Magic Brook Plays Brazil

November 14th, 2009

magic brook plays Brazil

Well, not quite. “The Source” has made it onto the play list of a Live365 podcast from Brazil, Animalumen.

“Animalumen folks, thank you, thank you. I love it. Any chance there’s a gig or two somewhere your way? I’d love to see Brazil – especially if my guitar would take me there!”

More seriously, I know that I have fans spread across the planet: Europe, South Africa, Australia, India, Japan, and now Brazil. It’s so heartening to get these tidbits about whose enjoying the music. Please keep sending your news my way.

And, also, it was fun to exchange an email with the Animalumen folk – they seem very reasonant. So, if you can, give them a listen, please.

By the way, for those folks who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have a show upcoming, December 5th, at the Bazaar Cafe.

I’m sharing the show with my long time collaborator, Bernie Gilbert, master of the sharp lyric turn, the parody, and the heart tugging story in song. I’ll post more as the show approaches

Take are, all,


Pleasant Surprise from Vermont: “Stony Creek”

November 8th, 2009

A few days ago, I was feeling a bit down – this continuous ride of “Up, people noticing & enjoying my music”, “Down, is the ride over?” is taking a bit of a toll.

Then, I received an email from my publicist, Curtis Smith of Maelstrom Music PR, about his trip to Vermont.

At some inn at which he was staying he ran into some random woman from Bondville, Vermont. I have no idea why they spoke to each other or why Curtis mentioned me? Still, when he did, she told him, “Oh, I know his music! I hear “Stony Creek” all the time on the radio.”

Hey, how cool is that? Somebody not only knows of Magic Brook, but listens to him (me!).

Now mind, readers: Bondville is nowhere near where my friends have places in “The Northeast Kingdom”; that is, in the Northeast portion of Vermont. I figure I might get play there – because I know folks. But in the center or South of Vermont? I’m not sure I know but one person there.

So, whoever is spinning Magic Brook’s The Source, thank you! (if you read this, let me know who you are, ok?)

Thanks, Curtis, for passing that along. I needed something to pull up from my current funk. All work and not much play makes those brooks very cloudy and dammed up!

Thank you listeners. I create this music to be heard as much as for any personal sense of whatever it is that drives me to create? (sometimes, I think it may be nothing more than an itch that has to be scratched! smile. These tunes will drive me batty if I don’t honor them by composing them, learning to play them and thus getting them “out” as it were).

By the way, for those folks who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have a show upcoming, December 5th, at the Bazaar Cafe.

I’m sharing the show with my long time collaborator, Bernie Gilbert, master of the sharp lyric turn, the parody, and the heart tugging story in song. I’ll post more as the show approaches

Take are, all,


Quiet Saturday, Musing on the Nature of Mastery

October 10th, 2009

I finally upgraded my wordpress blog so that spammers who’d been able to comment without my permission will no longer have access. Whew!

I didn’t lose any posts; I didn’t lose any content from my old version of WordPress. But I sure hated offering any help to folks who sell fake drugs and fake anti-virus software that compromises people’s computers. Ugh! And, the never ending chore of removing these fake users and their fake comments wasted my time. I’d rather be composing, teaching, playing, writing. Heck, writing blog posts!

In the meantime, 2 weeks ago, I had a fun time at the Bazaar Cafe at the invitation of my dear friend, Mokai. Mokai put a show together in honor of his 10 year anniversary with his partner, the amazing CeCe! Included, besides myself, was singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire, Garrin Benfield. The show also included Mia & Jonah, and of course, Mokai’s soulful singing, playing, and writing.

I absolutely adore the way that Garrin performs: his guitar playing is reason enough to see him. But a couple of years ago I noticed that his singing had gone from good to great. Maybe Garrin’s even edging beyond great to diva? (is that “divo” for men?)

Garrin and I met through a mutual friend about 6 or 7 years ago (not sure how long, Garrin?). Garrin was just getting some serious attention a that point, on top of his first solo album. Over the years, from time to time, we run into each other, and I get to hear what he’s doing, what’s changed, what’s new, what’s really settled in Garrin’s work. What a treat to observe the development of mastery.

At the Bazaar, I told Garrin how much I’m enjoying his singing; that I’d noticed a shift a couple of years ago. He responded that, indeed, a couple of years ago, suddenly, he felt “freed” when singing, that it came together in a new way. I believe that he said he was on a gig when he noticed? (please correct if I mis-heard, Garrin)

Someone (I forget who?) turned me on to George Leonard’s book Mastery. In this book, Leonard tries to explain the nature of the process towards mastery – which is never achieved, of course. There’s almost always a long, slow plateau that seems to go endlessly, where one must simply surrender to continual practice, “for its own sake”. The shifts that occur in this part of the process cannot often be felt consciously.

The change comes when all the tiny shifts, all the somatic understanding in the body that has been accumulating, suddenly allow for greater control, greater ability – perhaps there’s a synergy of accumulation that takes place?

At any rate, whatever you’re doing to grow, Garrin – please keep it up. I love what you’re doing!

By the way, catch Mia and Jonah sometime if you live the Bay Area (and they tour, as well). They achieve a consistency of sound that’s pretty interesting, considering their diverse material and instrumentation. I also really enjoyed the carefully crafted lyrics.

And, Mokia! I love your love songs. I wish you’d do more of them in your shows. In fact, Mok’, I would love to help with a recording of your love-oriented song book! Great stuff.



Sausalito? For Tips? C’mon!

August 20th, 2009

I had a rehearsal for my second Saturday gig last night. Amazing Evelie Säles brought over a great keyboard player, “Brett”. with James Bianchi, percussionist and myself. Evelie wants to do Brazilian tunes in Portuguese. She’s got a gig at an Italian restaurant in Sausalito. Great.

I’ve played restaurants in Sausalito before. These have all been paying gigs.

Sausalito lives on the tourist trade. It’s a Bay Area destination. Visitors love to check out the boats, the house boats, the quaint little shops on the Bay. It’s also known as an art destination. Perhaps not as famous to the arty as Tiburon or Carmel (not on the Bay!), but a destination for art, yes. And, of course, for a day and evening Sausalito adventure, there are plenty of good to very fine restaurants. What else would one expect of the food destination San Francisco Bay Area? This little burb rakes in the cash during Summer tourist season. Even the parking meters charge something like $3/hour! Sheesh.

So, imagine my surprise when Evelie said, “We’re playing for tips”. Huh? At her last gig at this place, she told me that it was noisy packed. It’s the height of tourist season, after all. Her draw, the folks who actually made the trip just to hear her sing, couldn’t hear her, it was so packed and loud. (complaints, complaints). And, this restaurant can’t afford a few hundred bucks to pay the musicians? What?

What are these restaurants thinking? Destination tourist, packed, raking it in. And you don’t have money for entertainment? What’s wrong with your budget, folks? Or, are you just in the business of taking advantage of whomever you can? Golly, I’m shocked.

I can understand a break-even cafe at the edge of North Oakland/Berkeley paying tips and food. Sure – labor of love for art’s sake. I’m down; happy to donate my time to the cause (or any worthy cause, for that matter) But playing for Christopher Waters at The Nomad, a vision of art and right livelihood coming together with hip audiences who actually listen, love, support; that’s an entirely different matter than some packed tourist restaurant in Sausalito, with patrons over-talking the band.

C’mon. At the latter gig, the musicians are part of a scene to draw folks in and keep ’em drinking (expensive) wine and drinks, right? I know the drill. I’ve played a lot of restaurants in my career.

Sure, there are lots of players who’ll play for nothin’, even in the Bay Area. But diva level singers who’ve played Lincoln Center? Nope. And, as my publicist and last biographer both like to say, “critically acclaimed magic brook”. This isn’t the space to toot my own horn, I don’t think. Still, I’m not exactly an unknown local player any more.

And, I’ll be coming from my gig in Palo Alto, The Palo Alto Festival of the Arts (3PM, Ramona Stage). Guess what? I get paid for that! Surprise surprise. (Oh, I love the gig. Wonderful audiences, I sell CDs, I get to play my tunes, my way. Lovely way to spend an afternoon, absolutely. It’s my 3rd year)

What is this business coming to? Pay your players to the level of money being taken in. Musicians, we have to stand up together. Sure, play for tips at the local cafe because you love the owner and the concept. But there IS a difference between that and tourist restaurants. These should be paying gigs. That’s only right and proper.

Hope to see you Saturday at one or both of these gigs: magic brook in concert in Palo Alto. Check the calendar for details in Sausalito.



The Radio Play Keeps Rolling

May 3rd, 2009

I’m deeply grateful for the attention that DJs around the world have given “The Source”. In January, “The Source” closed the month at number 18 on the NewAge/ambient/world radio chart. That’s 18 out of 193 albums listed from playlists that were reported during the month. (only a fraction of airplay is reported)

At the beginning of January, I fell off the chart after 12 weeks of being listed (hit #14 for a day in November). Many well known artists had just released new albums. These new albums were getting the airplay at that time. So, I stopped paying attention. I assumed that because I wasn’t charting any more, I wouldn’t return to the charts for at least a while.

But my publicist, Curtis Smith, called and asked me to check a week or so ago. And lo and behold! In January, I got enough air play to finish within the top 20 albums. Wow! That’s a kick.

I think that “The Source” received airplay for 30 weeks, since the first radio stations started receiving advance copies in September, 2008.

Thank you, DJs for supporting my album.



Popularity Contest as Marketing Strategy

February 21st, 2009

Today, I got an email (not the first) from There are soliciting artists for a fan contest. The reward is inclusion on a college radio promo CD***. When Melusine Records was doing pre-release review distribution, another site, told me to try and win their fan contest. They only review the winners

I’ve thought about this problem for a while: “Should I participate? Yes? No?”

My conclusion is that I do not fit neatly enough within a genre. I get lumped into whatever genre seems closely related to what I’m doing.

the thing is, these corner genre lumped together only hold about 1% of the listening public. (all the genres that I fit into are part of the “other” not included in rock, pop, r & b, hip hop. These combined together account for something like 7% of total total listening. Ugh – we’re talking miniscule, here)

For us, the not-so-easily categorizable, contests are pretty much a waste of marketing effort, I think.

Why? Because the number of people who will actively be my fans is always going to be drastically less than those artists working solidy within the bounds of whatever’s in style at the moment.

I suppose if you (the artist) are going head-to-head with Taylor Swift, you’ve got numbers on your side. Country, pop, singer-song writer, indie. Those are big, big genres, a big big possible listening public.

But I have been recently compared to one period in John Ambercrombie’s lengthy and amazing career. I don’t think that even John’s going to win a popularity contest against Taylor any time in the near future (or the shape of the listening public will have to shift drastically).

Nothing meant against either Taylor Swift (I like her debut album a lot) or Mr. Ambercrombie – who is among my guitar heros. Each of these artists is valid within the constraints of their work: one is meant to appeal to a broad audience, and one is a much more personal vision and exploration appealing to a much smaller subset of listeners.

I believe that many of us are working with less constraints on influences and explorations. Those of us taking these chances, by the very nature of the chances, are not going to find mass appeal – at least not unless we get really lucky (like, say, hitting the lotto jackpot, or being invited in because of the respect our work garners. Think Herbie Hancock. His playing and his taste have taken him far beyond the confines of what is normally considered jazz. On the other hand, I’m not Herbie Hancock by a long stretch)

The the short of it is, please don’t bother me with popularity contests. I’m not out to win any!

I’m out to produce music that both interests me to play, and which hopefully, some folks, particular folks, will also enjoy listening to?

Oh and by the way, why would reviewers let a popularity contest choose the work for review? Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? Aren’t reviewers supposed to be finding works for their readers? And, perhaps, they are to warn readers off of works that may not meet expectations?

As I just read in Mic LaSalle’s column, “a review is a news story about how good or bad a movie (recording, show) is.” Yeah, folks at Don’t tell the fans what they think. Tell them what you think. Take a chance – choose for yourself.

Are the reviewers at courageous enough to do their own work? Or do they just want to confirm what the fans have already told them that they already know all about?

I’ll be in Denver next week for a concert. Come introduce yourself to me when I’m at Swallow Hill on the 5th. I’d love to talk about this, or whatever else you have on your mind.



*** (I’ve been distributed to college stations by The Planetary Group, and had significant college radio play – so, … check)

Booking $5000 a Month?

December 26th, 2008

In a blog post about helping one’s self, Derek Sivers writes about the hard realities of gigging music:

“There are no great agents that would want to take you on unless you’re already earning $5000 a month gigging, so that their 10% cut (only $500) would be worth their time. ”

This, I believe and have experienced, is most certainly true.

This remark is tangential to Derek’s point, which was that no one but one’s self is going to help. If I want gigs, I must book them myself, simply because the economics of the music business dictate that it’s not worth the effort for a professional.

Still, Derek’s remark got me to start thinking about the economics of music gigging, agents, and the music business in general. It’s not a pretty picture.

But I would offer that the realities are not a factor of either the lack of interest on the part of agents, nor of the skill of musicians.

It’s the economics of music that have driven some big changes from my grandparents’ time to the present time. Couple these changes with antiquated booking models and agent laws. This creates a situation where the less well known players and other music-minded folk cannot help each other. Doing so is literally a violation of state laws.

While there are corners of the business that operate a little differently (weddings and corporate events), for most clubs and other performance venues, I think the economics are more or less consistent with what I’m going to write, below.

I’ve gigged a great deal, getting paid everything from dinner, a drink, and tips for a couple of sets to getting $400+a gourmet meal for 15 minutes playing (not bad. Too bad it was only once!). I’ve happily played for free because I wanted to or the cause was right for me. And, I’ve been paid some nice chunks, as well, for everything from reading charts of music I didn’t particularly like, to playing with great folks that I would happily have worked with for free.

One of the big changes that I made 5 years ago was to let go of the idea that if I wasn’t being payed, I was playing for “real”, whatever that means. That was incredibly liberating.

But, now that my 3rd solo album is having a little bit of success, I’m back considering once again the economics of gigging and touring.

Derek’s post has me thinking about some important realities.

Consider this story. I was playing a jazz gig, I think perhaps, subbing for a sub at the No Name in Sausalito, California some years ago (bass player called me. Thanks, Lee!) The sax player on that gig (also subbing. hehe) told me this story.

There was a sax player who worked the jazz clubs in North Beach, San Francisco in the 1950’s. At that time the median income for the USA was in the neighborhood of $135/week. Local gigs paid $35-50/night/player. As you can see, a couple of gigs a week brings in a more or less middle class income. Working for $50/gig 3 times in a week is starting to look pretty nice. This sax player bought his house in San Francisco, raised his kids, sent them to college in the ’60’s. Golly, it’s great to be a musician, huh?

Now, let’s consider the booking agent law. California’s (like other states that have such laws. not all do!) mandates that agents may only take 10% of the performer’s compensation. These laws were enacted to protect performers from unscrupulous business practices. The law mandates that the majority of the earnings goes to the performer. That should be great, right?

In the 1950’s, this system worked fine. If an agent had 5 performers, all making $100/week (perfectly reasonable, in those times), that’s $100 for the agent, too. If the agent worked hard and the performers made a little more, then life is good all ’round, see? Even local musicians and local agents can make a living under this system.

Now, fast forward to the 1990’s: That same saxophone player was still playing in North Beach. Pay each night? $35-50!

And, those numbers have not shifted particularly since the millennium. While it is certainly true that a band may get more than this, $200 is typical pay for 4 in small clubs. (When working as a soloist, I do a sight better, but it’s not big money in music!) For the agent, that’s only $20. Not worth the time and effort – all those recalls to get the club owner on the line, to pitch the band, ugh!

So, the booking agents chase the stars, the already successful. Of course. That’s where a living can be had.

That leaves yer local musicians with no possibility of help. None. Booking a tour? All those calls are on you, friend. Got a day job? I hope they don’t mind phone interruptions during your work day?

Where am I going with this?

I believe that our laws are antiquated. They were put in place in a different time:

— there were fewer musicians trying to work professionally
— live music was the usual, not the un-usual: there were more gigs to go round
— pay was much, much higher, relatively

Today, there are millions of folks who’d very much like to work as musicians. Just take a listening tour around There are fewer venues. There are many more competing events – how many CD release events are happening this week where you live? And gig pay has fallen or at least, not risen in 50 years.

Most importantly, the technology for reproducing recorded sound has vastly improved in the last 50 years. Why have live music at all? (some clubs owners say.) Add the new art forms for DJ’ing, mixing pre-recorded and sampled music, who work where bands might have worked in the past. (I don’t mean to dis great DJs. Like any musical skill, it takes time, ears, taste, experience to be a great DJ, just like it does to play any instrument well. Still, if ya wanna dance, DJ’ed music is just as big, maybe bigger sound than a band)

Nope, the situation is not good for all but the well known names.

I’m thinking that we need a different model. I’m thinking that like everything else in the music biz, gigging has changed dramatically. But the process, the roles, the economics have not.

What about a collective of folks who are the “production company”? Each contributes what skills they have: performers, publicist, someone good on the phone (booker?), graphics, engineering, all the skills that must come together well for successful performances? Maybe they all share whatever financial gains are seen by the collective work?

I’m probably just dreaming? But I do think that the day of the booking agent is over. Just like labels (who buys CDs any more? Well, I do, but I’m weird!), booking agents are dead. But that doesn’t mean that the performer must do it all him/herself!

Sorry Derek, I disagree. Rather, can we think outside the box that has been given to us? Can we figure out other ways to get booked than having a brilliant but perhaps highly introverted performer trying to book herself? Or should she just sit home letting the more brazen but perhaps far less interesting performer get the gigs?

This situation calls up the activist in me. Why live with the world as it’s given? Maybe that’s not the best choice? Why not make the world that which we want to live in? Let’s make it different right now?



Waitin’ On Someone’s Else’s Opinion

December 14th, 2008

How many times I’ve found myself in this artistic place? Too many, a lifetime!

I set up my studio for quickie video shoots.

I put up a nice Celtic hanging to hide the wiry mess. I found a good angle for shooting, (if a bit tight against the recording booth – small room!) set up sufficient lighting to capture the work visually – no fancy camera work here – one angle, thank you, isight.

These videos are supposed to help folks see what I’m doing, give a sense for how the sounds are made. I set up a quickie microphone that maybe doesn’t sound like my studio recordings but still represents at least some of the beauty of my instrument. Bless that Royer 121!

And, of course, I want them to be compelling performances, too. Of course!

I cut a couple of takes. After all, this is material that I’ve been performing fairly regularly. Shouldn’t take too long, right?


While I got a couple of good takes, I am plagued with that solo guitarist’s disease – speeding up during the exciting parts. Yeah – I admit it. I DO speed up consistently and repeatedly.

So, after watching the best take, I couldn’t tell if it was “good enough”, being probably wayyyy too close to the work, “is it ok?”

I asked a really fine player friend of mine who has gushed over the new album (“The Source”) to take a look at the video and give me a critical 2nd eye.

Trouble is, this person has not responded for days. I sent a little email nudge. Nothing, nada, zip, zelch.

Of course, the perfectionist paranoic in my says “It’s so terrible, an assessment cannot be made”.

But then, I’ve been playing this stuff for audiences for a while to pretty nearly unanimous praise, too.

But still, video, like recording, is different than live. What goes by during a live performance is heard/seen many times when recorded. I’ve heard it said that, “Recording is a close up magnifying mirror. Every blemish is amplified.”

So, because I handed my power of decision making to someone else, I’m stuck. This is just the reason that I got so lost in the middle of my music career: waiting on other folks to help me make it happen, waiting on other folks’ approval before taking a chance. Hmmm, I guess I’ve been here before…

What’s the solution? Ah, dig deep. These are dark fearsome shadows, to be sure. But it seems to me to be better for me if I take responsibility for my own work, my own actions, my own decisions.

I suppose that the lesson here is that, since I wasn’t sure about the work, it wasn’t ready, huh? I didn’t want to listen to my little voice telling me to keep working on it. So, I handed my power to some one else.

Back to re-play “Soul Art Dance” and get it right this time!

Stay tuned to for some video – when it’s ready, when it’s played well enough.

Thanks universe for giving me another lesson…



Thank you, R J Lannan!

December 9th, 2008

Today, R J Lannan published a review of “The Source” radio EP. Wow! Thank you, RJ, for your kind words of encouragement. I’m humbled and more than a little stunned at what you wrote, RJ.

I’m not sure that I can live up to your praise, musically. But I do promise to try.

Thanks for listening, for hearing the music behind the notes, the intent to create something beautiful, my meager attempt at painting with my own kind of strange broad brush strokes.


/magic brook

“The Source” charts #14 for November!

November 29th, 2008

“The Source” has broken the top 15! – The album is listed at #14 (of 204 charting albums). New Age/Ambient/World Radio Playlist Chart

I am so deeply grateful for the support of listeners and the brave DJs who are spinning my album, many of whom, I’m sure, had never heard of me before “The Source”.

You can hear “The Source” in these areas, from these stations:

Barcelona Radio Despi 107.2 FM
Chico, CA CA KVMR (core) 89.5 FM
Santa Rosa, CA CA KRCB (core) 91.1 FM
Wilmington, DE DE WVUD 91.3 FM
Columbia, MO MO KOPN 89.5 FM
Raleigh-Durham, NC NC WXDU 88.7 FM
Atlantic City, NJ NJ WDVR 89.7 FM
New York, NY NJ WRSU (core) 88.7 FM
Albany, NY NY WRPI (core) 91.5 FM
Rochester, NY NY WITR (core) 89.7 FM
Rochester, NY NY WRUR (core) 88.5 FM
Toronto, ON ON Galaxie CBC Cable
Chattanooga, TN TN WAWL (core) 91.5 FM
Richmond, VA VA WCVE 88.9 FM
Spokane, WA WA KPBX 91.1 FM
Wausau, WI WI WWSP 89.9 FM

Please call up your local alternative, public radio, college station, or your favorite Internet station and ask them to play “The Source”, magic brook.

thank you so much for your support