Tag Archives: Max Weinberg

DownTown Blog – Rage Against The Brexit Machine: Way To Know

Brexit

Way To Know was released as a single by Nub Music in the UK on October 20, 2017 as part of the Rage Against The Brexit Machine project. The project, spearheaded by business author/musician Peter Cook, had released 3 previous singles. What made Way To Know different was the fact that it was from an American Artist—DownTown Mystic. So how did this come about you might ask?

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One day in September I was on Twitter and saw a tweet from Nub Music looking for songs for a project called Rage Against The Brexit Machine. Since I had a deal with Nub I thought I’d take a closer look. I clicked on a link that was provided and read about the project and what it was trying to accomplish. Much to my surprise, it was a campaign aimed at stopping Brexit using pop music to get the message out. I was under the impression that Brexit couldn’t be stopped, so now I was curious.

I decided to contact Mark Lee, the head of Nub, and offer Way To Know to the project. Mark thought it was a great idea and got Label Manager Guy Thompson to send the song to Peter Cook. Peter gave it a listen and liked what he heard. He gave me a call to see where I was at and to tell me more about the project. When I asked if it was possible to stop Brexit, Peter paused and said that Parliament could reverse it. He said the impetus for the Rage Against The Brexit Machine project was the effect that Brexit would have on generations to come. People were not aware how it would hit their pocketbooks until it was too late.

I told Peter that the one good thing that had happened in the US with the election of Trump was the Resistance Movement against Trump that had been started. People here in the US were truly pissed that Trump was elected despite losing the popular vote. Peter felt the people in the UK needed a bit of a push in that direction if stopping Brexit was to become a reality. And the British people should be pissed because the British Supreme Court ruled that Parliament never made a decision to stay or leave!

Peter told me that one of the reasons he really liked Way To Know was that it didn’t preach and laid out the problems in a matter of fact way. This was great to hear and I told Peter as much. I also told Peter that it wouldn’t hurt PR wise that the song features RnR Hall of Famers Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent—the rhythm section from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. That info might come in handy, especially at Radio.

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So that’s how I got involved with the Rage Against The Brexit Machine project and got to know Peter Cook. He’s a very decent chap (as they say) and has really put himself out there. You can feel his passion when he speaks and he’s doing the project for all the right reasons. As a fellow artist I’m proud to stand with him and help out in any way I can. The stakes are truly high as the future of the UK hangs in the balance. Check out the Article 50 Challenge for yourself and help Stop Brexit!

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

DownTown Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Rock’n’Roll

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

To quote Pete Townsend of The Who, “Rock is dead they say”…whatever. This is a tired old chestnut that “they” bring up over and over. I’m not sure who “they” are, and I’m not sure what “they” mean by “rock”. Are we talking ROCK from the 70s, 80s or 90s onward? Or since the turn of the century? It’s a very broad term for a particular kind of music. For the sake of this blog post, I’ll be talking about the original “rock”—Rock’n’Roll.

Since I’ve already made certain statements in interviews about my intention to bring RnR into the 21st century, I’ll back it up. Rock’n’Roll is a totally other animal than “Rock”. As Tom Petty said earlier this year about his discovering RnR, “Not rock; this was Rock and Roll. The roll designates a swing — there’s a swing in the roll.” That’s what I’m talking about. There’s a difference between Rock and Rock’n’Roll, and just to be clear, it’s RnR that I’m putting out there.

All that aside, I intended the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album to be my statement about RnR in the 21st century. I took over a year to build up to the release of it and when I finally did release it on CD in October 2016, it proved to be my most successful release to date. The CD starts off with 2 of 3 songs that feature RnR Hall of Famers Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent—the rhythm section from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. In fact DownTown Mystic is the only artist in the world that can make that claim. Not even Garry Tallent and Little Steven can say that about their new solo records. Not too shabby! 🙂

A big part of the success of Rock’n’Roll Romantic was at Radio. The previous release of the DownTown Nashville EP at Americana Radio in the spring last year was easily DownTown Mystic’s biggest release at the format and helped to set the stage, so to speak, for Rock’n’Roll Romantic. But I also knew that Rock’n’Roll Romantic had a broader appeal to it than just Americana. The strategy of going to the AAA and College formats along with Americana garnered DownTown Mystic its largest radio audience, going from 16 to 36 Adds and more than 70 radio stations playing the music. For me, these results show that RnR in today’s marketplace is not dead, to say the least.

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2017 started out by continuing the success of Rock’n’Roll Romantic when DownTown Mystic signed a deal with UK indie label Nub Music to release Rock’n’Roll Romantic in Europe. How apropos for 2017 to be the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1st Concept Album. Besides the noise of “the death of rock” is the noise about “the death of the album” and “the death of the CD”. Besides being a true RnR album, Rock’n’Roll Romantic is also a true concept album.

The truth is Rock’n’Roll is here to stay…it will never die. Wait, that sounds like a song I once heard. Nevertheless, it’s true. There’s something undeniable about an electric guitar playing along to a groove that’s being put down by a real drummer and bass player. It’s an irresistible force. Sure, it might not be what’s popular on Top 40 Radio but who cares? There are millions of people who don’t listen to Top 40 Radio.

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Meanwhile in the UK, Nub has already released the Side 2 EP to help set up the release of the full Rock’n’Roll Romantic album later in the year. What better place to release some new RnR than in the UK? Oasis has been the biggest band there since The Beatles and they’ve been around now for 20 years. So it’s safe to say that Rock’n’Roll is still alive and well there. This next chapter with Nub Music may turn out to be even more exciting than the success at US Radio for Rock’n’Roll Romantic! 🙂

Tom& Rob

DownTown Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Tommy Mastro

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

In the last blog entry I wrote about one of the musicians involved in the making of Rock’n’Roll Romantic who I owed a debt of gratitude—Garry Tallent from The E Street Band. In this blog entry I want to talk about someone not as famous as Garry, but just as important to the making of Rock’n’Roll Romantic—Tommy Mastro.

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Tommy & Robert

I first met Tommy when he was playing drums for a band called The Discontent. This was in my previous life as a Manager. It was obvious from the get-go that Tommy was clearly the best musician in the band (I don’t think any of them would disagree) and he played a big part in my decision to manage them. It wasn’t just his muscular playing with “old school” feel that impressed me like Kenny Aronoff (drummer for John Mellencamp & John Fogerty), but perhaps even more importantly, his attitude and personality. He loved to laugh and kid around and was there to be a cheerleader when necessary. His positive vibes were very contagious and many times lifted the band up whenever challenges arose. As a manager, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a guy like that in a band!

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I was either lucky or dumb to have 2 bands recording their projects at the same time in different studios. It kept me busy shuffling between the 2 and it also got my juices flowing to record my own songs again. I had always wanted to produce and make records as an artist, but I let go of that dream to start my own company Sha-La Music. However, I started working more and more in the studio with The Discontent and that’s how I met studio engineer Ben Elliott, who the band was working with at Showplace Studios in Dover, New Jersey. Funny thing, the Showplace used to be a club and my band had played there 15 years earlier opening for acts like Robert Gordon and Elliott Murphy. Now it was cut in half, divided by a wall with a GoGo Bar on one side and the recording studio on other side, where the stage used to be. I could usually find the band in the bar when there was downtime in the studio. 🙂

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Besides managing The Discontent, Sha-La became the band’s label, releasing their 1st cd societydidit. When it came time to work on new material, I decided to take the band into the studio to record some demos. It was also at this time that I decided to record some of my own songs. I’d been watching Tommy play drums and I could see how solid he was. I had recorded with some real pros like “Mighty” Max Weinberg. The drummer is the engine that drives a band, especially in the studio. The basic track is really all about the drums. A great drummer can make all the difference in recording a great track.

I could see that Tommy had that ability too. I saw and heard what he had done on societydidit. The Discontent played punk with a metal edge and Tommy would put a groove in that you don’t usually hear in those kinds of songs. I began to wonder what he could do with my more “old school” songs and was looking forward to making that happen. So when the time came to go back to Showplace Studios to cut some demos, I asked Tommy and the bass player Eric Hoagland, if they would be interested in cutting some of my songs before their session. Both were enthusiastic and one night after a Discontent rehearsal we ran down the songs and it was off to the studio.

Tommy & Eric

Tommy & Eric

It was very cool for me to be making music again and recording with Tommy and Eric made the experience even cooler. I could see Tommy was a bit of a “head case” when it came to playing in the studio. He would stress himself out. I told him not to over think it because he was a great drummer and just needed to let his intuition guide him when playing. He would start to relax and lock in the groove. When it came to playing rock’n’roll he was a natural. He kept it fairly straight but he played with such power locking in on the groove. It really allowed me to enhance the rhythm. I think the 1st track we cut was Turn Around And Go. You can hear how he attacks the track but keeps the groove together.

We cut 6 tracks in that session that I could work on at my leisure when I had some down time. I was also very impressed with what Tommy played. He knew who I had worked with and wanted to impress me. He also knew what I wanted and he knew how to make the songs rock. I started calling him “2 Take Tommy” because we would be doing the 1st take and at some point he would stop. Then he would nail the 2nd take! 🙂

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Little did I know at the time that these sessions would be the start of what would become DownTown Mystic. Looking back I have Tommy (with an assist from Eric) to thank for that. As I became more involved with working on the tracks, I decided I needed a name for my project. As it would turn out, The Discontent would indirectly help me find one. On a trip up to Providence, RI for a gig with the band I saw an old wooden sign on the side of the road that read “next exit Downtown Mystic”. Presto! I had my name for the project. On all our trips up to New England I’d never seen it before. Never saw it again. 🙂

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Tommy would eventually leave The Discontent, but I stayed in touch and never hesitated to call him to play on my DownTown Mystic sessions. His playing is all over Rock’n’Roll Romantic, playing on half of the album. One of the tracks, Dead End Space, was written with The Discontent after he had left the band and we cut my version with just the 2 of us in the studio. I’ll always remember that session because it was late at night and the only time I was set up with my acoustic guitar in front of the mixing board in the Showplace control room. Tommy was set up with his drums in the studio so we could see each other through the control room glass as we cut the track live to tape. After the 2nd take Tommy was beaming. I could hear him say (in true Tommy fashion) through the glass, “that was so coool”!!

That was Tommy, a true Rock’n’Roll Romantic. 🙂

 

GarryTallent

DownTown Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Garry Tallent

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

It occurred to me that just about everyone involved in the making of Rock’n’Roll Romantic is, like me, a Rock’n’Roll Romantic at heart. I think that’s very cool and it certainly helped make the project come alive. Since I’ve made it my business to help promote all those kind souls who have helped me, my way of “paying it forward”, I wanted to talk about one of them who has been a big influence—Garry W. Tallent.

GarryTallent

Garry is Bruce Springsteen’s bass player. That’s something nobody else in the world can say. He’s a quiet easy going guy and you would never figure he was the 7th son in a family of 13 kids. He’s also a great musician and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Rock’n’Roll. Of course, being in The E Street Band definitely has its perks. One of them is you get to play alongside Bruce Springsteen (not too shabby). His rhythm partner in time is drummer Max Weinberg, not to mention playing with the other great musicans in the band…not too shabby either. 🙂

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On Rock’n’Roll Romantic, Garry and Max play on 3 songs—Way To Know, And You Know Why and Hard Enough. I can kick myself for not getting a photo of us together in the studio but I wanted it to be cool for them without walking around snapping pics like a fanboy. It was quite an experience working with them, watching how they work together. I learned a great deal in the process, and you might say, they were somewhat responsible for my creating DownTown Mystic. It’s also easy to figure out why Bruce has been so successful, particularly live. Having Garry & Max as your personal rhythm section has got to be a perk for The Boss as well. These guys can rock with the best of them. 🙂

Vinyl: Garry Tallent - Break Time LP

Now, after many years of playing bass, Garry has put out a solo album called Break Time. He is now stepping up to the mic, both figuratively & literally speaking. This was not something I would have ever expected from him. Singing out in front of a band has got to be a new experience for Garry and it’s been very cool to see it happen. I asked him why now, and in typical Garry fashion, he replied “why not”? Truth be told, he said getting older was motivating him to finally get his music out there. Truth be told, it’s good having good timing too. 🙂

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He’s got a built-in audience with E Street fans from around the world and he’s made a very good record for them. As far as I’m concerned, whatever was on the wax when I listened was going to surprise me, and Garry didn’t disappoint. On the other hand, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, given that Garry is somewhat of a Rock Historian. Going back to the music that caught his attention as a kid, early RnR, makes perfect sense. He delivers authentic sounding old school 50s RnR in a style that recalls so many of the greats from that period, as well as show his dry sense of humor. Hearing Garry sing Ants In Her Pants is worth the price of admission! lol

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Of course, playing in The E Street Band and putting out a solo record has got to be somewhat of a daunting task for everyone in the band. There’s been a very high bar that they’ve set for themselves and then there’s also that guy named Bruce. His name alone brings so much attention to anything in its orbit. That can be a double-edged sword of sorts, but for Garry it only enhances what he’s done. Break Time is a great testament to the talent (no pun intended) that Bruce has placed around himself.

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Hearing Garry’s influences gives one the feeling that Bruce could throw anything at him and get 3 or 4 styles to choose from in return. That has to inspire confidence in The Boss to have a guy like Garry manning the Bass behind him. Also, I think it’s important that guys like Garry are around and still interested in putting out music that might be in danger of going extinct. He was an eyewitness to that initial Big Bang and let all that music wash over him . Putting together the crew of musicians to help bring out the authenticity of those influences is also a talent (pun intended). 🙂

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If you have the chance, get yourself a copy of Break Time, and judge for yourself. Also, keep your eyes out for Garry on tour this year and if you see him, tell him DownTown sent you. 🙂

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

DownTown Blog – 2016 Year In Review: Part 2: Rock’n’Roll Romantic

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

I did not expect DownTown Nashville to get the reaction at Americana Radio that it got. Within the first 4 weeks of its release it had surpassed everything I could have hoped for. Compared to the DownTown Mystic release 3 years earlier, it was a smash! This was a total surprise! If I had serviced the entire panel and worked it harder, DownTown Nashville might have made the AMA Top 40. That probably would have been more than I had bargained for. 🙂

Ok…so I’ve been waiting for what I feel will be the right moment to release Rock’n’Roll Romantic. I could have done it in Sept./Oct. 2015, but it didn’t feel right. And the more I waited, it allowed me to continue to release & promote, getting the songs heard and keeping my name out there. In my mind, the album is a bit intense to listen to in 1 sitting. It’s a concept album that needs to be heard in its entirety and that’s not an easy sell today, especially for Radio. So exposing the songs little by little was a good strategy. I always heard the album as Side 1 & Side 2, so I wanted to have all the singles on Side 1. Every song had been played at Radio somewhere in the world and every song kicked in its own way. So to hear these singles all in a row would be impressive. 🙂

Rock'n'Roll Romantic

In the summer (late July) I finally released Rock’nRoll Romantic as a digital album, with the announcement that the CD would follow in the fall. I figured this would give me a chance to finally get the CD together. The digital release was greeted with rave reviews from the press and occupied the #2 slot for July and August on the AirPlay Direct Global Rock Albums Chart. With the CD now slated for release in the fall, I knew that it was now or never. In September I called Rene Magallon at M:M Music, the #1 indie AAA Radio Promoter. It had been 8 years since I last worked with them at AAA/Non-Com Radio and I was somewhat apprehensive.

Hiring M:M Music to promote to Radio is not cheap, especially for indies like myself. But they’re the best at what they do and they don’t need to take on everybody that calls them. I would be moving up to another level working with them. So I call Rene to tell her about the new CD and to let her know that I think the album can appeal to a broader audience. Especially because of some of the names involved like The E Street Band rhythm section—“Mighty” Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent.

Rene wants to hear the album, so I send her a link and she listens. She tells me she’s very impressed with my writing from what she remembers and really likes what she heard. This is cool news! Rene hears EVERYTHING that’s out there, so coming from her, this is a BIG complement. She doesn’t think it’s an Americana release and commercial AAA is not in the picture yet. Rene thinks it has a chance at Non-Com and College Radio. The idea of college kids listening to the CD really interested me because they would be a good way for me to judge the music as being contemporary or not.

Rene asked me if the CD was ready to go and I told her no, but that I would have it ready for release in October. She was cool with that. She also wanted to know my thoughts about what she had said. I told her that I always have a problem about promoting to Radio, if it was worth it. In the last couple of years I’ve been played on 10-15,000 stations around the world. When you’re talking in numbers like that, getting played by a few more radio stations doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Especially with the cost of promo that’s involved here in the US.

But this is Rock’nRoll Romantic and I’m making a statement with it. I told Rene that at the very least I wanted to establish myself as an artist at Radio with this album, so I need to get it heard beyond at what I had been doing. She agreed and thought that the best way to go was getting it out to Non-Com and College which would require between 500-600 cds. That would definitely get it heard. I told Rene I was in.

As an Artist I still believe in Radio because it allows me to judge certain things with the music. Also, I want to compete in the marketplace with the other labels, Major or Indie. Hiring M:M Music would take me to the next level and up my profile out there. You might think you’re great, but until you go out to where the real competition is, you’re just blowing smoke, right? 🙂

Rene gave me a deadline for when the cds needed to be mailed out and set an impact date for October 10 at Radio. Now all I needed to do was create the cd artwork and get the cds made. The 1st thing I did was change the opening track, adding Way To Know, which was not on the digital release. In July I had come up with a track listing for a possible release in Europe that included Way To Know, which had been #1 there earlier in the year. I thought the track listing was better than the digital release and the addition of Way To Know made the concept of the album stronger. Plus as a label, I wanted the CD to be different from the digital album.

I knew the main part of the artwork would be the inside of the cd, which were all credits. Working with digital releases, the only thing that matters is the cover art. It’s only with a physical release that all the credits can be listed. Everyone involved with the project likes to see their names on it, which doesn’t happen with digital releases. In this case, Rock’nRoll Romantic had 15 musicians who lent their talents to its creation and a half dozen co-writers, not to mention the recording engineers and studios that were involved.

I thought that it was all of the credits I had been putting off but I finally realized that it was all about the artwork…in particular—the cover art. I had been waiting for the right time to put out this cd. Now I had the promotion team in place and all the credits were done. But the front cover artwork that was used for the digital album was not doing it for me on the cd. My graphics designer, Larry Bentley, had come up with a great back cover, which I loved. At the 11th hour I just asked him “to try and fuck with it” (the front cover). Larry came back with 3 or 4 ideas, one of which really caught my eye. I asked him to make a few tweaks to it and voila—we had the new cover art! 🙂

DownTown Mystic: Rock 'n' Roll Romantic

With the new cover in place, everything went as planned. The CD was mailed out and promotion began in October. What I hadn’t planned on was the high number of 4th Quarter releases that were out there, making for some stiff competition. The initial going at Radio was slow, especially Americana. The success of DownTown Nashville had spoiled me. Part of the problem at the format is that Non-Com/AAA stations that report to the AMA Chart outnumber the more Americana leaning stations. This meant that Crystal Ann Lea, who works Non-Com for M:M Music, would be promoting to those Non-Com stations on the AMA Chart as AAA.

Even though I knew going in that many wouldn’t think it was an Americana release, I still wanted to take it to the stations that had supported me. I knew they would listen and they did. In Europe I’m known as American rocker Robert Allen, which is great. They don’t understand the term Americana the way it’s used here as a US music genre. If I tell them I’m Americana, the Europeans think I mean Rock’n’Roll. So it’s kind of weird that not everyone at the Americana Radio format here thinks RnR is Americana, or it just seems that way at times.

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After 4 or 5 weeks I had 8 stations playing Rock’nRoll Romantic and finally broke into the Top 100 on the AMA Chart, about half the time it took 3 years earlier. Crystal Ann also had 8 stations that added the CD but by December, she had an additional 30 stations that had it in light rotation. Add to that the 17 college stations that Ian Murray at M:M had gotten and the overall picture was an impressive one—over 30 total Adds and over 60 stations playing Rock’nRoll Romantic! Rene had been correct. M:M Music had gotten the music heard and the result was a much broader audience for DownTown Mystic. What makes this even better for me is that this was accomplished in a very tough competitive 4th Quarter. 🙂

As I said at the start of Part 1, 2016 turned out to be a very good year for DownTown Mystic and I want to give thanks to all of the people at Non-Com, College and Americana Radio for their support, as well as everyone at M:M Music for making Rock’nRoll Romantic a success. Now I’m going to celebrate the holidays and look forward to what 2017 has in store. 🙂

DownTown Blog – Being #1

Rock'n'Roll Romantic Cover

Rock’n’Roll Romantic Cover

The only problem with being #1 is there’s no place to go but down. I should know. Recently DownTown Mystic was #1 for 3 weeks in Europe and this is the 1st time I’ve had a chance to talk about it. Being #1 is kind of odd because it’s not something you expect to happen. Also, when you say you’re #1, people start to think you’re bragging. I mean you can talk about rising up a chart all you want and nobody seems to have a problem with that. But once you hit #1, all bets are off. 🙂

DownTown Mystic gets a good deal of radio airplay around the world, especially in Europe. But outside of landing on the Euro/Americana Chart in 2010, there weren’t too many charts to talk about there. Last year I decided I would release the Rock’nRoll Romantic album. The big question for me would be how to go about promoting it. I thought I would test the waters at Radio in Europe with a single and released Turn Around and Go.

To my surprise, the single entered the Official European Independent Music Chart at #18 and then #14 a week later. By the 3rd week, the song disappeared altogether. Now this chart is only a Top 20 chart, and musically, it’s primarily Pop/Top 40 kind of tracks (think Euro-Dance, Hip-Hop, etc.). Needless to say, I felt quite good about this since I believe my brand of Roots/RnR can compete, if given a chance. Given that the other songs on the chart were more pop-oriented, I put out 2 more singles that I thought were more Pop (and stronger sounding), but didn’t get bupkis…nada…zilch…zero. This was even more surprising to me. lol

Sometimes things happen…really bad things that seem so senseless. In mid-November 2015 the horrible Paris Attacks occurred. Like everyone else in the world, there’s a feeling of helplessness when anything so inconceivable happens. 9/11 was like that for us here in the US. As an artist you feel the need to create something that can have meaning for people in these circumstances. I didn’t write anything in response to the attacks but I did have a song that was apropos and had a hopeful message. I put it in the back of my mind.

When January 2016 came around I decided to release the song as a single in Europe, knowing that many of the stations that reported to this chart were in France and Belgium. Being that the attacks were still fresh in everyone’s mind, I felt that if I had one song that could indirectly address the situation, this song would be my choice. The song was Way to Know, a straight ahead rocker with a message that doesn’t hit the listener over the head. There’s a subtlety to the lyrics that can be looked at from a number of different perspectives.

Ironically, it had already been at #1 on a US Indie Chart. I had released a digital EP last summer called DownTown Mystic on E Street, which had Way to Know on it. The EP features Max Weinberg & Garry Tallent, the RnR Hall of Fame rhythm section from The E Street Band and had not been released in Europe. So I was bringing my “A” game!

I released Way to Know in January and it was kind of amazing to be truthful. About the 3rd week of January it entered the chart at #19. Here’s the even stranger part for me…there was NO PROMOTION. You can’t hire anybody or email anybody to promote your track. It’s all done by the listening audience who text in their votes. This was really crazy and all happening to DownTown Mystic in Europe. I had to believe that song was connecting with that audience at least on a subliminal level.

The higher I went on the chart the tougher it got. By the 4th week I was at #10 and I was good to go. Now I could drop off the chart and feel real good about making the Top 10. But then it got crazier. The song kept creeping up the chart and now I was starting to get hooked on it. #8, #7, #6, #5 and then to #3. Top 3?? For real?? This is amazing!! Every week people are voting for DownTown Mystic and the numbers keep getting better! 🙂

Meanwhile, I was starting to promote the DownTown Nashville release at US Americana Radio. DownTown Mystic would debut in the Top 5 Most Added on the AMA Chart in the 1st week of release! That had never happened before. Am I on a roll or what? I know it seems nuts to have 2 different releases on 2 different continents going on at the same time but I never expected the success in Europe to continue! I was at #7 when I mailed out DownTown Nashville to Americana Radio and thought it was all over.

But I still wasn’t done in Europe. The following week Way To Know moved up another spot for the 10th straight week to #2 and then stayed there for another week…2 straight weeks at #2 and I was a basket case. I was content with #10 and that was over a month ago! Will I ever get to #1 or will the slow torture continue? The song in front of Way To Know at #1 is some pop song by a French singer, but I can see that I’m gaining on him in the voting.

Week # 12 it happens—DownTown MysticWay To Know #1 UNBELIEVABLE!!! 🙂

DownTown Mystic had been on this radio chart for 3 months and had finally reached #1. Now what happens? I mean, where do you go from #1? I have to say it was far more exciting climbing the chart than arriving at that exalted place…but I’d be lying if I didn’t think being #1 is very cool!! 🙂

Way To Know spent 2 more weeks at #1 and then went back to #2. I knew it was over. I had become an action junkie and now the action was over. OMG! lol There was no place to go but back down the chart. Boo hoo…don’t cry for me Argentina. DownTown Mystic spent the first 4 months of 2016 on the Official European Independent Music Chart, going all the way to #1 against all odds. My hope is that the music had an impact with the listeners and gave them a feeling of something positive against a backdrop of tragic events. 🙂

DownTown Blog – DownTown Nashville

DownTown-Nashville-Cover

Nashville has always held a fascination for me, long before I ever went there. It’s not called Music City for nothing and I love the city’s vibe. It feels like a small town and music permeates everywhere. There’s no other place like it. Steve Earle called Nashville Guitar Town and I’ve long been a fan of the many great players that ply their trade there. Some of these players’ names are not well known outside the city limits but their presence is felt around the world.

To the world at large, Nashville is a symbol for Country Music, but I like to think it’s a symbol of something more powerful beyond being just an Industry town where Music is the main commodity. The new EP DownTown Nashville is an homage to the city and the music that’s been made there. The spirit of Nashville has infused my songs for many years, as evidenced by the 6 songs that are presented on this release.

Sometimes Wrong

I originally wrote Sometimes Wrong for a female artist, since many of the Divine Feminine would cry on my shoulder and wonder why they “always picked the wrong guy”. I only had to change the words HE to SHE to make it work for a male artist, although it’s not easy for a guy to start a song singing “last night I cried”. But on the plus side, women tend to like a guy who can show his feminine side. 🙂  I recorded a demo of this song with Garry Tallent & Max Weinberg on the DownTown Mystic on E Street release last year. We tried to rock it up but it didn’t quite work for me so I went back to the way I wrote the song. I’ve always been a big fan of Don Everly’s rhythm guitar style and give a tip of my hat to him with the acoustic guitar start. I was also a big fan of Foster & Lloyd and I feel like some of their work rubbed off on Sometimes Wrong.

Rise and Fall

Let’s face it, the Eagles big comeback in the 90s was mostly due to the impact they had on the artists in Nashville. There’s always been a strong Nashville-LA connection, and it’s had a big impact on my music, especially when it comes to guitars and harmonies. A good deal of that comes from listening to those great Eagles songs written by Glenn Frey & Don Henley, as well as their co-conspirators JD Souther and Jackson Browne. Many of their best work elevated things to mythological levels like the Hotel California or the she-devil Witchy Woman. Their myth-making inspired me to write Rise and Fall. I don’t know why, but for some reason, men are drawn to those she-devils like moths to a flame. We’re gluttons for punishment…yeah, hurt me baby! 🙂

Backdoor

Speaking of She-Devils, the guitar player usually gets the girl, but be careful what you wish for. You never know people’s sexual proclivities and our hero learns the joke’s on him in Backdoor. Speaking of guitar players, John Sebastian wrote Nashville Cats about all the great guitar pickers down in Nashville and I’ve always loved the songs that featured hot guitar licks. All those songs left their impression on my consciousness and certainly inspired me on Backdoor. Former Nashville (via Bama) studio ace Lance Doss lent a helping hand on lap steel to bring out the flavor for me. Believe it or not, Backdoor actually started as a bluegrass song. But let’s face it, rock’n’roll is sexier than bluegrass, so I had to rock it out. I tried for years to find the right groove and finally heard a song by The Tractors that helped me to get it right.

Losing My Mind (Too Many Times)

There’s nothing better than writing a song filled with righteous indignation when you can’t take it any longer and need to vent. Losing My Mind is just that type of song and it evokes Steve Earle for me. His Guitar Town record was a big influence and I have to thank him for making Nashville that mythological place for me. I know Garry Tallent played bass on Steve’s Copperhead Road and I remember meeting Steve’s wife Teresa Ensenat (I think she was #5 at the time) in LA, where she had an A&R gig. I could not imagine them being in the same room let alone being married, but I guess that’s Steve for you. 🙂  I like to think some of his magic rubbed off on me for Losing My Mind, which features some killer guitar work from Lance Doss.

Believe

Sony Music put out a Country Hits Compilation cd in Germany featuring a Who’s Who of Nashville. We’re talking Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley…you get the picture. I had a cd out in Europe via Sony and by a stroke of luck, Believe got the final slot. I later learned that John Mayer had refused permission to use his song, so DownTown Mystic got the nod. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see my name on that cd! It made me want to be in Nashville and was probably the impetus for this release. It also allowed me to hear how my song stacked up and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, compared to my vocal, any one of those other artists would have a smash if they cut Believe. 🙂

Shade of White Bluegrass

I’ve always had a place in my heart for Bluegrass. From Bill Monroe to Ricky Skaggs and everyone in between I can’t help myself when I hear those pickers. As far as I’m concerned, Bluegrass is Happy Music! I love playing it when I get the chance because it is simply so much fun! I originally wrote Shade of White as a country rocker about this painting I have hanging over my bed. After we cut the basic track I realized I had made a mistake with the arrangement and the groove. But the track was so upbeat and sounded so good that I decided to go with the flow. Voilà—Shade of White Bluegrass! 🙂

Steve, Robert & Paul

Steve, Robert & Paul

One of the great things about making DownTown Nashville was getting to record the songs with Steve Holley and Paul Page. Going from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band rhythm section to Ian Hunter’s Rant Band rhythm section is like being in Rock’n’Roll Heaven. It just doesn’t get any better than that for me. Drummer Steve Holley is a NYC legend, having played with just about everyone, including Rock Royalty like Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John. With a resume like that and always being in demand, it would be very easy for him to just give the basics of what’s needed and move on to the next gig.

Steve Holley

Steve Holley

But that’s not Steve Holley’s style. He comes prepared and gives his full attention to the job at hand, including suggestions on how to approach or improve a track. It was Steve’s idea for the intro part on Sometimes Wrong that was so good I had to have it throughout the song. He’s great to watch behind the drums. When the playback comes in the booth I ask him how he feels about his take. If he’s fine with it, then we move on to the next song. If he feels he wants to do another take, then we do another take.  🙂

Paul Page

Paul Page

Now add the Urban Legend Paul Page into the mix and you have the Dynamic Duo. Paul & Steve work so well in tandem that it’s like a fine piece of machinery humming along on all cylinders. Having worked with them a few times now I’m always amazed at the quality of the parts they put down on tape. I mean they’re great players and that’s a given. But what really make them great are the actual parts they create. As a recording artist I’m trying to create magic in the studio that will find its way onto the tape, and somehow, Steve and Paul make it happen in ways that are not planned. That’s real magic! 🙂

 

DownTown Blog – 2015: It Was a Very Good Year

DMystic E Street Cover

Another year has come and gone. For some, it went far too quickly. For others, it didn’t go quick enough. At any rate, it’s time for a year in review. For DownTown Mystic, 2015 will go down as a very good year to remember. New things were attempted with positive results.

There were 3 DownTown Mystic releases in 2015. Each release came out with a new season, which was a 1st. The Turn Around and Go Digital Single was released in the spring for the Vernal Equinox. The DownTown Mystic on E Street EP was released at the start of summer for the Summer Solstice. And the Soul’d Out Single finished the year as a late fall/early winter release. Why? Who knows, it just felt right. 🙂

Of course, the main reason for these releases was to help promote and get the word out about the upcoming Rock’n’Roll Romantic album. By now it would seem to be common knowledge and accepted practice on the Internet that releasing a full album is a fruitless venture (unless you’re Taylor Swift or Adele). Why release 10-12 songs at one time when you could release the same number of songs over 10-12 months (if you wanted to stretch it out, say 1 new song every 2 months)? The point being that you keep new material coming out regularly to your fan base. An album is one shot and then nothing again for 2-3 years. You could lose fans in that period if you don’t stay in front of them.

Rock'n'Roll Romantic Cover

Rock’n’Roll Romantic Cover

So I opted for the Digital Single option, which is generally 1-4 songs on a release. I did that back in 2013 when I released 3 singles before releasing the self-titled DownTown Mystic album and had great results. The main difference this time was that I was committing myself to help bring Rock’nRoll into the 21st century. So the 1st place I made a conscious effort was at Radio. Sha-La Music makes DownTown Mystic tracks available to Radio on the AirPlay Direct downloading platform. Since DownTown Mystic was listed as Americana, this would mean switching over to Rock.

Turn Around and Go was the 1st release in the Rock genre and the result was very successful, reaching #12 on the APD Global Rock Chart for the month of March. Sha-La released the single overseas and it reached #14 on the Official European Independent Music Chart. So 2015 was off to an auspicious start! The real question for me was what would I release as the next single?

I thought long and hard about it. There are 2 songs on Rock’n’Roll Romantic that have The E Street Band rhythm section—Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg on bass and drums. One of the songs called Hard Enough was on the Standing Still release in Europe. I had deliberately kept it off of the US release because I didn’t want to upstage the other musicians that played on all the other songs. That’s exactly what happened in Europe. All the reviews, which were quite good, focused on that one track with the E Streeters. So I knew what to expect here in the US.

With summer approaching I knew this would be the right time to put together and release the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP. Previously, Way To Know with Garry & Max had been released as a single from the DownTown Mystic album and it crossed over and hit #1 on the Roots Music Report Alt/Rock Chart in 2014! That was a career highlight, so it just seemed like the perfect moment to commemorate the sessions with Garry & Max.

Sha-La announced that the EP would be available to Radio via AirPlay Direct before the release date of June 22. On June 1st the EP went to #1 on the APD Global Rock Chart and stayed there for the entire month of June! This was an unprecedented success with the most downloads ever for a DownTown Mystic release. The single And You Know Why premiered the following week on The Vinyl District, the 1st time a DownTown Mystic single had a premiere. The reviews were terrific, easily making the E Street EP the high point of 2015.

Actually, DownTown Mystic on E Street was so successful it created a problem with what to do next. We thought by September, the EP would have run its course, but it had some legs. We wanted to get out another release before all the Christmas releases took over. So the decision was made to release the Soul’d Out Single in early November, despite having to still compete with the E Street EP. I guess that’s showbiz and not too bad of a problem to have. 🙂

The Soul’d Out Single was made available to Radio on AirPlay Direct in October before the official release date and once again, the strategy paid dividends. Soul’d Out would finish at #8 on the APD Global Rock Chart for the month of October. DownTown Mystic would finish 2015 appearing on the APD charts a total of 10 months. Once again, the single was premiered courtesy of The Vinyl District and the reviews have been very positive.

At this point 2015 had been a busy year, but October would hold a highlight that was not anticipated. In September we were informed that DownTown Mystic’s track No Exceptions had been selected to be in a movie called Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky. But it wasn’t until mid-October, when the film was released, that we got the chance to see and hear just how cool it was to be part of this wild indie film! The best part for us had to be when the ending credits rolled and we saw DownTown Mystic listed along with Pearl Jam and Social D!! We have to give a BIG THANKS to Writer/Director/Producer Ryan Cleek for including DownTown Mystic in his truly remarkable RnR piece of cinema! 🙂

Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky

Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky

The last 2 highlights of 2015 helped me finish the year feeling really good about the future. In October, one of my fave bands came to NYC to play the Mercury Lounge. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen the Band of Heathens and it was a very special night. BOH was as tight as ever, playing with precision and energy. The excellent set featured some new songs from the new album they’ve been recording and the big surprise was the RnR vibe! One of the songs would have made The Stones proud. 🙂

Band of Heathens-Mercury Lounge NYC

Band of Heathens-Mercury Lounge NYC

I caught up with the main Heathens, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, who along with keyboardist Trevor Nealon talked about the new recording project. Gordy & Trevor in particular were very enthusiastic about the direction the new material was taking and I could feel their passion for it. After hearing the new songs in their set I can’t wait to hear the new BOH album in 2016 because it will be great to have some new RnR hit the Americana scene.

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

The last highlight came the following month a day after the Soul’d Out Single release date, and once again, I was back in NYC at the Mercury Lounge. Another of my fave bands was in town, The Bros. Landreth. Like BOH I’ve written about The Bros. Landreth in the pages of this blog. It had been over a year since I’d met up with them and the 1st person I saw was big brother Dave, who greeted me warmly at the door.

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Later, younger brother Joey came in and gave me a big hug. He had slimmed down and looked to be in great shape. The band had just had to replace long time drummer Ryan Voth a few days earlier because life on the road had finally taken its toll on him. I asked about the new drummer and both Dave & Joey said to be the judge and let them know after the show. With that I went in the main room to get my place for the show.

The Bros. Landreth - Mercury Lounge NYC

The Bros. Landreth – Mercury Lounge NYC

The band did not disappoint. They were very tight and the guitar play between Joey and Ariel Posen was better than ever. As for new drummer Cody Iwasiuk, I think this was only the 2nd or 3rd show with him and he played like he’d been in the band forever. Afterwards, I got a chance to chat some more with Joey. Like The Band of Heathens, The Bros. Landreth are road warriors and just starting a new leg of a tour. He wasn’t too sure about when they would get the time to record their next album but I hope it won’t be too long. With that we hugged each other, said goodbye and looked forward to seeing each other sometime in the near future.

Robert with Joey Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Robert with Joey Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

So 2015 is in the books and there was a lot to be grateful for. Looking forward to 2016 with the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album coming into view. Hopefully, there will be a few more surprises that will make the 2016 year in review worth remembering. 🙂