Yellowgold

The official website showcasing the music of Yellowgold, produced by Jason Howell.

Fever Dreamer is released!! (finally)

Hello everyone! After three solid years of work, I’m happy to finally release my latest Yellowgold album unto the Internet! YES THREE YEARS. Let’s just say I’ve been really busy, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

 The new album. Seriously, you should get it!

The new album. Seriously, you should get it!

I thought I’d spend some time over the course of the next week or two pulling back the curtain, so to speak, on the album: Concept and approach of the album, as well as a song by song breakdown because (as you may or may not know) each song has a story! And by that I don’t necessarily mean the story told in the lyrics (although each song has that kind of story too). But I’m sure every musician will probably agree that writing a song usually comes from SOMEWHERE and often its not at all where you might think.

To celebrate the launch of the album, though, I thought that today I’d write about the album concept as a whole, so here goes.

After finishing Ever One in 2013 and receiving such positive feedback from that, I knew that I wanted to go back to the well and hit it again. I also knew I wanted to take a bit of a break. I’ll be honest: The way I write and record can be all consuming. I can go for days or weeks doing absolutely nothing but singing voice memos into Evernote (often on a daily basis… that in itself may sound overwhelming but nowadays, it’s such a part of my routine that I’ve amassed hundreds of song ideas and its growing without effort). And then at some point, I’ll get the urge to sit down at my DAW and start playing around with ideas. If I strike on something that inspires me, it becomes an obsession that I’m chasing and that happens AROUND everything else (Full Time podcast host at TWiT, Full Time dad and husband at home). All this to say that I was a bit burnt out after Ever One, but I knew I wanted to continue working on something at some point, and while I was waiting, I was just basically dropping ideas into Evernote. OK then.

Then we bought a house. This is important for the sound of Fever Dreamer because it messed with my comfort level of production and writing.

 The recording dungeon at our rental.

The recording dungeon at our rental.

At our old rental in Petaluma, I literally had a separate (but tiny) office that I produced in. It had a door that I could close which allowed me to be less concerned about the noise I was making late at night and also let me live in the illusion of being on my own while writing, lowering inhibitions.

 Recording space in the new home

Recording space in the new home

Well, the new house that we bought DOES have a studio area… the Den where I have all my equipment, sound panels, and guitars hanging on the walls. I did my best to spruce it up and make it an inspiring environment in which to write late at night. The only problem is that the Den has no door to it. It’s open to the kitchen which is open to the stairs which is open to all three bedrooms. This means that I much more exposed while writing.

So when it came time for me to start constructing ideas for a new album, I knew I would be writing the lions share of the music late at night AROUND everything else I do in life. And writing in an exposed room meant I felt like I needed to be quieter during recording than I was at our previous home. Everything at night would need to be done with headphones and contained within the DAW. Thankfully, audio technology is awesome and allows for that. But what I realize in retrospect is that limitation pushed me towards a sound where much of the vocals on the album are whispery and breathy. Being in headphones also brings your ears a bit closer to the subtle details of a soundscape, so I tended to be a bit more experimental with effects and layering.

The other big component was that I was doing much of this writing late at night which, I’ll be honest, is probably my favorite time of the day to record. Now granted, I’m DEAD TIRED when 9pm rolls around and it would be so much easier for me to just plop down and watch Netflix, or just go to bed (give me a break. I'm what my kids would consider to be "old".) But I really had to motivate myself to turn on my DAW and just strum a few chords, or load up a drum set… anything because if I was able to push myself over that speed bump, I’d be golden and spend 2-3 hours cranking away. Sometimes much more to be honest. (many 2-3 sleep-hour nights)

And I’d say the moral of this particular part of the story is that often limitations unlock new avenues of exploration. It would be easy for me to look at the open studio space, the late at night restrictions, and the fear of waking up my family and say “well, this won’t work.” Instead, I literally set out to see WHAT album I would write within those restrictions. As a result, much of Fever Dreamer is whispy, ethereal, effects laden, and not only that, it’s the sound of the entire album. That restriction enabled me to complete a song that followed a very specific and intentional theme in the way it sounds, a first for me to be honest.

OK I’m rambling. And if it isn’t already obvious: These blog posts won’t be heavily edited. I’ll just dump this stuff out and move on cause I ain’t got time to edit. But I hope it’s informative. I REALLY love to read about how people approach their own creative processes and philosophies so I suppose I’m writing what I love to read. I hope you do to.

Lessons learned from a successful music Kickstarter campaign

My first Kickstarter campaign was a big success and led to the release of a professionally mastered album, Ever One, along with a ton of other stuff I never in a million years could have expected. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

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  1. Find someone who has done it before. Probably the most important thing I take away from this experience is that, especially if you've never done a crowd-funding campaign before, doing it alone might not be the best approach. Early in the process, Tom Merritt directed me to David Michael who has experience managing the many facets of a crowd-funding campaign. This was ESSENTIAL because I had a ton of questions along the way. David was instrumental in keeping things organized, picking a strategy and schedule that was achievable, while still being ambitious, and coordinating fulfillment of the many levels of the project once the campaign ended successfully. I had far too much real-life going on outside of TWiT and the Yellowgold campaign to be able to focus attention on the details of the campaign, and David was my sounding board. My advice is to reach out to the people you know, hit up your network, and find somebody, anybody, who has done one of these before. They can tell you about the lessons they learned, the things they wish they'd done differently, and how to keep it all organized.
     
  2. Stretch goals should be about growing the project in the most cost effective way as possible. Example: My first stretch goal was to master an unreleased 3-song EP of mine. That EP cost me zero time to produce (it was produced years ago), and the cost of mastering it was marginal in the grand scheme of the project. But it brought an extra layer of music to the end game, and that had intrinsic value to backers. Same for stretch goal #2 which led to re-mastering my original release of The Mellower. That album was produced years ago so doing this meant no extra time commitment for me, and mastering the album wasn't necessarily cheap but it's an entire albums worth of bonus music, so the stretch goal amount could be boosted significantly and still bring value to backers in the end.
     
  3. Remember the goal of the Kickstarter: To fulfill the project, NOT to make a million dollars. This is one of those pieces of advice that sounds easy, especially if you've never done one before. But flash forward to that moment when your project has double funded and the pledged amount seems like a lot of dough. It's easy to start thinking about that money as your money. It's not. It's meant to fund the project. Now, this is not to say that you won't walk away from the campaign with a little extra cash after all is said and done, but likely the majority of your money will sink directly into fulfillment, shipping and taxes. Oh, taxes, that's next.
     
  4. Taxes are fun. OK maybe taxes aren't fun, but its best to pretend like they are. Otherwise, you'll get really scornful about the fact that 1/3 or more of the total funds in the end are being socked away to pay to "the man." It's just a reality of the situation. And if you don't sack that money away, and pretend that it's yours to keep, you'll probably be hurting come tax time anyway. So save yourself the grief and be liberal with the amount you set aside. Or better yet, consult your favorite tax guru and get a recommendation from them. Note: I AM A DIPSHIT WHEN IT COMES TO TAXES. So don't read this and say to yourself "nice, all I have to do is set aside  1/3 of what I bring in for taxes. Thanks Jason!" Do your own research. It's  a lot of money, and I don't want anything to do with your money, so don't simply take my word for it. It's on you.
     
  5. You'll be surprised by who backs you AND who doesn't. I don't want to sound like I don't appreciate the level of success I had with the Ever One Kickstarter campaign. It did far better than I ever expected it to. But the level to which I expected to hit when I set forth with the project was, in my mind, achievable particularly because of the people that I'm close to that have supported me for a long, long time in my creative endeavors. It's interesting to me to see how many people I thought were no-question backers didn't take part in any way. On the other side of the spectrum, isn't it freaking amazing that two dudes who I've never met decided to drop $500 on my project to be listed as Executive Producers? (They basically told me that they've followed and respected my work and wanted to give back. To which I'm INCREDIBLY humbled.) Expect to be surprised when you find out who backed you, and who didn't. But don't be offended by who you don't see. People give what they can, when they can, and if they are moved to do so. Be happy with what you get and realize that those people could easily have passed your project by. Everyone has crazy shit in their lives. But these people decided to drop a dime on YOU and your promise. That's pretty damn cool.
     
  6. Back something before you ask people to back you. It's listed prominently on your Kickstarter page, and let's face it. If you want people to walk the walk, show them that you can walk the walk too. Crowdfunding is about a community that's willing to part with money for projects that spark their interest. If you expect people to part with their hard earned dough for you, show that you know how to return the favor.
     
  7. In the case of a pre-release album of music, prepare for the official release of the album to pale in comparison. This is something that I hadn't considered, but the way it played out in the case of Ever One was that the Kickstarter was the buzz machine. It was the part that captured the attention of everyone. It was the part of the process that was exciting and felt like a snowball rolling down the mountain. When the official release of the album finally happened, there was a decent amount of feedback, but by and large, the most charged up people had already listened to the album through the Kickstarter more than a month prior. So by comparison, the public release was more of a footnote than the main attraction. And it took me a little while to come to terms with that. "The Kickstarter had so much momentum. Why doesn't the release have as many fireworks attached to it?" But the reality is that I chose for the Kickstarter to be the main attraction because running a Kickstarter requires for it to be so. And really, had I not done the Kickstarter with it's month-long build up and hype, I don't believe I would have had nearly as many folks listening to my music in the end. Had I simply released the album (as I had originally planned to do), some people surely would have grabbed the album, but there is no way that I would have reached as many people, nor would I have mastered all of that extra music, or released posters or double-cds of it all. All of the associated product would not exist at all. That's HUGE!

I know there's more but that's all I can come up with right now. If I think of more, I'll write another post. Ultimately, this was an incredibly satisfying and fulfilling process. I've been asked by MANY people when the next Kickstarter album release will happen. And I must say, I'm a bit torn on that one. I know I'm producing another album (I never stop writing music). Having already gone the Kickstarter route, SHOULD I do it again when another album is ready? Or should I try something new? I suppose I'll have to play it by ear and see what the latest hotness is in creative distribution. But it's nice having a successful Kickstarter under my belt. I hope some of these tips help some of you to achieve your own level of crowd-funding success as well. It really is about enabling people like me to fulfill dreams, thanks to people like you. Thank you.

Ever One is released

Today's the day that I've been waiting for with extreme patience, and it hasn't been easy. But thanks to an incredible amount of hard work, and a Kickstarter that was way more successful than I ever dreamed, I can finally pull the covers off of my latest Yellowgold album, Ever One. The Kickstarter did so well that I was able to get The Mellower along with the previously unreleased Three For You EP mastered into a brand new release too, so I'm unveiling that today also!

I am taking the "put 'em everywhere" approach, so I'm hoping that most of the major avenues are covered.

To summarize the many ways you can get Ever One, here you go:

  • Free download of the 192kbps MP3, un-DRM'd, ZIP'd and ready for your earholes. No holds barred.
  • Pay what you want via Bandcamp, starting at $1 for the album. Think of this as a tip jar, if you feel like you really have to kick down a few bones. Buying through Bandcamp also gives you access to a number of different compressed and uncompressed audio formats. You will also find the double-CDs (Ever One and The Mellower including the Three For You EP) that are left over from the Kickstarter if signed physical media is your bag. And you can order a poster of Scott Johnson's original art there as well.
  • Buy the album at iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon. Each place has the album priced differently, so take a look. Stores like these name their own prices for music downloads, so I'm really at their mercy. Sorry for the confusing price points, it's simply part of playing ball with those services.
  • Stream the album at Spotify,  Soundcloud, YouTube, or right here on this site.
  • Buy a shirt from Slashloot!

To summarize the many ways you can get The Mellower (remastered), here you go:

My goal all along was to release Ever One for free, with the option to pay if you decided you wanted to do that. I hope that these options make it easy enough for you to find a method that works best for you. For me, it's about the music more than anything. So really, I don't care how you find it, just as long as you enjoy it.

Now that the albums are live, do check back to this blog as I intend on following up on the entire process to detail some of the things I've learned along the way. From running a Kickstarter, to distribution, to insight into the making of each track on Ever One.

Oh, and one more thing. I've already started writing material for a new album. Yes, it's a sickness. But one that I'm honored to share with you once the time comes to do so. THANK YOU for your support.

Also, a personal thank you to David Michael who has been a godsend in helping me drive the Kickstarter campaign, and so much more. And, of course, KRAMER, for without his masterful ears and incredible work ethic, these albums wouldn't sound nearly as polished as they do.

Ever One arrives December 2

The public release date for Ever One is set for December 2, 2013. That means its only two week away, and I couldn't be happier about that. The Kickstarter campaign was an enormous success, and incredibly satisfying, but it's taken a long time to get to this point and right now, I simply want you to hear the damn music already!

Pre-orders for the album are available starting today at my Bandcamp page. There you have a few options.

1.You can pre-order the digital download by paying what you choose, starting at $1 for the whole album. You'll get the first track from the album, Lonely Nights, right now to whet your appetite. Then you'll receive an email when the album goes live December 2.

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2. Or you can purchase one of the remaining stock of double CDs from the Kickstarter, which means you get Ever One, The Mellower (re-mastered and as of yet un-released) and a newly mastered un-released EP called Three For You. I've already signed them for the Kickstarter so hey, for what it's worth, you get my sloppy signature too. All that for $12 plus shipping, and that stock is limited. You'll also get the instant download of Lonely Nights, as well as an email on December 2 giving you access to the digital download while you wait to receive your CDs.

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Finally, if you are interested in one of Scott Johnson's terrific posters for the album, I'm selling that through the Bandcamp page as well. $12 for those if you'd like one for your wall.

One note: I said all along that my goal was to release this album for free with the option to pay what you want. That is still happening, though the free part doesn't factor into the pre-release. If you want the album for free, simply come back to this site after December 2 and you will find a direct download link to the album. You are welcome.

But, if you want to throw me a bone, hey, I won't stop you! You can do so starting now with the pre-release at my Bandcamp page.

Make sense? I sure hope so. Ultimately, those are all details that get in the way of what I'm most excited about: The album is almost released, and once that happens I can celebrate the culmination of a year and a half of solid hard work and dedication to the music. Thanks for taking the journey with me. It's even better having you along for the ride.

 

Yellowgold on NSFW

I had the pleasure of joining the NSFW gang this Tuesday to take part in the Summer Music Series. I brought along my acoustic guitar and played three songs from the upcoming Ever One release. Care to get a sneak peak at the material on the album? Here you go! 

And now for the part where I pull the curtain back a little.

Being that it was my first time ever really performing like this (solo with only an acoustic guitar, live before who knows how many people), I was definitely a tad nervous. Not as nervous as I expected, but those butterflies were fluttering in the stomach a bit.

As a result, I played nearly every song at least 20-30 percent faster than I probably ever have. It's funny listening to this after the fact. I'm not sure I'm ever rehearsed them at this speed, but the situation affected me and I obviously had adrenalin setting a higher tempo than I would have liked. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the performance. No major failures, but there are a handful of things I can latch on to that I'd change if I did it over again. But hey, isn't there ALWAYS room for improvement? 

You can watch the full episode here from which this mix of songs was pulled here.