Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar cover from rehearsal from 5/5/2023 (room audio).
Here is a quick video from rehearsal the other night! Please subscribe to you YouTube Channel if you don’t mind!
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One of the great lies I hear from bands that haven’t made in the music business is that promoters don’t promote enough for their shows. Really? A PROMOTER whom by title and definitions job it is to promote isn’t promoting enough? I call a serious BS to this excuse that musicians use to not be accountable for their poor numbers. I have yet to meet either as a musician or a business person a promoter that didn’t promote. We are talking 30 years of playing or working in the business and I have never seen this. Even the small promoters work their fingers to the bone, pay the bands with what little came in and always go home with nothing while the bands bitch and complain and pretty much did no promotion what so ever.
It is my contention that most musicians don’t know what promotion truly is and wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it and they have no idea what is going on in the background. Is this harsh? Yes, but it is my experience dealing with musicians.
So let’s get this out of the way early. Yes, there are exceptions where maybe a promoter is new or doesn’t know what they are doing or maybe doesn’t have a budget but this is not what you normally deal with. Even still people who are promoting an event are usually very excited about their event and will promote it the hilt to the best of their ability which I can not say about musicians. Yes there are a few musicians out there that get it, but the majority don’t and they make excuses as to why they there are no people at their shows.
First and foremost, promoters are not in the business of losing money. Promoters are in the business of making money. They aren’t into taking chances and throwing away hard earned dollars by throwing an event and not promoting it. That is just plain stupid and not even close to reality. If you as a musician have met a promoter that is into throwing money away and you worked with them, then that is your fault for making a bad business decision. Hopefully you have learned form it and know what questions to ask next time.
As far as promoters taking advantage of local bands again a load of BS. If you are a local band, and you were lucky enough to get a spot on an event that has money behind it, you are already getting more than you are worth in advertising and promotion alone. It builds your brand, your credibility and if you actually drew in the minimum of 30 paid tickets you should be drawing in, then you will be remembered and brought in again and again as long as your work your butt off and keep brining in numbers. This does lead to getting paid and much better opportunities for you. If you are a local band opening for a A level or B level band, you are getting paid by getting in front of the audience that paid to see the headliner not you. This is a crowd that would never normally come see you. Understand the opportunity that it is, the opportunity you couldn’t normally afford to pay for yourself and make the most of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I stood in front of Bridgestone arena during a big concert by myself handing out promo cards while not one of the band members helped or how many times I was out ever day hanging posters and no help from the bands. 3 times I had a tiny bit of help hanging posters from 1 musician who did one small area of town with me and 2 others where a model and a friend helped me to 2 square blocks. Everything else was me every day hanging posters and hitting a previous area again every third day. The bands always had an excuse as to why they couldn’t help.
Promoters have their events listed on all the known event websites. They get their events in all the local entertainment rags. They set up radio interviews and advertising. They do email blasts over and over again. They have social media accounts that they promote on. They hang posters all over town over and over again because posters are always pulled down. This more promotion per event then most bands will do in a year for themselves let alone for just one event. What do musicians do? Maybe a couple Facebook posts or tweets and call that promotion.
In a perfect world, each event will be promoted to the hilt by the promoter, venue and bands. Will this happen? Maybe, maybe not. The reality is this. Each musician or band is responsible for their success and the success of each event no matter what anyone else does. You can never rely on someone else’s promotion for your business. YOU have to kill it each and every time. YOU cannot let excuses creep into your thought process. People pay to see bands that are good, the pay to see an experience. If they aren’t paying to see you, it’s not because of a lack of promotion by the venue or promoter. It’s because you aren’t giving them what they want yet. They don’t see anything worth paying for. YOU as a band have to learn how to separate people from their money. YOU have to learn how the become the EVENT that makes them put other things off and come see you instead of a movie or handing with friends.
As a promoter we have to do the same thing however, promoters learn quickly usually and bands seem to languish in poor work ethic and lack of creativity.
Bottom line is this. YOU have to toot your own horn and not expect anyone else to. YOU have to learn the skills to make this happen. YOU have to have a band that is dedicated to putting together a strategy to promote effectively. This means everyone in the band has to participate and quit using the “that just isn’t my thing” excuse. If you are in a band and you find that you don’t have the drive or the time to make this happen, then it is time re-evaluate your business and maybe step aside or just be comfortable with being a local band. There is nothing wrong with that. Getting up and playing music for any number of people is it’s own reward.
The music business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. There is very little money it, especially for bands that haven’t made it. Musicians wanted control of their careers so they could make more money and not get screwed. Well guess what, you got it. Now it is all your responsibility. The real work, the hard work is now up to you and you live and die by the sword.
Now you know why, bands had contracts that paid other people so much. They were the ones making you successful. They did all the hard work, the grunt work. They were the ones taking the risk and fronting the money so you could be a rock star.
Time to make a decision. Either you want it and will do everything as a unit possible to make it or you won’t, but quit blaming others for what you are not willing to do for yourself.
To all the bands that are doing it, keep it up! Never give up! Take the reigns of your business and do your best to dictate your success!
The entertainment business is incredibly tough to be in. We all think we are amazing talents and think we should be paid for all of our hard work and what it takes to put on a show of any kind but that isn’t the reality. The reality is it’s hard to separate people from their hard earned income and with all the entertainment being thrown at them from every angle now days, it’s very hard to capture their attention.
This is why is so incredibly critical that word of mouth spreads about your show the entice people to your future shows. It almost always takes lots and lots of shows before you start to see the crowds you want but there is a strategy to doing it and most importantly, it has to be an experience they will remember and always talk about.
The other day, Dana White of the promotions company UFC came out and said “If you want to get paid, you don’t want people doing the wave during your fight.You want them talking about you on Monday and Tuesday and that isn’t going to happen if they aren’t paying attention to your fight” (paraphrased.) This is completely true of any form of entertainment. If you can’t get people to talk about how completely amazing your show or performance was, you are not giving the audience the experience they are paying for and hence, you don’t deserve to get paid no matter how hard you worked nor should you expect them to. This isn’t an hourly paying gig based on the hours you put in. Lot’s of people work hard (most likely in the wrong areas) but may not be talented enough, visionary enough or a good enough producer to put on the entertainment experience of a life time.
This is the truth. Hard work doesn’t determine getting paid. Buying gear doesn’t determine getting paid. Nothing determines getting paid other than your show putting butts in seats no matter how hard you work or talented you are. This can be a very long and arduous process for any entertainer but it is usually the most common road. Time, effort, talent and an amazing amount of patience are absolutely necessary in the entertainment business. If you aren’t giving the public something that makes them want to part with their money, then you have no one to blame but yourself. You don’t deserve to get paid just for showing up.
Along with talent, planning, intense amounts of practice and the vision to make your dream happen and to also deliver something the public finds value in comes the actual real work that most entertainers don’t want to do and hope others will do for them before they are big enough for anyone to want to. The promotion, booking and business end of things. Somehow the entertainers have to be able to do all of this. It’s obviously very hard and if it was easy, every one would be doing it but they aren’t. However it can be done and there are plenty of examples in the business to prove it. It comes down to will, determination and talent not only to perform but design a show that will provide and experience, not just another so-so show that the public usually gets. They deserve much better than average if they are going to spend money on a ticket plus any other expenses such as drinks, dinner, parking or babysitting etc.
I would estimate that about 95% of what entertainers are putting out there in their performances or shows is completely average or below, yet all I see are entertainers demanding that they should get paid. Paid for what? Mediocrity? I won’t pay you for that. When you send in your material and tell me how amazing you are then that is what I expect. If you aren’t that, if you don’t deliver on your words of your live show, if you don’t put butts in seats or increase your crowd on average over time, then you simply are not as good as you say you are. That is reality. That doesn’t mean give up though. It means you need to re-evaluate your show. Take the time to make adjustments, improve in the areas that need it and learn to put on the show that people wan’t to see. If you don’t, you can’t complain about people not wanting to pay ticket prices. You aren’t providing the value to make it worth the price to them.
You want to sell tickets? Provide the experience that people can’t stop talking about. This means the most well rehearsed, professional dedicated performance you can deliver and it must keep getting better. Until then, you will be mired in mediocrity and low ticket sales and letting the business jade you for your perceived slights. No one owes you a living. In this business, talent, hard work, creativity and vision are all you have. Bring it or go home. Don’t complain about people not coming to your shows when you aren’t giving the very best for them to see.
This is the reality that haunts us all. You and me alike.
Monday morning I was on Facebook to see if Mayfair Games had posted my review of Star Trek Catan which they did because (thank you) they understand social media much better than just about all the rest of the of the board game publishing companies and I noticed in their social media posting that they were at an ASTRA Toy & Game Convention in Nashville just one block away from the Starbucks I was sitting at working so I jumped online and registered and high-tailed it down there to check out what was going on!
It was a great event with lots of fun toys and board games which is of course what I was interested in and a great energy with very friendly vendors, store owners, reps and staff. Granted most of the product is aimed at children but some of the games were amazing no matter what the target market was and real credit is due to the designers on their originality and the ability to put together games that allowed for different levels of playability at the same time so any age can play the challenge will better fit each player without the parent or adult having to throw a game for the children to win. There was some great solo player games, a few original party games that looked like a blast, one being Donkey from Cleveland Kids and Spontuneous from Spontuneous Games Inc. It was amazing to see so many great educational, fun toys and games. Things have come a long way since I was a kid.
As mention earlier Mayfair Games had a booth there demoing Catan Jr. which is my daughters favorite board game and a game more for adults called Five Points that looked very interesting. Asmodee Games had a presence there as well for both kids games like Timeline, another of my daughters favorites and 7 Wonders which is a great gateway game for the older crowd. I’ll have reviews of many of these games out soon so stay tuned for that.
Like any sales convention, you can tell who is experienced by their booth personality and who isn’t. There were a handful of people who didn’t try engage anyone as they walked by and others that were all about demoing their product which is the whole reason they are there. Creating interested and sales is the whole point of the convention. There were some very talented sales people there and that was fun to watch!
I spent many hours talking to reps and publishers and for the most part across the board whether it be through my normal connections or just talking with this crowd, many really don’t understand or utilize social media to even a 10th of its potential. Sure many of them have witter accounts and Facebook pages but most publishers just post once a day whatever the product that day is and they never engage their fans, reviewers or anyone. Social media is about engagement. This industry has got to learn to embrace this medium and utilize it before board games become passe again. All these companies have a marketing person who might have to do it all, but that is no excuse. Mayfair Games is great about posting their reviews (thank you from all of us reviewers,) Catalyst Game Labs is the best that I have come across so far that understand social media in this industry with email blog updates that are constantly engaging and interesting, Twitter posts with replies to their followers, constant Facebook updates and most of it isn’t a sales push, it’s an attempt to engage their customer base.
Learning to use social media properly is critical to any business today. If the manpower isn’t available, there are of course options like interns to help run it, but there just isn’t any excuse any more. Social media has been around to long to not have put a plan in place. Remember, it’s not about how many likes are on a Facebook page, it’s about how many people are talking about you and engaging with you. I can’t wait for the day with publishers engage with their customers and help blow the door of our favorite hobby.
Sometimes it amazes me some of the stuff I read on social media. Musicians complaining about other musicians “being posers” on Facebook or wherever trying to act bigger than they are or cooler than other bands. Well #1 that is their job and #2 just because someone takes it that way doesn’t mean that is what they are doing. They are simply trying to build excitement with their fans and followers.
Musicians are many times so eager to tear each other down, especially other musicians that seem to be having more success then they are and they don’t understand why or think their band is better and the world just isn’t fair. Of course the music business has very little to do with talent and everything to do with a budget, work ethic and marketability. If talent was the key than most bands have no shot at ever making it and jazz, fusion, classical and opera would reign supreme as that is where most of the worlds best talent truly lies.
What musicians have to learn is the art of promoting themselves and some people really struggle with this. They might feel funny about tooting their own horn but unless you have a major PR budget no one is going to do it with out getting paid. Musicians need to quit expecting someone to just help them out on a spec deal as there is no real money in this business anymore for people to work on the “hopes” of a band making it. Learning the art of self-promotion is extremely vital to making it and developing a new audience, gaining advantageous spots on tours etc. This is where they could learn from the UFC fighters.
Chael Sonnen was a middle of the road UFC fighter. He was always a very good wrestler but he wasn’t winning the big ones and certainly not all his fights. He was a quite, respectful fighter and never caused any controversy then suddenly there was a transformation. Chael came back after some time off and was a completely different media presence. All the sudden he was a smack talker. He learned the art of self-promotion and has talked himself into title fights he didn’t deserve necessarily. Now I am not taking anything away from his talent, but looking at rankings and records, he probably normally wouldn’t have been the one picked for these fights.
However, Chael learned to promote himself in the media to such an extent he became a major Pay-Per-View sell. Chael also never backs down from a fight; he doesn’t care what anyone else says about him, what the other fighter’s think of him or anything except for accomplishing his career goals. Now some people have said that behind the scene Chael is nothing like his smack-talking persona, he is a nice guy and an extremely hard worker, not the hard worker part. Chael has proven himself to be ready to go to his promoter the UFC by always being prepared not only being in shape to fight at a moments notice but that he will kick the shit out of the media schedule. He is a marketing machine and that is exactly what promoters want and look for. Their job is to sell tickets and the talent needs to understand that and me a major presence in making that happen. It keeps Chael employed and bumps up his paycheck quite dramatically.
You see, musicians need to quit worrying about what their local musicians buddies say and think. It’s not their goal or dream, it’s yours. It’s not their image; it’s yours to worry about. Who the hell cares what band ABC says about you online or behind your back. This business is nothing but shit talkers talking behind your back. It is your job to put out the very best show, product every night and to somehow get people to notice you, talk about you and most important bring more people to your next gig.
Whether or not you chose to be as controversial as Chael Sonnen is not my point, my point is Chael learned what he needed to do to separate himself from all the other UFC fighters looking for their shot beyond his fight skill which was already considerable. Chael talked himself into positions he probably shouldn’t have been able to be in because he created those spots by his selfless self-promotion. Chael has now secured himself a very good future outside of fighting as he now also a very popular TV host due to his self-promotion efforts. This is every band or musicians job period, to separate your band from the mass of white noise from the millions of others bands vying for a spot in the limelight.
Let me warn you though, do not do this if you can’t back up your talk. If your band isn’t as good as you say or your live show is just average, don’t even bother. Work your product to be the best, most creative and original thing your fan base will experience and then go out and self-promote the hell out of yourself. Don’t worry about anyone else but you and your goals.
Pull up your bootstraps, dig deep in the trenches and become a self-promotion powerhouse. You owe yourself that much in order to achieve your dream. Anything else is a waste of time.
In our very first video interview for the board game column, I am interviewing Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games in a Google+ hangout. In this interview we talk to Michael about releasing his new game Dungeon Heroes in July as well as the expansions “The Dragon& the Damsel” and “Lords of the Undead” that are being released at the same time. Also discussed is some of the things that a small publisher and designer have to know to get their games out there.
Please leave comments on what you thought about the interview and what other content you would like to see in our video series.
Please make sure to follow Michael and Gamelyn Games at the following social media sites:
This interview was originally posted on Geek Eccentric: http://www.geekeccentric.com/david-lowry-interviews-michael-coe-of-gamelyn-games-about-dungeon-heroes/
Rock band Maragold chats with Live From Music City about their new CD “Maragold” to be release on April 23rd, songwriting and the music business!
Listen to the interview here!
MARAGOLD…a band that started as an idea and grew into a long awaited reality.
Renowned guitarist Greg Howe, widely known for his rock / fusion instrumental recordings, had been considering doing an album featuring vocal-driven songs for quite a while. Long time friend, bassist Kevin Vecchione, had played on Greg’s “Five” album, as well as having toured with Greg previously.Through the years, over the course of their enduring friendship, Greg and Kevin had been discussing and mulling over the idea of being in a band together… They finally decided to stop talking and start acting, and the seeds of the band “Maragold” were sown. Drummer Gianluca Palmieri, who had also toured with Greg, and played on his recent album “Sound Proof”, was recruited to complete their dynamic rhythm section.
All they needed was “the voice”…
Originally, the band started working with a male singer, but due to other musical endeavors, he was unable to continue with the project. In the meantime, Kevin had discovered an amazing vocal talent while performing in the Tri-State area club circuit, and suggested the female singer as a replacement. Greg was initially hesitant, as the songs they had lined up were centered around a male vocalist.
Kevin had Greg listen to some demos he had done with the new singer, Meghan Krauss. Greg enthusiastically agreed that she had “the voice”, but Meghan’s presence, personality, image, and especially her ability to inject herself into a song, truly made her the “total package” that they wanted in a vocalist. Meghan agreed to take on the duties as lead singer; Greg and Kevin immediately went to work writing songs befitting her vocal style.
The results are the ten amazing songs on the debut self-titled album, “MARAGOLD”. Combining exemplary musicianship and powerhouse vocals with provocative songwriting, the album represents a daring new direction for Greg Howe, which is sure to be an exciting experience for his fans, old and new.
You can find out more about Maragold here:
Earlier I was looking at my numbers for this blog and was completely amazed at how well it was doing the last couple days based on one CD review for the band Maragold. Yesterday when I released it it was already doing double it’s average daily but then around 11:00pm CST the band posted it on Facebook and holy crap did it explode. It his had more views by 10 times the amount of any other CD review or musician spotlight I have written. Here is the key, each one posted it pretty much on their personal and band page on Facebook. Most bands don’t do this. They maybe post it once on their band page and not on their personal pages and they interacted with their fans about it. When I released it in the morning two of the band members and the band twitter account RT’d it once and that was it. For further reference on this please read my blog “Creating The “Buzz,” It’s Your Responsibility.”
What does this mean? It means that Maragold has found a way to reach it’s audience like no other band I have reviewed for or spotlighted. It means “true” fans not Facebook likes are extremely excited about them. It means they have actually offered up something the public wants. They did this in spite of having never released a CD and the only member of the band with a real name is was co-founder Greg Howe who is a well known guitar instrumentalist. Well known being relative in the world of music. Yes most guitar players know who he is, but the world doesn’t. Please note that Maragold didn’t ask me for a review. I just did it because when I listened to the CD it was so good I really had no choice.
Everyday on Facebook I see bands complaining about how hard it is or how the industry keeps people down etc… That is complete bunk. Is it hard yes but most bands don’t work hard enough, give the public something they want to buy or shoot themselves in the foot with poor promotion and bad social media skills. Is it anyone else’s fault you can’t make it? No. For whatever reason, Maragold has touched an audience with no prior CD, no real history of gigging, nothing but the past success of guitar player Greg Howe and each other individuals past endeavors. They made it happen without anything other than hard work, determination, incredible talent and most importantly at this stage knowing how to build up a release. Now because of this, hopefully with continued hard work, the songs which are amazing, will be the deciding factor in their long term success.
This audience interaction is what every band should be striving for, for without it, you have nothing.
Pre-order the Maragold CD here: http://www.maragoldband.com/
Guitar Great Hangout on Live From Music City with Carl Verheyen, Gretchen Menn, Neil Zazza, Jon Finn, Rob Balducci, Mike Martin and Chris Green
Join guitar virtuosos Carl Verheyen, Gretchen Menn, Neil Zaza, Jon Finn, Rob Balducci, Mike Martin and Chris Green as well talk all things guitar on a Google+ hangout! Covering everything from songwriting, marketing, touring and developing a fan base. Tweet us at @LFMCRadio to ask your questions and listen to some of music’s most prolific instrumentalists tell you how to beat the challenges of the music industry.
Date: TBD – Due to technical issues, this hangout is being rescheduled. Please check back for the new date and time!
Time 7:00pm – 8:30pm CST
Where: THIS PAGE
Carl Verheyen Biography
In his 40-plus years of playing the instrument, Carl has created a wildly successful, multi-faceted career. He is a critically-acclaimed musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer and educator with 11 CDs and two live DVDs released worldwide. Carl is commonly regarded as a guitar virtuoso capable of playing any style of music with remarkable mastery and conviction. He has been one of LA’s elite “first call” session players for the past 25 years, playing on hundreds of records, movie soundtracks and television shows. Carl has graced the pages of countless industry publications and been the subject of numerous articles chronicling his rise to the forefront of the modern day guitar scene. Carl has won numerous polls and musical honors in the US, Germany, France, Italy and the UK.
A member of the smash hit British rock group Supertramp since 1985, Carl has played to millions of enthusiastic fans in sold out arenas worldwide. As the creative force behind The Carl Verheyen Band, he has released an impressive and eclectic discography that showcases his endless talents across a wide array of musical genres.
A much sought after studio musician, Carl plays on other artists’ CDs whenever his busy schedule permits. He has recorded and played with a virtual who’s who of the music industry. His vast collection of movie soundtrack and television credits are enviable. Carl was heard by 67, 000,000 people as a featured soloist at the 2009 Academy Awards. He will also be heavily featured in the forthcoming film documentary about the electric guitar, Turn It Up!
On the educational front, Carl has produced two instructional videos called Intervallic Rock Guitar and Forward Motion as well as various on-line lessons. He also has a book/CD detailing his unique “intervallic” style called Improvising Without Scales. Another book entitled Studio City is a compilation of all the columns Carl wrote for Guitar Magazine between 1996 and 1999. He has written a monthly column for Chitarre, Italy’s #1 guitar publication as well as Guitar World and Guitar Jam Daily, a website devoted to serious guitarists. He currently writes a monthly column for Guitar Player, contributes to other guitar publications, and blogs regularly for GuitarPlayer.com and his own site. Carl also lectures and teaches at clinics regularly when not on the road.
Carl recently co-designed a signature guitar with LsL Instruments, the “CV Special,” combining the best elements Carl seeks in his ideal guitar; they are now available for purchase worldwide. As if that weren’t enough, working closely with Dean Markley, Carl developed a line of signature strings for the electric guitar that perfectly balance the tremolo bridge of the Fender Stratocaster, the Carl Verheyen Balanced Bridge Helix HD string set . Also working with Dean Markley, Carl helped develop a top-of-the-line guitar lubrication, Tuba Luba, in addition to his numerous existing endorsements.
Photo by: Max Crace
Gretchen Menn Bio
Rapidly gaining praise in the world of instrumental rock and beyond, Gretchen Menn isn’t your average guitar hero on the rise. She once flew regional jets to support her six-string habit. She has studied, in equal parts, the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Morse, Frank Zappa, and Jimmy Page. (Regarding the latter composer, she performs the music of Led Zeppelin professionally all over the U.S. with Zepparella.) Perhaps Michael Molenda, Guitar Player Magazine’s editor-in-chief, described Gretchen’s solo music best when he said that she “seeks the unknown by blending disparate jazz, prog, and world-music influences into a tasty, guitaristic thrill ride.” Her first solo album, Hale Souls, released in July of 2011, is an instrumental album of original compositions that range from aggressive to celestial.
Apart from demolishing her mother’s violin with Pete Townshend-like vehemence at age three, Gretchen’s passion for all things guitar didn’t fully surface until her early teenage years. It was under the tutelage of classical guitarist Phillip de Fremery, a student of Andrés Segovia, that Gretchen began her path on the instrument. Her father, noted writer and former editor-in-chief of Guitar Player Magazine, Don Menn, was quick to point her in the direction of the greats as soon as she expressed interest in guitar.
While earning a degree in music at Smith College, Gretchen’s adventurous approach to her education would foreshadow her approach to the guitar. She convinced a professor to allow her to launch a special studies project on the intricate and unclassifiable music of Frank Zappa. Her analyses of “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress” showed a love for epic, melodic, genre-shattering rock and roll composition that would manifest later in her original instrumentals.
After college, Gretchen began heavily incorporating her love of rock guitar into her daily regime, the only hitch being that the music of her rock gods, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, and Frank Zappa, wasn’t exactly Guitar 101. She also began considering her career path, and how she might prevent a situation she sought to avoid: tainting her love of music with the necessity of paying rent.
The solution? She went directly from college to flight school, and two years later was flying regional jets for the airlines. Yet Gretchen was never without her guitar.
After a year in the jet, with the life of an airline pilot being more than a little incompatible with a career in music, Gretchen relinquished her position with the airlines, knowing that there was a pilot out there somewhere who would appreciate the opportunity. She decided to take a more direct approach to realizing her musical dreams.
Playing with tireless passion and constantly seeking out new challenges, Gretchen’s projects have spanned the genres of jazz, funk, rock, progressive, and metal. In 2003, she donned a schoolboy uniform and joined AC/DShe as “Agnes Young.” In 2005, she joined forces with drummer, Clementine, to form Zepparella, currently with singer Noelle Doughty and bassist Angeline Saris. In 2007, Gretchen formed Sticks and Stones, the high-energy, instrumental “bassless power trio” with guitarist Mickael Tremel and drummer Sam Adato. In 2010, she played in Lapdance Armageddon, an aggressive acoustic duo with Jude Gold. In 2011 she wrote, produced, and recorded her first solo album, Hale Souls, which features bassist Stu Hamm, drummer John Mader, violinist Emily Palen, and guest artists Angeline Saris (bass on “Scrap Metal”), Jude Gold (second acoustic guitar on “Fast Crowd”), and Gretchen’s sister, Kirsten Menn (soprano on “Fading.”) Gretchen’s solo project, a trio with Angeline Saris on bass and Thomas Perry on drums, played their first shows in November of 2011, and will be starting to tour more in 2012.
Neil Zaza Biography
His guitar playing has defined modern day instrumental guitar the world over. His melodic compositions have not only changed the way musicians play, but what audiences demand out of their guitar heroes. To see Ohio native Neil Zaza’s influential impact on guitar across the globe, merely tune into the legion of thousands of fanatical fans performing his international hit, “I’m Alright” on YouTube. Neil’s trademark “singing” and lyrical guitar style is easily recognizable and can only belong to one man: Neil Zaza.
“It’s always been about the song for me,” states Neil. “I remember all the tunes that really moved me when I was growing up and it wasn’t about the guitarist playing 128th notes. It was about an inexplicable connection I felt drawing me to wear out my records as I couldn’t get enough of that rush of the song itself! That’s what I try and do with my music today. It’s always about the song!”
Neil Zaza worldwide touring has cemented him as a true guitar phenomenon. He’s played alongside and shared the stage with such guitar luminaries as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Nuno Bettencourt. His recordings feature collaborations with Van Halen’s Michael Anthony, Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess, drumming legend Steve Smith, Peter Frampton among others.
Neil Zaza’s mastery of the guitar amasses accolades from all sources. While he continues to transform the world of instrumental rock music one melody at a time, it’s his fiery interpretations of holiday repertoire fused with Classical melodies and classic Rock that is the basis for his One Silent Night… concert series. Neil, his band, and an orchestra/choir aren’t just performing holiday music with One Silent Night…-they are literally reinventing it!
Now, with his latest release entitled 212, Neil has set the melodic bar even higher with a project taking his melodic stylings to even greater heights. 212 boasts songs that put composition and melody on par with his stunning guitar prowess. The combination is deadly and sure to set the watermark for how expressive and emotive a guitarist can be.
This unique voice continues to evolve…
Jon Finn Biography
A guitarist since age six, Jon Finn has been a professional musician for most of his life. Joining the guitar faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1988, he started the Jon Finn Group later that same year. To date, they have released three CDs internationally:
For over three years, Jon wrote a monthly instructional feature for a national magazine called Guitar. Jon has also authored several books for Mel Bay Publications:
- Advanced Modern Rock Guitar Improvisation
- One Guitar, Many Styles
- Blues/Rock Improvisation
- Guitar Riffs in the Style of the 60s and 70s
- with others in the works…
In his freelance pursuits, he’s played guitar for the national touring companies of many contemporary musical theater productions such as Rent, Aida, Mamma Mia, Grease, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Copacabana, and many others. Today Jon frequently performs and records with the Boston Pops Orchestra, and has been involved in a plethora of concerts and recording sessions, including 6 CDs (two of which were Grammy nominated), 8 US concert tours, and one tour in Asia.
Rob Balducci Bio
A native of New York, Rob Balducci has defined himself as a guitarist, musician, composer and one of the most sought after instructors in New York. Balducci’s music is drenched in layers of sonic colors, each representing a tangible emotion, desire, depth, feeling, thought and mood. Rob said “There’s this cliche that instrumental guitar music has gotten to be too much of a vehicle for soloing and showing off technique. That’s completely the opposite of what I’m trying to do. My music is really like vocal songs with the guitar as the vocals.” Guitar World said after hearing Balducci’s debut CD “ Hum-able Shred! What a concept.”
“ Rob is an excellent guitarist… I’ve always had his CDs around and I am waiting for him to become the next big guitar player ” – Joe Satriani “
Rob is a great player and is as dedicated to his work as one can get and it shows in the construction of his audio emotions”- Steve Vai
Having played guitar for the past 24 years, Rob spent years dedicated to mastering his instrument. These well-spent years of woodshedding, and perfecting his technique would pay off handsomely. In 1990, Balducci would go on to win a local contest sponsored by Guitar For The Practicing Musician proclaiming him as New York’s best guitarist. Balducci also furthered his six-string education, earning a degree in music performance and theory from Five Towns College. Balducci’s debut CD, 1995’s BALANCE distributed through Sony Music reaped unanimous praise from press and guitar enthusiasts alike heralding this promising new talent.
After his debut CD Balance, Rob worked on new material and starting shopping his music to record companies. The new CD was sent to Steve Vai in hopes of Steve wanting to release it on his new record label Favored Nations Entertainment. “Favored Nations was created with the intent of bringing music that’s energetic and emotional, with performances by artists of the highest caliber. The artists signed to Favored Nations are a unique, dedicated breed that have attained the highest performance level on their chosen instruments – Steve Vai “ Vai signed Balducci to Favored Nations and released Mantra and The Color Of Light CDs worldwide. Balducci’s newest 2009 Favored Nations CD is titled Violet Horizon and features 15 new tracks of his best work to date with special guest appearances by Guthrie Govan and Dave Weiner.
2009 has been a busy year, not only has Balducci recorded Violet Horizon he also collaborated with Bassist Randy Coven and drummer John Macaluso on a new CD that will be coming out on BHP/NuGroove records. The CD features songs written by Randy, Rob and John and is produced by Emmy Award winning producer Brian Tarquin. Joining Rob on this CD is fellow guitar players Steve Vai, Leslie West and many more….
Rob is currently working on his debut instructional DVD which will be released through The Rock House Method company. His stellar guitar stylings can also be heard on “Rewired: A Tribute To Jeff Beck,” “Crushing Days: A Tribute To Joe Satriani” and a salute to Carlos Santana. Rob Balducci has the pleasure of working with and endorsing Ibanez Guitars, Cornford Amps, Intellitouch tuners, D’Addario Strings, Dimarzio Pick-ups, George L’s cables, Morley pedals, Keeley Pedals, Xotic pedals, Dunlop, Maxon and performs clinics around the world in support of these companies.
The musical community has also taken notice of this guitar giant, with scores of global publications loudly singing his praises (most notably Guitarist UK, Guitar World, Young Guitar, and Burn). What remains constant about Rob Balducci is his intoxicating cinematic scope of sounds, skin-tight arrangements and extraordinary six-string dexterity. Music is a highly personal experience for each and every listener, a uniquely exotic adventure conjuring up a kaleidoscope of different emotions and feelings. Like a master snake charmer, Balducci’s music seduces, inspires, challenges, and ultimately takes you onto a new dimension of light and shade and into the ” Violet Horizon
Mike Martin Biography
Mike “2 of 5” Martin began his life on stage. Literally. Mike’s mother was pregnant while she was in college studying and performing opera. He never had a chance! He began his formal study of music at the age of four, learning violin and singing in choir throughout elementary school. At nine, he started playing the piano. In 1985 he discovered the guitar and was given one that year for Christmas. Teaching himself to play by ear, Mike quickly developed a repertoire of popular rock music, learning every AC/DC riff he could.
In junior high, Mike began seeking out teachers who could help further him along as a player. After a short stint with music store lessons, Mike was accepted to study at The Concord Community Music School in Concord, New Hampshire, studying Classical Guitar with Christopher Kane and Jazz Guitar with David Tonkin.
Mike earned his first professional job as a musician playing 12-string guitar for the New Life Singers, a contemporary Christian folk ensemble based out of Concord, NH. At fifteen, Mike started a rock band and began performing music by Metallica, Queensryche, Anthrax, Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden all over New Hampshire with musicians who were already out of school
Eager to learn as much as possible about the guitar, Mike took an opportunity to move to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1990 to begin studying with Tom Yoder, a local guitar wizard that Mike credits for bringing out the discipline and skills he would need for a lifetime of music achievement. During this period, Mike continued performing in the Myrtle Beach area with local bands. He stayed under Tom’s tutelage until graduating from high school in 1992
After high school, Mike moved to Atlanta with the group Tunnel Vision in hopes of getting his performing career off the ground. The new Alternative and Grunge movements made it difficult for Mike to secure many opportunities, but he did make some acquaintances along the way. During a short stint at a Georgia landscaping company he met Rich Ward of Stuck Mojo, and Sean Delson and Doug Busbee of Salem Ash. Little did he realize then the significance of this brief encounter.
Discouraged by the trend in “anti-guitar-solo” music, Mike did the only thing he could think of: Go To College! Here he studied Music Theory and Composition with Dr. David Maves, ASCAP Composer of the Year 1995. He also continued his Classical guitar studies with Mark Regnier and Jazz studies with pianist Tommy Gill.
After graduating in 1999, Mike moved back to Atlanta to pick up where he had left off. He soon found work in the thriving Atlanta Blues Scene as a mercenary sideman for hire which gained him the honor of being included in a historic photo of GA blues musicians now on display in The Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, GA. Mike also had great success performing with his Nuevo Gypsy/Flamenco duo with Ed Wier. Mike began showcasing his writing with the group The Hybrids in 2000, which ultimately lead to starting a group under his own name in 2002.
Mike was approached by Sean Delson in the summer of 2004 on behalf of Rich Ward and FOZZY to take over lead guitar responsibilities. They were in the process of dropping the joke gimmick to become a real band and beginning a world tour to support their record “All That Remains” featuring guitar solos by Hard Rock and Metal guitar heroes Zakk Wylde, Mark Tremonti and Marty Friedman. They were in need of a real guitar player to do the album justice on the road and Mike was more than up to the challenge, transcending “touring sideman” status to become a feature of the live shows. Since then Mike has toured worldwide with FOZZY and recorded The Duke’s (Ward’s) release on Spitfire Records, “My Kung Fu Is Good” (released worldwide May 2005). In 2006, Mike played lead guitar for FOZZY on the track “Metal Gods” for a tribute to Judas Priest CD featuring Motorhead, Vince Neil, Sepultura and Tim “Ripper” Owens among others.
Being in close association with the band Stuck Mojo, Mike was asked to perform on their long awaited album “Southern Born Killers”. After having toured with the band multiple times and appearing as a guest in the upcoming DVD release “Live at the London Underworld”, Mike joined the band as an official member and second guitarist to Rich Ward in 2007, appearing in the music video for “I’m American”. During Mike’s time with Stuck Mojo, they toured extensively throughout Europe with Vol Beat and Ektomorph, as well as signed with Napalm Records to release “The Great Revival” in January of 2009.
2009 also finally saw the release of the live CD which had been recorded in Australia on FOZZY’s 2005 “Remains Alive” tour. Mike’s final contribution to the band was to produce the track “Wormwood” for the January 2010 release “Chasing the Grail”. Chris Jericho penned the lyrics about the end of the world inspired by the book of Revelations. Mike turned those lyrics into a 14 minute progressive hard rock cinematic feast for the ears composing, arranging, engineering, playing all of the guitars, conducting the choir for the finale and co-mixing with Eric Frampton. This standout track was a complete musical departure for the band and it demonstrates Mike’s growth as an artist in his own right. “Wormwood” has been a very highly reviewed track on the album and a fan favorite but more importantly, it is a synergistic example of all that Mike has to offer and a tip of the hand as to what he will be up to on his next projects.
During his tours of duty with FOZZY, The Duke, and Stuck Mojo, Mike seized upon the opportunity to build a project studio at his home so he could begin to produce his solo projects. The first of which was the instrumental album “2 of 5”, originally released the Summer of 2006 independently on Serpa Records, and now available worldwide through Steve Vai’s Digital Nations Division of the Favored Nations record label. “The title is a reference to the Borg character ‘7 of 9’ on Star Trek,” says Mike. “I am the second of five children so I thought it was pretty clever.” With the new Vai DN partnership, and the critical acclaim and success of “Wormwood”, 2013 is poised to be the year Mike gets his band touring properly as well as working on a new music set to be released in 2013.
2011 – 2013
Mike worked with Atlanta projects Agent Cooper (featuring members of Fozzy, Stuck Mojo, The Duke and Salem Ash) and The Nominees (featuring members of doubleDrive and Speed X). Touring Europe opening for Tony MacAlpine in 2012.
Highlights for MIke’s solo project in 2012 include opening for Steve Vai at Center Stage in Atlanta, GA and The Aristocrats (featuring Guthrie Govan, Bryan Beller and Marco Minneman) in Nashville, TN
Mike’s foundations in Classical, Metal, Jazz, Folk, Rock and World music have allowed him dedicate his career to versatility and culture with the highest respect for art by any means necessary. Perhaps he is best described in the following way:
Art with a purpose is a force to be reckoned with.
Chris Green Biography
Guitarist Chris Green has had the pleasure of playing in a long list of powerful rock bands, including Furyon, Nelson, Scrap Metal, Defcon, Firehouse and Pride. In 2008, the UK band, “Furyon” recorded their debut album with platinum-selling producer Rick Beato. His most recent project is a collaboration with CJ Snare, “Rubicon Cross,” as well as writing an instrumental album yet to be released.