Todd Carter a.k.a The Looking “Songs for a Traveler” Album Release Party

The Looking Album Release Flyer

The Looking Album Release Flyer

You have read about Todd Carter a.k.a. The Looking’s exciting listening party for his newest rockin’ cover album, Songs for a Traveler. Now, everyone has the chance to hear these great songs for live at The Looking’s album launch party at Bowery Electric on Friday, April 26th!

“I have been interested in American folk songs since the time I started playing music in Indiana,” Todd says. “It was the thought of mixing my love for 80’s and 90’s alt-pop with these old songs that resulted in Songs for a Traveler.”

Todd will spin songs from the 1950’s, like “Sail Around” and “Long Black Veil” into lush, dreamy soundscapes that climax in full rock fashion, with the help of his backing band. The band features John Andrews, Gerald Menke, Chris Morrissey, Adam Kromelow, and Bill Finizio. NYC Ukulele Troubadour Roger Greenawalt and Violin Virtuoso Ernesto Villa-Lobos will also join Todd as guest performers.

Loudboy, led by John Andrews (Botanica, Angela McCluskey, Morely), and Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls will open the show at 7:00pm.

Official Press photo of Todd Carter

Official Press photo of Todd Carter

Experimental indie-songstress Alyson Greenfield, who has recently found fans in WNYC, Converse and AOL.com, will close the night.

Collected Sounds describes Todd’s vocalism and performance as “intriguing and fascinating.” The Chronicle claims his work is “eclectic and provocative.” IndieMusic.com says Todd’s voice is “like nobody else you have heard before…majestic.”

Make the weekend of April 26 one filled with the American classics you love made great for Rock ‘n’ Roll. Todd’s album launch party for Songs for a Traveler will start at 8:00 pm. The opening show begins at 7:00 pm. Purchase your tickets here and save your spot at the Bowery Electric.

Roger Greenawalt on Music and Business Part 2: The Beatles Complete and Beyond

Leah Siegel sings "Oh Darling" with Roger on Ukulele In Part One of my conversation with Roger Greenawalt, I learned about the life of a record producer at Shabby Road Studios and how some producers work with artists. In the continuation, I learn more about Roger’s inspiration behind the annual Beatles Complete and his other title, the ukulele carrier.

“For three and a half years, I’ve been carrying this [the ukulele] everywhere,” Roger explains. “It’s an ongoing permanent art exhibit. This performance is forever. I also do it to constantly interact with people, and I sort of know the range of reactions.

“Today, for example, a woman jogged by and said “go on brother.” That was one reaction. A very common one I get is when a mother is with her kid, and she points me out to her child, but she doesn’t need to because children usually directly engage with me and follow me with their eyes. Then, there are those that pretend not to see or hear me.”

I asked Roger whether anybody ever approached him and asked to play his ukulele. He says:

“No, actually, the opposite happens. I’ll show you.

“Someone will come to me and say “wow that ukulele is so cool” and I will put it in their hands.” Roger hands me the ukulele to demonstrate. “I would tell you to put one finger right there and strum steadily.”

I placed my finger on the first string right on the third fret, and strummed as Roger sang an English lyrical improvisation of “Frere Jacques.”

“I’ve taught them a song they will always remember for the rest of their lives,” says Roger. “I’ve had people come back to me after I taught them the song, and they would say “I will always remember that first song.””

My personal experience interacting with Roger on the ukulele was exciting, especially when I realized playing the ukulele is really just playing a fragment of the guitar. According to Roger, many skilled guitar players express the same realization about the ukulele.

“That’s what I realized when I started playing,” he echoes.

I then asked Roger why chose the ukulele as a trademark instrument, and then why dedicated an annual music event to The Beatles.

“Multiple factors,” explains Roger. “A) People love the ukulele.

“I started playing the ukulele right after September 11th (2001) and like many people that year, I was in a lousy mood. Then, one day, my cousin who lives San Francisco – he is a book publisher and a talented amateur musician – invited me to visit. So, after the flights started up again, I took a plane to San Francisco.

“When I went to see him, I learned that he had just been in Hawaii cheering himself up from a break-up. He picked up the ukulele and started learning songs. It just made him happy; it’s this happiness machine. And, the appeal of the uke keeps getting bigger.

“B) There is the undying universal appeal about the Beatles.

“They have been a unique phenomenon throughout the years. The passing of their music from generation to generation has been frictionless. Kids continue to like their music and they keep getting bigger every year. They are the second best selling artist of the last decade after Eminem. So, these are both two good things.”

Roger continues, “Then, if there are 60 artists and they each have two friends, there is a good chance these two people will show up to watch them perform. So, there will be 60 different people in the show, and they will bring in an audience of 120.

“That’s why the event works.”

Yuzima jams with Roger at the Beatles Complete on Ukulele to "Hey Jude" Based on my experience, The Beatles Complete on ukulele does work in attracting a crowd. I remember the 2012 show, which fell on the first weekend in January. People packed the space in front of the stage, shoulder-to-shoulder. I remember singing to Yuzima’s rendition of “Hey Jude” with my sister as we stood among the crowds. To our right stood two Brooklyn bachelors sporting wind breakers and beanies, while to our left, a father was raising his toddler-aged son on his shoulders to see the musicians on stage.

However; I also do admit that outside circumstances, which are not related to music, also play a determining factor on whether the next show the following year will produce a greater turn out than the one prior. For example, this year’s show fell on a weekday, which probably prevented families from attending. In addition, it was also one of the coldest nights in January, a factor that might have discouraged many from coming out. Roger comments:

“If it was not the coldest night that day, the place would have been packed.”

Luckily, people, whether they are returning attendees, new comers to the area, first-timers, or tourists, will likely come to Brooklyn Bowl next January to hear the cheery sounds of the Beatles on Ukulele and hopefully remember it as an event that brightened their beginning of the New Year.

The same applies to many of the musicians that return the following year to perform a set. It gives them a great performance opportunity; a chance to jam with similar groups like them from the Williamsburg area; and a moment to make themselves known to a new group of Brooklynites.

As Roger prepares for next year’s Beatles Complete on Ukulele, he will also continue to work closely with artists looking to really make their big break on the New York City music scene. Roger talks about two musicians in particular.

“Lovely Liar,” he explains, “is a collaboration between me and Tatiana Pajkovic. She is tall, authoritarian, fabulous and tense. She has a Billy Holiday-kind of tone to her voice, and her style ranges from stately mid-twentieth century to French disco.”

Roger is also working with another act called Reno is Famous. Reno is a world class dancer who is a member of the Ballet Company of the Metropolitan Opera.

Roger describes her as “A very well-thought of modern dancer making her way to rock star.” He adds, “Her repertoire includes aggressive punk music ranging to electronic dystopia; a style that is much darker than Radio Head.

“This one’s really close to my heart. I’m making all the soundscapes [in her music] and it includes experimental elements of all my favorite things like strong acoustic ukulele and guitar riffs. It also includes reggae bass, funky drums, and hooks and groves…”

My interview with Roger has come back full circle to his work at The Shabby Road Studios.

In Part One, I learned of two very important pieces of advice that Roger has for aspiring professionals: musicians must always make room for business if they want economic success; and that the more an artist adapts, the faster his or her circumstances will change for the better. In Part Two, I learned about his inspiration behind playing the ukulele and the annual Beatles Complete.

Reviewing our conversation, I realize that Roger makes room in his studios for artists of all backgrounds. A musician can be inspired by a genre that is not widely heard in America, or have performance experience within a different art form other than popular music. If the artist is willing to commit to his or her craft, and willing to work with an experienced professional like Roger in making excellence in music; they will learn a great deal about how to work in the industry, and continue on their professional path with, hopefully, more confidence.

Roger Greenawalt on Music & Business Part 1: Running Shabby Road Studios

Roger Greenawalt at Shabby Road Studio. Courtesy of Originalhipster.net Last week, on one of the windiest evenings in January, I stopped by the Shabby Road Studios to talk with record producer Roger McEvoy Greenawalt. I asked him what a high-quality recording requires, and he says, “All you need is a good microphone, a mic pre-amp, and an audio digital converter like an M-Box going into a computer.

“That’s it; then knowing where to put the microphone, and a good musician playing a good part on a good instrument. Finally, a good mixer can make anything sound serviceable.”

As my conversation with Roger continued, I learned that while anybody can produce a record, a musician needs more than talent and ambition to become a professional.

My debut full-length interview for 2013 will be divided into two parts. In this article, part one, I talk with Roger about: the most important lessons he learned as a musician in his early years; the day-to-day in the life of a record producer at Shabby Road Studios; and the advice he has for young musicians looking to make it in music.

Early years with The Dark

During the start of his career in the early 1980’s, as a guitarist for the band The Dark, Roger learned the difference between a musician that was ready to take on the music industry, and one that was not. Roger explains:

“We [The Dark] were on Relatively Records at the same time as the Beastie Boys, when they were putting out their first record, “Cooky Puss.” And Megadeath was also on the label. We were at the right place at the right time. Our music, structurally, was cutting-edge, but not suicidally so.

“I think ultimately though, we had two weaknesses. The first was all my fault – I was the leader of the band and we did not develop an effective business team. Although we had some good PR instincts, we just couldn’t focus on them.

“Art lives in a system defined by commerce. Visionary entrepreneurs like David Geffen, for example, actually curated the culture. The artists that were closest to him defined the core of a dominant style and they acquired the best reputations. Think Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Are they really the best of their era, or did they have the best PR and management?

“Secondly, our singer did not believe whole heartedly that he was the “Joseph Campbell” hero character. He would not inhabit the hero. He thought it was okay at the time to make fun of the rock star. Our singer was a virtuoso but he didn’t really believe he was a star. He made fun of it and didn’t really own it; so that gave people this view: “If he doesn’t believe it, then I don’t believe it either.””

Transitioning into the Recording Business

Roger eventually became The Dark’s ad hoc manager. Then, in 1983, the band parted ways.

Roger then describes the transitional period in his life from the guitarist in The Dark to learning the business of the recording studio.

“The Dark won a Battle of the Bands contest, and we won the time to do a record with Rico Ocasek at the Cars Recording Studio Syncro Sound, on Newberry Street in Boston. Then, I became the habitué at the studio and just insinuated myself there and made myself useful.”

Roger’s experiences at The Cars Recording Studio later took him to different recording experiences in the United States and abroad. Roger has only been living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at Shabby Road Recording Studio for the past 13 years. Prior to this, he lived in Los Angeles; Kingston, Jamaica; and London. He briefly touches on what he experienced in each of these musical landscapes.

“During the time that I was in London, in the 90’s” Roger says, “the major label businesses were flushed with money; very different from now. I liked the energy of that city; it was similar to that in Los Angeles at the time. I still like the energy of LA now.

“When I lived in London, I was always learning a lot about new music. London is fantastic for music – their [London recording studios’] recordings are just more exquisite. They have more quickly evolving styles, they’re cutting edge. Since it rains there all the time, people stay indoors more when they record music.”

Working at Shabby Road: “…master the technical stuff and listen widely and voraciously.”

Living and working in different studios will definitely provide a developing music producer with plenty of experience. The more experienced the producer, the better they are at the craft. Roger states:

“To be a producer is to master the technical stuff: audio engineering; the physics of music – to understand that music is a subset of the physics of sound; and also the challenge to become an expert on as many musical instruments as possible; and listen humbly, widely and voraciously.”

During our interview, Roger exhibited to me exactly how the required skills of a music producer would translate into the everyday work of creating a record.

“My job is mixing and recording albums. I’m actually making loud speaker paintings.

“When we look at a classical musician, like Bach Concertos or especially Ravel, we figure out what to do with all the tones, frequencies and the ranges. Then, there is Nelson Riddle and George Martin and Max Martin to contend with. Time is the magic that music flows within. The rhythm of what’s coming out of the speakers, the display of all the different frequencies. What are the words being spoken/ rapped/ sung? You ask yourself ‘what do you do with all of that?’ ‘How do you disperse the energies to tickle the human brain and the nervous system just right?’ ‘Where do you draw the line between structure and surprise?’”

Roger on bass at the Shabby Road Studio. Image courtesy of Originalhipster.net Roger continues, “I really like playing reggae bass. I’ll give you a taste of what reggae bass is – the opposite energy-wise of the ukulele, which is a collection of high frequencies just floating and dancing above in the hi register. The voice is here, in the middle,” he shows me with a flat-hand positioned in front of his mouth, “and the ukulele is here,” he moves his hand above his head, “and the bass is down here,” he re-positions his hand below his chest. “So it’s great that the voice has all this space and the bass generations so much more energy without clouding the vocal.”

Roger plays me a line that is typical reggae bass. The line is written in a minor melody, and is easy to remember and repeat. He then picks up the ukulele and plays a few staccato minor chords. He plays these chords again in an arpeggio, and then changes them up again my turning these chords into major chords. Meanwhile, for every variation, he repeats the same minor bass line.

“There is a lot of color that can go over it [the bass line],” concludes Roger.

Whenever an artist comes to Shabby Road Recording studios, Roger applies a similar technical process to every client. The instrumentation and the goal for each recording session varies widely though.

“For musicians I haven’t worked with before, I ask them to send me a Spotify list of all their favorite stuff. I will listen to these songs with the artist and talk music. Then I will play them my favorite stuff and say “this is what I think is cool.” Then we would make a Venn diagram and see where our likes overlap.

“In the same moment, I will also try to tactically push a formal element so that this way, we are consciously doing something innovative without abandoning my two core values. The first: hook and second: groove. And crucially, the emphasis is on the singer. After that, everything is up for grabs: what instruments; what historical influence; what ensembles; tempos; and mood/feeling.”

Confident and Experienced Musicians are Interested in Learning

Artist Kiddeaux (Left) accompanied by Roger Greenawalt (Right) in the basement of Shabby Road Studio. Photo courtesy of maneatingseas.com  Roger’s job goes beyond providing the recording space and acting as master of the equipment.

“I don’t want to be anyone’s bitch,” he enumerates, “nor do I want to oppress anyone. I find that the more confident and experienced the person is, the easier it is for me to collaborate with them and the easier it is for them to listen and take advice.

“It’s painful to work with the inexperienced and insecure. They’re unable to put excellence outside their ego.

“I ask, “Can you be taught?” Because if they are interested in learning, then I am as well, and I see they want to be on a team that learns together.

“I don’t care about me and what I think, I care about the thing being excellent; and that takes a little bit of maturity.”

Of course, there are plenty of artists that know exactly what they want when they enter a recording studio; that is to put their song on a record. While Roger is open to this idea, he still expects more openness and commitment to the creative and collaborative process from the musicians that enter his orbit.

“If a musician has songs to record, I’ll be up to record their songs. I’m still into all of that, but I would rather start songs from scratch and create songs together.”

For The Young Musician: the benefits and challenges of the industry

Shabby Road Studios caters to musicians looking to get serious about their craft, and sometimes that means the artist must step outside of their normal routine and create new songs with producers. Based on what I learned from Roger, the musicians that are open and willing to accept this are the ones ready to take the first steps in pursuing the music industry. So what are the benefits and the challenges of taking on such a task today? Roger explains:

“There are multiple levels of rewards. The arts are good for people’s soul. Talented artists that work for themselves and are not working for any corrupt institution that oppresses people is a win/win for humanity.

“Aside from the grandiose and narcissistic personality; fame is necessary for economic survival in popular music. Fame is just part of the job. On a spiritual level, it doesn’t have to be who you are. There are a range of celebrities that are more-or-less well-adjusted. There is a range between Amy Winehouse and Tom Hanks.

“The challenges? Now, you have to be an artist, an entrepreneur, run your own small business, find your own scenes and drive people yourself. You have to be very good at that and adapt. The more you adapt, the faster things are going to change for the better for you.”

Recalling my past interviews with artists, each one encountered a specific obstacle. Sometimes it involved growing comfortable with performing in front of a large crowd, discovering a signature sound, or seeking the right ensemble. Each musician found a way to overcome their challenge and continued on their professional path.

What I didn’t realize until I met Roger is that economic success for a musician also depends on their ability and willingness to firstly, grow artistically and secondly, learn from a producer with extensive experience on the business side of music. Like Roger confirms:

“Being good at music is just not enough. We have to be good in business.”

What’s ahead?

Since I am talking to a music producer that has a ton of experience under his belt; my debut interview with Roger Greenawalt will continue in part two, which I plan to have up by the end of the month.

The Beatles Complete on Ukulele with Roger Greenawalt: A Breath of Fresh Air

The Beatles Complete on Ukulele at the Brooklyn Bowl is a musical collaboration between young singer-songwriters on the New York City music scene and lifelong instrumentalists that met for the purpose of celebrating the canonical music of one of the most world renowned British bands.

Image Music producer and ukulele player Roger McEvoy Greenawalt led this event for the fourth time. This year, the back-up band he played with was The Angry Buddhist East Band. On stage, from 8:00pm to 12:00am this past Wednesday, Roger was also joined by a number of musicians of different professional backgrounds.

The Brooklyn-based experimental singer-songwriter, Alyson Greenfield was the first artist to jam with Roger on a cover of “Glass Onion” and “I Will.” The electric violinist who has toured the world with Cyndi Lauper, appeared on Saturday Night Live and the Late show with Conan O’Brien, Deni Bonet helped Roger and the back-up band transform the upbeat “Please Please Me” into a folky minor-key serenade. Avi Wisnia worked with Roger to turn “She Loves You” into a slow and sensual cover that echoed the pop singer-songwriter’s signature Bossa Nova sound.

Additional artists that joined Roger that night included: Mike Rimbaud, who covered “Can’t Do That”; Olivia Mancini who performed a rendition of “I’m Looking Through You”; the ukulele female duo, Supercute that performed “Getting Better”; Leah Siegel who performed “Oh Darling”; the underground industrial rock musician, Yuzima who covered “Hey Jude”; Craig Greenberg who together with Joy Askew performed a rockin’ version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”; and many more.

One might call this event a breath of fresh air, especially if the individual looks to get away from the confines of mosh-pit concerts or the house DJs in New York City’s most expensive clubs. The Beatles Complete on Ukulele allows Brooklynites to enjoy music among a crowd of respectable musicians and audience members. On this note, I will talk about some of the reasons why this event is attractive, as well as reasons for why some people might be turned away. 

A Wide Range of Listeners

The meeting of musicians of all ages and different musical backgrounds attracts a crowd of people that come from different walks of life and span across a wide age range. Some audience members might have formed a friendship with the musician from past shows, and have come to this event to lend their support and see a familiar friendly face on stage. Some might have just come from work, looking to have good and clean musical fun.

The majority of the audience absorbed the atmosphere and performance vibe just in front of the stage. The bar in the back of the performance space, just at the right of the coat check, was occupied by individuals that had planned social meetings with several of their closest friends and acquaintances, and purposely wanted to keep the music in the background. However; this is not to say the music didn’t reach them at all in the foreground of their conversations.

As I waited at the bar for a Brooklyn Lager and a long flat bread pizza, I listened to Craig Greenberg and Joy Askew play “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and applauded them. A British man in a long black blazer and shades to my right joined me in my applause and remarked “This band definitely rehearsed!” I responded with a nod of agreement.

Everyone enjoys themselves and the music 

I watched Yuzima lead the crowd in a sing-along to Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” – a moment that lifted everybody’s spirit and created a sense of community in the audience. Earlier in the program, Leah Siegel sang her rendition of “Oh Darling,” in which she gracefully choreographed a physical performance that communicated beautiful anguish. This performance could only make some of the feel like Leah was specifically singing to them.

 Whichever artist came up to the stage, Roger was always in the foreground interacting with the main act. This makes audience members, especially those who are new to the Beatles Complete, naturally think that Roger is a part of all these groups. As for those who are returning for a second time to watch this line-up, they will also feel like Roger is a part of every musical act. Roger’s complete sense of comfort and joy in performing with each consecutive performer might attribute to this visual affect. Some might even begin to wonder how he finds the energy to stay on for the entire four hour program.

Ticket holders get their money’s worth   

I applaud the musicians for overcoming the distractions from the bowling area adjacent to the main stage. Every musician that night performed with Roger and The Angry Buddhist East Band like they were at an intimate venue. Attendees can rest assured that they will get their money’s worth at the Beatles Complete.

On this note, I should mention the ticket is only $10.00. However; if you are very pleased with what you hear and see, you will probably feel compelled to enjoy some food and drink. Now, here is where I believe concert attendees will run into a petty and annoying detail: Brooklyn Bowl is an expensive place.

Price for food and drink a little bit high

The drinks are all over $6.00 and customers can only use credit cards for a minimum of a $10.00 purchase. Although this might be great for attendees that crave food; a dish as simple as a Margherita flatbread pizza is at least $10.00. This and a drink come to $20.00 per individual, and this is only bar food! In addition, the kitchen closes at 11:00pm – something that audience members must research in advance.

Although I can come to understand the kitchen has to close at some time; the price for food and drink is still a little bit high. However; I do say the price is definitely worth the great experience at The Beatles Complete.

Avoid the “Gypsy Cab” after the show

I must also warn concert attendees that if they wish to take a cab home, they must vigilantly seek a yellow cab service as opposed to the white or black Lincoln Town Cars that are used in the highly popular and dodgy “gypsy cab” scheme. The outside of Brooklyn Bowl will be lined with both real taxi cabs and false ones.

See who is active on the NYC Music Scene

In conclusion the positives of The Beatles Complete on Ukulele at Brooklyn Bowl weigh out the negatives. The greatest strength about this performance includes Roger Greenawalt’s love for the Beatles, ukulele and collaboration with great artists on the independent music scene.

I am happy to share some very muffled-sounding videos from Wednesday night’s performance right here on my Youtube channel. I apologize for the poor sound recording quality but I hope readers form a good idea about the experience they might have if they’re interested in coming out to Brooklyn Bowl either for next year’s Beatles Complete led by Roger or other musical occasions. And then, of course, there is always the bowling.

Finally, for those real music lovers out there; The Beatles Complete is a great opportunity to see who is active on the independent music scene of New York City. Most of the artists that performed with Roger on stage that night are very likely to have something new – an album, a tour, or exciting musical project – taking place in the New Year.

So, to those that came out to the Beatles Complete last Wednesday night, I hope they enjoyed themselves and the musical experience. For those who did not, I encourage them to learn more about the musicians, including Roger Greenawalt, and make a trip to Brooklyn Bowl for next year’s performance.