Whether it’s a top of the line music studio, just your phone and instrument, or somewhere in between, you should be using what you have to be making more music, reaching more people, and building the relationships between you and your fans. So how do you maximize your resources and abilities to increase the output and quality of your music from your home?
This week C.J. welcomes Steven Wood to the show, someone from outside Savvy Musician Academy, but someone very familiar with the new music industry. They go so deep into how to turn your home into a music factory, that by the end of this episode, you will be inspired and equipped to be pumping out more and better music from your own home than ever before.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Introduction to Steven Wood
- Musicians dropping out of the business
- Studio vs. live musician
- Trying to get discovered on social media
- Mixing everyday
- Reverse engineering
- Different DAW’s
- Getting familiar with your gear
- Producing: less is more
- Pro’s and Con’s of perfectionism
- How to do a cover song
- The emotional impact of music
- Limiting your area to get things done
- Keeping it simple and clear
- The song makes the musician
“A live guy, he’s looking at it different than the typical studio guy. He’s looking at, do I want to continue to keep on going to these clubs and getting home 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:07:02]
“You got to think, not just with different hats of production, but also different hats you had to put on when it comes to marketing and knowing that one basket is not the way to go.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:10:15]
“Record companies can get you on radio. And to a degree that’s about the only thing that they can do for you.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:12:01]
“I think that’s what everybody right now in this new form of the wheel that we’re trying to create in the virtual world of not just music, but everything else. How do we make a living? How are we successful using a computer and a mouse?” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:12:49]
“I’ve learned to a degree it doesn’t matter which DAW, digital audio workstation, I use. For some reason, it’s still sounds like Steve Wood mixed the song.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:19:44]
“When it comes to producing, really, man, I mean, less is more. It may sound like whole lot’s going on, but it is. But yet individual parts all make up this beautiful pie. And so just let the song tell you where to go.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:21:53]
“I believe that the song is what makes the artist, then the artist has a chance.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:26:17]
“If you say, ‘Man, all I like to do is play guitar and sing.’ Well, work the hell out of that.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:34:48]
“Music is supposed to deliver an emotional experience. I don’t care whether it’s Metallica or Rod Stewart.” – @metalmotivation [0:36:20]
“If you have to explain the song before they listen to it, then you didn’t do a good job. Because the songs should be able to play on its own and take you on a journey.” – @stevenwoodmusic [0:42:56]
“I’m not talking about software. I’m not talking about hardware. I’m not talking about any of these things. I’m talking about what it takes to touch someone else, what it takes to inspire someone else, what it takes to… It’s the human aspect.” – @metalmotivation [0:50:35]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Steven Wood — https://www.facebook.com/stevenwoodmusic
Instagram for Musicians — https://www.savvymusicianacademy.com/ig4m
The Online Musician 3.0 — https://explodeyourfanbase.com
Book a Call With Us — http://www.CallSMA.com
The Inner Circle — https:savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircleClick For Full Transcript
00:21 CJ: Welcome to The Savvy Musician Show. This is CJ Ortiz, I’m the branding and mindset coach here at The Savvy Musician Academy. Welcome once again to this premier music marketing podcast. Thank you so much for all of the support. We got good things happening. I’m delighted about today’s episode because this is something special. And it’s something that we really haven’t addressed before at Savvy, because Savvy is more about the marketing side of things.
But as you know, the world has changed, dramatically. And musicians who have made their living playing local gigs or touring musicians are now having to look at online. You got artists that are in bands looking to do their own albums and EPs and do whatever they can to maximize the online aspect. So I wanted to address the actual process of production, the actual process of home recording.
And when I thought about this topic, I thought there’s nobody else that I could bring in that I know personally would be better suited for this than one of my dearest best friends in the world, he’s been a good friend of mine for about 20 years. And he is a musician, extraordinary, producer, engineer, singer, song writer. He’s done it all. So I said, “You know what? let me get him in because he is such a stickler.”
And I know this personally, even when he does some of his other creative stuff, he is such a perfectionist. So he goes the extra mile on everything. So I want to welcome today my buddy, Steve Wood from Steven Wood Music. Good to see you man.
01:55 Steven: Good to see you CJ. How you doing, buddy?
01:57 CJ: Wonderful. Well, buddy, thank you for taking the time out. We’re going to try and keep this serious. Because we have lots of serious conversations. It’s just that they’re constantly sprinkled with jokes.
02:13 Steven: And they may last a millisecond. Because we got to get one in and we can… There’s amazing things we keep rolling with the serious topic though.
02:24 CJ: We do. And we talk about everything else. We don’t really talk a whole lot about music doing we?
02:28 Steven: No. I mean, I think we both appreciate both sides of what each other likes personally. I mean, of course, you’re a metal. I like metal. It’s nothing that I can do. It’s nothing that I would have even attempt to be, but I love listening to it. It’s for different activities in my life, that I love listening to it for entertainment purposes of working out. I mean, but I grew up on rootsy stuff, country blues, gospel, all that kind of stuff.
02:59 CJ: Yeah. So you do a lot of country music. In fact, you’re working on an EP right now. Tell us a little bit about that.
03:06 Steven: It drops in the Fall, but…
03:09 CJ: That’s a movie referenced.
03:12 Steven: Yeah. People right now are remodeling their homes. They’ve got all this time to do stuff. I think, musicians right now are doing that as well, they’re having more time to think. Actually, I was talking to a musician the day, and a lot of guys are leaving bands. Not because of, they think COVID will take over and they’ll never get to play again. A lot of guys are getting some alone time to think about, do they really want to do this?
03:40 CJ: Wow.
03:41 Steven: Yeah. So a lot of guys and gals out there are rethinking their passion for live music for maybe even for a career. And two or three people I know personally are-
03:53 CJ: So are they considering just leaving it altogether?
03:56 Steven: Yeah. You hear either that, or you hear not trying to make a living at it. They want to keep it always a part of their life. I didn’t grow up thinking, “I want to learn how to play guitar or piano because I want to make a bunch of money.” That was an afterthought of possibly what could happen. But the main reason all of us start to learn is because we love the instrument. We love music.
04:22 Steven: And so a lot of them are saying, “I want to go back to just loving my first love, the music.” And let that be the driving force. They’ll probably starve but besides… No, I’m kidding. They’ll get a job and they’ll do something on the side. But they’ll go back to just loving music. That doesn’t say that you can’t make a living and love music. But, yeah, a lot of guys and gals are rethinking this whole thing.
04:46 CJ: That’s really interesting. Well, tell me…
04:50 Steven: I decided to say that about the EP thing is that people are remodelling their homes. Artists are doing that with their own songs. They’re writing songs more. They’re in the studio right now. Matter of fact, I’ve got some songs shipped off to Nashville this past week and these guys are busy. I mean, they’re more busier… Some one guy told me that he’s more busy than he was when COVID was not even an issue.
05:16 CJ: You might as well start, yeah, putting that music out there.
05:24 Steven: Yeah.
05:25 CJ: That’s interesting. So, to go back to visit because you brought up something that I think is, something to highlight. Because I think you’re right that musicians are changing their minds about things. So is there then a real pressure upon a lot of these musicians that maybe there just feeling like, “I would love to get rid of that burden. I don’t want to have to think about music, my art that way anymore.”
05:48 Steven: Maybe so. And also possibly they’ve had time… They can’t do it. They can’t go out to the clubs and play and because they got dates in the book. All those dates have been wiped away. So now they got actually an easy out, if you may, to tell the people, “Hey man, I’m just done with it. I’m enjoying this time alone with my family and blah, blah, blah.” Yeah. There’s all kinds of reasons why, but I think it divides the true road dog from the perfectionist musician that loves to sit there and work all day long on one song and make it “a masterpiece.”
That’s why there’s such a big difference between a studio musician and a live musician. It’s because a live, they like the feeling… You play guitar in the past, but if you were an artist I could see so see you being an artist and lover of the building and the co-moderator. You know what I’m saying? There’s some people that want to be in the studio, that’s me, I like product production.
And so with the guys that are thinking in that manner, such as a live guy, he’s looking at it different than the typical studio guy. He’s looking at, do I want to continue to keep on going to these clubs and getting home 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. So it’s a different reason and decision than it would be for a guy that’s just more into recording.
07:20 CJ: Yeah. I mean, I have to imagine that a lot of the people who are taking courses at Savvy Musician are a little bit of both. They have to be because… And I think that’s going to be a challenge because how does the person who really just wants to be in the studio really just wants to tinker, really just wants to work on making good art, how do they switch gears and become not just a performer, but a marketing person trying to handle all the things that a label has done in the past.
But now suddenly this is thrust upon people. And so they’re trying to play catch up and I guess, the only solace or comfort that they have is that, okay, Well, at least if I’m just marketing online I don’t have to get out there and necessarily and-
08:09 Steven: Right. It’s amazing how, well, there’s plenty of other artists out there that have gotten started by TikTok, Instagram, YouTube. And then they got a record company that was interested at them. After they already had 2 million people streams on Spotify and whatnot. So it can be done, it takes dedication and hard work to do that. So you do have to think with many hats.
This is just a small story, but my youngest son, his name’s Blake, he just wrote a song in the studio, we produced it on him. So he’s just a very business minded type of feller. I mean, he’s sings so funny but he gets so focused. I don’t really truly understand it all, but there’s this thing called trending on TickTock and he understood the inroads of how to get that done. And he created this little video with his brand new single on there, and it just blew up. He went viral.
09:12 CJ: Really?
09:13 Steven: Yeah. Within a matter of a week he’s got… I have to look on my Spotify, but he’s got over a 100 and some 1,000 likes on TikTok, but he’s got like, I don’t know, 25,000 streams on Spotify.
09:30 CJ: Wow.
09:30 Steven: If you know anything about Spotify, that’s very difficult. So when you see these bands getting a million streams, that’s a pretty big deal because there’s so many artists out there on Spotify. So for him, a nobody, not touring, no band, never done it really, except he’s a songwriter, to have close to 20, 25,000 streams within a matter of a week and a half or so, that’s pretty impressive.
Now what the lesson to be learned is that he got TikTok, used another format, and social media to get him going and get his name out there. And then he fed those people his Spotify song, it’s out. You got to think, not just with different hats of production, but also different hats you had to put on when it comes to marketing and knowing that one basket is not the way to go.
10:26 CJ: Yeah. That’s something Leah’s talked about a great deal. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket. And if he’s got a sharp business mind, which it sounds like he does, he’s going to start saying, “Okay. I’ve gotten used to getting the strings. I’ve gotten used to the likes and the shares, but I know money is being left on the table. I know I need to monetize this more.” And so that’s when it gets into a more comprehensive marketing approach is taught here.
10:54 CJ: And I’m glad you brought up your son, you’ve got three who play music, right?
10:58 Steven: Right. Mm-hmm. A total of four, but only three.
10:59 CJ: A total of four, right. But I know, Hunter, the oldest is not a musician per se. Justin, Jonathan and Blake, you mentioned Blake, the youngest, and Jonathan, your second he’s out in Nashville, right?
11:14 Steven: That’s right. Mm-hmm. He’s country artist. Yeah.
11:17 CJ: So he’s doing the old school move to Nashville, slug it out in the bars and try and get something done.
11:26 Steven: Yeah, he is. Now, his producer, that’s been working with him for a couple of years. His name is Justin Weaver, big songwriter. I mean, he’s a very successful. But he decided he wanted to start producing some people and actually found Jonathan on Instagram. So be encouraged, it can happen on social media and it can happen fast and whatnot. But again, Jonathan hasn’t “signed a deal” and yet they’re not so sure that, that’s the future, maybe.
I think the thing right now, record companies can get you on radio. And to a degree that’s about the only thing that they can do for you. If you can get a deal with Spotify, or if you can get a deal with these different social medias that can just get your song out there and rolling, that can create a buzz for you to go start doing, go from a club to a big event.
I think Luke Combs just said, he started off just up in the Asheville, North Carolina. He got a song that then I want song or two, they started doing really, really good on Spotify. Next thing you know, within two years he’s done stadiums. It can happen overnight, but yet it can happen slowly, but a solid thing that you’re also learning. You said this to me a long time ago, “Learn as you write. Write as you learn.”
12:48 CJ: Right.
12:49 Steven: And I think that’s what everybody right now in this new form of the wheel that we’re trying to create in the virtual world of not just music, but everything else. How do we make a living? How are we successful using a computer and a mouse? And it’s just part of the success, part of the workings. But he’s a typical artist. It’s actually good for guys like… His name is Jonathan. His stage name is John Wood. You can look him up on Spotify.
But he’s your typical artist to where he enjoys this concentrating on songwriting, playing the guitar, honing on his skill and lounging someone else that’s this passionate about the marketing, passionate about producing, et cetera, to take him and mold him, make him so forth. Because he has no desire at all to throw up Pro Tools. Now he does. There’s times in the past I have thrown up Logic or Pro Tools.
And I set him up, I leave the room and he does his own vocals. But he doesn’t really enjoy it because it’s a painful process for someone like his personality that just wants to get the vocal done.
13:59 CJ: Right. And your dad said, you’re saying, “It’s not quite right.”
14:06 Steven: I’m yelling from them. They’re downstairs saying, “It sucks.” That’s actually a true story.
14:12 CJ: Really?
14:13 Steven: Yeah. I have the gift of encouragement.
14:18 CJ: You have the gift encouragement.
14:19 Steven: No, but he knew when I said it sucks, he knew immediately it sucked too. Not because he’s off-pitch at all. It was because he was singing like somebody else. But he went right back in there and did it again and nailed it. But my point in all is that he is not the type that just wants to go out and buy every new plugin that makes his recordings better. And he’d rather much rather just sit back and write songs, hone in on his skill and then allow someone to carve him and whatnot.
14:52 CJ: Well, let’s talk about this a little bit. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been production driven and you do great live, you play live, you’ve done it all for the most part. But the two things that stand out to me the most is that sense of doing something with excellence and using all the tools at your disposal to do that, and your ability to write songs. So you’re very much an independent artist.
And for that reason, you’re not a student here or anything like that. So Steve is an outside voice. This is why I wanted to have him on, I don’t want everybody to just be blabbing about the Savvy Musician Academy. This is really about what we’re looking at with the music industry. And Steve is involved in that, his kids are involved, his whole family is involved in music.
And so it’s a very serious thing for them. And for Steve writing great songs and producing those great songs is very, very important. So, Steve, I got guys and gals out there of all kinds of musical genres who now are looking to start getting their music out there. Even if at this point, it’s not necessarily that they’re putting an album together, but they’re just producing content for engaging their audience. If someone comes to you and says, “Hey man, listen, I’ve been playing live. I’ve never really sat down and tried to put out quality music to people online. You got any tips?”
16:22 Steven: Yeah. I would say, “Pay me and I’ll do your stuff.”
16:26 CJ: Exactly.
16:29 Steven: Well, you’re saying they’ve never done any recording at all? Is that what you’re saying?
16:36 CJ: Well, I mean, I’m sure they’ve done. I mean, how to make it better. They’ve may have done stuff on garage band or something like that. I mean, what are some things they need to really take into account to produce something that’s more excellent, just do a better job, just get themselves to that next level?
16:53 Steven: Wow. There’s so many ways of looking at that question and answering that question. For number one, there’s the guy that already knows how to record.
17:04 CJ: Right.
17:06 Steven: That one, that answer is good luck, experience, experience, experience, experience, experience. That’s all. What makes a great mixer is just a guy that’s just mixes every day just about and continues. But here’s another thing about writing songs, mixing, musicianship…I told my kids growing up, I said, “Listen, songwriting, ask yourself when you hear that awesome song, whether it’s not just vocally, it just more of a song writing.” for example.
Ask yourself, why is that song? You love the song, but why do you love the song? Well, it causes emotional. Well, yeah, but what did they do to make you to stir that emotion? How did they present song that created the emotion? And so therefore you’re looking at someone successful. I heard one guy talking about songwriting. He says, “You don’t say there’s a book on the table.” He’d say, “In the song, you describe there’s an old dusty Bible on an antique table that mama had. And there’s a bottle of whiskey sitting next to it.”
So you’re trying to create this. So you’re creating emotion. So when it comes to recording, say, “Okay, well, why is that a kick ass recording?” Well, you listen to it. Oh, the kick is just a little bit louder than the bass on that song. So therefore the song you’re doing is a little bit like that. So you might want to cheat. That’s not cheating really. I mean, there’s no new thing under the sun in a lot of departments and especially in recording.
So you listen intensely with a different side of your brain when it comes to the creative world. So I would say, start really listening, not just listen to the tune and get all involved emotionally, but ask yourself, “Why is this a great mix? What’s making this a great mix? What’s making this a great recording. Why is this a good song?” And then try to search for the answer. Pick it apart. There’s a lot of times guys will… They call it reverse engineering.
And it’s just a term they use for saying, “Let’s figure out why this thing is doing what it’s doing.” The same goes with these songs, with the mixes, with the recording. That’s one way of answering the question for people that’s already doing that, but are very frustrated and why they can’t get that “pro sound.” The pro sound, it could be your equipment. Most likely what I’ve learned… This is pretty cool too.
I’ve got Pro Tools, I’ve got Logic Pro and I’ve also got mix bus, which is by Harrison. I’ve learned to a degree it doesn’t matter which doll, digital audio workstation I use. For some reason, it’s still sounds like Steve wouldn’t mix the song. Even it could be with stock plugins. It could be with third party plugins. Some sound much better and they get you further down the road. But at some point you got to say, “Okay, there’s something that I’m doing. I’m interpreting the song. I’m interpreting a mix to sound like this.”
And you’ve gotta be honest with yourself and say, “That sucks.” Or, “I like that. What do I need to do?” Okay. So that’s one side of it. The other side would be start small. If you have no recording equipment, start small. Just go get a unit, an audio interface. It goes into the computer. You can use garage, man, if you’re on the Mac format. It makes it a little more cumbersome. Are you on a garage band? Are you on something else right now?
20:49 CJ: What I used to edit this audio will be on Adobe Audition.
20:52 Steven: Yeah. I mean Adobe Audition. It has a multi-track view and also has that mastering view. Actually you can use Audition. But garage man is pretty hard to get the… Because what you want to do is you want to hear yourself as you’re going to tape. So I would say, “Get a copy of Logic Pro.” That’s 199, a $200 interface, and then just get to learn whether it’s YouTube. I think there’s also lynda.com.
You can find some recording one-on-one type of things in there. But just get familiar with recording. Get to know what it sounds like when you’ve gone too far into the red, you peaking too hard and you realize, “That’s sucks. I need to pull down.” So you’re learning the fundamentals. And then just experiment, experiment, experiment. And then slowly but surely it’ll be aha moments for you.
And then when it comes to producing, really, man, I mean, less is more. It may sound like whole lot’s going on, but it is. But yet individual parts all make up this beautiful pie. And so just let the song tell you where to go. But other than that, I mean, it’s a frustrating journey. For a perfectionist, it is. I mean, I just put out a song. I hadn’t sent it to CV Baby yet, but I just put out a song that I’ve probably mixed 10 times because every time I heard it, there was something a little different I need to change. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be that way, but be prepared you might.
22:38 CJ: As I said at the outset, there’s a perfectionism there. But it comes across in the stuff that you do. You’ve done some cover songs. You haven’t gotten flagged by social media. I don’t know how you did that. But actually, one of the things I’d like to do with my weekly Savvy Musician inner circle live stream, which happens at a private Facebook group is all open each live stream, give people time to get on it by playing one of the other students’ videos.
So one of their lyric videos or that sort of thing. So I thought, “You know what? Let me give them a little Steve Wood.” And so I played yours, your cover of the… What’s the Rod Stewart song?
23:22 Steven: I Don’t Want To Talk About It.
23:23 CJ: Yeah. I Don’t Want To Talk About It. But we’re going to talk about it.
23:28 Steven: Okay. Let’s about that, yeah. I appreciate you’re doing that, man.
23:30 CJ: Yeah, no, you bet. Going back to what you said, why does the song sound good? Why does it move you and all of that, it was great to watch people immediately moved by this.
23:43 Steven: Wow.
23:44 CJ: They were immediately moved by it. And they’ll start coming… It’s a pay group, so you’ve got the better people are in there. It’s not all the freeloaders and bad attitudes in there. So these are people who really have stock in the game. You know what I mean?
23:56 Steven: Cool.
23:57 CJ: They want to do this. So I thought it’d be also a great example of showing them what you can do to build brand awareness without necessarily playing your own music. But there’s no getting around the fact of how well it was done and how simple it was done. Whereas we’ve got people creating lyric videos. You weren’t doing a lyric video. You were sitting right where you are right now. Your kitchen is behind you, and we can see your fuse box way in the back.
24:28 Steven: That’s true. There was one. Yeah.
24:31 CJ: So that’s how much Steve was paying attention to the backdrop. So, but-
24:36 Steven: And give me a 5D and blur that sucker in the back.
24:38 CJ: That’s right. What I loved about a lot of your stuff, Steven, it’s whether the original stuff, or the stuff when you do covers, you own my ears within 30 seconds.
24:51 Steven: Well, I appreciate it.
24:54 CJ: Well, I guess even the songs you wrote, you know that going into it. Because trying to think of the Rod Stewart song, this many years removed, I couldn’t think of it.
25:06 Steven: But you had to tell me it was a Rod Stewart cover. I think two things that I pay attention to maybe, is that, one first and foremost, if you’re doing a cover song, do it in your key. I don’t care how great the original guitar riff is an E. And you sound like you’re screaming because someone’s pulling on a certain danger zone part of you. Don’t do it. Bring the sucker down. But in C, on the song, put your stamp on it, your personality stamp on it.
That one, and maybe find a cover. There’s so many good songs that were never put in the lime light. Rod Stewart is a good example. Sure, I mean, it’s not buried deep, but it’s not one of his biggest hits type of thing. And what is funny about it is, I’m not a big Rod Stewart fan. I just thought the song was cool and it fit me. It fit my voice after I played around with it.
I like the song. No one gets famous because they’re just an awesome singer. This is one part I am to stick around. I believe that the song is what makes the artist, then the artist has a chance. It’s always comes back to the song. So I’d say sing it in your key, make sure it’s a good complimentary song for your voice. And then basically make sure it’s a song.
The scrutiny, if you’re doing I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston, you’re a girl. I mean, good luck. You better nail it. But if you do some song that people thought you wrote it because they’ve never heard it before, but yet it’s been recorded by somebody. Then you’ve got a little bit better of a chance to get people to appreciate you.
26:56 CJ: Yeah, because I think people, and this has happened when I’ve shared your music just to my own personal page. And you’ve gotten friend requests and people complimenting who aren’t even from the genre. You know what I mean? They’re people who follow me. So they’re metal motivation type people. But they love it just as much as I do.
And your interpretation, we’ll call it that, of that particular Rod Stewart song, because I cannot recall the original, I know it’s going to be better. You know what I mean? Because I can see why you chose it. I can see the buildup, I can see… Even though it wasn’t like three something minutes, it wasn’t very long.
27:36 Steven: No.
27:36 CJ: At all.
27:37 Steven: Yeah.
27:38 CJ: But, yeah, it was a great story. It was so encapsulated, and it just leaves you with this, “I’m ready to hear this guy do something else because I wouldn’t have known that was a cover.” From cover to original doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying this performance online.
27:59 Steven: Cool.
28:00 CJ: That’s something that I really want people to think about. Because if you saw the video and… You know what? Maybe I’ll put a link to that video in the show notes so that people can go and actually watch it on Facebook. Because the point I wanted to get across to my own students was, “This is how simple, but yet something so simple can leave such a profound, emotional impact on your audience.”
But the emotional impact had to do with the things you were just describing. The song choice, making sure it’s in your key, something that you can really deliver, something that’s going to convey that emotion. And then it gets into the production itself. Because it’s not just that… Because you literally played on the keyboards, and you literally sang into that microphone. But you took all that and took it into your logic or whatever and did your magic. So how long a process was that for you?
29:06 Steven: Well, first, how I do it, is I’m just right now, man. I’m probably going to eventually get me a couple of nice cameras. Right now I’m just using my iPhone. Set my iPhone where I want it. I have a little holder for it. And position it where it can see me. If you can see the keyboard, great. Sometimes it doesn’t. You can just tell that I’m playing. So what I’ll do, I will hit record on my Logic Pro if I’m dealing with Logic Pro or Pro Tools.
Hit record and make sure it’s recording my piano and my vocal, and then hit record on my iPhone from a video, and then I’ll clap my hands one time to set up. So it’s recording video, and my daw is recording as the same time. Later on I sync it up. But here’s what’s cool, after I’m done doing the video part, I can shut that off and I can continue to keep on adding other instruments I want to, to what I recorded already.
So it’s like the Elvis and the movie sound. I’m playing a piano, but all of this other music is coming out of the piano because I got to go and put other stuff. There’s the challenge that I want to make sure my mouth is matching. You can tell that I’m singing the song, so I’ve got to get it on that one take. There’s one time that I messed up a word, but it wasn’t so bad to where I could go back and just sing it, over dub it, and just sing it exactly the way it should. And you couldn’t tell.
But everything I do is one take and then I try to build around that. The reason why I did this too, is because of the perfectionism. It was a way for me to grow not away from perfectionism. There’s really no such thing as perfection. But you can tell yourself all you want to, but you still going to struggle with that. But this was a goal for me to say, “Okay, I’m just going to sing this song, and I want to do it one time through and then whatever it sounds like, that’s what it sounds like. I want to deal with it. I can EQ whatnot, later whatnot.”
But I think I learned that if you wait until you think a song is done and ready to present to the public, for a perfectionist, it never is ready. I’ve got stuff in my computer that I’ve recorded 10 years ago that I was listening to the other day that I haven’t put out because, “it wasn’t ready.” So this was cool because… It was cool. It’s a good lesson for me to learn that majority of the people out there do not hear what you’re hearing when you say it’s not ready or it’s not Nick’s perfect.
If it’s just piano and me singing and bass and strings or something like that, I mean, I don’t want to talk about it. I think it was a total of accounting editing, video editing, was probably a couple of hours because I wanted to mix it. Makes it decent. So accounting video editing, thumbnail. So a couple hours is not bad.
32:22 CJ: That’s pretty good. I could probably do it in an hour and a half.
32:27 Steven: Yeah. Well, that’s why I’m on this podcast.
32:30 CJ: To learn.
32:31 Steven: To learn.
32:33 CJ: To learn from the experts. No, I mean, again I’m titling this particular episode, Producing Music From Home. And so what I want to challenge everybody with, and that’s why I wanted this to be more of a discussion with Steve, is I just want you to hear from somebody who’s using his skills to really put himself out there in a way that’s creative, but simple. But because he’s paying attention to the things that him as a music professional has learned are the most important things, song, choice, performance, these sorts of things, then the music is making an impact.
And whenever he puts stuff out, I always try to share it because I love what he does. I’m still a huge fan of this guy. We’re best friends. We hang out all the time. Again, we don’t talk about this stuff. We do not talk music ever.
33:30 Steven: If we do, it’s you saying that you appreciate my music.
33:33 CJ: Yeah.
33:34 Steven: We don’t. Yeah.
33:34 CJ: Yeah, it literally doesn’t. But to watch what he does and the amount of time and care and attention he puts, I appreciate it as an artist, as a creative person. I’m not a music artist, but as that person who loves to create content and put things out there and create brand awareness, it’s a joy for me to watch it because Steve is doing so much instinctively. I keep telling him, I mean, he’s got so much to say to so many people. So I thought, “This is a great opportunity to have him on, to talk about it.”
34:09 Steven: I was going to tell you something long ago about, the other thing about the whole video. What I love about that, is that it puts me in a parameter. It puts me in a little bit of a box. So it gives me… You’re thinking that it would be horrible, but yet I think sometimes limitations is the best thing for us. ‘Cause then we got all this small area to do what we want to do. So don’t be afraid to be limited in… If you say, “Man, all I like to do is play guitar and sing.” Well, work the hell out of that.
And do the best you can. Make it look awesome, however you do it within that parameter. Don’t worry about these guys that have 12 thumbnail videos, have shown the drummer over here and they are on right of the screen, that’s what they do. That’s not you. So just do what you do.
35:04 CJ: No, I’m glad you said that. Because we’ve got, for example, in the Savvy Musician Academy, a lot of emphasis on, during the COVID thing, especially doing live stream, right? So you’re going Facebook live and just playing live and that’s good. And I think that’s great. I don’t know that I would advise you to do that. I think it would be a completely different vibe, a completely different vibe.
And because I know that if I listened to one of your songs or one of your covers, I’m listening to the whole thing. I’m going to get a little mini escape here for a few minutes and then back to life. I know that you’re always going to deliver on that. I don’t say, “Oh, well, I’ve heard his music before.” No, I’m always going to listen. So that tells me is what matters is not necessarily the methodology or the latest hack or what everybody else is doing.
Like you said, you got those players in multiple locations and they’re all putting new songs together. That’s all entertaining to watch. But to me, those don’t deliver any kind of emotional experience. And to me, music is supposed to deliver an emotional experience. I don’t care whether it’s Metallica or Rod Stewart. No, it’s supposed to deliver something. You can work out, like you said, to the hard rock and the heavy metal and that kind of stuff. I mean, is that any different than me hearing you do a Rod Stewart cover and go, “Damn, that’s three and a half minutes well spent.”
36:43 Steven: No, it is no different. We don’t say we love music just because we love music. We love music because it does something to us. It reminds us of emotions of yesteryear. Yeah, exactly. You put on music a lot of times because you want to feel what you felt when you was in high school listening to that same song. Yeah, you’re right. If you don’t feel nothing after that, whether you’re the one singing it or you’re the one listening to it, then you get the wrong song.
37:12 CJ: So how conscious are you whenever you put together a cover of write your own music and doing all that production? How are you separating the purity of that desire to produce something that gives somebody experience to the actual gory details and work-oriented involved in producing something like that?
37:34 Steven: Well, I think I know what you’re asking. Well-
37:36 CJ: You know what I mean? Because you can get, in other words, so caught up in the production of things that you forgot the-
37:44 Steven: The motivation. You forgot the inspiration almost.
37:47 CJ: All I can tell people as a motivational speaker type guy, after doing this now online for almost 11 years, I don’t care about anybody’s problems anymore. You know what I mean? I’m just producing content at this point because I’ve just heard so much. So you lose that sense of mission that you had. So you all pray for me because I’ve obviously lost my sense of mission.
But you know what I’m saying? How you can get so caught up. Because I talked to so many people, Steve, who are, “What app is that? What program is that? What’s the setting on that?” And not enough discussion about… I would tell people about recently, because I see questions all the time in our Facebook groups about metrics and this software and this hack and whatever.
And I said, “It’s funny to me if you want to know why their fans aren’t buying their CDs or their shirts.” And I’ll tell them, “They’re not buying because they don’t want to buy. You haven’t created in them a desire to buy yet.” And so they would keep asking these questions. And I said, “It’s funny to me is the question I never see asked by the student, is how can I better connect with my audience?”
39:00 Steven: Yeah. Piggyback on the whole emotion thing. You said something to me about the whole marketing thing. Let’s just say I was a comedian and I was known for saying, “Yee-haw.” Okay. You told me that creating a t-shirt, you said, “Steve wouldn’t do shit.” Right? But creating a t-shirt that says Yee-haw, would this be the selling point? And that’s the same goes with the song.
In other words, you may be an incredible singer. You may be can play a guitar, piano, totally kick ass. But if you don’t have the emotion that, Yee-haw concept of saying, “That’s what’s selling the t-shirt, that’s what selling the song.” The Yee-haw of the song is the emotion. You got to have that. It always comes back to the song. A matter of fact, so many historical stories about artists that, they loved them but they had no songs.
They’re saying, “Go back, write some songs. Come back.” And as soon as they heard these songs, and typically the songs are created from out of experience, out of something they were finally being honest about. You’re asking a question a while ago about something else, maybe from concept to production. How do I do that without getting too-
40:15 CJ: Right. Without losing the spirit-
40:17 Steven: Without the spirit. Yeah. Sometimes you have to hurry up, you have to hurry up and write the song and then once you get that core done and it’s the first piano and vocal out there, no matter if it’s up-tempo or ballad you got to hurry up and do it. And then you’ve got the ghost, now you can start building the flesh and bone, which is the bass and drums and everything else around it.
But you’ve got to get the ghost. You got to get the spirit of the song, which is going to be… Sometimes if that song’s not written within a matter of days or whatnot, it doesn’t even affect you no more. And you model that one pass that goes on to someone else. I’m speaking esoteric here, but you know what I’m saying. It’s just that you got to move on these things when it’s moving you. And-
41:09 CJ: Yeah. What I want our students to get from this discussion is that I want to turn their little home, whether it’s an apartment or a bedroom or a house into a music factory because you’re isolated to the home, right? So that means not just an output of albums, but how you’re going to reach and touch your audience. You mentioned your son earlier. He did something on ticktock and then went over to Spotify.
Other people are on YouTube. Other people are doing this, going direct on Facebook, et cetera. So there’s all these different ways that people are trying to maneuver in this new era of the music industry, that’s so controlled by the internet and social media. That the one common denominator in them all is songs, and the experience that happens with songs. So that’s the thing that doesn’t change.
Whether it’s you shooting on an iPhone, posted on Facebook from an old Rod Stewart song, it’s the same thing as me sitting in my mom’s Chevy Nova in 1973, watching the windshield wipers as she drives down the road, listening to Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and getting lost in thought, you know what I mean? It’s the exact same effect that does it. The technology and the culture, there’s nothing has changed that aspect. And I really want-
42:30 Steven: Yeah. It’s the same thing in advertising. Content is King. Your content is your song. And what’s the hardest thing to do is take the emotion and the inspiration you got that you thinking, “Man, this is just killer.” Is interpreting that, is getting in and out of the heart, out of the soul on the paper and trying to share that with the world, what you feel about it.
That’s the hardest thing. And I heard a one songwriter says, “If you have to explain the song before they listen to it, then you didn’t do a good job.” Because the songs should be able to play on its own and take you on a journey. And I think that’s a great advise.
43:11 CJ: I think, yeah, and it’s a great way to say it. People want to discover, they want to be surprised. Lyrically how it turns out at the end. We just lost Charlie Daniels. And who doesn’t know Devil Went Down to Georgia, and who listens to half the song, right? If you don’t stay around to see Johnny tell the devil what to do with themselves, then… You know what I mean? I mean, nobody’s going to do that.
They’re going to listen to the whole song because that story, you don’t want to leave that story half told. But when the first time you heard it, one of the things has been great is watching some of these reaction YouTubers. Some of these young African American kids who are going back and listening to all kinds of stuff, crazy stuff from back in the day. And I saw one little buddy, he’s just got such a precious spirit about him.
He just loves all the music. And he heard Devil Went Down to Georgia for the very first time, the live version from when the album first came out. You know where he says son of a bitch instead of son of a gun?
44:20 Steven: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
44:22 CJ: He almost tore up the ceiling, man. So it was great to watch somebody experience that song for the first time because I know what’s coming. And they get to experience that. And you just realize, wow, I’m literally watching the power of music. Because in that moment he doesn’t care about what’s happening outside his bedroom window. He didn’t care about who’s in the White House or what’s going on in the world for that moment. What he only cares about is that why in the world the devil’s in Georgia.
44:54 Steven: Well, even think of a negative way. This is why preachers in the… I don’t know, man. Probably forever, 50s on up have been preaching against rock and roll, is not so much because of the lyrics. So it’s because they recognize the effects, the emotion, the super mountain of effects that it does for people that love that music for one. But it does.
You see in movies where a person that shouldn’t be listening to it all of a sudden start tapping their toe and then the next thing they’re all into it. So it is all about emotion, man. It’s like Myelene said a long time ago. He said, “Music’s like dynamite. You can use it to build roads for a good thing. You can use it for bad thing and kill people, whatnot.”
But I don’t know if that music will actually kill people. I’m sure if I’m going to go rob a bank tonight, I’m probably going to put on some thug music. Some death metal. Yeah, it’s movie soundtracks. Oh, it is.
45:58 CJ: Right. Yeah. And I think keeping that in mind, when you turn your little place into a music factory and doing what you can to think more deeply as Steve was mentioning about why certain songs move, why certain productions move you, think about these. Ask yourself these critical questions. And because they’re going to be things that you want to put in place when you put your stuff out there.
And it’s okay that you don’t want to do a live stream. It’s okay that you don’t want to be that live entertainer. And maybe you are the one like he described earlier who’s maybe more studio musician, just likes to get locked away and spend the whole day on a song. Well, you can still utilize that. Because Steve is that way. I look forward to the stuff that he puts out. So that means he’s taken into consideration what music does, the emotional effect that it’s intended to give, and then he’s doing everything he can to make sure he delivers that experience in the most professional way possible. Would you say it’s as simple as that?
47:06 Steven: Yeah. Going back to the whole design firm thing, that the content. We’re talking about brand all the time, we’re talking about the logos and stuff. You can make something look pretty. But if the content, if that icon or that logo doesn’t speak for who you really are as identity, then all you got it’s just a pretty swoosh. Yeah, or whatever. So you have to have the emotion and then after you get that, and if you’re solid on that this is the lyrics, or this is what I want to convey. Yeah, then by all means, take it to the limit with what you can do in the production value. But the production value will not make the song. It’s the fringe benefits.
47:49 CJ: Yeah. I think you’re right. Content is king. And it was Paul Rand, I think, who was talking about different kinds of art. And he’s a graphic designer. He had said sometimes it’s the more abstract, or graphics, the more simple shapes and stuff that convey the most content because you’re going to have to get involved in interpreting it. As opposed to the Norman Rockwell paintings, which we all agree are photo-realistic, interesting, whatever. But only for a minute.
They’re very boring because all the interpreting has already been done for you. So there’s no big idea behind it. There’s nothing to really inspire emotion. I mean, something very simple can actually be something that is profound to your mind and leaves you there thinking a very simple thought. And I think-
48:51 Steven: That’s a great thing to say too, CJ, is that, to be profound or to be inspirational or to be just really thought-provoking, it doesn’t have to be just incredibly put together far as lyrics. It can be very simple, right? I wrote a song called, Let It Go. And I could have done a bunch of different words, but I said little few little phrases, and I just said, “Let it go.” You can picture someone is saying, “Hey, man, I’m speechless. Just let it go.”
If I was successful on any part of the song, I felt like I was good on just interpreting the emotion behind that one little small area of saying, “Just let it go.” It doesn’t have to be mind blowing. You don’t have to be some freaking poet that just knows how to put music together. It can be very simple and still blow people’s minds because it might blow the person that’s going through that particular situation at that time. They might just think, “Golly, man, he’s speaking right to me.”
49:58 CJ: So, guys, this is what goes into being an artist. And so as you work within your own little music factory, I want you to keep some of these things in mind because they’re the important things. And even on the marketing side, when I teach it’s… I’ve been in this for 30 years and my degree is in it and I’ve used the computers and the software. This is long before the internet. I was a part of the desktop revolution. But despite all that, the things that I harp on when we’re talking to the students…
Anybody who’s listening to this podcast knows I’m not talking about software. I’m not talking about hardware. I’m not talking about any of these things. I’m talking about what it takes to touch someone else, what it takes to inspire someone else, what it takes to… It’s the human aspect. I tell people all the time, Steve, that you’ll really understand how social media works when the platform and the technology disappears, and you realize you’re just talking to somebody. But people think they got to become something else or it’s going to be a special hacker or something that does it. No, it’s still the same human element.
51:12 Steven: Yeah. When you go back to our background, well, I got a deeper background in the church world. We’d always talk about this before, or even over a beer. We found how preachers sometimes get up there. They’re not really talking to people, man. They’re talking at them. A successful motivator even, not just a preacher, but a successful motivator is one that you feel like he’s… Man, he’s talking to me. No, he’s just talking to me. But he also cares about me. So if you can convey that authenticity through your art, no matter what it is, if it’s a song or it’s a painting or whatever it is, you can convey that and it comes across genuine. Then you’re hit. Yeah. Amen.
51:57 CJ: All right. And, Steve, how can people learn more about what you’re doing?
52:02 Steven: Well, they can just go to Facebook and Steven Wood Music. I think it’s facebook.com/stevenwoodmusic. And then I’m also there on personal page as well. So look me up, and I may not be your fancy, but we may be a friend that we can share ideas with musically.
52:22 CJ: Yeah, just I will encourage everybody to go check that out because he does a lot of video versions. Again, these cover songs, some of his own stuff, and you’ll see some of the stuff his kids are doing. It’s just great because Steve has a hand in a lot of that production. So this is just… This is content for the online space.
And so I think you’ll see what I see in it, which is just a very well executed. But again, emphasizing good song choices, good song writing, good production for the sake of giving people a very real musical experience no matter whether it’s online or offline. Steve, thanks again, buddy, for being with me, man.
53:00 Steven: Absolutely. Man. Thanks for having me on here.
53:03 CJ: All right, guys, remember you can always help support this podcast by going to your favorite podcast player. Leave a review. If they give you stars, I mean, click as many as you can. But write your comments because we do read those and they do help others to discover this podcast. And you guys are a huge encouragement to us, so we love to hear from you. I will see you next time on the Savvy Musician Show.
The entire music industry just changed overnight. Suddenly every band and musician has had their live gigs canceled indefinitely. No one knows when live events are coming back. When they do, the competition will surely be fierce. Artists are realizing they have to pivot quickly if they want to earn an income with their music. Musicians are now scrambling to figure out how to sell their music online.
They need answers and they need them now. If this is you, then discover our new Savvy Musician Inner Circle Membership. It’s a private subscription-based coaching group to help you launch and market your online music business fast. For one low monthly subscription, you’ll get live weekly marketing instruction plus tips, tools, news updates, and your questions answered. It all takes place in a private Facebook group that I, CJ Ortiz, will be hosting and I’d love to help you build your online music business. To learn more, go right now to savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle.