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