Kaskade-This Week’s Podcast

I loved talking to Ryan, that’s his real name, you learn the genesis of his stage moniker in this podcast.

He grew up in Northbrook, Illinois and got infected by the Chicago house music scene. Then he brought his records to BYU where he flailed.

After his mission in Japan, he was a tour guide in NYC, and then back to SLC where he matriculated at the U and…started to spin records on a dead night in a club. Everybody’s looking for shortcuts, but not Ryan, not so many who make it. They’re impresarios, you don’t have to be in tech to be an entrepreneur. And he ended up in SF with his wife and…

Went to work at a record label, honed his production chops, continued to make music, and eventually he made it.

What does making it look like today?

Primarily having an audience, that supports you. Who cares about the evanescent acts featured in the media, it’s the fans who keep you alive. And I experienced the vibe with 30,000 acolytes at Sunsoaked, in Long Beach.

Ryan is nothing like what you think he is. That’s right, he is Mormon and he does not do drugs. But even more than that, his personality is infectious, he’s alive, he’s excited, there’s none of the affected cool so prevalent amongst musicians. I could have talked to him all day.

Listen to a snippet- Kaskade on the Vegas pool party that attracted 15,000 fans:

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The Jacket

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This is a hit record!

It’s got a hole in the elbow, bandana pocket
Silver button missin’ from the snap at the bottom
I said ‘That thing’s seen better days, daddy you should toss it’
And he said, ‘Darlin’ I can’t’

Steve expected me to be wearing my jean jacket. I hadn’t seen him in decades, but when I was in college I wore that Lee jacket until it faded and started to get holes. It was the only thing I wore my first winter in L.A.

And then it fell apart.

You used to have to break them in, they were evidence of wear and tear, of a life.

This thing is two thousand bonfires, hitchhiked to Boulder
It’s kept a million raindrops off your mama’s shoulders
My heart on my sleeve, my life in these patches
Then he wrapped his arms around me in that old
Jean jacket

That’s when you know you’ve crossed a bridge, when the sinews have formed, when she wears your clothing, it’s intimate, she wants to feel connected and it makes you feel good.

It’s been a bed for a hound dog, a picnic blanket
There’s blood on the collar from a punk who tried to take it from me
Seen Willie Nelson play four or five states
The best Levi ever made

That’s the great thing about music, it’s not quantifiable, it lives and breathes, like people. No computer can match you for a date, the machine never gets it right, you’ve got to see the person to know. And oftentimes you just do… You see them across a room, it’s the way they hold their head, the way they wink, you’re hooked. And that’s the way I felt when I heard “The Jacket” on Ashley McBryde’s album last night, it jumped out of the iPhone, from Spotify to me. I can only describe the feeling, of being rooted, of being alive, the way the changes integrated with me.

And then it got better.

It ain’t much to look at, but he let me have it
So I could feel his arms around me in that old
Jean jacket
Jean jacket

What a closer! A story of life in two minutes and forty seconds. I had to play it again, immediately. That’s what a hit is.

That’s why country radio should play this record, because the format’s based on callout research, on females, even though it rarely plays women on the stations. It’s not about formula, it’s about a feeling. And you cannot help but feel warm and fuzzy and alive when you hear “The Jacket.”

We strung four miles of barbed wire in Corinth, Mississippi
Spent a night in county jail with an old drunk and a hippie
It’s my heart on the sleeve, it’s my life in these patches
With his arms wrapped around me in that old jean jacket

Your history is in your clothes. Even if you can afford new ones, you like the old broken-in ones, they’ve seen so much, they’re part of you.

The jacket’s experienced, just like you. It’s got miles on it, just like you. It’s good and bad, love and hate, and those memorable moments, like at the show, the Willie Nelson show.

This is songwriting, it’s personal, it’s located in time and space, you can visualize it, and it’s got an emotion that trumps all other art forms when done right.

This is a winner.

New York Magazine Songwriting Issue

“The more specific she was, the more relatable it seemed.”
(Beth Laird on Taylor Swift)

What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where pop songs are written by committee, oftentimes excluding the performer, and country songs are written by the artist?

One in which country is personal and relatable and pop is aspirational and evanescent, all about the good times no one is living despite saying so not only in song but on social media.

That’s right, “New York” magazine has a whole section on songwriting in its latest issue, but you don’t know. That’s the story of 2018, if a tree falls amongst a million people does anybody hear it? Maybe a few.

Maybe some of these articles were posted in the endless listicles of articles that became fashionable in the wake of Jason Hirschhorn’s REDEF newsletter, everybody’s imploring you to pay attention to their curation, but the dirty little secret is the more you tell us what to read, the less we do so, we’re overwhelmed, we’re looking for filters, we’re looking for everybody to tell us to pay attention and shy of that, we don’t.

You should read these articles, especially if you’re not in the business. You could learn something, even if you are in the business.

The first article is about Charli XCX, how she hasn’t had a hit in eons but opened for Taylor Swift. I didn’t find it that riveting, Charli displayed too much attitude, I didn’t get those notes of truth I was looking for.

And the article “Why Are All the Songs of the Summer So Sad? Welcome to Pop’s Great Depression” didn’t hook me at all, because it contained little insight and I don’t believe in the Song of the Summer, it’s no different from card and toy and other industries creating fake holidays to sell stuff. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretaries Day, Kids Day, it’s endless. When the biggest songs of the summer were written, like “Summer In The City,” they were not constrained by that construction, they were just good music, but that was back when we we were all listening to the same music, of multiple varieties.

“How to Write a Great Rock Lyric, According to Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys” is surprisingly insightful. “Write Early or Late,” I believe in that! Those people writing according to a schedule, ignore them. You’ve got to wait for inspiration, and when it comes… And oftentimes you wake up with it, or get it when everybody else has gone to bed, when you’re living in your own mind with no distractions. Or when you’re in the shower… Few people tell the truth, and in this case Alex Turner is, unlike the posturing Charli XCX, even if you’ve got no time for the Arctic Monkeys.

Then you get Billy Joel’s advice, which is not rare, but he’s a thinker, he’s got some good points.

And then, sandwiched between all these articles is the nougat, the essence, the two essays truly worth paying attention to.

The first is about song camps. You hear the buzz all the time, but this one goes a bit deeper, you get a feeling for what goes on there, especially if you’ve never been. And reading the article you gain insight, how the artists are looking for inspiration, for nuggets, it all makes sense until…

Wait, I want to add one more thing, the fusillade of indie rockers who contribute to pop hits, that’s a big angle of this story.

And then, following that, is a story about country music. Positing that Taylor Swift changed Nashville, now it’s about being personal, laying down your truth, by yourself, or with just one or two helpers, unlike in pop and hip-hop where there can be almost twenty writers.
And then I played the recordings the article was talking about, whew!

I graduated with 86 sheep, I was the black one
If there was a reputation to be had in this town, I had one
I was born in the wrong place, in the wrong time
But sometimes the wrong way makes you the right kind

That’s right, she’s “California dreaming from the middle of the country.” She wants to get away, from all the b.s., ultimately the song is a fuck you to the people and place where she grew up, can you sympathize? I certainly can, after all that’s why I moved to California to begin with, I could relate to this number the very first time through, I knew the sentiment, especially in an era where it’s all about fitting in, I don’t, I couldn’t conform even if I tried to, and I did.

Not that you’ve heard of Kassi Ashton, who co-wrote this number with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally. “California, Missouri” doesn’t even have a million plays on Spotify, just a tad over 713,000, but if you hear it you can’t forget it, isn’t that what we’re looking for, numbers that resonate, that we’ll look back fondly on in the future, stuff that gets us through?

But Caitlyn Smith’s “This Town Is Killing Me” is a bit more palatable, a bit more ear-pleasing.

I pour my heart out, three minutes at a time
On a J45, but no one’s listening
They’re too busy drinking on the company tab
I scream my lungs out, confess my secrets, all my sins
But they don’t give a damn
‘Cause if it don’t sound like the radio? Pass

Whew! That’s the way it really is. You’re hiding in plain sight, and no one’s paying attention.

They buried my granddad without me
‘Cause I was out on the road at some one-off show
In Tupelo, and I can’t take that one back
I was in love once and I pushed him away
And the price I pay is a whole lot of lonely nights
And a whole lot of songs that never see the light

That’s it! You sacrifice everything to make it, and you don’t. That’s what people don’t realize, you think you’re sacrificing, but you’re not, you think you deserve to make it, but even those who deserve to don’t. I never wanted to get married because I didn’t want to be pulled away from the cause, my cause, to make it, and getting hitched was the worst decision of my life, but at least I didn’t have any children, although I did get into a ton of debt. And it’s only now that it’s happening, decades later.

“Nashville, you win
‘Cause I’ll wake up here tomorrow, do it all over again
Even though you’re killing me
Oh, this town is killing me
This town is killing me”

The truth is you give up on a regular basis, but then you come back, there’s nothing else you can really do. And now, more than ever before, with the barrier to entry so low, it’s harder to make it.

Don’t waste your life behind that guitar
You may get gone, but you won’t get far
You’re not the first, you won’t be the last
And you can tell us all about it when you come crawling back
The road you’re on, just winds and winds
You’re spinning your wheels and wasting your time

We hear all this testimony about support, but I didn’t have any, most people don’t, you just walk into the wilderness on hope, and a belief in your core that you’ve got something inside, something that will translate, and the irony is you believe there are others out there like you and if you just tell your story, they’ll relate.

Ashley McBryde has been around. She doesn’t look like a TV contestant.

But it gets better.

I get these calls, out on the road
Heard your song on my radio
We always said you’d make it big
And I tell all my friends, I knew you back when
So don’t forget all us little folks
And when you crash and burn
Remember we told you so

I didn’t see that coming, did you? You don’t change minds, they just want to keep you down in the hole they’re in, one of conformity, one lacking risk, one where you never move from your hometown.

Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere. Ashley McBryde has some traction, but Caitlyn Smith and Kassi Ashton don’t. But maybe they soon will. This is what happens when you close doors, another scene develops, people want to prove to you they know better. Which is why today’s vapid pop scene is not forever. As for these country truth-tellers speaking from their heart…

We’ve seen this movie before, in rock, half a century ago. Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne became famous writing songs for others, Randy Newman too, and then their credits were too much to ignore, they harnessed their power, laid it down with desire, and they broke through, and ironically when all the pop stars of their era are playing lounges, they’re still selling thousands of tickets when they choose to go on the road, and even if they don’t, those songs are lodged deep in the heart of a generation.

I knew of Ashley McBryde, but not the other two women, I needed “New York” magazine to point me to them. And now I’ll be inundated with tracks from wannabes, but what they don’t understand is that’s not how it works, you just do the work and hope to get lucky. There are no jets to the top, no shortcuts, if you’re good at social media you’re probably bad as an artist.

This world is confusing. This world is confounding. This world is cacophonous. And despite all the disorder everyone soldiers on like they have the answers, even though they don’t. Mainstream media missed Trump. Major labels are so busy pursuing the hits of the moment that they’re missing the essence. When done right, music is life itself, it’s truth in three and a half minutes, it’s straight from the heart, it’s not always positive, it’s not necessarily hooky at first, it’s intriguing but it doesn’t always bat you over the head, you want to pay attention but it takes a while to digest its meaning.

That’s the way it used to be.

Hopefully it can be that way again.

It will be.

Led by women like these.

“New York” country

“New York” magazine on songwriting, five articles under the headline “Culture”

Billy Joel on songwriting

Reputation

That’s why no one showed up at the white supremacist march yesterday, they were afraid of pictures, of having their lives ruined.

You’re building your reputation online every damn day, and ironically it’s the young who realize this, those who’ve grown up with the prying eyes of the internet, there are cameras everywhere, and if you’re a bad actor…

I know, the President utters mind-blowing statements every day, but he’s rich, or at least rich enough not to worry about the consequences, then again, Ivanka had to shutter her clothing line and despite Trump’s best efforts to leverage his role to benefit his corporation, some hotel numbers have decreased and the brand has been tarnished, although the dirty little secret is he doesn’t own most of the buildings anyway, they are just licensing deals.

Now of course people say evil things on Facebook and Twitter. Using their real names! But for some reason they think this is just like talking at school, not realizing that their bad behavior will be amplified when they least expect it, whether it be someone prominent, like Sarah Jeong, who the NYT hired and then found out about her anti-white tweets, or the latest “Bachelorette” contestant, who turned out to like conspiracy theories online. ABC may not have mentioned the specifics, but they were all over gossip outlets and Howard Stern amplified the man’s views on his program today.

It could happen to you.

Those photographed in Charlottesville a year ago paid a price, they were ostracized from society, they lost their jobs, but it’s hard to argue with a photograph. Furthermore, there are gotcha police at the ready to blow up a story when you cross the line, like with Laura Ingraham and her racist comments last week. Oh, you agree with her? Are you willing to go on national TV to say so, allow me to print your name? I highly doubt it.

Kinda like the Republicans pushed out and protested against in restaurants. They thought they were secure, they thought their position gave them a pass, but where you stand and what you stand for is everything these days.

What groups you’ve joined, what retreats you’ve attended… Funny how lists pop up online when you least expect it. You think it’s a perk to fly on the right-winger’s plane, and then it comes out and you say…

What do you say?

You apologize, you say you don’t know what you were thinking.

But nobody buys it, and your reputation is tarred thereafter.

Now there’s a chilling effect. Which is why country musicians won’t wade into politics and when they do they support Republicans and guns, they speak to their perceived core audience.

And Kanye’s rep took a hit when he supported Trump, his statements have legs, they came up on Kimmel last week, they will not die.

But the chilling effect is there for everybody but the rulers of our nation, isn’t that funny. You can become so rich that reputation is irrelevant, as long as you can endure the slings and arrows from those on the other team, i.e. the Koch Brothers and George Soros.

So the next time you take an unpopular position online, know that it’s forever, except on maybe the dying Snapchat, then again, there are screen grabs.

Who you are is the most important asset you’ve got. Are you trustworthy, believable, rational? Demonstrate otherwise and you may not get a job, you may not have a relationship, you may have to stay at home or move to the hinterlands.

Once again, the internet we knew in the old days does not persist in the future. Supposedly everybody had a voice, everybody could become famous, that turned out to be untrue. But one thing’s for sure, say something heinous and people will see/read/hear it and never forget it.

It’s your move.