only songs that were worthy of promoting got that all important radio air play that would sell records. So the challenge for artists or bands today is to get some exposure and create fans that will support them. Easier said than done and with peer to peer file sharing over computers, it's likely artist's copyrighted material will be passed around with little compensation. Listening to Pandora? There aren't any rules anymore, Indie's are totally on their own.


Music has been burning inside of me my whole life. I love it and I want to share it. I've chosen to create and record my music because I just felt I had to do it. A legacy, if you will, of my time on earth.  For the longest time, I didn't want to publish my songs with a half hearted effort. I wanted them to be as good as they could be - recorded well, played well and sung as best I, or others could, so they would at least stand up to scrutiny and not be tossed into the trash bin of broken dreams because I failed to give it my best shot.

Learning to be a real musician takes a long time. Many people hang it up because it's just too much work without reward. The fire inside dies out inside and they resign themselves to making a living at their regular jobs because that takes a great deal of their time as well. Finding quality musicians to help record a album of songs is very difficult. You don't find that skill level at your average open mic and trying to get gigging players interested in learning your songs is virtually impossible.


Eventually I realized that in order to get real quality musicians to help record my songs, I would likely have to pay professional session players and use one of the many demo studios in Nashville or L.A. to get the work done. This is very expensive and to their credit, good demo houses warn songwriters that it doesn't make a lot of economic sense to get a full production with lots of instruments involved if the song doesn't have chance. They call that 'polishing a turd'.  I can appreciate that sentiment, but I've always believed strongly in my songs and had the desire to share them.


It was in late November of 2013 when I was doing some carpentry work down near the little town of Belfair Washington and I decided to go to a 'songwriters only' open mic in Bremerton, WA. It was different than open mics I'd been to before. The audience, while noisy and in a bar setting, actually came there to hear singer songwriters and support them. I thought that was pretty cool, plus they passed a tip jar around a lot and ginned up around $100. a night. At the end of the evening the host would draw performers names from a hat and whoever was picked got the money. Didn't matter if they were the best or the worst performer. Now that's very hip and keeps everyone around for the evening. As is typical in open mics, the host also performed a few songs. I went there three times and after watching the host, Jeff Tassin, play guitar, I said to myself, "That is one of the best guitarists I'd ever seen." I also asked myself "what the heck is he doing here running an open mic." This guy is amazing.



It was on my fourth visit to this open mic at 'Brother Don's' in Bremerton that things changed, though I didn't know it at the time. I got there late and missed most of the show, but Jeff still let me play. Apparently, in addition to the weekly Wednesday night showcase, where they pass the tip jar and winner takes all, they have what's known as the 'Mayberry Award' which they do once every 3 months. This is an audience based vote instead of the random draw for the tip jar. The winner of 'Mayberry' gets a different prize. Like I said, I came in late and wasn't aware the Mayberry Award was going on.



Well I got up and played a couple of songs, the evening ended and a trio, which I didn't hear, won the Mayberry Award. It meant nothing to me as I didn't know what it was all about, but I had a good time and it seemed like the audience liked my songs, particularly the one called '31-33'. I gave Jeff my phone number and left having had a fine evening.



The next day I went to Olympia to pick up some esoteric building materials from an importer of Spanish cork. I was driving back to the Seattle area when I got a call from Jeff Tassin the host of the open mic. He told me that while I didn't win the audience vote the night before, I came in second place. He went on to tell me that the trio who did win had brought in 15 of their own people to vote for them. They got 15 votes and I got 14. Not only had they swayed the vote, Jeff indicated these young people were rude to the waitress, didn't leave a tip, dissed the other performers and the host. Not cool. So Jeff was calling me to tell me that he was rescinding the award from the trio and giving it to me instead. I felt a little bad for the trio, but hey, being rude and swaying the vote wasn't cool and maybe they'd learn a lesson.



At this point I was happy that I'd won something, the Mayberry Award, though I didn't know what that was. Jeff said the prize was a free recording of one of my songs at his studio in Port Orchard. Well, that's cool, thank you very much and we set up a date. I had been in studios a few times before, not a lot, but enough to have some experience with sophisticated recording machinery. It was pretty laborious and took all day just to lay down a guitar track doing lots of takes until the engineer felt like I had played it perfectly and their machinery and software performed as it should. There were several computer crashes and difficulties in those studios.



Frankly I wasn't expecting much when I arrived at Jeff's studio to record my song. I didn't know who Jeff Tassin was other than a heck of great guitar player. He was very friendly and accommodating. I figured the easiest song of mine was 31-33 because it's your basic 3 chords and the truth type song, easy to play, 60's style basic call back format. He indicated that song would 'Lay down quite nicely'. So Jeff played drums and I played the song and sang. Just one take each. Then he picked up a bass guitar and played song all the way through. He had to clean up a couple of stumbles but that didn't take anytime at all. Next he picked up an electric guitar and proceeded to tear my head off with screaming great slide guitar riffs. I think he just did two passes and I was shell shocked.

Next he put some crunchy rhythm guitar tracks down and locked the tune down on his recording gear. "Anything else you want on it?" Jeff asked. I said I really hear a horn section on this song, kind of like a 'Blues Brothers' track. Jeff said he typically only adds on drums, bass and one lead instrument for a Mayberry Award, "but I agree" he said, "horns would be a good addition to this song and I really like it." So he swivels his chair around to a keyboard and within a couple of passes has added a full and very realistic sounding horn section to the song. Next thing I know, Jeff is handing me a CD with an fabulous recording of 31-33 and it took less than two hours to complete. Needless to say I was blown away.


Over the next couple of months I visited Jeff's studio and laid down the rest of my tracks on acoustic guitar. We discussed what types of instrumentation and vibe the song was meant to convey and Jeff would go to work. He'd come up with a working song 'bed' and we'd get back together to hash out any minor details and add vocals, background vocals etc.



So that's the story of how I met Jeff Tassin and how I've come to appreciate the depth of his musicality and production skills.  He's a one man Wrecking Crew! This album effort would still be swimming in the pond, but thanks to Jeff, we're now floating down the river toward mastering and CD production. I can't wait to share it with ya'll, it's a pretty solid entry into the adult contemporary music genre.



I met George Merrill and Shanon Rubicam back in the 1970's when I would go out to see them perform at clubs in Seattle. They were great then and I knew something good would happen in their musical careers. I took them on several local river trips and in 1976 they came along on a 4 day Rogue River trip along with a film crew from' Seattle based 'Exploration Northwest' - a prime time TV documentary magazine that aired for over 20 years. Don McCune was the host and we had a blast. George and Shannon got to play on the deck of the river house in Galice, OR the night before as did Don McCune who made us all laugh with some tunes from his old pal Ivar Haglund, famous for his Ivar's fish and chips restaurants in Seattle. They scored two Emmy awards for their production of 'Kayaking on the Rogue'. George has always been an inspiration to me and a part time musical mentor. In 1995 George came on a 21 day trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon with me and we brought musical instruments including a small drum kit played by Billy Shaw. I think we played on 5 of the nights including Halloween. Talk about fun!


At this point George and Shannon had made a huge mark in the music business as they had written two of Whitney Houston's biggest selling songs, 'How will I know' and 'I wanna dance with somebody.' They had also released 'Waiting for a star to fall' by that time as well. We stayed in touch all these years and today I'm thrilled to have George to participate on this album!


In the end it all comes down to the song. Is it a good song or not? Can people identify with it and enjoy it? Does it grab them and make them feel something? Will they choose to buy that fancy cup of Starbucks coffee for $4.00 which cost pennies to make, little time to create and gone in a few minutes or will they spend $1.00 for a song that took years to create, thousands of dollars to record and lasts forever? Seems like most people choose the coffee. Go figure. In the end, it all comes down to the song.






Leave a comment

Add comment