Archive for August, 2006

DAY 52 – sealed the deal with an eel…

Posted: Aug 27, 2006

Today was a BIG step in the journey.

I spent my Sunday afternoon in the studio again, trying to finish mixing “One For Me.” It’s almost finished.

Or so I thought.

An hour into the session, Mandi dropped by to lend a few “producer” suggestions. “I’m not crazy about the drums,” she says. “We need a new bass line. Don’t put that harmonica riff there; put it here instead. And you might want to track that acoustic guitar again.”

Oh boy. Careful what you ask for.

Feeling a little frustrated and overwhelmed that i have more work to do and perhaps go back to the drawing board on this one, we finished the session a little early.

“Do you like sushi?” Mandi asked.

“Live for it,” I replied.

“Then let’s go. My treat.”

And that’s how it happened. We feasted on yet-to-be-cooked salmon and tuna and yellowtail while having a bit of a heart-to-heart. I’m paraphrasing this part but our discussion culminated in asking whether she’d consider taking me on as a producer for my record. To which she promptly replied…

“I’m ready to jump in if that’s what you mean.”

And so we sealed it by splitting the last piece of sushi on the table, the ever-so-overlooked eel.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a producer.

Please don’t stop this train
cause I don’t want to get off
I’d rather stow away and starve
than be fattened at the trough
                  -nick daugherty

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DAY 50 – movie clips on the way soon, i promise…

Posted: Aug 25, 2006

So when I started this project some 50 days ago, I thought, “Hey let’s have a reality show! Drag the camera (singular) around and tape everything! It’ll be sweet to look back on one day.”

Swiggity sweet as it may sound, I’m already overloaded with hours and hours of semi-interesting amateur footage of everything from some of my early concerts, band practice, small-wave surfing in Redondo Beach, Orange County pirate parties, and rockstar haircuts. That’s right, haircuts. At least I prefaced my “interesting” adjective with a “semi.”

I think that’s an adverb. It’s been a long time since I’ve diagrammed a sentence.

Spent a good deal of time today editing the semi-interesting footage together to create some sort of 9-minute amalgamation of the last month and a half of my life for your viewing pleasure. Editing video takes forever, and it’s even tougher if you have ADD.

If I smoked, this would be a good time for a cigarette. OK, I’m going on break anyway…
That’s just me trying to appear succinct. I know you’re busy out there.

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DAY 49 – how come i only just now heard of kulak’s woodshed?…

Posted: Aug 24, 2006

DAY 49 – Mandi invited me up to a little place in North Hollywood to hear some great acoustic acts tonight. Thinking it was another bar with an open mic or something, I showed up with a fairly “ho hum” attitude, ready to stand around and drink a beer, nodding along graciously while other people played their music.

I could not have been more impressed with what I heard, and what I saw tonight.

First of all, walking into Kulak’s is like stepping onto a TV set. (Not the kind on your coffee table, but the kind where they film it. Dig?) There are no tables, just couches, and beanbags, pillowrests and even a couch-bed just off the stage. They film every act with six-camera professional studio quality; to watch the monitors, you’d think you’re in the audience of VH1 Storytellers.

No bar. No food. Just good music. It was amazing.
(Or to use my new catch phrase, swiggity sweet!)

For all the L.A. wannabes, you can perform here while your family back at home in the midwest watches you from the comfort of their computer screen. How awesome is that!!

You think I’m making this up? Check it out for yourself here.

If the venue was cool, the acts were cooler. The night started off with a hypnotic set from a group called the Wild Blooms (from Austin, TX y’all). I’ve never heard anyone combine acoustic guitar with techno beats, heavy synthesizers, flute, piano, and accordian all in one, but somehow they made it sound awesome. Check ’em out. They’re hot.

Next up was a great acoustic singer/songwriter with very jazzy chops and some great hooks named James Hurley. He stopped in to play Kulak’s before heading to Europe for a 5-week tour in the UK. He’s got a great sound and he plays a Larrivée guitar, which if you know anything about guitars you know Larivées sound a little bit like Heaven.
Kacey jones, a veteran songwriter and producer from Nashville, and long-time friend of Mandi’s, finished the night with some of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard a folk singer tell in-between songs. You could definitely tell she’s a master at what she does. Kacey’s also got a new video called “San Francisco Mabel Joy” on CMT. Not too shabby huh?
Let’s see, what else, what else?? My brain is spinning right now…

Ahh, final story…

Halfway through the show, an older man walks in with his wife, whom I didn’t recognize. Mandi did. He’s turned out to be the Mr. John Braheny, author of one of the foremost books available today for songwriters called The Craft and Business of Songwriting. It’s a must-read if you’re ever thinking about taking a journey of your own…

Anyway, I got to meet John and his lovely wife JoAnn. They seem like such lovable, down-to-earth people. I’m starting to notice something about the music business — it’s not really all that big and scary. Just a community of people who all seem to know each other. It’s just a matter of finding someone who’s willing to introduce you around.

It’s all about making new friends. Everyday.

Here’s the link to John’s fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

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DAY 48 – it’s hard to find a friend in culver city. it’s hard to find anything in culver city…

Posted: Aug 23, 2006

This was a big night for me.

I’ve said it before, but it’s amazing how the universe opens up and things begin to unfold for you once you commit yourself wholeheartedly to something.

I spent most of my afternoon putting a demo CD together, complete with lyric sheets, music charts and everything. Even branded it with a cool CD cover (below). Why?

Because tonight I had dinner with a veteran music producer who’s worked with the likes of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Ricky Nelson, Oleta Adams, Columbia, RCA, Epic, and Prince Records, and even my new favorite, Amy Kuney.

And now she’s my new friend, Mandi Martin…

For three hours tonight we talked about life and music, Sam Cooke and birth of soul, Ray Charles and the blues, country, and rock’n’roll, working with Ricky Nelson, Brian Wilson, and Jimmy Buffett, and even being professional laugh-er for struggling comedians.

Mandi has this infectious laugh that can turn even the most grumpy scowls into grins. Not the “tee hee hee” type with your mouth covered. No sir, I’m talking about a full-blown belly laugh that can only come from deep within your soul.

And I needed some laughs after getting myself thoroughly lost yet again in Culver City — the most confusing of all towns in California.

No streets go straight. Everything twists and winds into each other so as to allow only the locals passage through their sacred city. Streets randomly change names, disappear, then reappear a block over. I think the civil engineer who designed this place was on some strong acid when he laid out the street system here.

Finally arriving after circling 2 blocks for 30 minutes, Mandi cracked me up with a big smile and a good belly laugh, and I knew I was in for a good night. She was very easy to talk to. It felt like we’d known each other for years.

Let’s just hope she liked my demo…

(Note to self: buy a GPS for your car.)

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DAY 46 – golden opportunities and a little something more…

Posted: Aug 21, 2006

My friends Clint and Christina are taking a well-deserved vacation to Europe this week, and they asked me to doggie-sit for them while they were away. “Free food!” Clint told me, knowing just how to humor a post-college bachelor who hates to grocery-shop.

They have two of the most beautiful golden retrievers you’ve ever seen, Brandy and Rusty. Brandy’s the older one and she’s always got this smug look on her face like she owns the world and you’re just living in it. I can tell she’s missing her parents though, because she spends 90% of her day just laying around waiting for something to happen.

Or then again, maybe she just wants us to feel sorry for her. Either way, I’m not buying it. She’s getting fed well, two walks per day, in/out house privileges, and a doggie biscuit every day. What more do they want from us? 🙂

Rusty’s the young buck who’s still trying to find his place in the pack. He’s full of energy all the time and loves to antagonize the other one by nipping at her leg or plopping himself down right on top of her head while she’s napping. Rusty has these chew toys he loves to get all slobbery and then come drop right in your lap while you’re trying to work.

It’s great. I’m gonna get attached, I just know it.

I’ve been working on a new tune called “Something More,” and I think I’m keeping the neighbors up with my incessant “take1, take 2” repetition — trying to work out the syncopated jazz guitar part in my head while singing a melody that’s got a different rhythm all its own. If I can make this work, it’s gonna be a fantastic tune.

Otherwise, I’m just gonna have pissed off neighbors.

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DAY 45 – finally, i found one for me…

Posted: Aug 20, 2006

DAY 45, and we’re finally mixing down our first tune since beginning this project more than 6 weeks ago. “One For Me” is the first to take the leap, and if I could be so bold, I think it sounds fantastic. After hearing a rough demo mix for so long now, it’s awfully gratifying to hear mixed drums that nicely fill their own little space (and no one else’s) in the mix. A little reverb, some gates, and EQ make all the difference.

It’s kind of like eating ground chuck for a month solid and finally tasting a seasoned, dry-aged filet — it’s still beef, but boy is this one more tender (and way more satisfying to eat). Apoligies to all my vegetarian friends out there, but I just don’t know how to contrast it for you. Maybe it’s akin to an organic orange, ripe off the vine as opposed to the pre-picked, store-bought variety that got gassed on the truck on the way to the market. You know what I’m talking about…

Now comes the tricky part — trying to listen to your own song with an objective ear and make the crucial tweaks to tighten up the mix and get it ready for the world. From everything I’ve learned, it’s part art and part science, and somewhere in-between lies talent and experience. Pick one and pray the other shows up, and you’ll have it.

[audio:20060820_OneForMe.mp3]

After the studio, Tim and I cruised over to Hollywood to catch Amy’s third show in four outings at the Hotel Cafe. That girl is talented, man. Every time I hear her play I subconsciously make that John Mayer blues face (you know the one where your face scrunches up and contorts and turns slightly to the left as if to “feel” the music a little better — as if we were playing charades and my phrase to act out was, “Damn, that’s good!”)

Even Tim, the seasoned, working musician who’s just about seen it all in his tenure, commented about how impressed he was at the depth of her musicality.

And she’s just getting started — albeit a few steps ahead of me…

Cut to the coolest part of the day, where I got to chat it up in-between sets with her producers, Peter Barker and Mandi Martin. (You remember Mandi from a couple of weeks ago in Santa Barbara, right?) Anyway, Mandi introduced me to Peter as “her new love,” and without hesitation I blurted out, “Yeah, she’s my sugar mama!”

Less than impressed, Peter gave me a strange “who are you again?” look, and I began to chew on the foot in my mouth for the next hour…

Nice one, Nick. Nice.

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DAY 41 – one, two, tres, quattro…

Posted: Aug 16, 2006

Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and the door will be opened. Another way to say that is, “cook it, and they will come.”

That being said, I just may have a new band.

After getting pretty attached to the idea of hiring a backing band rather than building one from scratch, I’ve been talking to a group of local players that might be a good fit. I’ve heard good things about these guys, and have wanted to practice with them for a long time. Last week, we scheduled tonight to get together. Trying to impress, I decided to feed them first, and ended up pulling out all the stops. I called my good friend Kyle Williams the chef and begged him for his best Cajun-inspired pork tenderloin recipe with plum sauce. We fired up the grill, mashed up some potatoes, BBQ’d the asparagus, and feasted like kings.

Too bad only the drummer showed up.

Well, it’s a start anyway. To be fair, the guitarist was out of town and the bass player was working late. No worries though, because I wanted to talk about the groove anyway. So without further ado, let me introduce you all to Tres. Yep, that’s really his name. Spanish people call him “Three.”

Tres is a great drummer out of Austin, TX — not too far from my old digs. He roots for the Longhorns, plays funk, and loves the blues Texas-style. I think I’m gonna like this cat.

Our paths crossed last summer for the first time at a volunteer camp we did for kids with cancer. Boy, a week in the wilderness, and you really get to know somebody. It’s just that we had no instruments then and a hundred kids to look after. But I digress…

Tres came over with a djembe drum, and I busted out the guitars and shaker. After the feast, I played through my arsenal of songs, and Tres followed right behind, listening intently for every break and section change without ever blatently showing off just to prove he could play. (I’ve had a few drummers like that in my day.) He just laid down a nice beat to tap your toes to, which really added a needed element to the mix. All this, and he’d never heard my tunes before. He just has an innate sense of where the songs needed to go.

Looks like a green light.  We had a good time just jammin’ out.  Now we just gotta add the rest of the guys into the mix.  (And I gotta get my charts together.)

Perfecto. Now we’re cookin.

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DAY 37 – she’s way out of my league…

Posted: Aug 12, 2006

I spent most of today in a dandy little recording studio in Lompoc, CA called “Certain Sparks.” They charge the most ridiculous prices I’ve ever seen for recording fees…

…$10/hour. I know, crazy right??

Now I’m no dummy, and even if the quality was poor (and it’s actually quite good), you can’t beat the price. So we tracked acoustic guitar and vocals for “Out of my League” and then I headed back home to L.A., hoping to be back in time for Amy’s show.
With about a half hour to spare, I segregated myself from the I-405-induced road rage and angst that can only be achieved by driving 20 miles in first gear over the span of 2 hours.

I checked in with the MySpace crew, then quickly headed out for an iced mocha and an hour of good music at the Welcome Cafe.

(SIDE NOTE: I’m playing there Oct 7.)

Amy delivered a great performance again tonight, and I think she caught me singing along a couple of times. Already.

Got to chat with Mandi Martin again (turns out Mandi manages Amy), and talk more about the music thing. I’ve got to send her some of my tunes for critique and perhaps production work, if she digs the sound.

I’m so happy to have finally started recording “Out of My League.” It’s been a long time coming, and you guys are gonna go crazy for the finished product. One day.

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DAY 36 – the $7 that changed everything…

Posted: Aug 11, 2006

DAY 36 – After my show last night I headed down to Santa Barbara (home of the mighty UCSB Gauchos) to scout out some new venues to play at. This town makes things pretty easy, because everything is one one jam-packed user-friendly street: STATE ST.

After a late dinner with my buddy Alan, we took a walk around all the big live music venues, and stopped into the ones that looked appealing. Inside of an hour, I had 3 venues selected, with business cards of each of the owners/booking agents.

The first was a little coffee shop that seemed very mellow but upscale called Northstar Coffee Company. Second was a more rock venue that’s pretty famous for its high energy acts called Velvet Jones. Finally, we happened into a little acoustic lounge called “Rocks” where I instantly felt at home. They were hosting a showcase of several artists from L.A. and offered to let us in — just as soon as we paid the $7 cover.

(Hey, I’m nobody special yet. But I bet Beyoncé would have gotten in free.)

We were just scouting locations for a fall mini-tour, and after chatting with Justin (the Rocks promoter) were ready to leave. But something told me to stop in and check out what the little girl singing on stage with the big guitar was up to. She turned out to be a very talented up-and-comer named Amy Kuney.

Ignoring the obnoxious drunk birthday girls in the back booth, we stood and listened for the remainder of her set, pleasantly surprised at what we heard. She had a sensibility and a sophistication that I don’t see very often among young songwriters. Her last tune, “Breaking Bad Habits” stuck with me for the rest of the night. (I still can’t get that hook out of my head.)

Ironically enough, she’s playing tomorrow night in Redondo Beach like 3 miles from my house. I’ll be sure to check her out. Hope 2 nights in a row isn’t too weird. (How soon is too soon to be a groupie?)

Next up was a John Mayer-esque guitar-slinging surfer by the name of Tim Fagan. Very skilled player and I enjoyed his set very much. BTW, if you ever see Tim live, ask him to play “Blame it on the Rain,” by Milli Vinilli. Superb.

Needless to say, I was amazed by both artists. They had me nodding right along as if I had been a fan for years.

All in all, I made some great new contacts, including a veteran music producer (and world record pinball champ) Mandi Martin.  She seems very friendly and down-to-earth.  Someone I’d love to work with one day.

Who knows, maybe the $7 cover charge will be the golden ticket that changes everything…

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DAY 35 – humble beginnings…

Posted: Aug 10, 2006

Played my first 2-hour set since 2003 tonight to a wonderful crowd of 10 people in Lompoc, CA.

Sugar Magnolia’s Café is an eclectic little antique shop/internet cafe/local coffee hangout that does their very best to host live music in this town. I happened to be in Lompoc a few weeks ago and checked out the Friday night open mic they host. After my set I chatted with Susan the owner and she agreed to stay open late on a Thursday to let me play a full set.

 

“No pay, but we’ll feed ya,” she said. “You can put out a tip jar though.” So I did of course. But this show wasn’t about making money.

Right now I’m all about the experience. Even if only 1 person showed up, it would’ve been a good chance to practice the material — especially some of the new songs.


(Notice the color scheme they have going.
You’d think I planned it this way or something.)

 

All in all, it was a fun little show. Doesn’t get much more intimate. Everyone had a good time and I got 10 really nice complements afterwards on the music.

Maybe the elaborate P.A. and jumbo speaker system was too much though. I’m sure my 10 new friends could’ve heard me just fine. 

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