The red chiles that you see hanging in the photo above are called "ristras" - if you're from the Southwest (especially New Mexico), you probably already knew that. I can also tell what time of year it's most likely to rain in New Mexico, what festivals are sponsored by the city during the summer and other times of the year, and which businesses to not purchase tires from in the North Valley...
Why is any of that important? I know my region. If you're any sort of artist (musician, painter, photographer, etc.), it is INCREDIBLY important that you have a great understanding of where you live because it will not only help inspire your art, it will help you know when and where your greatest opportunities will be.
A few examples:
1. In Albuquerque, in the month of July, I know that most people will want to be outside on a patio, in the shade when they go out for dinner or drinks. It's awesome to be able to play a patio show on a perfect July evening, but I also know that Monsoon season begins in Albuquerque in July (for you people who don't live in the desert, that means we get thunderstorms and rain). My July show schedule is filled with great patio shows, but I recognize that up to half (if not all of them) run the risk of being cancelled due to inclement weather. I can't tell you how that knowledge has enabled me to plan my summer month show schedule much more efficiently...
2. When I played a show with Landon Smith up in Denver a few weeks ago, he and his brother Grayson were my interim band. Landon played bass, Grayson played drums, and I played my electric guitar (for only the 2nd time in a trio this year). At any rate, we were doing a cover of Rhianna's "Umbrella" that night, and Grayson and Landon suggested that the "-ella, -ella" part of the song should switch to a reggae feel. That initially seemed strange to me, but I went with it because they assured me that one of the best ways to win over new people in Denver, or really, Colorado in general is to include some sort of reggae feel into your set. They were right. That was one of the best received parts of the show the next night. I trust them, because they live there, and know their region.
3. My first Texas tour that I ever went on, back in 2005, I scheduled a show at a coffee shop in College Station, Texas on a Saturday night in the fall. Anyone who is from Texas will know immediately why this was a terrible idea. Of course, Texas A&M was playing a football game that night, and the only reason that particular show was salvaged was because of a group of high schoolers that happened to drop by the coffee shop that night because they didn't like football...I think they were the only 15 people in town who didn't go to the game. Needless to say, I don't book shows on Saturday nights in Texas in the fall anymore, because I know that college football is filling that slot of the week in that particular region of the country.
I'm telling these stories because I have talked to a number of musicians/bands that want to take the summer to do a national tour of the U.S. Let me say this - if you're U2, then knock yourselves out with as many dates as you can fill. If you're a band that is not on the radio/not in a national commercial/playlist or national TV show, you're probably better off touring close to home where you know your region and know the good and the bad times and places to play. It's going to go much more smoothly for your band from Omaha to play in Lincoln a couple times this summer, than it is for your band to play to 7 people in a crappy bar in Seattle. Trust me. Conquer the markets closest to you first, and once you can pull 100 people to a show in each of those markets, look at branching out.
Basically, know where you're from, and know what your opportunities and weaknesses are as an artist. Yes, I realize there are caviats to this, but for the most part, this should hold up.
At the end of your time here on earth, imagine that you could look back and see the timeline of your life. You made this decision here, you chose this path, you married this person, etc. - all of these have a bearing on where you've ended up today. An immense factor affecting all of these decisions (and more than likely, the biggest one) is the condition of your "heart" in each period of time. Really, what I'm describing is the most fundamental and deep desiring within a person that motivates them to make each choice...
I consider this motivation often as I pursue an artistic endeavor. What is driving it? Is it a genuine desire to try connect with the deepest regions of a person in a way that only art can, or is it for another more fleeting reason? Fame, fortune, acclaim, power - all of these are associated with people whom American culture has deemed "successful" in their field, but I would argue that those things cannot ultimately satisfy.
I bring this up because so many musicians (or, artistic people in general) can get caught up in the "success" of their endeavors, that the original reason for starting their journey is almost completely overshadowed. At the end of the day, fame will not bring comfort, fortune will not bring ease, acclaim will not strengthen relationships, and power cannot last forever.
So - whether you are trying to pursue music as a career choice, or you are working your way up the corporate ladder, consider the motivation behind what is driving you. Is it something that is fleeting and can easily fade or be taken away in moments? Or is it something that's more enduring?
Thanks for reading, it was great to be able to write that down. Now that I've chosen this website format over the new design, I plan to be posting much more frequently again. Hope to see you all again soon.
Imagine your first interview when you were finished with your education and you were job hunting. You're nervous, excited, hopeful – but one thing is almost certain...you were not interviewing to be the CEO of the company. Some of you may have an anomalous story where a company was passed onto you, but for most, you interviewed for an entry-level position, and you were happy to do so.
When entering a field of work, most of us are equipped only with a work ethic and a willingness to learn. You aren't an expert at the job, but you hope that someday you will be. There is an understanding that hard work will pay off, and you will understand your position better, and you will be in the position to advance and be promoted.
SO...why is it that when so many enter the field of entertainment (more specifically, music entertainment), that we expect that our first position we receive should be at the top of the food chain? Nothing else in our lives support that line of thinking, yet so many musicians I encounter hold this logic to be true. I can certainly sympathize with a culture that tells you if you haven't tried out for American Idol or America Has Talent that you haven't really “gone for it” as far as your music dream goes, but when you tell you father-in-law that you're starting a company to support your family, do you think he says, “Have you tried going on that show The Apprentice? That's the only way you're going to be able to succeed.”
More than likely, a discerning father-in-law will ask you questions about obtaining a business license, your revenue streams, your long-term goals, and for the most part, will be searching out the holes in your plan in order to make sure it's gone through some trial by fire for the refining of the idea.
Being a musician is difficult. There's an entire world that exists as far as mastering an instrument, and maintaining a certain mastery of it. Presently, making a living as a musician involves more than just practicing and performing, but also requires resourcefulness - selling the music whether in performance, recording, licensing, sponsoring, etc. Hear me loud and clear – if you are an original musician (meaning, you compose your own music) YOU CANNOT START AT THE TOP. Recognize that the journey will be long and difficult, but take comfort in that as well. You will learn more lessons and have a greater understanding of your character, your instrument, your business and your life if you take this approach.
If you release a record and it only sells 100 copies – good. You will have an idea what you can do better the next time around. If you play a show and there are only 7 people there - Awesome. Make sure you play the best show you possibly can for those 7 people and encourage them to tell their friends so that your next show will have 14 people.
Don't get discouraged. Hold fast, work hard, and be faithful to develop the talents that you have. I guarantee you it will pay off – even if it's not in the way you think it should.
No man is an island. Sometimes our thoughts and behaviors would try to betray that statement, but we all rely on others, directly or indirectly, to succeed in whatever our endeavors may be. (Ok, I'll concede - if you live in one of those houses that relies exclusively on solar power and you grow vegetables in your living room, maybe you can live completely independently, but I'll wager that if you're in that situation, you aren't reading this post ;-)
Why bring this up? Anyone's community of friends/family has power to affect your career, relationships, and life in general. If anything, I want to stress the importance of why you should strive and even sacrifice on occasion to keep ties with your community strong - I'll touch on those three areas briefly:
Career - Obviously, being a musician in the current music climate is challenging. Fortunately, many of us have found that building relationships with other musicians that are creative, motivated, innovative can be a huge source of inspiration. If I am in a bind and have to cancel a show - I have musicians that I call and ask to fill in for me. If I need to fill out the bill for a concert, I have musicians that I can ask to be on the bill. If I need help writing a song or figuring out if lyrics are clever or stupid, I have musicians that I can call. If you're a musician and are not actively building relationships with other musicians...I encourage you to start, even if it means you're just helping them at first.
Relationships - I feel fortunate that I get to travel around the country and meet incredible new people all the time. I do my best to grow my friendships with new friends, and work just as hard to nurture the relationships that I have with old friends.
*Side note: I HATE moving. It's in my top 5 most hated activities ever. However, I found myself helping 5 different friends move last year (some new, some old). What's the motivation behind doing something you absolutely despise? It's a sacrifice for building friendships.
If you look on my facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/therealmattjones), there's a post on my wall for today, Monday, January 10th, 2010 from an old friend from high school, Donovan. He selflessly purchased a ticket for my concert in Albuquerque this weekend, even though he lives in Denver, and is giving it away to someone in Albuquerque. Awesome. I did nothing to deserve that (I think the last time I talked to Donovan was at our high school reunion in June...right? ha ha), but he's putting the same principals into practice as me helping my friends move. He has nothing to gain, just something to give.
Life - Lastly, and most importantly, being in a strong community/having strong friendships with people encourages the right choices in life. Strong ties between people make it more comfortable for you (and for them) to confront tough issues that inevitably arise in life. I have a great network of friends, family, and mentors that consistently support good decisions, and address poor ones. I can't show enough gratitude for them, thank God for you guys!
I could go on with countless examples that I've encountered of people becoming isolated and turning to a life filled with poor choices, and countless examples of people being in great communities (or, networks of friends) and growing. Get involved and invest selflessly. You won't regret it.
The Real Matt Jones and Low Spirits in Albuquerque have teamed up to offer you a special deal from the one and only Groupon.com! This offer is only available from Groupon.com - to get it, click the link below:
*The deal from Groupon is good for admission to The Real Matt Jones concert at Low Spirits in Albuquerque on January 15th, 2011, AND for any CD by The Real Matt Jones! (You may choose from Better Transitions, The Segue EP, or Passerby)
*Open seating will begin at Low Spirits at 8pm, and the first act will take the stage at 9pm. Acts on the bill include:
Meredith Wilder - An incredibly talented singer/songwriter from Albuquerque.
Landon Smith - Denver-based singer/songwriter with songs in the movies Adventures of a Teenage Dragonslayer and Absent.
The Real Matt Jones - Voted Albuquerque the Magazine's "Best Vocalist" of 2010, and featured on Hollister Clothing Company's summer playlist for 2010 and songs featured in the movie Angel Camouflaged.
*Low Spirits is located at 2823 Second St. NW in Albuquerque. Click the link below to go to the map:
*Once you purchase your Groupon from Groupon.com, bring it with you to the concert on January 15th. There will be a person at the door to check your ID to make sure you are 21, and there will be another person to verify your Groupon. Once it has been verified, you may make your way to the merchandise table which will be to the left of the stage, if you are facing it. Please show your verified Groupon to the person working the merchandise table and you will be able to select whichever CD of the 3 you would like. (Of course, you are more than welcome to buy any of the others as well, and if members of The Real Matt Jones band are around, they will more than likely sign it for you!)
*Purchasing this "Groupon" (it's actually a coupon that you can print out from your computer, or pull up on your smart phone) is once again, good for admission to The Real Matt Jones concert at Low Spirits in Albuquerque on January 15th, 2011 AND for one The Real Matt Jones CD. Please bring it with you to the concert to redeem both your admission and your CD.
*If you have any questions regarding the process, please leave a comment in the comments section below, or send an email to:
Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you on January 15th at Low Spirits!