Fiction

The Williamsburg Recording Sessions: Part 2

I spent ten hours in the studio on Friday down in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, finishing up the track for the novel, My Year as a Clown. The story’s protagonist, Chuck Morgan writes a love song for a girl, but doesn’t have the courage to play her the song. Purchasers of the book will be given a code to download a high quality MP3 of the track.

Last month I recorded the basic tracks with Doug Yowell on drums (Duncan Sheik/Suzanne Vega) and Rob Calder, bass (Angus Stone). Declan O’Rourke introduced me to them and studio owner/engineer, Tim Mitchell—Tim’s worked with guys like Springsteen and Sting.

Recording is lots of fun, but its hard work too. It was a tad daunting going into the studio with such great musicians, but part of the reason they are so great is that they are so easy to work with–they also always come up with great parts that serve the song well.

Some of that session was captured by Mark and Carl, a video crew. They’re making a short promotional piece for my website that will be posted soon. There’s lots of extra video bits that will crop up over the next few months also.

At this second session I added a couple of guitar parts. One was an electric part in stereo. I played my 1966 Gibson ES355, which has two separate outputs that plugged into an old VOX amp;, the other, an old Fender Twin. Standing in a room with both amps cranked, playing these parts, its the sort of thing found on a some folk’s bucket list.

The electric part is used as an enhancer, not a main feature, so it’s as much about the tone and sound as it is the actual notes I’m playing.

Over the next few months, I’ll post snippets of that part on its own for those interested.

 

 

 

 

 

The Epic Struggle to Support Losers

It was another gut-wrenching afternoon of Eagle football, made worse when I saw an advertisement for an upcoming movie about a romance with a die-hard Eagle’s fan. The film features Bradley Cooper and at first glance, it was like I’d been sacked by the entire Cowboy defensive line. My book comes out in January and this film comes out now.

The Eagles are a train wreck. This might be the most unproductive group of talented players on record. And then to see this film trailer—someone else used the Eagles in a novel about relationships. I was reeling.

And yet, there I was, more concerned about how this team could eke out a victory.

But after the Dallas punt return I knew.

I kept the game on to the bitter end, watching our rookie QB get hammered at the goal line with less than a minute to go. The ball fell free and Dallas scooped it for one last kick to the gut.

Although Chuck Morgan, the protagonist in My Year as a Clown, is a die-hard Eagle fan, football is only a small aspect of my book. This movie is serendipitous. I guess one could ask why it’s taken this long for the passion of the Philadelphia sports fan to become literary inspiration. The Eagle’s struggle is Shakespearean.

I haven’t seen this movie or read the book, but I will. For me Chuck’s football obsession is  about loyalty. A guy who can stick by a team in tough times is a guy who can tough out a difficult patch in a relationship, unfortunately for Chuck, his wife was a fair-weather fan.

Thanks for Visiting

When I set out in 1998 to make a midcareer change, Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule was still a decade away from being published in his book Outliers. Perhaps if I’d known what was required to acquire the skills to write well I never would have walked away from the comfortable corporate lifestyle.

I’d always fancied myself an artist, but never had the courage to pursue it. I ended up in the music business. Working with artists, I thought I understood their challenges. But until you put yourself on the line, you don’t have any idea what it’s really like to be that exposed.

Many people are drawn to the idea of the writing life—fishing with Castro, running with the bulls in Pamplona, hanging out like Hemingway in Key West drinking until dawn. I too was drawn to this idea, but I soon discovered writing is damn hard. No doubt Hemingway was gifted, but clearly, he also worked his ass off.

To be frank, I had no clue what it took to be a writer and I wandered down many dead ends. And yet not a single step was wasted. Each one ultimately brought me to this very moment.

At RobertStevenWilliams.com you’ll find songs, short stories, essays and blogs on a variety of subjects from relationships, love and yoga, to sports, politics and culture. My Year as a Clown, a novel, will soon be available.  Here, I’ll also chronicle the path to publication.

The poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once said, “A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down.”

During this journey to publication I had the privilege to meet some amazing artists, from Rosanne Cash to Barry Hannah, James Houston, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Suzi-Lori Parks. Each posses the courage of a warrior, and yet each stands willfully before the public with their pants down in hopes of making you feel something real.

I too stand before you now, pants down, hoping . . .

 

Henry Coe Park, San Jose, CA – I took this photo back in 1983

 

Review This!

Sunday’s New York Time’s article about the company that produced fake reviews of books highlighted the importance of 5-star Amazon reviews. If you have a lot of positive ones it attracts people and generates excitement.

I don’t have a problem asking people to read the book and review it, but to hire a company to create fake reviews doesn’t make sense because when the book fails to live up to this false praise, the hype fizzles.

But it’s not surprising that authors and companies fake reviews to hype their crap.

What is surprising is that so many people rely on these reviews.

‘Average Joe’ reviews in conjunction with independent, credible commentary can be effective, but sadly, the general public isn’t that discerning.

Pushing the boundaries of reviews is not new. Look at those full page movie ads that run in daily newspapers. They’ll take a single phrase or word (out of context) to sell the movie. “Exhilarating” could be the only positive word in an otherwise awful review, but it will be in huge type as a headline.

The challenge for the indie release is getting anyone of credibility to pay attention. Given the amount of self-published garbage now being produced, it’s even more difficult. But making up hundreds of fake reviews isn’t the answer.

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