Saturday, August 28, 2010

Paying The Piper

I've been getting a clearer picture about what this album is going to cost. For 12 songs, from when we step into the studio for the first session till the UPS truck pulls up my drive with a box of 1,000 poly-wrapped CD's, we're looking at around $6,000. Soup to nuts.

Yesterday I made a submission to Kickstarter. This is an online funding platform which allows artists of all stripes and genres to seek project financing from fans and friends by offering goods in return.

A signed CD. A private dinner. A live House Concert. You name it. At first I was taken aback by the notion of passing a hat so to speak, but many, many artists have achieved their goals and allowed many others to be involved and support the arts in this way.

Kickstarter sets a time frame, a date this predetermined goal must be met, and it's all or nothing. Meaning, if you don't raise ALL the money all bets are off. The artist doesn't get to use ANY of it.

So I'm going to give this a good deal of thought. Try and communicate my vision of the work the best way I can. To start, I've already set up a Myspace site where people can go and listen to demo's of the songs that will be produced in the studio for the album. I did these demos right here in my home. They're rough, but hopefully will convey the style and feel of the songs. The songs stand alone in this exposed way or they don't.

So, I'm awaiting a reply from the folks at Kickstarter.

This is going to be interesting!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Takin' It To The Airwaves

Living near Woodstock affords me the chance to meet some colorful people. There's an intense, gifted and beautiful artist there named Christina Varga. Her shop is the Varga Gallery where she displays her original creations and affords other artists the chance to have showings. She also stages community events like the Woodstock World Peace Project which I was honored to perform at last weekend on a very hot afternoon in Woodstock.

She also hosts a weekly Wednesday night TV show called "Apocalypse Varga" which airs live on Woodstock Cable TV and streams live around the world on the internet. Last night I did my second show with her and with another brilliant and charming artist named Chloe' Valentine. Chloe' co-hosts the show and books all the guests.

I played around four songs but mostly we talked about world events. Everything from 9/11 to New Orleans and what it means today to call yourself "patriotic." We also put in a plug for this blog and the accompanying Myspace page I've set up to help promote my album project. I'm grateful she gave me the chance to do that.

The music site ( has five home demos which will be on the album I'm trying to get done. Now people can go and hear these songs in their rough form and get a better sense of my music. I'm hoping it will enlist some support.

Before I did the TV show at ten, I stopped by Harmony Cafe in Woodstock which is now the reincarnated Alchemy of old. It was great to see Nick Martin who now hosts it every week. I also got to see my dear friend Marilyn Kirby. Marilyn is a crazy-talented performing songwriter and I think the world of her. I did two songs for a good-sized crowd but had to leave before her set to drive a few blocks away for the Apocalypse Varga show.  It was a good night for music and good to be back in Woodstock.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Album Project

It's been four years since I recorded an album. That one was my first and was done quickly in San Diego with mixed results. It has its moments, but when I look and listen to it now I react the way one might when seeing a slightly embarassing school picture from years ago ("Did I actually wear my hair like that?!").

I've written over a hundred songs since then, made three trips to Nashville, got two songs published and started playing out over a year ago up here where we live near Woodstock, NY. An album's worth of songs have continued to make the cut and after much support and nudging it's time to do this.
Yes it is.

There was a place called "Alchemy" in Woodstock run by Nick Martin (himself a great singer/songwriter) which had a short life but afforded me via it's Wednesday night Open Mic's the chance to meet some great artists. Alchemy was in the large house built in Bearsville by Albert Grossman (Dylan's old manager) and it was charming with it's fireplace, many windows and wood floors. It was converted into a wonderful and expansive cafe, bookstore, art gallery and performance room. The photo above shows the stage in the background. Several people with some serious credentials played there and Wednesday night's the place was jammed inside and out with people drinking coffee, eating burgers, looking at art and getting up to perform. Nick never got the liquor license in time and I feel the enforced sobriety helped keep the mellowness and furniture intact.

Alchemy on Wednesday's was not your typical Open Mic by any means. A sort of "busman's holiday" for already established acts to mix, hang, and get up and make music. It was, for me, a great gift. I met so many generous artists who gave me such tremendous support. Nick Martin, Elly Winninger, Dave Kearney, Marji Zintz, Denise Jordan Finley, Daniel Pagdon, Doug Yoel, Marilyn Kirby, Peggy Atwood, I could go on and on (and will at some point).

They all helped me move from the isolation of my home studio where I had been holed up writing songs through some bitter winters, not getting acting jobs and living off the residuals of a TV commercial and my wife's theatre work as a voice and dialect coach. Two freelancer's praying for a miracle every first of the month when the mortgage came due (this hasn't changed, only now the commercial ran it's course and it's unemployment insurance!)

I am so very grateful to Alchemy in Woodstock for the friendships forged, and the chance to get up and sharpen my performing chops every Wednesday night and then on weekends when Nick would book me for an actual gig. Thanks Nick.

Now, I am beginning the daily process of getting an album done with no money of our own and our own personal situation seemingly dicey. But others have faced similar challenges. This journal is going to keep track of the journey. You're welcome to come along.

Don Sparks
Gardiner, Ny
August 22, 2010