Monday, July 30, 2012

Forego a Frappuccino; Support Independent Music

For 5 days only, CD Baby will be giving 100% of proceeds from digital music purchases on their site to the artists, taking no cut for themselves. That's a huge deal that you won't see often. My EP, Girl on a String, is available for free through Noise Trade, but I also sell the EP on CD baby. If you downloaded the free album and enjoyed it, now would be a great time to purchase it, since you will know that your money will literally be doing more to directly support the music (and me, and my husband, and our cats). I don't enjoy asking for money -- I mean, I give my music away for free -- but recording and producing a CD is not free, and if you'd like to see us create more good music, this week is a great time to show your support, knowing that I'll get to keep all the profits. The link for my EP is featured, below. You can download the whole thing for only $5 -- that's the price of a Venti Mocha Coconut Frappuccino at Starbucks.

When you do resume your Starbucks habit, please tip your barista. :)
While you're there, check out my other music, also for sale, and take a few minutes to see what else CD baby has to offer; you may be surprised at all the great independent artists out there. Thanks for all the support!

Christine Hand: Girl On a String

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

4 things I've learned from playing cover songs

This last Saturday, we had the privilege of joining other Dallas musicians at Opening Bell Coffee for an evening of Eagles songs.
Thanks to Emmeline for taking this picture. Check out her music here.

As I mentioned before the show, we have never worked so hard at learning cover songs even though our repertoire of covers includes songs from The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few. I’ve played in coffeehouses for 2-3-hour long stretches since I started performing in public almost 15 years ago, so cover songs have always formed an integral part of what we do as a band. Over time, we’ve expanded our range of songs and taken our music to weddings and parties in addition to the usual singer-songwriter venues. Our experiences learning the Eagles songs combined with all the fun we have in general with cover songs got me thinking about why I love playing other people’s music so much, and this is what I came up with:

Things I’ve learned from playing cover songs:

1. The greats are great for a reason.

As a struggling independent artist, it can be all-too-easy to grumble and complain about the people who “make it” in the music industry. “I could do that,” I think, like the person who sees a Jackson Pollock in a modern art museum and assumes that their 5-year-old could do the same.  But as soon as I start learning the music of the people who have not only succeeded in music but who have also endured, I realize that I have so much more to learn about songwriting, playing, singing, arranging, etc. There’s a reason the Beatles and the Eagles and Led Zepplin became great -- because they are great. And this makes me realize that I’m not as great as I think I am. The good news, of course, is that by playing these songs, I learn a little bit about what makes them great, and, with luck and practice, those techniques slowly make their way into my own work.

Sure, maybe you could paint this -- but you didn't.
2. I’m capable of more than I thought I was

I didn’t know I could sing “Ramble On” by Led Zepplin until I tried it. I didn’t think I would ever pull off a rendition of “Jumping Jack Flash” by The Stones until I learned it for the “Dallas Does the Stones” show. Adam didn’t know he could learn to sing harmony until he started learning the background vocals for “Here Comes the Sun.” My dad, Ed (our keyboardist), who learned to play pop and rock styles by ear, wouldn’t have thought he could play Pachelbel’s canon in D until he was asked to do so for a wedding. The list goes on and on. Putting ourselves in the position to learn cover songs has taught each of us new skills and styles, and in bringing those skills and styles into our original music, all of our music has been strengthened.

3. “Three chords and the truth” is a cliche because it’s true

Many of the “great” songs are built around a simple I-IV-V foundation. (For the non-musicians out there, that’s the three most basic chords in Western music). When I first started writing songs, I tried to throw in as many “exotic” or “cool” chords as possible, but the more I played music by those who had gone before me, the more I understood that if your melody and lyrics are strong, you don’t need to stray too far from the basics in order to write a good song. Granted, sometimes a “special” chord makes for a really great moment in a song, but the Greats know how to balance the “different” elements with the mundane ones in order to make a song that is both interesting and catchy. “Already Gone” by The Eagles is a great example. The dramatic key change in the final chorus might lead you to believe that the song is super complicated, but even with the key change, there are only 4 different chords in the whole song, since the song’s two keys share two of the same chords. And which chords are featured in this rock classic? I, IV, and V, of course.

4. The music I really love to perform might be different from what I’ve been writing

I’ve been writing music in the folk-rock vein for a while now, but the music that really makes me happy when I play and sing it is music that sounds more like blues-rock (think Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin especially). This is causing me to reconsider what I write and to search for new ways of writing so that I can have as much fun playing my own songs as I do playing these covers.

Well, that about covers it. (Ha ha -- get it? that covers it? Okay, I'll stop now.) Just a quick plug before I go -- many of you don't know that we are available to play weddings and parties. If you like 60s and 70s rock (with a few songs from other decades thrown in just for fun), you will love what we do. Contact us here, if you'd be interested in booking us for something like that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Saturday: Dallas Does the Eagles

Join us this Saturday for another tribute show with some of Dallas's most talented singer-songwriters. This time it's "Dallas Does the Eagles" and it's going to be amazing.

We do a lot of cover songs at shows, and I have to let you know that learning these four songs has been the most difficult time we've ever had learning cover songs. It makes me appreciate how incredible the Eagles are, and if you come to Opening Bell this Saturday, July 21, you'll appreciate them, too!

Show starts at 8:00, cover is $5, and I feel sure you won't regret it!

Read all about it here:

See you guys Saturday night at 8:00!