“If These Stones Could Speak,” the brand-new album by Sheila and the TSP, is finally here! The band will be releasing the album the night of March 19th in conjunction with their performance with the Tampa Bay Ballet at New Seeds Festival in Tampa. To learn more about the New Seeds Festival, or to get tickets, go to newseedfest.blogspot.com.
I meant to make this announcement sooner, but we have officially laid down all of the tracks for our forthcoming album, “If These Stones Could Speak.” Now it’s on to mixing and mastering! We will officially release the album on March 19, 2011 when we headline the New Seeds Festival in Tampa, Florida, along with the Tampa Bay Ballet, who will be choreographing dance for this performance to 4 of our songs. Stay tuned for more info!
Uhm, not us. Well, it is us if you pick up one of the first 150 copies of WMNF 88.5 FM’s newest compilation “This CD Kills Fascists” on November 13th at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. Our song “Monster” is featured on the CD. However, I got an email from the station informing me they made a typo in our band name on the first 150 copies they pressed. So, we’re listed as “Sheila Kirsten Hughes and the TBS Orchestra” rather than “Sheila Kirsten Hughes and the TSP Orchestra.”
If you’d like to hear “Monster,” be sure to call the station to request the song. Tell them it’s on the “This CD Kills Fascists” disc. WMNF can be reached at:
813-239-9663 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re very excited to announce that “Monster,” one of our newest songs off our soon-to-be-released album, has been chosen for the WMNF 88.5FM compilation CD “This CD Kills Fascists.” The CD will be released on November 13th. WMNF will host a release show at Skipper’s Smokehouse to showcase the artists that contributed music to the CD. We unfortunately will not be performing because of prior obligations, but go to the show anyways so you can get the CD and check out “Monster” before our new CD comes out. The project is a fund-raiser for WMNF. For more details about the show and the CD, go to wmnf.org.
About 2 years ago, Chris and I were ready to quit music completely. There were a number of reasons why — one of which was the industry surrounding the industry.
After we released our CD Perspectives in late 2006, we did all the promotional things just about every band does to get their music heard. For two years, we pushed and pushed, investing just about everything we had into it. I can’t tell you how many times in the process I was contacted by someone “inside” the industry who wanted to help us out… for just a few hundred dollars here or a few thousand dollars there. How generous of them.
While we admittedly had a great time doing a lot of the things we did, after a couple of years running to and fro and throwing money here and there to this company and that company, we came to a stark realization: they’d gotten us nowhere. It was a complete waste. That’s when we became very aware that there is an industry surrounding the music industry that preys on the hopes and dreams of up-and-coming artists. They sell you this key they claim will unlock the door to the music industry. You’ll finally be inside, they taunt!!! After all, what’s a few hundred or few thousand dollars when you’ll be famous and making millions? It’s such a tiny investment. Then, after you buy their key and go to try it out, you come to find it doesn’t open anything, except maybe a closet. And they’re gone. They’re run off with your money. If you manage to catch up with them and say, “Hey, this key doesn’t work,” they’ll blame you for not using it correctly.
After we realized how the industry surrounding the industry had been leaching off of us and so many other hopeful bands, we were so disgusted by what we’d seen, we didn’t want anything more to do with it. I compare it to the moment Dorothy discovered the man behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz.” The experience made me hate music. For a while, I didn’t even want to have anything to do with my own music. In my eyes, I’d been a fool for it, and by not playing music, I was refusing to be a pawn in their game anymore.
This was the inspiration behind the song, “Sweet Amorilia,” which will be on our forthcoming album, If These Stones Could Speak.
Then one day, I realized it wasn’t music I despised. It was the industry that I despised — the entertainment industry in general, not music! I love music! I love to write! I love to record! And I love to perform from time to time. How dare they come between me and my love for music! I thought.
Since then, we’ve decided we want nothing to do with the industry surrounding the industry, or even the entertainment industry itself. There’s nothing about it that makes us happy. It’s egotistical and pretty much everything we have no interest in being a part of or serving. We just want to make music that we love — that makes us feel good. If people dig it, that’s awesome. If they don’t, then at least we can walk away from this album feeling really… what’s the word… not “proud.” Pride has nothing to do with it. It’s more like we feel good having honored the creativity that flowed within us. We feel as though we honored that which was true within ourselves. And there’s nothing more rewarding than that feeling.
Just the other day, I signed us up on Sonicbids so we could submit a track for a local compilation. (I wouldn’t have signed up on sonicbids at all had their been another way to submit a track.) I kid you not, the next morning I got an email (I get these all the time) from one of those leach companies claiming to be an A&R company. They were asking me if my band would like to showcase in Nashville for some major labels. Allegedly, these labels are looking for their next big star and they need to get a band signed by the end of the year.
I did some digging on this company’s website and found out that they charge you $199 to showcase. Wow! Really??? I bet they offer to help all kinds of bands at that price! I was actually quite enraged by this because I want these leaches to stay the F*%& away from me and my band. I will not allow them to leach off of our Soufté! And what was even more enraging was I couldn’t find this information anywhere on their website, until I went to the page where you sign your band up. And even there, it was not in plain sight. You know those buttons you select that say “I have read and agree to the rules and regulations” — those “rules and regulations” you usually never read because it’s usually a bunch of legal jargon? Well, that’s where I found their fee… buried in a pile of legal jargon. It wasn’t anywhere else on their site.
Real A&R companies don’t charge bands for their services. They make their money from record labels, who pay the A&R company a finders fee upon signing a band. Any company claiming to be an A&R company that wants to charge bands for what they do isn’t a real A&R company. They are companies whose business model is to make money off the hopes and dreams of all these up-and-coming bands who naively and innocently believe they’ve finally gotten their big break. What motivation do such companies have to do anything for the bands they represent beyond giving them the opportunity to showcase? They’ve made their money. That was their goal. Once you’ve paid up, they’re done with you. They’re gone!
So, I wrote them back and let them know in all honesty and sincerity what I thought of their opportunity. Let’s just say they haven’t bothered to get back in touch with me.
I shared my feelings with the rest of the band about this during our recording session last night, and we all pretty much came to the same conclusion… Let’s just let the Universe guide our steps. It’s done well for us so far.
It really has.
Last night we laid down backing vocals on a track called “Monster.” We have only one more song left to record for the album. Then we’re going to embellish upon a couple of the ones we’ve already recorded, and wallah! We’ll soon have a CD. I can’t wait!
I just realized yesterday evening as I was making notes of all the stuff that I needed to update that it’s been more than 5 months since I updated this blog. And 5 months is far too long to go especially since so many things have been happening.
So, where should I start? Well, we’ve laid down 11 of the planned 13 tracks for our forthcoming album, If These Stones Could Speak. (Yes, we’ve decided to go ahead and release an album. We’ll be doing a limited print and will sell it on iTunes.) Of those 11 tracks, 5 are fully produced and ready to go. The others are waiting for cello, backing vocals, electric guitar, etc., to be added, which will be happening over the next several weeks. And then it’s off to mastering.
It feels like it’s getting really close, and I think everyone involved is excited about it. We have no plans for promoting it other than selling the CD at our shows and through our website. We’re not releasing it in hopes of becoming famous — I think we’ve been through too much to believe in that nonsense. We’re just four friends (and sometimes more) sitting around in our living room creating this stuff from our souls, and we’re really happy with what we’ve done. A few days ago, I finalized all of the CD artwork. That’s one of my favorite processes in releasing an album. Now, I’m working on our new website, which is a much more challenging process because it requires a lot more brain power on my part, but once it’s done, it’s hugely rewarding.
Anyways, on Wednesday July 14, we had an incredible session. The agenda for the evening was for Jim to lay down some phat horn tracks on a song called “Monster.” All I can say is, man, can that cat play! While we sat there listening quietly to Jim doing his thing, Alex and I looked at each other and gave each other the thumbs up. Chris sat at the recording console egging him on, closing his eyes and swaying to the music as it flowed out of Jim’s horn. It was such a privilege to be able to experience the music Jim was making as it was being created. It was funky and full of soul — or souftélicious, as we would say. Fortunately, Alex happened to captured a picture of Jim in his moment on his cell phone:
So, it’s all coming along. I will have more updates soon, and I promise, it won’t be 5 months between posts. 🙂
I have to tell you the process of recording the songs for this next album is the most fun I’ve had in music possibly EVER! Alex and Jim have been a blast for Chris and me to work with — they’re funny (I laugh so hard every time we get together, I can’t breathe. And singing while laughing is quite the challenge.), they’re amazing musicians, and they’re awesome human beings.
We just finished recording “Man of the Hour.” Actually, we finished it a couple of weeks ago and now we’re just waiting on mastery at this point. Schedules have been busy, so it’s been hard to make time for it, but it will be ready very soon!
I have to tell you, I am more excited about this song than I have been about any other song we’ve ever recorded. “Man of the Hour” is my favorite of all of them. And the biggest reason for my excitement is not because of anything I’ve done with the song — it’s because of what’s been added to it by an amazing bunch of musicians — The TSP, and very special guest, Brandon Ruck! The song is ON FIRE, thanks to the intensity in Alex’s drum work, Jim’s haunting tin whistle, and Brandon Ruck’s blazin’ electric guitar, who appears courtesy of Corduroy Friction Records.
When Chris, Alex, Jim, and I first got together to record “Man of the Hour” in our living room, I thought it was pretty awesome at the time with what just the 4 of us laid down. And, I thought it was done, too. Nothing more needed. When the possibility arose to have Brandon Ruck lay down some lead guitar for us, I honestly didn’t know which song to have him play on. (If you don’t know Brandon Ruck, he’s a phenomenal guitar player, as well as one of my favorite local singer/songwriters. His skills are in high demand — he splits them between something like 5 bands, so it was a real privilege to have him record with us. Do check him out: myspace.com/workingclassproject!)
The strange thing about this set of songs we’ve working with is in a lot of cases I can’t hear the production of the tracks in my head. With Perspectives, our 2006 release, I could hear it all. With this album, the production seems to be coming spontaneously at the moment the song is being recorded, which is actually quite exciting because it’s leading us in directions I would not have expected. Like “Man of the Hour” — I had no idea it was going to be a rock song, but it is. This spontaneity could be the result of recording the core tracks live rather than multi-tracking it like we did with Perspectives. Or, it could be the absence of a confining click track with its endless ticking reminding us to be on time, or else! We’ve nicked it this time around, so the tracks have a very human, organic feel.
So, I had to give the question of where to put Brandon some careful thought and consideration so he could really shine. I gave our roughs several listens, and wondered, what about “Man of the Hour?” Yeah, I thought it was done, and I really could not hear any electric guitar for it in my head, but this song really fit Brandon’s style. So, I figured we’d see what he could do with it… and what he did was SET IT ON FIRE!!
Since we added Brandon’s guitar tracks, Chris helped me make a rough mix, which I put on my ipod and literally listened to over and over for 2 days straight. I have probably listened to it more than 200 times because the song just feels that good to listen to. It’s like being on a natural high. (I should point out that I have never listened to any song of mine over and over again like that. I used to hate listening to myself. And I haven’t gotten tired of it.) Every time I hear it, I put my head back, close my eyes, and just sit there and soak it up. I feel like I’m sitting surrounded by a bed of warm embers on a chilly, breezy evening, but I can’t feel the cold because I’m wrapped up in the song. It’s like being out in the desert late at night under a clear, star-filled sky, and the song is what’s lighting up the surrounding area in a warm, amber glow. And apparently, I’m not the only one who’s guilty of listening to it over and over again. Jim’s done it, Alex has done it, Chris has done it, and a select few people I’ve shared the track with thus far are doing it, too. (I know this because I can track their listens on my web stats. LOL. You’ve been caught! Ha, ha!! You know who you are.) Last month, “Man of the Hour” was the most listened to track on our website — and it’s an unreleased, unpublished song!!
So, needless to say, I am absolutely gushing over this song. I absolutely CANNOT wait to share it with you. Once the song is mastered, you’ll get a chance to download it for FREE for a very limited time. After that, you won’t be able to get it until we release the album. So, stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!
Of course, as I gush over “Man of the Hour,” another new track called “Sweet Amorilia” is swiftly coming up on it’s heals. Just have piano to lay down on it, but once we get that one mixed and mastered, it may trump “Man of the Hour” or at least become it’s equal. But it’s totally different from “Man of the Hour.” For “Sweet Amorilia” we summoned the spirits of our great ancestors from the depths of the African desert to build a world-music-inspired choir and drum circle for the chorus of the song. Or as Alex put it, it was something like “organic Soufté with a touch of primal Plern resonating off the windswept Sahara.” That’s going to be an exciting one to mix because there’s a LOT going on. I’ll have to make Chris many pots of coffee when he gets around to that one.
Speaking of Soufté, we finally came up with an answer to the question, “So, what kind of music to you do?” Thing is, we haven’t known how to answer that. We don’t fit into any particular genre, and with this world music influence rearing it’s head in our mixes, and the eastern and western influences, it’s become an even more difficult question to answer. That is, until now… We came up with our own genre. We’re calling it “Soufté,” pronounced “soof-tay.” Want to know what Soufté sounds like… listen to Sheila and the TSP!