Celebrate Your Summer with the Spectacular Cal Phil!
by Christina Linhardt
Southern California is filled with sensational summer activities. We live in the land of spectacle. Entertainment can be found on every street corner.
So, quite often we may not be aware of local hidden gems, amidst all the clutter clamoring for our attention. The California Philharmonic is one such diamond in the rough. How could a symphony orchestra possibly captivate jaded Los Angeles audiences who have seen it all? It is due to its unique and innovative approach to music. A Cal Phil concert is not just a concert, it is a show, a production, a class act cabaret. Maestro Victor Vener, the founder and conductor of the Cal Phil presides over the performance like a first-rate Vaudeville MC, talking to the audience, engaging the crowd, explaining the music and making the experience that much more fulfilling, with both class and humor.
A Cal Phil concert educates as well as delights and the programming is diverse. Truly, there is something for everyone: from classical symphonies, to film scores with jazz and musical theater in between. The 2018 season kicks off on June 24th with their ‘Made in America’ concert featuring film and television star Aldis Hodge narrating the most iconic piece of American music, ‘Lincoln’s Portrait‘. If you miss that concert or loved it so much you want more, you can take flight with the Cal Phil and some of the most ravishing and sensuous operatic music ever written with their ‘Phantom Meets Puccini’ performance on July 8th. The orchestra managed to contract award-winning Broadway star and international concert Artist James Barbour, who recently starred as the ‘Phantom on Broadway‘ to sing some of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s classic songs.
Lovers of dance will get the opportunity to witness fresh new choreography in the ‘Symphonic Dances’ program on July 29th, with Alyson Stoner‘s street hip-hop style rendition of Stravinky’s ‘Rite of Spring‘. If that isn’t enough for one evening, America’s foremost classical saxophonist Harvey Pittel will perform John Williams’ ‘Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra’. As a way to fit some of the most beloved music of all time on to one evening’s bill, the fourth concert of the California Philharmonic on August 12th, is titled “Beethoven Celebrates Bernstein’s 100th Birthday” and features excerpts from everyone’s favorite, ‘West Side Story‘ as well as one of the greatest and most famous symphonic works of all time, ‘Beethoven’s 9th‘! The glorious Cal Phil Chorale will have an opportunity to shine on this evening, as well as renowned International opera soloists.
For the final performance on August 19th, you can relive some of your most favorite cinematic experiences through the music of multiple Oscar and Emmy winner John Williams, composer of the most popular and recognizable soundtracks of all time.
As an especially fun and rare treat, Maestro Vener has selected 9 members of the orchestra to play their instruments, some of which are rarely heard solo!
Experiencing the California Philharmonic is cultural and enriching, but above all it is fun! With its exciting programming for all tastes, a Cal Phil concert is the perfect summer activity for the whole family, for a special date idea, or for those who just want to soar away into the sultry SoCal music of the night!
On June 30th, 2017, in the midst of our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Artist of the Year competition (aka: chaos), I noticed a very confused, yet, humorous comment on one of our Artists’ voting poll posts. It went something to the effect of: ‘Did my vote register? I didn’t get a notification that it registered. Maybe it’s Trump…’ Of course, I had to respond. For two reasons: 1. Anyone who would take the time to ensure that their vote was, indeed, registered, enough to comment about it tells me that this is someone who pays great attention to detail, and 2. Anyone willing to make light of an (almost) pandemic situation (it was the last day to vote) by poking fun at their own government (even though the contest was global) had to be a friend of mine (that warped sense of humor – perfect!). Now, almost five months later, some in-depth conversations (and intense research on my part) later, I am happy to say that New York-born and based Singer/Songwriter, Author, Poet, Filmmaker, and Artist, Robert Segarra and I have struck a kinship that is pretty hard to beat. Not only is he incredibly talented (he’s an award-winning poet!), he devotes his time to others through charity work for many organizations in New York, particularly in the Brooklyn area where he was raised and where he calls home. This alone weighs very highly in my books.
As I always do with people I am fascinated by, I began reading about Segarras’ background to discover he had very recently written a book called ‘Temporary Angels’, a true account of his own visions of the afterlife that he’d been experiencing since he was very young. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ‘visions’ he was seeing of even disastrous events in dreams were prophetic in nature and he has documented this throughout the ‘Temporary Angels’ novel (read ‘Exterminance Cometh’ – a novel he wrote as a non-fiction account of countless dreams he had been having long before 911, about 911. This is discussed below in our interview more in-depth). These were things that resonated with me greatly being that I have also had experiences much like this of my own.
I then delved into his poetry and understood immediately why his work has been recognized and awarded. A good poem demonstrates excellent command of diction and syntax, not to mention, deliver a strong emotional impact without giving away too much or too little and all of this is what is prevalent in the book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. Although he has written a newer poetry piece ‘Heaven’, both past and current works demonstrate Segarras’ ability to maintain a fresh approach to each piece he writes. Some people think writing poems are easy but in reality, the best poems are the most thought provoking and complex, leaving you to wonder. Admittedly, Segarra is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe which made sense to me after reading his works which are equally as great.
But there is something much deeper than that to this exceptional individual…
So, I dug deeper, discovering that Segarra has, in fact, written several scripts that have garnered massive media interest including the New York Times. Several were produced, and some have been aired on television. I recently was privy to reviewing an unpublished script he wrote called ‘The Littlest Hitmen’ and after reading every single page, I became more and more intrigued. I could visually see the actors, the mood, and the imagery flash before me while I was reading. I am a visionary as well, so it was interesting to be able to connect with another profound visionary in this way. I am looking forward to reading more of what he has written in the coming months and if people ask me ‘what I am reading’, more than likely, it will be something by Robert Segarra.
Throughout the summer and into the fall of this year, I also began observing Segarras’ music and video content on his socials and was pleased to discover that he had released an EP and full-length album this past spring: ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, and ‘Transition Man’. The former is a delightful and magical blend of songs that brings me to the topic of his children’s book ‘A Christmas Mouse’. It takes a certain kind of character to write for children. It impresses me when I see a fellow Writer creating a work of art explicitly to bring delight and wonder to a child – to me, that is indicative of a very selfless individual. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, to me, is the music version of this work of art. Audibly, I can also see the all the songs on this EP translated onto a children’s film and that is something I would definitely like to explore more of in the near future. ‘Transition Man’ is a full-length album with more of a classic rock sound that is easy on the ears, and soothing to the soul. With the gentle, charismatic charm in Segarras’ vocals, combined with a true classic rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles or Jimmi Hendrix and intriguing lyrics, I feel this is an album that will appeal to all ages. Songs from the ‘Transition Man’ album have been already spun on Limehead Radio in the UK, and KB Radio in Ontario to name a few. I will not be surprised of some of Segarras’ songs like ‘Parkside Girl‘ or ‘Beautiful Girl‘ aren’t picked up also. These are previously recorded songs which, I feel, would be well-received by his fanbase. Luckily for our readers today, I have included these in the ‘MUSIC CAREER‘ section below. Enjoy!
After thoroughly examining all of Robert Segarras’ social media platforms and seeing his devout dedication to Artists within the entertainment and writing communities it was becoming very apparent that this was someone I wanted to work with on a more involved level. He is selfless and has often supported others when even his own brilliant works have had to be put on hold which also resonates with me. I spoke in-depth to him about what that might entail, and I am happy to say that we will be launching an official page on the SMC website as well as the SMC Spotlight for Robert to showcase his talent as well as collaborate with SMC on future projects. Some of these projects will be of the entertaining sort and will be formally announced well into the early part of 2018 as our creative juices flow. His official page on the SMC website will launch on November 30th, 2017, complete with new branding and content (did someone say, a Christmas video?). I think this is the perfect way to end 2017 for SMC, and I look forward to many exciting, upcoming projects with Robert as an official part of the SMC team. Watch for his bio and content in the coming weeks as well as a very special announcement in the new year! His OFFICIAL BIO is now on the CONTRIBUTORS section of the SMC SPOTLIGHT (click in the top menu to check it out!)
Editor’s Note: Robert, you are a shining example of what it means to be truly selfless in this (more often than not) chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in. If we had more people like you bringing the kind of perseverance, patience, and artful beauty you possess to this planet, this world would be a heavenly place. I look forward to working with you on making just that happen. I appreciate all that you have done not only for SMC through your unwavering support, but also for that of others. I have seen you on social media constantly support the same people you believe in day in and day out and I admire this greatly. Where many fall off or fall short, you have been the lighthouse on the shore for many of your peers. Your art, in all it’s multi-faceted forms are a true reflection of the beauty you have within. I see a solid foundation and great potential in you and I look forward to seeing where this partnership goes. Now, let’s help make that star of yours shine bright, shall we?
Welcome to the SMC team. More importantly, welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview with Robert Segarra
SMC – Hello Robert! I am very excited for this interview – there are so many different facets of your career as a writer and artist that I would like to cover, so I will break this down into a few categories to make it easier. Let’s begin with how you found out about SMC?
Robert – I’m very excited for this interview, too. I feel quite honored to be a part of it. I’m relatively new to the online community of musicians. I was an active musician for years, but only within the last four or five years did I rekindle playing and recording again. At one point I had given up playing altogether for almost ten years. It seems I’m always on the verge of quitting. Then just as quickly as I had quit this last time, I picked up the guitar and started playing again. I re-recorded some songs and got them up online. Then I began exploring ways to promote the songs online, and this is where I began to find Internet radio stations that offered this kind of support – some for free, others charged a fee. I went with the ones that didn’t charge a fee. Through Hannah Clive, one of the artist musician friends I had made in a chatroom, I found Starlight Music Chronicles when she was in the running for Starlight Music Chronicles’ Artist of the Year in June 2017.
SMC – We have now welcomed you as Contributor to the SMC team. We look forward to seeing where this venture will go. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – First and foremost, I am really thrilled and honored to be a part of such an awesome and all-creative organization. I think what appeals to me most is the fact that creativity is nurtured here, and I am beyond pleased to be a part of such an exciting group of individuals, at such an exciting time in its history. I look forward to contributing in any and every way that I am able.
SMC – Part of your new profile which will launch on our site November 30th, 2017 means that we get to showcase you and your art/projects alongside some of the other Contributors to our site. What kinds of things would you like to see happen for SMC?
Robert – I would definitely like to see SMC recognized as the multimedia powerhouse that it is. I’m not sure if people realize just how much reach and influence SMC has. I thought the recent interview that you did with Dacre Stoker (on Limehead Radio – see here and the SMC Spotlight – see here) was amazing and fascinating. I was glued to my PC as you interviewed this blood relative of Bram Stoker, no pun intended, and got to hear stories of what inspired him to write his legendary ‘Dracula’ novel. The public’s fascination with the story has only grown through the generations. I think people need only look back at past interviews and see the important work that SMC has been doing to support artists and bands.
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any current projects that you are working on that you can share with our readers?
Robert – I am always working on something. I am currently working on some scripts, as well as music. I am in the middle of re-recording music that I wasn’t happy with, such as my Christmas song. I am also writing new music – which is actually some of my old music, written in new ways. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on projects within the SMC family.
SMC – What role do you see yourself playing as part of the SMC team? Meaning: what would you like to do creatively with SMC?
Robert – Creatively I can see myself assisting in any way possible within the SMC organization, whether that involves writing, music, artwork, promotion, or support of any type that’s needed. I see an evolution with SMC, and we’ve spoken about this. I see SMC getting involved in all sorts of ventures – including film production, whether for TV or the theater. I can see book and script development. I can see music development, and collaborations with other artists. I think the skies the limit, and I would assist in any way that I can.
SMC – We are featuring you on the SMC Spotlight where we place all our high caliber artists. This will be your first feature on the site which will become what we call a ‘SMC Spotlight Numbered Series’. We tend to like doing follow-up interviews as an artist expands their career. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on becoming a part of our ‘biography-style’ journalism?
Robert – I’m flattered and humbled beyond belief. Starlight Music Chronicles has a reputation for focusing on some really amazing talent, and words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. I’ve seen and read about some of the artists that you’ve featured and it’s quite a list of talented folks. I’m honored to be included among such individuals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.
SMC – We recently did some interviews with Limehead Radio and as a result, talks are in the works for my own show on their station. If we asked you to do an interview with me for the show in, say, December, would you be up for that?
Robert – I wouldn’t be against it, but I think an interview on me should cover new territory, and not just rehash something that has already been discussed. I’ve only done a handful of interviews, mainly because I don’t think I’m all that interesting. People may find my projects interesting, but I think I’m only interesting for being part of those interesting projects.
SMC – We have also talked about having our own podcast with SMC – and you being a part of that. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – I think podcasts are fascinating and essential tools for getting information out to the public. As long as there is something interesting and fresh that needs to get out to an audience, then I think podcasts are just another facet of accomplishing that goal. So, with regard to getting SMC material out to its audience, I would be more than happy to do what I can to facilitate that. I have done everything from background music to actually writing interview questions for podcasts in the past, and I would be more than happy to contribute and continue doing that with SMC.
SMC – What involvement do you like to have in creative projects? Some people like to be front and center and others prefer to be behind-the-scenes. What is your preference and why?
Robert – In general, if I am involved in a creative project that I am pursuing, I tend to take on a more direct role. But when I am asked to become involved in something that didn’t originate with me, but with someone else, I tend to work more behind-the-scenes, only because I have always seen myself as a team player, and I don’t want to railroad someone else’s vision. But when required, I am more than willing to do whatever is asked of me in order to get the job done.
SMC – Before we dive in, can you tell us which career path you tend to gravitate toward more than others?
Robert – I started out as a playing musician. I played places when I wasn’t legally able to play them. I played with older musicians, in general, and sometimes we would play some tough places, like bars and strip clubs. I wasn’t legally allowed to be in these places as a customer, since I was a minor, but because I was part of the entertainment, nobody ever asked my age. They basically looked the other way. We played at lots of legitimate places as well, but the seedier places stick out more in my memory because I would be more anxious than usual during the performance. Over the years I sort of drifted away from wanting to play in front of a live audience, and prefer to focus more on songwriting now more than anything else.
SMC- Being a lover of classic rock sounds, upon first listening to your music – it was like finding that gem of an album on record store day. How refreshing it was to hear ‘Mermaid Serenade’! Can you tell us what your process was in creating the ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ EP?
Robert – I’m really glad you like that song. That song was important to me. It proved to me that I could write a song that wasn’t your typical love song. Not that there’s anything wrong with love songs. Most of the songs on ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ are old songs. Most of the songs on ‘Transition Man’ are also old songs. In putting together ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ I basically put together songs that I thought would go well together. ‘Mermaid Serenade’ was heavily influenced by The Beatles. They were always a major influence on me and my music, and it was the fun songs on the White Album, such as, ‘Obladi-Oblada’, ‘Bungalow Bill’, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’, that were in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘Mermaid Serenade’. The Beatles were such amazing musicians. They could write songs on just about any subject imaginable. I wanted to do that, too.
SMC – Indeed you have also been getting some fab radio play from this album as well as your other album ‘Transition Man’ – both released this year. Can you tell us who you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to for spinning your music?
Robert – Where should I start? First, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. Your support has been very important to me. And I’d also like to thank the people who are listening to my music and buying my tracks. I’ve been lucky. A lot of places have played my music, starting with Take 2 Radio, Howard’s Power Pop Stew, Frontier Radio, Wig-Wam Radio, Rocker’s Dive Radio and a bunch more, but there are a few that have really shown me an amazing amount of support, with the first being Stephen and Anne Lambert of EGH Radio. They were the first to show me a real sense of belonging. Stephen is a visionary and a jack-of-all-trades, and Anne was the first person to recognize my roots in British Invasion music and Glam Rock. They’re great supporters of Indie and Unsigned artists, and they host shows every week where artists and basically anyone interested can take part in chats, while they play an amazing mix of music. Victoria Dee at Open The Door Radio has also been extremely supportive of me and my music, and I want to thank her for debuting many of my songs. Most recently it’s been Al Yardy of KB Radio that has been giving my music tremendous airplay, and I’d like to thank him for that. I’d also like to help spread the word that KB Radio suffered some major damage and is trying to rebuild. They have a GoFundMe page where they are accepting donations (see here). I truly hope that KB Radio can continue to do the fantastic job they’re doing in giving independent artists as well as established artists a forum. It’s a really amazing feeling as an Indie artist to hear your music in rotation with bands like Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Celine Dion and Kool &The Gang.
SMC – What has the media response been like for these albums?
Robert – The response to my music has been really positive. In fact, back when I was first playing music the old fashioned way, the response to my material was decent, but it was slow going in getting exposure. I had to push relentlessly in order to get the message out. With the Internet, the response is so much quicker, and generally a lot more positive. An artist can have an easier time finding a receptive audience with the Internet, as opposed to how it used to be without the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for independent artists today. Demographics and analysis is quicker and easier using the Internet, as well. I’ve found that audiences are much more receptive to my “sound” in Canada and Europe and in other parts of the world, than they are in the United States, and I believe that’s only because Indie artists doing anything other than what I call Disney-pop, Hip-Hop or Rap, are not getting the airplay or exposure that these other genres are currently getting, and have been getting for some time now in America. The Internet came along at just the right time for artists doing rock, alternative and other genres. If it weren’t for the Internet, the careers of Indie artists today would be much more difficult to get off the ground.
SMC – In the entertainment industry, we always hear about the kinds of struggles that artists go through to get themselves established. What would you like to see happen as far as change for artists in the industry (music, film, etc)?
Robert – I think there is a revolution coming within the industry, where the old ways of doing things will be changing forever. And I believe it has been a long time coming. I think artists, and creative individuals should not have to sell their souls in order to follow their dreams. I think it’s been this way for far too long, and for generations now, especially today, we are seeing the abuses that have come from such ingrained, highly imperfect and sometimes predatory institutions. But these things are already changing. Almost anyone can produce a film these days. Decent cameras are available at somewhat reasonable prices. Writers can take the initiative and get their music up at iTunes and other music sellers. And writers can get their works out in a number of ways that weren’t always available to them.
SMC – Can you tell us why there was a full-length album and EP back-to-back release for your music?
Robert – That’s a long story, but in a nutshell, one of the reasons, and there were many, was I was tired of writing, recording, and producing music under the name, Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders. People were always getting confused and asking me who Billy J Bryan was. People couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was doing this under an assumed name. It was as if this had never been done before. And this all came about while I was working on more material, so rather than wait, because I’m always working on new things, I decided to re-release the older material under my real name, and also release what I had been working on without a break in between. I think it worked out okay because the material on both collections is so very different. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ is essentially an acoustic album.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you naturally gravitate toward in terms of other Artists?
Robert – When it comes to other music that I listen to, the list is endless. I have loved and enjoyed the music of everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, 38 Special, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Queen, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Nirvana, and even bands like The B-52s and McFly and Blink-182. Through my experiences with Internet radio I’ve discovered a whole new set of artists whose music is just as exciting and valid as these established bands, such as Chris Watkins of Drunk Poets, Red Light Revival, Anchor Detail, Free to Grow, Twenty6Hundred, Hannah Clive, and more bands and artists than I can list here. I feel that there is a whole crop of undiscovered and exciting talent simmering in the Indie Internet radio-sphere that’s going to explode someday in the very near future, and it’s going to re-ignite interest in this kind of music all over again.
SMC – Can you tell us what your favorite song is off each album and why?
Robert – From ‘Transition Man’, I’d have to say that ‘Heart Break Girl’ is probably my favorite at the moment. It reminds me of the songs that I used to love and listen to from British Invasion artists. I also like ‘Transition Man’ as well. I think it’s a fun summer song. I was in a good mood when I wrote and recorded it. From ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, once again, I’d have to say that the title track, ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, is my favorite song. It’s a really old song of mine, and this is the best version of it that I’ve produced. People have come up to me and told me what they think the song is about, and it’s always different. I don’t usually tell anyone what the true meaning is. I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s a song about alienation. It’s a song about someone feeling like an outcast or a misfit in their own world.
SMC – When you create the lyrics for your music – is it based on your own personal life experiences or is it observations of the world around you?
Robert – Both. I’m a people watcher. I think I watch people so that I can figure out exactly what it means to behave correctly in social situations. I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet, however. In truth, I guess I’d have to say that a good majority of my lyrics are written from my own personal life experiences.
SMC – Can you tell us which song has received the most traction on radio to date?
Robert – ‘It’s probably Because Of Chloe’. Everybody thinks it’s a song about a particular girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s really a song about my cat.
SMC – In delving further into your music career, there were some delightful discoveries! There are songs like ‘Park Side Girl’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’…can you tell us what other gems are out there and which platforms they can be found under?
Robert – ‘I Believe In Rock & Roll’ is a decent song. I also like a song I wrote called ‘Florinda’. It has a Beatle sound to it that I like. They can only be found currently at places like Youtube and Vimeo. I’m planning on re-recording them in the very near future. I’ve actually taken a lot of material down, mainly because I want to re-record them. I think I took down about 55 songs. I rushed a lot of the earlier songs to completion, and I wasn’t always happy with the way they turned out.
SMC – Indeed you have created music under the moniker ‘Billy J Bryan and the Ax Grinders’ – tell us about the name and how that came about…
Robert – When I first started out playing guitar, I didn’t really have any kids my age that were interested in music, let alone any that could play an instrument. I was thirteen years old. Naturally I ended up gravitating towards older musicians. These guys invariably would party more than they rehearsed, and they almost never wrote any original material because they were stoned or drunk all the time, and often they couldn’t remember what day it was, let alone remember my name. They’d call me Billy, or Joey, or Brian, or any number of names, with these three being the most often used. And when it came time for me to record and get my own music out there, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do this under my own name, so I put all three names together, added a fictitious back-up band, The Ax Grinders, and that was it. I thought I had come up with a name that nobody would have ever used before. I was so wrong!
SMC – Can you give us a career timeline in terms of when you began creating your music and that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when you knew music would always be a part of your life/career path?
Robert – I don’t think I’ve ever had that “Aha” moment you are referring to. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. My grandfather used to build custom acoustic guitars for musicians in NYC way before I was even born. So I was exposed to music and musicians from a very early age. Once I heard about the music of The Beatles and Elvis, through older cousins, I was hooked. When I was 13 my mom bought me my first real guitar. I basically started writing music at about that time, and I accumulated a pretty large stockpile of songs that I’d written by the time I was eighteen years old. Nobody that I played with was writing their own music, so my music was it. If we played somewhere, anywhere, we did a bunch of cover songs, and the only originals we would play would be the ones I had written. I didn’t have a lot of confidence back then in my songwriting, but even still, people would ask to hear my songs, which always amazed me. And it wasn’t till recently that I even considered the possibility that music might someday play an even larger part of my life. Whether I could make a living at it was another thing entirely. But music will undoubtedly always be a part of my life.
SMC – You are also a prolific and esteemed writer (we will get into your work as an Author next) – have you written songs for others? Who and where can we find them?
Robert – Actually, you may come across music online that is written by me that appears to be performed by others, but it’s really just me. I have recorded under the names – Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders, Bobby Smith & the Space Machine, Jimmy Deil, The Charismatic Asthmatics, Spit Bucket Disaster, among others, but it’s all me. My goal is to write songs that others can cover, but I didn’t always have the confidence in my songwriting skills to approach other artists regarding this.
SMC – Do you consider yourself a Frontman or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?
Robert – Many times by default I ended up having to “look like” the frontman in bands that I played in, but that wasn’t my choice, and it’s not what I preferred. One of my idols was Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, and I was always amazed at how he could command the attention of everyone at his concerts by playing the guitar. He never sang a note, but all eyes were always on him and what he was doing with his guitar. His theatrics and his mastery of the instrument was mesmerizing. I always dreamed of being able to play that well, but no, I don’t consider myself a frontman and I do prefer to operate more behind the scenes.
SMC – When creating your music, where do you feel most in your element?
Robert – I am most in my element when I’m writing music on the guitar. I play a few instruments, and when you are a one-man band, you kind of have to be able to focus on what you’re doing, and I feel I do that best with the guitar.
SMC – What do you have coming musically in the next 3-6 months?
Robert – I have a lot more of my older music that I want to re-record. Many of them were done on analog machines, and many were rushed, and the sound quality wasn’t good enough, and consequently, I wasn’t always happy overall with the way they turned out. I have quite a bit of older material to convert that way, but I am always writing new material as well, and I’d like to continue doing more of that. I’d also like to collaborate with other musicians. I’ve had musicians ask me recently, and I have not had the time to do so as of yet, but it’s something I definitely would like to do.
SMC – Have you performed live? If so, where and which was your favorite venue?
Robert – Yes, I started out performing live. My very first memories were of performing informally for friends at parties and other gatherings. I played at a college once. I guess the one place that stands out, probably because it was kind of a traumatic experience was a strip club in Manhattan called West, when I was sixteen years old. I was always concerned that I was going to be found out and get arrested. I performed at a place in Queens called The Rainbow. Lots of bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies performed there. They had photos of many of the bands hanging on the walls. I think I remember a Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons photo there. I can’t remember anybody else offhand. I knew a girl that had a band and she needed a guitarist when she played at CBGB down in the Bowery, and I played with her and her band. Just about all of the clubs, bars or other places in New York City and New Jersey that I performed at are no longer in existence. They either went out of business, or have been replaced by clubs that now cater to other genres of music. And the thing about performing live is, while I enjoy it, and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else than from a live crowd, I suffer from stage fright. I’m extremely shy, and if I had my way, I’d prefer to write and record over playing live.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received to date for your music?
Robert – Without a doubt it’s the support that I’ve gotten. I’d have to say that my experiences with Internet Radio stations, like EGH Radio, Open The Door Radio and KB Radio have given me an amazing amount of support, and have been a great boost to my confidence. Your interest in my music at Starlight Music Chronicles has to easily rank up there as the best that has come my way. I don’t do very many interviews at all, but I have done a few. However, I have not yet come across an interview as indepth or as interesting as yours, and the truth is, an interesting interview can make an unknown band or artist sound even more interesting. So I appreciate this support. I’m not sure that anyone that is not an Independent musician can understand how difficult it can be to carrying on doing what you love to do without support. For many, the financial rewards are years away, if they’ll ever come, and finding support in any way you can is often the only positive feedback most of us will ever get.
SMC – I was absolutely thrilled to read your book ‘Temporary Angels’! There is a lot that I can personally relate to with regards to what was mentioned or discussed in your book. Often, there are many who won’t speak out about their ‘ability’ to see entities or even visuals such as you have! Can you tell us who or what encouraged you to step out and write this book?
Robert – I think I had gotten to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose in writing ‘Temporary Angels’. This was something that I struggled with for most of my life, and I think my main goal in writing ‘Temporary Angels’, whether a reader believes what they’re reading or not, is that I believe we should always keep an open mind to everything in this world. We all have a role to play in this life, and in being open to things, we can then be more prepared to behave the way we should when our opportunity to act as a Temporary Angel arrives. There is a lot more in this world that we never see because we close ourselves off. We refuse to see. This world is a constant source of stimulation, knowledge and wonder, and if people would just be open to it, the possibilities could be endless. And for those that already do see, being able to see should not be a point of embarrassment or shame.
SMC – There are many books you have penned. Can you tell me which one was the most enjoyable to write?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has to be up there with being one of my favorites. I actually found it more of a challenge to write a complete story in the span of 1500 words or less than if I had written a book of 150,000 words. To be able to get your message across to your target audience under these strict guidelines was more difficult than I had imagined. I also have always loved art – painting, sketching, drawing, sculpture, and more, and combining the story and the artwork in this book was an amazing experience.
SMC – Which book has received the most traction in the writing community?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has gotten a great amount of traction, perhaps the most of all my books so far. It’s been the subject of a number of book reviews. It was featured on a CBS-TV news affiliate piece on children’s picture books in St Louis. Grammar school classes have read it as part of reading initiatives. My cousin is a school teacher in Brooklyn. One time just before Christmas a few years back, she read the book to her class. She asked me to make an appearance there, and I reluctantly agreed. The kids loved the book and asked some really observant questions. For the adult romance market, I wrote a book called ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ – it’s the story about a woman that’s frustrated with her life, and one day, seemingly out of the blue, she receives an unusual inheritance, and through it she gets a second chance at life. It’s been just as popular as ‘The Christmas Mouse’.
SMC – You have also won awards for your writing. Can you tell us which ones and when?
Robert – I’ve had poetry win some awards. I don’t remember exactly which poems these actually were. I quit submitting my material for consideration when three of my poems took prizes in Vandoelecht’s Annual Poetry Contest in 1994. I was happy to win, but it felt absurd to have my poems win first, third and eleventh prizes, and I haven’t submitted my material to any contests since. Instead, my poetry has appeared in a few anthologies, including one entitled ‘Thoughts Of Christmas’ that featured poets such as Jane Yolen, Angie Monnens, and many more. I was also a regular contributor of poetry, short stories and artwork to a very influential national magazine called ‘Wicked Mystic’. Some of my poetry was a part of ‘The Poe Pulpit’, a magazine that published poetry, short stories, and artwork that was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.
SMC – Your poetry is brilliant. I have already begun reading (when I am not distracted LOL) your book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. So far, ‘Dream, The Mariner Did’ is my favorite. Can you tell us which poem is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – Thank you very much for the awesome compliment. I like that poem, too. I think most of us feel like the mariner, in search of many things in this life. I think that’s why it may appeal to readers. I have a number of favorites from that collection, but if I had to choose two, one would be ‘The Ghost Of Endale Arch’. I wrote that poem about a Revolutionary War battle that took place just blocks from where I live. It was The Battle Of Long Island, and I found it fascinating that I was walking along the same cobblestone streets that soldiers from the 1700s walked upon. The other poem is about a baby sparrow that died accidentally when it got tangled in some nesting material and never got the chance to beautify this world with its song, called, ‘Hanging By A Thread’.
SMC – Can you tell us what time of day you feel most creative?
Robert – I am constantly feeliing “inspired” to write, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do so during the daytime. I’ll be out running errands or doing something where I am away from my computer or a notebook, and I’ll have to jot things down on napkins or little pieces of paper, so that I can remember something that has come to me, or has inspired me to work on something. Usually I’m most creative towards the evening and at night when there are fewer distractions and I can focus on what I need to do.
SMC – What makes you wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I think I want to write a book!’? At least, what sparks that creativity and desire to create within you?
Robert – My compulsion to write, whether it’s poetry, lyrics, scripts, or stories is chronic rather than acute. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments yet. I just always remember wanting to read, write stories, write songs, write poetry or create artwork. I think I’ve always had the desire, and from an early age I started writing. I didn’t have any one moment when I told myself “now is the time!” I just started writing. I’ve always had lots of ideas for material. My writing was all silly to begin with, but it was ambitious. I remember writing a script about ghosts appearing at a seance when I was nine years old. In general, I try to write, no matter what I’m writing, whether it’s a short story, novel, script or a song – to write something I’d like to read, see or hear. I would have to say that obviously my writing is inspired by something, and if anything, it has to be the writings of others. I guess I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that’s what motivates me.
SMC – What projects are you currently working on?
Robert – I’m usually working on a few things at once. I’ve always worked this way. That’s why it sometimes seems as if I will suddenly come out with a lot of material all at once. I am always working on new music. I just recently got three of my books out of book contracts that they were in because I wasn’t satisfied with how they had been edited or promoted, so I re-edited those and had them re-released online. I’m currently working on new music and a script. And from time to time I am working on art, but that’s usually done these days as part of a bigger project. I don’t always have the time to do the things I want to do, so I have to pick and choose. When I need to relax and recharge, art is usually my choice of therapy.
SMC – You also write screen plays! Can you tell us which ones and what kind of interest or traction you have gotten from them?
Robert – I’ve had about a dozen scripts that have been produced. Some aired on TV. Some screened at festivals, salons, bars, and clubs. I wasn’t always happy with how they turned out, so I generally don’t talk about them, but one of my favorites was called, ‘Waiting For Eugene’. It was a romantic dramedy about a couple of late bloomers that meet and fall in love. They had been waiting to fall in love with the right person, it seems, their entire lives. But they’re also career people, and when Eugene is offered an out-of-town promotion, he feels compelled to take it, even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Dolores, behind, who also puts a good bit of emphasis on her career. It was filmed in New York, with scenes shot in Central Park, and it screened at Arlene’s Grocery, sandwiched in between short films that included cast members John Belushi and Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live. To be sandwiched in between these legends was really a highlight for me.
SMC – You had mentioned to me once about a script you were working on that was mentioned by major media – even the New York Times. Can you tell us about that project?
Robert – I was working with a New York producer that was actually focusing on several projects at the same time. I wrote a script for one of the projects that was called, ‘No Safe Haven’. It was about the “Honor Rape” of a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi or Mukhtar Mai. This producer and I actually met Mukhtaran Bibi and her handlers at Trump International Hotel and Tower the same week that she was in New York to speak at the United Nations, and the same time she had visited with President Bush in Washington. It was an amazing meeting and would have made for a really interesting and revealing story, but the project is still currently not in production after many years. Other producers became interested in developing her story, and amidst a very turbulent and violent atmosphere back in Pakistan, interest quickly faded. From what I was told, there were lots of threats made against Mukhtaran’s life, and government officials eventually made concessions, bringing electricity, a school, and fresh drinking water to Mukhtaran’s village, and the story soon disappeared from the public eye, after initially focusing a glaring eye on the practice of honor rape and honor killings in the Muslim world. The other project ended in a scandal and lawsuits, so I also tend not to mention these projects too much anymore. Producers and production companies tend to steer clear of people associated with lawsuits and certainkinds of controversy. They are all about controversy when it sells tickets and fills theaters, but when the controversy hinders production and profits, you can become industry poison.
SMC – Which ‘stories’ do you naturally gravitate toward when you write scripts?
Robert – I enjoy writing comedies and romance stories the most. But in my experiences, the demand for police dramas or police procedurals, and mob stories, far out-weigh the demand for anything else. And when you’re first starting out, you need to write what production companies are interested in, or you won’t get anything produced. I find these genres to be way too formulaic for my taste, but I have still managed to write several screenplays that bend these rules enough so that I was satisfied with what I ended up writing.
SMC – What has your writing meant to you personally?
Robert – My writing, whether it was writing songs, poetry, short stories or novels, have always been a way for me to express myself, even when I was too shy to express myself in other ways – such as in conversation. Because I was always so painfully introverted, I’d often turn to my writings in order to get my point across. And initially I was the only one that was reading my writings until I got my first poem published when I was 18 years old. The feedback I received from that made me hungry to want to express myself even more. My writing literally saved my life, in this respect. Without any sort of outlet, life would have seemed otherwise hopeless and meaningless.
SMC – What message(s) or subject(s) are you drawn to writing about?
Robert – I write about anything that fascinates me. Because I think that if a certain subject is interesting to me, that it will be interesting to others. As for messages, I leave that for the reader to find and interpret in any way they wish. I don’t specifically try to embed messages in my writing. Instead, details can be extrapolated by the reader. If they wish to see these things as messages, then that’s fine. But it’s totally up to them.
SMC – Do you get a lot of requests for ‘The Christmas Mouse’ book during the Holiday season?
Robert – I do. Most people don’t realize that I don’t actually sell the book myself. I have a publisher, yet they always write to me in order to get copies. And by the time Halloween rolls around it’s already difficult to purchase paperback copies of the book and have them delivered in time for Christmas. The publisher gets backlogged, and there is a “lag time” when people wait till the last minute to try and get a copy. The eBook version is also available, and it is delivered to a customer’s device within minutes, but the paperback version, which is the version that most people want, needs to be ordered with the time it takes for it to be printed and physically delivered in mind. I can’t tell you how many times people have turned to me to request the paperback version of the book just days before Christmas. Even I can’t get a copy that quickly.
SMC – I have read ‘Temporary Angels’ and I know that you are a gifted ‘see-er’. Is there one memory that stands out in your mind that is a positive experience that you haven’t written about in your book?
Robert – ‘Temporary Angels’ was actually twice the size it ended up being. Many powerful stories and examples were edited out. The reason they were edited out had to do with the nature of the experiences and believability. Some sections were just too personal for me to put out there at this time. And I think that other chapters would have fallen on deaf ears. I think what I ended up including was the right mix and amount of information for what I had in mind when I sought to have that material published. I think that one day soon I may release a version that includes more of what I kept out. I think the time may soon be right for that.
SMC – Which of all your publications (books) is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – That’s a tough one. I like certain things about each of my books for different reasons. There is always something about a project that endears it to me, and each one of my projects, even the ones that I’m not totally happy with have some redeeming value to me. ‘The Christmas Mouse’ and ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ are favorites. One was my first successful children’s picture book, and the other was my first successful adult novel. I like ‘Million Dollar Harry’ because it captures a lot of what it was like growing up in Brooklyn.
SMC – Who is your personal favorite Author and why? I know as a writer myself, it’s always hard to narrow it down to one, but perhaps you can tell us of a few you like from each category?
Robert – Yes, it’s very difficult for me to narrow things down to just one of anything. In writing, I’ve enjoyed reading Steinbeck. I read his books as a grammar school student – he’s full of detail, humor, local flavor, mysticism, and more. Two of my favorite short novels were ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway. With both it was as much the style of their writing as it was the subject matter. These two writers carefully chose every single word, phrase, and sentence that went into their work, and made it seem effortless and captivating. One of my all time favorite books is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. It was her one and only novel, but it has something for everybody in it. There is drama, romance and ghosts. What more could anybody want? In poetry my tastes are equally enormous. I enjoy reading everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Milton and Byron and Blake and Pope and Poe and Dickenson and TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edna St Vincent Millay and more. I’ve also read Beowulf many, many times since first reading it in the 5th grade.
SMC – Can you tell us what the support has been like in the writing community for your work?
Robert – Writing books, like writing songs in America are about the same for me personally speaking. I find the only real support I have ever gotten from the writing community in America has been from the people who actually purchased my work. Just about all of my books were first published in the traditional way, by a traditional publisher, usually smaller independent publishers. And unless you already have name recognition, they barely promote you at all. After about three months, you are usually on your own, or headed to “remainders” – which is author hell. Over time I’ve gravitated towards self publishing for a number of reasons, the greatest being creative freedom. There have been times in the past where editors were interested in my projects, but wished to change them to suit their tastes. For instance, one editor wanted me to make the protagonist in one of my true-life stories be a major auto maker from Detroit that he had a gripe with. When I refused, he lost interest in my project. ‘The Christmas Mouse‘ was originally published by a small publishing house in the Mid-west. Due to the nature of small independent publishing it got very little promotion and eventually was published by one of the first Internet interactive publishers around at the time. That didn’t last very long, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life working with the editor of Electric Bookworm. But for me that kind of pleasant experience was rare.
SMC – You have also penned two children’s books! Can you tell us why you felt inspired to write for children?
Robert – I think that writing for the children’s market can be the most fun, and the most enjoyable, creatively speaking. None of the restrictions that you encounter as a writer in the adult market exists with children’s literature. Children find wonder in everything if they are exposed to a lot, and the way they come to solutions to problems before they become cynical as adults is miraculous. It’s where dreams come from. To look at the world like a child is to see the endless possibilities. Of course children also lack the experience that’s practical and necessary to survive in the real world, but in the world of literature, especially children’s literature, to think like a child is essential. As a writer, you are limited only by your own imagination when you write for children.
SMC – What has the response been to your children’s books?
Robert – It’s been really great. I have people that have written to me from all over the world regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. I think feedback is extremely important to anyone that creates anything. Sometimes it can be the only reward, and when it’s positive, that’s what keeps you going and wanting to write the next project. And it hasn’t only been children that have written to me. I get just as many messages from adults as I do from children regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. The kids tend to write student reviews of my books, which invariably end up in some online library archive, while adults will tell me about how the book may have rekindled storytime with their children at home.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received in terms of your work as an Author?
Robert – I think the greatest compliment I have received as an Author has to undoubtedly involve the reaction I’ve gotten to ‘The Christmas Mouse’, though I have had positive reactions and positive feedback to nearly all of the things I’ve written – at least from readers, that is. People of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed reading it, and how much they enjoyed the fact that it was like none of the other Christmas books they had ever read. Everyone tends to analyze the book in their own way, and I let them interpret things as they see it.
SMC – Your book ‘Exterminance Cometh’ is a very profound book and it is spoken about in your other book ‘Temporary Angels’ – can you tell us about it a little more? I know it is somewhat of a prophetic written piece…
Robert – ‘Exterminance Cometh’ was a recurring dream I had been having that in its unedited form bore a remarkable resemblance to the attacks of 9/11 in New York City. It was originally over 300 pages long, but I cut it in half. Ironically, there was so much in the material that I removed that I didn’t think anyone would ever believe could come true. The story at the time seemed so far removed from reality that I felt forced to alter the story. The book detailed attacks and catastrophes all around the world; struggles of many kinds for people everywhere; religious turmoil; a mid-east strongman that lived in an underground bunker; New York City in rubble – with skyscrapers being vaporized, and a sort of revolution that would bring about an African-American president. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, so I edited this last detail out. The African-American character still plays a vital role in “liberating” the citizens of North America, but he doesn’t become president. I had such a strong urge to get the message in this story out, that I had it self-published a year before the 9/11 attacks. ‘Externinance’ is the book I referred to earlier that a mid-west editor was interested in publishing if I would be amenable to making the villain be a major Detroit car maker that he had a gripe with.
SMC – In addition to your career as a writer and musician, you have also delved into film. I have watched some of your videos – pretty funny some of them, and others are quite compelling! Can you tell us which way you tend to gravitate toward in terms of style?
Robert – Writing scripts is so different from everything else. There is a visual element to films and screenplays, so a lot of the time you are writing to accentuate what you are seeing on screen or on stage. Many of the times because of this, it’s not what you write, it’s what’s in the direction that works with the writing to create the overall effect, and I find that a great challenge. That having been said, many of my videos are experiments and incorporate many different styles. I’ve enjoyed the styles of everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Penny Marshall to Quentin Tarantino and more. That’s why you’ll see videos on all different subjects. If I find something interesting, then I think I can safely assume that others will find some of these videos interesting or funny, too, and everything is fair game. I am self-taught in everything that I do. I never took music lessons. I never took an art course. And I never took a course in film or animation. So these are all essentially experiments and learning experiences for me. I like learning new things. I saw these as a challenge, and I have learned quite a bit in doing them.
SMC – You have several monikers under your film credits too such as ‘The Ugly Man Revolution’ and ‘The Cat Stevenson Show’ – where can one find all of your work in film?
Robert – If they can be found at any one place, I’m not aware of it. Right now they can be found at Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I believe that a few videos are also up at other sites, such as iTunes and Amazon, but other than that, I can’t say. ‘The Ugly Guy’ and ‘Cat Stevenson’ have attracted a good amount of attention. They say things that we all want to say about life and about the world, no matter how outrageous – one through the eyes of a house cat, and the other through the eyes of a social outcast, and because they’re cartoon characters, people tend to be more forgiving, and less judgmental.
SMC – You also wrote a compelling piece called ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’. I do feel that is a pretty powerful piece. What was behind this piece and your reason/purpose for writing/creating it?
Robert – I wanted to chronicle a true story, and also make people aware of a practice that still goes on to this day around the world. There is a sort of coming of age ritual that goes on where a young boy is initiated into adulthood when still a teen by taking him to a cathouse – which is another name for a house of prostitution. Often the boys will perform awkwardly because they’re still basically kids. This practice is seen as harmless, but it can often negatively affect any later relationships that the boy will have when he becomes an adult. It all depends on the experience, but I believe that a boy of 13 years of age just doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what’s going on, or what’s expected of him, and so there can be lingering issues later on. The actual events as they unfold in my piece are true. This happened down to the last detail to someone that I know. In 2013, ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’ was part of the Sans Diego Short Film Screening at The Producer’s Club in New York City. There were a number ofgreat films screened that evening to a very receptive sold out audience. My video also screened in Mexico City and in the UK.
SMC – You also have a pretty scary short called ‘The Homecoming’. I admit, I watched through my fingers LOL. Can you tell us a little more about this film and its theme?
Robert – Thank you for such a nice compliment. My intention was to experiment with a piece where one felt compelled to watch, even if it scared the heck out of them. Judging by your question and comment, something worked. ‘The Homecoming‘ is the ultimate warped love story. It is the story of undying love, even in the face of death. The male character passes away suddenly and unexpectedly and then literally rises from the grave in order to keep his promise to his lover that he would always return to her.
SMC – What part of the film-making process would you like to have involvement in or learn more about?
Robert – I’ve contributed to many aspects that were needed in film-making regarding the projects I’ve written or been a part of. I’ve written scripts. I’ve created props. I’ve done voice-over. I’ve acted in a few. I’ve written and recorded music. That being said, I consider myself an eternal student. There is always a lot to learn, and always things that a person can just not know about any one field or subject. I’m always open to being a team player and contributing as much as I can to the successful completion of any project that I’m a part of.
SMC – Your animated series are a lot of fun – this is where we begin to delve into your work as an Artist (which we will discuss next). Can you tell us what your greatest challenge is when creating for an animated series?
Robert – The greatest challenge is bringing it all together. I can come up with the idea. I can write the scripts. I can do the animation, and I can do the voice-overs. But it takes a lot of patience to marry these elements and still keep the project fun. And when you are doing this on your own, you can receive no feedback until you upload it or screen it, and by then it may be too late.
SMC – What platform do you create your animation still on? Photoshop, Illustrator?
Robert – It varies. Some of my artwork has to be scanned if I did it by hand, and if so, it can then be worked on using Photoshop. But a good amount of my artwork that’s used in some of my animated pieces is digital and was done using a mouse and the Paint program. Working on these is similar to artwork that I did using traditional methods, except no scanning is involved.
SMC – As an Artist, can you tell us which medium is your favorite to work with?
Robert – I enjoy working with oil paints, water color, goache, pencil and acrylic. If I had to choose one, it would probably be oil paint, but I enjoy it all. I have also created “paintings” that have incorporated sculpture in it – meaning, I will create a portion of a painting that will come out at the viewer in a sort of solid 3-D fashion. I will mount a particular piece, usually some part that is made of plaster, onto a canvas, as part of the bigger piece, and tie them all together.
SMC – You have also created and sold pieces to help charities…can you tell us which ones?
Robert – I did paintings to help raise funds for a local school’s art program in Brooklyn, where I live, which was very successful. I also did artwork for the Easter Seals Society of New York, and a number of other places. I really enjoyed being a part of these programs, and I’m always open to doing more when time permits.
SMC – Is there any painting you are working on at present?
Robert – No. Art has had to take a back seat lately. I enjoy it immensely, but it can also be time consuming in comparison to writing and music. And while I find it therapeutic in helping me to relax, finding the time to work on art at this stage is difficult.
SMC – Which Artist in history is your muse?
Robert – I admire so many artists, contemporary and throughout history. If I had to choose one single artist, I would have to say Leonardo DaVinci. I also admire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Pynkham Ryder, but DaVinci stands out for me, mainly because he did so many other things, and I enjoy doing as much as possible, too. He was a writer, a sculptor, a designer, an inventor, a scientist, and so much more. Trying to imagine what kind of a mind he possessed is often as intriguing as studying his work.
SMC – What is your muse today when creating new art?
Robert – Unfortnately, I cannot seem to find enough time these days to carry out the new ideas that I’d like to have committed to canvas, or whatever medium I’m considering. From time to time I will manage to get something done, but it’s definitely not as commonplace an activity for me as it once was. But I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to return to doing artwork once again. Maybe if I hit the lottery I’ll be able to do that.
SMC – What do you feel about the kind of support in New York City that is available to Artists?
Robert – Despite the fact that New York City is home to the Metroplitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as so many other great institutions, like The Fricke, or The Cloisters – I don’t know that Art for the average undiscovered artist has ever been well supported in New York City. I’ve taken part in some exhibitions, but I’ve never felt any tangible amount of support. Just as with anything else in New York City, a creative person has to take the initiative. Nothing comes to you in New York City. Just as with any endeavor and any location, one has to aggressively seek out opportunities.
SMC – With such diversity in your talent, can you tell us how you have been able to integrate it into every aspect of your careers to date?
Robert – Some projects make it easier to incorporate more skills into a single project, while others don’t always allow it. For instance, if I decide to write a book, it will be just the book unless some other aspect comes into play. However, if I write a children’s book, especially a picture book, it may also involve artwork, sometimes poetry. If I write a song, I know that at some point I most likely will be creating a video to help promote it. So the work may involve writing, recording and producing the song, as well as creating artwork, props, graphics, sometimes recruiting acting talent, and shooting video to go along with it.
SMC – What would you like to see happen for Artists/Writers in the industry today?
Robert – I’d like to see it made easier for new artists and writers to gain a foothold in the publishing world, in music, and in writing, for TV or Hollywood. A lot really does depend on connections in the various industries, and unfortunately many really great ideas and innovative writers will never see their work produced. The industry does not welcome new talent or any talent that they’re not already acquainted with, and because of that, we see many books with themes that seem repetitious, and in film we see remakes, sequels, prequels, and endless animated movies that involve dancing penguins and talking dogs, mainly because Hollywood is so closed off to new writers and new ideas. In literature, aside from the Harry Potter series, or a very few other projects, we see just how little interest children today have in reading. In music, the airwaves are cluttered with generic and formulaic product. I don’t hear all that much that is creative or original. Much of what commercial terrestrial radio plays is fine if you’re a teen or slightly older, but in my opinion, if you want to hear anything with substance, you need to find the local oldies station or turn to Internet radio, which is just about the only place that you can hear anything new, creative, innovative, or with staying power.
SMC – Which social media platform do you feel is most effective in getting the ‘word out’ on your new projects?
Robert – Without a doubt, Twitter has worked best for me. It’s fast paced, and in my experience generally reaches a wider, larger audience quicker.
SMC – Which social media platform do you think is most effective in general?
Robert – Again, I would have to say it’s Twitter. I also use Facebook, but the potential for reaching a wide audience is hampered by the size of your “friends” network. Facebook tends to discourage users reaching out to others with whom they have no connection. Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are also good for reaching out to your audience, but with these, you also have to let your target audience know that you even have material posted if you are going to attract attention. So once again, sites like Twitter and Facebook come into play.
SMC – Your book ‘Temporary Angels’ does delve into your personal life somewhat – can you tell us which events in your life are most profound for you and which have shaped who you are today?
Robert – Easily the events where I was able to be helpful to others have been the most profound. I mention a young Australian woman in the book that had gotten all scraped up after tripping and falling in the mud while jogging in the park near my home, that seemed practically invisible to others, even though the park was packed with people that day. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get involved, and I felt that I got as much out of helping her as she did from me coming to her aid. I find this kind of balance to be essential in everything I do in my life. Though things like this rarely fall at my feet the way that this one did.
SMC – What would you give as advice to Artists trying to ‘make it’ in the industries you have delved in?
Robert – I would tell them to not give up too early. If they have true talent and a real passion for what they ‘re doing, they should never give up. They should search out every avenue. Be as nice to everyone you meet as possible, because at the very least, you never know who may end up being a contact or connection somewhere down the line. I would tell them to believe in themselves, but to always stay humble. I would tell them they should not listen to those who with envy will tell you that you’ll never make it. In general I would tell them to be practical, and to persevere. If they truly believe in what they’re doing, they should never give up.
SMC – What does ‘success’ mean to you in terms of all your careers?
Robert – Success can mean a lot of things to me. Success can mean a lot to a lot of different people. Sometimes, for myself, success can be as simple as getting a great response for something that I worked hard to get completed. Sometimes it can lead me to another project or an opportunity to do more. Ultimately, in today’s world, success means recognition and financial reward, because it’s only with funding that an artist is able to create freely, without worry. When one is forced to choose between eating and paying the rent, or being able to freely create because they do not have such worries, it can be the ideal atmosphere for new and innovative ideas.
SMC – What is your favorite thing to do in your private time?
Robert – I have not had private time in years, but when I did have private time, I used to love to be outside in nature. I used to enjoy gardening. I used to love to hike and take walks. I used to go to the theater more often. Now it’s either Netflix or nothing.
SMC – What do you feel is essential in helping you feel most creatively ‘in the flow’?
Robert – I think that for me it is time – having the time to do the things I’d like to do is essential to me. Because of this, I jot down lots of notes to myself. I am always having ideas for new songs, stories, poems, books, and scripts come to me. I just don’t always have the time to develop them the way I’d like to. Now it’s more a matter of which idea or project seems more timely than the rest.
SMC – In your book ‘Temporary Angels’ you talk about how you have ‘given back’ to less fortunate people/families. Can you tell us which charities or organizations you like to support and why?
Robert – I tend to support charities that are local. I think that when you give locally, there tends to be less of the funds spent on the salaries of those that run the charities, than when you donate to some massive organization with thousands of employees. I think the more direct approach is always best. I like to donate to a local soup kitchen near where I live. My local YMCA has drives throughout the year that I like to donate to. I like to donate to animal shelters in my area as well. Just as with people, animals tend to need similar items. They need shelter and food, and towels and clothing. And giving to these is easy, and you can see the effects more readily and know where your money is going.
SMC – You seem to talk a lot about potatoes….what is the correlation? Why the fascination with potatoes?
Robert – Hunger, starvation and malnutrition are major problems at home and around the world. I wrote a piece about potatoes a while back that showed just how important Potatoes can be in meeting the nutritional needs of the human race. My article traced the origin of the potato from its humble origin in South America, where originally it was about the size of a human thumb, but over time, through careful cultivation, developed into a food item that is the staple of many cultures around the world. Accordingto the World Health Organization, many lives can be saved with just a glass of milk and a cooked potato, and implementing such a program would be easier than most would imagine.
SMC – You seem to be so supportive of everyone on twitter as well as other social media platforms! I see you tweeting so many lovely things about your peers. Thank you! What has your experience been like by engaging in this way?
Robert – The vast majority of the time, I’ll either get a lukewarm “thank you” or a “thanks for the retweet” – but occasionally I will make a true “friend.” I think people tend to either be wary of praise, or they begin to expect it, and there are few that are comfortable enough to accept it for what it is, and graciously pay it forward. Despite this, I still try to be as supportive of everyone as I can be, because I know how difficult it was for me to get any support whatsoever.
SMC – Can you tell us what being a part of the SMC Family experience has been like for you so far?
Robert – If my memory serves me, I have only been a part of the SMC Family for about four and a half months, but already I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support for the things that I do. It’s a difficult thing to continue trying to be creative when your efforts are never acknolwedged. And often it’is in the small gestures that we are able to carry on. With SMC I truly feel as if I’m able to breathe easy. I don’t feel as if the support I am feeling will be gone in a flash. For an artist or creative person that has always had support, this sentiment will never be understood. But for the vast majority of us, just knowing that you have the support of someone who recognizes your struggle is enough to make us want to continue, and to be supportive of others in our own way.
SMC – What are you most grateful for in life?
Robert – I am grateful for my dysfunctional family. I am grateful for my good health. And most recently, I am grateful for wandering into the world of Internet Radio, and ultimately finding you and SMC, and the group of supporters that came with these. This seemed to be a total chance discovery, but it was a timely discovery. Just prior to this, I was about to give up music once again. I feel that I am always one step away from quitting the creative life. There was a period just before I began writing and recording again, around 2004, that I had not played a single note of music for about ten years. My own personal experience for so long had been, “support of any kind for new bands was impossible to come by, and it was only a fluke that I started playing guitar again.” It was around 2004 that I was working on a few film projects that needed music, and it was through that process of seeking out and locating talent that my own interest in my music was reawakened.
SMC – Okay – final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
1) My parents met while trying to pick each other’s pockets during the Christmas festival at Grand Central Station.
2) Chuck Woolery is my godfather, once removed (using a minimally invasive procedure.)
3) My real name is Wink Martindale, but since there already was a Wink Martindale, I had mine legally changed to Robert Segarra.
4) My parents named me Robert Segarra because they loved that it is an anagram for – Sara Is A Great Robot.
5) I am a huge animal lover. (I don’t mean that I’m 20 feet tall or weigh 500 lbs, or anything like that. I just mean that I’m devoted to the well-being of nature’s creatures everywhere.)
Thank you Robert!
Robert – You’re very welcome! Thank you for this opportunity!
Robert Segarra BIO
Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
He is the Author of “STILL WAITING FOR THE SUN” – a lighthearted novel
that details the difficult life of an unmotivated woman as she receives a
very bizarre inheritance. With this unexpected windfall, she will attempt to
get her second chance at life – a life that she had almost given up on.
He is the Author of “MILLION DOLLAR HARRY” – A humorous novel.
Most recently he is the Author of “TEMPORARY ANGELS” – a true-life book
about angels and the after-life.
His poem, “HEAVEN” was also recently published.
Some of his other books are “CROW HILL & OTHER POEMS“,
– as well as the illustrated children’s book and perennial favorite,
“THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE.”
Robert Segarra is the screenwriter of a number of screenplays, including
“WAITING FOR EUGENE“, “A NIGHT AT THE INN“, “A SITUATION WANTED“, “BEAT THE STREET” and “AN ANGEL COMES FOR OFELIA.”
Robert’s music can be found at Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes and a number of
other fine sites.
In the early spring 2017, I received a friend request and private message on Facebook, and much like how I discovered the magic of Fashion Art Rock band Palaye Royale, the request was simple: ‘Please check out my trainer for my show ‘DK The Gig’”. Now, it must be said that I don’t always ‘check out’ everything that is sent to me. If I did that, I would spend the whole day watching videos and not getting any work done. To be frank, not everything that is sent to me is something I would post on our site anyway. It simply MUST cut the mustard in terms of quality, content, originality, and, of course, pure talent. With this said, entering into the (like-minded, I must add) comedic mind of Philadelphia born and based Darren Keith, was like having front row seats at the premiere of a Robin Williams film: it’s funny, unpredictable, thoroughly entertaining, and leaves you always wanting more. I am referring to his trailer for his upcoming series ‘DK The Gig’, and if you saw it on his socials or even ours and it lead you to this testimonial, then you are in the right place. After the first few seconds of the trailer, I was sold and I confess, I was laughing so hard, I almost fainted. Not even joking!
We were lucky enough to capture a few moments with Darren for this exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the creative mind of this comedy genius to discover that he is not only the funny man behind the script for this series, he is also the Producer, Actor, Musician, and Director! The series focuses on the life of a Musician whose career has dead-ended leading him to the stage set in his friends’ restaurant (based in Philadelphia), not exactly the place he imagined himself. The comedic value in this film is portrayed by Keiths’ very blatant and obvious unwillingness to appreciate this ‘courtesy spot’ (expressed in his sarcastic demeanor and over inflated ego), apparent right from the get-go in the series trailer. To quote the Facebook page for this series: “”DK the gig” Is a comedy series about a Musician whose ego is much larger than the Restaurant Stage He Performs On.’ If this is your first time discovering ‘DK The Gig’, we encourage you to check out the trailer (below) and THEN read on!
Keith has a stellar cast lined up for the filming of this series such as: Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns), Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), Joseph Arthur (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne), Fred Berman (Amos Lee), Four-time Emmy Nominated TV Producer Jill Gould(JillGo Productions), and Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies – See Barrys’ Profile below). After perusing the files of each of these individuals, I am certain that this series is a recipe for success and the high caliber individuals involved are the ingredients to what will be a masterpiece.
At present, Keith has begun an Indiegogo campaign to get the series into production. He is also scouting potential investors or Networks for the series and in all honesty, if I had my own network, THIS is the series I would place my bets on. There are a lot of shows on TV and Netflix today that don’t capture my attention past the pilot episode. It takes a lot for me to be engaged enough to ‘want more’ and this series, I predict, will go the distance in the right hands. I had the chance to speak at length on the phone with Darren where we went a little further in depth on the current status of this project and there was one thing we both agreed on: we are anxious to get the production started so it can be shared with the world! This comes with your active participation SMC friends and family – if you ‘like’ what you see and want to see more like I do, click on the link on our right-side menu on the SMC Spotlight and let’s get this show (literally) in the road! For any inquiries about this series via my brilliant network of friends, please contact Darren Keith direct (located in the socials below).
Editors Note: One thing I know about the Starlight Music Chronicles family is this: we are a collective of artists and creative like-minded individuals who understand the meaning of ‘true support’. I am confident that after reading and watching this special feature on our site, there will be financial backing and very possibly, a spot on a network for this series. I am THAT confident this series has what it takes to put a smile to peoples’ faces, bring humor to this often dark world, and to become a household name.
DK The Gig. Don’t forget it folks. You heard it here first.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Darren Keith, Producer, Writer, Musician, Actor of ‘DK The Gig’
SMC – Hello Darren! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! Let’s begin with getting into your background – you are a Musician and an Actor/Creator of your series ‘DK The Gig’ now. Tell us about you. I want to know more about your early career to where you are today and what lead you here where you are now the Producer of your own series.
DK – Hello, Candice! Well…I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I started playing music professionally at 15 and have been a freelance/session drummer for most of my life, playing for countless local, national and international bands and artists. I have even done the singer/ songwriter thing from time to time as well. I’ve lived in NYC, LA, Austin (twice), and even Branson, Missouri. And even though I’ve done a lot of things musically that I’m really proud of, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with music and the drums, and have even totally stopped playing many times over the course of my career, sometimes for very long periods of time.
Regarding what led me to what I’m doing now…the majority of the time I was a musician, for 25 years or more, I had this consuming thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a musician, but should have been doing something with my sense of humor instead…and that thought gnawed away at me for most of my adult life. Then something happened to me a few years ago, which made me confront this unrealized dream that I had been carrying around for all those years, and I knew it was time to either do something about it or to finally let it go, knowing full-well that meant taking it to the grave with me.
So, with no background, training, experience or connections in any facet of this process, I wrote ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode and started the long journey of figuring out how to do something like this, at the level I wanted to do it at, when you’re starting point is at zero. And when I say zero, I mean that I had never written a script (I didn’t even know how to format a script), had never acted, and had never produced anything…actually, I really didn’t even know what a producer did…and now I was a producer!
So, skip to a few years later and I finally release ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode, and the response was incredible. It was then that I really started thinking about the future of the show…not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but up until that point, the Pilot episode signified a life achievement for me…I wasn’t thinking that it had to be this or that so it could be shopped to a Network, or that it had to have an arc, etc…the main purpose it served was making people laugh and most importantly, proving to myself that after all those many years, the voice inside my head that told me I could do it…was right.
SMC – Who are some of the people you have played with in your music career?
SMC – You have quite the stellar cast lined up for your series. Wow! How did you acquire this stellar line-up?
DK – Thanks…I’m really excited about all the amazing people involved with the show. The first person I contacted was Barry Markowitz. Barry’s a legendary Cinematographer….he’s filmed so many incredible movies, like Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses and The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies. About 20 minutes after emailing him the link to the Pilot, my phone rings and it’s Barry. He says “I just watched the Pilot…it’s not just good…it’s fucking great”. He must have watched it twice because he knew the episode every which way and was reciting lines back to me. We talked for almost an hour, really hit it off, and he told me he wanted to be involved moving forward and shoot the new episodes. So…we were off and running.
After I found my wonderful Producer, Jill Gould, we started casting and were lucky enough to find all these amazing people, both actors and musicians, who loved the show and wanted to be involved, and they’re truly all great, like the actors Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns) and Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), as well as musicians Joseph Arthur (Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne) and Fred Berman (Amos Lee). And we’re not even finished casting all the parts yet…there’s still more people coming on board.
SMC – We have shared your enthusiasm for this remarkable series on the SMC socials but we definitely want to get more involved in some way by way of supporting your series from this moment going forward by keeping you current in our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. We usually like to chronicle the journey of many of our star profiles. What are your thoughts on that?
DK – I think it’s great. And I’m sure everyone really appreciates what you are doing. 🙂
SMC – How many episodes do you have planned for this series?
DK – Well, it depends on the budget we end up with, but I really want to shoot at least 4 of these episodes, which are all somewhere in the 15 to 20 minute range, and that will be DK the gig’s “First Season”. Most web series I’ve seen shoot a lot of really short episodes, but I’m insane, so of course I’m doing much longer episodes that cost a fortune, and without a Network financing it. And it’s because I really want to develop these story lines and characters….to create this universe and drop people right into the middle of it. And I think it would do the scripts and story lines a huge disservice if I try to chop them up into shorter pieces.
SMC – Do you have a network in mind for the series to be shown on?
DK – If I had a dollar for every time someone told me this show should be on a Network…I wouldn’t need a Network! I’m not kidding though…I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that ‘DK The Gig’ should be on HBO…or NETFLIX…or AMAZON, HULU, etc….and there’s many things I like about all of them. The most important things I’ll be looking for in finding the show a good home is finding who is the most organic fit for it, and who will be the most committed to preserving the show’s integrity and making it a priority.
I LOVE this! The true perils of a man who just wants to play his music…and its f*cking funny!
– Steve Lukather (Toto/Guitar Legend)
SMC – If you could choose which network to have the show aired on, which would that be?
DK – I am a totally food-obsessed person, so I think when all is said and done, it’s going to come down to which Network takes me to the better restaurant. And yes…once you put food in front of me, all that “integrity” shit goes right out the window.
SMC – We connected on Facebook. You had sent me a friend request a while back, then somehow, we disconnected and then I remembered your promo reel and I think I was tweeting with someone about you…or maybe it was you who tweeted with me. Regardless, your video cracked me up. I think I hit replay about 10 times! Have you always had this great comedic sense of humor?
DK – Thanks. As far back as I can remember. I always knew I was funny, and have always been able to make people laugh…really laugh…whether it was friends, family, or total strangers. There have been so many times when someone has told me about something funny that I did or said that stuck with them…even if it was 20 years earlier…and sometimes I remember, and sometimes I don’t. Those are just some of the reasons that made me finally do this.
SMC – Would you say that living in New York has lent the authenticity to your performance as a comedian who delivers his humor with a punch? I heard New Yorkers can be tough!
DK – I only lived in NYC for about 8 months when I was around 20, so I don’t think NYC plays much of a role in my life at all, even though it is still one of my favorite cities. I live in Philly, which is very similar in many ways and very close…so that is probably what you’re detecting.
This is great…
– Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam)
SMC – When did the concept of ‘DK The Gig’ begin?
DK – I would always think of funny things…and since I have probably played a few thousand gigs in my life, I would think of a lot of these things while in that environment, so it seemed like a very natural progression for my first show to be about a musician.
SMC – You have some pretty amazing ‘bells and whistles’ included in your Indiegogo campaign! Can you tell us which ones you are looking forward to delivering on? I saw a ‘Birthday Party’, ‘Associate Producer’, and the ‘You Want It All’ packages which are all great!
DK – Thanks! Well, I originally wanted to offer my body for a PERK at one of the higher donation levels, but INDIEGOGO’s legal department got involved, so I’m sorry, people! Actually, it’s fine, because the shipping fee on that would have made it a bit cost-prohibitive anyway.
Yes…I have some great perks. For one PERK, I take you out for your birthday (even if it isn’t…we’ll just say it is so we can get that candle on your dessert)…and for another PERK, you can actually be an EXTRA on the set for a day and have that very unique and amazing experience of being on the real set of a series. I also have DK the gig Shirts, Mugs, and a lot of drum-related PERKS too. And of course, you can donate without taking a PERK at all.
SMC – I would LOVE to sit on set and do a behind-the-scenes take on this show. Legit. I bet you all had a blast even filming the promo video for this series. How do you keep a straight face?
DK – You just hope that you don’t break and ruin an otherwise great take. But if it happens, it happens….just have fun with it.
SMC – Ideally, when would you like to film the first season and have it aired?
DK – As soon as we reach our goal and raise the money we need to film, we’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and shoot. I can’t wait for everyone to see these episodes…but the quality is paramount to me, so I always take my time and do things the right way, even though I want it to be out as soon as possible.
DK the gig is so damn funny, smart and a little raunchy. It’s real. I know guys like this!
– David Uosikkinen (The Hooters/Sessions)
SMC – Who has been most supportive of this project so far? Who would you like to give a shout out to?
DK – My family and my good friends…they are as supportive as you could hope for and have been amazing. And, I have to say that I have some really awesome and die-hard fans who have been so supportive of everything I’m doing, and they know who they are…and I appreciate every one of them.
SMC – In terms of your own personal perseverance, what keeps you going when there are challenges? We all have them and we all deal with them differently. I am always curious how everyone in the industry powers through….
DK – The self-belief and confidence I have in myself and my abilities, the love and support I have from those that are important to me, and all the kind words and support I have received through the years from those who enjoy what I do creatively….those are the things that always keep me afloat.
SMC – I would like to keep people in the loop as to the progress of your series – what kinds of ways can we lend our support? I have a good feeling this is going to be a pretty amazing series!
DK – Thank you…the response to the show has really been unbelievable and it’s nice to hear so many people tell me they think this show is going to be big (see industry quotes below). The best possible way everyone can help right now is by donating to our INDIEGOGO campaign, and then by sharing and spreading the word about the show and our crowdfunding.
While we’re talking about the INDIEGOGO campaign, one of the things I would really want your readers to know is just how expensive these episodes are to make. I came from the music world and have been involved in not only live shows, but in the recording of many CDs, both as a sideman and on my own…and nothing could have prepared me for the unbelievable difference in budgets between music and doing something in the TV/Film/Digital Content world. Making any type of video at this level costs infinitely more money than making a CD does. The difference is staggering. So…to do what we’re doing will easily cost somewhere around $70,000 or $80,000. And that’s why every single donation to our INDIEGOGO campaign matters. Even if someone can only afford to give $5.00, that donation helps towards the goal.
Well crafted and hilarious insight into the life of a musician.
– Derek Sivers (Founder, CDbaby)
SMC – I was happy to see as I was typing this interview out that you just made one of your milestones on the fundraising process of this series. I know it’s often quite the task trying to get people to see the vision you do, but – you have marketed this project very well. What areas do you think there are strengths or areas of improvement you would like to tackle for this project?
DK – Creatively, I am 100% confident in the quality of this project. The only area of improvement I would hope for is on the marketing/social media/PR side, simply because I am not a big social media person, and given how important that is today, it’s something that I’d like to see grow with this project. If there’s any heavy social media people out there who want to be involved with the show, reach out.
SMC – What makes a person wake up one day and say, ‘I want to make a series’? I mean, there must be some form of love for the art of film making and acting. You are wearing a lot of hats for this project!
DK – Well, that “waking up one day and creating a series” took me about 25-30 years! Yes…I created the show, wrote it all myself, play the lead character “DK”, composed all of the music, am an executive producer, and even did some editing. And besides the music component, I had never done any of these things before and had to teach myself everything. I had no idea how to edit…I didn’t even know how to import media files…so I taught myself how to do it, did the final edit on the Pilot, and then made that TRAILER that you saw that everyone has loved. It’s really been crazy.
SMC – I am telling you, I think anyone who doesn’t know about this project should! I think there are a lot of people out there who have deep pockets and I think they should dig deep. I don’t say this about too many people or projects these days because there aren’t many who impress me. That’s a fact. I am very selective who we choose to be on the SMC Spotlight or a part of Starlight Music Chronicles as part of our team. What drives you to do your best and keep going?
DK – First of all, I want to thank you for all the kind words…it means a lot. Given my unusual and unconventional situation and all that I’ve been through to arrive at this point, I appreciate it all and am trying to enjoy this journey as much as possible. I am incredibly passionate about this and have always considered myself an extremely creative being…and to me, there is nothing better than being able to make people laugh. Along with family and friends, those are the things that drive me.
SMC – What are the top five things that are important to you in the quest to get this project completed?
DK – I just want to bring these new episodes to life at the highest level possible and have everyone get to see the full scope of the show…I think everything else will fall into place from there.
SMC – What are deal-breakers for you in terms of getting this series completed? Meaning: what would you NOT do to get this film completed?
DK – Well, obviously I really want to have this series completed and would do just about anything except share my doughnuts…because I loves my doughnuts. The President of Netflix could sit down in front of me and say “I’m prepared to offer you eight-figures and commit to five seasons of DK the gig…and the only thing you have to do is give me half of that Strawberry and Basil doughnut”…and I would be like “How about five-figures, a two-season commitment, and I eat this whole doughnut?”
SMC – Have you filmed anything beyond the promo video as of yet? Is there a pilot episode you have already gotten filmed?
DK – Yes…I filmed a Pilot that I released in 2016…and the Trailer you saw was made with footage from it…but given that so much has changed with the show since I released it, and in light of these amazing new people that are now involved, I thought it was best to take it down and just use the Trailer until the new episodes are released.
SMC – What is the best compliment you have received from an industry peer for this project?
DK – Well…there have been quite a few that stand out to me…but honestly, I have to say that I appreciate all of them. Especially when you do something as personal as this is to me, it means a lot when it resonates with people and they communicate that to you, whether it’s a peer or someone you don’t know who saw it on YouTube.
SMC – How long does it take for you to write the script for even one episode?
DK – With the way I write, it’s impossible to tell. I don’t even attempt to sit down and write an episode straight through or try to finish them as quickly as possible. I like to write something, then put it aside and let it be for awhile…could be days, weeks, or even months…and then come back to it with fresh eyes. We get so emotionally attached to what we create that it’s easy, and often unavoidable, to lose perspective and objectivity. And since we’re incapable of seeing our own work through someone else’s eyes, which would allow us to have a different perspective and objectivity, the way I try to achieve that to some degree is through time and distance. The more you distance yourself from a creative work, the more disassociated and objective of a lens you’ll be able to view it through. And I think that really helps, whether that creative work is a song or a script.
– John “JR” Robinson (Drum Legend)
SMC – I am new to this kind of area of the entertainment industry, but it absolutely fascinates me. Pardon my ignorance for asking this question, but I would like to know – do you have the whole seasons scripts complete? Or are you working on these as the episodes are filmed?
DK – I already have way more scripts than we’re going to be shooting, which is a good position to be in. If HBO picked up this show today and said we needed 10 episodes to start shooting tomorrow, we’d be good.
SMC – Who has mentored you or inspired you to create this project?
DK – Actually, no one…I had to teach myself everything, every step of the way. I have had no formal education, mentor, or experience doing anything like this. I have made a few really good friends along the way who I turn to if I have a question about something…but that’s it.As far as inspiration, without question, no one inspires me more than Barry Manilow. Not his music…but his hair. Actually, I get all the inspiration I need from doughnuts. And who hasn’t? I guarantee that if you could get close enough to the Mona Lisa, you’d find traces of chocolate frosting on it.
SMC – You and I have spoken in chat about how it benefits many to bring this project together – what are your thoughts on the people who have really ‘stepped up’ for you with this project?
DK – If people are helping you crystallize your vision, why not let them benefit in some way from their investment in you? There’s nothing better than having people involved that are emotionally invested and who truly care about what you’re doing and want to see it succeed. You have to seek alignment…whether it’s how your personality aligns with someone, or how your aesthetic sensibilities align…whatever it may be, you should seek out those with whom you most organically align. You may not always find them, and it often makes the process take longer, but it’s worth it.
SMC – Okay, final question: what are five things you can tell us about this project that have made you really proud of it?
DK – I have to say that I’m really proud of it all. Once again, to consider what I’ve done, coming from literally knowing nothing and having zero experience just a few years ago, to getting a pilot made, making the trailer myself, evolving the show the way I have and getting all these amazing people that are now involved….there’s a lot that I’m proud of.
SMC – Thank-you Darren! I look forward to seeing you on the tube with this because that’s where it’s going!
DK – You’re welcome, Candice…it’s my pleasure. Your support and enthusiasm for what I’m doing has been awesome, so thank you… 😉
Social Media Links for ‘DK The Gig’ or Darren Keith (click to view)
*All content below is from the Indiegogo Campaign which can be (found here)
Hello people…it’s Darren Keith here and I want to welcome you to the new INDIEGOGO campaign for my comedy series DK the gig, which is about a musician whose ego is much larger than the restaurant stage on which he performs. This is a true passion project…I created the show, wrote it, play the lead character “DK”, composed all the music, am an executive producer, and even did some of the editing. I have been a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists/bands, but creating DK the gig fulfilled a lifelong dream for me, which was to do something professionally with my sense of humor. Now, only a few years after officially starting this journey and writing my first script, I am about to shoot DK the gig’s first season of episodes with all these incredible people that are involved.
THE AWESOME AND EXCITING NEWS!
Legendary Cinematographer Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies) is filming DK the gig’s new episodes!!! Barry loved the DK the gig Pilot episode and said he wanted to be involved with the project moving forward and shoot it’s FIRST SEASON of episodes, which is incredible.
OUR AMAZING NEW CAST!!!
We are so lucky to have these incredibly talented actors, actresses and musicians (and we’re not even done! More will be coming on board in the next few months) for the new episodes:
CHARLENE AMOIA (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless)
STEPHEN GRAYBILL (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns)
BROOKE TOTMAN (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens)
JOSEPH ARTHUR (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter)
PETE DONNELLY (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne)
FRED BERMAN (Amos Lee)
And I have a wonderful new producer, Jill Gould, who is helping me make this show as good as we all know it can be.
We are going to film DK the gig’s “FIRST SEASON” of episodes, and to do that we need your help. Some incredible things have happened since my first INDIEGOGO campaign that have made this production much bigger and significantly more expensive than it previously was, which is why we are here once again. It’s been estimated that this will cost over $70,000 or $80,000, and with your help, our hope is to raise at least $30,000 of it here on INDIEGOGO. As soon as we reach our goal, we can begin the work, which includes pre-production (scheduling, rehearsals, recording the music, etc), shooting the episodes, post-production(editing, sound, etc), PR, and then releasing the episodes online for everyone to see.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So, here’s the part where you come in. It is so difficult and expensive to do what we’re doing without a major network financing it. It will cost a FORTUNE…and as I said earlier, well over $70,000 or 80,000, which has to pay for the cast, flights and hotels for the cast, location fees, equipment rentals, post-production (editing, sound, etc.), production insurance, hard drives, recording sessions…the list goes on and on. So many people think that DK the gig has a very bright future and will eventually get picked up by someone like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, etc., so it’s extremely important to me that everything is done right, and we present the show in the best possible way to make sure that happens. You can help us accomplish that right now by making a donation, however large or small, because EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS. And please don’t forget to help spread the word about this INDIEGOGO campaign.
THANK YOU SO MUCH….WE CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO SEE THE NEW EPISODES!!!
About Darren (as per the Indiegogo Campaign)
My name is Darren Keith. Before creating DK the gig, I was a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists and bands. DK the gig was inspired by the 25-plus-year dream I had (while being a musician) to do something professionally with my sense of humor. It was something that gnawed at me for well over 2 decades, so to be at this exciting stage right now is very profound for me. This is the epitome of a passion project….I created DK the gig, wrote it, play the lead character DK, composed all of the music, am the executive producer, and even did some of the editing.
The moment has finally arrived! We are pleased to announce that our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) 2017/18 Artist of the Year, London, UK-based Hannah Clive has been officially launched on our website (see here)! We have launched this feature & her page in the same month last year when Hannah won our October 2016 Artist of the Month event – there is just something special about this month: Hannah is special.
In 2015 when our September Artist of the Month winner IAMWARFACE catapulted into the SMC music scene, many UK artists began competing in our monthly events. In the fall of 2016, IAMWARFACE frontman Matt Warneford nominated Hannah for the October event. It is ironic that these two top performers from the same country have aced our Artist of the Year events, but, we assure you, they were chosen by our Judges for their incredible talent! All our SMC Artist of the Year competitors this year and last were stellar – it was a very tough decision to make. For the 2017 competition, we had four voting platforms for the Judges: Best in Media Support, Best in Music and Instrumentation, Best in Fan Interaction and Engagement, and Best in Social Media, Content, and Branding. Hannah not only excels in these areas, she is the total package when we look at an artist whose mark in this very tough industry has stood the test of time. She approaches everyone and everything with a smile, quick wit, and even her favorite: cake! (yes, cake. If you haven’t been following her tweets, get on that!). But beyond all these personal attributes, Hannah is a woman on the rise: her music is always evolving and she continues to interact with her peers and fans daily which is very rare to see. These are the kinds of things that keep an Artist relevant and current and we definitely see great things happening for her!
Hannah’s’ page on the SMC website has all of her socials, latest videos, links to her interview with Limehead Radio, announcements and upcoming events or shows are located in one convenient spot. We encourage you to get to know our reigning SMC royalty by connecting and following on all her socials and while you’re here, check out our exclusive interview with her below!
Editor’s Note: Hannah I want to personally congratulate you again. I know that this industry can be challenging at the best of times, but you, dear, continue to surprise us all with your perseverance, talent, and ability to stay at the top of your game with your art and loyal fan base. Now, it’s your time to shine as our Official SMC 2017 Artist of the Year! Welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Exclusive Interview | Hannah Clive SMC 2017/18 Artist of the Year!
SMC – Hello Hannah! We are beyond thrilled that you are our SMC Artist of the Year! Can you tell us where you were when you found out you had won and what your first thoughts were?
HC – I was standing in the middle of a field having just performed at Frontrow Festival in deepest, darkest Oxfordshire, England when somehow, I got reception and took a call from Matt of (IAM)WARFACE around one AM telling me I’d won SMC Artist of the Year. I was elated, as were the other musicians for me, prompting singing late into the night with the Scottish contingent the Barstow Bats enthusiastically leading the charge.
SMC – Can you tell us what you think about online Artist voting competitions? What were your thoughts on the SMC Artist of the Year event?
HC – If I’m honest – generally speaking I’m skeptical of Artist Voting Competitions and other similar ventures like Battle of The Band competitions. I’ve heard horror stories from fellow musicians where they’ve been left out of pocket. So, I think a lot of competitions tend to leave a lot to be desired – they’re very good for competition organizers and their own promotion, fan base grabbing and connections made, yet they don’t seem to benefit the participants in any real way; artists who do work their a**es off, pushing the darned thing! I didn’t feel that about SMC Artist of The Year as I have built a relationship with you over a few years and you actually do cross-promote.
SMC – Can you tell us where your biggest supporters come from aside from the UK?
HC – My biggest group of supporters outside of the UK is in the USA and Canada.
SMC – Are there any people you would like to give a shout out to for their support during the competition?
HC – I’d like to thank all my ‘Queens of Ireland’ for their unfailing support, to Music Hour UK, fellow bands who’ve shared the love as well as to all my unfailing supporters. Last but very not least – last year’s winners, (IAM)WARFACE and all the ‘Warfarian’s out there.
SMC – Where did you first learn about SMC?
HC – Word of mouth via a local band of musicians (IAM)WARFACE.
SMC – Let’s get into your career – I saw recently that you were in the recording studio with IAMWARFACE, our 2016 Artists of the Year. Can you tell us what’s going on behind the scenes there?
HC – I can’t reveal too much but suffice to say Matt and I are writing new material together, we’ve yet to decide when we will present that. I’m singing and it’s all gone a bit James Bond meets Warface and Hannah’s smoky, torch vocals…and it really works – appeals to my cinematic background I guess.
SMC – We saw from your Facebook Page that you had recently performed live at a charity event. Can you tell us which festivals or events you have performed at over the summer?
HC – Well, when not attending to review them as I did with the Indies on the Jack Rocks / This Feeling Stage at Isle of Wight festival, I have been performing at quite a few! Starting with London’s largest one-day music festival The Hanwell Hootie sponsored by Marshall Amplifications – I know Jim Marshall’s son and now CEO Terry Marshall – he came down to support me personally, which was very moving. Then there’s been Into The Wild Festival along with (IAM)WARFACE – completely loved that. FrontRow Fest in Oxfordshire and there’s been the Bicester Round Table ‘Pub In The Park’ charity event, among others.
SMC – Do you have any events coming up that we can share with our readers?
HC – I was planning on releasing a new EP September/ October but I’m still waiting on the final production processes to be completed, plus now I’ve done this stuff with Matt – I’m in two minds as to what to release. I would very much like to release something new because fans are wanting it and it’s been a while – but it’s gotta be right in terms of my direction artistically. It may be I’m looking at another metamorphosis 😉
SMC – Being our Artist of the Year means having our support from July 2017 to June 2018. Can you tell us how best we can help promote you on our site? We love creativity and collaborations but we are also aware that our artists have their own vision on how they are promoted…what is your vision?
HC – So long as SMC are able to offer what all artists need which is their music promoted, available for people to listen to easily, presented in an engaging way and that the places where it can be bought are on prominent one-click-away display – really that’s all that matters to us music makers. It can be an expensive hobby so any investment we get from our supporters is enabling and always greatly appreciated. My vision has always been not to shout ‘BUY MY MUSIC’ or ‘CHECK THIS OUT’ – it puts people off. Instead I prefer building genuine fan relationships – I find that’s the best way to naturally generate interest in one’s music with music fans – and to be real.
SMC –We have Limehead Radio in the UK linked to our SMC Spotlight – can you tell us about your experience with your recent interview with them?
HC – I loved doing my interview with Limehead. They’re enthusiastic new music supporters and that always gets my vote! They have a good ear too for quality new music and goodness knows it’s out there and a genuine interest in supporting it.
SMC – Speaking of Radio – are there any stations you would like to give a shout-out to who have been supportive of your music?
HC – First and foremost all at EGH Radio Wednesday Unsigned Show with Stephen and Anne Lambert, and with Niki Tyler on Thursdays Unsigned Pop Show. Now that is a genuine community of music makers and supporters, where I tune in virtually every week. Also have to give a shout out to Gary Crowley at BBC Radio London (see below) for all his kind words and his support, playing my tracks twice now on BBC introducing in London. Additionally, to Gaby Roslin for inviting me on her show as a guest and to perform at BBC Radio London. But there is a plethora of independent digi’ stations out there I could mention – all doing an admirable job of play-listing new music, whereas nationals for whatever reason just can’t. Instead radio pluggers and corporates tie their hands. So, Independents such as Stephen and Anne at EGH Radio are seemingly the true Champions of real new music now – elsewhere it’s become a turn-style for the mainstream radio stations due to the sheer volume sent in versus available airtime for unsigned acts. The rest of the airtime has to be dedicated to signed acts and therein perhaps lays the problem.
SMC – Which Media platforms (aside from Radio) have been most supportive of your music?
HC – Social media is the best alternative platform and for that see Twitter. Facebook videos get a lot of hits too, more so than Youtube. I’m trying to branch out into Spotify playlists but they have to be the right ones apparently.
SMC – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team is in terms of the production of your music/videos/branding?
HC – Production I have my Producer friend Brian Tench who’s worked with the best including Kate Bush and The Bee Gees and we often use my session musician friends who all play on world class material elsewhere. My branding I do myself, plus I bounce artistic ideas off of Matt from (IAM)WARFACE – he’s an artist as well as a musician so he has that artist’s eye, I’m also looking at image with Mrs. Warface.
SMC – I am aware that you come from an esteemed background in terms of the entertainment history and your family (your father). Can you tell us about that?
HC – Basically, growing up my Dad was on the telly – a lot! He was in seminal British Television programming and films of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s including Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange to name but a few. Like the actor Julian Fellowes who wrote Downton Abbey – my father the actor John Clive went on to become a successful writer, in his case an international best-selling author several times over and a screenplay writer and I’m very proud of him. He had me late and died only a few years ago but I feel strongly that he’s keeping a close eye on my career as its something he always supported. My mother was on the Production side in Light Entertainment including seminal British music programmes like the BBC’s Top of The Pops, then after having me and my brother went into specialist VIP and Press liaison – so I have a very solid grounding in the Business.
SMC – Okay – let’s get into your music: Can you tell us which of your songs has received the most traction on radio?
HC – Oh goodness that’s difficult – they all have. Fire seems very popular, as is Kiss of Life.(below)
SMC – Do you write all your own music?
HC – Pretty much yes.
SMC – Do you plan on having any co-writes in the near future?
HC – I love collaborations and am always up for them. I like mixing things up I did as say with The Herbaliser on ‘Lost Boy’ (see belwo) or as I’m doing now with IAW – it sends you off creatively on a different path to the one you normally tread.
SMC – What is the song-writing process like for you?
HC – If working with others its quick. If its me I tend to get a burst, leave it for while, come back to it, tweak it etc. When writing it has to flow easily – if I try and force it the result is never as good. I have to have a buzz for it.
SMC – What instrument do you create your songs with?
HC – Good question. First it was piano, and then I didn’t have one (not particularly portable and I dislike plastic keys) so I wrote using the guitar for twenty years. Now I have my piano back I’m writing with that again and loving it – for instance Fire started out on piano and was then transposed to guitar.
SMC – Which instruments do you play aside from the acoustic guitar?
HC – Piano, flute, piccolo and tambourine – I play a mean tambourine (little known fact!) I write string parts too.
SMC – What do you admire most about other Musicians in the industry that have inspired you in some way?
HC – Their tenacity in the face of ever-dwindling returns! They keep playing because it’s their passion and Music chooses you.
SMC – Can you tell me whom your most influential role models were growing up?
HC – My Dad was a huge influence both musically and in the art of performance. Others early influences include John Lennon /The Beatles, Yellow Submarine was a biggie, Elton John, film scores, plus a raft of old school classic singers whom my Dad used to play on vinyl e.g. Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Peggy Lee – oh and Sinatra, but in this last instance that was more to do with the songwriting. My Mum who was younger than my Dad was a music influence on me too – she played things like Simon and Garfunkel, Earth, Wind and Fire – oh and ZZ Tops at full volume, at speed, with the windows down!
SMC – What does the term ‘success’ mean to you?
HC – Honestly? Being recognized for my craft and making enough money from my own music to pay the bills – anything else is a bonus – holidays in Antigua can wait.
SMC – How have you been able to juggle your career with home life? We see you always out there hustling and doing such a fab job of your social media!
HC – I feel like Zorba the Greek sometimes I’m juggling that many plates but then that’s what modern Mum’s do and I’m no exception. Mine’s just a slightly unusual area of employ is all, but no different than that in which I was raised, so it’s normal to me.
SMC – Can you tell us what advice you have been given by industry peers which stands out for you or which has influenced the way you do things now?
HC – Listen, speak less, learn – blend into the wallpaper until you have.
SMC – What do the next 3 months look like for you in terms of your career and new music releases?
HC – As explained I’d like to release something new. I’ll avoid the Christmas crush of releases but if not The Fall, then springtime 2018. Hopefully more gigs this year, the festival season’s pretty much over so everyone is prepping for Christmas releases and booking in for festivals next year. Plus, I’m managing (IAM)WARFACE now at their insistence, so I now have all theirs to juggle too!
SMC – Are there any tours or festivals planned for the next few months?
HC – No.
SMC – Where is your biggest fan base located?
HC – The UK followed by USA, then Europe – also very popular in France and Germany –, which is handy coz I speak reasonable French, and they like their chanteuses. I’m open to going there and it’s a good market.
SMC – What is the approximate age group your largest fanbase is?
HC – Actually, it’s across the board but mainly the 25 – 50 bracket, male and female – and they buy music.
SMC – Can you tell us what you think is total career fulfillment for you?
HC – Being known for, respected for and doing what I’m best at – singing, songwriting and entertaining people – and being fairly remunerated for that.
SMC – Which social media platform do you gravitate to most and why?
HC – Twitter because its instant and they don’t use an algorithm (like Facebook) to pick what to tell your friends and followers.
SMC – Which social media or music platform do you think is most effective for Artists today?
HC – I’m still working that one out – truth be told probably a combination of all of them. Fortunately, most of my fans actually buy their music on hard copy or via a music platform like iTunes; they don’t prefer streaming on Spotify because they enjoy the attachment, the sense of propriety owning a copy and its better quality. They know it supports the artist buying it.
SMC – What are your thoughts on Spotify? I know we had a discussion about that and I know this is something that most Artists want is to be featured on Spotify playlists. Are you featured on any?
HC – I am apparently – but its something I need to look at more. Open to help there!
SMC – Can you tell us when in your lifetime was your ‘Ah Ha’ moment – the time where you knew music was your destiny?
HC – When I sat at the piano aged 9 or 10, wrote a song and called my dad in to have a listen. He immediately started typing up the lyrics for me so I knew I was on to something – clearly, he thought I had something because he wouldn’t have indulged me with his time had I not.
SMC – Okay, final question: if you had not pursued a career in music, what would you have chosen to be?
I have absolutely no idea – probably a marine biologist or naturalist of some kind – an eco warrior. When not on stage I like good honest earth and living off grid – it proves a useful antidote to the plastic fantastic people one sometimes meets in the music business!
July 11, 2017 – The exotic location of the world class recording complex Karma Sound Studios in Thailand has been selected to host the next Superstar 101 programmes aimed at aspiring pop stars who want to fast track into the big time.
Multi Grammy Nominated & Award Winning producer and senior record company executive, Chris Craker (the owner of Karma Sound Studios), will personally be overseeing the month long ‘package deal’ for aspiring artists. During the 28 day stay at Karma, artists will have an album of songs written for them, they’ll be recorded at Karma, they’ll work with a top stylist, create video shoots, photo shoots and all the social platforms and a website that one needs, making the artist completely match fit and ready to launch! There’s more… Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG, Chris will sign the artist to the Karma record label and handle the debut release for the selected artists on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 other digital platforms in a global record deal.
“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a highend studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 programme – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
For a limited time, there’s a very special deal lined up for aspiring pop stars who would like to join the programme: The Superstar 101 Platinum package is viable for $100,000US all inclusive (reduced by half from $200,000). Within this fee the lucky participants will enjoy:
12 songs written and recorded at Karma Studios, Thailand
Two videos created for the lead singles + b-roll footage for social media advertising and marketing
Stagecraft advice and training
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat platforms all created, linked and populated with content +
A three month marketing campaign planned and ready to execute
All songs released in iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and over 200 global online distribution platforms
Applications close on August 1st, when the pricing goes back to the normal rate. So if you’d like to take advantage of working with the best of the best, in an amazing and exotic studio location in Thailand, send your name, address, phone number and a short biography + a link to a video of you singing a song to: email@example.com and the guys at Superstar 101 will send you all the details!
For further information please contact: Chris Craker – firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +66 (0)85 288 1696
July 11, 2017 – Songwriters from all over the world have enjoyed the famous Song Writing Camps and Retreats at the beautiful location of Karma Sound Studios in Thailand during the past three years. October sees the fourth of these events happening over the course of three individual weeks commencing October 9th.
Each week, fifteen songwriters will join together and work in teams of three, writing songs each day to specific briefs from major label name artists and A&R teams from global publishing houses and record companies – all of whom are looking for their next Number One hit!
Karma Studios is the perfect location for this kind of ‘Song Writer Retreat’ – with five studio spaces,
amazing equipment and facilities, outstanding engineers, award-winning producers and exceptional hospitality within the compound of this luxury five star “destination studio”, it’s impossible not to be inspired!
“We’ve had amazing successes here at the Karma Camps in the past – we attract a very high level of writer and producer, and the results are always exceptional… On the last Camp we were writing for Rhianna, Robin Thicke, Five Seconds of Summer, top acts from SE Asia AND we invited in one or two recently signed acts, each needing songs written for them. You’ll be hearing some of these songs on the radio anytime soon!” said Studio Owner and the host of the Song Writer Retreat at Karma. “People make new friends for life and the networking opportunities here are amazing. We’ve already established great commercial relationships, too, between major publishers and some of the unsigned writers that attend. It’s always fascinating to watch 15 immensely gifted writers bonding and creating in front of our very eyes…”
The cost of attending is just 32,500THB ($950US and £750 GBP) which includes everything except your flight to get to Thailand. We pick you up at the airport (and return you there at the end of the Camp!) and provide full board and accommodation (either on site, or in a nearby hotel) as well as all the facilities during the Retreat.
For further information, simply contact Chris Craker – email@example.com with a short bio and a link to some of your recent work.
Fun, creativity, networking all in the truly amazing location of Karma Sound Studios in Bang Saray, Thailand.
In the latter part of June 2017, I was introduced to one of the industry’s most notable, influential peers and music inspirations Mr. Chris Craker. Undeniably, Chris comes from a distinctive background: he was General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks, Producer of the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie “Interstellar”, with the Oscar nominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the 2017 Annie Award Winning score for “The Little Prince” for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne (of Kung Fu Panda fame). In April 2008, Chris resigned from Sony to set up Karma Sound Studios and devote more time to his own creative endeavors and management of a select group of uniquely gifted artists. Karma is now recognized as the number one luxury residential recording studio complex in South East Asia who’s first guests included three iconic global bands:Placebo, Jamiroquai, and Bullet For My Valentine.
Chris Craker has won numerous awards and received acclaim for his activities as a performer, recording artist, composer, arranger, producer/engineer, record label founder, artist manager, author, critic, industry commentator and strategic advisor. So, it doesn’t surprise us that he has plunged right into his projects at Karma Sound Studios with successful results (see our interview below). Karma, located among the luxurious sand and waterways of Thailand located just outside Bang Saray, provides a picturesque fishing village on the coast and surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for inspiration.
The accommodations at Karma boast 6 bedrooms which are all ensuite, four with private balconies overlooking the 60 sqm swimming pool and extensive gardens. All rooms have an in-room private safe and are supplemented by a massage room, small gym, and a private bar situated around the swimming pool and BBQ area. The outdoor dining sala doubles as a live stage area for al fresco pool-side concerts and the ultimate “unplugged” video shoot location. TVs/DVD/Games Console and full broadband internet access and a table tennis table are all available.
Studio One provides spacious recording areas (200 sq metres), consisting of the main live room plus a very large drum booth / isolation area that can contain up to a twelve-piece horn or wind section, as well as a large vocal and guitar booth, and two further guitar amp / speaker isolation areas. The control room’s centrepiece is the SSL 4056 E/G Series console, supported by a 32/56 I/O Pro tools 10 & 11 HD system, complemented with outboard by BAE/Neve 1073s, Millennia, API, Great River, Emperical Labs, Teletronix, Universal Audio, dbx, Thermionic Culture, Avalon, Lexicon, Eventide and many more!
Studio 2 at Karma provides the ultimate ‘Swiss-army-knife’ set-up for the modern songwriter/producer. Designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind, it runs Pro Tools 10 & 11 HD Native, Logic Pro X and Reason 5 running on a UA Apollo Quad with D-Box monitoring and summing. Both studios have access to a comprehensive sample library and the latest 64bit plugins. Mastering grade ATC monitoring is an unusual but welcome provision, along with Yamaha HS8s & NS10s, B&W 805 Nautilus and Aurotones. Outboard provided by AMS Neve, API, SSL, Universal Audio, Teletronix, GML, SPL, Radial, dbx, Empirical Labs Inc. and more, mean very few studios can compete for the price.
*A full GEAR list of equipment in both studios can be found (here)
I hopped on a call with Chris last week and we spoke about some of the future projects coming up at Karma, his collaborations with some of the worlds’ top Artists (whose songs are written at Karma), and the projects which SMC will be in support of by way of press releases, interviews, and video content on the SMC Spotlight and Starlight Music Chronicles website. We are excited to share the content over the next few months and begin with our press releases on Karma Sound Studios Songwriter Retreat 2017 (click here) and the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars (click here). Needless to say, when the website says ‘If James Bond had a recording studio it would be Karma…’, they were not kidding!
There will be much more to release over the course of the next six months on our SMC Spotlight so be sure to subscribe to our site and the Karma Sound Studios website (here)
Settle back for a few moments and enjoy this glimpse into the studio.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Chris Craker
SMC- Hello Chris! We are happy to have you on our SMC Spotlight! I’m going to get right into it – I have read your bio (here) and it goes without saying that you are THE man in terms of the music industry. Your career history timeline includes that of being Former Senior Vice President of Sony BMG (among many other exceptional accomplishments!). I am certain that you have hundreds of amazing experiences that you are proud of. Can you tell us of a few highlights in your career(s) that have stood out most prominently for you?
Chris – Probably the biggest highlights we working as the Producer of the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s incredible movie ‘Interstellar’ and the Composer (my friend) Hans Zimmer. It was nine month of my life that then cumulated in me also being engaged as the Executive Producer for staging ‘Interstellar Live’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London – a sold out show which we screened the movie with a live, 90-piece orchestra playing the score, and speakers before the show including Stephen Hawking, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, etc.…
SMC – I could probably sit and listen to your story all day (laughs), and I have so many questions that I am sure I will think of later, are you open to SMC continuing to support you by way of our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series? This is a chronicled history and timeline of your career accomplishments via interviews, ongoing support for new and current projects, and press releases.
Chris – I would love to be a part of this…thank you for asking.
SMC – You have worked with some of the world’s finest Composers and Musicians, which have you developed a kinship with and why?
Chris – Composers I’ve worked closely with include Hans Zimmer which has been inspiring; working with Lang Lang the Chinese classical Pianist was amazing and needless to say, it was a real pleasure having Jamiroquai at my Studio. Recording Leona Lewis was incredible too – watching how someone takes their artistry so seriously and setting super high standards for themselves…we all found her an inspiration.
SMC – Can you tell us what a typical day is like for you? Pick a day, any day will do.
Chris – Ha ha…I get up at 5:30 or 6 am and in the gym by 6:30 am the latest. Work starts around 8:00 am and continues all day with a mixture of either creative work or business/management issues with my Artists and colleagues. A normal day will include half a dozen overseas Skype or Facetime sessions too – which, by default, means that the working day is long so that I can coincide with multiple time zones…
SMC – I do know that with anyone in the entertainment industry, there is never a dull moment so I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this: is there any moment in time that stands out to you as an ‘ah-ha’ or ‘pinch me’ moment?
Chris – That’s a great question because it is odd sometimes when I think back to being in serious discussions with Christopher Nolan, Lang Lang, Benny & Bjorn from Abba, Hans Zimmer, Jimmy Page, and Actors like Dame Judi Dench, Michael Caine, and Christopher Lee – surreal really…
SMC – I heard you juggle between Europe, Thailand, and the US. Can you tell us where you feel most ‘at home’?
Chris – Actually, I feel most at home in Thailand since my studio is there – but I have family in London and always enjoy being in Santa Monica too…they are three amazing locations to spend my time.
SMC – Have you ever met an industry peer who was difficult to deal with? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Chris – Some Artists and Managers are more challenging than others and without naming names, I find the best approach is simply to be incredibly polite, friendly, and always do my job and try to exceed expectations. Then, if people are still difficult to deal with, it’s clearly them that has the problem! I try to surround myself with like-minded spirits and most of the time, working relationships are very cordial.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the music that is being created today as opposed to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Chris – I love what’s happening now – it’s just very different in content and the methods of creating are so different now. Also…the method of delivery to fans and the engagement with fans is so different from 20 years ago. I actually think the Music Industry is an incredibly vibrant place to be right now, and one of immense opportunity if one is prepared to think and act differently from the past!
SMC – Are there any other ventures you are involved in currently that you will be announcing at a later date? Obviously, I realize you can’t divulge full details, but perhaps even a hint at it….
Chris – I am expanding my Management and Label Activities. I am heavily involved in the field of Music Industry Education and have set up a new joint venture to forge that ahead – and later this year I will be rolling out a program that aims to help Musicians and Artists who have suffered at the hands of drug and alcohol addictions and giving them ‘Music therapy’ and a second chance at making it back into the industry.
SMC – What was your personally most rewarding experience from any one completed project?
Chris – Seeing Karma Studio open for the very first time and to see albums being created here that then have global success which changes people’s lives.
SMC – Who is your go-to team? Are you a solo thinker/doer, or do you like to bounce ideas around with your peers?
Chris – I have a small team of trusted Advisers but do most things on my own…the team at Karma is amazing – great administration and creative and technical support.
SMC – Which of your awards are you most proud of being a recipient of and why?
Chris – The award that brought me most satisfaction was winning the gold medal at an international music competition when I was just 18 years old. It was the first time I’d won anything of consequence and it really boosted my confidence to then go on and try to achieve great things in the music industry.
SMC – I read that you have been behind successful Artist projects in the USA and Asia. What draws you to Asia and where do you see the difference in the style of Pop Musicians between the two countries? Would you say Asia is more advanced?
Chris – we have amazing acts all over the world and the best ones are all unique. Styles and flavors change from country to country but I would say that I am excited at the prospect of breaking Asian acts into the west and western acts into Asia. That’s always fun to see cross pollination and true global success…
SMC – Where do you think ‘it’ is in terms of the future of music platforms supporting Artists – Radio, or alternative platforms like Spotify and Pandora?
Chris – I see Spotify dominating globally before too long. It’s an easy to use and very functional platform. I listen to the radio in the car, but more and more, I am enjoying having control of what I listen to on Spotify and then being surprised by playlists that others have created.
SMC – We often hear from industry professionals that the music of today ‘isn’t what it was’ 20 or 30 years ago in terms of quality. What are your thoughts on what the Millennial generation of Artists are creating? Do you share these same opinions of your peers in the industry to a degree?
Chris – I wholeheartedly disagree – there’s loads of great music being made now and 30 years ago, there was also great music and a lot of terrible music being made! Nowadays, everyone has access to very affordable simple technology to record and create which is a wonderful thing…then, as people develop their skills, they use the more sophisticated platforms on which to create and truly amazing music is flowing from Artists from all over the world.
SMC – Have there been any indie Artists who have wowed you in the last few years? If so, who?
Chris – Adele started out as an Indie Artist and caused a massive response from being truly authentic. I have also loved watching the rise to fame of Dagny – a Norwegian Pop Singer who has now been snapped up by Republic, but she started from grassroots and evolved as an Artist and is now wowing people all over the world.
SMC – For you, what do you find personal satisfaction in?
Chris – I love bands like Muse and Radiohead. I’ve really enjoyed live shows from Queen featuring Adam Lambert, and the Chainsmokers we fun in Los Angeles earlier this year.
SMC – When an idea comes to the forefront of your mind, do you act quickly on it or do you take the time to research and develop it?
Chris – I like to move quickly whenever possible! But I make sure to research too. That can be quick these days with access to everything we ever need to know online!
SMC – What was the most rewarding or memorable moment in your role as Senior Vice President of Sony BMG?
Chris – It was always great to see the younger acts coming through and making their mark. But, from a corporate point of view, seeing the end of the year financial reports always showing growth and always above target – that, as a result of making great music with our key acts. Also, ensuring that the back-catalogue was always being stimulated and refreshed and presented in new vibrant ways to the public.
SMC – Aside from Artists/Musicians/Songwriters, what kinds of initiatives or individuals professionally are you most likely to support or which you are most passionate about?
Chris – I take a strong interest in supporting mental health practitioners who help Musicians. Our industry is so demanding physically and emotionally and often, Musicians end up in difficult places. We need to look after them and ensure they are supported when the going gets tough, for whatever reason…
SMC – Last question before we head into the Press Release questions: What do you personally feel your greatest accomplishment is to date? Professionally?
Chris – Producing the soundtrack to ‘Interstellar’.
KARMA SONGWRITING RETREATS
SMC – When Mike (Rogers, mutual industry friend) had introduced me to you, he sent me a link to your website (here) and I was blown away! You are the owner of this venture – can you tell us what inspired you to get this project going? (for our readers, the press releases will be included with this interview below)
Chris – Having been working in London and New York for Sony, I really wanted to do a project that would get me back to making music and making records. I had always wanted to do build a strong studio and I thought about what the ideal studio should be. Naturally, there were palm trees and a beach location springing into my mind (laughs) and I liked the idea of being away from the real world in a tropical paradise – Thailand! We have subsequently developed these songwriter retreats for writers from all over the world to come and enjoy the vibe here. Fifteen writers from all over the globe, congregate and write together in the most exotic and inspiring location imaginable. Great songs flow!
SMC – What is the kind of work that goes into the planning process of these retreats? Do you have a team that organizes this for you or do you prefer to be hands-on?
Chris – I am very hands-on but we have an Administrator who looks after all the accommodations and logistics as well as amazing Producers working with the writers and programming them up, ready to pitch to major label Artists all around the world.
SMC – I feel that a studio in the middle of paradise is probably every musician or songwriters dream. As a writer myself, this inspires me to get the creative juices flowing just looking at the video of the studio (laughs)! Do you feel location for this project when you initially came up with the idea was essential to getting the creative juices flowing for the Songwriters/Artists? If so, why?
Chris – Choosing this location was all about the vibe. It was all about what would inspire Musicians. The world is full of studios in cities, and most Musicians have a set-up at home. We needed to be different and it seems to have worked! We are constantly full.
SMC – Can you tell us a little bit of history on the studio in terms of who has attended and whose music has been picked up by major label Artists?
Chris – One of the first bands to come (to Karma) was Placebo recording their album ‘Battle Of The Sun’ and since that time, we also have made records for Jamiroquai, Bullet For My Valentine, The Libertines, Enter Shikari, Young Guns, Heat, Hellions, Trophy Eyes, and amazing bands from Japan, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course, pretty well every major Thai act has been here too!
SMC – Is there one (or a few) Songwriters who have attended the retreat whose music has stood out to you or impressed you greatly?
Chris – There are a number…a young guy called Syps (Alex Sypsomos) really stands out and you will be hearing hits from him in the next none months, I guarantee. Also, Gia Koka from Holland was amazing. Also, Jackson Dimiglio Wood and Rich Craker have done some pretty awesome things too for major label Artists.
SMC – Can you tell us about some of the Artists who have had some hits that originated from the Songwriters in this retreat?
Chris – Well it’s early days, but we know that a new Artist with Avex in Japan (Momo) is about to break with a brand new single written at Karma. We also have songs on hold with Rhianna and Leona Lewis currently.
SMC – Can you tell us what kind of feedback the Songwriters who have attended the retreats have to say about their experience?
Chris – We have such lovely feedback – people absolutely love being here and they do their best work but I get looked after so well too…our staff tend to everyone’s every need and the whole thing is pretty idyllic.
Karma Studio & Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars
SMC – Was the studio built from scratch? What kind of details can you give specifically about the studio equipment and the studio itself?
Chris – Yes, I bought the land and built the entire complex from scratch. We have three studios – one equipped with a 56 channel SSL G+ Console and the other two are very sophisticated production and post-production studios with a mixture of state of the art and vintage equipment from all major brands.
SMC – Is this your first time hosting the Superstar 101 for Aspiring Pop Stars program?
Chris – Yes, it is. We are the perfect ‘destination studio’ for this kind of project. We can make such great footage here and shoot great pictures to accompany songs from hit songwriters.
SMC – Can you tell us a little more about the program and where it was incepted and why?
Chris – This is a program that enables a young singer with some financial backing to fast track into the business and to work with amazing people within a concentrated period of time. At the end of the one-month program, the Artist will have an album and all the video and image assets required to be marketed internationally. And with my connections at the major labels, we can introduce them to senior A&R teams in London, Nashville, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York as well as release direct to market via our own label linked with iTunes and Spotify.
SMC – Although at first glance of the costs for this program seem high initially, when one looks at what is offered to an Artist in terms of career advancement, I feel this is a valid and wise investment! Can you tell us if there is any other program out there which offers what you do or is this a first?
Chris – I don’t think there are many programs out there quite like this and when one knows that quite commonly top Writer/Producers are charging $10,000 – 20,000 a track, $100,000 for an entire album with two videos and two photoshoots plus all the other ancillary help is an amazing value!
SMC – You seem like the kind of man who is an innovator in terms of unique opportunities for the music industry. Can you tell me what the vision for the next five to ten years is for Karma Studio Artists or the Studio itself?
Chris – I do indeed like to develop new things, you’re right. In the next five years, we will have a very strong and innovative management company linked to the studios, as well as the label, which has already started but we are also very attentive to the ways that the market changes and so, right now, we are making it our business to work closely with Spotify, Snapchat, Facebook, and numerous other emerging platforms. We keep on top of the latest marketing techniques and ensure our Artists benefit from these…
SMC – What determines a successful candidate for this program? What are you and your team looking for in terms of qualifications/skills from the Artists submitting their music to you for this program?
Chris – It’s simple – a unique voice and a passion for success that matches our own hunger!
SMC – In your experience, what do you think makes up the components of a truly successful Artist?
Chris – Someone who has a genuine, authentic talent, who cares a lot about every single detail ad who works incredibly hard…there is now substitute for hard work and I love it when I see young acts really giving their all and matching our own drive and enthusiasm.
SMC – What do you and your team(s) hope to do in terms of having the Artists attending your program ‘stand out’ in mainstream music?
Chris – Again, in one sense, the answer is simple: we move heaven and earth to write and produce hit songs. One song can change people’s lives…
SMC – I read in your press release for the Superstar 101 program that ‘“There’s no real substitute for working with top class, writers, producers and engineers in a high-end studio environment” said Chris Craker. “Yes, we live very much in a DIY environment for most young musicians, and amazing results can be achieved with just a laptop, a microphone, a great idea and a lot of hard work at home in your bedroom. But, really, none of the top stars are working in their bedrooms on their own… they all have a support network around them, with amazing cowriters, talented producers, skilled musicians and engineers to help make the end results truly compelling and chart-worthy! And that’s our aim with the Superstar 101 program – to give young artists the opportunity to really have the best chance of success from day one…”
How do you feel your program is superior to that of one who writes, records, and produces music in their own personal space/environment? I do see that you have a lot to offer and I know that really, $100,000 isn’t much to ask for what you are offering in terms of services and the ability to get the Artist who attends this program the ‘established’. What do you think is the main benefit of the Superstar 101 program?
Chris – Along with the exceptional Writer Producers that we have on the team here, the other main benefit is the incredible links to industry that I offer. Yes, the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ does ring true and If we have the right Artist here, I can have them in front of the right people in any major city with the very best assets to ensure they fast track to the top.
SMC – Can you tell us of a time you have had an Artist come on too strong and it was a turn-off? How did you handle it?
Chris – Well, naming no names, we did have one act that had a lot of drive and very little talent, but was not aware of this fact. I love people with passion and I always try to help, but there does need to be a base level of talent at all times!
SMC – In relation to the last question: Can you tell us of a time where there was an Artist who you felt was grateful for all the hard work you and your team did in establishing them and how did they reciprocate this gratitude?
Chris – The studio name is ‘Karma’ and actually, whenever we give our all to people, they always reciprocate in some way. We’ve built up amazing relationships with acts from all over the world, and the best way anyone can reciprocate is by recommending us to others…that’s the greatest gift.
SMC – Where do you think this kind of program becomes personal and about the Artist and their talent/art as opposed to the business aspect?
Chris – We will connect with the Artist from day one. That’s when it all starts. We need great chemistry and we work hard to develop the best environment and conditions for a healthy stimulating personal relationship.
SMC – What has been the best collaboration with an Artist from Karma Studios you have experienced to date?
Chris – Wow – there have been so many! I guess we have been instrumental in bringing a young Australian band ‘Hellions’ into the mass market but working with the new guy ‘Syps’ has been amazing. Watch this space…. he is destined for the top!
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us about some of the dynamic or insightful experiences an Artist has shared with you about their time at Karma Studios?
Chris – The one thing that reoccurs from most of our most valued clients is simply, their gratitude that ‘we care’ and that we go the extra mile to make sure they have the perfect environment in which to create. The Libertines were especially grateful because we took our duty of care to the n’th degree looking after Peter Doherty (Lead Singer) for six months before he was ready to record. That’s an example of how our care and attention to detail pays off for people. They are now back playing major festivals all over the world, rising up from a long period of dormancy. It may well not have happened if they had not spent time at Karma….
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