Come join Sass Jordan on her interview with Big Blend Magazine! Here the music and this incredible person and performer! http://www.blogtalkradio.com/big-blend-radio/2010/10/03/champagne-sundays
By Sass Jordan, The Lowry Agency Artist
Writing songs is one of the main reasons I wanted to be a singer in the first place. I have ALWAYS had a lot to say, and what better way to say it than in a song? The thing that many people don’t realize is that writing songs is a skill, and needs to be developed as such. My first attempts were so clumsy in their construction as to be laughable from my current viewpoint – but we have to start somewhere! Some of the most magnificently skilled writers live and work in Nashville, Tn – and that is where I have had some fantastic writing experiences.
A song has to be written with a form in mind. There are myriad forms, many of which you will be familiar with, but only a couple of which you will find any resonance with. The particular genres that interest me, for example, are country rock, americana roots, hybrid and blues rock. I can write in the pop genre, but I’m only marginally good at it, mainly because it’s not as interesting to me as an artist/performer. I can hugely appreciate a good pop song, but I’m not that skilled at the craft. Look at people like Max Martin and the infinite genius of Tears For Fears – yes, Pure Pop for Now People indeed!
Are you targeting a specific goal, such as a particular radio format? You’ll have to study the way the majority of the songs that play on those stations are constructed.For example, listen to the songs of a band like Nickelback … it’s a certain style that they use in the structure and the songs are hugely crafted by the production approach. It’s shared by other bands like Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman, Default, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Hinder and Breaking Benjamin, to name just a few. They all have their roots in the ’90’s to me .. coming out of Seattle’s Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, but with more of a pop sensibility.
Lyrically, it’s tricky to walk the line between cornball, conceit, confusion and just plain crap. A great lyricist is a god, as far as I am concerned. One of my favorite things is to try to find ways to use cliches with a twist. A master of this approach would be someone like Elvis Costello, or Joni Mitchell. One of the most erudite songwriters ever, Joni is a master of painting the soundscape with words – her, Robbie Robertson, and John Forte, the story-tellers, among a great many others …
Songwriting, like song – listening, is so personal, and so powerful. Writing a song that touches many people is possibly one of the most wonderful achievements you can have as a musician and performer. It’s a gift … use it well. And thank you, from your potential audience…. me.
Sass Jordan will be perfoming on September 25th at the Ottawa Civic Center. Doors open at 7:00 pm! Click here for more info http://ht.ly/2yBKr
Records and Interviews
by Sass Jordan – The Lowry Agency Artist
Pretty much the first thing you get asked in an interview when you are promoting your latest record is ‘what is it like?’. Not an easy question to answer, as an artist, because usually it’s about so many things. I like to have an answer already prepared so that I don’t have to think about it on the spot, and confuse myself and the interviewer as I jump around all the inspirations and moments that made up the songs. Generally, when I am thinking about making a record I will have a theme that I can work off of. For example, my most recent record, From Dusk Til Dawn, was thematically exploring the darkest hours before the dawn, the time when we feel the most vulnerable in every sense, and all the growth and expansion that comes from that. There was also a flavor of Southern California in the seventies, and a touch of Memphis vibe … just slight dabbling, not out and out excavation.
It’s best to remember a couple of entertaining stories from the recording, and to perhaps discuss a song or two. I find that most interviewers are quite willing to be led where you want to take them – there are very few who are really prepared and come to the session with a real set agenda. Either way, it can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a sense of humor about it. The thing you can never forget is that you are promoting something, be it yourself, or your latest release or up-coming shows – these are the things that public wants to hear about, but tucked into something they can relate to as people.
Once in a while you will come across someone who is a total goof and really has no idea what they are doing, but in those instances you still have a choice. You can take them by the hand, so to speak, and lead them down the path they were supposed to take you down – OR – you can just dismiss the whole thing, which is probably not a good idea. Just have a sense of humor about it and realize that not everybody is up to speed!
Interviews are the place where you can deliver more of a direct message about what you do and what you are interested in and the ideas, people, places, and things that you want to support. If you have a particular charity, or piece of information you would like to share – an interview is the place to do it! Even if it’s just an energy or state of being – it’s another opportunity to reach out and affect or help other people, uplift them, get them thinking, make them happy (or angry!). I used to loathe doing them until I figured out that it was up to me how I felt – and not up to anyone else. Once you figure that out, that you’re in charge of how you feel – everything else changes for the better!
“It’s All About The Team Baby!”
by Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency
Let’s face it .. you don’t do this alone. Even if you do all the work, and all the administration, booking, accounting, publicity, photography, performing, playing, travel planning, blogging, tweeting, booking, touring, advancing, writing, phones, ALL of that, and more, you’re still not doing it alone, because you do it for the fans – and they are what help you continue. As long as they want to see and hear you, you’re not alone.
On that note, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your work is to assemble a team of people that can facilitate the process for you. I think this holds true in pretty much any endeavour, but we are speaking in music business terms here, so that’s where we’ll focus. The craziness of running a musical ‘business’ can be pretty overwhelming. There are so many endless details to take care of, above and beyond the honing of your craft and developing your musical skills. I honestly have nothing but the utmost respect for performers who have managed to become well-known and can work consistently. Even if I don’t care for the musical style or even the personality, I still have huge respect, because I know what it takes to pull it off. It’s not for everyone. You need the courage of an lion, the patience of an ox and the energy of a jack russell terrier!
Probably the best place to start a team with would be with a personal manager and a booking agent. You can build everything from there. I know people who have started with an entertainment lawyer .. but that works kind of the same way, because big entertainment lawyers know EVERYONE in the business end of things, and they can definitely hook you up with managers and agents, as well as publishers and record distributors etc. A manager is a wonderful player to have, but as usual, finding one who is going to be able to do the job the way you need it done with the budget you probably have, is a challenge.
You have to decide up front how you are going to pay people. That is a massively important point. If you are getting into a situation where you are signing on with a big management company, you will have little choice in the way things are done, and rightly so, as you need them far more than they need you. The thing to remember is, it is never THEIR name on the marquee, so any problems or situations that arise will be attributed to your name, not theirs. If you are hooking up with someone who is as unknown as you are, there are different things to watch out for, namely, do they have any experience at all, and how much will they understand what is going on and what needs to be done. The main selling point for a big , successful company is that they have endless contacts and lots of people that owe them favors. The downside is that you get lost in amongst all the big fish, the ones that make them all that money and favors. The main selling point for an unknown is that they are as hungry as you are, and have as much to prove as you do, therefore will work tirelessly on your account, with no other acts distracting them, and they will work to make you money, because that is how they make theirs! The downside, of course, is that they often don’t have a clue what they are doing, and they don’t have the clout to get you hooked up with other people that can help the cause.
In the end, you are going to have to go with your intuition and your own feeling on everything, as there are no hard and fast rules. If you have respect and integrity, you are likely to find that comes back to you – perhaps not every time, but by far most of the time. A team is the greatest thing you could have as a performer … and I wish you nothing but the best of luck in building one!
Developing Your Own Style
By Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency
The key to the all important ‘style’ is absolute knowledge of your vocal limits and strengths. I remember a couple of years ago, I was doing a songwriter circle, and one of the other songwriters was an artist I love, by the name of Ron Sexsmith. We were doing a group number with Roger Hodgson, of Supertramp, (another one of my faves), and there was a hideous out of tune issue going on .. we were trying to find the source of it, when lo and behold, Ron held up his hand and said .. “Guys, it’s me. I can’t sing in tune. It’s my style”! It broke the ice, and we laughed non-stop from that moment on.
The thing is, Ron wasn’t really kidding – that wavery, blue tunage type of thing is very much ‘his style’, and it completely suits his amazing songs and melodies. He is a consummate artist in that he knows what works for him, what delivers for him-and he doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t. It’s the same as anything else – you know if you’re a size 6 shoe, you ain’t gonna be wearing a size 10!
You have to develop your thing from a variety of influences. First of all, what type of styles do you love and admire in other singers? I was (and still am) a HUGE Chaka Khan fan, but there was no way in HECK I was ever going to be able to sing like her – I just can’t do it physically. However, I developed a couple of tricks that I use now, that came from trying to imitate her sound. Same with Tina Turner, Paul Rogers, Lou Gramm, Steve Perry, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Leon Russel, Dr. John, Linda Ronstadt, and a host of others.
Another thing to consider is the style of music – there are certain types of phrasing etc that are intrinsic to certain styles. I personally think that Stevie Wonder is the originator in large part of a very popular singing style we have been hearing for the past fifteen to twenty years. Singers like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera are skilled at it. It incorporates a lot of what is known as ‘vocal gymnastics’, but to be good at it you have to know when to lay out. Less is ALWAYS more.
Your sound has more to do with your physical structure than anything else. If you have a great big resonant skull, like Pavarotti, you will be able to make sounds that other’s with less cranium can manage. It’s also down to lung capacity and the strength of your diaphragm – all massive contributors to sound and style.
The development of personal vocal style is like the development of your personality, and actually works hand in hand with it. Age and experience are two factors that cannot be underestimated in terms of their impact on a singing style. Your style is the one thing that sets you apart from other’s, and is an identifying feature, along with your tone and personal energy. The great thing is, there will only ever be ONE of you, so you never need to think about ‘competing’ with another singer, which goes against everything music is. People either resonate with you, or they don’t. NEVER worry about it!
Merch Tables and Other Necessitites…
by Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency
As an artist/performer in the slash and burn world of making a living playing music today, you have to have a fairly high level of people skills. There are a few performers that can get away with not saying or relating much-basically doing it through the music, but most of us need to develop a congenial type of relationship with our fans. We realize that it is not an easy thing for most people to come out and spend their well-earned cash – a lot of them are raising families and just trying to get along in today’s climate – not a particularly small task in this uncertain world. The skills I am talking about are related to making a fan feel included, making them feel they are part of the process. In fact, they are, in more ways than I can list, not the least of which is if there is no audience there is no show.
One of the best ways to create an on- going and loyal relationship with your fans is to sell your merchandise after the show. This way people get an opportunity to exchange a couple of words, get things signed, and get a pic with you. These things need to be set up properly, however, or you run the risk of having a bit of chaos on your hands. Assuming you and your crew know what you are doing, I think it’s an awesome way of understanding your audience, and getting a feel for the type of people that like your music and vibe. The more successful you are, the less easy it is to do this, of course, but then you can get into VIP packages for fans, where a select group (usually contest winners) can come and get things signed, pics taken and maybe even a little mini-concert before the big show. The only time I think it’s right to not do a signing is if you are too tired (bad for the voice), there is no security or professional set-up, or you have to travel immediately following the performance.
You do what you do FOR the public, for your fans, for your audience. Cultivating a meaningful relationship with the people who buy your wares is worth the time and the effort, and is a way of thanking them, as well.
Performance Series Part Two – Connecting With An Audience
by Sass Jordan – Artist, The Lowry Agency
Ahhh … the eternal question – how to connect with an audience?
For me, and audience is a collective energy. It ceases to be a bunch of different personalities, as it is impossible to relate one to one in a gathering of more than 3 or 4 individuals. So the audience is ONE person – a bunch of individuals that become ONE, kinda like the Borg on Star Trek. The thing about it is that each collective has a unique ‘personality’ that is created by the combination of all the individual personalities participating, including the performers.
So, the way I look at it is, how does this collective feel to me? Is it happy? Is it melancholy? Is it full of energy? Is it bored, or distracted? Is it aggressive? Is it drunk? Does it have a youthful feel, or an older feel? The feelings are subtle, but they are always there. As a performer, your job is to sense the atmosphere, and to guide it to wherever you want to go. I personally feel that my objective as an artist is to help people to express their feelings in a safe environment, and to feel uplifted by doing so. It is impossible to articulate how that happens in words, but the intent that you have makes a huge difference. You, as a performer, are in a powerful position to influence a collective ‘mood’, and it is therefore your responsibility to take that seriously. You can incite a riot, or a love – fest, and anything in between. You can also leave everyone utterly un-touched.
The primary thing to remember on a stage is that the impression you give off is how people will interpret you. This includes your clothing and the way you hold your body. Confidence makes a massive difference to the collective’s interpretation of your abilities. It you feel a lack of confidence, it will show, and it will make people uncomfortable for you. They won’t know why they are feeling so uncertain and unsure themselves, necessarily, but you can be sure they won’t be enjoying themselves!
Finally, the more you believe in the song you are singing, and relating it to your OWN emotions, the more the collective will feel the same way. Emotion is the most powerful thing in the Universe, in my opinion, and it’s what makes music a Universal language. Music IS emotion. Singing IS emotion. Brilliant playing of a musical instrument IS emotion. The audience wants to be moved, to forget their troubles and tribulations, and to be assured that they are not alone in the feelings that they have. We are all the same underneath our skins and our belief systems. We all want to feel a part of something. When you, as a performer, connect with those feelings inside of yourself, you will communicate them to the collective. Connecting with an audience is as simple and as difficult as connecting with your own feelings and emotions.
That is what makes the difference between a great performer and an average one.
Performance Series Part One-Preparing For The Show
by Sass Jordan – Artist, The Lowry Agency
In the great and glorious world of rock shows, there are a million ways to prepare for tonight’s show, but only a couple that guarantee you play your best game. Having been performing on stages in every kind of venue known to man and beast for the better part of 34 years, I have a tip or two for you …
Let’s start with the assumption that you are doing a one – off, as tours are so few and far between these days that the majority of the people reading this are likely to be doing the ‘showcase’ type gig, one where you have that one show to prove yourself and to interest the people that might matter in your near future, including agents, managers, sponsors and of course, more than anything else – fans. You have to turn all those people who might work with you into fans, or they will never have the motivation to do their best to get you and your work out there in a big way.
I like to make sure I have the tightest set list possible. If there are songs you have that are known in any way, those will be your feature songs – your set ‘hi-lites’, so to speak. You want to open super strong, because quite honestly, it’s like a comedian – if they don’t make you laugh in the first 15-30 seconds you will have a tepid reaction at best. If they can make you laugh immediately, it’s like it sets up your psyche to laugh at the rest of the stuff, even if it isn’t that funny. A comedy routine is front -loaded for a reason .. and it’s psychological! A rock show has to be the same way .. there is a flow that has to happen … come on super strong .. stay up …dip in the middle … and then build back up to a super strong finish.
You have to pace yourself, and you have to be ready to give everything you’ve got, every time you do it. Some days you’re gonna have more than other days, but no one else ever needs to know that. Physical prep for the show is pretty individual, but I’ll give you a run down of what I do ..
Start the day with a HEALTHY BREAKFAST .. this includes whole grains, eggs, nut butters, fruit, or my personal favorite, a green smoothie! Tons of vitamins, minerals and fiber PLUS a delicious taste .. what more could you ask for? Do your regular workout, or at least get in a brisk walk – you want to get the blood moving and the oxygen flowing through the system.
You’ll be doing a soundcheck, possibly traveling some distance, and perhaps some interviews, so you’ll be using your voice quite a bit day of show- something to remember in the weeks prior to the show. You want to have your voice on a work out schedule, just the same as your body. Try singing four of the songs that will be in the set every day for a couple of weeks prior to the show … this will train your vocal cords and get the songs deeply embedded into your subconscious, so that there will be no recall effort whatsoever.
Next, make sure you have your stage clothes ready to go- decide what you’re gonna wear the day before, try it on, make sure it looks good and is comfortable enough for you to move around in. Image is truly half the battle, or MORE! As Eddie Izzard says …”10% how you sing, 90% how you look doing it”!!! That is of course an exaggeration, but it’s something to keep in mind. There are a lot of huge stars today that are more about a look and a style than about great singing.
Get something light to eat about 2 hours before you play .. you want to have energy for the show – and drink a good amount of water through out the day, just to keep the vocal cords hydrated. Forty five to thirty minutes before show time, clear the dressing room so you can do your voice warm up routine, and talk through the set with the band – let them know if you are going to talk to the crowd and certain points, or if you are gonna move anywhere they need to know about – (like into the audience etc) and when.
In the last couple of minutes before you go onstage, think about why you are doing this. Ask yourself why people should bother coming to see and hear you. Why you, and not one of the other billion acts out there these days? These are the moments to gather up all your energy, bring it up to your heart center .. fill it with the love you have for what you do, and the service you are providing- and then bring it up to your throat center – run onto the stage, and SING!!!!!
Juno awarding singer/songwriter and former Canadian Idol judge Sass Jordan joins The Lowry Agency! We are extremely honored to be working with Sass! http://prlog.org/10714682