Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

I’ve had an ongoing battle for the last five years behind the scenes…

Out of nowhere, one of my fans will hit me up with something to the effect of “Hey, I just saw that you’re playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks at the casino! Me and the wife will be there, dude!”

My response? “Um, I’m not booked in Atlantic City. Where are you seeing this??”

“It was posted on your Facebook page.”

I check my Facebook page. Sure enough, there’s my picture along with an event link, advertising that I’m playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks.

I immediately delete it.

Why??? Because I’m not booked in Atlantic City. The other John Kay is! The other JK is best known as the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and frontman of Steppenwolf.

Does anyone under 35 even know who Steppenwolf is??

Either way, his social media team has been linking his events to my accounts for years. I’ve reached out to them to resolve the issue, and they can’t figure out why it continues to happen.

That is the reason I changed all my social media handles to @TheRealJohnKay. It’s not because I’m pretentious, there’s a serious confusion here!

In fact, just yesterday, I went to my local health foods store, and was checking out with my regular cashier when she and I got to talking about what’s going on with me music-wise. After a brief chat, I wrote down my website URL and gave it to her.

“TheRealJohnKay.com, huh? Like the guy from Steppenwolf??” she remarked.

Anger, rising…

I smile, “Haha! Yeah, that’s an ongoing thing…”

I’ve been getting this my whole life from Boomers. “Oh, your name’s John Kay? Hey, like the guy from Steppenwolf!”

No. Not like the guy from Steppenwolf.

I’m tired of playing along with the “Oh, like the guy from Steppenwolf?” comments.

From now on, I’m going to say…“…Who?”

The guy from Steppenwolf is 73 years old, released “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” in 1968, had his last hit in 1972 (Boomers, can you name it without Googling??), and hasn’t released a studio album since 2001.

And, according to his Spotify analytics — which I was granted access to! — his fans also listen to Savoy Brown, Grand Funk Railroad, Leslie West, Robin Trower, Mountain, James Gang, Humble Pie, Johnny Winter, and Alvin Lee.

In other words…NOTHING NEW!!

This isn’t meant to derogate him or his fans. Hell, he’s essentially been touring since he first formed Steppenwolf in the ’60s. Good on him, and if people are coming to see him, all the better.

But the confusion and the cross-pollination has to end. As much as I appreciate his fans’ cursory exposure to my music by way of its misplacement on his pages, and welcome any of them who wish to enjoy my songs and see me perform, I’d much rather separate our catalogs.

I’ve been in touch with Spotify, who have been assisting me with this ridiculousness, and they have since gone ahead and created my own dedicated artist page.

And yet, my music distributor has been continuing to submit my songs to each of the streaming platforms as if I were the other John Kay, which means my new song “Hate U Back” was released under Mr. Steppenwolf’s artist page on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, and the lot this past Friday.

So, this is my public cry for help. Since the streaming platforms rely on the distributors to place their clients’ music correctly, and it’s not happening in my case despite repeated efforts…we need to take this fight to the streets.

To that point, I’m asking that you do these three simple things:

  1. Create a Spotify account if you don’t already have one; it’s free.
  2. Follow my actual artist page here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7Lx9QDuqrvKCyr1jr1Q324
  3. Finally (and most important!) set up this playlist to play on continuous repeat: https://open.spotify.com/user/22qcpuhhd2wlo4lwvhh6yvnii/playlist/25xZUV2uGPOQ5ZA7eQSZij.

You can even mute and minimize Spotify in the background as you do your thing, just keep the playlist going.

The point is to rack up as many spins of MY music as possible in the next 24-48 hours to perhaps get the attention of Steppenwolf Guy’s team. (If you use another streaming platform, feel free to make your own playlist of my music, or humor me and sign up for Spotify just for this!) Maybe that will effect a change here.

Thanks in advance, everyone! 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Hate U Back

Hate U Back

https://youtu.be/LunHybOKIjU

Our culture right now is all about attention (as I wrote last week), and Eminem got everyone’s attention for a good 24 hours and more. Whether or not that was his intent, who’s to say? The point is, he succeeded.

Why???

First off, like it or not, Eminem is a thought leader. He has a gift for using the English language in a visceral, commanding fashion, and he uses this gift to express himself in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable, honest, succinct, and powerful. His fans appreciate his candor and his willingness to draw a line in the sand and take a position, especially at a time when most musicians are scared to take a position on anything.

Second, the quality of his content. He wasn’t rapping about getting laid, or being drunk in da club, he was speaking out on the current state of our country in a way most artists are afraid to do for fear of alienating fans or, more to the point, losing their corporate deals.

Finally, he was authentic! He straight up bodied a freestyle in a parking structure, in an age where most superstars use backing tracks and lavish productions. He didn’t need a beat. He didn’t even need a microphone. He simply looked down the barrel of the camera, at US, and spoke truth to power.

It was what we’ve all been waiting for — an undeniable musician willing to speak out against the current administration, and put their name on it!

Speaking truth to power…hey, that’s what real artists are supposed to do!!

And I’m probably going to have people give me the whole “he should stick to rapping” bullshit like they did when I wrote about Meryl Streep last year (“stick to acting”). But that just shines a spotlight on their ignorance…

Understand: rap and hip-hop began as a way to give a voice to the powerless, to reveal the injustices in the African-American community, to preach positivity in the face of hopelessness, and help the disadvantaged find the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and demand what’s right in the name of humanity.

Over time it morphed into a fluid art form which would come to be criticized for its derogatory lyrics about women, its glorification of violence, and its promotion of drug dealing/use. And yes, Eminem is guilty of including those subjects in his oeuvre.

But this past Tuesday night, his freestyle about Orange 45 was about giving the rest of America a voice, fulfilling hip-hop’s foundational intentions.

You see, Eminem may not be putting out music as often as he used to, but in America, hip-hop rules, and Eminem is rap royalty. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of rap with Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre, as far as I’m concerned. He can go away for 10 years, come back, and sound just as fresh.

Yet, CNN commentator Matt Lewis says “he’s an aging guy who is clinging to relevance.”

Hardly. Eminem isn’t worried about relevance.

Because Eminem knows he has INFLUENCE.

Plus, he’s white! And he champions black culture and has a deep appreciation for it, unlike our leader.

And now my inbox is gonna blow up with those of you who think race isn’t a large component of what’s going on in this country right now.

But notice how the president has yet to fire back at Eminem on Twitter??

If he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: As Touré wrote, Eminem has pitted “whiteness against itself,” and now a good portion of his fans have to go to the bathroom…because that’s where the mirror is…and take a long, hard look and decide in which tribe they truly want to be…

“And any fan of mine, who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.

“And if you can’t decide who you like more, and you’re split on who should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: FUCK you!”

I feel the same way about my fans. And friends. And family members.

It seems as though people think that at a certain point, depending on what type of career you have, how much money you do or don’t make, and how big or small of a celebrity you are, you don’t have the right to speak your mind on the politics and the goings-on of our country and culture.

Where is this sliding scale?? The truth is, it doesn’t exist — every one of us has the right to speak our mind.

We are living in a crazy time right now, and we need more people of true influence to speak out against injustice, racism, sexism, and the lot.

Influence is the key word here — anyone can be concerned about what’s going on, but if one doesn’t have the means or the resources to actually influence a change in what they’re upset about, they’re like Sisyphus and his boulder, forever exerting energy in an effort doomed to fail.

Focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern, as the late Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Find out what you can do to make a positive impact in the world, based on your particular circumstances, and do it. We need you!

Don’t just sit at the computer or peck at your phone with complaints on social media about they way things are or how they should, take real action in the real world and make them so.

I choose to make my impact through my art, regardless of medium.

To that point…

Back in April, I released “Don’t Mess With My Routine,” which was written from the perspective of the folks in the red hats.

“Hate U Back” is written from the opposite perspective, and I am happy to announce that it is streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services as of today!

If you’re like me, you’ll have a puff, put on your best headphones, and turn the volume up to 70% (protect your ears!).

I hope you dig it. 🙂

“Hate U Back”: https://open.spotify.com/album/62Cs1prjQ2mVYcDNY1kHP2

P.S. Since we’re living in an attention economy, I appreciate you taking time to listen to my music. Thank you in advance.

P.P.S. That said, I’d rather hear “I hate it” than nothing at all, so feel free to let me know what you think of “Hate U Back” by emailing me at jk [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. In order to make the most impact possible, I’m asking that everyone listen to “Hate U Back” on Spotify three times in a row in order to help get it included on some of Spotify’s playlists. Do this, and I’ll love you even more than I already do! 😀

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

The Text Message Break-Up

The Text Message Break-Up

Has it happened to you??

I ask because it’s happened to me too often, most recently with two would-be band members.

I’m not trying to put them on blast, but…they’re both on my mailing list, so I may get some blowback.

I still love and respect them, it’s just amusing to me at this point that two people whom I’ve known for years — one since we were in middle school together, the other for whom I produced an EP over a decade ago — would say, in so many words, “I quit,” via text message.

We had our first band meeting back in March, and everyone was on board, we were all on the same page. Our first rehearsal was during the second week of April, and it went quite well.

A couple of days after that rehearsal, the former recording client messaged me, saying the band wasn’t what he thought it would be. The other didn’t return to any rehearsals, and after two and a half months (!!!) finally messaged that he couldn’t continue on with the group due to family and work, two issues we discussed at length prior to his initial involvement.

Since that first rehearsal, I haven’t seen these two gentlemen, although I see them posting on Facebook all the time.

What it all comes down to, regardless of what industry one is in or what type of job needs to be done, is something called “GWC.”\

“GWC” stands for Gets it, Wants it, and has the Capacity to do it.

The former recording client got it, and had the capacity, but didn’t want it. My good friend from school got it and wanted it, but didn’t have the capacity in his life to do it.

In order to build a great team, everyone has to get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it. There are no exceptions.

But why break up via text message?? Why not call me? Were they afraid I’d try to talk them into remaining with us? Did they not want to hurt my feelings? I may never know because…

We are living in an age where it is easier to not have the difficult conversations required in life.

People would rather email than meet up, would rather text than call, rather “ghost” somebody than say what’s really on their mind.

I hate fence-sitters, and I’d rather hear “I hate you” than nothing at all. At least I’d know where I stand.

Why is everybody so afraid to say the hard thing?? The truth will set us free!

At this point in my life, I’ve learned that nothing is permanent. Every relationship, job, event, belief, etc. has an end somewhere down the line, it’s just a matter of when and how.

Some things end badly, but not all things, and things don’t have to end badly unless you make it so.

Needless to say, the two would-be members have each returned to their own personal status quo. They are content and happy with their lives, and the stress of embarking on a new and different musical journey is no longer weighing on them.

Moreover, they have both been replaced by members who share the core values of the group — sacrifice, measurable growth, accountability, reputation for excellence, time, intensity, and respect.

Everyone is happy.

Still, I would have appreciated a phone call.

Wouldn’t anyone?

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

The Email That Made My Day

The Email That Made My Day

Last week, I received an email from one of the Bullfighters (fan club members). Her name is Heather, and she lives in Houston, TX.

“Good morning!

“Haven’t seen a blog email in a bit, so I hope it’s because you’ve got just s***loads of irons in all kinds’a fires, and that 2017 has, so far, been kind to you. Had your music in the rotation more lately, if that means anything to you.  🙂

“Hope you and your queen are doing well, and still enjoying homeownership! 🙂 It’s not without its faults, when you realize that, when something breaks, no onsite maintenance crew is coming right away, but I think it still means more to have your very own place. 🙂

“Take care of yourself, mister, and have a great f***ing weekend! :D”

That email made my day!

First, she’s right, I hadn’t blogged in a bit. Since Inauguration Day, I haven’t been compelled to write until the shenanigans regarding the layoffs at 89X.

I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes grinding, but not every single thing I have been excited about came to pass. I’m tired of blogging and telling people what’s going to happen, and then having it not come to fruition, which erodes trust and credibility. I don’t want to be the king of empty promises — the world is already filled with talkers; we need more doers.

Instead of blogging about every small advancement, development, wrinkle or hurdle along my path, I’d rather wait and talk about what is actually happening.

Second, Heather in Houston must be clairvoyant, because I indeed have many irons in many fires . . .

When it comes to new music, I’ve got three songs, each in different stages of production, to share with the Bullfighters for feedback before deciding whether to release and perform them. Those will be sent out as they are finished.

Also, I’m excited to announce that band rehearsals will begin on April 13!

I spent much of the past year meeting with and interviewing potential members, and we had our first official band meeting last week, during which we clarified our long-term vision as a group. There are seven of us getting ready to rehearse, and we are all multi-instrumentalists. (It’s funny sometimes how things work out — I’ve known all but one member since they were teenagers.)

Here’s another special announcement: my podcast Get After It with John Kay is now on iTunes!

Three new episodes will be uploaded in April, including my conversations with:

– Danny Muggs — Guitarist and vocalist from acclaimed Detroit blues-rock band The Muggs
– Don Slater — Bassist of Battlecross, a fast-rising Detroit metal band on Metal Blade Records
– Rocco Ambrose — Founder of the Ambrose Academy of Wing Chun Do and Grandmaster of the Wing Chun Do system of martial arts, a system whose lineage descends straight from Bruce Lee

Available as of now are my conversations with entrepreneur and InkAddict founder Jim Doyon, and drummer Matt Puhy from Detroit hard rock band Wilson. I’ve received great responses from people about the wisdom shared on the podcast by these two gents. Please subscribe to Get After It, download the episodes, and let me know if you learned anything by listening to them talk about their journeys.

[iPhone users: open your podcasts app, select “My Podcasts”, and click the “+” at the top of the screen. Select “Add Podcast”, and enter the following URL: http://getafterit.libsyn.com/rss.]

Speaking of journeys . . .

On January 21 my queen, mother, and sister-in-law traveled to Washington D.C. for the International Women’s March.

When my queen returned home, she expressed how much she wished I could have been there. I told her that if they have another march, I’ll go with her next time, to which she said that they will be having several different marches, including a march on April 29 for climate change.

SOLD. The queen and I will be traveling to D.C. at the end of April!

The thing is . . . I don’t wanna take a trip only to the nation’s capital.

There are Bullfighters in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Portland (ME), and I want to book an intimate house show in each area on the way to D.C.!***

And that’s not all! In addition to potential house shows, I have scheduled podcast interviews along the way with two people I have huge respect for — Adam Ayan, mastering engineer at Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, and Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, Director of Operations for The Dan Patrick Show in Milford, CTI’m very excited to connect with these two, hear their stories, and share practical wisdom.

Like Heather said, irons in all kinds’a fires!

Finally, it means everything to me that my music is in rotation in people’s lives. Now that a group is ready to rehearse, we’re that much closer to getting out on the road. Consider this update to mean the wheels are in motion!

2017 has been kind to me so far, and I hope the same for you. As I look outside right now, gray skies are clearing, and the sun is peeking through the clouds.

The best is yet to come! 😀

 

John Kay
jk@therealjohnkay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @TheRealJohnKay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

 

***If you’re in any of these areas, and are interested in what hosting an “intimate house show” involves (it’s easy!), email me at houseshow@therealjohnkay.com so we can discuss the simple details. The plan is to be in the area of Pittsburgh on April 25, Boston on April 26, and Portland on April 27. I’ve reached out to all of the Bullfighters in these cities already, and they are stoked!***

P.S. As far as home ownership is concerned . . . we have water coming in the basement. We thought we fixed it by sloping the grading underneath our deck, but nope. We may put in a French drain(?) this year if it’s not too expensive a task. If so, yikes. Other than that, we love our home, and may be adding a dog to the family soon. We shall see. 🙂

P.P.S. Speaking of journeys again . . . I like the shoe store Journeys, because they stock Onitsuka Tiger, my favorite brand of sneakers. But I hate the band Journey because of what Steve Perry did to my mom back in the day. He’s a jerk. And there is no “South Detroit” — that’s Canada.

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

2016 is finally over.

For many, it was a particularly brutal year.  For me, it was one of the best years of my life.

Mind you, it still had its challenges, from being laid up with injuries to having my car in the shop nine times, and my laptop — the heart of my business! — dying in the summer.

But mostly, it was a great year.

I bought a nice house less than three miles from my mom and dad, got my hands dirty and did some pre-move construction and finishing with my best friend, and moved myself and my queen in in February.  We took out the above-ground pool, and installed a fire pit, around which we hosted two fun parties with many of the awesome people in our life.

I bought a great car and use it to drive for Uber and Lyft, which has proven to be both a viable source of income to cover my household overhead and a way to retain my agency as an entrepreneur.  I get to listen to podcasts — I like to learn while I earn — and meet cool people, some of whom have become fans of my music.  (Remember: Tip your Uber or Lyft driver!)

I’ve been reading anywhere from 20-80 pages of a book every day, and will include my recommended reading list below.

I got hired as a freelance writer and editor by my local newspaper, and conducted a 3-hour strategy session with them to help determine their core values as a business.

Because of the experience with my local paper, along with my blog, I ended up being hired by a candidate for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge to write a 14,000-word story of her life and career, which became the centerpiece for the grassroots social media movement I coordinated to maximize its impact.  She ultimately won the election, and the votes needed in order to secure her seat on the bench were a direct result of my efforts, according to her social media manager.

I also began training in Wing Chun Do, a self-defense-focused martial art developed by Grandmaster (“Sijo”, see-jo) James DeMile based on his years of practicing and learning with Bruce Lee in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I had the opportunity to meet and learn directly from Sijo this past August, when he travelled from his home in Hawaii to bequeath the Wing Chun Do system and Grandmaster title to my personal instructor, Rocco Ambrose.  I’m excited and fortunate to be learning from the Grandmaster of a martial art!

There wasn’t really a single thing that I would consider to be the best thing that happened to or for me in 2016, but I think overall, I’d have to say that I learned a lot about myself and my capacity to get things done, to become my best self.  And I learned a lot about others, too.

Every day, I effort to learn something new.  Whether it’s through reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or talking with a rider when I’m out driving, I’m constantly learning and applying the knowledge gained.

I think that having a student-like mindset is a great way to approach life, and I encourage others to ask tough questions, to seek deeper knowledge in all things.

But I always keep in mind something Sijo said during his visit: “If it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.”

So this year, I encourage you to find what works for you, and use it to help you become better at whatever you’re doing and get closer to whatever it is you’re working toward.  (I’d love to hear your story!)

What works for me is operating from a place of authenticity, and creating the best content I can.

I’m happy to announce that starting in 2017, I am now delivering content in three forms:

My blog, which, now that I have a new laptop (yay!), I will endeavor to publish on a weekly basis…

My music, of which a new song was released yesterday (the general consensus among the feedback I’m getting is that it may be my best song to date)…

Finally, my new podcastGet After It! w/ John Kay, the first installment of which was published today at 5:00 AM!  I’ve already interviewed five guests for Get After It!, respectable mavericks each of them, and plan to release a new installment on Monday of each week.

The first installment features my interview with Emily Schaller, the CEO of a Detroit-based non-profit organization called RockCF, which raises funds and awareness for the fight against cystic fibrosis.  Emily’s story and life are inspiring, and every time I talk to her I feel the need to kick my butt a little more in my own efforts.  She truly is a ray of brilliant light, and everyone can learn something from listening to her.

I’m grateful to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who listens to my music and my podcast.  If you like my music, please buy it.  If you like what you hear on my podcast, please subscribe to it.

2016 is over.  The best is yet to come!  🙂

New song, “We Know We’re Gonna Die”: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com/track/we-know-were-gonna-die

New podcast, interview with Emily Schaller: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/4951467

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com

My 2016 recommended reading list:

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman
I was raised on the Beatles, classical music, and country music.  Anyone who is a Beatles fan generally has a favorite Beatle, and mine was always Paul, although the songs that I loved the most and wanted to learn were usually George songs.  This 800+ page book, a birthday gift from my parents, grabbed me from page one and I read it voraciously, at one point over 125 pages in a day.  Paul was the meticulous one, the one who focused on the details, staying late into the night at the studio to get his bass parts just the way he wanted them, which is to say, perfect.  This book reached into my soul, and I found myself empathizing with Paul in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible if someone told me so.  The author had McCartney’s ‘tacit approval’ to interview anyone and everyone who knew Paul about anything and everything, so this truly is the definitive Paul McCartney biography.  A must-read for anyone interested in one of the biggest superstars in the world.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
I hear all the time about how new music is no good, the radio sucks these days, all the songs sound the same.  Well, this book explains why.  From ABBA to Ace of Base to Kelly Clarkson and Rhianna and more, the evolution of pop music’s dominance is thoroughly broken down.  You get the inside scoop on who really writes the music we hear everywhere — mostly white, middle-aged, Scandinavian men.  This book was fascinating from start to finish, and I recommend everyone reads it.  It’s full of delicious and salacious stories, from Ke$ha’s turbulent lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, to the time Kelly Clarkson bawled her eyes out in Clive Davis’s office because he insisted on including “Since U Been Gone” on her sophomore record (it would go on to win the Grammy for Song Of The Year).  Treat yourself to this book.  You won’t regret it, even if it does disgust you.

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
I need to read this book again, this time with a highlighter.  That’s something I have been doing more of, highlighting books as I read them.  This year I’m going to transcribe the highlighted passages from my books onto index cards and create what’s known as a ‘commonplace book’ for myself.  A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations, and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.  The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking, or whatever it is that you do.  Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books.  Marcus Aurelius kept one, which more or less became the Meditations.  Petrarch kept one.  Montaigne, who invented the essay kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important.  Thomas Jefferson kept one.  Napoleon kept one.  Bill Gates keeps one.  I first heard of the idea of a commonplace book from Holiday’s blog, and liked the idea so much I decided to apply it.  This book will be one of the first to get transcribed.  It’s relatively short, and one can likely read it in a day or over a weekend.  Beneficial to anyone.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
This one hits you where it hurts: your smartphone.  Everywhere we turn, most people seem to be looking down at a device.  It’s the reality of the culture in which we live.  But there are devastating side effects to our new habits that are only now being discovered.  This book sheds light on those side effects.  There’s a group of friends going out to dinner and mandating the creation of a ‘cell phone tower’ in the middle of the table, where everyone stacks their device on top of the others, and the first person to grab for theirs when it rings has to pay for the entire meal.  Or consider that many young professionals fresh out of college and beginning their careers would rather talk to their colleagues, bosses, and employees through text, email, or Gchat, than have an actual one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.  We are connecting with our devices more than we are with each other.  According to Turkle, based on her research, this is a growing epidemic, the results of which are a general lack of empathy toward others and an inability to tolerate natural lulls and awkwardness in conversation.  Sound like the world we live in?  Ever since reading this book, I have effort to ‘elevate the conversation’ whenever possible.  Instead of emailing, I’ll text.  Instead of texting, I’ll call.  Instead of calling, I’ll drop by.  By elevating our conversations, we can reclaim our empathy and our connection to one another.

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
Believe me, no one was as shocked as I that I purchased something from Arianna Huffington.  Regardless of any opinion one may have about her, the information in the book is immediately applicable.  Since reading it, I do my best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every single night.  You should, too.

Seizing Opportunity, or When Light Recognizes Light

Seizing Opportunity, or When Light Recognizes Light

I’m back!  😀

Long story short, at the beginning of August, just when I began working at a furious pace on new music and all the other content I’m excited to share, my computer died.

Like many independent artists, a powerful laptop is the hub of my entire enterprise.  Rather than go even deeper into debt beyond the student loans, car loan, credit card, etc….I chose to suck it up, deal with the fact that my enterprise would have to be placed on hold for a bit, and earn enough money to buy a brand new laptop.

Now that I have it, one would think that the first thing I’d do once I got the new computer is get right back to working on music, continuing where I left off.  But that isn’t the case.

Here’s what’s going on…

I bought and moved into a house in Redford Township, MI at the beginning of the year, and made a personal commitment to be a good neighbor and contribute positively to the community as best I’m able.  My queen even baked cookies, and she and I went up and down our block from door to door, handing out cookies and introducing ourselves to our new neighbors.

One day, I was at Costco, filling up my gas tank.  From behind me I heard a woman’s voice…’Hey, who does your tattoos?’  I turned around and saw the woman walking up to me.  Before I could finish saying the name of the artist, she had grabbed my wrist and was manipulating my arm to get a better view of my ink.  After telling her who did my tattoos, she said “Hold on…” and went to her vehicle.  She came back with a business card, handed it to me and said “Vote for me on the second of August.”

I looked at the card.  It had her picture on it and said ‘Vote Kelly Ann Ramsey for Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge’.  “Oh, you’re running for judge?” I said.  “That’s right,” she replied.

This was in late July of this year, just three short months ago.  At the time, I had just done some freelance work for the Redford Neighborhood Connection, our local newspaper which is circulated to every house in the township on a monthly basis.  I first discovered the paper on my porch in June and thought, “Well, this is my local paper, so I should probably read it and get an idea of what is happening in my new community.”

As a writer, the first thing I noticed was that the front page was filled with typos and redundancies, and littered with punctuation and grammatical errors.  There was even a section advertised as being on page 6, which turned out to be on page 9.  Rather than dismiss it as an amateur effort and throw it away, I decided to find out who publishes the paper.  It turns out it is privately-owned, and is essentially a two-person operation plus a freelance graphic designer handling the layout, with no editor-in-chief on staff.

I called the owner of the paper, and we agreed to meet.  While they said they do need an editor, it’s not in their monthly budget to hire one full-time, but they promised to keep me in mind for freelance work as needed.

True to their word, within a few days they sent me an email saying that a candidate for Trustee had delivered them “a dog of a political ad”, and they wanted to get my professional opinion on how to make it better.  They hired me to re-write the ad, and according to the publishers, it ended up causing quite a stir among the so-called Redford political elite.  The paper has since hired me to do additional editing and writing, along with a strategy session to determine their core values, and occasional social media consultation.

So…at the Costco gas station, when Ramsey told me she was running to become a judge, I said, “I write for the Redford Connection from time to time.”

Her eyes widened — “Do you have a card??”  I told her no, but that I had hers now.  She told me to get in touch with her and we would do lunch.

We emailed each other over the coming weeks, and finally met at Sheesh in Livonia — her favorite — where she introduced me to beef sajji, which I’ll put right up there with Bucharest Grill’s shawarma.  (That’s right, I said it.  Oh, and extra sauce is a must.)

She proceeded to give me a basic background of her career, told me what’s going on with her campaign, where she needs help.  I told her how I came to be doing freelance work for the Redford Connection, how I saw something with several obvious errors, and instead of seeing something worthless, I saw…

And as I paused for a moment to find the word, Ramsey was already finishing my thought.  She leaned across the booth, smiled and said, “You saw opportunity.”

And she nailed it.

Sure, the errors bothered me.  I have a “perfect problem”.  That is to say, everything has to be perfect, and that’s my problem.

But beyond the errors, I saw the opportunity to help my community.  After all, how many in Redford have noticed the same as I have, and just throw the paper out without even reading it anymore?  If I could assist the paper with delivering its content as best as possible, perhaps its public perception would improve, perhaps its readership would increase, along with its inherent value to the community.

That’s the opportunity I saw, and what Ramsey was able to put into words.

(I’ve since learned that Ramsey is great at spotting opportunity in every person or problem she encounters.  She also believes that the playing field should be level for all, so that everyone is able to have as many opportunities as possible to achieve the life they were meant to achieve.)

I didn’t expect that by keeping my mind open and recognizing an opportunity to help my local paper, it would lead to an opportunity for me to help someone I have come to now refer to as “a judicial Joan of Arc.”

At our first Sheesh meeting, Ramsey told me “I want you to write a story about me that will go viral.”  Of course, no one can necessarily make anything go viral.  It happens organically, and many variables work together to cause it.  I knew I could help her write a story, but it wouldn’t make much of an impact without a coordinated effort to have others share her story.

But first, I had to hear her story, to see if it was worth telling.  After all, I had just met her.  Given the current political climate in our country, how could I know at first glance whether or not she was just another sleazy politician, in it for the glory and the power and the paycheck?  So we scheduled another lunch meeting so I could prepare some questions and conduct a more in-depth interview.

Since the beginning of October, I have conducted nearly 10 hours of interviews with Ramsey.  What I have learned in those interviews, the things she told me, resonate to the core of who I am as an individual.  I value personal sacrifice, measurable growth, individual accountability, a reputation for excellence, time, intensity, and respect.  Ramsey exemplifies all of these values.

I began to believe the universe had created that chance meeting at Costco for a reason, that we met so I could help her as best I’m able to get her into a seat on the bench.  It’s a seat she deserves, based on her decades of experience in the judicial system, the indelible events which have shaped her personal and professional life, and her tireless crusade for our communities, especially our children.  Light recognizes light.

So, after much thought about how to accomplish the task of putting Ramsey’s incredible story into words, and consideration of the strategy and implementation needed to help it reach as wide an audience as possible, I decided to put my own efforts on hold and help Ramsey coordinate a grassroots mobilization of her staunchest supporters whom are active on social media, specifically Facebook, in the final week leading up to Election Day.

Understand: In order for Ramsey to win a seat on the Wayne County Third Circuit Court bench, the communities of Wayne County need to know her story.

To quote noted trial lawyer Gerry Spence, who never lost a criminal trial and whose notable cases number in the hundreds, “Storytelling has been the principal means by which we have taught one another from the beginning of time.  All learning of humankind has been handed down for eons in the form of stories.  We are, indeed, creatures of story.  All varieties of creatures inhabit this planet…but we alone are story creatures.  Telling stories and listening to stories are the activities that most distinguish our species.  The stories of our childhood remain with us as primary experiences against which we judge and decide issues as adults.  They are forever implanted in both our conscious and unconscious.”

In order to give Ramsey the push she needs to get into the seat she deserves, we’re asking her staunchest supporters whom are active on social media, specifically Facebook, to make a daily commitment to share her story, to please share the posts from her page with their networks of people on Facebook, and across social media.

Understand: Facebook actively suppresses posts from pages in order to entice page owners to pay for the post to reach a wider audience, and the advertising dollars generated are what get Facebook’s shareholders paid.  Likes and comments do not make a significant impact, but shares do, big-time.  If her supporters commit to navigating to the Kelly Ann Ramsey for Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge Facebook page on a daily basis, and sharing the content posted over the final eight days leading up to the election, I believe the collective effort will do the job of winning the hearts and minds necessary to capture enough votes for Ramsey to win.

Starting Tuesday, November 1, and continuing each day until Tuesday, November 8, the seven parts of Kelly Ann Ramsey’s story will each be released and hosted on my blog.  Please feel free to share each part on social media, even if you don’t live in Wayne County, or Michigan for that matter.  Every share counts.

I’m very excited to help Ramsey get into the seat she deserves, and return to music-making and tour planning after Election Day.  I’ve got a bunch of new songs written which are ready to be recorded and mixed, a few songs ready to be mastered and released, and a couple of secrets up my sleeve to share before the end of the year (which my fan club members already know about).

Let’s do this!

Oh…happy Halloween!  🙂

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com


Hear the music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Join the fan club: https://therealjohnkay.com
Connect on Twitter: https://twitter.com/therealjohnkay
Connect on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therealjohnkay/

What Do You Do When Your Lover Hates Your Art?

What Do You Do When Your Lover Hates Your Art?

So I have this problem.  Not really a problem, it’s just…I guess…a bummer.

My girlfriend doesn’t like the new song I’ve been working on.

This tune has been milling around in my head for the past few weeks.  I stumbled on a melody that I enjoyed, sang it all day in the car, and got the gumption to wrap a song around it and record it.

And now I can’t stop listening to it!  But there are a couple of things I need to address before actually releasing it, which include re-recording the lead vocal.

Many who have given me feedback on my music say “John, your stuff is really good, but sometimes your lead vocal seems forced,” or “it seems like you’re trying to hit all the notes,” or “it feels like you’re concerned with being perfect instead of just singing.”

Those are tough pills to swallow, because I don’t really know when my vocal is done until someone else tells me it is.  Being that I produce my work myself, I have no way of knowing if my work is truly done.

And how do I know when it’s actually good??

Yes, I want to hit all of the notes, but I also understand that feeling and emotion can sometimes get lost in the process of striving for perfection.

I’m at a point where I don’t know whether my vocal is good, or what I should even do with the tune — my queen doesn’t like the song, and her opinion matters to me.

According to her, I should not release the song under my own name, or I should try to sell it to another artist.  She says she hates my new song for the same reasons that I don’t like Sia’s music.  And a huge part of the reason I don’t like Sia’s music is because I have learned how today’s hit songs get made…

I just finished reading a book two weeks ago called The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook.  The book explains that the majority of major label producers and writers today utilize a method Seabrook calls “track-and-hook” — a (hopefully) compelling music bed is created and vocal melodies and hooks are paired to match, or vice-versa.  There are teams of writers who work on songs together, trying to add the best beats, melodies, and “top lines” (the vocal hooks that are the most memorable).

The most successful top-liners generally sing the lead vocal on the demo versions of the songs they are attempting to sell to a recording artist.  In many cases, their performance is, in fact, better than that of the artist who ultimately records and releases the song.  But, these top-liners are kept in their place by the powers that be in the music industry (not pretty enough, skinny enough, buff enough, young enough, and on and on and on).

And then all of a sudden, came Sia, swinging from her chandelier.

Sia cut her teeth in Australia, but her bands failed to break through to the mainstream.  So she moved to NYC and became a top-liner, crafting hits for today’s biggest stars before creating her worldwide solo success.  Her writing credits include “Pretty Hurts” for Beyoncé, “Perfume” for Britney Spears, “Boy Problems” for Carly Rae Jepsen, and “Double Rainbow” for Katy Perry.  She’s fantastically talented, has a gift with words, and her voice is powerful.

I hear potential in Sia’s work in the same fashion as I did Lady Gaga’s music when I first heard it.  I thought, “Okay, you’re obviously talented.  And now that you’ve hooked everyone with your catchy pop stuff, the next album had better be the real deal.”

The issue I have with Sia is that, to me, her music sounds like a bunch of top-lined demos, waiting to find an artist to re-record them.  Much of the time it sounds like she’s mumbling words so the artist can put their own inflection on them later, or pretending to sound like Rihanna…which is incredibly ironic, since Rihanna probably had to figure out how to sound like Sia when she recorded “Diamonds”, since Sia wrote it!

One successful top-liner has a particular way of working: she goes into a recording studio and listens to several beats and music beds pre-produced for the session by the rest of the writing and production team; once she hears something that moves her, she enter the vocal booth and makes noises along with the music, trying to find the right emotional impact; then, after the basic pattern and melody are established, she improvises different lyrics on the spot, or reads from her notes of one-liners and couplets, trying to find The One.

This top-liner’s name is Ester Dean.  You may have heard of some of her songs: Ciara’s “Drop It Low”; Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”, “Only Girl (In the World)”, “What’s My Name”, and “S&M”; Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” and “Turn Me On”; and “Firework” for Katy Perry.

They figured out the formula.  They figured out how to craft a song in such a way that after repeat listens, you actually like it.  At first you may hate it, but after you hear it a bunch of times, you may like it.

Then again, the opposite is true in the case of my queen and my newest song.

When the person who loves you the most and supports you in your endeavors doesn’t like the work you’re doing, does that mean you shouldn’t share it with the rest of the world??

Frankly, I feel as though I need to release it, simply because she hates it.  I’m not sure about you, but I hate most pop music that comes out.

But they keep playing it, and people keep streaming it.  Some people — not nearly as many as who stream it, but some people — keep buying it.  And both go to the concerts.

So if I hate most of the songs on the radio, but they’re incredibly popular with millions of others…and if there are many unsung heroes behind the scenes, writing songs, and creating today’s hits…why can’t I follow my muse from time to time and create a pure pop song for the sheer enjoyment of it??

No, this particular tune doesn’t have a whole lot of substance to it.  It doesn’t have a whole lot of depth and meaning.  But why is that a problem, considering that most of the songs I’ve written throughout my 20+ years of songwriting do have depth and meaning?  Why is it a problem for me to make one pure pop song?

Hell, maybe I’ll make ten more!  Do ten pure pop songs outweigh the value (or take away from the value) of the hundreds of other songs in my songwriting catalog which have depth and meaning, and interesting chord changes, and intricate melodies, and multiple vocal harmonies, and an orchestra’s worth of tracks and instruments??

Sometimes it’s okay to just like a pure and simple pop song.

Unless of course, you’re a rock and roller, in which case you may be called a faggot or a sellout for liking something that doesn’t fit the mold of what’s “acceptable” in the rock scene.  A scene which rails against the use of computers and digital technology in the creation of music.

Maybe the reason I’m so fearful to create and release a pure pop song is…I fear that it will alienate people who enjoy my other music.  I don’t want that to happen.  I want to be able to create music whenever I want, based on the inspiration I get from my muse.

And my muse speaks to me randomly.  It happens all the time.  It doesn’t even have to relate to music.  It could be an interaction with a person, a news article I read online, a book I am reading or have read, a movie; it could be anything.

For example, the sound of an ambulance siren in Budapest, Hungary that I heard as I was strolling through the city on a day off while on tour last year.  Noticing the rhythm and the melody, I immediately opened up my voice memo app and captured them, so that when I got somewhere I could create music again, I could take that sound I heard and put it in a song, or rearrange it.

Or whatever I want, because while there are some rules when it comes to making music, there really are no rules when it comes to making music.  No limits.

That’s how the world works for me: anything and everything can be an inspiration to create.  So I’m not making this pure pop song as a way of selling out (or buying in).  I’m not making it so that I can get clicks and likes and shares all that stuff.  Those things are nice, but I would like to believe that they are a byproduct of making quality art.

But “quality art” is subjective, and the subject of this particular song is about going out to the club with your friends, catching a stranger’s glance from across the dance floor, and falling in love at first sight.  Can’t get more cliché than that, can you??

(“You’re going to be 35 next week.  When have your friends ever picked you up to go to the club??” my lady says.)

AND, the song only has four chords — D, E, F# minor, and A; and they cycle over and over for the entire song.  The chord progression does not change, and yet the song builds and builds, as do most of my songs.

(“You say Sia’s songs are the same thing over and over, but so is this song.  Don’t be a hypocrite.” she elaborates.)

With my music, I try to take you somewhere.  I try to transport you through time, over the course of a few minutes, and escort you on a journey.  Music is the only art form that can do that.

Visual art, as stunning and amazing as it can be…once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.  You see a tattoo or you see a painting, and you’ve seen it.  It’s over.  But a piece of music, it takes time to unfold.  You have to sit there — have to pay attention — if you really want to get the depth and meaning.

Or don’t.  Either way’s fine.  Some music is just there for background noise.  Many artists even pride themselves on being essentially background noise for the party.

Most of my songs, I don’t want them to just be background noise.  I want them to be the songs that you spin when times are tough, to remind you to keep going, to persevere, to never give up, and to believe in yourself and believe in your dreams and achieve something.

But this particular song, the purest pop song I’ve ever written, is simply ear candy.  It may get stuck in your head, because the melody is memorable and you can sing it and sing it and sing it, and not get bored with it.

I speak from experience: though the song hasn’t yet spent a month in the universe, it’s one of those that I can’t stop singing.  It is physically gratifying to me to sing this melody and the words the way they are.  It feels good on my tongue, in my throat, in my chest, and in my stomach when I vocalize the sounds which make up the words and melody for this tune.

So I’m going to recut the vocal.  I’m going to mix this song, and I’m going to do it as quickly as possible and get it on Spotify.  Because I think that there are going to be a lot more people that simply enjoy the song for what it is, rather than hate it for what it is.

Because what is it at the end of the day?  It’s just a song.  Just another song out there in the ether.

But it could become a party anthem.  It may make you sing.  It could be a song that gets the club jumping.  It could be a song that makes two strangers fall in love and become best friends.  Who knows?  Maybe it’ll just lead to a couple of one-night stands or random hook-ups.

Understand: if it affects you — if it causes a reaction — it’s done its job.

This song moved my girlfriend to hate it and call me a hypocrite.  I wonder what everyone else is going to think of it…

But first I have to sing it again, better than last time.

P.S. My new album has finally been mastered, and is currently being prepared for release on Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, Tidal, BandCamp, and iTunes.  It’s all happening. 🙂

John Kay

blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay