The Ghost Guitarist and myself had been working on "Olivia" for 13 years. We finally had a version we were ready to record, but we wanted the very best for this song. That's why we recorded it at Skyline Studios in Oakland, CA.Read More
Instead of hibernating this winter (my usual, cold weather go-to), I formed a band.
It was interesting how it came about. I always knew I needed more backup because I LOVE being able to focus on singing and performing. The Ghost Guitarist has been doing such a great job of simple guitar backup, I hadn't really been pushing the issue. But going to open mics in the area made me realize how many incredible musicians are looking for more playing opportunities.
I met Chris, the drummer for The E'ville Experience, at the Black Diamond Cafe's open mic. He was actively looking for playing opportunities, and I wanted to get to know him better to see if he would be a good fit for my band. I found out he worked down the street from my home, at Best Coast Burritos (BCB), my favorite local taqueria. So, like a normal person, I got a job at BCB so I could get to know him better.
It turned out to be a really good day job, and, even better, Chris turned out to be a cool, smart guy who was also really amazing at drumming. Now, I'm the friendly, local burrito woman. And Chris is the drummer for The E'ville Experience.
When it became clear that we had an okay sound, but could fill it out a bit more, Chris brought in Elliott to try out on the bass. It wasn't the best rehearsal, honestly. The group didn't sync up as I'd hoped when we found a really talented bass player. And Elliott was, without a doubt, an incredibly talented bass player. After that experience, I walked away wondering if I was the problem.
The Ghost Guitarist assured me that the problem was him. He is a Ghost Guitarist for a reason. Everything was getting bigger, everyone was dedicated to the band, everyone wanted to play for an audience. Those were counter to the Ghost Guitarist's instincts with music. He's always been a "behind the scenes" person, and not only do I not begrudge him that, I am GRATEFUL for that. Because now I have a dedicated sound person. Not many small time bands can boast a sound person with such a great education, passion, and dedication to sound OR their personal band. The Ghost Guitarist becomes more of a ghost...
So now I needed a guitarist. This was really personal to me, as guitar is what most of my songs were originally written on. The guitar interpretations were the clearest to me in all of my tracks (except for vocals) and I knew it would be a tough bill to fit. Imagine my surprise when another open mic participant at Black Diamond Cafe turned out to be the perfect answer. Nick had band experience and practiced constantly. His sound reminded me of the 80's and 90's in all the best ways, while still being new and exciting. When he announced he was looking for more playing opportunities, I was like, "I got to know Chris better by getting a job at his restaurant...I can't just get another job every time I need a new band member..."
Luckily I didn't let a little thing like avoiding people in general stop me from reaching out to Nick. We brought Elliott back in and suddenly, everything seemed to work. The balance was good. The music we were playing had been elevated, AND it was well balanced because the Ghost Guitarist was adjusting our levels on the fly.
I'm excited as we approach our first show together at Cochina, which promises to be an amazing backyard music festival. If you want to see our work, head to my YouTube page. I post videos after every jam session. I love this band, I hope you do too.
Oh, we're called The E'ville Experience because we were formed in Emeryville (E'ville), California.
Singing in front of people is something that feels natural to me, and I love that. There's a part of me that clicks on when I get onstage, a kind of "Sasha Fierce" takeover. I am so grateful. I consider my performance self to be much better than I am at being around people in general, but she is also quick, witty, and very poised. She is exhausting to be, but someone I envy most of the time.
I'm naturally an introvert. I spend most of my time throughout the week alone, recharging, and I am extremely happy that way. The people I do see are people I'm very close to, or people that I run into through the course of my day-to-day chores. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find a place that I have to go to AND I love the people there. Black Diamond Cafe is one of those places.
Their Open Mic (which I was lucky enough to perform at last Friday, 3/10) is a really wonderful place of expression and openness that makes anyone feel at home. I was thrilled to share some songs and I can't wait to go back. I haven't done Open Mic Nights for a few years, so it's nice to get back into the saddle and sing live. The audience was supportive and engaged and the host was clearly invested in the program.
Here's video of me singing my first song of the night, "Still Alive" from the video game Portal! In the future I'll try to make sure we get my entire set recorded.
I'll perform at Black Diamond in the future, they have Open Mic on the second Friday of each month so that's a safe time to stop by if you'd like to hear me sing! While you're there, you'll probably hear some hilarious stand-up, heart wrenching poetry, and a lot of great music. See you there!
I go to Black Diamond Cafe about once a week. It's the best place when I'm working on a project, but need a change of scenery. That's why I am so excited they have an Open Mic every second Friday of the month! I love making music, but I don't have a full band right now. Doing a full gig with an entire set up is something I aspire to, and it would be awesome. In the meantime, I love playing scaled back, stripped down versions of my music.
I'm so excited for the songs I'll be sharing! I have some covers to introduce my live music style, and we'll do an effect free "Trains" as well. If you can't make it out to this performance, don't worry. It's an open mic, there will be others ;)
After I put up the "Plateau" cover video, I realized I should explain the Ghost Guitarist.
You can see a hand on the left side throughout the video playing guitar, but why isn't the guitarist's full body in the video? Why does the camera point AWAY from them? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?!
Well, that's Isaac. And he doesn't love cameras. Or being the center of attention. Even when we take a group picture, Isaac is the one hiding in the back. But he loves playing guitar, and I love focusing on singing and expressing a song. I might put up some videos with me playing keyboard while I sing, or playing ukulele, but ultimately I am a singer and that is what I love doing. I'm so grateful and incredibly lucky to have an excellent guitar player on hand to help lay down tracks, play guitar for my videos, and jam whenever I feel like it. Even if he isn't so excited for people to see him doing it.
And then there's Jesse. I've written about him before and he's had influence on every single song on my album so far. He contributes, usually, about 50% to a track we're working on. He does almost all of the backing tracks. Drums, bass, keyboard, he is incredibly talented on many instruments. Jesse does most of the producing work. So why isn't his face plastered all over my promotional images?
The amazing people I work with are not making music for the attention, likes, or even really money (although it would be great to make a living off of our art). We LOVE this music and we wanted to find the best way to get it to people. Since my education and experience is in performance, my face is the one you see. I love being on camera. I love performing for people. I am the only one of the three of us that feels comfortable being the main attraction in this way.
You'll probably see more videos with my favorite Ghost Guitarist (wow, that is such a cool title. I'm just going to start calling Isaac that in this blog). You'll definitely hear more songs with Jesse's tracks on them. I'll try to sneak some pictures and videos of all three of us onto this blog as much as I can. They are a major part of my music's process, and I want to share all of the process with you!
Sometimes I feel very confident in my music. Like when a set of lyrics syncs up perfectly to the music I'm writing for, or when I get a recording that I love on the first take.
"Plateau" was not that way.
This is a new process for me, I don't usually film short videos. I knew I wanted to show y'all my face though, so I figured out a way to do it. I didn't have money to invest in a camera, but camera phones are getting better all the time. I did have lots of recording equipment for the music at least, I thought that would be pretty simple. And then I have a basic movie editing program, so I can put the recording over the video. EASY!
My first attempt to get this video was ALL the way back in November. I had a video file that was too large (too high of quality) for the simple program I was editing in. After many compression efforts, I decided to throw in the towel. It hadn't been my favorite recording. The video was pretty good, but my vocals could have been better.
The next time I tried was in December. It took a while, but I got a video I liked and the vocals were better. I was so spent after we finally got it, I saved everything so I could work on it the next day. When I went back to listen to the track again, I was furious.
There was a blip in the track.
I have a fairly old music mixing program, and every now and then a piece of the recording will be randomly cut out, or a weird blip will be added in, slightly throwing off the timing. It's annoying because it sounds bad, but it's more annoying because it stops lining up correctly with other tracks OR a video. That's exactly what happened here. I had an extra half second in the vocal/guitar recording that wasn't in the video recording. I couldn't get them to line up correctly, as the blip was in the middle of the track.
Which brings me to yesterday. I knew I wanted this video to be done by January 20th, so yesterday was my recording deadline. I set up my camera, and after many takes (It's taken me longer to get a take I like as I go!) I finally had it all ready. The part I had thought would be easiest had taken me 3 months of frustration to get right. Now began the part I thought would be tricky, lining up my vocal track to the video file.
And that took me about 20 seconds.
The good news is, I do think this is the best recording we did out of all of them. I learned a lot about camera angles on my singing face while setting up this shot numerous times. I feel much more confident about the editing process.... but I sincerely hope my next video recording goes better than this.
Enjoy "Plateau"! You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qL1zpcR1cLo
I just read a really inspiring post from Patton Oswalt that addressed what steps we can take to fight the new status quo in a helpful, productive way. He recommended tuning your TV to ANYTHING other than the inauguration, and then he recommended supporting small and local struggling arts. It is a beautiful gesture of love and support for anyone that isn't marching or protesting in another way, but wants to. I loved the idea of art taking our country in the right direction, with or without a crazy person at the steering wheel.
I realized I should release something new on January 20th to give people wanting something else to tune into a Rose Gonzales option. Of course I would love it if you bought my music on iTunes or added it to playlist on Spotify (they even have "Scorch the Earth" with the correct spelling up...finally :D), but you can also find my music on YouTube. I'll post a video of me singing a cover I love tomorrow morning.
You'll be able to find that here
I think I'll spend the 20th writing lyrics. I can't stand feeling useless right now, and trying to put my angry energy into productive creativity has been helping me prep for Rose Gonzales, Pt. 3. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends! Be safe out there, no matter what your plans are!
While my entire Facebook feed has informed me that 2016 was, in fact, the worst year EVER, I hope I look back on it as the beginning of something great. I launched my music out into the world this year. Not all of the world heard it, but I did it. I've sold songs on iTunes. I've streamed music that people actually listen to on a regular basis. That's really awesome!
It can be easy to look at people successful in the music industry and think that you haven't accomplished anything at all. Ariana Grande is 23 and she's been nominated for 4 Grammy Awards. I just turned 29 and finally have 7 songs up on iTunes. It's not a good comparison.
But the most important comparison is the one to myself. And I have 7 songs released from my first album this year, as compared to 0 songs released from the dream album in my head last year. That feels like a huge accomplishment and I'm really proud of myself. I'm also very excited to have that number increase next year!
In addition to more music, which is always goal #1, this year I hope to have more content up for you here. I have some videos of me singing that I want to get up. I hope to turn this into a weekly blog where I can tell you about my process, my music education, and what led me to music in the first place. I will probably do some live performances this year too, so keep your eyes peeled for dates. However, My first goal for 2017 will be the 3rd part of my album release. But that may take a while. I want to put 5 songs out this time. We'll see if I can make that happen.
One final note here, "Scorth the Earth" is still up on Spotify ;)
I listened to the tracks in Rose Gonzales, Pt. 2 so many times. I wanted to make sure they were perfect.
I double checked each track I uploaded. I had to make sure everything was correct.
After looking at the title "Bullet in Flight" for too long, I had to look the word "bullet" up to make sure I had spelled it correctly.
And yet, it was not careful enough.
I was up at midnight, waiting to put my music on RoseGonzalesMusic.Com. I uploaded the music, made sure it worked, and then went to iTunes to see if the music was live and available for purchase yet. It was up and available for purchase, but something was not right.
"Scorth the Earth"
"Oh no." I said, to myself, in the dark, at midnight. "Oh no, no, no, no, no, no...."
It was an excellent Shia LeBeouf impersonation, but my heart was beating so fast I thought I might be having a heart attack. I wasn't lying in my last blog post when I said that I don't have a handler, a manager, a PR person, none of those extra, super helpful people. This was all my fault. I immediately took all the music down from iTunes and all the other stores and re-uploaded the music under the proper titles. Double checking, triple checking, quadruple checking the spelling of everything. Sleep was ruined for me. I couldn't get over how much I had messed up.
Of course, the incorrectly titled song didn't come down immediately. iTunes still had the "Scorth the Earth" version for sale well into the morning hours. Luckily, by that time I was able to see the humor in the situation. Anyone that downloaded "Scorth the Earth" would have the ultimate Rose Gonzales easter egg.
It isn't on iTunes anymore, but you can find it on Spotify under the WRONG title as of this posting on 12/15/2016 :)
Check out "Scorth the Earth" on Spotify here: https://play.spotify.com/artist/6Ohnq2s0m61IuvKyCMfGyo?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open
As the second release inches closer, I am going through those normal, horrible, artist fears. Was I critical enough with the editing? Did I do too much? Not enough? Do these songs make sense released together? Will anyone listen far enough to hear "Stand in the Rain" (my favorite song of this release). Will the completely different feel of "Trains" confuse our genre?
Ultimately I can rely on a certain amount of security by obscurity. I don't have a fancy handler, a PR person, a manager, it's just me and my collaborators. I know my audience is small right now. Sometimes that's a comfort to me. As an extroverted introvert, I have very conflicting feelings about anyone being able to hear my music, which is incredibly personal to me.
What I found after the first music release was a great sense of unease, but also a huge feeling of accomplishment. I don't always know how people will interpret the lyrics I write, or if they understand why I chose to sing a line the way I did. Every time I get feedback about a song being stuck in someone's head, I feel pretty cool. But ultimately, I don't know how my music makes people feel. There are only 3 songs out there.
That's all about to change, the more music that gets out, the better the picture of me as an artist will come together. There are a lot of things I can't wait to share, but generally I'm terrified of so many of my personal feelings and thoughts being shared. I think it's the good kind of terror though, the kind that makes you feel nervous, but in a way that makes you work harder, prepare more completely, and really kick ass.
Enjoy Pt. 2 of my first album, Rose Gonzales.
I have so much music I can't wait for you to hear.
I have music that, when it was written, felt like it didn't quite fit the respective music culture. Now I see its relevance all around me.
The first release, Rose Gonzales, happened immediately after the election, and that was intentional. November 18th was the soonest I could get all the pieces together after my collaborator and brother, Jesse Gonzales, sent me a text message with a song lyric I had written years ago. There's nothing like getting a message from yourself (and extremely helpful brother) that your music is relevant. "Leave Them to the Night" (LT2TN) captured my frustrations completely. There were truly no people at the upper levels that cared. And there was no one person to blame. Just like that, the first song we knew we were going to release was chosen.
I wanted to have a few more songs released with "LT2TN", and I had a lot to choose from. There was some updating work to be done, and I wanted to get everything out quickly while the climate was right. I decided on a small first release, to be followed by a Pt. 2 and Pt. 3 release at later dates. The second song in Pt. 1 I wanted to release was "Apocalypse".
"Apocalypse" was a much harder release decision for me because that song feels so personal. I'll go into more specific details in a later blog post, but this was an early collaboration song in my music career. It is also, unfortunately, ringing true. Lines like, "The counter-culture is the culture" and "All you people look the same to me" were supposed to be outdated ideas that died, and this song would go out of date. Now there are discussions of a Muslim registry in the USA? I'm disappointed this song feels so relevant, but glad I have a way to express my anger.
Finally, "Light Speed". The third song in the release. If the other two songs were my most pessimistic, "Light Speed" was the hopeful note I wanted to end on. Evoking David Bowie, science fiction, and themes of deceit, forgiveness, and hope, this song is one of those that you sing at the top of your lungs.
Thank you so much for listening to my music. Tomorrow I release Pt. 2, and these tracks are amazing! Pt. 1 had a heavier, alt rock feel. The first of my new releases, "Bullet in Flight", is right in line with Pt. 1, but then the songs take a different direction. There is a much more relaxed sound to the other tracks that show another side of my music. We're only 1 day away!