Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Runaway Sketchbook" goes live, and a note about people these days

My debut album Runaway Sketchbook goes live today on BandCamp (gobble it up here). All the hard work paid-off when I woke up yesterday to find that it had made the best-seller list in the acoustic section of BandCamp's charts (more on that in a bit). I excitedly sent a message to the company thanking them for the services they provide in helping artists like me make a living. It was more a gesture than anything; I assumed it'd get lost in the swarms of Emails they get daily.

I was wrong. Within a few hours, they wrote back. It was personalized, friendly, and completely free of a sales pitch. They thanked me for my kind words and wished me good fortune in my work. BandCamp did. 

As someone who lives their lives very introspectively, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve myself, and over the past year, resolved to not only live a positive lifestyle but also simply be a positive person to be around. My execution is still far from flawless, but overall, it's been working well. 

Time after time, people have shown me how gracious, generous, and trustworthy they can be, even when there's nothing in it for them. From the ever-growing list of sponsors and donors for my music project (see the list here) to complete strangers holding a door open or offering a hand while I cart gear back and forth between stage and car to funny "this reminded me of you" notes from friends, people are kind. While there are plenty of people who are negative, condescending, discriminatory, judgmental, and on the prowl for the next insult, there's little I can do or say to change the minds of those dedicated to the cause of misery. Instead, my [all-too-many] calories and limited time in this life are better served at the attention of those who are positive, are helpful, are generous.

Another shining example: my good friend, Dan Drago, agreed to engineer my album long before any mention of money came into the conversation. He was eager and full of ideas on how to do a good job and make the record sound incredible and unique. It was his idea to record in rooms that naturally enhanced acoustics and his efforts and connections that allowed us to use the space at the Fleisher Art Memorial sanctuary. I bombarded him with questions, and he patiently answered them respectfully and admitted to areas he needed to research further. A true gentleman.

I could go on and on about the scores of people who made a positive impact on my life, but at the moment, I'd like to return to the best-selling status of the album. It was accomplished not by any huge promotional effort on my part, rather by the little, person-to-person word of mouth sharing. They haven't been doing so with expectations of getting anything in return (though I do try and make it worth their while). Yet, it's all making an impact. The album is selling both inside and outside of my social circles which is absolutely gratifying to see. 

I'm also happy to see people who listen to the tracks, don't necessarily buy my music, but feel compelled to share it among their friends. In the end, that's the spirit I want surrounding my music. I want my music to be shared out of self-motivated desire, not from jamming a marketing campaign down people's throats or making an extra buck my gouging prices. Don't get me wrong, marketing is absolutely important, but I also feel that intent and actions are more important. If people truly get something positive out of what I do, I have faith that they'll find a way to support me in some way.

So far, I've been pretty happy with the results.


Henry, "Sheltered Turtle"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Making lemonade out of a soured, over-saturated music market

As a working musician, it's so easy to be jaded by the vast sea of material all vying for the attention of the general public. If you're a friend with musicians on Facebook, you're probably inundated with event invites for shows (read: "You live in Los Angeles, but come to our dive bar show in Nashville because we talked once in college!).

However, something hit me today that seems super-obvious in retrospect but is helping me see the plus (among the many!) in being involved in music as a career. It's simply this: I'm constantly surrounded by creative types, each with their unique ideas and perspectives. 

At any moment, I can listen to music made by someone who is a friend who also happens to be a content creator. Almost any night of the week, I have the option to see a great show put together by the hard work of these very same friends. Even if a show isn't going on, I can always dip into a local open mic and check out everyone from new upcoming artists to working-class cats who just enjoying playing a few tunes out every once in a while. My music friends are also among the people that support me in what I do, can relate with my problems on a first-hand basis, and push me to work harder.

We help each other by trading ideas, lending unique skill sets, and helping each others' social circle grow. I've made it a point this year to listen to more new music, even if I don't like it at first. Little by little, I've been checking out the bands of everyone from friends to incidental acquaintances and have generally been pleased in what I found. I've become a better, more open-minded patron of the arts and have been more inspired than I have ever been as a result. 

My musician friends are creative, inspired, driven, and always have interesting stories to share. We might not be able to catch each other all the time due to the amount of travel many of us do, but I can rest easier knowing that there are people like them that often get lost in this psychosomatically over-saturated music market I wade through.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Test recording session at the Fleisher Art Museum Sanctuary (Philadelphia, PA)

This is is the spot!

This is where all the natural reverb comes from!


We ended up moving back a few feet and using the folding wall to round out the corners of the room.

My engineer, Dan Drago!

Listening to the playback.

Guitar taking a break.

Cool stain glass window.

Dan doing his thing.

Guitar taking another break.

Can't wait to finish recording!

NEW VIDEO: "Puppies"

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely adore puppies. Even a quick glance at the Sheltered Turtle Facebook page will reveal post after post of puppy-related pictures and videos, far more than anything actually music-related, haha. Well, it's about time that I post a puppy video of my own, only there aren't any cute animals in this one. This is an affectionate ode to those little lumps of fuzz and joy that make the world a better place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Native Rhythms Festival 2012 - More photos! (Melbourne, FL)

Left Top: Approaching the festival grounds.
Left Center: Rehearsing in our hotel room.
Left Bottom: The stage at sunset.
Right Top: Tee-Pee!
Right Bottom: A guitar three-some.

Left: Wind Dancer!
Top Right: Gopher Tortoise. Aww.
Bottom Right: Peopling holding hands.

Listen to rough demos for "Runaway Sketchbook"

These are very early, pre-production demos for my upcoming album "Runaway Sketchbook." The recordings are a mix of bedroom recordings and sound check sessions from the Fleisher Art Museum Sanctuary where I will be recording the album in its entirety. The mixes and masters are by Daniel Drago. Please understand that these are not an accurate reflection of the final product; they are reference tracks I will be using to sculpt the final product. Thanks for listening!

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 recording sessionsT

Top Left: Francis Coates III engineering his record (Easton, PA).
Top Center: Tessie, the loyal pup of the Polisar family.
Top Right: Francis' recording rig for my guitar.
Bottom: The Pfanstiehls after a long week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nam @ Winter NAMM 2013, Day 1

The day before departing for the 2013 Winter NAMM show was a part of a bitter string of cold days. The wind was blowing so hard that tears streamed down my eyes during my morning run. The air was so cold that the tears froze. Within two minutes, I turned around to get more weather-appropriate running gear, particularly, something that would cover my entire face and shield it from the elements. 

I bring this up to provide contrast to the "chilly" 71 degree weather that greeted us in Arizona and the shivering 74 degree weather in Los Angeles. Yes, in this part of the country, cold is such a foreign notion that there are snow-themed restaurants right across other fantasies to live such as Medieval Times.

Top Left: Philadelphia International Airport
Top Right: Arizona
Bottom Left: Los Angeles
Bottom Right: Nelson smiling at the sight of palm trees.

The show hasn't even officially kicked-off, but things are lively in Anaheim. I'm pooped from traveling. Actually, I'm pooped from traveling after staying up too late packing because of a late work night and procrastination. We'll see what adventures await tomorrow!

Top Left: Packing the poor car.
Top Right: Eating (AKA orgasmic devouring) at Tito's Tacos, a NAMM tradition.
Left Center: The kitchen in our suite.
Left Bottom: Performing musicians surrounded by drunk musicians.
Bottom Right: The Anaheim Convention Center in its full NAMM glory.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TUTORIAL: Flamenco-style drumming (part 1)

Long before the likes of Michael Hedges, Preston Reed, and other guitar greats, flamenco guitarists were using the body of the guitar as a drum. When I started getting into acoustic-percussive guitar, Edina's videos helped me make the transition, so here I am sharing them with you! I teach these techniques during my percussive guitar workshops because it's relatively simple, doesn't require any new gear, and can easily be integrated to songs you already play.

These are the chords she's using:

| Am /// | E /// | F /// | G / F / | Am /// |

And the tabs in the order of appearance:

o -- 0 -- 0 -- 1 -- 3 -- 
o -- 1 -- 0 -- 1 -- 3 -- 
o -- 2 -- 1 -- 2 -- 4 -- 
o -- 2 -- 2 -- 3 -- 5 -- 
o -- 0 -- 2 -- 3 -- 5 -- 
o -- x -- 0 -- 1 -- 3 --

Feeling inspired? Want to share the fruits of your hard labor? Drop me a line on Facebook and share a video, SoundCloud, etc. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

My sketches lead to a commission!

After posting the previous sketch on Facebook, a friend and choreographer contacted me about getting a doodle done of him. I chose to use a looser, wavier, line art style to give the image some more motion.

Original Image:

Digging back into digital doodles

I enjoy physical media far over digital, but there's no denying that digital is far more forgiving and easy on the clean up than watercolor and ink (my preferred medium). I thought I'd take a bit of time to learn Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro a bit. This first effort took me between 3-4 hours to do because I had to learn the interface, get used to drawing on a tablet, and watch tutorials on how to draft, ink, and color.

Original Image:



Full color

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NEW VIDEO: "Hayfever"

"Hayfever" was written in the Spring of 2012 in the middle of, well, hayfever season. The percussive groove and techniques were inspired by my being able to meet one of my heroes, Thomas Leeb, and watching him perform. I also had the honor of being the first opening act in the history of the SMCM Big Band and Jazz Combo. This is the composition I performed.

Picture of me with Thomas Leeb -
Thomas Leeb's website -

Gear List:
Guitar: Martin GPCPA4 (John Pearse armrest & Grover 106GC tuners)
Strings: D'Addario EJ-17
Pickup: K&K Pure Mini
Preamp: Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre

Camera: Panasonic DMC-ZS3
DAW: Garageband '09/'11
Mic: M-Audio Nova
Interface: M-Audio Mobile Pre USB

Sunday, January 6, 2013

NEWS: I am now sponsored by Voyage-Air Guitar!

I'm pleased and excited to announce that Voyage-Air Guitar has endorsed me as an artist! My VAOM-06 was the second steel string I bought (and the first with a 1-3/4" neck which I've come to prefer) and comes with me to just about every performance I do. In my opinion, these are the ultimate travel guitars: they are full-sized acoustic guitars that fold in half. Don't let the gimmick fool you: they sound great, and don't go out-of-tune as much as you'd think!

To inaugurate this new partnership, I will be performing my music at the Voyage-Air Guitar booth at the 2013 Winter NAMM show! I can't wait! Below is a video of me performing live in Fall 2012.

A very Happy New Year indeed!

My Voyage-Air Guitar VOAM-06 is customized with:
Grover 406C mini locking rotomatic tuners
K&K MiniPure pickup system
D'Addario EJ-17 medium-gauged strings

I also plan on adding a John Pearse armrest.

Hike through Hibernia County Park, Coatesville, PA

Here are a few photos I snapped with my dad's DSLR while on a little hike near my house. I made a point to only shoot in manual since my camera's a point-and-shoot. Photography's not something I  know much at all about nor is Photoshop, but the only way to get better is to practice, no?

You can see all the dust in the lens. Looks like someone needs to clean the camera, haha! I used a lomo effect and color-corrected the sky to be a bit more vivid.

I really like the way this came out. 

The "lake" (it's more like a pond) looks a lot more vast than in reality. I guess I was in a shoot-into-the-sun mood this afternoon.

So close to being a decent picture. The sun's over-exposed, but you can see the patches where there's still ice.