About Kelt

Bill Mullen - Musician and Entertainer... Bill was born and raised in Dundee, Scotland in the mid-1950s (so that makes him about 35) in the middle of all sorts of great Scottish and Irish music (and a lot of other crap). With Grandfather Paddy Kelly from Dublin and Grandmother Annie McPherson, from Glasgow, Bill is a real Celt (Celt roughly translated as “he who partakes of the golden liquid, foaming brew and deep-fried haggis with chips”). Surrounded by music all his growing years, Bill taught himself to play the guitar by the age of 12 (too mean to pay for lessons) and was performing at the (in)famous Gibson family parties, learning traditional Scottish and Irish songs from his highly musical neighbors (also Celts (see definition above)). By the age of 16, Bill was playing regularly around Dundee and a few years later all over Scotland. As a weekend musician, Bill played folk music, rock music or pop music… as long as it was music (and payed money) until the age of 29 when he moved to Aberdeen, Scotland to further his business career. In 1986, Bill moved to the Netherlands where he discovered (much to his wife’s horror) that his next musical instrument would be the bagpipes. He joined the 48th Highlanders of Holland (yes… highlanders, in a country which is flat and partly below sea-level) and after a year of wrestling with the (#$@*&) primitive instrument, he was marching with them and playing with grace (and other men in skirts) in many places in Europe. He played in the 50th anniversary D-day celebrations in Normandy, France ; the national Liberation parade in Apeldoorn, Netherlands and many other locations including Vienna and the Millennium Pipes record where 10,000 pipers and drummers marched through Edinburgh in the year 2000. In the Netherlands, Bill also started playing in the folk duo “Keltic Fire” with his Irish friend Feargal MacConuladh. They shared the same keen interest in folk music (and the wonders of drink), played regularly around the Netherlands and recorded two CDs (while almost sober). Bill moved to the USA in 2007, again for work, and is now settled in Lake Oswego, near Portland in Oregon. Bill still records with Keltic Fire at a distance (Feargal now lives in Barcelona, Spain) and has always managed to play a gig or two (as long as there’s drink involved) with Feargal when they get together. After one of the Keltic Fire gigs in Kells in Portland in 2009, Bill was approached by David Maher of Mahers Irish pub who eventually convinced Bill to start playing solo in Mahers, Lake Oswego in January 2010. Since then David has purchased a new hearing-aid and remarkably, Bill’s solo musical career has gone from strength to strength… follow the story as it unfolds in Bill's Blog!

Taking the High Road…

We did it! … 2nd week September on the Monday we had packed up our house and had it moved into storage (Willamette Valley moving company were absolutely superb!). On the Tuesday we moved the stuff we will need for the next year into our 5th wheel which was in storage and headed off to the Roamers Rest, an RV park on the Tualatin river (where we had spent many a happy day Kayaking over the years). The change from 3 bedroom luxury house to a 5th wheel (even though it’s a nice one) was a shock to our systems Big_Hug

The whirlwind of chaos that followed (and the sneaky Birthday Party for Chris Hatzi – all secretly orchestrated by his lovely wife Ellie) … and an overnight in the Paramount hotel, Portland (while the RV had an overnight in Curtis repair shop to fix a couple of last minute things) ran away will the time and before I knew it I was headed to Mahers with Dorothy in our truck to play my last Lake Oswego gig in Mahers Irish pub. See the video here  When I think back to my first appearance in Mahers five years ago, I did it more to get Dave & Mark Maher off my back than anything (they are persistent feckers!). I could only confidently  remember the words to 8 songs – which I played. Little Mahers (as we now fondly called it) was really pretty small, there must have been around 10 people in – and still I was nervous getting up there to play. The songs went down great, I loved doing it and I had the realization that I could actually become a solo performer – I just never had the confidence to do it before.  On Friday 12th September 2014, I took to the stage, no nerves, fully confident, a crowd of over 100 people crammed in, lots of experience playing in pubs, parties, festivals… I had come a long way – and these people had all come to see / hear me . The crowd was tremendous, they were clapping and joining in from the 1st song. I let them sing a full chorus of “the piper o’ Dundee” on their own – a song which I know none of them knew before I started playing it there. Lynn who now works on the admin side of Mahers, I know her as one of the Mahers Irish Dancer’s mums who used to organize the Celtic Christmas events we had, baked me a cake with a tartan base, guitars around the middle and a dozen conflicting signposts on top (as Gabrielle Maher joked… I don’t have a feckin’ clue where I’m headed) They gave me a whisky (Macallans 12 year old – nice!) and drank a toast to Dorothy and I. Mahersand cake

It was great to see so many good friends there and people who had helped me get my act in gear – Steve & Cathi (from 67 Music who do a great job of promoting Celtic music in the Pacific Northwest) (with lovely party ballons too!), Kevin Nettleingham from Nettleingham audio who recorded my CD, Dorothy who puts up with me and many, many more. In my extended break (thanks to Jack the server for filling in for me) I tried to get around as many people as I could to say hello and goodbye… and maybe managed a third of those who came to see me (apologies if you were there and I missed you!) When I got to the last song – I got a standing ovation… that is a really nice feeling… it was wonderful. They of course wanted one more song… which is not allowed in Lake Oswego after 10pm… as if by magic, my guitar pickup stopped working (it was on it’s 3rd battery of the evening… yes there was something wrong with it)  and I sang the proclaimers song 500 miles with my guitar unplugged. It was magical. I sang the verses and everyone… and I mean everyone sang the choruses. When the song was over, there were cheers, hugs, thank-yous, more hugs and then it was all over… well apart from another 2 hours chatting, laughing and drinking!… The last Mahers gig of 2014 was over… it was time to take the high road! See the Sept 12 Mahers video here 

Advertisements

Hit the Road Jack!

Musically its been a great Summer playing around Oregon. Newport Celtic Festival, a weekend at Galway Bay Irish pub Ocean Shores in Washington, Portland Highland Games, a full week in Kells, Portland and of course my regular Fridays in Mahers Irish pub, Lake Oswego – I’ll be there up to 12th September… and then what?

On 13th September (exactly a year since I stepped out of Nike and into music and fun), Dorothy and I will take to the road and travel around America and some of Canada. Here is our route up to December 2014 

our route

This takes us to Florida by December via Tualatin river, Columbia river, Bend (OR), Boise (ID), Salt Lake City (UT), Bryce & Zion National Parks (UT), Pheonix (AZ), Sedona (AZ), Tucson (AZ), Deming (NM), Fort Stockton (TX), San Antonio (TX), Austin (TX), Saint Martinville (LA), Baton Rouge (LA), New Orleans (LA), Lake Pontchartrain (LA), Biloxi (MS), Panama City Beach (FL), Crystal River (FL) then various places in Florida until we fly to Scotland for Christmas and Netherlands for New Year.

I have a plan laid out for 2015 when I will play gigs in Florida until its time to head for Savannah Georgia for the great St Patricks times they have there, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New York State, Boston, Portland Maine, Halifax (Canada), Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Lebanon (OH), Chicago, Menasha (WI) , Edmonton (CN), Banff (CN), then back into Washington / Oregon for the Summer. Timing after Savannah is all a bit subject to the weather brightening North of us. This is not the definitive list – but you get the general idea (and some of you may recognize why we’ve chosen some places 🙂 ).

I am booking up gigs along the way – 1st stop Bend, I had hoped to play there but no joy so far – if anyone is looking for a good half way to Paddys day party – book me – I’m there from 17th to 21st! My 1st real batch of gigs are in Arizona – I’ll be playing

3rd October – Skeptical Chymist in Scottsdale, 4th Oct – Tim Finnegans in Phoenix, 8th October – Fibber McGees in Chandler then 24th Oct – Mooneys Irish pub in Sedona.

I’m working on Dates for Austin, New Orleans and Florida… and will publish them on my website when confirmed.

For transport, we’ve now got our truck and 5th wheel and are getting ready for the big journey… it’s all happening folks!

the_rig

Newport Celtic Festival, Oregon

Celtic festivals – now there’s the thing. Playing in pubs – I can do that and its fun, it’s become my bread and butter – but what about a Celtic festival – there’s much less beer, far more listening and way more Celtic! Ok – I can do that – how do you get in? Steve Behrens’ list told me who I needed to contact for the Newport Celtic Festival, Oregon, I checked their website and bingo! The entry deadline was two days away! Timing is everything. I filled in the (pretty big and thorough) application and sent it in.

I got accepted. Nice! June 14th & 15th wasn’t long in arriving, however by this time my “gig until you drop” strategy (see last blog post) was in full swing and I was also committed to play at Mahers in Lake Oswego on Friday June 13th. Lake Oswego is 3hours drive from Newport which is on the Oregon coast. I also received the band schedule from Newport – I was playing at 10am on Saturday. Hmm, it was getting harder – no worries – a call to the Comfort Inn in Newport (thanks Dorothy) – they could take us in at any time of the night – ok we had a bed.  At Mahers in Lake Oswego, when its nice I play on their lovely outdoors patio from 7pm to 10pm -we’d be on the road by 10:30pm. Then the weather turned. I played inside the pub from 8:30 to 11:30pm and was on the road after midnight.

sloth

Four hours sleep, 4 mugs of throat-coat tea (one before bed), severe tooth brushing with listerine involved, several Halls mentholyptus lozenges and a piping hot shower revived my voice enough to know that I could sing again (with a few wee yodels thrown in free). We arrived at the festival as everyone was loading in, so surrounded by tartans, pies, wolfhounds, heiland coos, swords and all things Celtic, we found the music stage. I had brought my sound system as we didn’t know what equipment was laid on. Wow… the music crew were in the process of clicking together an enormous professional PA system. This was a serious scaffold around the stage dripping with speakers on each side and enormous bass bins (big speakers) on the ground which reached to the stage. Four large stage monitors in front of you… no, I didn’t need my sound system – this was a very nice setup.

clans

The event started with a march of the clans. There are official clan organizations who attend these events, sign up people who have discovered they have ancestral ties to that clan and stimulate people’s knowledge and enthusiasm for their roots. They have researched their family history and (generally) they do know their stuff. By 10am the weather was warming up, people had arrived, the organizer appeared on the stage and introduced me. This was it.

The stage was pretty big, the seats in front of the stage were quite far away – there were people sitting there – looking expectantly. This was totally different from my beer swilling, happy singing crowd from the previous night in Mahers pub… there people were… sober!

meagain

Happily – the bond that joined us all – the love of Scottish and Irish music was soon formed. The crowd clapped when I wanted them to, they sang when I wanted them, they listened intently… and applauded enthusiastically when I finished each song (that was a relief!). The sound system was cranking out the decibels and I told stories as I diligently kept my guitars in tune – outside gigs in damp, warm climates play havoc with your strings – I  managed pretty well, I just had to remember to keep checking and fine-tuning, normally tuning’s not much of an issue.

The songs flew by as did the time, I felt pretty good on the stage – I did once experience what my daughter Valerie describes as “octopus arm”, she is learning to play the guitar and occasionally loses control of her strumming arm (making it feel like it’s an octopus’s… and not yours!). I now know its caused by overthinking. On stage, my songs almost play themselves these days, I just have to add enthusiasm, energy and keep an eye on what I’m up to  – but when you start thinking too much about what any one part of you is doing… you’re asking for a dose of octopus arm! So Beware! I reached the end of my set and was really happy to see a few wee groups of people heading over to the CD buying table – great! After some CD sales I headed over to the pretty impressive merchandising tent run by 1916, the headline band for the festival. We got talking, they liked my set, they had some whiskey, I had some whisky… one thing led to another… we hit it off really well.

By evening, the day was done, we’d all performed well, Dorothy and I had sneaked an hour’s sleep in the afternoon – then we met up with Steve and Cathi Behrens – it was great to see them and even greater when they treated us to dinner in Newport! After 9pm there was a fine old Celtic session in the Irish pub in Newport – most of the musicians and dancers were there. This was a ton of fun… and the guinness was slipping down well!

session

… and of course – there’s no show without Punch… watch Rothsey-O here

On Sunday I was on at 11:15am… shower, throat coat tea, Halls mentholyptus, listerene… I was getting good at this early morning gigging thing. I played again in the afternoon – all went well, crowd was great, CDs sold and I was happy – this was a fine couple of days.

The largest crowd of the day formed in front of the dance stage, what was this, the headline band, the top dancers, pipers, battle of the bands, massed pipe and drums??? … no – the fashion show. You have no idea how “appealing” Celtic dress can be (to the males especially)… they did a fantastic show – and as long as I have lived in Scotland – I never saw Celtic dress look so good! This was an eye-opener for sure 🙂

fashion

We headed home Sunday late afternoon to celebrate Fathers day (which was lovely) and I went to bed late, tired … and happy – Newport Festival, Oregon coast – check it out next year – it is a lovely place, very nice event with very welcoming people. You’ll love it!

Life after recording

You know that “yahoo… It’s done” feeling when you’ve completed a project…like many projects, making a CD is only the beginning (no pun intended) – the album was new to everyone else apart from me. I needed to promote and sell it. 67 Music have pushed the release with great enthusiasm around the Pacific Northwest (and even globally) CD Baby were just fantastic – they just know what they’re doing and their disc maker blog seemed to know what I was wondering about … as a new post would arrive with that subject as their special feature just at the right moment! Nice. I took the flat-out approach… gig, gig, gig ’till you drop …  play more gigs and sell the *** out of the CD.

air_guitar_kangaroo

Since the release on March 2nd, I have played 28 gigs and have sold CDs at all but one. The discussion with Dorothy, Steve and Cathi Behrens in Hubers was spot-on, you really do need a CD to get further – it’s just good to be able to send someone a sample of your music that you’re not ashamed of  (hint… buy it here!or here).

I sent a CD to Alex Salmond, the leader (first minister) of the Scottish government. I was really pleased when I found a letter waiting from him when I returned from my trip to Scotland and NL (with a few giggity, giggities thrown in 🙂 ). I’d asked him to listen to my version of “Scots Wha Hae”. You can read his response here. All I was wanting to know is – would he approve? would he use it further?… well he liked it and who knows about the rest.

Feedback is good … and so far I’ve had good feedback… when I remembered to do it, I added to my website under “testimonials” – nice to share what people have said… and have something to look back on on those days when you need to remember you can do it.

With all the gigs I’ve been doing – I’ve hit a rhythm – I feel and act like a pro (well, sorry, it sounds big-headed… but I do…). Our lives have become more nocturnal, a gig night means 2am to bed, weekends have become my work week and weekdays are filled with music stuff (playing, learning, writing, fiddling about), website updates, facebook posts, newsletter writing and every week a wee bit for my blog… and the good news is that with this one, I am now bang up to date and I’m ready to go “in the moment!”…

Next blog will be a behind the scenes look at my time at the Newport Oregon Celtic festival this weekend.

Cheers, Bill

http://www.bill-mullen.com

http://www.facebook.com/billmullenentertains

 

Time to Party

Celebrate – give me more of that! I imagined holding the release party would be stressful – it wasn’t at all. It was a pretty happy time, I enjoyed the fact the CD was done and done well, that glow of relief stayed around a long time 🙂  I was looking forward to sharing my music with others – I knew they would find something they liked in it.

March 1st – that 1st moment of delight when I logged on to CD Baby’s site, typed in my name and there was my new album… on to iTunes – the same… Amazon, Google, Shazam… there it was – me, published and available to buy on-line. Nice ! Then the unexpected emails – friends in Scotland, England, Australia, Netherlands had looked on-line, found and bought the CD – I’m sure that’s no big deal to seasoned artists who sell thousands on the 1st day – but to me this was such a blast – I was on top of the world!

Sunday, March 2nd, now really looking forward to the release party – so much so that Dorothy & I arrived uncharacteristically early, set up my gear (and fiddled around far too much trying to get the perfect stereo sound … sigh – sometimes that control freak in me need to take a day off… was I always like that ?). Gabrielle Maher and the Mahers family had the pub all ready and looking great. skOt, Steve and Cathi (67 Music and good friends) arrived with banners, balloons, merchandise – the scene was set… and people started to arrive (despite the fact that my party was clashing with the Oscars!)

I played songs from the Album, played tracks from the CD, told stories, supported by Steve, skOt drawing raffle tickets and keeping things going. Kevin Nettleingham was there enjoying the atmosphere and said nice things about working with me. It was great. How often do you have the perfect crowd? – the pub was full – a very nice atmosphere – everyone there had come for the CD launch, to hear the music, buy my new CD… and enjoy a great afternoon – which it really was. I had a ball

Here is a video summary made by Steve Behrens

Home later that day – a good few beers and whiskies further on – and the happy feeling that goes with mission accomplished!

whisky

It’s ready !!!

Kevin was off to Costa Rica, all artwork was done, the CD master was off to the manufacturer for printing,… now what? We needed to set a release date – ok, time for another Spanish coffee. Another fine Saturday afternoon with Steve and Cathi Behrens in Hubers and we had our release plan set – it would be in Mahers on Sunday March 2nd, we would need posters, web sites, emails, table tents … and agreement from Mahers that this was ok. Gabrielle Maher immediately agreed and couldn’t do enough to help, she recommended the marketing place down from the pub (www.gisimarketing.com) for the posters and table tents as they already did all the Mahers printing work.

Great – we had a plan… but no material. My kelticbill.com website was obsolete  Apple had abandoned iWeb (which I used ggrrrr).  I would have to redo the website – so decided to use the theme and colors from my CD. All I needed was a web publishing package… shouldn’t be hard to get –  there were quite a few out there and several web services. Aaaargh … after going cross-eyed looking through them all and trying evaluation copies for a day, I still couldn’t decide which one to use…  they all did much the same as iWeb had done… but all had restrictions of some kind or other… off to bed dazed and befuddled by technology.

My (lovely) daughter ( 🙂 ) had given me Adobe creative suite as a present a few years ago (I love Adobe photoshop) – so I had the bright idea to investigate Dreamweaver – the professional web design tool included in creative suite. Boy it looked complicated, but after following a couple of tutorials and youtube videos I had built a small test site and could see that this would take much longer to do that the other packages… but I could do whatever I wanted with my site as I would have total control (evil laughter!!!).

I got absolutely hooked… I spent days deep in the bowels of web-site design and html… and loved it! My inner geek had fully re-emerged and after a couple of weeks hard slog I had put together what I still think is a pretty nice web site ( www.bill-mullen.com) and learned a lot in the process.

On-line CD sales – you can’t go wrong with CD Baby, I signed up and put in all the details they needed to do digital music distribution. I loved their sign-up process – their 1st question was “how do you want to be paid?”… at last a website that doesn’t just take your money! I linked the services (iTunes etc) which CD Baby arranged for me to my website and set the release date to be the day before my release party – so I could be sure it was all available on the day.

The CD artwork was all I needed to put together my release poster and table tent notices, after some wrestling with Photoshop files it all looked good – working with Tyler at Gisi was great – he really knew his stuff and did a great job of the posters and table tents… at a good price!

A few late nights to complete the final touches and I was ready – 67 Music (Steve & skOt)  Mahers, Posters & table tents, new web site, new email were all ready, the music was all set to be ready on 1st March on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Google and Shazam, the royalties were all paid and registered with Harry Fox Agency and the boxes of CDs had arrived… we were all set for the release.

bill proof

In the Studio – the final stretch

We (well, Kevin with me listening intently) mixed and mastered the whole CD over two separate sessions. Mixing is sort of done as you add tracks, but when you sweep through every song when its finished, you need to make sure the instruments are all balanced off against each other and you are hearing what you want to hear. Mastering is after you have finished mixing you then listen to the album as a whole, bringing volume levels etc on the different tracks up to match / compliment each other. The key to all this was finish recording before mixing, finish mixing before mastering as you listen for different things during each of these phases.

I had also given my outline ideas for the CD cover to Kevin and he had sent on to his artwork person. This came back wonderfully, he had added Celtic patterns, used great fonts and within a few iterations, the artwork was good, we had a final draft of the mastered CD, Kevin was due to fly to Costa Rica at the weekend – I had to give it a final, final listen and then we would print the CDs.

Then disaster… (well it felt like that) … The more I listened, the more tormented I got, all tracks were good, apart from the one I really wanted to be spot-on, the 1st track, “Scots Wha Hae”. I had played the bodhran through the song… but I had put too much expression / intonation in my playing, which was jumbling the rest of the instruments … if you listened carefully standing on one leg. Ok, maybe not the standing on one leg bit – Dorothy was having trouble hearing what I was hearing… but I knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t fix it… why hadn’t I heard this earlier … well I had, but I thought it would be ok – I now know that was wishful thinking… I couldn’t listen to the track without hearing the slight jumble the bodhran was causing. Decision made, I called Kevin… I needed an hour. I knew this was a blow for Kevin as he was sure we were done (mainly because I had told him …. ooops! – just as well he wanted a final, final written ok before going further). Also, in his haste to get everything else he was doing done before leaving on 2-weeks vacation he had tripped and had wrenched his back… despite all that, he agreed to slot me in.

When I arrived, Kevin was looking awful, his complexion was grey, eyes were dull, I could see he was in great pain – and here was me wanting to change something that possibly only I would hear. He set up the mics, got his system set back to where it needed to be, I did one recording of simple basic bodhran on my 20″ drum – which was deeper and more solid that the one I had used on the previous version. We listened, I gave a sigh of relief, it was perfect – just what I wanted. Kevin adjusted the master, burned a new one and I headed off to give it all the final final listen at home again (I just loved the way he would not shortcut the process, no matter how much we wanted it to be done), Kevin wanted me to be absolutely sure that I was happy with the music .

Driving home, I had tears in my eyes when I listened to the CD – I was so happy, I knew it was was good – the final listen at home, it also had to get the Dorothy seal of approval. She loved it – even the banjo (which, as I mentioned before,  she “disnae like”) – I sent the final go ahead email to Kevin, felt the weight lift off me. A nice Glenfarclas 21 year old single malt whisky proved to be just the very thing to relax with!!

The process was now in the hands of Kevin and his CD manufacturers.