Brother Jack’s Soapbox

I have been wanting to start a podcast for a long time. I always seem to get stuck on a project before I get it off the ground. The details seem to overwhelm me before I can get started. I don’t know why, I am by no means a perfectionist. I am totally great with mediocre, good enough, and satisfactory.

I get stuck wanting to have my ducks in a row. I like to know the overarching concepts. I need to understand all of the in’s and out’s before I undertake something. These are the lies I tell myself. The truth is that I am afraid to start. What if it sucks? What if nobody listens? What if I build it and they don’t come?

I will never have a podcast if I don’t get started. Sometimes the best way to get started is to just start. So, I am releasing my first official podcast. It is recorded straight into my phone, no edits or effects. It isn’t earth shaking or ground breaking but it is a start. Now I have to keep going and continue improving. I want the next one to be better than this one. I know I am not changing the world, yet. But hopefully, if I get incrementally better, it will be good enough to make a difference.

You can listen to Brother Jack’s Soapbox right here. For the first couple episodes, we will focus on getting started.


An Old Dog Attempts a New Trick

In life there are two kinds of people.  When enjoying a movie, some people watch every bonus feature and directors commentary that is available.  This is me.  Other people won’t give time for anything extra, not even the bloopers.  This is my wife.  The following post is for the people like me.

When I was younger, I spent some time doing video work for a specific government entity.  Everything we did was structured as a quick setup, boring press conference, then go home.  It was like the news, if the news was only comprised of the really boring parts. There was nothing remotely artistic.  

In the good old days, being a musician required making records.  Now, frequent and regular video posts are far more important than a record.   I know how to tap the little red button on my phone and get a video. I have no idea how to make it look good, sound good, or be remotely entertaining.

I have always wanted to fashion my studio space to look like a stage setup.  The creative process can really benefit from a great vibe. Performing from a stage, even without an audience, can provide an energy to an otherwise mundane performance.  Achieving the look of a stage setup has been a work in progress for a long time.  We had some rolls of this awesome green and tan upholstery collecting dust in the attic, long story.  My mom helped me turn it into stage curtains with her awesome sewing machine skills.  We have a row of lights across a beam in the ceiling which works great as a front of stage.  I thought this would be the perfect spot to start shooting some really compelling videos.

Unfortunately the lighting is terrible.  It makes my bald head look super radiant but not in a good way.  I have also been playing around with some wall treatments to get a softer sound.  This room has a very live sound. This can give recordings a cool character but it’s really harsh when the audio is straight from the phone.  I was trying to run the sound from my mixer to my phone and despite the purchase of several different adapters, I couldn’t make it work.

Adding filters to a video is really cool.  I guess filters are a part of reality for anyone under 30 but it’s another new trick for this old dog.  Back in my day, if we wanted to edit something, we used a razor blade to cut and paste.

I liked the way the studio curtains framed in the video but it just wasn’t working.  We almost achieved the look I wanted. However, it was difficult to move around, the sound was lousy, and all the crap in the background looked bad.  I decided to try turning it all around. The curtains could be a backdrop.  I put some Edison bulbs in the row of lights and it worked great for back lighting the shot.  I had an old desk lamp over my mixer that I turned to aim at me like a spotlight.  The mic on my phone was fine but I really wanted a better sound.  I recorded the video with the phone and the audio with my regular recording setup. I did my best to put it together so my sound matched my mouth.  This requires editing.  I guess I should have anticipated the editing process. It is a standard and necessary part of making anything.  However, given life’s time constraints, this was not a desired extra step.  

I forgot my hat again.  Stupid shiny head…

I probably shouldn’t point it out, but did anybody notice the bad light bulb on the right?  I am pretty satisfied with the lighting in general at this point.  It’s as good as it’s going to get.  I fixed the audio issues and created new ones.  I effected the sound too much and it feels like the sound doesn’t fit the video.  As a performer, it no longer feels like a stage.  I think I have successfully killed the whole idea that I was hoping to achieve.

As my fourth and final example, you would expect this to be my best attempt.  Ironically, I don’t feel that way.  I have this bad habit of ruminating on something until I hate it.  I have trouble letting go of things.  I am learning that it’s more productive to move on quickly when something is not working.  The best I can do is find the courage to just be me and put that out into the world.

Since doing this project, I got a new mixer that is far more compatible with my current technology. This upgrade solved most of my audio issues.

My conclusion regarding this endeavor is that it was a lot of time wasted. I spent a lot of time trying to achieve a very specific look/feel. I could have spent that time creating more stuff that was all close enough. If I had been able to achieve my perfect idea, I might feel like it was all worth it. I think the key is to have the camera rolling as much and as often as possible. Grab the toothpicks and prop up those eyelids. We got a lot of new stuff coming straight for your eyeballs and ear holes. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Don’t forgot to join our mailing list for all Brother Jack news.

Also, if you want to throw some money at me because of the embarrassingly poor quality of my work, here is a virtual tip jar.


It Seemed Like a Good Idea

I decided to reissue an old album. I had approximately 800 copies of the CD in my basement with no packaging. I was making a lazy decision. I thought it would be easy to put it all together and make something happen. It seemed like such a good idea.

Getting new artwork was the easy part. My friend Tara has been creating most of my artwork for a while. To be honest, on this project she over-delivered. She gave me several amazing options and the most difficult part was narrowing it down to the best choice.

Getting the packaging printed was also easier than I anticipated. I like to use a great local printer. We made enough to get me started. I can print more when my current inventory sells out. It would be awesome, if that was necessary very soon. Manufacturing on an “as-needed” basis is a great option. Technology makes this possible and it is far more cost efficient than the old way. This means I should never end up with hundreds of CD’s in my basement, ever again.

I wanted to put together some behind the scenes material that we could release exclusively as part of our launch experience. Anybody that joins our mailing list via the Princess and the Hero landing page, gets sent the exclusive content. It’s not too late. You can still check out the album launch experience, right here. Coming up with behind the scenes material for a project that we did 16 years ago was really hard. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a challenge.

I recorded some videos talking about the writing process, the artwork, and how we put it all together. I told some stories and did some alternative versions of some songs. This album is a very integral part of the story of my relationship with Mrs Brother Jack. I wrote the album for her and used it to propose. It is an essential part of the story that we tell about us. However, the specific details were really hard to remember. I am glad that we got it all down before more time passes. We aren’t getting younger.

All of this content had to be stored somewhere and I needed it to be exclusive. YouTube seemed like the most obvious choice. I still have lots to learn on that platform.

The most time consuming part has been figuring out delivery for the content. I had multiple nights with very little sleep, spent learning how to automate emails. I still have much to learn but it feels like an awesome new trick. It’s almost like cheating. The content has been created and all of the emails are set up. With no more work from me, it will deliver to anyone that wants to know more about the Princess and the Hero album, until I turn it off. Once again, you can check it out, here.

This reissue ended up being more work than I expected, by a very large margin. However, I learned how to do several new things that will make my job easier in the future. I guess it was a good idea.


Now is 40

I try to get a good shave once every ten years, if I need it or not. I just celebrated a birthday that ended in zero and got my decennial shearing. I looked up the word decennial, it means an event that happens once every ten years. It’s a fun word but I can’t see it getting much usage in my regular vocabulary.

The big 4-0 doesn’t feel like a big deal. Age is not something that gets me down. I spend a lot of time acting like a kid. However, it must be effecting me in some deep psychological way. I have been a little bummed all day. Although, in my defense, all of my kids were jerks. I had trouble making myself do the work that was on my list for today. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch cartoons with the twins.

I got completely consumed working on several different projects over the winter. I learned a lot and accomplished some things that make me happy. With the coming of spring, I have been focusing on playing more live shows and am realizing how important they are. The shows have been good and we have been able to make some connections with real live people through our music. I guess that is what it is all about. I become so consumed by the art I am trying to make, I forget that it’s worthless until it connects with another living individual. So, I can continue my obsessive run through all of my good ideas but my top priority needs to be live shows. Live shows are essential for all of the art to find purpose.

For my 40th birthday, here is a recap of everything we are working on now:

  1. Playing more live show
  2. We are re-issuing the Princess and the Hero album. It’s been far more daunting than expected but I am learning a lot about sending automated emails. I love the new artwork.
  3. My oldest child is curating lyrics on my Instagram feed. It’s a great way to teach her about design and social media in a safe way and I get free labor out of it.
  4. We are still doing Breakfast with Brother Jack and constantly trying to tweak it so that it works better. I’ve also been trying to post reruns to YouTube in an attempt to learn that platform. The show has been very helpful in my attempts to learn about Facebook advertising and how to build an audience there.
  5. I have three different studio projects on which I am working. Studio work feels like the most important thing. However, it’s completely meaningless until it connects with another person. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for your ears.
  6. I’m working on the details to do a live recording as well. It would feature some of the Irish tunes we do with the Lost Cause and some of the story telling that I have been into lately.
  7. We are trying to work out the details for a weekly jam. I am not sure how to make it interesting for other musicians or how to structure it at all. I am probably over-thinking this one.
  8. Also working on the logistics for a new show about songwriting. This will probably show up on YouTube and as a podcast. I want to get together with my friends and talk about really specific aspects of being a creative. I think this would be fun and it’s all about making connections. It all comes back to making connections.

I guess I should get to work on something. There is a lot I want to be doing, but it can wait until tomorrow. Despite the fact that the kids are already in bed, I think I will sit on the couch and watch some cartoons. Hey chin, see you in ten years.

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Video is the New Audio: Saturday Mornings

When I was growing up, Saturday mornings were all about the cartoons. For three hours straight, nothing but cartoons. As the cartoons were winding down, I would surf over to PBS. Public television had Bob Ross, the Frugal Gourmet, and Martin Yan’s crazy knife skills. The cooking shows transitioned into This Old House and the carpenter with the mustache and suspenders. Usually, Mom made me turn off the tv by that point. Bob Ross was a really important part of Saturday mornings for me. His happy little trees have been making a cult resurgence. The ability to stay relevant for this long is a testament to the character he gave us.

I love television. I love the characters. The cooking and the painting and the carpentry was cool but it was really about the characters that delivered those skills.

Every new artist/band starts with the same notion. Broad proclamations decree that “we don’t sound like anybody else, we are totally original.” It doesn’t matter how original your sound, we can all hear your influences. Everything new sounds like somebody, we need context. I consumed mass quantities of television. My biggest influences have been Papa Smurf, Gobo Fraggle, and Bob Ross.

My kids have never enjoyed the excitement of Saturday morning cartoons. There are as many available channels dedicated to 24/7 cartoons as we had in total. When I was little, there were limited and specific times that cartoons were available and this created some anticipation. Sometimes, I make my kids watch old episodes of the Smurfs on a Saturday morning. It’s great but not the same without the fear of missing an episode. We had to wait a whole week to see if Scobby Doo would solve another case. Spoiler alert, Scooby is always available on YouTube. I think the biggest attack to our societies core moral fiber is the constant availability of cartoons. We learned about patience and appreciating the moment by waiting a week for our favorite friends.

I started Breakfast with Brother Jack to try to figure out Facebook live videos. I am approaching this thing based on my years of television research. I am a self-taught expert in this field. I have spent hours and hours studying media and I am using everything that I have learned to develop this video-centric approach to being a musician. I am trying to be an engaging and sincere character. I know I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I am trying to make a show that is worth waiting a week to see. What story and a song will we do next? I will do my best to make it worth the wait. Grab a cup of coffee and set an alarm for Saturday morning at 8:30. For the time being, you can catch us over on Facebook. Check out some weird folk music and great story telling and then patiently wait till next week and we will do it all again.

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Digging Into the Back Catalog

Sign up for the album launch experience here.

I have approximately 753 identical CD’s in my basement. They are stored in a cardboard box, shrink wrapped in bundles of 50. They are all my Princess and the Hero album. It was originally released in 2003. I sold a bunch at the time but then sales stalled. My musical career stalled. I stalled. I have a bunch of CD’s leftover. It’s just the CD’s with no packaging.

I have always hated plastic jewel cases. They don’t hold up during shipping. They crack and break and are overall worthless. I started using cardboard cases with my last physical release. They have limitations but they work so much better.

We are reissuing the old CD with new packaging. We have completely overhauled the artwork to coincide with our beliefs about packaging. It looks amazing.

I think I should be making new records and putting all of my energy into new projects. The CD’s in my basement are haunting me. I can’t seem to move on while they are stacked up, yearning to be played. Maybe somebody out there will care enough to buy one and play it and I will be free of my ghosts. Every CD we sell is an exorcism.

We are officially re-releasing the album on May 24, 2019. If CD’s aren’t your thing, I completely understand. Princess and the Hero will be available on most streaming services (free). If you want to support the work that we are doing, consider buying a CD. If you still rock out to weird folk music while cruising down the highway with the windows down, consider buying this CD. If you think the little banjo guy on the cover is cute, consider buying our CD.

We are doing an email based album launch experience to accompany the reissue. I know extra email is annoying. We will do our best to provide entertaining junk in your mailbox. We are going to send a series of emails that will deliver some exclusive, extra content. This will only be available to people that sign up for the album launch experience. We will be sharing about the album process, the story behind the songs, and new versions of some of the old songs. I think you will enjoy it. We are trying to figure out how to make the process of releasing an album relevant. Check it out, this might actually work.

Sign up for the album launch experience here.

life Process

Something Old Again

All of the details pertaining to the reissue of our old album, Princess and the Hero, were just finalized. If everything goes right with the distributor, it should be available for streaming on May 24, 2019. We are nailing down the details to rerelease a CD version as well. To correspond with the reissue, it felt appropriate to use this old post as this week’s update. This was originally posted on February 8, 2017

I used to be romantic.  We were young, in love, and full of unrealistic expectations.  My muse didn’t require grandiose gestures, but she deserved them.  I headed to the laboratory where I concocted an 18 song album detailing in fictional format my imagined notion of our very real relationship.  It was a manipulative, she will love me or else, fairytale version of the story of us.  There would be a corresponding live performance that would culminate with a public declaration of love.  I bought a ring and planned every detail of this epic proposal.  She didn’t have much of a choice which improved my odds. By the way, she said yes.

Our most recent date night included Grandma watching the kids so we could get our taxes done. Originally 2017, not much has changed since then.

Originally released in 2003, Princess and the Hero, has become a definitive part of our story.  Our favorite song is “Old Vinyl,” it’s about dancing in the living room. 

I recorded an updated version with a new verse that fits our current life situation. This was released as part of the weekly Sound Cloud project from 2017 and can be found on Stomp Your Feet.

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I am not good at nonverbal communication. With other people, I just don’t recognize it and I rarely translate it correctly. Also, regarding my own body language, it has been made clear to me that I don’t always communicate what I think I am communicating. This has made marriage much more exciting than necessary. After fourteen years we are starting to get the hang of it.

I do much better with words. Although, words can also have unintended meanings. Words can lift up or tear down. They can confuse or clarify. Words can start a war or initiate peace. Nothing else has the power of a word.

If I was filling out an official form and asked to list my profession, I would probably write musician. Although, I have always felt my music was secondary to the lyrics. My words are my art.

During my life, I have had several moments that were pretty bleak. The low points in life can always be tracked back to some words. It’s not uncommon for life’s low points to be the result of words that we have spoken to ourselves. Words led to my bleak moments and there were other words that helped me get through.

I continue to put out as many words as I can. A single word that I have spit out into the world could be the difference for someone when they are clawing at rock bottom. We all should use our words in a more intentional way. This doesn’t mean we have to always be cheerleaders. Sometimes the needed words are dark and terrifying. Every word has power. I will continue writing my words, setting them to a little tune, and humming along the best that I can. Maybe somebody will benefit from my words. I know I am.

If you want to read more of my words, I am trying to add all of my song lyrics to my website, here. If any of my words help you out, please let me know. Also, we are starting a new thing on Instagram. My oldest kid is helping me curate some of my words that we will post every Wednesday. I will also collect her posts on the website, here. Sorry this entire post has been all about me and my words but this is my blog after all. I have a lot of words. Time for me to shut up and listen.


Big Projects

The Grand Canyon was carved by a relatively average river over the course of millions of years. Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve. The United States spent 10 years to complete the Panama Canal. France had started the project 19 years prior to the U.S getting involved. The King of Spain had started discussing the potential project 347 years prior to France beginning the operation. Massive and world changing projects get done a little bit at a time.

If you want to get in shape, start by doing one pushup everyday. Consistent, daily practice is the best way to see improvements. Massive projects get done a little bit at a time.

I have tried to implement daily and weekly disciplines to my art. It works to an extent. I try to write everyday, at least a couple words. It’s a grocery list, or a blog post, or the verse of a song, or a short story, or a script, or novel, or another long to-do list of things that I want to write. I also try to read everyday because that is the best way to become better at writing,

I have tried this approach with my musical productions. It doesn’t really work. I tried a project that involved a new recording every week and pumped out somewhere around 16 new recordings. You can read about it here and here. It wasn’t sustainable. The time requirements for this approach don’t allow for anything else, including sleep or food. I spend small, daily chunks of time in the studio. As soon as the microphones are set and everything is ready to go, I am out of time. I have enough time to get ready. Before I get started, I jump straight to the try again tomorrow phase. Small nibbles can be great for cookies and specific aspects of the Artist’s Life but you can’t actually finish a project with nibbles.

There is nothing more satisfying than achieving the magical flow state and running with a project for hours. It can seem like minutes. That is what I miss most about my current time requirements. I need to carve out more time for larger chunks so that flow state can happen.

I have a lot of big projects that I want to do. They aren’t massive undertakings but they are projects that can’t be done in small daily chunks. I have recently realized that I am going to have to choose what to do first. I can’t do them all right now. I have to use my best judgment and pick something to do next. Then I must trust myself and finish.

You can stop reading, the good stuff is over. The following is a list of projects, purely for my satisfaction, to help me define my options. If you choose to read my self indulgent list, don’t judge me. I have no idea what will be next.

Rerelease all my old albums: I guess this isn’t a new project but I have been obsessed with getting the old stuff out of the way, to make room for the new stuff.

Make a record with the Lost Cause: I think I have been working on this project for three years. When I say, “working on this project,” I mean that I have not started yet.

Start a new video series: Video is the new audio. I have two ideas that I am working on. 1) I want to start with a five episode series showcasing storytelling and songs. It is similar to Breakfast with Brother Jack but a different character. 2) A cover song series would be a popular, crowd pleasing choice. I could incorporate all the amazing musicians that I know. This is more about community building than anything. Both of these projects require me to learn a lot about video and probably invest in gear.

I have always wanted to write a novel. I started a couple times but never got very far.

Write a musical: I am currently reissuing my Princess and the Hero album. When I initially wrote it, I intended it to be a visual, physical production. I have always wanted to turn it into an actual musical. I don’t know the first baby step to take on this project.

Play more live shows: This might not sound like a new project but I don’t get out much. Honestly, this is not an easy endeavor for me. It is really important and I am working on it. If you want me to play in your living room, let me know.

Start a new podcast series on songwriting: Podcasts are still popular, right? There is very little overhead and it would be easy to get off the ground. It would be cathartic to discuss the evolution of specific songs and how the soup gets made. If I include the other songwriters that I know, this could be another great community building project.

Start a jam: This would be a self-satisfying weekly hangout with the local scene.

Make records for/with other people:

I am pretty sure I am forgetting something. I will check my other lists and get back to you.

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Late to the Party

I am always late to the party. When something new comes out, there is a group of people defined by the phrase “early adopters.” This is not me. I am afraid of everything new. It might steal my identity or crash or I know nothing about it because I don’t get out much.

I avoided Facebook for a long time and stayed on Myspace longer than the average person. I continue to be uncomfortable with the over-sharing aspect of social media. It feels a little creepy. I don’t want anybody to think I am spying on them.

I went to school for music recording technology. It was at the time when the industry was switching from analog to digital technology. We had an analog tape machine in the corner of the room but we were primarily using ADAT (digital) machines. It was a weird transitionary period in the industry. After college, I spent some time trying to start my own studio/label. It was really discouraging to realize the average high school kid had access to all the technology necessary for making a record and it was often better than what I had. Anybody could make a record. The music world didn’t need me. In the long run, this was a good change but I got depressed and quit music for a while.

I love listening to music on vinyl but I don’t like having mountains of records in my house. Too many little kids running around. I was a CD loyalist for a long time. When I finally got on board with downloading mp3’s, the world was already on to the next thing. In the scope of recorded music, the trend of downloading whole albums lasted about five minutes. Streaming music was already a grumpy teenager by the time I got the birth announcement. The delivery method has changed but music is still music. Although, at this point, I don’t think anybody actively listens to music. All music is background sound for something else. This change bummed me out and I quite music for a couple days.

I am trying to figure out Instagram, this should not be difficult. I can take a photo of myself using my phone. I know how to switch it around to selfie mode. I can make weird duck lips while looking at myself in the mirror. I need to start taking pictures of breakfast. Everyday would include the same photo of a cup of coffee.

Don’t get me started on YouTube.

I have been trying hard to figure out Facebook’s live video system. I think I am getting better at it. So far, it seems to be working and is getting easier. Things are moving in the right direction. I am always late to the party but at least I show up. I would rather be late to the party than miss it altogether. There are not too many people doing an old fashioned video series on this platform. I guess that is what I am trying to do. I am making a consistent weekly show on Facebook. Maybe I am actually early to this party. Keep watching and we will find out.

If you know any other parties that I am late to, let me know?