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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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?

Breakfast Process

Rules for Breakfast with Brother Jack

Back in 1943, Woody Guthrie wrote an amazing list of New Year’s resolutions. Make sure you check it out, now. Despite my opinion that New Year’s resolutions never work and are therefore a total waste of time, I still make a point to ponder upon Woody’s “rulin’s” at the start of every new year.

As the year rolled over to 2019, I found myself struggling with the future of my breakfast show. I wanted to continue doing the show, but I didn’t know the best way to approach the details. Taking a cue from one of my hero’s, I wrote the following list of New Year’s resolutions.

Regarding the rules:

  1. The most important thing in life is to show up. Doing a show everyday was tough and time consuming. But, that is not why I have pulled back to weekly episodes. The nature of our fast and disposable culture causes things to be visible for a moment and then gone forever. I want to make work, even on Facebook, that is able to hold up over time. My blue collar approach dictates that I show up everyday to do the work. Showing up every day doesn’t mean that I have to do a show everyday. Weekly shows feel right for now.
  2. I am a songwriter that performs original music and enjoys filling the gaps with cover songs. Doing a daily show created very large gaps that required many cover songs. This helped me to get better at learning and adapting new songs. However, it also took away from my focus on original material. I want to be focusing more on the songs that are important to me.
  3. Repetition doesn’t equal boring. I was obsessed with doing a new song every day. I was worried that repeating songs would make me look lazy, uncreative, unimaginative, and unprofessional. Rule #2 should motivate me to write enough new songs that repetition won’t be a problem. However, if a song can’t be enjoyed twice, it probably shouldn’t be done at all.
  4. This show should be engaging and entertaining. Rule #4 is pretty self-explanatory.
  5. I like breakfast. At this point in life, I rarely consume anything more than black coffee prior to noon. However, breakfast time is still my favorite time of day. Being a morning person makes it tough to be a musician. Playing bar shows late at night is rough. Morning is the perfect time for me to sing a song on the internet.
  6. Mrs. Brother Jack thinks I have a tendency to ramble a bit. If I plan out at least a couple words beforehand, I will do a better job of presenting myself in an engaging and entertaining way.

I hope you enjoy Breakfast with Brother Jack. If you don’t, it is ok. Some people put cream and sugar in their coffee. I won’t make fun of you even though you deserve it. If you like us, thanks. We will do our best to continue getting better. We will continue bringing our weird folk music and story telling to your Saturday mornings. Spend some time with the family or anybody that is around. Talk about your week. Let us be a catalyst for consistently sitting down together. Thanks for your support. Until next time, you all be fantastic.


Taking a Break

I can be a little obsessive regarding the minute details of life.  I have a habit tracker app that I use to monitor certain lifestyle choices that I want to tweak.  I use another app to keep track of when I eat during the day.  Daily fasting is really important.  I never count calories, that would be crazy.  I have another app that I use to monitor my sleep.  It’s nothing invasive, just turn it on and place the phone next to me when I go to bed.  It tells me how long I slept and how deeply and how much I snore.  Recently, I got burnt out on keeping track of everything.  It was making me crazy, so I stopped all of it.  Living free.  A couple days later, I realized I was totally exhausted.  It was newborn in the house level exhaustion and I didn’t know what was wrong.  I was going to bed at the same time, and getting up at the same time.  Nothing was different.  The problem was the missing sleep data.  There is something reassuring about waking up to the knowledge that you were in bed for 7 hours.  It gives a percentage grade based on how well you slept. Using this tool lets me know when I am succeeding with sleep.  When I started using it again, I miraculously felt better.  It’s a mind trick.  The data convinces me that everything is good and subsequently, I feel great.  

Data can be difficult.  I have been doing a show on Facebook in the mornings.  When I started doing the show, I would really pay attention to the number of views each show got and it felt really important.  If you are going to put on a show, you want people to watch and enjoy it.  You want it to serve a purpose.  I don’t look at the numbers anymore.  I didn’t start doing the show for the purpose of “growing an audience.”  It doesn’t matter how many people are watching. I want any single individual who watches to enjoy what we are doing.  I am not everyone’s cup of tea.  I am not most people’s cup of tea.  But, some people love what we are serving.  In case you were wondering, it is coffee.  

I recently took a break from doing the show.  Don’t worry, I am not quitting.  I just needed a break.  I had gotten to a point where doing the show was like that sleep app.  Because I was getting up and doing something, I had convinced myself that I was doing enough.  I am learning so much from doing the show.  But I can’t allow it to trick me into thinking that the show is enough.  There is so much more I want to be doing.  It’s hard to make the time for everything.  It’s even harder to make the time, when you are convinced that what you have already achieved in a given day is all you need to be doing.  I think the most important thing in life is showing up every single day.  I started the show with the intention of holding myself accountable to daily work.  Maybe it is not the only daily work I should be doing.  Maybe showing up everyday can mean different things.  Doing a daily show is a great tool for improving my performance skills and for learning new songs.  The show is important but now I need some additional tools to help me stay focused on all the many other things I want to be doing.  

In rereading this, it might all sound like I am contradicting myself.  The sleep app is a great tool to tell me how well I slept.  It is a great gauge to help control one specific aspect of life.  Doing a daily show is a great gauge for some of my daily work.  It doesn’t gauge all of my work.  When you are doing anything, you have to have a gauge that provides some feedback.  It is imperative that the gauge be measured daily.  If the gauge is reading “good,” it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be pushing for “great.”  You get the idea.  Thanks for being a part of what we are trying to accomplish.  Thanks for being part of the small circle of people that are holding me accountable to daily work and to getting better at my craft.  Thanks for steering this ship in the right direction. 

Brother Jack’s Soapbox

A Fast Walk Down a Dark Alley

I used to live in a big apartment building.  The best pizza place in the world was in the middle of the block on the next street over.  They served those big foldable slices with the super hot cheese that was just greasy enough but not too greasy. They would spin the pizzas around on their hands right there in front of you while you waited.  It was completely cliche and perfect. 

The only problem was the alley connecting our apartment with the pizza place was also very cliche.  It was a stereotypical dark alley.  It came complete with an awkward dumpster in the middle for the bad guys to hide behind. It was not uncommon to see a wino sleeping against one of the buildings.  

Despite the foreboding alley, I would regularly make the journey.  I would bring home a large pizza that I would stretch out for three days.  That was how I did grocery shopping.  

I have started doing regular Facebook live videos. It feels very similar to the pizza walk.  

In the current music ecosystem, Facebook has been the last holdout to pay royalties due to songwriters.  They are getting on board now but it has taken awhile.  My reluctance is not about cash.  Given the current per stream royalty rate, it will be a long time before I see a check that is worth more than the cost of the ink to print it.  My reluctance is purely on principal.  If you factor in the recent data breaches and the potential election tampering, it just feels dirty.  There is also the theory that social media is degrading society and replacing real tangible relationships. I recently decided I no longer wanted the negativity of social media in my life and I went so far as to delete Facebook from my phone.  I enjoyed the freedom that came from not looking at all of the mess.  I think my dopamine levels had actually started to return to normal. 

But then I heard an interview with a guy that convinced me to explore Facebook live. I don’t know how it happened but I may be addicted to playing on Facebook. This is a digital form of busking.  I know that the image of a guy on a street corner with his hat in his hand might have some negative connotations.  However, all blue collar musicians have to find a way to show up everyday and do the work.  It has been hard in the past to find places to play the music that I play and Facebook is basically an open stage. Also, it provides a fantastic way to practice and get better everyday at what I do.  At this point in my life, nobody is hunting me down and demanding to hear one of my songs, no matter how good. It is up to me to get my songs out in anyway neccesary, to anyone that will listen.  Maybe the right person will hear it and it will be that perfect slice of pizza at the end of a dark alley.

All the experts talk about “fan engagement.”  I don’t like this term.  I think this new structure for delivering music is deeply rooted in connecting with the people that I know.  This world has become so disjointed and dysfunctional. I used to think Facebook was part of the problem. It probably is. However, I have had to come to terms with the fact that social media isn’t going away.  We need more connection.  Facebook should not be a substitute for community but it can be a great tool to help us build more community. We can connect and look out for each other and take care of each other.  Maybe we can walk down this dark and slightly foreboding alley and find some amazing pizza to share with our friends. 

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