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iLike Julian Velard

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Relevance Of Relevance

A regular journal is a hard thing to keep, not unlike exercising or a diet. If you don't stick to your guns, pretty soon your pants don't fit so well. The same rules apply to writing. The longer I put it off, the more my mind loses shape. These days I find myself procrastinating constantly, most recently by watching a music video of a teenage girl singing about her favorite day of the week. Having just finished a youtube clip of Rebecca Black being interviewed on Good Morning America, I can confirm that the rest of the world suffers from the same problem. In our heads, we are all junk-food loving fat asses.

This brings me to the topic of my journal. Things have been going very well for me in London. There is a genuine buzz around the release of my album, which is all that I could have hoped when I arrived a couple months ago. But this time around, as I gradually reenter the UK Pop Scene, my eyes are wide open. Having been through the sausage grinder that is the promotional trail before, I keep a healthy distance from all conversations about "music" with "music" industry professionals. I use quotations because while to most of us, music is an expression of the highest order, "music" is a commodity, a constructed product just like anything else for sale. Whenever my thoughts veer in this direction, I always take comfort in the verses of Billy Joel's The Entertainer. Despite his manic depressive tendencies, the Angry Young Man from Hicksville, NY displays surprising clarity in his 1975 ode to the frustrations of the music industry:

I am the entertainer,
The idol of my age.
I make all kinds of money,
When I go on the stage.
Ah, you've seen me in the papers,
I've been in the magazines.
But if I go cold,
I won't get sold.
I'll get put in the back
In the discount rack,
Like another can of beans.

Note to the reader: If I start to sound pretentious in this next paragraph, I apologize. Like all regional dishes, I am best taken with a grain of salt.

The world of today's media is a complex, infinite monster, much like the AURYN in the Never Ending Story (think of two snakes biting each other's tails): a statement is made regardless of its validity. The statement is then commented on, comments are made on the commentary, and the conversation is born. And it's the conversation that makes something relevant. As long as people are talking about it, that's all that matters. Whether "music" is deemed "cool" or "indie" or "cheesy" or "awful" is incidental and modifiable depending on the best way to sell a product, be it Coldplay, Lykke Li, Snuggies or Tiger Blood.

I know this reads like I've watched too much Mad Men (I have), but it's true. In my 12-year career, I've gone from "Who's Julian Velard?" to "Get me Julian Velard!" to "Get me a young Julian Velard!" to "Who's Julian Velard?" on at least 3 different occasions. Having run this gauntlet several times, I've learned to roll with the punches, take the critiques in stride. I don't care if "music" industry professionals think I sound like "Michalel Buble" or "Jamie Cullum" or "Daniel Powter" or "Andrew Gold" or even "Barry Manilow". I don't care if Time Out London went from calling me a "Cool, Classy and Classic Popster," to a "Camp Pirate but not in the good Johnny Depp way," in less than a year's time. I'm just happy to be part of the conversation.

As much as it pains me to say it, Rebecca Black makes a point in the interview with the blonde woman who needs to go away (saying Andrea Canning's name gives her power). Today's media isn't about quality, it's about relevance. Does it matter that George Michael's cover of True Faith is terrible? Does it matter if Charlie Sheen is truly insane? Does it matter that J. Lo's new song is a note-for-note rip off of the Lambada? Does it matter that the Black Eyed Peas did as much damage to American culture in 15 minutes as the Bush administration? As Rebecca herself says, "even a person that doesn't like it, it's gonna be stuck in their head, that's the point of it".

TGIF indeed.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Can't Believe I'm Missing Basketball

The title of this entry may be anticlimactic, but it's true. My beloved New York Knickerbockers are finally winning after more than a decade of losing. Blake Griffin of the LA Clippers is the most spectacular human highlight machine since Sean Kemp. And every other day there's news piece about Carmelo Anthony coming to play in NYC. And I am in London. In January. And I haven't seen the sun yet.

Ok that last statement was a lie. Today was my first bit of English sun since I arrived, and it was truly glorious. Considering I flew out of New York right before our second 20-inch snow fall of the season, you definitely could say I dodged a bullet. To be truthful, I'm enjoying London as much as ever. There's been several bits of good news upon by arrival, one which is that my single, Love Again For The First Time, has been added to the Smooth FM playlist 9 weeks before release! For those not in the know, the closest thing we have back in New York to Smooth FM is CD 101.9. Just the thought of my music being back to back in a playlist with George Benson's version of "On Broadway" sends chills down my spine (I am not being sarcastic at all).
There was also a blurb in the The Sun about yours truly. The Sun is England's daily version of People magazine with naked woman in it. What's not to love? There's a mention about my writing session with the lovely Olly Murs. It was a serious pleasure to work with him and that's saying a lot. I'm a true misanthrope when it comes to music. I don't like going to gigs, don't like watching other people perform at all. Even with artists I love, I always find ways to pick them apart, always thinking of how I would do it differently. Somehow that's missing the point no? The I fact that had a blast writing with Mr. Murs (who's name I absolutely cannot pronounce. For some reason it comes out sounding like Ray Mears.) is a testament to the man. If you haven't picked up his debut, you should. It's dope.

Also found out I'm getting my first ever sync! That's when they put your song on TV in a show or a commercial. I don't know why this should be so exciting, but for some reason having your music associated with a product makes people care about who you are. Seems counter intuitive right? Shouldn't the music lend credibility to the commerce? Apparently having your song in an Old Navy sweater advertisement is the best thing for an unknown artist's career. Well it ain't quite Old Navy, but a bank in Slovenia wants to use Love Again to promote new checking accounts. And I am A-OK with it. Though I think Take The Money And Run would have been more appropriate... then again, I don't want to openly promote bank robbery. But honestly isn't always badass when they get away with it in movies? Robbing a bank is without a doubt the coolest crime out there.
With these pieces of good news right upon landing, my first London show in 2 years coming up in March, and more coming through every day leading up to the release of Mr. Saturday Night, I'm strangely feeling on top of the world here in Holloway (if you saw Holloway,it's the last place you'd call the top of the world). In fact I'm feeling so high, I don't have the overwhelming urge to watch giant mutants men fly and stuff leather bouncy balls into 10-foot baskets. Thank God for though.

Home Sweet Homeless

It's late in Brooklyn. I can hear the BQE through the crack in my window, just two blocks away. The sound of cars speeding by at this hour is oddly comforting. It's nice to know someone besides me is awake in this city. If I don't think about it, the cars sound like a river. That last sentence is incontrovertible proof that I am a purely urban creature. I'm sure real rivers sound nothing like the BQE. Then again, how would I know?

The comfort comes at cost: I'm freezing. The cold air keeps me awake though, awake enough to write my first blog entry in nearly six months. I've had a hard time keeping up my internet musings, only cause there hasn't been something pushing me to do it. With a new album on the horizon, there should be lots to write about right? Funny I can't think of anything too compelling right now. If only you could see me, sitting on my pullout bed in blue and black striped boxer briefs, glass of coconut water by my side. A picture of domesticity. You wouldn't guess I'm hitting the promotional trail in a few weeks, about to trek up and down the island of England for 3 months in the name of great, glorious me. The irony is I've spent countless hours lately decorating my apartment, taking a strange solace in arranging what little furniture I have over and over again in an attempt to make perfect use of the 200 some-odd square feet I call home. I derive great pleasure from organizing my things, book, knickknacks. The more I travel, the more I crave something to come back to that's all mine, just the way I left it. It's like I'm trying to create a history that doesn't exist. I see my friends who have regular jobs and I want what they have - a motorcycle, a dog (in my case a cat). Because I haven't been in a single place for more than 3 months over the past 4 years, I don't get to have those things. Yes traveling is exciting and exotic, but as a lifestyle it can be exhausting. The grass is always greener.

I know as soon as I get on the road I'll be wherever I am, lost in the moment, as thick as thieves with whoever I'm with. But until then, I'm here, in my apartment alone, moving things around, trying to make meaning in this space and coming up with nothing. It sounds depressing and sad but really it's just curious. It reminds of being really thirsty and drinking some water and thinking, "Man water tastes amazing!"
Home tastes amazing.