do a lot of teaching about the studio, production tricks and techniques, etc. From how to mic an acoustic guitar to getting a solid drum sound and great vocal, this should prove to be the perfect venue for this type of thing. I also want to provide solid information for those on a budget that will help them save time, increase productivity and save money. I may throw up a few stories on there as well as have some guests that will add their expertise to the proceedings.
So on the eve of turning 50 I know there is a lot to do, so as the saying goes - "Let's get busy!"