Deep Thoughts with E2TG

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My mind has been a swirl of thoughts lately. Being a writer by design, my best way to sort through them all is to write them down.  And since, I have this blog, I thought I would use this space to share some of those thoughts.  Much of this is about or relate-able to music. Some might not be… whatever… there’s probably a song in there so I guess it is all about music….

Last night for whatever reason, I started thinking about the infinite vs. the finite.  Sometimes, my belief is that finite is all an illusion and all that is real is the infinite.  What I mean: let’s say someone I know (for arguments sake, someone I am not particularly fond of) experiences some degree of success (or happiness or love), sometimes, my reaction is to feel fear-based jealousy.  “There is only so much success (or happiness or love) to go around.  That bit that they are getting is just another piece that is not available for me.  The truth (to my mind) is that those things (success, happiness, love) are in infinite supply.  That other person obtaining those things has nothing at all to do with my ability to do the same.  I would go as far as to say that, to the extent, I allow myself to live in that fear-based jealousy, I am doing more harm than anyone to my own chances of obtaining any one or all of those things.

This leaves out the whole idea that those things are all relative and esoteric ideas. Often the only thing standing in my way of success, is my own (often false) belief that I have not already obtained success.  This is not in any way to diminish the value or necessity of working hard and pushing forward to some better place.

So, to make it more plain… if a music blog that is not E2TG reaches some milestone of “success” (be it followers or page views or money or notoriety or whatever), it is all too easy for me to say, well, there go my chances of making something better of E2TG. And that thought process uses proceeds to focusing on everything I have not achieved and (at least for me) that path leads to remembering every instance where somebody slighted me (or seemed to slight me) thus reinforcing my belief that my efforts to date have been futile and a failure.

But, to unpack that a little, what if I instead acknowledge and maybe even celebrate the other blog’s success while at the same time rejoicing in where I am at this very moment. From there, it is okay to acknowledge a little jealousy but only to extent that it motivates me to work harder to build on the success that I have already achieved.  Sometimes to do this, I have to find a way to really believe and trust that I have been successful up to this point and that that success will be a springboard to even greater success.  For me at least, this often requires me to let go of comparing myself to anyone else, letting go of comparing myself against my own expectations.

“Wow! 10 people follow me.  (it does not matter for this moment that 1,000 people follow Blog X or that I expected to have 10,000 followers by this point.) Those 10 followers make me a success.  It may not be the level of success where I want to land, but I have not landed, I am still flying.  Now, how can I get to 20 followers.”  (This is hypothetical – I have more than 10 followers – I think).

The other thought is about the long road to peace after something painful and difficult – especially when that pain and difficulty was brought about by another. Embracing peace and letting go (that phrase again) of resentments and ill-feelings is not always easy – especially when the other party is continuing to behave in the way that brought about the pain in the first place. The desire to exact revenge or to gain some concrete acknowledgement of the past wrong can be powerful. To the extent that I am able to turn away from those ideas, I can begin to experience peace, but sometimes that is not an immediate result. Sometimes, the immediate result of choosing that path, is more pain. Pushing through that pain and staying on the road to peace is essential.  That is if peace is what I want.

Thinking about the state of the music “business” and the changes which have occurred.  They just are… is there a path back to how things used to be? I don’t know, and I’m not entirely sure that this the right path.  I am a person who values art (which includes music). A popular meme compares the money we (as a society and as people in that society) are willing to spend on (for example) a cup of coffee vs. the expectation (of many) that a song or an album or a live music event should be free. So there is a whole other conversation to be had about how we reached this point – the fact is we are here. Now what?  Thinking about services that musicians (and others use) – like social media, streaming services, etc.  It is (in some ways) easier today than ever before to produce music and put it out into the world.  High quality home recording, sites to distribute music, apps so that fans can know when you are coming to their towns.

To get personal for a minute, thanks to modern technology, I can write Ear to the Ground and put it potentially in the hands of many people with relative ease.  Furthermore, thanks to social media, I can interact with my readers and develop relationships with the artists I am writing about – a bunch of them.  So, I have wondered about ways to monetize E2TG while maintaining my commitment to being a resource for exposing new artists and celebrating the incredible diversity of music in the world today. There are ways to do it (or at least try to do it).  I have witnessed sites who do all those things to generate clicks and revenue by getting bands to compete in contests and polls.

I have to pause right here and say that I do not begrudge or want to demean any artist who partakes in such contests – I recognize the potential value for the band. Think of my comments as a cautionary tale (with some first hand experiences and second-hand witnesses)

In the first year of Ear to the Ground, I came up the idea of having a poll to select an Band of the Year. To be honest, I was only halfway serious about it, and it really ended up being a lot of fun.  Everyone who competed seemed to enjoy it, and man oh man did my page views explode.  After that I began doing a Band of the Month poll.  Again, the first few were tons of fun – I think in particular about a battle between by friends MAKAR and The End Men.  The contest was spirited and a really positive experience.  Again, my page views went through the roof.  A few months along the road, I began to see that some bands took the polls very seriously and some didn’t care or notice at all. For me, the focus moved away from the music and to toward the competition.  I started to feel like I was in someway using the bands to improve my page views but that the page views had nothing to do with the content of Ear to the Ground or the “art” of the bands I was wanting to write about,

Contributing to this evolving sense of unease was seeing bands that I had begun to follow who seemed to be putting more energy into contests and things of that nature than into their music. For my own mental health, I had to step back and think about if this was what I wanted to do with my site. It wasn’t.

Again, I feel the need to pause – as I think about artists that I really admire who are or have recently been competing in various polls and contests.  My comments are not about you. My feeling is that if the site running the contest really cares about the artist and their art, and if they can offer something of value to the artist who wins the contest – more power to everyone. I have and still do vote for artists I like in contests and the like.  I guess, it is up to the artists themselves to determine if the poll or contest has value. (Thinking about it now, I might even add T.V. vocal competition shows to this discussion but that brings on more issues than I care to delve into in this already overly long post).  My caveat to the bands I care about is to hold onto your selves and your art. There are a lot of things out there – think of them as tools. Is that contest or that site or whatever the right tool for you now. And ultimately, the tool only has value if it helps your to do whatever it is you are trying to do.

Finally, I was talking this week about the idea of the “next big thing”.  This isn’t a new idea, but maybe the times in which we live have sent this idea into hyper-drive.  My thoughts on this are complex and incomplete and scattered, but here goes nothing….

Here is Nashville, I have often written about the mind-blowing number of excellent live music opportunities literally every single night out of the year.  This can range from Bridgestone Arena down to some small DIY space in East Nashville or West Nashville or South Nashville or wherever. As someone who loves and writes about music and who has friends who I want to support, the choices can be overwhelming.  What I am thinking about here – in thinking about the idea of the next big thing phenomenon…

 I think I need to explain that I am not trying to use the “next big thing” designation to put anyone down… so let me pause to unpack what I mean when I refer to the “next big thing” and where I think the dilemma comes in for me… Let’s say Joe Blow  (cause hey Joe is a cool buzz-worthy name) has been making awesome music for years. They have played to small crowds at small bars and been amazing. Now, through some combination of factors, Joe Blow has release an album that has caught on really well.  Now, Joe Blow is playing a larger venue and it is likely going to be a sellout or at least a sizable crowd. This is good for Joe Blow and it is good quality music.  The question/the dilemma: is that large capacity show featuring the undeniably awesome Joe Blow where I should go or should I go to some small venue with a relatively small crowd to see and write about Jane Doe  who may or may not one day be the next big thing.

And that is just choice A and B – not to mention choices C through whatever… the fact is that I sometimes chose to see Joe Blow and sometimes I chose to see Jane Doe. (And sometimes I chose to stay home and write long rambling blog posts).  In both circumstances, I have thought that perhaps I made the right choice and in both circumstances I have thought that perhaps I made the wrong choice…  So… I told you my thoughts were confused.  If I go to see Joe Blow and get wrapped up in the energy of the large crowd – does that have anything to do with the music?  Is Joe Blow better for having achieved this level of success or just more successful?   There can be an incredible amount of energy present in the midst of an intimate show where you realize you are experiencing something amazing – and are fortunate to be among the few who are there to see and hear it.

In the end, I don’t have an answer. I think I (sometimes) have an old school/punk rock mentality that equates success with selling out…

I don’t think that the Joe Blow show is by default better or worse than the Jane Doe show. As someone who writes about music and someone who loves to go out and see live music, I think my best bet is just to be extremely grateful to be in a place and time where all of these incredible options are available. And to make my choice and find the story that I am supposed to tell about whatever I choose to do and trust that just maybe there is someone at that (or those) other shows that is supposed to tell those stories.

Wow, I have been writing for a long time. I guess I will quit now.  Thanks for letting me work out my thoughts.

Here is a video of the Michael Stipe performance I wrote about this morning.  It is really rad!

Tuesday Morning Music Shuffle – Eats Like a Horse Mix

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It was kind of a cool morning here in Nashville, but it felt great.  The certainty that Spring is in full effect, and that Summer is barreling down the turnpike hot on Spring’s tail. Spring seems as good a time as any (maybe better?) to step back and reassess and think about what comes next.  Ear to the Ground has exceeded my wildest expectations (mainly because I didn’t have many), and I am happy that nearly four years on, I am not feeling any real desire to stop.  Still, from the beginning, Ear to the Ground had frequently (or infrequently) evolved (usually due to some external pressure).  The Shuffle was originally about 3-5 songs, then for a while I had the “pre-shuffle” which kind of expanded the shuffle to upwards of 20 or more songs. We’ve settled into a groove of 8-12 songs per day, and it is good, but I feel an itching to do something more, something different.  I don’t know what that is yet, but I have some ideas…. until then… let’s hit the shuffle….

“In the Summertime” by Beat Rodeo

Another cool track from Home in the Heart of the Beat (1986 IRS Records).

“Miss Marcy” by Johnny Horton

A classic murder ballad from the one and only Johnny Horton.  Horton was killed by a drunk driver on November 5, 1960.

“Ballad of the Choir Boy Band Robber” by Ike Reilly

One of the last two songs from the Ike Reilly compilation we grabbed off Noisetrade a good while back.  This is an Ike Reilly Assassination song originally released on the album Sparkle in the Finish.  

“Your Name is Wild” by Guided by Voices

From the 1996 album Under the Bushes Under the Stars…  It was for many the years, the last Guided By Voices album to feature the band’s “classic” line-up.  Guided by Voice broke up in 2004, reformed in 2010, and then disbanded for a second time at the end of last year.

“Future 40’s (String of Pearls)” by Syd Straw (feat. Michael Stipe)

Guess what?  This song has been in the shuffle before – recently.  I forgot to remove it from the playlist – like I usually when songs appear.  Guess what? I really don’t care.  It is a great song featuring the amazing Ms. Straw along with R.E.M. front man, Michael Stipe. For R.E.M. fans, this album was released between Green and Out of Time.  Classic Nickelodeon fans may remember Syd Straw from her role as a middle school math teacher on The Adventures of Pete and Pete.  This song is on her 1989 solo debut Surprise which also featured contributions from Anton Fier, Richard Thompson, and Jody Harris among others.

“Hell for Leather” by Hoodoo Gurus

A track from the Hoodoo Guru’s third album, Blow Your Cool! which was released in 1987.  We’ll be digging more into that album in the days, weeks and months allow – subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous shuffles.

“Down Yonder” by David Schnaufer

More music from the late, great Mountain Dulcimer master, David Schnaufer.

“Side by Side” by Grant Lee Buffalo

Another track from Mighty Joe Moon.  I am really digging this album (which was a goodwill rescue).

“It’s a Big Old Goofy World” by John Prine

What better way to end the shuffle than with this big old goofy song from Prine’s 1991 album, The Missing Years.


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Thursday Morning Music Shuffle – Losing Luster Mix

The week is rolling on…

A few notes: 

1. Sad to report yet another incident of touring band having their gear stolen… this time it hit Two Cow Garage.  They are an awesome band.  If you want to help them out.  A GoFundMe account has been set up.

2.  I will be heading out around midday tomorrow for sunny Florida for the Safety Harbor Song Festival. Expect a bare bones shuffle tomorrow morning if everything goes as planned.  And keep an eye out for my reports from the front lines… 

3.  Found out my good friends, Young America have their new EP featured on the front page of Noisetrade in the New and Notable section. Well deserved, and if you haven’t, grab that EP and show some love.

Let’s jump into the shuffle….

“God or Man” by Ivan and Alyosha

Another cool song from All the Times we Had….

“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Bob Dylan and the Band

Two things: 1. I think it is awesome that The Basement Tapes are getting such renewed attention. An incredible period of musical history…  2. Come down to Fran’s Eastside on a Wednesday night, and you might hear Darrin Bradbury cover this song… you can even ask nicely if he is in the right mood…

“I’m So Happy I Found You” by Lucinda Williams

An unfinished Hank Williams song recorded by the amazing Lucinda Williams… yep!

“One Voice/I Wanna Drive the Zamboni” by Gear Daddies

The closing track from the album Billy’s Live Bait, plus this track includes in the hidden bonus track that helped make this great band immortal, at least with hockey fans…

“If It Feels Good” by Michael Sackler-Berner

From the EP, Fragile Magic and available as Double EP on Noisetrade.  Some great modern Rock music from the Big Apple.

“Future 40’s (String of Pearls)” by Syd Straw with Michael Stipe

Syd Straw and Michael Stipe worked together when Syd was a member of Golden Palominos.  One of the many stand out tracks from Syd’s album Surprise.

“Where is My Mind?” by Pixies

Originally from the album Surfer Rosa. The song was prominently featured in the film adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club, but we aren’t allowed to talk about that… there is a rule apparently.

“Open Your Soul” by [debut]

Another song from their new album, Postcards from Berlin which is out now.  There is a great electronic rock sound here that harkens back to the heyday of bands like Depeche Mode, but the music does not sound dated or derivation but rather sounds fresh and modern.

“Feels No Pain” by Tim Carroll

Tim Carroll is one of East Nashville’s greatest assets and hardest working musicians. His long-running Friday Rock and Roll Happy Hour at The 5 Spot has become an institution.  He was featured on the cover of East Nashvillian’s Guitar Town issue.  Ear to the Ground calls him, “A consummate professional with a great clock.” (or at least we just did…  His new album, Pure as Coal, which includes this song, is out now and you should definitely check it out.


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