Playing for tips

I got lucky early in my career as a marketing/business development consultant.

On my second interview with a potential client I was introduced to the concept of playing for tips. The experience changed the way I looked at the art and science of creativity forever.

The client was in the household goods marketplace. My interview was with the Chief Executive Officer. He wanted guidance on exploring new markets for their products. He was fully engaged in the conversation.

And then we came to the part about my fee.

He suggested that I provide my services for free for six months and if he “liked what he saw” he’d “pay me a certain amount.”

I was taken aback – and yet – somehow I mustered a reply.

I suggested his company could send a semi-trailer full of their products over to our street. Everyone could try their products for six months and if they like what they saw, they could pay the company a certain amount.

The conversation had definitely taken a turn.

He barked at me, “That’s patently absurd.”

With the proviso that I don’t know anything more about the music business than what I have learned in the past 18 months as a house concert host, I have a very difficult time understanding why anyone with a venue thinks it’s appropriate to ask an artist to play for tips.

Musicians are artists and there’s a price to be paid for their creativity. When we invite artists to perform in our home it is because we enjoy the sound – the tunes – the sweet grooves they are crafting.

We instituted a guaranteed minimum fee because our house is out in the country and there’s always a chance the crowd will be on the sparse side. A share of the gate can be pretty tough sledding when there are only a dozen folks who braved the cold to gather in the livingroom.

There’s a cost for an artist to take a chance on us and travel out to our part of the world. We’re two hours from Montreal QC or Burlington VT. The road which leads to our driveway can be lonely and dark – and yet when you arrive at our driveway, there’s always a light burning bright for our musical guests.

I didn’t take the marketing gig for those folks. I vowed to never work for tips. There’s a price to be paid when my brain is engaged on your behalf. And so it should be with musical artists.

Thanks for your consideration.

Be well. Practice big medicine.

Hal Newman



Caitlin Canty – Get Up

Caitlin Canty

Reckless Skyline features an all-star band on twelve songs that veer nimbly between country ballads, dark blues and sparsely arranged folk. Produced by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Foucault and recorded live in four days at the cavernous Sonelab studio in Massachusetts, the band worked fast and hard, cutting 19 tracks in all. Along with Canty, they create a sound that harnesses the grit and spark at the heart of American music, tempered with a voice both haunting and distinct.

“It was a thrill to spend those long days in the studio with this team and hear the fire they brought to my songs,” says Canty. “Such generous, soulful players. There’s nothing like a top-notch band coming together to work and play, having a blast, and searing that energy into a record.”

Caitlin Canty delivers her songs with a 1930’s Recording King guitar and a dusky alto. Reckless Skyline is her second studio album, released January 20, 2015.


Caitlin Canty – Vocals, acoustic guitar
Billy Conway – Drums and percussion
Jeremy Moses Curtis – Electric and upright bass
Jeffrey Foucault – Vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
Eric Heywood – Pedal steel, electric and acoustic guitars
Matt Lorenz – Vocals, pump organ, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, banjo, fiddle
Kate Lorenz – Vocals
Harris Paseltiner – Cello

Online at: http://caitlincanty.com


Jeff German & The Blankety Blanks – Hang On

Jeff German & The Blankety Blanks

I was born in Lincoln Park, Michigan, south of Detroit-but just barely.  It’s the part of Interstate 75 where, if you are northbound, you can start to smell the stench of the rendering plants in Del-Rey. I am a product of that environment.  I grew up listening to my older brother’s records; Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Stones, Faces.  The collection morphed into The Clash, The Damned, The Jam and then into Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.  My entire musical pursuit was tied to my brother’s record collection.  I am the son of a strong union electrician. I am a husband, a father and a grandfather.  I am a 50-year-old man who, after taxiing teenagers around and coaching High-School Hockey, has a few hours left in a day to cobble together some songs and some tunes.  

As a sideman, I have played guitar for some great artists.  Most recently, the crazy talented Lydia Loveless.  While a member of the Curdogs and while on the road with Lydia, I penned dozens of songs.  Each one of them means something very personal to me.  I am not going to play myself off as a “blue-collar rocker”, Just a dude with a song in his heart.

My Solo record is titled “12 Rounds”.   I hope you give it a listen.

About my Band:

The Blankety Blanks came about because I never knew who would be backing me on any given night..  One stalwart companion, Graig Barnett (The Curdogs), has been there through every version as my guitar playing cohort.  Bradley Williams (Oolong Gurus, Faces for Radio) came to me as an answer to a prayer.  Brad is a front-man by nature, but asked to play bass in the Blankety Blanks.  He and I have only been teamed up for a few months but it seems as if we have known each other for years.  Matt Wilson joined us in early 2014 on peddle steel.  Matt came to me via Craigslist.  It was like having a winning lottery ticket.  He had literally moved to town two weeks ago from Connecticut and saw my add for a peddle steel player.  Mike Nelson and Brian Mincks tag team the drumming jobs.  Brian is a 19 year old heavy-hitter and Mike is a seasoned session pro.  Both are top-grade.  

Online at:  http://www.jgblanketyblanks.com

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Dustin Ransom – No One’s Gonna Love Me (Like The Way You Do)

Dustin Ransom is an artist’s artist and a musician’s musician.

Combining elements of classic r&b and funk, haunting atmospherics, modern pop sensibility, a studied background in jazz & classical music, and a richly dynamic and soulful voice, Ransom creates music that is uniquely sophisticated yet highly accessible.

Cutting his teeth as a session/live musician, producer, engineer, mixer, songwriter, and arranger for artists such as Ryan Bingham, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, Ben Rector, Jon McLaughlin, Emily West, K.S. Rhoads, Erin McCarley, Butterfly Boucher, Andrew Belle, Andy Davis, and Steve Moakler, Ransom has already solidified his reputation in the greater music community as a force to be reckoned with.

Described by many of his peers as a “musical genius”, Ransom continues to only become more formidable – now as an artist –  with his debut EP Thread On Fire.  Produced & engineered by Ransom along with producer/engineer Adam Bokesch, Ransom wrote all five songs, played all instrumentation (minus horns on one song, for which he composed the arrangements), sang every vocal, and mixed every track himself. Favoring talent over technology, Ransom used no vocal correction software on any of the songs found on Thread On Fire.

Online at: http://www.dustinransom.com/


Julian Taylor Band – Say Goodnight

Julian Taylor is of both West Indian and Native Canadian descent, born and raised in Toronto. He began his music career as a teenager, playing at open stages around town.  Alongside drummer Jeremy Elliott, Julian has led a distinctive path within the Canadian music industry. “We’d all been in bands before, so amazingly JTB just kind of happened,” says Jeremy. Picking up some award-winning friends along the way, the Julian Taylor Band has become the (occasionally) eight-piece soul-rock band we’ve come to know.

The band writes and performs unabashedly positive music that makes you feel good. It’s a fusion of soul, rock and R&B – or rather, a form of modern rhythm and blues infused with rock ‘n’ roll.

They’re set to release their sophomore record, the double-album Desert Star, when it’s completed in the summer of 2016. The vision behind Desert Star is to re-invent the way a double album is launched: instead of the full album appearing all-at-once, four five-song EPs will be released every quarter-year until completion.

Online at:  http://juliantaylorband.com/


Kris & Alix Angelis – Life Support

Kris Angelis has been living musically her whole life.

“My mom says I’ve been singing since before I could talk. I would sing melodies when I didn’t actually know words.”

Growing up on a farm in Florida, Angelis spent her childhood playing, running around the farm, and making up songs with her twin sister. They composed their first song at the age of three — and it lives on now, interwoven into one of Kris’s more recent works.

Discovering the band Hanson, siblings who were very young themselves at the time, opened up the possibility of making music herself. She delved into learning harmonies with her twin sister, Alix, taking full advantage of the way siblings’ voices work together.

There’s a Victor Hugo quote that expresses exactly how I feel about it: ‘Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.’ That’s how songwriting has been for me.”

And she certainly hasn’t been silent. Kris has put her musical talents to good use, developing her folk-pop sound in two EPs, Brief Sounds in 2005 and Ghost in the Corner in 2008. She has also toured the country, as well as collaborated with other musicians on several side projects including TMG, which was a group of 5 female singer/songwriters who were inspired by the Twilight Saga books and were encouraged by the director of the first film to release the songs. This began a two year whirlwind in which the music was very well received, getting the girls featured on MTV, in the LA Times, and invited to be featured performers at Twilight conferences and premiers around the country. But this year has brought something entirely new: her first full-length album, “The Left Atrium” produced by Jeff Zacharski.

The thread of experimentation that began back on the farm has carried through into The Left Atrium.

“I like things with layered and hidden meanings so I brought that into the title of the album. The Left Atrium is literally a part of the heart’s anatomy and an atrium is an open space in a building, usually with a glass roof that you can see into and often has things growing in it. So this album with its songs that are so personal, is a piece of my heart that you can see into.”

The Left Atrium is a great example of who Kris is as a musician — beautiful, eclectic, surprising, and yet somehow always herself.

Online at:  http://krisangelis.bandzoogle.com


Mike McKenna Jr – Little Things

“Cape Bretoner Mike McKenna Jr is cut from the same musical cloth as Neil Young, James Taylor, and other artists whose imaginative blend of fact and fiction produce timeless tales of love, longing, and a search for heart and soul.”  – Quick Before It Melts

“Singer-songwriter Mike McKenna Jr. has a vocal grit and inflection and lyrical sensibility that brings a little bit of Nashville to Montreal, not to mention a down-beatin’ roots rock band to back him up, but the swagger of the opening track of his debut EP is not the only speed McKenna runs at.” – The Modern Folk Music of America

“McKenna’s voice is both powerful and gentle, gritty like Stan Rogers, and emotional like Conor Oberst. With Travelin Man, McKenna has accomplished the feat of mixing old and new, by making what’s relevant sound timeless.” – Grayowl Point

Online at: http://www.mikemckennajr.com


John Tracy – Fairytales Come True

John Tracy has a reputation for crafting lyrics that cut right to the heart of the matter, making his music relevant to all of us on this human journey.

It’s clear that John Tracy is an artist who serves as an inspiration for all walks of life, offering a perspective in his songwriting that is different than most and much more relatable to a wider audience. He has studied the craft of songwriting with some of the industry’s best including Don Henry, Ellis Paul and Steve Seskin. It has earned him the reputation as a lyricist who cuts right to the heart of the matter, impacting us with each word and note.

“John Tracy’s genius in delivering lyrical melodies of all things that we experience as humans may only be surpassed by his mastery of the guitar. John will tell you he loves writing songs, but his music tells you that he loves the human connection.” – Jeff Curtis, Executive Director, The Orange Downtown Alliance (Orange, VA)

His dedicated effort to giving each song something sonically unique makes listening to his body of work a delight to the ears. With a vocal delivery smooth and warm, John’s voice has a timbre that calms the spirit and allows the heart to hear the depth of his lyrics. His performances leave you inspired, like time spent with an old friend.

“John is an exceptional artist. His original pieces are hallmarked by lyrics that move the audience. The complexity of his compositions and his skill in playing them create a sound that is marvelous to hear. As a singer, he projects a warmth and energy that is infectious.” – Clair F. Myers, Ph.D., Executive Director, Wayne Theatre Alliance

Online at: http://johntracymusic.com

Photograph & Makeup by Mimi Lomax

Vanessa Forero – Heaven Knows

British/Colombian singer-songwriter Vanessa Forero has been composing since the age of nine. She has mainly written film/TV scores and songs for other artists, but since being selected in 2015 by Brit award singer-songwriter Beth Orton to write with and perform at her UK show, Forero decided to become her own artist and record her own songs in her distinctive Indie/Folk style with Latino influences.

Vanessa grew up in Bradford, Yorkshire but her mother was abandoned in the Colombian jungle as a child and survived with monkeys before being rescued – yes really. This in turn affected Forero’s own childhood and upbringing.

“I suppose being raised by a resilient, survivor type mama made us a not-so emotionally led family, so time on the piano became my only real space where I could let all of me out. I liked living in the shadows as a child, almost fearing my own voice, so I probably spent more time learning to talk on the piano than any other way. We’d talk for hours and hours about everything, everything I wasn’t bold enough to express with words out loud. Even still, my expression through music has always been in a background, hidden kind of way as a screen composer or keys player.  Now after facing a few fears, I’ve literally ‘found my voice’ on the other side and discovered there’s a lot I want to say over here.”

Vanessa has been on a personal journey as well as a musical one in the last year and feels she has a lot she wants to get off her chest in her forth-coming EP.

“In the years spent serving other peoples musical vision, I’d not realised how much I’d lost my own musical voice. But the more I chiselled it out and carved it into shape, the more I brought my true self – both personally and musically – back to centre stage on the Vanessa show, and its a place full of colour, feathers, fun and wildness.  It’s taken a hell of a journey to get here, which is why this EP is called “From The Uproar” – things got messy, but it was worth it.”

Forero is a skilled multi-instrumentalist as well as a producer, composer, arranger, and now singer.  She is also passionate about working with women in the industry.

The songstress is also a bestselling author, having co-written the book on her mother’s extraordinary life ‘The Girl With No Name’, for which National Geographic made the globally broadcast feature documentary ‘Woman Raised By Monkeys’. The sequel book is on its way.

Online at: http://www.vanessaforero.com



Jim Bryson – Raised All Wrong

Jim Bryson is an Ottawa area based singer songwriter, instrumentalist and producer.

He has released 4 critically acclaimed solo recordings and is currently finishing up a 5th recording, produced by Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think, Feist) to be released in the first half of 2016.

Jim also has spent a fair amount of time in recent years recording and producing projects, among them Oh Susanna’s “Namedropper,” and songs for The Skydiggers “Angel’s”.

Jim also enjoys riding in the musical sidecar, having played and toured with Kathleen Edwards, The Weakerthans and The Tragically Hip.

Jim lives outside of Ottawa with his partner, two daughters and a newly built recording “shed” called Fixed Hinge.

Online at: http://www.jimbryson.org/

Be well. Practice big medicine.