In this episode, Aaron sits down with composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Barsom of The Weed Garden to discuss his project’s latest release, Boy Interrupted.

Paul’s career as a composer and teacher of musical composition spans over 30 years and has influenced numbers of composition students and musical educators, including Fret Buzz The Podcast alumnus Tony Scaltz.

As a result, Tony makes a guest return to the show to join Aaron and Paul on the mic and discuss the genesis and recording of Boy Interrupted and the various styles and musical idioms the album invokes. In addition, the guys explore how composers approach creativity, musical invention, various career paths, adaptation to digital audio environments, and so much more.

Be on the lookout for Tony’s new line of skin care products, Prodigal Sun, which hits beaches across the country next summer.

Find more about Paul here:

Welcome back to another episode of Fret Buzz The Podcast. Hi, my name is Aaron
Sefchick and each week we focus on how we musicians and professionals approach our
craft, giving insight to help us all become more informed and better
musicians. This week, we change things up just a little bit… It’s a blast from the
past. Mr. Tony Scaltz is joining us to talk with Paul Barsom about his new
project The Weed Garden and his new album Boy Interrupted. I’m gonna let Tony
do all the introductions, so let’s jump right in on Fret Buzz The Podcast.
Fret Buzzers! Good morning! How is everybody? So today on the show, I want to introduce
one of our guest hosts Paul Barsom. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, very
good friend of ours and personally I would have to say, someone I
have a lot of history with in terms of teaching and this man had taught me a
lot about not just how to sort of live in a creative way but how to assess
things and always look for sort of the critical aspects of what I was trying to
do and just maybe all around, just a better musician and just have a tremendous
amount of respect for him so when he asked to come on the podcast I jumped at
the chance whenever Aaron had put this together so Paul Barsoms new
project The Weed Garden right it just came out the new album a boy interrupted
recent this week so welcome Paul to the show and yeah anxious to hear sort of
the genesis of this project and lots of other things out there yeah yeah well
thank you Tony I really appreciate the chance to to do this yeah I didn’t know
where to where to start with all this I mean we go back quite a ways um you know
mm yeah mm mm one I think was when I first started shut up your studio with a
guitar like I just we got it right well I appreciate the nice words um
yeah I don’t know I mean I guess I’m I’m ready to go here I got I got my got my
favorite coffee mug yeah I should share this actually this is this is this used
to be this is a beloved mug here you used to do this thing where you know you
it has all these like kids swimming in the ocean and you’d put it in the
microwave or whatever and heat it up and the heat would actually revealed it well
I’ll show you what it’ll reveal it’s old enough now where you can kind of see it
but if you look really carefully you can see that there’s like giant sharks yeah
that’s awesome anyway that’s my my my totem here I’m
good with you a shameless coffee plug no boy only the bones coffee have you guys
tried bones Aaron you’re not a coffee no I don’t write off okay so that yeah we
won’t have to longer all if you’re into it bones coffee or me stuff yeah it’s
like 45 bucks a bag or something like that for a pound of coffee but it’s like
really brilliant stuff yeah okay yeah just right yeah after like I actually
have a tumblr when I go into classes make students you’re like how do you
drink that tumblr so much anyway yeah so
I guess we should start with maybe like you know because what Aaron I had
listened to it the album has now come out what’s that October first was the
release okay really yeah if I just want to get maybe get into the beginnings of
its Genesis maybe you like some of things that you felt compelled to do
with this recording this project yeah and maybe a little bit of history of I
know you’ve put out some previous stuff so what number album is this and what
yeah exactly like what differs yeah this album versus the ones that you maybe
have done in the past well okay so that’s something I ought to probably
come right out with it’s like I’ve been I’ve been living in the Academy for the
last 30 years so all of this stuff has been on the back burner for like
since in a way since before I met Tony I mean I when I was 19 I was playing in a
band full time ago in a school full time and you know it was about 1980
so 1980 is the year that Pablo Escobar made I think twenty four billion dollars
selling cocaine right so you know the band thing was where all of the that’s
where all the fun was you know that’s where the rush was and I was having a
great time and we were playing a lot we were playing every week and we were
playing along Gulf Coast area in and farther north and you know having a
blast and writing some music starting to get into doing some originals and stuff
but I was also going to school full-time so we’d be playing three to seven nights
a week we had a gig at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi though if
you’ve ever been there there’s nothing around there there’s just you know the
Gulf which at that point isn’t the white sand beaches or anything and then you go
inland and it’s pretty much just bayous right so there were something like
10,000 enlisted personnel on his base and we had this gig that was out there
and their club the enlisted men’s club was it was a converted c-130 hercules
hanger which i don’t know if you know what that is a giant cargo plane so that
was a huge hangar that was a club so but nothing else to do there’d be 3,000
people in this place every night yeah and back in those days down there you
got booked for them for the week like you didn’t just play come in and play
the night and then the next band the next night you were like that house band
for the week so we just either drive over there from mobile where we were
based or we just sleep on the bus behind the club you know but meanwhile I’m
going to school full-time so I’m kind of burning the candle in the middle and I
realized after a while that that’s not you know you know that’s just not
sustainable so I would go to school and see my professors because there was a
music major at the time and I’d see them you know looking like they’d had a
decent night’s sleep and we’re in danger of getting their utilities cut off or
any of that kind of stuff and then I go and play it’s good but don’t every break
there’d be somebody you know something friend trying to stick something under
my nose you know so I just thought okay if I wanna if I want to figure out how
to make this work you know and you know maybe I don’t know have some sort of a
stable life meet somebody settle down have kids live to be 30 you know because
it was just you know there was crazy stuff going all around so I just sort of
made the call when I was 19 it’s like I’m gonna pursue a more stable music
career and kind of put all this stuff you know on the side burner back burner
and over the years that you know Clayton a lot of bands actually played in a Tony
and I had a band for about a year about a year yeah you know that I mean it was
a blast but it was all stuff that I was kind of doing just to kind of keep a
hand in just to remember like do I remember how to play in a band you know
any of that kind of stuff so so really this is so what this all comes down to
is this is the first album you know all the rest of my music output that’s
published is concert music because that’s been my career for the last
thirty years is you know teaching and and you know composing for you know
Orchestra and chamber ensembles and stuff like that so so that’s that’s been
the bulk of my output so I’ve got this backlog of all of this music that has to
be you know arranged and produced and recorded and put out there so that’s
kind of this is the first step in that process well interesting so some of the
stuff does go back decades no not really actually what happened with the creative
side of it is but I mean this is when I decided to lead mobile and go to music
school seriously and really kind of down that road you know spend the rest of my
life you can practice and double berries and stuff like that you know that was my
instrument and so you know I mean I just needed back in that basket so I stopped
writing songs for probably 15 I just didn’t even think about it because I
just knew that if I started diving back into that you’d be like this big magnet
that would suck me there and you know I had a family too
we needed to you know they do the whole academic track and tenure and all that
kind of stuff just felt like that was what I needed to do so so it wasn’t
until about the mid 2000s that I started to get back in songwriting and of course
by that time you know recording technology had completely changed so I
had to retool all of the work that I had done in recording was you know from pre
digital days so I had to relearn all that stuff because one of the things I
wanted to do was I wanted to create a curriculum where I was teaching that was
included songwriting and you know analyzing that stuff to whatever degree
and you know recording and production and stuff so I came up with new classes
and you know started moving things in that way and then we got a recording
studio which really I moved out along
but you know I had to relearn how to do all this stuff so it wasn’t really you
know most all the songs on this album really come from probably post 2008 or
10 you know and some of them are new I mean the plan was done I think I wrote
it last fall and recorded it in May or something in this tiny I’m in a closet
here I don’t know if you can really tell it’s like a few feet over here it’s a
bunch of guitars and there’s some amps over here and it’s about five and a half
feet deep I mean I’m like right yeah and so it’s a really challenging place to
record you know maybe we could talk about that at some point oh yeah very
much so yeah it’s it’s kind of a new venture you know and it’s just been
sitting around for a long time I think I probably have about 50 songs that are
just they’re not I mean not even counting anything I’m gonna write in the
next you know year right so I work to do one of the things that I found
fascinating and you should all listen to it people who are listening because I
think it’s a really good record when man Paul sort of gave me the sort of the
preview of the album and I started to write the review for it there are a lot
of things that I kind of noticed around the gate and one of those I think which
kind of connects to something we’re talking about right now is is this idea
that I know how you feel about this Paul but I
don’t know that if you could achieved if you could have achieved the same effect
with this record had you not had what 30 years of compositional experience and
Western art music under your belt and I’m not sure if you say it’s that’s
unfair assessment or not but for me as a listener I kind of hear like all all
these vestiges of just compositional technique behind these tracks that are
supposed to be in some ways pop but at the same time not pop you know I mean
it’s it’s not a traditional sounding rock record I think it’s sort of an
amalgamation of so many different styles and techniques I think it’s what makes
it really compelling mmm well thanks I mean I guess I was kind of hoping that
because I know I’m coming at this from a really bizarre path this is not the
usual thing at all so yeah I mean you know when I listen to it I hear that
stuff too and some of it surprises me because none of its intentional and this
is very intuitively created kind of music for me so so when I listen to it
or when somebody points out oh you know this kind of reminds me of this song or
or somebody else you know oh I think oh I hadn’t thought of that but yeah
absolutely makes sense and I think part of it has to do with that I mean
actually one of the things I think it’d be kind of cool talking about it’s like
listening you know what do people how does people’s listening reflect or even
you know produce the kind of creative decisions that they make so my listening
is kind of weird it’s like a mile wide and an inch deep in everything except
for rock and the classical tradition because that’s what all my training is
in I’ve kind of heard a little bit of everything you know so you know North
African guitar bands from Mali or whatever it’s like yeah I’ve heard that
I don’t know I can’t tell you that much about it except for maybe would have
observed but I think there’s just all that stuff shows up and people notice it
now what I’m wondering is does that make a sort of interesting eclectic synthesis
of something or is it just kind of a mess you know
you know I I don’t think it’s a mess obviously but but I guess what I’m
curious about is what is it you know because like Tony said I mean I listen
to this and if you listen to the bass lines on this album I mean everything’s
melodic like the whole thing the vocals in the bass are like this too voice
texture and all the stuff that I do and I don’t think of it that way it just
comes out that way and I think it has to do with I mean I’m really a bass player
you know so and my influences are players that were pretty melodic people
like you know Squire and McCartney and Berlin and people like that those are
the people that I listened to growing up so yeah so they I can’t sort of just
play eighth notes straight I mean I would love to be in ac/dc but I can’t
okay oh right right yeah yeah I guess I think it gets to the heart of it
something that Aaron you and I have talked about even in the past on the
show about sort of how we assimilate style and are we conscious of that you
know sort of that bringing in of different styles does it inform our
playing or or in some ways do we just kind of make conscious decisions to
sound like a certain band and we’re writing I know I know and I sit down and
I actually write some things for the guitar in the back of my mind I’m like
okay I want I want sort of this effect to happen like I want to sound like
Satriani or honestly like this kind of thing and then I have to shut that off
and say you know what it’s not the way to go ahead and compose I should just
sort of just like hear in my head sort of the passage are trying to emulate but
for whatever reason no matter how complex or how stylistic or something I
try to create comes out there’s always this little kind of I don’t know flavor
of an influence and I can’t get rid of it you know I mean I don’t you guys feel
the same way don’t I mean that’s you know that’s what
I mean that’s what I mean who was it like Ravel or somebody you know was
somebody asked him about you know developing your voice as a composer and
you just said you know just imitate what you know and once you get attuned enough
with your own tendencies and everything it’ll be your voice you know but it’ll
also be based on something that already works so you know that’s not bad advice
I don’t think but I there are ways to get
I mean there are a lot of you know sort of very not self-conscious composition I
mean this is one of the things is that it’s a little it’s almost too much of a
benefit is that since I’ve been teaching composition for 30 years you know I have
all these tools to not get stuck because I like dealing with students all the
time they come in I just like I don’t know what to do with this so I gotta
give them all these things my problem is that I have too many of them because I
can sit around and just come up with stuff all day and then now you have to
make decisions about 14 different things and you know it just makes the whole
drags the whole process that takes a lot of energy so you know you got to kind of
balance that but what one of the things I do is I just force the situation so
that almost all of my decisions are totally intuitive like everything you’re
on this album that it sounds like it’s all worked out like there’s counterpoint
all over it it’s just I can’t help it you know it’s just like in it and it
sort of behaves kind of like counterpoint does but I don’t think
about that I make everything I’ve everything like all these guitar parts
and the bass parts and the voice parts and the drum parts and everything else I
kind of usually start out by just singing them yeah yeah I had a really
good teacher who just passed away a couple of weeks ago actually um caught
John Chris Chris Rado Chris Ross yeah and yeah he was like the first one to
say oh just get your hands off the instrument cuz you’re just gonna do
motor memory yep there I just vocalize it it’s the closest
connection to your brain anyway so just see if you can sing it and if you can
sing it you can kind of capture at least the essence of what you’re trying to do
this is something for our listeners this is for me one of the most important
techniques that I’ve learned from Paul I remember when I was a student and I was
a really yeah yeah yeah I recognize this argument I was a bad student later
decades decades later that was like oh this dude he was trying to tell me okay
I kind of get this but at the time I don’t know you’re right you know many
times where you come back from one of Paul’s it’s like you tell me this stuff
I’m like I don’t remember very much at time you were still trying to find your
way out of that box and kind of what you were just talking about how you were
struggling with with you know finding your own identity and I remember there
was a really simple I don’t remember the name of the song but there was a simple
tune that Paul had you write and it was pretty much against everything that you
were doing at the time and kind of it was it was forcing you to go in a
direction that you weren’t really used to going it was kind of kind of
entertaining to watch the whole thing happen
oh you mean oh yeah I remember actually remember that piece that was a that was
and it serve an extrapolation on a joke Pat you were that Paula the Jill past
progression that oh yeah yeah or something like that or whatever and but
lately remembered I remember that what you’re talking about they can’t remember
oh yeah and the way you kind of had me do the progressions I was like oh I
don’t I don’t hear it that way but it’s true it’s like I there are new exposures
I think to new idioms that we have to listen to and well okay so be that as it
may I think the point of trying to go with this is that one of the most
important things I learned which I when I figured this out for me as a writer it
made things just lot more sense is to always Oddie eight things first and and
that was really liberating because I mean I I would make guitar players we’re
just guilty of this we picked the guitar up we are so mechanically driven to what
we feel in the hands and shaping and formations feel good that we serve that
that informs our compositional techniques more than anything I think
for listeners out there especially guitar players you know if you want to
become better writers that’s sort of what I take away from all this is that
you know it is okay to sort of put the instrument aside and hear passages
before you put them to paper I mean I even when in the realm of guitar guitar
writing even the values to talk about this in guitar tech thanks a lot you’d
say try to hear the next note before you play it you know try it here the next on
the piano is that right you’re already barking up the wrong tree yeah yeah even
up your your decision maybe right I think of it as force
happy accidents you know so like for instance okay for a guitar like here’s
here’s a trick I advise everybody to try go to a guitar in your studio that has
fairly light gauge strings on it so that won’t cause any real problems and just
randomly crank the tuning pegs a couple of times and don’t pay any attention to
what you’re doing okay now tune them all to the closest pitch
that they have to arrive at clay standard chords on them see what comes
out like a lot of it’s going to be trained right but every once in a while
you find a tuning you just go oh there’s magic in these sounds I have all the
right resonant open strings when I play a C chord on the seventh fret or
whatever I get this and mate I don’t even know what it is
you know and you let that kind of stuff happen burden cage is written that way I
just took a guitar and just like on three pegs or something and it came out
to be pretty close to a a seven chord or something like the open tuning you know
pulling on DS and C’s and with that can I ask you a question let me let me in
your opinion because I know Aaron I’ve had this discussion many times in the
past do you think guitar players get locked into the theoretical thing too
much where we where we sort of we judge and analyze to a degree where the the I
don’t there’s a magic quality to composition but like sort of the you
know I mean the stuff that breeds and and really sounds good organically just
gets kind of washed out by judging it and saying well should this progression
work this way I’m not really resolving my seven chord this way because credit
our players we just we are good at that thinking formulas and it’s a good last
resort I think you know it’s the kind of thing where it’s like if if the if if
you don’t really just know spontaneously what the solution is so like by telling
you to hear the next note then there are intellectual doors you know that you can
use but they’re they’re kind of you know they’re kind of a last resort or for
specific purposes I guess so you know that anything you can do to break that
is good so you know like instance one of the best things I can
refer people to is Brian Eno’s oblique strategies do you guys know that’s a no
so in 1977 Brian you know published this deck of cards called oblique strategies
he and the designer named Peter Schmidt mate and they’re really cool you know if
you get an original deck it’s like three hundred bucks and you can buy a new one
or there’s an app and basically the whole idea was in Oh was in the studio
they’re paying all his money every day just to be there and he’s got to make
all these production decisions because that was you know he’s producing you
know talking heads and starting to work with you too and making these really
iconic recordings and so he just said well I need a shortcut to ideas in it he
realized I don’t know where actually I should look this up I don’t know where
he got the other day but that just a little phrase of the right kind whether
it has anything to do with music or not it’s going to make you think of a
solution so you know so it’s called oblique strategies because I think it up
now actually because instead of taking a direct path to the problem you go the
long way around the barn and just sort of arrive at wherever you arrive but the
beauty of this is that the phrase is involved don’t necessarily have anything
to do with music but they will make you think of something related to what
you’re working on so let me just open it up the car that came up here on my app
isn’t you can only make one dot at a time that could mean any fear if you put
it in the context of a problem that you’re trying to solve it’s gonna mean
something and the point is it may not be the solution but you weren’t thinking of
anything a minute ago like you were just a blank like I don’t
know what to do you know so at least now you’ve got a prompt you think of a
solution and then you just go well okay it’s just actually a valid viable
solution of the problem or not and you go on that’s why you know you can never
get stuck I mean other solutions are things like just write it down as a
problem just write it as a question on a piece of paper or on a word processor or
something and just start making up answers just bullshit answers don’t even
think about like is it a viable solution because the creative
side of it and the evaluative decision-making side are two totally
different things there’s a great podcast by John Cleese he’s not podcast it’s a
it’s a video that you can find on YouTube call about yeah yeah yeah yeah
and he just got it’s beautiful because he just breaks the whole thing down into
open mode which is where you’re just curious and making stuff up and you
don’t care what comes up in closed mode which is okay now we got to decide we
have to we have to count this guitar solo that I just improvised right mm-hmm
like now I have to go decide like which first phrase is really getting what I
want you know and that kind of stuff you know so it’s just two totally different
parts of the process but the reason people get stuck is because they tried
to do the second thing simultaneously with the first thing so it’s almost
better just to not even know what your solutions gonna be until it happens so
another technique is like this is something exercise they used to make
composer to all the time I don’t know if I ever had you do this but um where you
write a melody right or something a chord progression whatever it is you’re
right then you write something that goes with it you know so maybe an a counter
melody or you know something to go over a chords letter then what you do is you
mute because I’m having people do this in a dog
you have people me the second thing they came up with and now they are sorry if
the first thing that came up with now make up something to go with the second
thing so another make the third thing that goes with that and at the end of
the day you get rid of the second thing put the first and third things together
and see what happens you know there’s gonna be train wrecks and weird like
noon I have to fix that but there are gonna be these moments where you just go
oh my god that’s magic and I never would have thought of it I never would have
just put my hand there you know I never would have thought that no goes with
this one yeah you know so often times I’ll take like a guitar solo and because
you know it’s on a grid and in a doll I’ll just shift it you know a BL or to a
head and then all a sudden the accents hittin in a different spot you’re like
whoa that’s I never would have done but that’s amazing that sounds great
that’s kind of what it’s sort of what part of genius is is knowing hmm this
orientation might be cool do it and then all of a sudden it’s like wow and that’s
one of the things that the dog gives you is that low investment testing platform
where you can just go what happens if I take this line and and and have it
imitate itself at one measure yeah yeah you can always that leap next thing you
know it’s like you’re ready you know music that sounds like some crazy person
made it and it’s awesome but all you did was just you know dragging stuff around
on the screen you know enough one of the reasons why I say that I was a really
bad student in my Paul was because I I wasn’t ready for the sort of the
creative freedom and flexibility I think many many writers use and it wasn’t
until after I kind of got on my own and and and ironically had to sort of teach
writing in a larger context beyond music into literature and different things
then I got to guys like I’m not sure if you guys were familiar with Edward de
Bono for listeners out there if you want a really good book on creative like like
lateral thinking and thinking about you know the phrase outside the box is
really cliched today with thinking in a way that is we’re talking about today so
we’re using different modes of thinking he wrote a book called serious
creativity which is its kind of things like this like you take like take a
chair identify the elements of the chair what else do I take two legs away what
what was it share become how can I apply that to a problem and these and this
sort of approaches like more model for for business models and innovation in
business but I think creatively speaking there’s a lot to be said by
experimentation just like the one if I do this thing but if I just take away
with it you know I mean yeah because the best way to break a bad habit is to
destroy it so if you just make whatever that is off limits now you’ve got to
find another solution so normal legs might have or chairs might have four
legs right now you have a problem you’re not going to solve by the conventional
thinking and so you know that’s that’s a really
and that bakes the question as and why do at university we teach tradition so
much is it just a matter of to kind of let you you got time for another podcast
I was going to say this is going it right yeah yeah well there’s lots of
reasons for that you know and I mean it’s you know and even on my website I
say some stuff about how what tough sledding doing the kind of music that
son boy interrupted met with in academia you know because I mean these are
classical musicians they didn’t get there by you know they got there by
being laser focused on being really good at that one thing and these people as
performers I mean you just can’t little Tony it has a sense mean a lot of people
do but I mean these people can just play they are players they’re amazing but
they didn’t get that by being broad and interested in a whole bunch of different
you know music and stuff and they may know a lot about art but when it comes
to playing the cello they kind of know everything about that and that’s really
the requirement for the job so it’s not surprising that they’re not open to a
lot of other stuff close there’s also this classical music bias thing it’s a
pretty classist you know part of musical culture it just always has been and I
mean the church and the aristocracy this is where this all stuff was done white
men kind of doing their thing and yeah and when it didn’t when it got out from
under the thumb of that kind of stuff with people like Beethoven who was doing
things like having public concerts in the early 1800s it’s kind of you know
that was unheard of you know much prior to that so even with
that he would still be holding to the same basic patronage that everybody else
was so you know so there’s this kind of hard and fast classist kind of thing to
it so lowbrow music like you know rock and roll you know is you know some
people love it some people hate it but I mean there are people the more
traditional instruments tend to have practitioners that are less open to that
stuff than others and that’s fine because you know cool music like that
they’re their basic job is to preserve the tradition and teach people how to do
it and in the case of where I taught which was big music ed
program with two trained good high school band directors and choir
directors and stuff like that so you know really for creativity is just not
really on it’s not some work on the to-do list so that was the goal would
you say that would be sort of like the that was the focus of the academic side
of things was to kind of get your students come through I mean not that
that was your personal pedagogy but sort of in terms of the institution the
expectation has produced people who would out and be band directors and
music educators for me right the other 50 colleagues on my faculty that was
really the parcel of the goal their training music educators okay my
composition students were composition majors they weren’t music ed majors they
wanted to just do creative work and write you know which is great but you
know that’s not an easy environment to do that and you know because you’re it’s
just a climate that’s pretty conservative and you know for perfectly
understandable reasons it’s fine but they I mean some people I just ran
into some bad luck with you know cuz when you’re in academia and you get
reviewed things kind of depends sometimes who’s on the committee well I
happen to get you know post-tenure review committee one year that had
people on it that just hated the fact that I was writing you know rock music
instead oh yeah and you know I mean I even got it this is I got to cut this
out in frame it somewhere I got a letter from my Dean I hope I can say this you
know they had actually well performing original music in bars is an
inappropriate activity for a tenured professor of composition
I love no way are you serious the whole thing it’s like okay I know where you’re
coming from you know I’m sympathetic to it but wow
that’s kind of all I need to know about you know what status of this stuff is
here so yeah that was part of the Congress took me this long to just say
okay I’m just gonna start putting the stuff out now cuz I just you know I
didn’t the thing is State College is a great place in lots of ways but it’s
kind of remote it’s not very big and it’s
really conservative yeah Vania kind of place oh yeah um you know there wasn’t
like a new music scene there you know there was small stuff there were the
house parties and the you know the the venues that every Thursday would have
you know some singer songwriters or whatever I mean there’s a lot of that
kind of stuff but there wasn’t like a scene so I tried to put some bands
together to do this stuff while I was while I was working there and you know
they were the the upside was they were really good bands cuz I was working with
music majors and people who like you just write the parts out and give it to
them and their music musical enough to where you can be really efficient and
make a really good sound really fast and they’re wonderful kids and some of them
were my students but at the end of the day they’re different music students
they’ve got other priorities and they’re not gonna be able to just drop
everything and you know go out for two weeks playing this stuff out right go so
it was good practice for you know finding out the limits of what I can do
with this because the thing is these songs are kind of compliments are kind
of complicated so to do them live is kind of a challenge I do some of them
solo but not the real elaborate ones interestingly when we had Big Bang which
I remember was in some ways tied to if not mistaken here on sabbatical at that
point right when we were doing Big Bang Theory yeah I’m yeah and to remember
it’s when you call me that one day said hey I’m putting this group together I
think you were saying well my question is like what was the reaction because I
think cuz I always assumed that was that was your sabbatical project was that
project no it was not no it was actually I think Big Bang was
a couple of years after that I took a sabbatical and wrote like 35 songs and I
was like wow okay I didn’t know I could do that that I should be doing work so
you know yeah that was so couple a couple years later that was that was at
a point where you know I just I needed to be in a band you know and with people
who could I mean I mean I was a bass player in his band know I get tourists
and I also wanted to say like I’m I just want to be clear like I I don’t consider
myself a guitar player like at all I mean I don’t know you know
I mean I’ve always every project I’ve worked with it is as a basis a mana
start playing you know professional gigs when I was 13 as a bass player and just
did that so you know the idea of being a guitarist and performing as a guitarist
it’s still something I’m trying to get my my head around especially when I
played with guys like you know Tony who I mean look the guy can play the organ
solo from highway star with a pic used to I think about that those do one of
yours yeah so you know compared to the players and also the other people you’d
have on this podcast them and I looked at some of the older episodes and I’m
just like yeah these people are players you know a lot
of these people are people who have you know just sort of walked that path of
being the player I mean my favorite one and of course I think was Brian Quinn I
mean partly because I know him a little bit and you know I just he’s the kind of
guy that I wanted to be when I was 19 like that’s I sort of saw myself as this
really kind of dug in working musician and who’s you know connected to you know
projects that really believes in but it’s capable of doing you know piece
work like you know like do you need to lay down a track for somebody’s record
or something but at the time I didn’t know anything about the music business I
didn’t have any mentors and I didn’t I didn’t know what I was doing so you know
there was just no way to follow that and I’m not sure I had the temperament for
it either that’s the other thing is I look at guys like Brian I’m just like
wow how do you do that I look to what he does
day you know just kind of walk in that thing and he’s got balls of steel that
kid yeah yeah well okay there you go that pretty much what he does I mean he
does to have that level of commitment I’m you know I okay I don’t know if this
comes down to like on my end a lazy factor of things but I I could
see if you put me and Brian in the same room and I grew up with Brian I mean we
went to high school together he’d be the kind of kid if you said to him we’re
gonna go down to Georgia for three weeks and you have to look live on you
know in a car and rough it but you know this you’re gonna get to play in front
of you know thousands of people go ahead and do it he’d be like yeah I’m done I’m
going there I’m going right now we’re at me I’d be like I’d like wait am I gonna
be able to take like my sunscreen or I’m gonna take you know you know I feel like
I’m – I don’t call it civilize I know what the idea is but I’m not there I’m
not at that level it’s mindset it’s it’s a matter of you’re not a road dog like
he is you know it’s like it’s like tailor tailored Nordberg I was the same
way after 14 I just contacted him the other day he’s like yep gonna join
another a massacre and old eighties metal band and I’m I’m in I’m the new
member and I’m like you’re you’re in this for life and you’ve always been
that way yeah yeah he’s always been like that since he was 14 years old with us
that would be me if I know how to do it cuz I can do the road thing I mean I can
live on the bus and eat the crappy food and do all that kind of stuff I mean I
do it on the bicycle a lot you know so um I just didn’t know how to do it you
know and I didn’t have people one thing that I love that he said that’s also a
little bit different for for some people is that he said he made he put himself
in the presence of people that he admired and respected and had learned
from and he made himself a sponge that’s a kind of sort of solid humility that I
think a lot of creative people either don’t have or don’t want to exercise and
you know when I was when I was 19 I was just an angry young man that wanted to
you know you know do stuff and I didn’t know how you know so but you know you
got to have that kind of humility and you know I I’m not sure I have it or had
it but but yeah I always admire that and people that just go yeah just humbled
myself to the process and just like walked out yeah I know I know Aaron and
I a many years ago we had this conversation
Aaron you and I from it for many years about how we did that you know those are
our 20th of being in Benson and you know of course life is different for us now
with the kids and everything but at the same time it music doesn’t always have
to take the path of just being in a band there’s got to be
avenues and I know there’s a lot of listeners that kind of feel the same way
that you know is it possible to you know have a really strong career let’s say as
a creator of music and not necessarily be like the Road Dogg so I guess like
poverty sit down on this like could you be kind of the person that you know
literally could be based in a home can be based in a hometown a song on your
absurdity and and still and still make a lucrative living still kind of be pretty
solid with that yeah oh yeah but you have to be a songwriter that’s the only
way to do it I mean because then you own you know at least your share of you know
the creative rights royalty money and all that stuff to the song so if you’re
in Nashville I mean you know you can you can do that you know I mean and it but
it takes the same kind of you know determination and you know I was gonna
say don’t take no for an answer but the ability to take no for an answer like
3,000 times before something works that’s that’s the kind of grit that I
think a lot of people you know I mean that’s just hard yeah yeah I’m just
about like all of the guests that we’ve had on the podcast and whether it’s
Quist or Don Ross or any one of these guys who were actually making a living
doing music mm-hmm Don Ross he lives in Canada Nova Scotia and he travels over
to Germany and does you know stuff over there he’s always doing stuff in Canada
and he’s been doing it all his life but now he’s you know number one in the
world and finger picking but all of these guys well so I said Quist Quest is
out in LA and he’s making a living doing studio work and then there are people
who are going to hire him to go out on tour for them and then he’ll get done
with that tour and then he’ll come back to do more studio work and he does a
bunch of youth new pages and our YouTube channel and so there’s there’s
definitely a way to especially nowadays with with the
technology that’s available in the Internet as opposed to even 20 or 30
years ago you know there’s a lot more opportunity to put yourself out there
and make it living from it but you do have to put the time and the effort into
it it doesn’t come easily that’s for sure and you have to be pretty stable
you know emotionally you know which is a problem for a lot of creative types yes
you know it tend to be you know just a little a lot of fragile is really the
word or if they just yeah I don’t know where it is but yeah just maintaining
that consistency I mean that was another thing too that it didn’t take me long to
figure out I mean I mean California now but I spent you know the last 30 years
mostly in the Northeast and actually more than that which is not my native
territory at all I mean I grew up in the deep south I’m from Alabama hey y’all
I’ve never lent y’all oh you do that so you know they because they were once in
slave state they think of themselves as seven yeah but anyway and then I went to
school in Arizona and then I moved to Rochester New York which if anybody
knows Rochester New York is like it’s cloudy for seven straight months and the
six feet of snow yeah where it is yeah you know but I didn’t I didn’t know
anything about you know seasonal kind of stuff and it took me about five or ten
years to figure out like why am i a completely different person in March
than I am in July you know like why is that why is it like why did why is it
sec second week in november all of a sudden I’m kind of hating everybody and
don’t really care about all that stuff that I thought was so cool to be working
on a month ago you know I didn’t know you know and so after a while I realized
like oh this is a cycle that I’m gonna have to sort of figure out how to how to
manage you know cuz one of the things about academia and music is crunch time
is march/april it’s like being a tax accountant or something like that’s when
all titles are that’s when all the papers are you got a supervise people
are graduating there’s all this stuff going on and
that’s when I’m like I don’t care you know so to to get the work done was you
know just after that many years of doing it just got to be kind of a thing but
one of the side effects of that was I knew that getting involved in any kind
of really sustained project that required energy and enthusiasm for more
than about five or six months was just going to be really hard so that’s one of
the reasons I left the Northeast and one of the reasons that I retired you know I
mean I actually retired from the tenured professorship that you know aged 58
that’s kind of you know wasn’t easy to take but it just had to happen I mean I
couldn’t really spend too many more February’s and say oh there’s a reason
February is the shortest month by the way yeah cuz it just sucks balls it’s
just awful I know for a scientific answer I’m like I’m Way too here like
like on the calendars good how fast can we get this over with
yeah really good at least four weeks otherwise it’s just kind of it’s too
wimpy about a month you know do you think I mean I won’t ask you this
question for a while do you think that since retirement your creative side of
things that’s been as improved like do you think like now you’ve got rid of the
I don’t want to call it baggage but I know I experienced this too like I’m 15
years into a teaching position and when I said then I try to write stuff I just
I can’t divorce my mind from the joy of creating new things and having the great
papers you know I mean I’ll come in that I’m in that mode right now and I don’t
yeah yeah I think once you get written once you jettison that stuff I hope that
the creative side of things takes more of a front seat I’m just curious since
it are you in that place that’s a really good question um well I know what you’re
talking about with the sort of feeling like there’s something looking over your
shoulder well it’s an emotional drain really well yeah and you know with my
interaction with that thing I was talking about before you know kind of
trying to make this songwriting a production thing part of my professional
portfolio as part of my academic job and how that went you know it’s like that
sort of made it just that much harder to do it based on the kind of thing you’re
talking about um so I don’t know you know I think in a way it has but it’s
only been like six weeks since I officially you know retired so I don’t
know the other thing is you know there’s a lot going on right now we’re actually
moving at the end of the month from California to New Mexico where we have a
little house and so I got to build a studio down there nice yeah yeah it
should be yeah yeah I’m really looking forward to it very cool I’d be good so
I’ll know after that where I stand in terms of that stuff but meanwhile I’m
still working on stuff I mean I got I’m working on some the second album and
some singles and things like that so I seem to be able to get work done just
fine I mean it took get here after my last semester of teaching in
Pennsylvania to be able to get this album finally mixed and out the door you
know I was going to ask what kind of I mean I I like the record you know I said
I when I wrote the review on the record I was listening to it from different
angles and I have favorites on the album I’m curious as to like you know what has
been the the public reaction to this record and maybe how does it inform what
you’re gonna do next well so far it’s I’ve been kind of lucky
in the sense that everything I’ve heard has been positive and believe me after
all these years of sitting on the stuff going what’s gonna be the take on this
when I put it out the door you know that that’s really reassuring I mean you’re
you know review actually other people said some things kind of like you know
talking about the they were just the arrangements and just the sound of the
thing you know that there were things that they really like too you know so
that’s been good for some reason the song that people seem to like the most
and of course now we live in this world and maybe this would be an interesting
thing to talk about Internet we live in this world where your value as a
whatever is entirely dependent on how often you
can get people to click on you so you know based on that the opening track to
my surprise because it’s long and kind of meanders a little bit seems to be a
really popular one that one and the last one hmm that’s interesting yeah that’s
really interesting um but it spread out I mean I get a lot
of reaction to different songs and some people will just go wow I had a former
composition student in mind you know text me a day and just went anchors holy
awesome that’s like right in the center that’s like right in the middle of it
it’s yeah yeah it’s just after the midpoint and um you know and it’s sort
of a relief tune for me and in the scope of the album it’s one of those there
needs to be something kind of buoyant and light here you know before I lean
into this next heavy thing you know so um so yeah but for some reason people
steel of that first draft it’s yes feedback stuff if you know there’s this
really weird thing going on at right now which I think probably because we’re
becoming dinosaurs as how I feel that the the generation of music listeners
today they want something spoon-fed them quickly they Swan it click it quickly
they want to hear quickly and if they’re not interested then we want to the next
thing because it’s so readily available to them we might grown up it’s like we
invested our time into an album we listen to it you know yeah well you know
people still do that oh yeah but you know those are that’s a niche you know
the hardcore listener is kind of a niche you know the rest everybody’s you know
kind of I mean I have a another former student why that interns in a studio in
Philadelphia it’s one of the bigger you know houses there and you know mostly
what they do is they come in and they get talented young people and and have
them rap to pre-made beats and you know and put a product together you know and
so it’s like that’s got its place but that’s kind of in a way the McDonald’s
hamburger of the music cuisine world you know so there are always many people
that are gonna be into really thoughtfully
made food you know it’s just that that’s not they’re not gonna have billions sir
that’s all that’s interesting I was I can’t remember who it was famous person
well-liked I can’t remember who it was I want to say it’s like Pete Townsend but
it wasn’t like I don’t think it was him but it was basically this person saying
that the rap/hip-hop of today is like the rock and roll of
the 60s and how you know at that time back in the 60s it was this big push
against music at the time and all this you know what was happening and the same
thing that is kind of going on now with rap and hip-hop and whatnot like that
and obviously that was you know him rap and hip-hop was back in the 90s and in
the beginning of but was back in the 80s but now it’s really hit the mainstream
you go to the top you know 100 hot top 50 it’s all hip-hop and rap and that’s
that’s kind of the way things have turned it’s it’s kind of interesting how
you said dinosaurs and how we look at things and no longer is it rock and roll
anymore it’s now morphed into something different and quite possibly 30 years
from now 20 years now in a morphing again it’s it’s just really neat to see
this whole thing happen before our eyes and and albums you know they have gone
down and streaming has gone way way way up and in terms of the numbers and how
people consume their music now with streaming and the album an album
actually vinyl sales are actually increasing right they are increasing so
yeah and it’s kind of interesting that people are starting to get back in to
the music but it’s different now it’s it’s it’s definitely a different scene
it’s a different environment in terms of how people consume it and how people
actually listen to it and and why they’re listening to it it’d be an
amazing time right now to be a musicologist I really do I don’t know
why I just think it’s you know if you if you’re looking at music as a type of
like pseudo anthropology if you want to call it that how we sort of process our
culture I mean I think so many things are changing right now
it’s fascinating really fast well the one thing that stays the same through
all of this and even you know with classical music like I was talking about
is patronage like if you look at paying for it and how its curated because you
know sometimes the patron and the curator or the same you know like and
you to create this thing right so they’re there for I’m saying it will
exist and it will be shared or whatever now it’s you know streaming services
which of course sprung up in the absence of any kind of guidelines or regulation
so now we have this like really weird sort of self generated industry that has
all of these layers to it that’s completely different from the record
company model of in the 1970s you know so now again it’s that thing about how
many people will click on you so you can’t get plays really on Spotify for
instance unless your play listed right so you have to get onto these playlists
that people will click on and then just play all the tunes on the playlist
because it’s soft rock or it’s whatever it is so the trick is to get on all of
these playlists that seems to be the you know the main business model for getting
streams these days so now there’s this whole intermediary layer in the music
industry of people that will pitch your stuff to the playlist curators so you
can pay I’ll pay to play it’s like in the 50s Paola was criminal now it’s the
business model yeah you know and that’s just a reality that just crept up on us
and so we just have to kind of deal with it and I think you know smart commerce
regulations will help creative people and all of that but that’s that’s gonna
be a while coming I think so yeah be interesting to see like in I don’t know
a couple of decades for now where all this is you know I mean but I just it’s
funny like I remember we’re just growing up being 15 years old air near the same
we remember we have like the little tascam 4 track record with the cassettes
and we still like you know yeah he’s like make make little demos and stuff
and Reese’s remembers to say like we’re gonna shop this little demo and we’re
gonna have to go door-to-door and get feedback and how
it’s like you could literally just drop anything on YouTube it have a global
audience like that and that Nene ously it’s a met and that’s the mixed blessing
because the platforms allow you to make I mean one of the reasons look you know
I saw it quality aside one of the reasons that rap is such a popular
medium is it’s really easy to make yeah like because you buy a laptop and
it’s pretty much anything you buy it’s got several beats on it to make a rap
album like just go into the loop library and find what you want and if you’re
really good and tweaking it you can make something really really interesting you
know so just the access is great though because it allows creative people that
otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to make anything to make it you know I
really like that about it’s a problem obviously is that it what it does is in
addition to you know making great stuff it also kind of creates a lot of
landfill right now now the people who really have something to say have to
kind of rise through all of this muck welcome to get you know to the point
where somebody’s going to recognize that wow this is a really cool thing so so
this is you know I’ve been thinking about this because I just put this album
out and I’m like okay where is this fit like that’s one of the things like Tony
mentioned earlier like but my path through creative work to this thing is
kind of odd and a little unique and one of the byproducts of that is that
there’s elements of just about every kind of music I’ve ever heard on this
album but it means that it doesn’t fit into a genre you know it’s some kind of
rock but I mean I’ve been thinking about it for a while like what I mean wait let
me just ask you guys a look kind of what is this?
And that is where we’re gonna
leave it for today. Do me a favor, go out and listen to Boy Interrupted and leave
your comments below as to what you think the answer is. Next week, we’ll get into
part two and continue this awesome conversation with Paul Barsom. As always,
if you like what you’re hearing, hit that subscribe button in your podcast player
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take a couple seconds, head on over to iTunes and give us a review. That helps
us out. And with that, that concludes today’s show. Again, make sure you check
out The Weed Gardens new album Boy Interrupted and you join us next week as
we continue the conversation with Paul Barsom on Fret Buzz The Podcast.

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