a word on the new U2 album…

a word on the new U2 album…

Starting to notice U2 is getting some backlash for releasing their new album “Songs of Innocence” as a free gift to iTunes users. If you have an iTunes account the album is already available in your purchased music page or in the cloud if you store your music there.

I’m not the biggest U2 fan out there, but I do enjoy and respect their work. I haven’t listened to the new record yet, but I have to say I think it is so crazy backwards people are starting to complain about getting something for free from one of the biggest bands of all time. Whether you are a fan or not, you were just given a gift and it’s something to appreciate and say “thank you” for. You don’t hand back gifts to your friends and family and say “Um, not a fan of this, I didn’t ask for it, and how could you even dare think I would want this!?” No, no you don’t. You politely smile and say “Thank you so much! I really appreciate this.”

I think it’s hilariously sad that people want to remove the album from their library and/or iCloud account, and that Apple is now having to handle these requests… as if it’s taking up some kind of physical space in their home environment. U2 didn’t deliver a giant ugly couch to your house. They gave you the gift of music. Did we forget that anything digital doesn’t even physically exist? Nor does “The Cloud” – Yep, for the unaware it’s actually just a big floating “nothing” out there in infinite space where all our digital “nothings” are stored. It couldn’t possibly intrude on your life other than the unbearably action of having to see an album in your music library that you’ll have to scroll past when you come across it in your library (likely to happen every now and again). I can only imagine the horror of “Oh no, there’s that damn U2 album again! Gotta flick my thumb on the screen one more time so I don’t have to see it!” I mean dang, Apple & U2, how could you do that to people?!?

There are those reviewing and critiquing the album with a certain pompous tone, again with “I didn’t ask for this, so let me dissect and try to destroy it with my very special and very valuable opinion.” The truth is it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks of the album, even if you are the biggest U2 fan who ends up not liking it. You know why? It was a gift, it was free. The band wasn’t trying to sell you on buying the album and you have no personal investment in it. It was a piece of work they deemed worthy of sharing at no expense to their fans.

There are also those acting shocked, as if their privacy has been invaded, pretending to be angry that iTunes “hacked” into their iTunes account to give them something for (dare I say it again?) FREE. Oh, please… your privacy is invaded every second online, don’t act surprised or creeped out that a U2 album magically appeared on your computer one day (Nickelback, maybe). Personally, I think these guys who are upset about invasion of privacy are the same guys that rock out to Pantera but are afraid somebody will find out there’s a Celine Dion track in their music library… NOBODY CAN KNOW!!

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment and say I think it’s pretty cool one of the biggest bands ever has made this move. If we all went out to our mailboxes today and U2 sent us a physical CD of their new album we’d probably all be like “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” Instead, paranoid and irrational internet is taking over this generous situation and has begun to over analyze and destroy it. That being said, just remember that musical tastes change over time, and even if you don’t enjoy the album today, or you might not be a fan of U2 at this very moment, down the road you may want this record, and heck, you may even really appreciate it.

– Brad

Food For Thought

I saw a few things online today that reminded me how the majority of people value music these days. Particularly, there’s an article floating around out there titled “10 Things You Should Never Pay For.” Sure enough, the first thing on that list is…. (unpaid for drumroll please…) … Music Downloads! Yep. The article says “These days it doesn’t make sense to spend your hard-earned cash on just one song or an album where you can legally get an entire catalogue of music for the price of one album or stream for free.” 

Okay, sure, whatever — I get your “Ways to Save” trendy little article. That’s just, like, your opinion, dude — and honestly, I have absolutely no interest in lecturing anyone on why that’s terrible advice to those who actually considers themself a fan of music. I’m not going down that road. There are those that understand why opting to only stream music for free online isn’t a good thing and then there are those that can’t process the information in their brain. It’s not their fault, and I hold no grudge (though, I used to). For now, we’ll just leave it at that.

What it really got me thinking about was not necessarily the value of music, which has been a never ending debate for this generation, but what a PRIVILEGE music is to have. That’s not debatable to me, that’s just a fact. Music is a privilege. I started thinking about how a song gets to the person who consumes it and began relating it to buying an apple in the grocery store. You walk in there and there it is, BAM, an apple. In the same sense you hop online and there it is, BAM, that song you like. Of course those that are in need of an apple don’t just sit around in the store and wait for a way to get it for free. They just pick out an apple that looks good to them and they go buy it, straight up. The difference with music (being the apple) and it being available online (the grocery store) is that you have a choice to buy it, or go somewhere else and get it free. Either way, the apple or the song is there (“Presto!”) waiting for you like magic. 

However, if you start working your way backward as to how either of them got there you’ll (hopefully) begin to realize why I say it’s a privilege. You see, before it sat there waiting for you, somebody had to put it there. The grocer stocks the apples at the store just as someone sitting at a desk with a computer uploads a song to the internet. Before that a truck had to travel long distances to bring many apples to the store just as any music distributor service has to send out many songs and albums to specific destinations online (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, YouTube, etc). Before that a host of many talented individuals are working at some factory somewhere to clean, wash, and make sure the apples are ready for distribution. This is similar to the many talented individuals who are working in a recording studio (or music factory, if you will) to perfect the vocals, the guitar, the bass, the drums, clean up the sound, mix, and master before it is distributed to the masses online. And, before that you’ll find the farmer working hard on his land to plant the apple seeds, tend to the orchard, spend countless hours growing and nurturing the food to the best of his capability, to create a fruit people will enjoy. Like that farmer, there is a songwriter sitting somewhere working hard at crafting a song people will enjoy, who spends not just many hours, but a whole lifetime nurturing his craft. He’s someone aiming to get better and better and better so he can make a living doing something he deems enriching to people’s lives. When you think about all of THAT, and how many people are involved, how many jobs are at stake, how many talents are working in harmony together, you find it’s quite an undertaking and an important little story behind that one apple you’re buying for 99 cents, or a single song for generally the same amount. If you ask me that’s quite a deal for the consumer…

So, with that said (and continuing with my little apple analogy here!) as you bite into a really delicious piece of fruit you are completely enraptured by it’s flavor and how it makes you feel. You aren’t thinking about how much it cost, and you probably wouldn’t even remember how much you paid for it anyway. You’re just sitting there telling yourself “this is reeeally REEEALLY good!” That experience is priceless, it’s awesome — and it’s a privilege to have that feeling so readily available to us (in fruit or music form!). But, that IS what music does for people every single minute of every single day at any given moment. So, is it worth your hard earned money? Hell yes it is. But, I guess that’s just my opinion… if it’s yours too feel free to share this post 

Anyway, just wanted to vent a little, not really out of frustration but as a means to educate the uninformed. It’s important for the modern music listener to understand that the internet does not make your music, other humans do. It’s also important to eat healthy, so go grab some fruit, put on your favorite record, sit back and appreciate the good things you have and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

Have a good one,
~ Brad

Better With You 10th Anniversary

 Ten years ago tonight while numerous children were knocking at my parents door requesting tricks and treats I was upstairs in my room writing songs on my guitar. Sheltered away from the Halloween festivities, by the evening’s end I had completed a song titled “Better With You.” Late that night I recorded a demo of it and the next day began sharing it online with friends and anyone else who was willing to listen. I was really proud of the song and thought “there’s something special to this one” — not really being able to put a finger on why, it was just a little gut feeling, I guess.

Well, about a year later, by result of a lot of hard work and other fateful circumstances, the song was featured on a (then) new reality series on MTV called Laguna Beach. The exposure was grand and certainly propelled my budding career forward quicker than I could have ever hoped for. A year after that more Five Times August songs found their way into other popular TV shows and the momentum continued to build. I began to tour the country, play in larger venues, record in awesome studios and work with talented musicians I could never have dreamed of playing with. It also afforded me the luxury of, come full circle, answering the door tonight for little trick or treaters in my very own home while my son is upstairs in his bedroom. He’s too young to write songs on his guitar right now, but his beautiful mom is probably singing him to sleep anyway.

So, as I think back on where I was ten years ago tonight and all the things that have happened since then, I have to say I’m so very thankful, and so very lucky. It’s not all just because of the one song, but it definitely moved things a long.

“Better With You” is usually most new fans introduction to Five Times August. It’s also the one that seems to resonate the most and embed itself into their life the way a songwriter could only hope their music could do for people. It’s been used in weddings, quoted in vows, gotten people through tough times, and has inspired want-to-be musicians to pick up the guitar for the first time. When I’m told that kind of stuff by you it blows my mind. It reminds me why I love music, and why I am a songwriter. Those things, beyond all, drive me to keep going. So thank you for adopting my music and making it your own.

I don’t really have a direction with where this little entry is going, other than I felt this 10 year anniversary warranted some retrospect and perspective, if for no one’s sake other than my own.

I released a special E.P. for “Better With You” today to celebrate the occasion, it’s available exclusively on Bandcamp.com and features 6 different versions of the song, including a previously unreleased live acoustic version, plus bonus downloads of the official music video and a PDF file of the guitar tablature if you always wanted to learn how to play it. I hope you enjoy the collection.

Download it here: https://fivetimesaugust.bandcamp.com/album/better-with-you-10th-anniversary-e-p

Happy Halloween friends,
– Brad w/ Five Times August

Back In The Saddle

Studio RoomToday is the first time in well over a year I’ve had a mic set up in my room with Pro Tools running ready to record. I suppose you could say this is officially day one of making the next Five Times August record. I’m looking forward to finally doing another FTA album. I really haven’t released an entirely “brand new” album since 2008’s Brighter Side, so that’s kind of a big deal when you think about how long it’s been. Since then, the only full lengths put out have been “Life As A Song,” which was a collection of re-recorded songs from the two albums prior to it, and I also did a second installment of “Acoustic Sessions” in 2011. Oh yeah, not to forget the exclusive double-length anthology “Rare, Live, & Unreleased” which was a fun project to piece together, but exclusively released via Bandcamp. But all those releases mainly featured songs already released as different versions, so it’s going to feel good to put out a collection of all new material again. The “Where Did I Go?” E.P. released earlier this year was 6 new songs, but that was a side-project with a different sound. I’m sure I’ll do more releases for Music By Bradley James down the road, but until then I thought it time to “get back to my roots” as they say.

When I began writing and recording the very first Five Times August songs I had just turned 18. My approach was simple and quick and homemade. I’d write a song, usually in about 3 hours or so, record a few takes soon thereafter, overdub additional guitar parts, mix it and considered it done – all in my bedroom. It was rough but it was honest and that’s very much how I intend this next album to be, rough and honest. I’m going to get back to basics and essentially limit myself to my room,  the gear I have, and my own creativity and knowledge of record production. That’s not to say my knowledge is limited, but I’ve worked with and relied on some amazing talent over the years, and this time around I have decided to take that luxury out of the equation, just do it all myself with the education I’ve consumed from working with them. It’s going to be a challenge but an exciting one at that.

So I just wanted to drop in and let you guys know I’m back in the saddle again. I’m ready to create some new tunes and see what comes out of this little room.

Talk to you soon,

Brad

The Future Before The Internet

Mars

I wrote and posted this a week or two ago on my Facbeook but now that we have a new official blog I thought it deserved it’s own entry, so here you go…

Here’s an interesting thought – if the core of your childhood took place in the 1980’s or early 90’s you are among the last generation in history to envision a future without the Internet. Remember what that looked like? We were going to have hover cars, people living in space, molecular transport tubes that sent us across the galaxy instantaneously, and everyone was going to wear cool shiny silver jumpsuits. Now, I will admit, most of how I imagined the future as a kid was based heavily on a variety of family vacations to Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center between 1986 and 1996, as well as the movie Back To The Future Part II. Still, let’s all agree that by now we should definitely have a few hover cars sitting next to us in traffic on the way to work.

So what happened? Where are the shiny suits? The transport tubes? Delorean Time Machines??? Anyone??? Well, in exchange for that tired cliché vision we dreamed of for so many years we got the Internet instead. Sure, the Internet is great, amazing, revolutionary, yada, yada, yada. But, I think it’s a very anticlimactic future for our generation. The mere idea of “The Year 2000” was once synonymous with science fiction, but all we got in the end was Y2K and Napster. Thanks Internet, I guess. We used to look up, out into space, and conceptualize a world beyond our own. Now we’re constantly looking down, conceptualizing a world within our laptop. That’s the future we were waiting for? iPhone apps and games for social networking? “So and so invited you to play Candy Crush??” Ah man, what a let down. Pretty far from space the final frontier. Think about it. We have a rover on Mars right now, a planet we’ve never been to before, but nobody seems to really care. When was the last time your Facebook news feed was inundated with educational pictures of space rocks? Who cares about life on another planet? Like, am I right? On the other hand, have you seen that trending Buzzfeed article “21 Things “The Goonies” Taught Me?” It’s totally so true OMG!!

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I wouldn’t feel let down if we were using the Internet to better our minds and not numb out on what is mainly pointless drivel. Cat pictures, food pictures, porn, Facebook stalking, stealing music, peopleofwalmart.com, and arguing; Generally speaking, these are the “great” advents of the Internet. We literally have an endless amount of knowledge at our fingertips at all time and THAT’S the information that means the most to us in cyber land. I guess it’s entertaining, but, I don’t feel any smarter or educated for having the Internet. I just find things out instantaneously and most of the time the information doesn’t stick to my brain anyway. I think that’s why we clutch to our smartphones so much. They’re beginning to think for us so we don’t have to. That’s why if someone asks us an educated question we most commonly reply with “I don’t know, let me Google it.”

Our future did not include the Internet until it just sort of appeared and took over. For most of us it showed up in the mail as a CD labeled “500 Free Hours of America Online.” That frantic dial up static noise not only connected us to the World Wide Web for the first time, it connected us to our future. The Internet came in and said “Move over hover car, rocket boots, zero gravity housing on the moon, you’re not in the cards for these people, I am.”

So, our vision of the future flipped and became introverted. That once big infinite black universe surrounding Earth shattered into a million smartphone screens that now reside in the palm of our hand. Sitting, starring, ignoring one another, tapping on a small plate of glass… I have to ask again, this is the future that was waiting for us? I’d rather have a house on the moon than Twitter, I’m just saying. #futurefail

Weekend Recap

In case you missed any of my posts over the weekend I thought I’d share them collectively for you right here along with a few other pics that haven’t been posted yet. If you see a link, click on it to enhance your blog viewing experience.

"This is what being ready to go by 5:30a.m looks like to me." - instagram: bradleyjames2011

“This is what being ready to go by 5:30a.m looks like to me.” – instagram: bradleyjames2011

Friday evening I performed at Penn State University supporting the talented Eric Hutchinson. It was a fun show, good crowd, and hopefully I made some new friends and fans. Since I became a dad my touring schedule has switched from a constant travel back and forth across the U.S., to being home most of the time and flying out to do a few one-off shows here and there. I’ve been okay with that simply because I want to be here for my son, especially during these early years.  On the other hand I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss performing as much as I used to, so it’s always nice to get back on stage these days. One-offs, to me, are like a 36 hour marathon race. As soon as you wake up early in the morning you’re off, non stop. First leg is getting to the airport, second is the flight, third is the layover and the other flight, then getting the rental car, checking into the hotel, getting to the show, so on and so on until you’re back where you started, home. I usually set my iPhone alarm for three different times, each serving a specific purpose. The first alarm goes off about 15 minutes before I actually get up. This is like a nudge just to say “Hey, you’re going to have to get up soon.” The second alarm goes off  only 5 minutes later but allows my brain to get what feels like 30 more minutes of sleep. The third alarm is what I call the “parent alarm” because it reminds me of the last time your mom or dad would wake you up for school in the morning. “Get up RIGHT NOW or you’re going to miss the bus, I’m not telling you again!” So, three alarms, I’m good with that.

Now, the process of getting through the airport and actually getting on the plane is going to have to be another blog at some other time. There’s way to much to complain about and criticize. I’m only saying this as a professional traveler, so if you don’t fly very much you probably haven’t noticed the inconsistencies from one security line to the next. Either way, I’ll save it all for a  stand up comedy routine like everyone else with strong opinions on airport travel. Once I got checked in and settled at my gate I made this Vine. Obviously I was bored, but at least I got to share it with the entire world.

bent propeller blades

bent propeller blades

I had a quick layover at Washington Dulles airport. The second plane was what you’d call lil’. It was a lil’ plane with very lil’ space to relax. Interestingly enough, during the flight while taking “I’m bored on a small plane” pics, I found out looking through the screen on my phone that the propeller blades became warped. I think this was from a combination of the camera’s capture speed and the  curve of the plane’s window, but, it looked weird enough so I snapped a shot of it for you (seen left). You can thank me later for blowing your mind.

Once we landed I went to pick up my rental car. I have to say, never once have I reserved a compact car and actually received a compact car. I’m always told “We’re out of compact cars at the moment so I’m going to upgrade you at no extra charge.” I guess I’m supposed to be like “Oh thanks, that’s nice of you,” but this happens ALL the time. Maybe I don’t want a bigger car, maybe I just want what I asked for. What if psychologically I couldn’t handle a bigger car? What if I was a short person who felt more comfortable in a smaller size vehicle? These are not really the issues, but you don’t know me car rental place, get your act together and get me what I reserved; a vehicle with no automatic locks, no CD player, and a weird dent on the driver side door that I have to take note of so you don’t charge me for it upon return. I mean, come on.

So, I checked into the hotel. This is the point at which I usually restring my guitar, warm up, make the set list, and eventually make my way to the venue. I utilized my Vine account once again to make this action packed video. Side note, it’s hard to make a Vine video of something you normally do with two hands while having to film with one. Anyway, I also made a video with Instagram which was easier than Vine since you can important pre-recorded video. Either way, make sure you follow me on both Vine and Instagram if you have the apps so you don’t miss this stuff.

Everybody at the Penn State show was great. The crowd was fun, the students who put on the event were helpful and made sure I was taken care. If you were there, thanks so much for inviting me to play. I hope to see you again soon! If you weren’t there, here’s the setlist:

Thank you Penn State! instagram: bradleyjames2011

Thank you Penn State! instagram: bradleyjames2011

Do It Again
We’ll Fall In Love Tonight
Save It For Later
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson Cover)
Love The Way
Up To Me
My Girl (The Temptations Cover)
Roll Into You
Better With You
Audience of Zero

I actually didn’t have Roll Into You in the set, but a couple of girls yelled for it so I threw it in. Hey, I aim to please. So, it was a good time. Eric Hutchinson put on a great show with hip tunes and has an awesome live band. Check him out if you haven’t yet. We had a chance to say hi to one another after a show and he was nice. I like it when the other act is nice, sometimes they’re not.

In the morning before I left the hotel I walked out to the parking lot and mistakingly packed my suitcase and guitar in another white rental car that happened to be unlocked. It wasn’t until I tried to put the key into the ignition did I realize “Woops, not my car!”

My flights back were way more interesting than the flights on the way out, mainly thanks to this guy. I think when a situation like this occurs there is an unspoken agreement that if you are going to sleep on my shoulder I get to put a video of it online, so I did. Thank you for that opportunity, Instagram. I also took a picture with my new buddy…

yeah, I don't know you guy...

yeah, I don’t know you, guy.

So that was weird.

Anyway, I’m back in Texas and ready to get back to work on a few projects, one of them being a new Five Times August album. Talk to you soon.

– Brad

why, hello again…

Welcome to the new Five Times August blog, which I’ve subtitled “Anatomy of a Songwriter” for a few reasons; 1.) I’m a songwriter, so there, and 2.) I plan to use this area to offer some insight as to what makes me function as an artist. This will include stories from my life, thoughts on my favorite music, thoughts on my own music, people that inspire me, opinions on topical subjects, and from time to time I may sprinkle in some advice for aspiring artists as well. Sometimes I’ll be stupid and funny, sometimes I’ll be sad and depressing. There may be a time or two when I don’t make any sense at all and moments you don’t exactly agree with me, but hey, that’s okay. Really, I’d just like this to be a place of transparency and honesty. I don’t think we get that enough these days. So, make sure you follow the blog and check in often… I might just write something worth your time (I make no guarantees). Also, feel free to comment at any time to say hello and ask me a question.

With that said, I think now is a good time to announce that I’ve decided to make a new Five Times August album. There’s not much to report yet, just know it’s going to happen. Hopefully that excites you because it excites me. Truthfully, I had no plans to record another album any time soon. However, I have a collection of new and unfinished songs accumulating and I should probably start doing something with them, right? [This is where you respond with “RIGHT!”]

Anyway, I just wanted to introduce you to my new space in the “blogosphere.” Take your shoes off and get cozy. We’re going to have a good time.

Talk to you soon,

Brad

P.S. Make sure you stop by the official website make sure you’re connected on all the networks listed!