Thaar be Pyraats round tha’ Bend

Getting a tour set up is probably very easy if you are famous, well known, have a great following… but I’ll tell you, when you are unknown entity (like poor wee me) – it’s tough. So after many calls (where nobody calls back) and emails (where you are delighted if you get an answer) I had managed to set up 4 gigs in Arizona … which was great – but none in my 1st real stop Bend, Oregon which was a shame as Bend is a lovely place, full of pubs and breweries … and it was half way to St Patricks day – why didn’t they know they needed me ! ūüôā . I was grumbling about this to Steve Behrens of 67 Music one Friday after a Mahers gig, Steve sympathized and had a couple of suggestions as he used to live in that area. I followed these leads but still no joy.

dwmindblown

The following Friday, Dorothy was driving us¬†back from a Mahers gig when we ground to a halt in a huge traffic jam on the I84. It had been a great night (as usual in Mahers) and we’d stayed a wee bit longer than intended (ok, ok, Dorothy did her best to drag me away from excessive blethering and Guinness… but got distracted by her own bletheryness ūüôā ).. anyway it was after midnight and we were tired and well and truly stuck in traffic. I checked my email on my phone… there was a new mail from a name I didn’t recognize (Sarah Pollock Holmes), so I opened it … it was a hoot, this was Sarah from the Celtic Rock band 5-pint Mary in Bend inviting me to play a guest spot with them on Friday September 19th at a Pirate party – cool – and she’d written the email in Pirate

So… a few weeks later, I’d played my last 2014 gig in Mahers (see my last post¬†or watch the video), had our short trial run trips in the Washington¬†/ Portland area and headed down to Bend, our longest drive in “our rig” for a 5-day stay, explore and of course… Pirate Party.

Pirate Party 2014

Bend is a lovely place, we actually stayed in Sisters which is 18 miles north of Bend. Remember in my last post when I mentioned my 12-string Taylor guitar had eaten its way through 3 batteries on my last¬†evening and even at that the internal pickup had given up on my encore (which actually (to my surprise) turned out really well) – I found a music shop which was a Taylor dealer – Music Makers, Dan, the owner, was fantastic – he called Taylor and after a 5 minute call where the Taylor guy had verified that my guitar was under lifetime warranty (even though I’d forgotten to register it 7 years ago… ooops) – he’d agreed to ship everything needed overnight so that Music Makers could fix it.Sweet! They fixed it and all it cost was $15 for a new set of strings, fitted and tuned… fantastic service!

Anyway, we headed along to the Pirate party place on the Thursday as we hadn’t brought any Pirate clothes with us on our trip (how dumb is that ūüôā ?) and they were doing “fittings” the day before… these were serious Pirates! So we met Ivy who was¬†transforming people into Pirates,¬†Dorothy became “buxom Bess” … and she¬†convinced me to wear my Kilt (very piratey apparently ūüôā ).

Wench Dorothy

On the Friday, we headed over to the Pirate ranch – a large property which had become something out of the Pirates of the Caribbean for the weekend – complete with masted ship and barrels (with beer tap attached!). I sat in with 5-pint Mary playing Bodhran as they are already a pretty tight band… adding someone who is busking through their songs would probably have diminished¬†their sound rather than adding to it. I enjoyed playing bodhran again – and playing in a band again – being non-essential to the sound was also a novelty as normally I am all there is.

When the band stopped for a break, I got my guitar and did some vaguely piratey songs – getting pirates to goo aaaarrrrrr and whoop and join in with gusto was easier than I thought – they were all well in the mood and all fired up by 5-pint Mary’s superior piratey performance. I went down really well, it was a pleasure playing for such an appreciative bunch of scallywags and wenches ūüôā

See my piratey bit here

5-pint Mary rounded off the night, I joined them again for part of the set and we ended the night well… aaaaarrrr! So with lots of happy pirate handshakes, hugs and sharings of rums (and of course some whisky), we headed off back up the road to Sisters – with promises of a repeat performance next year and a bunch of new friends… especially 5-pint Mary – a great band, great musicians – and most importantly – great people who¬†love what they do.

Watch the pirates live stream here (ok, it was live then… and you may have to look through the clips as it has no definite address – it’s about 1hour 32 mins)

For the next two weeks we become¬†explorers around Boise, Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, Utah… and getting ready for my next performances – Friday 3rd October in Scottsdale, AZ at the Skeptical Chymist, Saturday 4th Oct in Tim Finnegans, Phoenix, AZ, then Wednesday 8th Oct in Fibber McGees in Chandler, AZ… should be fun – watch for my next post to see if it was!

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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¬†

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 ūüôā ). 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 ūüôā ¬†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 ( ūüôā ) 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

… ok, now what?…

Ok – now what? Ah yes – Spanish coffee… a professional musician (I still love that job title!) but what do you do? Hmmm… Become popular ? Learn more? play more ? perform more? ¬†travel more? … At the age of 57 starting a new career… ¬†Spanish coffee with Dorothy and our friends Steve and Cathi ( from 67 music) seemed like a great idea.hubers-irish-coffee Downtown Portland, Saturday, end November, 4pm, happy hour ( 2 hours actually… but American happy hours can stretch a whole weekend!) Hubers bar and restaurant (one of the oldest establishments in Portland) do an incredible Spanish coffee ( they are the biggest consumer of Kailua in the USA as a result) – this was the ideal location (and ingredient) for a “… now what… ” brainstorm. It was obvious and not a new idea – we concluded I needed a CD … as a priority. How else can people know what I sound like and be confident hiring me if they have never heard me. Groan… recording…. I’ve done it before, all that excitement and drive you have at a live performance, missing, the focus you have while playing live, missing, the forgiving crowd, missing… In my experience, recording was always a bit scary – you re conscious every second that what you play is captured ¬†– for ¬†ever… ¬†and you will be judged! I had also come to the conclusion that I was the wrong person to also be the recording engineer. I have recording equipment and software but any time I use it, I seem to spend 80% of the time getting the equipment and recording set the way I want it and 20% of the time actually playing music or singing… and the constant voice in my head whispering “start again, you could do better”.

judging-you-anderson-cooper

Looking back, it seems like a small thing – but it was a big, grown-up, professional musician kind of step that took me from the fiddling around with music and equipment in my good, but clearly not state of the art, purpose-built home studio to the fully professional, you’re paying money, you’re serious, recording palace which is Nettleingham Audio!