NEWS FROM THE WOODS
By Bob Ketchum
Originally Published November 13, 2013
After an evening soaking in the Holy Hot Tub last night, while watching in amazement as human beings hurtle over my head at 17,500 MPH in the ISS... I got to feeling kind of Philosophical:
I've known a handful of musicians in my career that were over-the-top exceptionally gifted players. These people can play any instrument with equal ability. Their understanding of music in it's most fundamental form give them a unique ability to just take off and play with such a perfect feel for the music astounds me. It humbles me and sometimes makes me feel like I should be doing something else. I can feel that I am in the presence of greatness just by their playing! It's the same for some composers that I have known... They write such good songs that I am astounded that their songs haven't been recorded (which is why I've recorded a good many of them for free in the past)
As I look back I can probably count the best of them on two hands. I've known these people for years. And I wonder.... WHY haven't they "made it"? WHY haven't they been discovered ? WHY hasn't the best of their songs been recorded by someone already famous?
Well, of course I know ONE reason, and I've been harping on it for years... LOCATION...LOCATION...LOCATION. They haven't been discovered because of where they live - far removed from the centers of music. I have fallen into this crack myself. Of ALL the great music I have to offer (most of it not mine) - not a single song has yet to be discovered, because of where I have chosen to live. Yes, I've tried sending it out. For years I have been soliciting record companies, management companies, publishing companies but it always gets down to "who you know" in the end.
Don't get me started . . . . .
However, in recent years I have noticed something else about these extremely rare and talented individuals. I believe their talent has cost them something else. Almost without exception, most of the people I am talking about have.... personality quirks (for lack of a better phrase) which may make them seem unreliable to a music business person. Now, I've known these people for a good amount of time, so it has taken me some time for these realizations to present themselves. I am not "speaking bad" about these folks. I have never been at odds with them. Oh, maybe now and again they make some career or music decision in recording that I did not agree with, but I figure it's THEIR music and THEY own it, so I should honor their wishes, EVEN if it is detrimental to the music itself. It's simply not worth the argument - especially if it ruins a friendship - to press a point. Most musicians are in many ways control freaks anyway. When those situations arise, I simply take off my "producers" hat and don my "engineers" hat.
Over the years of observation I have noticed that a number of them are bi-polar (or manic depressive). Their mood swings are quite obvious if you take the time to notice. A few of these individuals have Facebook accounts, and over the years I can see patterns develop, based on their remarks and comments. One day they will be up and excited about life. The next week they are bashing someone seemingly just for the hell of it. To me - those are warning signs. Now... I know a few of them that realize their own shortcomings and neuroses. They are open about their maladies, and when down they continue to fight the good fight. They "ride the wave" and therefore are more well adjusted to their situations. Others I don't think have a clue to their demons. Or maybe they are just in denial.
A couple of these friends suffer greatly at their own hand. They get depressed and for them the world is bleak. I often wonder... is all that exceptional talent really worth it? Of course, no one can do anything about that. We're stuck with our own personalities and quirks. It is what it is. But I DO feel sorry for their suffering.
Some of these great player/composers are living in the center of a city known to be a music mecca. They've lived there for years. And still - with all those contacts they have yet to be signed or have released an album which has gone on to it's deserved status. Is it possible that they have not been so fortunate because others (with the power of the record contract in their hand) have also seen these quirks and made a decision to pass ? After all - there are THOUSANDS of musicians trying to get a record deal every day. Why take a chance on signing someone that shows signs of being unreliable or might prove to be hard to handle . . . .
Of course I have no way of knowing or confirming any of this. But it DOES seem odd to me that such talent continues to go undiscovered. But I do know one thing: If I had the connections and the money to float someones career I sure know a handful of people I would go to first despite their quirks and ailments. But then, I've had years of experience at "producing" artists, and I have learned that the term "record producer" is MUCH more than simply guiding the music in a positive direction. There is a LOT of babysitting involved . . .soothing an irritated artist..... finding the right way to tell someone that last vocal line sucked.......trying to convince the guitar player NOT to record yet another solo because the very first one was the best one anyway..... making the drummer confident enough to open up and give it all he's got. You almost need a degree in psychology to be a good record producer.
Maybe it's all those years I have spent behind the console that has given me a unique insight into the mind of a talented and gifted artist. I have reached a point in my career that I can "read" a musician very quickly. I can spot those "trouble areas" early on and make executive decisions about the session before it gets out of hand. If I was in L.A., NY, or Nashville I'd probably be a valuable asset to a recording studio or record company, but then..... Perhaps that is MY quirk. I have chosen to remain here... in the woods... in my comfort zone.
I guess we're ALL bozo's on this bus............