Does Weed Help You Make Better Music?

You’ve heard the theory: “Smoking weed helps you make better music.”

But is there any validity to that? Is it just a theory, or can we call it a fact? Continue reading

How To Be A Parent While Also Being A Musician

I had been working on my new album for about a year and I was trying to finish the mixes.

They were nearly done; I was getting so close. But then I heard a little voice from behind me, “Daddy?”

Continue reading

3 Ways Nina Simone Was Unique (And What She Can Teach Us)

It might be stupid to ask, “What was so special about Nina Simone?”

DIY musician tips
Nina Simone (photo via NPR)

The real question is, “What wasn’t special about her?”

But just to set the record straight, here are the three main reasons why Simone stood out and was a tidal wave of influence in the music industry and society as a whole.

Her unique tone

That full, strong voice that could jump an octave and still keep a rapid vibrato — that’s really what made Nina Simone special. It’s what made her stand out among her peers. No one had a voice like her, and we won’t hear another voice like hers for a long time.

And she wasn’t just born with an amazing voice — she worked hard.

She attended Juilliard School of Music in New York (she dropped out for financial reasons). She practiced, and that practice led to her timeless voice.

She was a Civil Rights singer

Simone wasn’t just a singer, she was a Civil Rights singer. She became known as the voice of the Civil Rights Movement in the music world.

Her song “Mississippi Goddam” was in direct response to the 1963 assassination of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evans and the bombing at the Birmingham church.

And after the 1968 murder of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Simone’s bassist wrote “Why (The King of Love Is Dead)” and Simone performed it with her band at the Westbury Music Festival.

These are only a couple examples of how she was a voice for a lot of African-American folks in the 50s and 60s.

She was versatile

Not only did she have great vocal range, but she sang more than just one genre of music as a lot of singers often do.

She could sing jazz, blues, and folk music, even covering Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.”

But in everything she did, her classical training shined through.

But still, people saw her as a soul singer, often calling her the “High Priestess of Soul,” even though she hated that nickname.

“If I had to be called something, it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing,” she wrote in her autobiography, according to Biography.com.

Simone is someone every aspiring singer should study.

What can DIY musicians learn from her?

This: if you want to be good, you gotta learn your craft, practice a ton, stand for something good, and be open to different types of music.


I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine.

Bob Dylan Is Not His Real Name (And Why That Matters To Musicians)

Just like a Russian spy, Bob Dylan is not his real name. It’s just an alias.

Bob Dylan aka Robert Zimmerman
Bob Dylan aka Robert Zimmerman (photo via GQ.com)

Early on in his career, Robert Zimmerman (later to be called Dylan) introduced himself as Elston Gunn at concerts. But in his autobiography, Chronicles, he said that name was just temporary.

Once he left his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, he was going to call himself Robert Allen, saying “that was who I was.”

But then he decided he liked the spelling Allyn better. Then he saw some poems by Dylan Thomas and thought the name Robert Dylan would be cool.

So he ended up at a crossroads, trying to decide between Robert Allyn, Robert Dylan, Bob Allyn, or Bob Dylan.

His sub-conscience made the decision for him.

“The first time I was asked my name in the Twin Cities, I instinctively and automatically without thinking simply said, ‘Bob Dylan,’” he writes. “Now, I had to get used to people calling me Bob. I’d never been called that before, and it took me some time to respond to people who called me that.”

But it stuck. And it worked out for him.

In 2004, a 60 Minutes interviewer asked him why he changed his name in the first place. His answer was so Dylan-esque.

“Some people — you’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents,” Dylan said. “I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.”

The moral of this story: put a lot of thought into your stage name or band name, but ultimately, it’ll come down to your gut feeling.

For example, when my bandmates and I were trying to decide on a name, some of the “options” included Shark Farts, The Immediate Regret, and other terrible ideas that I’m too embarrassed to type.

Fortunately, I went with my gut and chose Caleb J. Murphy and The Bright Future.

 


I originally wrote a version of this article for Crazy4Rock