Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kill the Bird, Kill the Song

The time has come! You can now buy Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my Web site.

We're still looking good for our AZ and Denver shows in a couple of weeks. Some of you have received MySpace messages from me. If you're on my MySpace Friends list and live in these areas, you'll be getting one soon.

Everyone by now knows that going into the music business in the 21st century is kind of a foolish enterprise. So much has changed since the Refreshments roamed the earth, and most people think that the change has been in favor of music listeners, the consumer, as opposed to record companies and artists. Music is much easier to get for free, and the free music is of a much higher quality than the cassette copies you made of Wang Chung back in the day. Many artists have responded by giving away their music. The attitude is, "They're just going to get it for free anyway." And they change their business model to emphasize live shows, merch, or other ways of making income.

Unfortunately, I can't give away my music. Here's the reason:

Something inside of me puts a certain value on giveaways, and I can't bring myself to put that value on my CDs.

Even in 2008, there's still a subculture of people who love buying albums. They love opening their mailbox and finding the CD they ordered, or downloading an album from iTunes, or going to a record store to buy the newest from a favorite band and popping it into their car stereo. This is an irreplaceable process for them. They look forward to it every time. I'm one of these people.

I've come to appreciate the way this process shapes the world. I believe that purchasing a CD is not just a way of getting something. If I buy a CD, as opposed to finding a way to get the music for free, I've helped make it more possible for an artist to subsist, making it more likely he'll record again.

When I pay for something, I'm saying, "This is the way I'd like the world to be."

So, the ability to get clean copies of music and CDs easily and for free is not a huge benefit for me as a consumer. Moreover, it's helping to create a world where songwriters and musicians record for nothing, or at a loss, and that can only make more artists give up on recording entirely, or on music as a whole. (This happens. I know them.) It's helping to create a world where musicians and songwriters have to give away their music and make their livings on things like touring and merch, if at all. One artist I know admits to making more on women's t-shirts than on CD sales.

This is not the kind of world I'd like to help create.

I know there are plenty of people who feel the way I do. They love music, love a new album, and understand that an artist needs to make money from it if she hopes to remain an artist. These people are the ones I'm focusing on as I move forward into the music business.

Thanks. Next week, AZ, baby!


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Who's Ready to Rock?

The time has come! You can now buy Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my Web site.

Okay, new show announced:

Chicago, Sunday, 3/30, 8 PM, The Abbey Pub at Grace and Alston.

This is my first Chicago show--my new hometown!--in I don't know how long, so we're gunning to make it extra special. This will be a full band performance, and John Austin will be co-headlining the event.

Right now, I have two types of shows on the schedule. The first is:

Reading and Acoustic Performance

This is what it sounds like. You’re going to hear some Ghost Notes, some Songs from Memory, a cover or two and a Refreshments song or two (Are these covers? I don’t know. You decide).

The most interesting part of these performances for me is the attempt to blend the excerpts and the music into something that's whole, something that flows and has a narrative arc. I just started putting this together yesterday, and I really like the results.

What I want you to understand about these performances is that you will not be read at for 45 minutes. This is predominantly a music event, but don’t be surprised if you like the reading portions, too.

I’m also working on a surprise, Refreshments-related element for these shows. Stay tuned.

The second type is:

Full Band Performance

If you know me and my history, you know what these are about. The law will be laid down with authority, and with all that law being laid down there will be no time for reading. However, Ghost Notes--and Songs from Memory--will be for sale at every event.

About the Last Exit show in Tempe, there may be some fluctuation in the headline act. I should know more about it next week, so check back, or check my Web site at the events page.

Bret Hartley (all the way from ATL!), Jim Gerke and Curtis Grippe will be manning their respective instruments for the Tempe show. Also, there will be a surprise special guest on one number. Wanna clue? I was doing wheelies when I found out. You won’t want to miss it.

The other full band shows are part of a tour we’re still putting together. The tour will run five or six nights and will stretch from Atlanta to Chicago. These shows will be co-headlined by songwriting extraordinaire John Austin, who's now in full band mode, and with a wonderful new disc ready to come out. Mr. Austin will be manning the rhythm guitar in my act, and I’ll be laying down the law in his. Mr. Hartley (he can’t get rid of me) and Songs from Memory drummer Kevin Leahy will round out the foursome for the tour.

The Tour. I love it. I think I’m going to change the message on my cell phone:

“This is Art Edwards. I’m on tour right now and can’t take your call. If you’ll please leave a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m off tour. Thanks…I’m on tour."


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fiction v. Non

Things are going well with the release of Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my Web site. (Yes, they've been on sale a week already! What? You don't own them yet? Get yours now!) I've sold about what I thought I would, and most everyone has bought both the book and CD. Comments on both have been coming in, and I'm humbled and grateful. It's always great to hear what people think.

As your book and CD head for your mailbox, it seems like a good time to address one of the most common questions I get about Ghost Notes, and my fiction in general. People inevitably ask some version of "How much of this is autobiography?"

The temptation to read my novels as such is pretty strong, especially among Refreshments fans, who are always looking for the "real story" about the band and its demise. Admittedly, it's not hard to draw lines from the characters and situations within Ghost Notes to real people and past situations. I've even gotten emails from readers/Refreshments fans who say that this makes them a little uncomfortable, that they feel like a voyeur, like they're seeing things they shouldn't be allowed to see.

I have to admit that whenever I read fiction, part of me looks for such things, too. Is the author writing about his life disguised as fiction? When the character talks about his wife, is it his wife he's talking about? His family? His feelings about the world? It's part of what makes the fiction experience interesting.

In fact, I think it's part of what makes good fiction. If it resonates enough with you to make you go "Is this real?", then I think the author is doing a good job.

So it would be disingenuous of me to ask you not to have that feeling as you read Ghost Notes. I want you to feel like it's truth. But I'm greedy; I also want you to understand it's not fact.

There are three places we can draw from when we write: personal experience, things we hear about or learn about, and things we make up. When we draw from personal experience, we write essay, or memoir, or autobiography. When we write about things we hear about, we write biography, or history, or journalism.

Because of this, we're tempted to say that fiction is the genre of writing composed entirely of things we make up, but that's not the whole truth. The fiction writer draws from all three of these groups. She uses personal experience, things she's learned about, and things she makes up. In fact, the three are so convoluted in fiction you could argue it's impossible to write fiction and not draw from all three of these groups. You wouldn't want to exclude any of them. Your job, as a fiction writer, is to write the best story, and you'll rob from any of these three categories to do that. Fiction has the largest palette of any of the genres of writing. That's why I love it.

For these reasons, it's very important you understand that, if you read Ghost Notes and think you come across a character, a place, or an event that seems like something autobiographical to you, you may be reading that, or you may be reading something entirely fictitious, or you may be reading some kind of composite. As a novelist, what "really happened," what's "fact," what's "history," and what's not is not really my concern. As a reader you're allowed to think whatever you want. Just remember, to me, it's all fiction. I'm trying to tell the best story I can.

One more thing on this point: I have great respect for the other four people who have been Refreshments, and I would never use fiction to somehow poke fun at, undercut, or otherwise flame any of them. Any "writer" who uses fiction to a similar end sullies the genre, and I have no time for it or for them. Life's already hard enough, and I would hope others would take the above into consideration before they assume, after reading Ghost Notes, anything about anyone else. (Remember, you may be wrong entirely.)

I think Ghost Notes speaks better for itself than I speak for it, but I felt the need to clarify that before people start getting their books (and CDs) in the mail.

Thanks. I feel better now.

Next week, we'll (finally) talk about shows.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Big Day!

(drum roll, please)

You can now buy Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory at my Web site.

Woo hoo!

Yee haa!

I can't put into words what this means to me. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling I had when the band released Wheelie, back in early December of 1994, walking through Yucca with a box of CDs on my shoulder, a roomful of eyes following me all the way to the back booth.

I got Wheelie feeling back!

Of course, these projects wouldn't have been possible without two very special people. My wife, Kel

Every artist needs his muse, and you'll find more than a little of Kel sprinkled lovingly throughout Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory. Kel is also the one person who read Ghost Notes over and over again, looking for everything from underdeveloped characters to awkward phrases to misplaced commas. Thank you for everything, honey.

The second person is my longtime friend and fellow Moline compatriot Bret Hartley

Bret took what was my idea of having a "single" for Ghost Notes and made it into a full-on CD. After what Bret did, I just hope people remember I wrote a book!

And you can hear one of Bret's many guitar-playing high points on the record this week at my MySpace Audio page. "I Don't Know Right Now" is a track we both kept making excuses to go back to in the studio, just because we wanted to listen to it again. (I'll have to write a blog one day about how the Meat Puppets brought the down-and-dirty out of this song.)

By the way, this is just the first of two release dates. The in-store release date is March 4, and all promotion starts on March 5 at Changing Hands in Tempe. After that, we've got confirmed dates--everything from readings to rock shows--in Phoenix, Denver, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City, and we hope to get many more as we move forward. I see these two babies taking me into October, and to both coasts. You'll get all event updates at this blog, but you can always check my Web site if you're curious. Click the Events tab on the left nav bar, and you'll have up-to-the-minute coverage.

For those of you who don't know, you can still get a peek of Ghost Notes at my Web site, too.

So, this is it. Buy Ghost Notes, or Songs from Memory, or Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory, and enjoy the read and the tunes. Don't hesitate to let me know what you think of both.

Think I'll break out the bass today and play some funkadelic. Who's comin' over?