Q&A #18: Josh Olds

 

 

Josh shares his journey as a reader, one way he makes use of Evernote, and his approach to find homes for a number of books after he got married.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Josh, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through your reviews, I noticed that your reading focuses on different areas. Do you go off recommendations now?

Josh Olds: Leigh, I’m honored (and frankly surprised!) at the opportunity. I do tend to read in many different genres. It’s a luxury of being a somewhat professional book reviewer. I’ll always pick a good story outside my favorite genres than a mediocre story that’s within my “normal” parameters. As my review site, LifeIsStory.com has grown, so have my reviewing opportunities.

About half the books I read come from publishers or publicists who believe the book is a good fit for Life is Story. Usually, they’re right. The other half comes from doing a thorough search of publisher catalogs and seeing what interests me. A good book cover and tagline definitely makes a book stand out. I’m not likely to pick up a fiction book by an author I don’t recognize unless the cover and tagline catch my attention.

 

LL: Would you recommend a reviewer reach out directly to publishers?

 

JO: It depends on the size of your readership. I recommend that you start with book review programs such as BookLook Bloggers from Thomas Nelson or the Tyndale Blog Network or NetGalleys. All of these programs allow you to get your foot in the door and, once you have a history of quality reviews, you can seek out the publisher directly. That’s exactly how I’ve grown Life is Story over the years.

 

LL: How have your reading preferences changed through the years?

 

JO: I’ve definitely widened my reading range. 2014 was the year that I challenged myself to read books that I would normally decline. I also read a lot more what I would call “pastor” books. As a pastor (and writer), not only do I learn from the books but I’m learning how to structure my own writing.

 

 

LL: Writers that you loved from first read, until now?

JO: I can already tell that I’m going to be talking about Ted Dekker a lot. Ted has had a profound influence on my life (more on that later) and, yes, my reviews of his books do tend to emulate his style. Fun fact you may want to follow up on: I emulate his style so well that in 2011 I was asked to co-write a special promotional book he gave out to a select number of fans.

 

LL: Do you make it a point to catch live readings regularly? (or would you rather listen to the audiobook version?)

JO: I listen to audiobooks on occasion, but not often. I can read faster than I can listen.

 

LL: Do you usually re-read books?

JO: No. If I re-read a book, it’s a sure sign that I love it. My annual re-reads are When Heaven Weeps and The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker.

 

 

LL: How do you decide which books to keep after reading them?

JO: This is a difficult one. Just ask my wife! We literally have piles of books around the apartment and I’ve a couple thousand more volumes in storage at my parents’ house. I’m a book hoarder. If I love a book, I don’t want to part with it. If I don’t love a book, I don’t want to give it to someone else.

For our wedding, my wife and I took the duplicates of our merged libraries (close to two hundred duplicates!) and gave them away as wedding favors.

 

LL: Did you allow your guests select a wedding favor instead of a wedding gift?

JO: It wasn’t an either/or thing. Obviously, we weren’t going to demand gifts from our guests, but we are very thankful for everything we received. My wife and I owned a lot of books, but I had just come out of college and she is in college, so you know what we didn’t have? A toaster. The books were our way of saying “Thank You” for providing us with the things we deemed less important than books.

 

LL: Have you travelled to a specific area just to get a copy of a hard-to-find book?

JO: The first book signing that I ever attended was a huge event put on by Ted Dekker in 2009. Through his web forums, I’d become friends with a lot of fellow readers and the event marked the first time we ever met in person. Ted tends to have a book signing once a year, so I try to make it a point to go to a signing every year.

 

 

LL: What’s your rule when purchasing new books?

JO: I’m lucky enough that 99% of the books I want to read are ones that publishers are willing to send me in exchange for a review. Buying a book means I really loved it. I allow myself one book a month to buy, generally an older title that I couldn’t get elsewhere or an academic title.

I’m all for the print version. An ebook copy is better only if the price is significantly lower or, as is the case in academic titles, is a book I’ll use more for reference and can easily search.

 

LL: Do you still gravitate towards physical copies of books?

JO: I thought I’d never read ebooks. I was wrong. But nothing can replace the feel of a physical book in your hand.

 

LL: For the eBooks you have, do you use a specific eReader?

JO: I use an iPad. The Kindle app is my friend.

 

LL: Do you find yourself wanting to get more material after reading a book?

JO: If it’s a book I love, always. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many authors (from David Baldacci to Jerry Jenkins) because of this. Listening to an interview is great. Actually getting to pick up the phone and call them is even better.

 

LL: Any memorable answers?

JO: Usually I delete the raw audio recording after I’ve edited and published a podcast. Last year, post-interview but still on the recording, Max Lucado praised my writing and the website. To a pastor and book geek like me, that was probably the highest honor I’ve ever been given. I didn’t delete that audio.

Another good answer was when I had the opportunity to interview NYT bestseller Terri Blackstock. I don’t recall the exact reason why—construction on her neighbor’s house, I believe—but at the end of the call, she mentioned that she’d been sitting in her kitchen pantry with the door closed to best minimize the outside noise. It was a great interview and without any background noise. I appreciate Terri’s willingness to go above and beyond to give a good interview.

 

LL: Have you watched a film before reading the book?

JO: Confession: I have watched all the Harry Potter movies and read…none…of the books. They’re on my to-read list, you know, for when I run out of books to review.

Very rarely do I ever finish a book and think it should be made into a movie. Unless, that is, the books are very visual and action-oriented. Usually, the fear that a movie would mess up my favorite books outweighs wanting to see my favorite stories in a different medium.

LL: How many books do you bring when you are out and about?

JO: I once took a vacation to Florida and packed an entire suitcase worth of books. If I’m on a road trip and not driving, I’ll pack a book or two to pass the time. If I’m flying, then space is usually a concern, which is another perk to ebooks. But, I mean, usually four or five.

I never leave the house without a book. You never know when you might need to read.

 

LL: After reading a book, are they usually devoid of marks?

JO: I cannot stand highlighting or writing in a book. If I want to make a note (or capture a quote), I’ll generally use Evernote to make my notations.

 

 

LL: What’s the best (book related) gift you’ve received?

JO: Christmas 2004. The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker. It revitalized my interest in fiction and jumpstarted my own desire to write.

It was through this that I eventually made friends all over the country with people I consider my best friends. One of those friends is now my wife. You can call it a slippery slope argument, but I call it a very, very good gift.

 

LL: There are people who think that reading is quite a solitary activity, and forget that it is after a book is read that connection with other readers (in forums or during live readings) kicks in. What would your advice be to form and cultivate deep friendships like you did?

JO: If you find a good book, talk about it. Seek out others talking about it. Chances are if you both like the same literature, you have other things in common as well. A friendship built on books is a strong friendship indeed.

 

LL: The last book you were really excited about?

JO: Checkmate by Steven James. Steven’s been writing a superb thriller series for a past seven years and Checkmate concluded it.

 

LL: Favourite place to read?

JO: Nothing beats curling up in bed and spending a few hours with a good book.

 

LL: Do you think there is a uniting quality from all the books you’ve read and enjoyed that draws you in?

JO: In terms of fiction, I look for a good story with a good theme. I abhor books that beat you over the head with their message. I don’t find any enjoyment or purpose in books that have no message. The best books are those [that] use the power of story to make you think.

 

LL: Are you a fan of boxed sets?

JO: Depends. I personally tend not to get boxed sets because I’ve usually followed the series through its individual releases. There’s something satisfying about seeing a boxed set, though. It’s like a nice way of partitioning a series and setting it apart from the rest of the bookshelf.

 

LL: Are there any misconceptions about you that you’ve had to clarify?

JO: After reviewing a book by NYT bestseller Eric Wilson, I got an email from him asking “This could be a weird question, but are you the Josh Olds from Family Force 5?” Turns out I share a name with the bassist of a Christian band. I’ve fielded that one a number of times.

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Sometimes my job is weird

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LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

JO: Everyone comes to me for Ted Dekker questions. Most people come to me for reading recommendations. I always tell them to check the website, it retains the information better than me!

 

LL: Are there times when you struggle to find time to read?

JO: Always. I work two jobs outside of Life is Story and have to carefully schedule and protect my reading time. Especially as the site has grown and I’ve had to do more administrative and publicity work, it’s gotten harder. Fortunately, I’m a fairly fast reader and can usually average two books a week.

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting a review?

JO: Any negative review goes to my wife first. I want to make sure I’m tactful and offering constructive criticism rather than just tearing something down. I always sit on a negative review for at least a day and come back to it later. If my feelings about it stick, then that’s what I publish.

There have been a few instances where, for independent publishers, I’ve elected not to publically review a book but send back private feedback. For indie publishers, a review is the same thing as publicity and if I can’t help them publicly, I’ll do so privately.

 

LL: Are you currently in the process of getting someone into reading?

JO: My brother. He’s a senior in high school and we couldn’t be less alike. Last year for Christmas I gave him a Kindle and preloaded it with some books I thought he’d like. He just finished the first one.

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

JO: The Art of Story. Ted Dekker. Doctor Who. Jesus. My wife. Not necessarily in that order.

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

JO: It changes weekly. This week I’m preaching on living in light of eternity, so right now I’m struggling with not preaching the whole sermon to you.

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Best year of life so far. #firstanniversary

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LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JO: Confession time. I’m not huge into music. I appreciate it. I enjoy it. I don’t follow it enough to know who sings what. As far as worship music, The Stand and This I Believe by Hillsong United are my favorites at the moment.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

JO: Fiction: Then Sings my Soul by Amy Sorrells, Non-Fiction: Overrated by Eugene Cho, Websites: A daily read of mine is Cracked.com. Improvement: My friend Kevin Kaiser is putting up great content about making a living as an artist at his website 1ktruefuns.com. Bible: In the middle of an in-depth study of Ephesians.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things? JO: I always check the publisher’s upcoming catalogs. They usually list books 3-6 months before they release. A couple months before release, I’ll put in my request.

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

JO: Well, as I define it, inspiration comes from the outside. Motivation comes from the inside. Both are necessary to succeed. As far as the writing life goes, I’d take motivation over inspiration any day.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

JO: My wife. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. She’s the funniest person I know.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JO: I use it more for business than personal. I might post a personal update once every few days on Facebook, but all other social media is for Life is Story. I’ve taken a liking to Instagram as of late.

 

LL: Do you currently post at forums?

JO: I used to. The whole group of friends I had hung out a lot on a forum we created. Forums have died down as other forms of social media have taken their place, so not so much any more.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

JO: I looked at a lot of different modern designs when researching the recent theme change at Life is Story, but other than that, no.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up? (a particular website, listen to an album….?)

JO: Some time alone with God. Then commiserating with my wife.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JO: Technology interests me, but I’m definitely not a whiz kid with it.

 

LL: For someone reading one of your reviews for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

JO: Overall, I want it to be “This guy knows what he’s talking about.” Life is Story can help people craft their whole years’ worth of reading and we take pride in offering quality reviews.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

JO: Writing. I don’t do enough of it.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with other readers?

JO: Facebook is wonderful. I belong to a number of groups dedicated to various fanbases or reading in general.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

JO: Well, I’d never turn down an opportunity to collaborate with Ted, but I doubt that’s even on the radar for him—though you never know.

Opportunities? There are so many out there that are within my reach in 2015. For Life is Story in particular, I’m working on capitalizing on this great opportunity I have called Behind the Pages, which is a twice-weekly guest column that I’m hosting on LiS. I’m bringing in a whole host of experts to talk about the various aspects of publishing, writing, editing, and so on. I’m going to learn a lot and it’s going to help Life is Story grow.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

JO: My wife and I…and I say I loosely, my wife runs the thing…have an organization called Gathering Family (GatheringFamily.org) that fundraises for families going through international special-needs adoptions. In the past 9 months, we’ve raised over $12,000 and been involved in helping five families bring their children home from an ocean away. It’s an exhilarating experience.

 

* Josh Olds writes for ‘Life is Story’. You can learn more about him through his tweets or viewing his photos on Instagram.

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#tbt on a Tuesday because that's how I roll.

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Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (December 2014 – January 2015) between Josh and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Josh that has not been covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Josh the option of answering).
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Michal’s Q&A.
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Q&A #17: Michal Wilczek

West Coast Tour 2014

 

“Mikee shares his journey as a photographer, his love for Batman, the importance of being humble, and a quote from LOTR”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Mikee, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A!

Michal Wilczek: Hi Leigh! Thank You for taking Your time on preparing these questions. I was really touched by Your in-depth research and re-discovered some pictures that I haven’t seen in a while – what a journey it has been for me :)! I just came back to my home in Krakow, I spent some time abroad and on out-of-town projects. Here we go.

 

LL: Looking at your photo stream, I noticed a bunch of Batman related photos! Are you quite the fan?

MW: I’ve been a Batman Fan since I was 3. To this day I remember my uncle bringing over a Russian VHS version of the Tim Burton classic. The opening sequence haunted me for years to come. Batman opened my eyes to the “terrifying” world of darkness and comics. From then on it was a great experience – 2 years later I got to see Batman Returns and got hooked on Batman – The Animated Series.

The rest of my Bat curiosity was set in motion and every year I found some new Batman related stories that I still love to this day. I actually shared all of the cowls on my Flickr – I have the highest respect for all of the Batman films that came out – each is special for its time period, the people behind the camera, the producers and the actors. I think every actor that had to put the “cowl” on did a phenomenal job – Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman the Animated Series) and Christian Bale – love their work and dedication.

I have high hopes for Ben Affleck’s take on Bruce Wayne, I’ve been a great fan of his classic work in “Good Will Hunting” and even more respect for his return in “The Town” and “Argo”.

 

Easter / 2014

 

 

LL: Do you think part of you sometimes switches to the point of view of ‘Batman – The Animated Series’? I know it’s likely a coincidence! I just couldn’t help thinking about the cinematic (and dark) vibe of the series when looking at these two photos: the cheeky ‘Which way to the food court?’ and one from the West Coast tour.

 

MW: There is a part of me that does not want to leave the wonderful and inspiring moments of my childhood behind. Some call it a “condition” :), but I a strong believer in the power of nostalgia on who we are today.

Whether it is the wonderful colours that where amongst Leonardo, Donatello and the rest of the gang from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the rapid action and detailed “Centurions” (Power EXTREME !! 🙂 ) or the dark corners of the dangerous and mysterious Gotham City from Batman the Animated series… I’d say.. “yeah” :), the cinematic vibe is totally in my head when I am thinking of the mood I want to achieve in each published frame.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

MW: I didn’t have the resources to go with even an entry-level SLR when I started taking my first pictures. Luckily enough I was able to “borrow” my dad’s Canon AF-1 with a 28mm f/2 lens when I was still in elementary school. From time to time I would take my gear to school to joke around with my friends. In high school I decided to keep a low-profile and focus more on scanning and post-processing the pictures.

One of my greatest personal achievements of that time was having my older brother carry some of my printed work on his notepad to school :).

My break through came in 2003, when I got into Clear Lake High School’s Photography classes and was guided on SLR work with Mr. Caldarera. The creative freedom and fundamentals I learned during that year were the core of what my work is today.

I looked up photo work on the web, magazines, store posters, banners and tried to replicate the process in my head, guessing what lens, exposure, iso, post-processing method was being used and after a while “my-mental-hard-drive” needed some cleaning, which I usually did by giving an extra-personal-touch to my work.

The biggest milestone occurred, when I got my first prime lens.

 

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

MW: I guess time is the biggest factor. That and being humble. Learning about Your mistakes, taking criticism and learning from it too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially amongst people who share the same hobby as You do. As You get older, Your skills and perspective will change, You’ll look back at Your work saying “My God… what was I thinking??” but that’s part of the learning process.

 

As for monetisation – I made myself a promise when I bought my first DSLR: ‘that I would never, ever let my creative work make me think that it’s okay to look down on others. It would be great to be part of the photography business and make a living based on telling stories with photos, so let’s try to get there some day. So far, things have been great – but if one day the phone stops ringing and the offers stop coming in – I will still be happy that I spent a significant time of my life on taking photos for others :).

 

 

LL: For those wanting to learn how to get this effect in photos, where should they start?

MW: I guess it’s all about finding what makes You happy. Some people like fashion photography, some like documentaries and some like taking stills of landscapes. I tried taking pictures in almost every category there is out there and after 8 years I can say that my top 3 are – animals, portraits and documentary.

Once You find Your niche, You can explore the possibilities of framing, effects, colouring and so on. I tend to mix-up styles and most times it looks really bad, but again – that’s part of the learning process and it’s always better to try than sit on your ass and not do anything :).

 

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

MW: My favourite time is usually…when I have the time. Everybody loves the possibilities the golden hour gives, but sometimes – You just can’t take pictures during that time of the day.

I started loving outdoor photography, when I learned to use my flash+softbox as an extra light outside. That way, even in the most harsh sun, I would use the sun as a counter light and the electronic flash + soft box as the fill light. This technique allowed me take all of my Malawi portraits in less the 4 hours time. We were basically chasing the sun to make sure there is enough lighting in the background.

Eventually we also took some night pictures to imitate a studio shoot for one of the local musicians and to this day, I consider those pictures one of my greatest achievements.

 

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

MW: I love being spontaneous, but only during my personal time :).

I love my job and the opportunity that life has given me with this kind of work. Therefore, I am very serious on getting ready for the task that is given to me. I brief the customer, ask about the tastes in image framing, colouring, set up a pre-meeting to get to know my project on a personal level and try to create a story based on the given task.

The day before the shoot I clean my lenses, buy extra batteries, check the wireless transmitters, clear the memory cards, prepare the soft-boxes and tripods. Preparation, with the time needed for charging, is about 30 minutes.

 

 

 

LL: Do you use wireless for all remote triggering (like flash) and as well as for transferring image data?

MW: I have two flashes fit with wireless receivers that had taken quite-the-beating these last two years, but whenever I am in the situation that I can control the lighting to achieve a desired effect, I definitely go a flash combo. Some people will get fussy about using flash, as a way of limiting natural light coming into a frame, but I beg to differ.

I set the flash to “compensate” the lack of light within an environment and point it at an angle, never directly – even when I “hot-shoe” the flash, I have to bounce it off a ceiling or wall (or a piece of cardboard 😀 ) but never directly on the model – I just don’t like that effect.

 

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

MW: I was never big with words (that’s a skill my brother has), therefore I can’t find the word to describe my work. I spend less time describing and “just get out there” to do my work. The less time I spent on thinking what my work represents, the more time I have to learn some new tricks and explore for some new inspirations.

 

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

MW: Recently, I was invited to take some shots of airplanes flying into Krakow Balice Airport by my friend Tomek. The night before I saw, by chance, the intro to Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys”, which features a commercial plane flying over the Miami sign – not bad for an overnight inspiration. My work should be available sometime in the next two weeks.

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

MW: Minimal setup: Canon 6D | 24-70mm 2.8L | 64GB SD | 35cm light bouncer | Monopod

I used this setup during my one-day report in Paris, where I was limited to only 8kg of luggage including clothing and gear.

Optimum setup: all of the above | 50mm 1.2L | 70-20mm f/4 IS | 430 EXII | Pixel King Wireless Flash | Softbox+Tripod combo

I used this set for my work in China and Macau. It proved perfect for its weight and reliability.

Perfect setup : Minimal+optimum | Canon 5D Mark II | 14mm 2.8L II I 2x430EX II | 2 x Pixel King Wireless Flash | 2 x Softbox+Tripod combo

This is my setup for domestic photo projects. With this setup I am ready for most challenges given to me by clients, lighting and time.

 

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

MW: Trial and error, all the time. I’d look up some work on Flickr, reddit and then try to recreate an idea. Sometimes I would set up these “cheat sheets” with various pictures linking the idea I wanted to capture and most of the times the final composition was a mixture of a couple of concepts.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

MW: I did a little “tuning”. I updated the firmware and picture profiles to give me a better idea of what the final result might be. Due to massive usage and a couple of times in the rain, I decided to put some “duct tape” on my trusted 5D, which now serves as my secondary camera.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

MW: The only time I sold my gear, was when I was switching to Canon from Nikon. At that time I wanted my trusted lenses to go to someone, who would not only take care of them, but also use them to document stories and family life, and they still do to this day :).

My first film lenses were actually my fathers old PL-mount lenses, which I still use to this day.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

MW: I try to carry my backpack on three straps at a time, using a chest mount, a stomach mount and the standard shoulder straps. That way, the excess weight is evenly distributed on my spine and I have less stress on my back. For those extra heavy work days or usually on the third consecutive day I put on my basketball shoes, which tend to be better for my knees.

 

LL: What shoes do you usually wear?

MW: Mother nature blessed me (and cursed and the same time) with a pair of large and wide feet (shoe size 45 – 45.5) – therefore it was always easy for me to swim a bit faster :), but at the same time it was difficult finding shoes that would resist the amount of “inside” pressure from all the movement I was giving them.

Luckily I started skateboarding at an early age and I have been wearing skateboarding shoes for almost 16 years.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

MW: Sensor cleaning every 2-3 months, lens cleaning before every shoot.

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

MW: I print my favourites, share them with my family and friends. Whenever an exhibition is finished, I tend to distribute the “left overs” 🙂 amongst those that care about my work and would like to have it in their home.

 

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of how some of your photos came about?

MW: Jasio Wolfy – This is a photo of my brother’s son, one of my favourite shots – I guess it was his first smile for my camera. That kid is going to flood my photo stream soon.

Cookie, summertime 2014 – This is an “Action” shot of our dog Cookie, [she] makes the most awkward poses when she wants to play [with] all the other dogs.

Myslecinek // Walking in the rain –  My significant other on a walk with my dear Mom. I was fortunate enough to get the right focus on them while running towards a puddle.

 

 I’m 10 today – My dear Uncle Jasiu’s 10 year old cat that likes to sit in the dark. I caught it looking at some pigeons flying over my uncles house.


Odd one – While visiting the local cemetery in Yang Zhou, my dear friend Mei showed us the only “Christian” grave there.

 

Mr. Tim Roth [in Krakow] – I had the unique opportunity of meeting the great Tim Roth while he was visiting Krakow in 2011. I even had a brief chat with Mr. Roth on his work with director Quentin Tarantino, which made the meeting even more memorable. Great guy.

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a favourite self-portrait?

MW: I tend to point the lens at others. Sometimes I manage to squeeze in via a reflection, but that rarely happens.

As for my Gramps, well – he’s my “dziadzia” and I’ve been looking up to him for almost 30 years now. We share some great moments together and ever since I convinced him to “be himself” and not worry about me taking my camera everywhere with me, he’s never been happier. I usually have a “same-day” delivery arrangement with them, whereas my Grandma downloads the pictures on her laptop and shares them with the rest of the family.

 

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting photos?

MW: As You can tell, I haven’t posted to Flickr for a while, but that will change. I used to have a rule of posting at least one photo-per-day, and I have about 80 photos waiting to be uploaded. I’ll prepare the proper description and then flood my photostream :).

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

MW: I recently discovered a new method of retouching skin tones, without destroying the skin structure – one of the biggest improvement to my work. I also am learning the power of using color-foil filters on flash and will be posting more pictures featuring both of these methods to my photostream.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

MW: Nostalgia, old-but-good movies, puppies/kittens and backgrounds that remind me of a cinematic universe somewhere out there :).

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

MW: I was never too big on the “you-probably-never-heard-of-them” movement. I usually grabbed my musical inspirations [from] my fathers records, then my older brother. In the times of Napster, Myspace and Youtube it became relatively easy to get the music one wanted to hear at a given moment. If you look at some of the playlist I have made for myself on Youtube, it’s hard to define one genre or artist that motivates me on a daily basis :).

 

Author’s Note: Mikee has provided a link to playlists — you can find them here, here, here, here, and here.

 

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

MW: I spent a lot of time on Reddit and treat it as one of the most reliable sources for inspiration, learning and entertainment .

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

MW: I usually scan through random photos on Flickr, watch a late night movie or scan through some old comic books.

 

Cookie // First snow in 2015

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

MW: My family, dog and significant other :).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

MW: A good joke, my dog doing some random shenanigans, a phone call from an old friend, sunrise when I’m driving for [an] early project, the smell of spices my grandmother uses for cooking, an e-mail from my mom or the smile of my other half.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

MW: One of my good friends, who is one of the top social media experts in Poland, brought me into this strange world of clicking, likes and sharing – and sharing my work has never been better. The idea of spreading your thoughts and work, to those that care the most with a click of button is still stunning to me :).

 

 

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MW: Reddit, Cracked (though I miss the “old cracked.com”) and a few others.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any forums?

MW: I have a few Flickr and Reddit forums I post to, photography related. Usually it’s about technique, the right gear or just plain “great job!” comments and upvotes to support the person on the other side of the screen :).

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

MW: Not really, its the content – though I am a big fan of visibility / ad-free – and Reddit delivers :).

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

MW: Play a map of Heroes of Might and Magic 3, go with my dog for a walk, take a ride in my car, call my brother – some options are always available.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

MW: One Greek philosopher once said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak – I try to be listener amongst collaborations and give my insight, when asked for it. There are areas, where my creative ego wants to take over, but I try to keep it in the closet for those “we-have-24-hours-to-publish-this” moments.

 

1.2, further testing.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

MW: I wouldn’t call myself of tech geek, but to keep this area short – I work on a Mac, edit videos in FCPX, photos in Lightroom and Photoshop CC, shoot on Canon cameras and lenses.

LL: If you were asked to pick from your photos, which one would be your favourite?

MW: Either my father or Ben on the tracks.

 

 

LL: For someone seeing one of your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MW: I guess the overall message its that, so far, for me life is set of random stories from various places around the world- and that the one thing linking all of these stories, is the person behind the camera. The older I get, the more I notice how many things I forgot and how much more I remember thanks to those extra clicks on the camera.

Go out there, shoot, edit, publish – You’ll thank Yourself in 10 years time :).

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

MW: I’ve never thought I would directly use a quote, but this best illustrates my everyday motivation:

 

Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

 

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

 

Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

 

Editor’s Note: You can find that scene in the film version of the Two Towers.

 

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

MW: Definitely sending and replying to individual messages via my Facebook Fan Page. After a video project last Year I responded to over 300 emails, each individually and thanked all the people that wrote me with this.

 

 

 

* Michal Wilczek is a photographer based at Kraków. You can find out more about him (and see more of his photos!) via Flickr or Facebook.

 

So, here's me. // Macau '12

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (September 2014 – January 2015) between Michal and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Michal that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Michal the option of answering).
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Fourteen) that would be a companion piece to Michal’s Q&A.
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Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀

 

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Q&A #16: Emily Page

 

* Emily gives us a glimpse of her journey as a painter, how she is able to make some of her brushes last a long time (20 years!), and how swapping gratitudes with select people helps.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Emily! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. I’ve noticed in one of your posts, you mention that you had to recreate 22 paintings in 48 hours. How did you manage that!?

Emily Page: For my sip and paint studio, Artistic Abandon, we do consulting to help other sip and paint studios open without them having to do a franchise. Part of the consulting package is that we allow them to use 50 of our copyrighted paintings, and we provide those 50 physical paintings for them to hang on the wall.

Normally, I have several weeks to come up with all 50, but we had a studio opening in Maryland within a couple weeks and my husband was going to be driving through that area in a couple days anyway, so we decided he should just deliver them on his way and save them the cost of shipping. Luckily, we had several of the images already painted (every time I teach a class, I’m recreating the painting for the students to follow along with), but there were 22 paintings that I had to get done within a couple days. It was madness.

The paintings that we teach at the studio are designed to be taught between a 2 and 3 hour period, so they take me 30 minutes to an hour and a half to recreate if I’m not waiting for students to catch up. So if we average an hour per painting, that means it took me approximately 22 hours total. I pretty much formed an assembly line of paintings with similar colors and would work on one painting while another dried, then go back once it was dry to do the next step.

My hand just about fell off at the end of it. I wear a wrist brace when I paint because I’ve got tendonitis and it definitely earned its keep over those couple days!

 

LL: If you were to explain the ‘Sip and Paint’ concept to someone who hasn’t encountered before, what would you say?

EP: Basically, customers can bring their own wine, beer, or nonalcoholic beverage and any snacks they’d like to class, and we’ll walk them step-by-step through creating their own version of one of our paintings.

Everyone in the class does the same painting, and we break it down so that, even if you’ve never painted before, you can walk away with something your proud of. You can follow along exactly, or put your own personal touches on it (we’ll help you do that, too, if you ask). It’s a social event with people laughing and chatting while they paint, but if you want to take it more seriously, you can.

We have customers that have been in over 50 times, which I never thought would happen. We work really hard to come up with paintings that are both good, and teachable, and to make sure that everyone is having a good time, too.

LL: What approach do you take when having to ship your paintings?

EP: I’ve gone back and forth between FedEx and UPS. I’ve never used any of the big art shippers because they’re so crazy expensive. I suppose if my work started getting super expensive, I would switch over. My strategy is just bubble wrap bubble wrap bubble wrap. Way more than you think is actually necessary. And I add an extra layer of cardboard in there, too.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with painting?

EP: I started drawing when I was little and my parents always encouraged me to explore (mostly because it kept me occupied and quiet, I think, during the many hours we spent touring the country and chasing trains in a VW camper – yes, my parents were dirty dirty hippies). In high school, I did an independent study with a family friend, Tim O’Kane, and he introduced me to several different media, including oils. Check out his work at http://www.timokane.com. He’s amazing and continues to mentor me unofficially.

I fell in love with oils and ended up being an art major in college, focusing on painting. There’s such a satisfying gush. I’m big on textures. I tend to get hooked on a style and do a ton of work in that style, and then I get restless and want to try something new. I mostly figure out how to do new stuff myself, but occasionally I’ll consult books or go online if it’s a new medium. Tim recently gave me some panel to experiment on and I’m totally obsessed with that now. It’s allowing me to get very detailed and precise, so I’m doing a series of realist paintings at the moment, sprinkled in with some other work.

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

EP: The hardest thing about learning is accepting that you’re going to end up with something that you’re not happy with. You want it to be perfect the first time. But I’m learning to let go and know that I’ll probably have to sand down and gesso over a few pieces and reuse the canvas when I’m at the beginning of a new style or medium.

Making something that ends up being something you consider sub-par is okay – no one needs to see it and you’re going to learn on each piece what works and what doesn’t work, and the next one will get better. That was particularly true when I started doing portraits. Let me tell you, I have butchered some of my loved ones’ faces! Luckily, they’ll never know. I also know that sometimes a piece needs to sit for a few months and then be revisited when you’ve learned more.

I’ve even shown works that I wasn’t thrilled with and a year later gone back and totally reworked it. If a piece isn’t working, you can’t be afraid to go way off course and screw up the pretty parts to get to somewhere new and fresh. Some of my best pieces are works I hated the first time around and that are kind of accidental.

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

EP: I don’t really consult books on a regular basis, but in my studio, I do have The Artist’s Handbooks (1 by Ralph Mayer and 1 by Ray Smith), and the Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist by Stephen Rogers Park. They’re sort of for just in case.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never painted before, so they could have the capacity to draw at your level and skill. What would it look like?

EP: I don’t think there needs to be a set path for learning to paint. The key is to not be afraid to make mistakes and be willing to practice daily. You WILL make mistakes, and that’s okay. Just learn from them. I believe in having a strong foundation in drawing, because it teaches you how to really see what’s there, not just what you THINK is there. If you can’t draw, you can’t paint.

But really, learning to create art is just like anything else: the more you practice, the better you get. When I give private lessons, I assign homework that both lets you explore and requires you to practice. If you have a good artist to guide you, that’s really helpful, because they can help you see in ways you didn’t already. I would also say that any chance you get to watch a really great artist work, do it. I’ve learned so much by just observing.

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an artist?

EP: I was not disciplined when I was younger and it has taken me a long time to get to where I am. I’m not sure how much being more dedicated would have helped me get here faster, or if my brain just needed time to develop and mature and work things out. Even now, I don’t think of it as discipline – I look for ways to keep myself interested, which is why I have such a wide variety of art and styles.

Don’t force yourself to do more than 10 minutes a day as you’re beginning. If you’re enjoying it, do more. If you’re not, stop. Art should be a release. It should be fun, and if it’s not fun, you’ll lose interest quickly. I tend to work in spurts, where I have dozens of paintings in the works and I wish I had more time to paint, and I have phases where things slow down.

The lulls used to panic me, but now I know that’s just my pattern and that soon enough, inspiration will hit again.

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

EP: I can’t think of specific examples of times a teacher has helped me work through a real problem or learn a new technique, but as I said, people often give little tips that help you along the way – like Tim O’Kane giving me a couple pieces of prepped Masonite for my realist work.

 

LL: Do you plan when you paint?

EP: I do plan when I paint sometimes. I’ll work out composition on paper first, but I rarely make any studies in paint first. It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m using any photos as reference, I’ll print them out in black and white before I start painting so I can see values without hue.

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished?

EP: I don’t really have any kind of checklist. It’s more intuitive for me. I think if you have a solid enough foundation, you can let go of the technique and interpret your way through. If I’m struggling with a piece, or if I’m not quite sure if I’m done, I’ll ask my husband. He has no artistic training, and I like getting the layman’s opinion, because they don’t care about technique.

And generally buyers are not artists themselves. He’ll just look at a piece and say something like, “I think it needs more red over there.” He’s often right, and even if he’s not, he sometimes makes me think of something that I hadn’t considered before.

I do like having photos as reference – whether it’s of a color palette I like, or a pose I’m using, or even another artist’s work that I like the mood of, I find photos helpful.

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First layers. Such anticipation.

A post shared by Emily Page (@emilypageart) on

 

LL: Description of your style?

EP: This is a really tough one for me, because, artistically, I call myself a restless spirit. I tend to like bold color, but, of course, there are exceptions to that in my work. I swing wildly between styles – some of my work is fairly abstract and expressive, other work is tight and realistic. I tend to be drawn to figurative work in general.

I often have a theme of subject matter that I’ll focus on for a while, then back off and switch to a new subject, then go back as more ideas arise.

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as an artist?

EP: People assume that I’m naturally talented and that it comes easily to me. They assume they could never do it because the stuff they’ve produced so far hasn’t been “successful.” Wrong. Yes, I do have some natural ability, but I’m good because I’ve worked hard at it.

Paint seriously for 20 years, and it’ll get easier for you, too. And I firmly believe that everyone can produce something of value with the right guidance. That’s the thing that I love about the sip and paint studio: it allows people to try painting again even though their 2nd grade art teacher told them they couldn’t do it (that drives me crazy by the way – never EVER tell a child they’re not gifted at art. If they’re struggling, it’s your job to find their unique ability). We let them sip wine while they paint, so they relax a little, and then we walk them step-by-step through creating a painting.

With the right instruction and having each paint stroke really broken down for them, they can walk away with something they’re proud of and that they never thought they could do. Again, it’s like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to paint?

EP: I like painting at night, but that’s not generally an option these days. Because I have to teach classes at night and I’m usually worn out afterward, I’m often stuck carving out a little time during the day to paint.

I try to reserve Fridays to work on my personal art, but it doesn’t always happen. What’s also hard is that some Fridays I’m just not in the mood, and there are other days when I desperately need to paint but can’t. Finding the time for my personal work is a real struggle, and because it’s in the same space as the business itself, I often don’t want to come in on my days off because it feels like I’m returning to work.

I’m looking forward to the future when I have my own dedicated studio space at home away from work so I can work at any hour of the day and don’t feel obligated to do “real” work.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

EP: I’m working on realism right now, and trying to learn some glazing techniques. I’m also doing a lot more underpainting in acrylic and then taking oils on top. I like the speed of doing an underpainting in acrylic and then having the leisure to work in oils.

I’m also about to start sculpting with foam for the haunted attraction my husband and I are building. I’ve never sculpted in foam, and I haven’t been able to find anyone to teach me, so I’ve been watching a lot of videos online.

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My kind of Sunday

A post shared by Emily Page (@emilypageart) on

LL: What’s part of your kit at the moment?

EP: My favorite oils are actually Utrecht. Good quality, not too pricey. I don’t feel like I have to be stingy with it because it’s so expensive. I usually use some kind of quick drying medium like Liquin or ResinGel (I used to really like Oleopasto, but they stopped making it). I’ve also been doing some mixed media work, so I’m tearing through Matte Gel Medium.

 

LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

EP: If I’m painting plein air (find a good site include as a link), I bring my pochade box, some quick drying medium and turpenoid (I use little baby food jars for carrying the turp), and plenty of water/coffee/snacks to keep me going. I bring my phone, too, because snapping a quick picture can really help me double check my composition and flatten the space before I start sketching. I’m not a purist, whatever helps me get there is fine with me.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

EP: I’m STILL not settled on a set-up I like. Sometimes I stand when I paint, sometimes I sit, sometimes I kneel. Having a good adjustable easel is important for me for that reason. I usually get out all of the colors and supplies I think I’ll need before I paint because having to stop and get more as I go frustrates me.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you start a project?

EP: Ergonomics is really the constant battle, isn’t it? I have a number of health conditions that sometimes affect my set-up. I guess that’s why I don’t have just one way that I paint. If I’m really achy or I’m working on a small realist piece, I like a low chair, if I’m working on an expressive piece, I prefer to stand so that I can have good range of motion.

I’ve even been known to use those exercise balls to sit on. Having enough padding on the floor is key (and again is one of my big frustrations because of the limitations of the sip and paint studio space). Honestly, I know it’s crazy, but a carpeted floor with a drop cloth on it is my favorite.

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

EP: I have some high end lights I bought for photographing my work when it’s done, but they’re such a pain to set up that I keep them in storage now. I’ve found that photographing my work outside on a cloudy day gives me the best chance at capturing the real colors in a piece. I also have been known to give away media I don’t care for to other artists (I was once gifted an amazing encaustic set, but didn’t find encaustic to be a satisfying medium to work in, so I gave it to a friend. Why sell when you can gift to another starving artist who you love?).

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

EP: If you can buy in bulk and have the storage, hell yes! But don’t clutter your studio space with extra stuff if you need to feel like you have room. I make that mistake a lot – I want the good deals, but I hate feeling like I don’t have the space I need to create.

Clutter is kind of inevitable for me, but periodically I clean up because I feel so much more open in a large, clean space.

 

LL: Maintenance and Storage?

EP: I’m religious about cleaning my brushes and palette knives. Religious. Brushes are so expensive, and it’s not that hard to take a couple extra minutes to clean when you’re done. I have brushes that I’ve been using for 20 years.

If I love it, I want to be able to keep using it and not have to hunt down a brush that they may stop making in a couple years. I have canisters for my brushes so I can store them bristle up. They’re sorted by style and size (though I’m pretty loose about that) so I can find the one I want easily.

People being cruel to brushes drives me absolutely loony. That’s the hardest thing about owning a sip and paint studio – people are abusive to our brushes, so we have to replace them on a regular basis. It’s painful!

 

LL: What approach do you recommend for using and maintaining brushes?

EP: If you’re using acrylics, the key is to always leave the brushes in a cup of water when you’re not using them. People always think that, because they’ve rinsed it and it looks relatively clean when they dab it on a paper towel, that it really is clean. It’s not. Paint gets way up in those bristles and hardens when it dries. Once it’s in there, it’s going to make the brush stiff and frayed. For oils, you’ve got way more time, but I still clean my brushes after every painting session.

 

If you know you’ve got to clean your brushes before you can even start the next day, it can stop you from ever starting. Take away those kind of excuses so that you can come to each session fresh.

 

People are really heavy handed. A light touch takes practice. I rest my hand or pinky finger on the canvas when I’m painting to help me steady my pressure, and I usually hold my brush pretty close to the bristle if I’m doing anything even vaguely detailed. I use what dentists call the Fulcrum Grip, lol. . I don’t change brushes to change colors. I just clean it well in between. I’m attaching a picture of what our brushes look like when they arrive from the store and what a couple weeks of use by our customers does to them.

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your paintings came about?

EP: When I start a new piece that isn’t really part of a series, it’s because I’ve seen something that has just stuck in my brain and won’t let go. For the Drippings Triptych, I had the color palette in mind and it kept badgering me to come out. We had a painting we teach at the studio, and about a third of the way through, it looks like a lovely piece of abstract art and I just loved the colors.

(I’m attaching a photo of the studio’s painting so you can see. When we first start we just do the background color and some of the trees, and that’s what really set me off and running I had been doing some really tight work and wanted something more abstract and free, and had a wall at home that I wanted to change out the art for).

I had just been given those pieces of Masonite to try, and liked them and had purchased more for myself and had them cut so that I could make the triptych from some of the leftovers. I had done a couple other drippings pieces, and oddly, those had stemmed from a computer glitch. I had tried to print a pic of one of my paintings, and the printer screwed up and created this box within the painting and I liked how it looked. So I set out to do that intentionally on canvas.

The triptych was an extension of that. The only down side was that I was planning on doing something a little looser to give my hand a break, but I had forgotten that in order to have clean edges around the boxes, that you’ve got to get really tight and controlled in the clean-up of the lines. Murder for the hands, but I love how they came out. Serene.

 

 

LL: Have you received referrals to take your classes as an antidote to writer’s block?

EP: I haven’t, but that’s a really interesting thought. I think most people just view it as a fun night out, but I have some regulars that often say to me, “hey, it’s cheaper than therapy,” so obviously it helps them in some way. That’s really what art should be.

We all have this need to be perfect, and people are really hard on themselves in class sometimes. They forget that I’ve been painting for 30 years. If I came to their job, I wouldn’t be good at it right away either. And if it was easy, they wouldn’t need my help in the first place.

I ring a cowbell during class reminding them to take a drink or to breathe. Even when I’m working on a tough painting and it’s not going well or I’m finding it kind of stressful, it’s still good for me because it makes me stop thinking about my “real” life. I think that’s true for my customers as well. They stop thinking about job stress or home stress and they’re truly in the moment for those couple of hours that they’re painting.

 

LL: Are there any misconceptions about you that you’ve had to clarify?

EP: I’ve never really been pigeon holed as an artist (at least, not that I know of) because I do so many kinds of work. I think the hardest thing for me to get past is people not taking me seriously because I’m a petite “young” woman. I’m still called a young woman, but I’m 37, and I wonder when you stop getting called that?

Granted, I take it as a compliment that they perhaps think I’m younger than I am because of how I look, but I do think that I’m often not taken seriously because of it. When I was in art school, I was advised not to sign my paintings with my full name, because buyers won’t pay as much if they know that you’re a woman. I just sign with my first initial and last name. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I don’t want to take my chances. I do think men get taken more seriously as artists than women do, even in this day and age.

LL: Are there some questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

EP: Why the dancers? Why the elephants. They’re honest questions, though, so I don’t mind answering them.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting entries?

EP: I’m trying to post on the days that I’m already in the studio (Tuesday through Saturday) and give myself a break on Sundays and Mondays. This is mostly so that I’ll rest my hand and help the tendonitis ease.

But if I’m really excited about something, I’ll post more frequently. I’m still new to the whole blogging thing, so we’ll see if I’m able to maintain that rhythm.

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting/sharing something?

EP: I’m a pretty open and honest person. I sometimes question whether readers will get my humor, but I’m viewing the blogging like I view the art. You have to let go of the response you’re anticipating and do what makes you happy.

This is REALLY hard to do, because I’m a people pleaser, but I find that when I let go and just be creative, people generally respond well. The only time I censor is when I’m talking about someone else, like my dad. I don’t want to betray anyone’s trust. If I do talk about someone, I try to keep it in a positive light. There’s enough trash talk out there, I don’t need to add to it.

With my dad, because he can’t advocate for himself anymore with the dementia, I try to think about what he would have been comfortable with sharing, but he was a really open person, too, and decided early on not to hide what was happening (my mom embraced the same attitude, luckily).

If we can be honest about who we are and what’s happening to us, it can be therapeutic for other people reading it. That’s really what support groups are, after all: people saying, “I’ve experienced this,” and other people saying, “Yeah, me, too! I thought I was the only one!”

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

EP: I’d really love to learn a new language. I was pretty good with French for awhile, but it’s been so long since I’ve had to use it, I’ve lost most of it.

I’d love to learn Spanish, just for its usefulness.

 

I’m also going to have to learn special effects makeup for the haunt, and I’m pretty excited for that. I don’t really like creepy things, but I love the thought of getting to do prosthetics, etc.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

EP: I don’t know that mentoring is the right word. I have a friend who swaps “gratitudes” with me once a week. We each keep a gratitude journal – just stuff that makes us happy day to day, and then we email each other everything once a week.

I have a really strong history of depression (something I haven’t talked about in the blog yet, but which I undoubtedly will), so making the effort to see the good in life is vital. Emailing each other holds us accountable, and I find that, even if I’ve had a really crappy day, at the end of emailing my whole list of gratitudes for the week, I feel better. And then reading hers makes that even better, because it alerts you to things you didn’t know make you happy. It can be really simple things like the crunch of ice when you step on a frozen puddle, but it makes you see some good when you might otherwise be cranky about freezing your butt off.

I have another friend who’s daughter is about to turn 10 and is struggling with self esteem, and I think is tending toward depression. So I sent her a gratitude journal and asked her to be my pen pal and trade gratitudes, too. I really want her to get in the habit while she’s young, because it could make a difference in her teenage years.

I’m also trying to be more cognizant of who I surround myself with. I’m looking for people that believe in me and push me, and I try to reciprocate as much as possible. We need to work harder at being of value to each other’s lives. Let’s grow together.

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

EP: I watch FRIENDS religiously. And HGTV. I freakin’ love makeovers (home or beauty). And Harry Potter is kind of awesome, I have to admit. That being said, I’m not really someone who goes and looks up every fact that ever was about something I like. So I don’t know if it qualifies as geeking out.

 

I’m also really fascinated by medical stuff. I have several conditions that have required me to be my own advocate, which means you have to learn about the science-y stuff. I used to run a local support group in FL through the Endometriosis Research Center. And I worked for awhile as a paralegal helping people get their disability benefits, which meant that I had to be able to write coherently about their illnesses. I really enjoyed that work. If I had better memorization skills (as an actor, I was good at remembering lines, but holding minutia in my brain was never my strong suit), I probably would have become a doctor. Ooh, or a surgeon since I have steady hands.

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

EP: Anything that’s not “fair,” lol. I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I do have to be careful though, because if I play the “ain’t it awful” game (as my dad called it), it puts me into a negative mindset which makes me more susceptible to falling back into a depression.

I will say that I’m kind of obsessed with public radio shows right now. My top 3 faves are This American Life, RadioLab (I love the random science crap I learn on that show – I just wish I could remember it to spit it out in conversation later), and Serial.

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

EP: I actually used to be a radio deejay for WTJU (wtju.net) with my dad (he was a jazz sax and clarinet player). We played jazz, jazz, and jazz. It was called Nick@Nine, Monday morning jazz to make you feel good. I love all types except smooth, which makes me want to cut my ears off and shove them into the soprano sax to clog it up and make it stop.

I’m a jazz singer (I know, I act, I sing, I paint – I’m good at everything that’s exceptionally hard to make a living doing), so I lean more towards vocalists. My favorite jazz vocalist is Carmen McRae, though I love Nnenna Freelon, Stephanie Nakasian. If you don’t know about Stephanie Nakasian, you need to. She’s probably the most underrated jazz singer and can scat like Ella.

I was fortunate enough to be her very first voice student. Her husband is Hod O’Brien, one of the greatest piano players of our era. Really amazing. My cats have all been named after jazz musicians (Ella, Satchmo, Dizzy, and Frankie – because he had blue eyes like Frank Sinatra). I had stopped listening to jazz for awhile after we put my dad into a dementia care facility, because it was just too painful for me. But I’m starting to be able to listen again and enjoy it – still depends on the day, though.

 

My favorite non-jazz musician (though who does often have a jazz vibe to her work) is Ani Difranco. I looooooooove me some Ani. I sing and sing and sing to her. She writes the soundtrack to my life.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

EP: I’m reading a novel right now that isn’t really all that interesting, so I won’t bother plugging it. I’m one of those people who can’t stop reading once I’ve started, even though I’m not enjoying it. My favorite book of all time is Fugitive Pieces (the first half is incredible). I just read The Art Forger and was absolutely fascinated with the descriptions of how to recreate the aged look in art. I also really like The Goldfinch, though I was a little disappointed when I looked up what the actual painting was. Not as captivating as the book described. Tracy Chevalier’s books are a little romance novel-y, but I love that they include some really interesting stuff about how art was made way back when.

I like books about World War II. No idea why. I also really love Wally Lamb’s writing. He just sucks me in. I have my mom’s old Kindle, so lately I just read whatever she’s downloaded – which means I’m reading a lot of mystery books.

In terms of blogs, my favorite is http://thebloggess.com/ (If you haven’t read her book, you need to. Right now. I’ll wait.) I also have a friend from college with a great blog, http://www.lilblueboo.com/ I like their blogs because they’re both honest and look for the bright side of things. And they can get twisted. Twisted is good.

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

EP: I’m actually really horrible about keeping up with the art world. It does stimulate me when I come across good art, but it also can block me. It can make me feel unoriginal, or like someone is doing it better than me. I love discovering new musicians, though.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

EP: I don’t actively seek it. I prefer to let it come to me organically. By surrounding myself with people I admire and love, they tend to feed me inspiration without me having to go looking for it. I find that the universe gives it to you when you’re ready. I think I mentioned before that I go through dry spells. Kind of like writer’s block, and that that used to panic me.

These days, I trust that it’ll come around again and I’ll have more ideas than I know what to do with.

LL: What makes you smile?

EP: I love bad puns. My dad and I used to trade them. It’s one of the reasons the Muppets are so genius (watch the Muppets Christmas Carol this year). I love irreverent humor (for an example, go to http://www.lilblueboo.com/category/elf-on-the-shelf-2). I love musical humor (like Victor Borge). These two things [‘Data’s Life Form Song’ and ‘Peter Catching a Bullfrog for Chris’] also always make me crack up.

Editor’s Note: for the link to the second clip Emily mentions — put in your request here.

LL: What’s your view about social media?

EP: I wasn’t keen on it at first, but now I love it. I’m connected to so many people that I wouldn’t otherwise still be in touch with. I’m so grateful for that. I know it can take over your life, but you just have to exercise a little self-discipline and limit your time on it. It’s also made opening a business and promoting my artwork so much easier.

I have to admit I’m not a twitter fan, because brevity is not my strong suit, but I love Facebook. And blogging has been an unexpected surprise. I thought I wouldn’t have anything to say, but that’s clearly not the case.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

EP: I’m still getting into reading blogs. My go-to remains The Bloggess.

 

LL: Do you currently post at Forums?

EP: I don’t do Forums. Haven’t really explored that yet. I do sometimes participate with the Endometriosis Research Center, but way less frequently than I used to.

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Studio window snowflakes

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LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

EP: I don’t really try to cheer myself up. Sometimes I just need a little pity party. I’ll snuggle with my cats and husband and hide for a little bit. But if I do it for too many days in a row, I try to kick myself in the ass and focus on the things I’m thankful for.

And I’m learning to reach out to my friends and say that I could use a little help. I have hilarious friends with an arsenal of bad puns to make me smile. My mom is also an incredible support, and I can be honest with her when I’m getting depressed.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

EP: I haven’t really explored that option either. I would really like to try it, though. I think it could foster some really interesting stuff.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

EP: No. I’m a luddite. I’m grateful that the internet and computers exist, and they make my life easier in many ways, but I hate learning how to use everything. I’m about to try learning how to use Pinnacle, but it’s under duress.

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Lead soldiers that my grandfather made.

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LL: If you were asked to pick from the pieces you have created, which one would be your favourite?

EP: Wow, tough question. I’ll give you one in each style: From the Dancers, Vogue is my fave. From the Still Life paintings, I like my tomato paintings. From the Fractured Memories, I think the Happy Elephant Singing Emily will probably be the one I’ll keep.

 

LL: For someone seeing something of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

EP: As much as you can, let go of the outcome and don’t be afraid to experiment and make bad art. And enjoy the process of playing with whatever medium you’re using. Relish that gush of paint. Look for the pieces in a painting that you really like and figure out how to do it again.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

EP: Music and laughter. When someone I love laughs, it’s like heaven on a sound wave. When my dad laughs, it’s like when a really little kid laughs – incredibly precious and something that sustains me. If I blow a raspberry noise at him, he cracks up, and it makes my whole day.

The right song can have the same effect. There are some things for which there are no words, and music and art can convey those.

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Gravestone in Marblehead

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LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

EP: I think replying to comments and emails is important. It lets people know that they’re as important to you as you are to them. We all need to feel special and we can only feel that way if people are as generous with their love as we are with ours.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

EP: I think my top priority is to find buyers for my work. It’s hard to justify making more art when you’ve got a storage unit full of it – not that that stops me, but it would stop my husband from grousing, lol. I love commissions because it allows me to make a piece and know that it’s got a home waiting for it.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

EP: It’s the little kindnesses that I think make the most difference. I’ve organized Random Acts of Kindness Days at my studio and encouraged my customers to participate.

I’ll be passing out holiday cards to the Walmart staff next week to say thank you for their hard work. People get so little appreciation for the work they do. I’m good with illness and death, so I used to volunteer with Hospice doing 11th Hour care and respite care.

I grew up volunteering at Camp Holiday Trails, a camp for kids with special health needs. I’ve done some murals for free for sick kids. These days, I have so little extra time to volunteer, and my husband and I have been talking about how much I miss that. We do monthly fundraisers for local charities, and that’s great, but it doesn’t really feed the soul in quite the same way.

I need to find a way to carve out more time for actual volunteering, because nothing makes you feel better than giving without expecting anything in return.

 

* Emily Page is a painter currently based in Raleigh. You can learn more about her via her blog or her Instagram feed. To purchase her work, you can visit this page.”

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (December 2014 – January 2015) between Emily and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.

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Q&A #6: Brinley Hall

 

 

Brinley talks about his journey as a drummer, how he got into the habit of wearing socks during rehearsals, and why he chooses to ‘over-mix’ the snare when recording.”

 

LL: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Brinley. When you joined YouTube, did you do so intending to create content?

BH: No problem! Yeah, when I first made my account it was to upload my first video, which was The Final Countdown, which now, inexplicably, has over 130,000 views!

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

BH: I started playing drums when I was 11 in school. I had lessons until I was 13 learning the Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades, I learned a lot of the rudiments during these lessons. I got to grade 6 by the time I stopped. That’s where I learned the basics. I’ve never really had any books that I’ve learned from. I listen to a lot of music though so I developed from my style from my favourite drummers.

When I first started playing drums I was really into Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin so I tried really hard to emulate Mitch Mitchell and Bonham, those guys are still my ultimate heroes. When I started doing covers I was massively into The Who and Muse so that was where most of my videos were based from. Towards the end of school I did my grade 8 exam and that was a nice bit of discipline which really helped to calm down my playing.

Now I’ve been playing in an originals folk act for a while my playing has calmed down even more and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy with the level of my playing at the moment. If I had to name one drummer that got me to where I am, I would say it would be between John Bonham, Jeff Pocaro and Mitch Mitchell.

 

LL: You mentioned you did two years of lessons from the ‘Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades’. Being where you are now with your playing, would you still want to go through that route?

 

BH: Yes! I believe that you have to have at least 6 months of lessons when you first start playing. Things like learning to grip your sticks properly, basic rudiments and limb independence are probably the most important. If you don’t learn this early you’ll end up with a lot of bad habits that will be harder to get rid of later.

 

 

LL: Can you give some examples?

BH: Stick grip is the main one. You see some people who have been playing for a long time still holding their index finger on the top of the stick and pushing down – who thought that was a good idea?! Lessons do help with a lot. I learnt to tune my kit and how to set things up so they are easy to play, and so I don’t break anything. You see a lot of drummers with their cymbals horizontal and 3 feet above them – that’s how you crack a cymbal!

 

 

LL: How do you think doing the grade 8 exam calmed down your playing?

BH: Before I did the grade 8 qualification, I had been teaching myself playing along to tracks for 5 years with no one telling me I was doing anything wrong (apart from the occasional hurtful comment on YouTube, which were mostly about my appearance rather than my playing).

When I started getting lessons for the grade 8 stuff, it was nice to have someone to say “no”. My teacher would stop me if I’d get distracted and make me play it again right. I think that helped me think a lot more about what I was playing.

Now when I play with my main band, I’ve actually got fills which I’ve written and use every time. Constant improvisation is only workable until it goes wrong somewhere important!

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

BH: I play heel up with both feet when I’m playing most music. If the setting is particularly quiet I will play heel down. It does depend on style. It often varies on the drum I’m playing too. If the kick is small and has a long sustain, I will avoid keeping the beater against the head after the strike has been made – this is easier to achieve with your heel down.

 

 

LL: Feet location on pedals: Would you have your feet closer to the edge of the foot-board (away from you) or not? Or maybe you’d go middle ground?

BH: I’m pretty sure I’m a middle ground player. You can see from that Wattershed cover where my foot lies. The faster the linear speed of the playing, the further back your foot comes is the rule, which is why some players use longboards (Gavin Harrison and Chris Adler both talk about this in interviews).

 

LL: In one of your videos it seems like you are playing with only socks for your feet. Has that always been a preference?

BH: My parents have always insisted on me taking my shoes off when I walk through the door. This meant I always was shoeless when I was rehearsing and it’s a habit that’s stuck. I play gigs with my shoes on, so it’s not an essential for me, just something I’ve got used to at home.

 

 

LL: With footwear (shoes during gigs, and none at home), do you think that influenced your choice of pedals?

BH: Not at all! I have a set if Iron Cobra doubles here which I use with just socks and you barely notice the texture on the pedals. I have a Sonor JoJo Mayer single pedal as well, which is completely smooth brushed aluminium. I find this pedal is easier to use with shoes as it can be a bit slippery with socks.

My choice of footwear is based on whether I can drum in them however. I always choose snug sneakers with grippy soles. I used to wear Addidas Low Riders but then the discontinued them – I was heartbroken. Now I wear Onitsuka Tiger’s and I love them!

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment to augment your drumming?

 

BH: At this very moment in time, I don’t have a lot of time to practise my own drumming. We (Tom James) are rehearsing, writing and recording getting ready for a summer of shows and festivals every day. If I’m behind the kit (which I am at least 2 hours a day) it’s with a band!

Having just finished university (I couldn’t have a kit there) I’m hoping to get some more lessons on general technique as I feel I’ve become rather lazy with my playing recently. I also aim to work heavily on my music theory, which I am appalling at, and my bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/good friend Ed and I are planning on working through the electric guitar grades together too.

 

LL: Did you have to go out of your way to find musicians to collaborate with?

BH: I’m lucky enough to have been good friends and band mates with Tom since we

Photo: Brinley Hall   (Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)  Editing: Leigh Lim

Photo: Brinley Hall
(Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)
Editing: Leigh Lim

were 12. When he decided he would like to have a drum kit in his set up I was the first person he came to, which is nice. Another very good friend of mine, Ed Sirl,

also happens to be a great musician. He plays with Tom too, and me and Ed have played together for a very long time. His YouTube username is ThymeFlies42. On

that channel you can see a few full band covers me and him have done of our favourite bands.

Aside from my close friends, I have found it very difficult to find other musicians I connect with. At University I had a shortlived band which I really liked. See “Start Again” on my SoundCloud (www.soundcloud.com/longstandingdead). Unfortunately, time constraints meant none of us could commit to rehearsal so the band never got off the ground.

 

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you think working on music theory could make you a better musician?

BH: It will give me a better understanding of the way music works. It’s healthy to understand everything you are doing on a musical level, rather than just recognising things by ear, like I do.I’d like to get to a point that I can sit in with other musicians (whether in the studio or live).

Most of the time you’re given sheet music and would need to learn how to ‘sight read’ — and for me, I still need a lot of practice before I can say I can.

 

LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

BH: The kit that I would ideally play all the time is a one up, two down set up. My set up is often very much like Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He’s another big influence on me I didn’t mention before! Two Crashes, a china/ozone and a splash is fairly essential.

 

LL: With drum tuning, do you get pretty fussy?

BH: I tune by ear. I am fussy though. I like my drums to sing. I like a 3 or 4 second pure note decay so it takes a while to get to that tuning. For me, it’s a trial and error process as even though I’ve been doing it for 10 years now, I’ve had so many kits that I can’t remember what works for each kit!

Some live engineers hate ringy drums too, so sometime I have to tune a couple of lugs down to get a bit of pitch bed, which these guys tend to love!

 

LL: Did you only keep one kit at a time? (Can you talk about the kits you’ve owned in the past? The reason you bought each one, and when you decided that it is time to let go and find a new one?)

BH: Up until 2012 I only kept 1 kit at a time. I had my first starter kit – an Arbiter CB kit. Then I had a Gretsch Blackhawk, which I bought from my local music shop on recommendation of the owner. It was a great kit for the money and I loved it until I decided to make a big upgrade. I chose a Mapex Saturn because the reviews were so good. It was a lot of money for me at the time and it took 3 months to arrive. I loved that kit, it looked and sounded brilliant and went perfectly with my Blue Bell Ride. The kick was 24×20 however which was too big when I started playing with Tom. So I bought a Mapex Orion, which was great, and sold the Saturn. This only had two toms though, so I decided I should have two kits; a rockier kit and a Tom kit.

The Orion was my Tom kit and I bought a Highwood Custom Lite with 4 toms as my rockier kit. I had those to kits together for a year and I loved how different the kits were for different stuff. But I then fell in love with my Ultraviolet Sparkle Tama Starclassic so had to sell the Orions. Then I fell in love with my Birch Customs and had to sell the Highwoods. Now I have two kits which I love, and they are both great for different things. The Yamaha has a lovey 20×16 kick which is great for folky stuff and the Tama has a 22×18 which is great for rock covers which I do a lot.

I’ve also owned a lot of snares. I have 4 at the moment and I couldn’t get rid of any because they all sound great for different stuff. My Tama Warlord Masai is my favourite though!

 

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

BH: Now I have Pro Tools, I generally just use the EQ and reverb presets which come with the package. On the kick, I scoop out a lot of the low end and add a lot of upper mid frequencies for the click. On Snare, I cut the low end and add a tiny bit of upper mid.

On the toms it’s a similar setting to the kick. Overheads get a complete high pass treatment and lower mid cut, and a slight boost in the top end. I add some snare plate when I’m recording full tracks. I instinctively over mix the snare in terms of volume. That’s something I’ve grown up with. If you listen to Toto tracks, the hats and snare are terrifically over-mixed. It sounds right to me!

 

 

LL: With your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit. Were those a result of trial and error?

BH: They were trial and error. When I got my first mixer (and started using more than one mic) I didn’t know a lot about kit EQ settings so I googled “Drum Kit EQ Settings”. One website had a great table of different sized drums and which frequencies to boost and that really help me work it all out.

With Pro Tools you get a lot of EQ options post recording, so now I record everything pretty much dry and then sort out the EQ after when I can listen to it properly and sort out what sounds good. A real recording engineer would never do that, but in order to get a decent pre-record EQ you need a separate recording control room and someone to hit the drums for you!

 

LL: What did you use before Pro-Tools?

BH: When I was first doing covers, I used some free software called Audacity, which was great considering it was free. Then in about 2007/8 I bought Adobe Audition, which I loved, but then it was discontinued and Adobe switched off the servers which allowed me to switch the licence between my laptop and PC. At this point I decided it was time to update so I bought Pro Tools 11 on the day it came out in a student deal and I haven’t looked back, the quality increase was dramatic!

 

LL: Do you have advice to those still preferring to use Audacity?

BH: I haven’t used it since 2007 so I can’t remember a thing about it! I would say don’t use G-Verb!! You’ll be surprised with the increase in quality when you move to a bit of software like Pro Tools/Cubase/Ableton/Sonar.

 

LL: Adding snare plate? Do you do that digitally? Or just listen to the track and decide which parts you needed added, then just make a separate snare plate track?

BH: On every track I’ve recorded recently I’ve used a bronze snare 14×5.5 snare tuned low so it sounds like someone is getting punched. This snare sounds a whole lot more epic with a nice plate on it so I’ve just put the reverb Plug-in on for the entire snare mic track. I never used to put any snare plate on – as I said before I always over mix the snare so I always felt the plate stuck out too much. Now my mixing is improving I’m more confident with putting the snare right in the mix so the plate fits a lot better.

 

 

LL: When recording (no matter the software), how do you deal with latency issues?

BH: I’ve never had bad latency issues. When I first get a new bit of software or hardware I just work on the settings until the latency isn’t an issue anymore. I have the advantage of having very quick computers so there is virtually no lag when I’m recording. Firewire desks like the one I have the moment have no latency at all as the data transfer is so fast.

 

LL: Do you do much video editing?

BH: The videos which have been posted on Thymeflies42 (http://www.youtube.com/user/ThymeFlies42/videos) have all been heavily edited and there’s multiple camera angles. Ed has been in charge of the video on those and I’ve done the audio so I haven’t been involved with that. In terms of my own videos, my expertise extends as far as getting the video and audio to sync up, and sometimes I can’t even do that!

 

LL: Have you been using the same video editor since posting your first YouTube video?

BH: I have. I’ve used the windows XP version of Movie Maker since the start. It’s very easy to use and has so few functions I can’t get confused. I would like to make my videos more visually stimulating but I only own one camera so there’s not much point really!

 

LL: It was interesting to read in your message when you said: “I didn’t know anyone was still a fan on YouTube” — Do you mean that all YouTube users have generated their own content and that would mean they are no longer ‘fans’?

BH: I meant that I haven’t uploaded many videos on YouTube in quite a long time, so I wasn’t aware that people were still following me enough to want a Q&A session! It’s flattering!

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

BH: YES! I am intensely into Arcane Roots, Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, Natalie Duncan, Brother & Bones the olllam. Those are small bands though so I’m not surprised not many have heard of them. I’m in to Alter Bridge, and they’re not as popular as I thought they’d be.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

BH: I try my best to buy a new album a week. When the BBC series Later with Jools Holland is on I pick my favourite artist and buy their album. I discovered Natalie Duncan, Drive By Truckers and Ellie Goulding (before she was huge) though that show.

I read Rhythm Magazine too, which has album reviews. If something catches my eye in there I’ll try that too. I discovered Killer Be Killed and Messenger through Rhythm, and I’m big fans of them too. Otherwise I get recommendations from friends.

 

LL: Do you have a go-to site for new music?

BH: I download my music through iTunes for the convenience and I know that the money is going to the artists. I’d say YouTube is good for it. Because I watch so much music on YouTube I often get some suggested videos which lead me on to a new favourite band! That’s how I discovered Vulfpeck (great band) and UZEB (80’s legends). I have a lot of musicians on Facebook too, so a lot of good music is shared on there.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

BH: I used to go out and sit on a bench on the coast when I loved in town, but I now live 2 minutes from the bench and I have the same view from my house (I am very lucky) so I don’t need to leave my drum room!

I’m not a great writer. I am good at matching my parts with other peoples, which is why I love playing in bands.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

BH: I’m in the middle of exams in my final year of Uni at the moment so I haven’t had time to spend discovering new sites. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. The only site I can think of is Tickd.com, which is a meme site. I’m into it big style.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

BH: I love it. I’m on most sites and I use them every day. Facebook is good for communicating with my friends and making plans, and there are loads of groups for buying and selling music gear. I have bought a lot of gear through Facebook. I’ve never been nervous about using social media, as long as you know your privacy settings, I haven’t found there’s anything to worry about.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

BH: I’m only semi interested! I’m not a big software guy. Music technology interests me greatly and I try to keep up to date with new innovations in that field. I’ve never been a computer guy past knowing about general information – I’ve never changed my RAM for example!

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

BH: Not really, I’m not as big a web surfer as I may look! My bands website is nice and clean – tomjamesmusic.co.uk

 

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up?

BH: Tickld it has to be for this one too!

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

BH: As I said earlier, I’ve recently just been doing full band covers with my friend Ed. I think these have a bit more value than just straight forward drum covers because you’re doing so much more. Having said that, I just uploaded a new drum cover! It’s of a Bruno Mars track where there were no drums originally, and I played bass, so I feel there is more value here as well.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

BH: My cover of Anastacia – Left Outside Alone. I think it’s the tightest video I have up!

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

BH: Since last year I’ve been hoping that people seeing my videos for the first time think “Wow, he’s really tight”. I also always hope my playing comes across as musical. I try to listen to parts and play something that fits rather than play all over it. I also like to think people will be impressed by the audio quality on some of my videos.

If anyone was inspired to take up drums or start producing their own content because of one of my videos, I would be very proud.

 

 

 

 

Brinley Hall is a drummer based in Cornwall. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. He currently performs with Tom James and also collaborates with his long-time mate Ed as a duo (Ed and Brin). Brin welcomes jam invitations, recording inquiries (remote session work), and gear recommendations (or questions!).

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Brin and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Brin that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). And I’ll aim to get Brin to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Five) including quotes from the names Jim mentions.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #5: Jim Bryan

 

“Jim shares his journey as a bassist, why he prefers headphones as monitors when recording, and how using Pandora led him to Blake Shelton.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Jim! Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards different artists. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?

Jim Bryan: I mainly do covers of songs I enjoy, sometimes more popular songs to get some extra views! I do take requests and have done a bunch of them in the past. I’m currently working on covers of Train, Cutting Crew, and a few others.

LL: What were the last two requests you’ve gotten?

JB: The first was New Found Glory – Constant Static which was done recently… and The Airborne Toxic Event – Timeless that someone requested so they could learn how to play from my video.

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

JB: I started playing about 5 years ago. The very first thing I started doing was looking for tabs online of my favorite songs, from there I looked up how to position my hands properly and read various books/online lessons for beginners.

I eventually got into music theory and scales but I still have much to learn in that regard. Practice, practice, practice!

 

LL: Just five years playing? Amazing progress! Are you surprised as well as to how far you’ve come after 5 years?

JB: Not really surprised, I put a lot of time and effort into practicing and learning the instrument.

 

LL: Has the time you spent practicing during the last five years changed?

JB: I never had a set amount of time to practice, I would always just pick it up and play, sometimes would get really into it and learn more than one song at a time and just play for hours and hours.

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

JB: My warm up is usually just running up and down the fret board a few times for about 5 mins. After that I’m usually ready to go.


LL: Was there something specific that you wanted to learn that you struggled with?

JB: I struggled with learning the song Rio by Duran Duran. It’s a really difficult song and has you moving around nonstop for the whole duration. What I did was go really slow at first to learn the different riffs of the song.

I usually break a song into different halves and learn them one at a time. Such as an into, pre-chorus, chorus and outro. After playing it over and over I eventually got the speed and dexterity to play the song and I then did a cover.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JB: I would recommend to get a music teacher if they have no musical experience. Learning to play on your own is really hard and it would be nice to have someone that knows a lot to help out from the start. Everyone is different, so it might come easier to some people than others.

 

 LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

JB: I mostly use the brand DR for my bass strings, they are currently my favorite since they have a nice sound and tend to last longer than other strings I have tried. I have a bunch of old picks my dad used to play with but I really just use my fingers to play.

I have an Ibanez sr600, Squier vintage modified 70’s jazz, dean edge 09 (my first bass), yamaha rbx a2. I use a Sansamp bass driver DI as my main pedal going through a Behringer BXL450 amp.

 

LL: What’s the story behind each bass purchase?

JB: The first bass I bought (Dean Edge) was a beginner practice bass, it was cheap but I just wanted something to start learning. After that one of my friends said he was getting rid of a bass (Squire Jazz Bass) and if I wanted it for a good deal. So, I said heck yeah I’ll take it!

He then later on sold me his other 2 basses (Ibanez sr600 and a Yamaha) since he wanted to focus more on electric guitar playing.

 

 

LL: What are the tell-tale signs you watch out for to remind you that it is time to change strings?

JB: The strings will start sounding dull and the sound won’t be as bright, a good rule of thumb is to change them for bass every few months or so.

 

LL: Do you have a Maintenance and Storage routine for your bass guitars?

JB: I keep 3 of my basses on a guitar stand, when I’m ready to play I grab one and start jamming. I do wipe them down often and I use Tone Finger Ease spray to keep the strings sounding bright. When changing strings, I really wipe the fret board and make sure it’s clean.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

JB: My friend recommended I try DR strings and have been using them since. It did take me a while to find out what guitars I like, since there are so many different kinds/brands out there.

 

LL: In what instances would you use each of your guitars?

JB: I like to use the squire for slapping since I have the strings higher just for that reason, and I use my Ibanez for most other things since I put the strings really low.

LL: Did you do the set-up for all your basses?

JB: I did eventually change the bridge height/truss rod adjustments etc. That wasn’t until I’d been playing for a few years though.

 

LL: Did you change the bridge height/truss rod (adjustments etc.) because the bass felt different to play?

JB: I messed with those adjustments mainly because of sound and making it easier to play. Making the strings higher lets me drop the tuning of the bass really low without having the strings sound muddy and out of tune since I don’t have a 5 string bass.

Having the strings really low is easy to play since its less stress on the fingers to press down, so I have different basses set at different string heights etc

 

LL: What would your advice be for a bassist confused about the array of choices?

JB: It will take a while to find strings you like, so try as many as you can, and the ones you like stick with them! I would say buy a beginner bass package that comes with a bass and an amp, straps, picks everything you need to get started. After a while of playing you can then upgrade and shop around to see what’s best for your style of playing.

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

JB: I tend to keep it simple with a few fills here and there. I prefer playing with the fingers on my right hand since I feel I have more control over the sounds that I can make with the bass. I do use a pick sometimes but I’m not very good at it.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JB: I’m not working on anything specific at the moment, and am happy with where I’m at. There’s always room to improve and as long as I play everyday, I’m always getting better.

 

LL: Have you specifically worked on something because of a suggestion from someone watching your videos?

JB: Yes, I have people leave suggestions on songs to cover or sometimes an easier way to play a part in a song.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

JB: I use a Sansamp bass driver DI plugged into a Behringer BXL450 amp that connects to the back of the soundcard of my computer.

 

LL: If you didn’t have a DI what would you be using?

JB: I’d be using a Digitech brand pedal that I keep in the closet just in case.

 

LL: I noticed that your earlier videos (like this) had the bass with a similar volume level to the music. Your Later ones have the bass playing a more prominent part, in your more recent videos — music seems to be 60% less volume than the bass. Was there a specific reason you decided to have that approach to audio?

 

JB: Back then I was using different programs and audio settings etc. I think that people watching a bass cover video would want the bass louder so they can learn how to play by hearing and seeing what I’m doing. If the music is too loud they might not be able to hear what I’m playing.

 

LL: Was there a specific reason you wanted to use headphones for monitoring (In your videos)?

JB: Since I use headphones for PC gaming its easy since they are right there to pickup, and also so my neighbors don’t hear me rumbling at 3 am.

LL: Do you have multiple headphones?

JB: I actually just bought new headphones and I am switching to them for recording/gaming also. They are Steelseries Siberia V2 USB.

 

LL: For gaming, are you partial to specific headphones?

JB: I usually use Plantronics or Steelseries

 

LL: Have any of your headsets/headphones ‘die’ on you?

 

JB: I break headphones A LOT, I just bought a new headset because my older ones broke haha

 

LL: Do they break the same way?

JB: Not all of them break the same way, it depends how they are made and the quality of the headset itself. It’s usually the wires that get yanked out or one the ear pieces loses sound. They usually last 6 months to a year. Sometimes longer if I’m really careful :p

 

LL: Yanked out!? Are you also guilty of walking away from your computer and forgetting that you are wearing a headset?

JB: Yeah i do that all the time, also if I step on the cord while Im standing up the headphones get thrown off my head

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

JB: Incubus, Silverstein, Blake Shelton, Black Label Society, and many others

 

LL: Blake Shelton!? Interesting! So different from Incubus, Silverstein, and Black Label Society. Is it because Blake did Footloose?

JB: I just heard a song of his on Pandora that I really liked, I think it was Sure Be Cool If You Did, after hearing that one I went on Spotify and listened to a bunch of his hits that I now like.

 

LL: Was the song a suggestion from Pandora?

JB: Yes it was from Pandora

 

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?

JB: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album by Oasis I listen to that A LOT at work.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

JB: Reddit, Youtube

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JB: I’m very interested in technology. It’s what has helped me get my bass playing on the internet for others to see and enjoy.

 

LL: Your YouTube Channel Banner looks great — is it one of your creations?

JB: I had one of my friends whose a graphic designer help me out with that one. I gave him the idea and I thought what he came up with looked awesome.

 

LL: Would you be open to ask your friend if he would be open to credit?

JB: Sure, his portfolio is at http://simplybiscuit.com/

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JB: Velvet Revolver – Slither. It was a fun song to learn for sure.

 

LL: Have you collaborated with other artists?

JB: Yes, and I have actually done that a few times. I met a few people and we made a few songs together over the internet just recording our own parts and mixing them with audio software.

 

LL: Still open to do collaborations in the future?

JB: I’d collaborate with anybody, it’s such a fun experience!

 

 

 

* Jim Bryan is a bass player based in Wilmington, Delaware. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. Jim welcomes messages containing collaboration ideas, bass cover requests, the name of a cool song you’d like to send his way, and other gamers wanting to connect (his Steam username is Dramacyde5 and his Facebook page is here).

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Jim and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

 

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Jim that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Jim to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

 

Interested in reading more?

Q&A #4: Scott Brahniuk

 

 

“LOL along with Scott as he talks about his journey as a pianist, the decision to use VST to augment his sound, and looking forward to the Moto 360.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for giving your time to do a Q&A. Are your videos a mix of requests and ones you like?

 

Scott Brahniuk: Never been asked to do one before so it should be fun!

Almost all of the songs I play are ones I like but some of my personal friends have requested a few that I’ve played. I’m definitely up for song requests just never get any lol If the song is challenging to learn I’m up for that as well unless it’s something way too difficult for me.

I spend so many hours looking for good songs so receiving requests from people would be a nice break from the hours of searching I do sometimes lol

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

 

SB: I’ve never had lessons on playing piano, all self taught. Right away I started learning songs and making my own songs as well, I never learned scales or chord names. Luckily when I first started it felt pretty natural playing and I have such a huge passion for it so I was very determined to learn how to play.

Back then I was also only working part time so I was probably playing 3-4 hours every day so after a short amount of time I was learning songs in a few hours when people who have been playing for a few years would still be struggling to play it after practicing it for over a week.

 

LL: How did you go about doing that? Learning without learning chord names. Were you going by ear? Or was it more memorisation? And you just eventually understood what sounded good, then…was able to work from that and do your own songs?

SB: Pretty much learned a lot by ear to begin with, I feel like watching lots of people play on YouTube helped. So when I finally got my first digital piano I had a general idea of where to start.

Also memorisation is probably a big part as well since I don’t read sheet music I heavily rely on my memory. I played bass for about 8-9 years and after awhile I just got really bored and that’s when I decided to start to learn piano.

 

LL: Any chance you’ll be doing a bass-piano video in the future? (with the right song and inspiration)

 

SB: Absolutely! Lately I’ve been thinking about dusting off my bass and maybe doing some videos.

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

SB: For warm ups usually I’ll play some of my favorite songs or I’ll just play and maybe come up with something that sounds good, and if it is good I’ll turn it into a song! lol

 

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

SB: Sometimes I like to use other instruments to spice things up. I have a ton of VST programs so I can make my digital piano sound like drums/guitar/cello/violins, pretty much any instrument so if I feel like doing something different I have so many different sounds to really changed things up.

Right now I think I’m happy with where I am now but in the future I’ll probably try to learn how to read sheet music/scales and all that but for now I’m getting by just fine without that knowledge.

 

LL: Can you expand more about the VST programs you have? What’s the set-up like?

SB: So when I play piano you’re not actually hearing the sound built into the digital piano, I use a VST host program called Cubase and use programs that work with it. For piano I use Synthogy Ivory II and Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D.

Pretty expensive programs but I use them because they sound amazing and you can really create any type of piano tone/sound that you want which is great because some songs I want a softer tone or maybe something with more of a punch. I also use L.A scoring strings for cello/violins. My digital piano has a midi in/out which is how I connect it to my computer to get these sounds.

 

LL: How did you hear about each software? (Cubase, Synthogy, LA Scoring Strings – LASS) Were they used by the people you watched on YouTube?

SB: I heard about Cubase by searching on Google for different music production programs. For LASS/Synthogy Ivory II I found them on YouTube, usually I search for things like ‘best piano vst’ or ‘best cello vst’ and try to find ones that sound the best.

I’ve spent countless hours looking for new programs and sounds to use [and] always looking for something better. It takes a lot of time as there [are] sooo many different programs [but worth] it when you find the perfect ones that you need.

 

LL: What would you recommend to someone who’s interested in getting into VST and making the most out of it?

 

SB: For someone who is getting just getting into it I would recommend starting out small, there are lots of free VSTs that you can use and you can get a feel for how you can customize them. I also recommend Cubase, very easy program to use, never had any issues with it. Also if you don’t have a high end PC download Asio4all and it will help if you have latency issues.

 

LL: What’s your recording process?

SB: For software I pretty much covered it just above but for video editing I use Sony Vegas 11. My digital keyboard is a Yamaha Arius, I can’t remember the exact model number but it was one of the entry level ones I would say, it costs about 1,200. After my wedding in August I’ll be able to afford something better lol but for now it’s great. The camera I used is a Canon EOS T3 Rebel bought it a few months ago and before that I was using a pretty basic video camera. I don’t do much mixing, usually I find a piano tone that I think will be good for the song then I record it and that’s it.

Something maybe I should look into more maybe, adjusting audio levels etc..could be fun lol the one annoying thing about when I record is because the audio that I used get’s recorded into the computer so I’m not using the audio track from the camera which means I have to manually sync the audio to the video track which doesn’t take too long but it’s extra work lol

 

LL: Do you use the Canon EOS T3 Rebel for photographs as well?

SB: I bought the Canon mainly for videos but every now and then I’ll take some photos, usually of my cats lol.

 

LL: Taking pictures of your cats?

SB: Pretty much, my cats are always there and are pretty cute so it’s easy to take pics of them lol

 

LL: Some of your videos have maybe 30-40% less volume than the others…for example: Winter Night compared to Into The Fire. Was that intentional?

SB: Ah yes! the audio issues lol I recently found out why some are much more quiet then others. During the intros for my videos some time the audio for the intro is too loud and what happens is the program actually lowers the audio for the entire video by quite a bit. Now I realize that all I have to do is lower the audio for that one loud track that way once it’s rendered it’s not going to be 30-40% lower

LL: Is that a Cubase quirk?

SB: So the audio quirk is from Sony Vegas, when I render it from Cubase the audio volume is still good. I need to start paying more attention to when I render them from Sony Vegas, usually I just upload them right after I finish with Vegas without checking them lol.

 

LL: Piano Maintenance and Storage?

SB: For me piano maintenance is pretty easy as I use digital pianos so I don’t have to worry about tuning them. Storage wise I have a “Man den” lol as I call it, that’s where I keep all of my equipment.

 

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

SB: Ludovico Einaudi and Helen Jane long are my favs for piano. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t know Giovanni Allevi who which I really enjoy as well, he’s not quite as known as the others but his music is amazing!

Outside of piano music, lately I listen to Rage Against The Machine, Killswitch Engage, The Black Keys, Explosions In The Sky.

 

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? (or ones that you listened to multiple times)

SB: Absolutely! some songs I can just listen to over and over again. ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions In The Sky, it’s such a beautiful song and never gets old to me. ‘Aria’ by Giovanni Allevi another great piano tune that I really enjoy. ‘Welcome Home’ by Coheed and Cambria. I could go on for a very long time but I won’t haha Music to me is very important so I [have a] massive list of songs I love.

 

LL: Does that mean you have a massive music library as well? (A mix of digital and physical libraries)

SB: Yeah I got a decent music collection, I try to mainly keep the music that I really like so it’s not too cluttered. Mainly all digital files, I’ve got no room for piles and piles of cd’s lol.

LL: Were there “piles and piles” of CDs at one point?

SB: Never really had too many cd’s. All of my bookshelf space is dedicated for video games :p

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

SB: I definitely go out of my way to discover new music. When I’m looking for new songs I grab my tablet, headphones, and search for new songs on YouTube. Usually I type in stuff like ‘top ten favorite piano songs’ or ‘sad pianos songs’ — stuff like that. Sometimes, I spend over an hour listening to different songs trying to find ones I really like.

 

LL: Do you have a go-to site for new music?

SB: Go to site is YouTube, just do lots of searches to find new songs.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

SB: For me inspiration comes from a few different places. Sometimes listening to my favorite songs will light the fire or sometimes depending on my mood will give me lots of inspiration as well.

Sometimes after watching a movie like Transformers, I get in the mood where I want to make something that sounds really epic and powerful or other times if I’ve had a bad day and am feeling down I’ll sit down and write a sad piano song.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SB: I remember when my sis first asked [me] if I had a Facebook account and my response was “What the hell is Facebook?” lol Definitely was reluctant to join, I enjoy social media and don’t have much against. I’ve tried to get into using Twitter but I never end up using it lol

 

LL: Really!? When was this (When you asked your sister about Facebook)? Do you think the reason you aren’t hooked (or at least a regular user) compared to others, is you haven’t found the upside of spending time either on Facebook or Twitter?

SB: My sis first told me about Facebook when it first came out, because it was something new I think I was hesitant about it. I think if I got more into joining groups and posting more I would probably get into it more. For Twitter yeah just never really seen the upside to it, but then again I never used it long enough to find a upside lol

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

SB: Favorite sites at the moment are N4G.com good site for keeping track of gaming news/IGN.com another favorite gaming site of mine (I play a lot of video games lol) Aside from those the only other sites I use are Facebook and YouTube

 

LL: Are there times when you find gaming competes with music for your attention and time?

SB: Gaming definitely competes with music, I have a Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U so that takes up a lot of time lol. Yup! even when I first started learning piano I was big into gaming, I’ve been into it since I was pretty young. Usually I try to create or learn a new song on my days off from work.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

 

SB: Hmmm can’t think of any sites that I like from design, usually I’m more looking at the content of the site.

 

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up/inspiration?

 

SB: If I need cheering up I’ll go to YouTube and listen to papa’s got a brand new bag, can’t be sad when listening to that song lol Listening to songs on YouTube is probably the only website I go to for Inspiration.

 

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

SB: I’m always up for collaborations, I’ve done a couple with some fellow YouTubers but not many. Definitely looking to do more in the future.

 

 

LL: Other than VST, Are you interested in technology?

 

SB: I’m very interested in technology, I try to keep up with what’s new in the tech world. Lately Smart watches have my attention, Can’t wait to get my hands on the Moto 360.

 

LL: Your Channel Intro Clip — is that one of your creations?

SB: For my channel intros I find templates online and customize them, definitely do not have the time to make my own from scratch lol

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

SB: Right now my videos will probably stay the same style for now but I’m sure that will change in the future.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

SB: My favorite video would be For Samantha just because it’s one that’s very important to me.

 

 

 

* Scott Brahniuk is a pianist based in (Nanaimo, BC). You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Scott and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee before being posted.

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

 

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Scott that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Scott to post the answer to your question here!
  • Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

 

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #3: Liina Vokk

Liina shares her journey as a guitarist/composer, her initial (and current!) preference for PRS Guitars, love for Olafur Arnalds’ compositions, and how useful tempo can be during a first-aid course.”

 

Leigh Lim: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Liina. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards music. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?

Liina Vokk: You’re very welcome! Thank you for your interest! I really appreciate that. 

As I’m focusing on writing new music, I think it will be some of my own compositions and I really would like to make music videos for them as well. But I will definitely take requests on songs, that would be a great challenge.

 

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

LV: I started out by playing some Pop and Latin songs to accompany my singing. I did it all by listening and playing what I heard. In the beginning I didn’t have any kind of system – every song I learned was a whole new universe. Later I learned about the chords and scales which make up a system and it made songs much easier to remember.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

LV: Hm… it’s quite hard to put together some universal plan, because everyone is different and what works for some, might not work for others. Therefore I’d really suggest a good teacher, but first and most importantly – listen, listen, listen! There’s no better learning material than the music itself.

Listen and try to produce the same sound. If one’s really interested in becoming to know the guitar, then I’d suggest this book “A Modern Method for Guitar” by Willliam Leavitt. It really covers a LOT, from the very beginning to advanced level of guitar playing.

 

As for the whole journey, I’d just say if you feel that it’s your path, then go for it and be willing to sacrifice. There’s hell of a lot work, but every second you put in, pays off when you’re finally able to play the music and share it with the world.

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

 

LV: I play PRS Custom 22 Semi-Hollow and all the details on the guitar are original. For a long time I used D’Addario Chromes but recently switched to D’Addario EXP 9s. The picks I use are self-made, usually from plastic cards but also from wood (Juniper).

 

LL: Was there a specific reason you switched from Chromes to EXP 9s?

LV: Yes, I wanted to try a bit brighter tone and also more flexibility in melodies (bending for example). I am happy with the sound they produce.

 

LL: And why Juniper?

LV: Besides the fact that Juniper wood does not break easily and has very strong and nice aroma, it’s a bit spiritual thing too I guess. The island where I grew up is mostly covered with junipers and a lot of souvenirs are made from it. I thought why not make guitar picks too.

 

LL: Is there something specific about PRS guitars and the specific one you have (PRS Custom 22 Semi-Hollow) that drew you to it?

LV: At first sight, the looks of PRS Guitars were the thing that got my attention 😀 It made me [look] deeper into what’s beyond the hot design and curious how they would sound like and they sound even better than they look! I was looking for warm tone and a bit acoustic-like, airy sound and I think the semi-hollow model was the best option to suit my needs. Another criteria I had was that the guitar must be light weight, because I myself am pretty light weight as well 😀

 

LL: Interesting point about guitar weight! Would you say your guitar weighs as much as an acoustic?

LV: I wish someone made electrics that light! It’s a bit heavier though, but somewhere about 3 kg.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind that you like?  

LV: Not really. I trust my intuition about these things, it hasn’t let me down yet 🙂 It’s important to have an idea of how one wants their instrument to sound like. Otherwise you could try different gear forever and still be unsatisfied.

LL: What sound did you have in mind? (you mentioned that “It’s important to have an idea of how one wants their instrument to sound like”) And does your PRS tick all those boxes?

LV: As mentioned above, I think my PRS together with my effects has all I look for in a guitar sound – a lot of air, rather warm sound, little delayed. I’m pretty much of a nature-person and coming form a small island, surrounded by the sea and the winds, I just feel it’s my sound 🙂

 

LL: What effects are you using at the moment?

LV: At the moment I use Hardwire Delay DL-8 and Boss Equalizer GE-7 when playing live gigs.

 

LL: How about adjustments (headstock/bridge/nut), did you have anything done? Or did the PRS feel great as soon as you picked it up?

LV: PRS original parts feel just right, I have only adjusted the height of the bridge and strings.

 

LL: Did you have help (a guitar tech)? Or did you do the adjustments yourself?

LV: I am very grateful for my guitar teachers and fellow guitarists who have explained how to do these adjustments, so I was able to do those myself.

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

LV: It depends. I always prefer to play without any notes whenever possible. The most important thing during a gig is to be very relaxed. I know that the music is all there – in my head and in my fingers – I just need to keep my muscles relaxed to let them be guided by the music in my head.

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

LV: I always start my day playing the acoustic – some chord Arpeggios, Etudes (I love Bach) and then some Standards or Latin tunes. On the electric I do some Chromatic exercises, different rhythm patterns and end up my warm-up with improvisation on a scale I’m currently working on. That’s the basic routine, about an hour long, that I try to pull off every day. After that I rehearse for any on-going project as long as it takes.

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

LV: I like to keep it very simple, even minimalistic. To me, most of the music happens between two notes. I also love to use delay and reverb effects for the same reason – it creates some kind of space or environment where all separate notes become one idea.

 

Photo: Liina Vokk (Self-Portrait) Editing: Leigh Lim

Photo: Liina Vokk (Self-Portrait) Editing: Leigh Lim

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

LV: I’m working on my own compositions at the moment, trying to find the right sounds and energies to them. As for spicing up my playing, I’ve been listening to a lot of Santana’s music lately – such strong melodies and the clarity of sound. That’s the idea where I strive for.

LL: What would your advice be for a guitarist confused about the array of choices?

LV: I’d say the first thing to do is to define your perfect sound, whether you want to sound like some of your guitar heroes or something abstract like “I want to sound like the wind”. Then make yourself familiar with as many choices as possible (find information, try, explore). And when it feels good, it’s good. There should be no effort in playing your instrument, it should come as natural as singing.

 

 

LL: Would you say you have a long reach with your fingers? (With guitar, usually what stops other people from attempting to learn — or improve, is the struggle with complicated chords. Would you say you have a bit of an advantage? or did you struggle with getting past it too?)

LV: Luckily, God has gifted me with rather long fingers, but it doesn’t mean I can take complicated chords with no practice. Actually, it’s not your fingers that play the chord, it’s the whole hand, starting from elbow, and one should pay serious attention to overall playing posture and especially to the position of the wrist.

I’d say start with simple chords and get some guidance from a teacher to avoid health problems with hands. In the end it’s really all about how you play it, not what you play. Sometimes less is more.

 

 

LL: Do you have a Guitar Maintenance and Storage routine?

LV: I don’t have a specific maintenance routine for my gear. I clean my guitar when it’s dirty and get stuff fixed when needed but it’s really very random. I like to keep my things compact so it will be easy and fast to just grab my guitar when I want to play.

 

 

LL: Is there something specific that you wanted to learn (a song or technique) that you struggled with?

LV: In the beginning I struggled quite a lot with getting my rhythms tight. I really worked hard with 16ths and all the funky stuff and at some point it seemed impossible. But I kept (and still keep) going because I don’t want any barriers to my playing – I just took things slowly and tried not to beat myself up about it much.

Now I can say I’m pretty confident about rhythmic stuff. Sometimes you need to look at things from a new perspective. Most of the struggles come from the way of thinking, not from the technique.

 

 

LL: Your Guitar Lick video  — is that from a gig? (Did you upload it because it’s your favorite lick?)

 

LV: I was just jamming one day and came up with this one that I liked. I didn’t want it to get lost in the depths of my computer’s hard drive, so I decided to upload it. Hopefully it’ll become a full song one day 🙂

 

LL: Can you share more about the creation of the video of “It’s Going To Be Alright“?

LV: This video is made with a small Canon camera and it was shot on a ferry going from Muhu island in Estonia (where I live) to [the] mainland.

The music has a funny story actually. It was made for a first aid training course to practice doing heart massage in rhythm, so it had to be in this specific tempo. Later I found this video I had shot earlier and thought they’d work well together. I used Logic Pro X for the composition.

 

LL: What an apt title for music in a first aid training course. Has the song been used in a first aid related video as well?

LV: Haha, yeah, that would be interesting to see 😀 I wish they had filmed the course, but I’m afraid they didn’t. At least I haven’t seen it.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

LV: When recording at home, I use M-audio Fast Track Pro where I can just plug in the guitar and play. In the studio I like to use additional microphones near strings for more acoustic sound, but the main signal is going through DI-box to the preamp.

 

LL: How important is it to have a DI-box in your set-up?

LV: It is very useful when recording in a studio, as you can play through it instead of amp and therefore have more cleaner signal to modify later in a program. Of course, one can use it together with amp too, it’s just my own preference at the moment.

 

LL: Before putting your original music up on YouTube, what things did you do first?

LV: With those songs that I’ve uploaded I haven’t done anything complicated, just write some tags and a brief description.

 

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

LV: From guitar players I really dig Baden Powell who I discovered this year, that’s a shame I haven’t heard of him earlier. My absolute favorite composer at the moment is Olafur Arnalds who, besides his own albums, has also written great music for films. I often wonder that many people haven’t heard about him. He has very unique style and the music he writes is absolutely beautiful.

 

LL: Did you first come across Olafur Arnalds because of a film that you like (Olafur did the score)?

 

LV: Actually, I think I found [Undan Hulu (The Cello Song)] first which wasn’t even from a film. I even played it at live with a pianist and myself playing cello part with e-bow. Unfortunately there’s no video of it.

* Leigh’s Note: You can watch a performance of ‘Undan Hulu (The Cello Song)’ by Ólafur Arnalds and Paul Grennan here.

 

LL: Any plans of playing the song live again? (and maybe recording it)

LV: I haven’t had a chance for a gig like that again (together with pianist), but when something comes up, then that’s definitely an option 🙂 Such a beautiful song.

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? (or ones that you listened to multiple times)

LV: As mentioned above, Olafur Arnalds’ – Living Room Songs is one of these albums I could listen to forever. And Joao Gilberto of course, his albums have the most hits on my playlist.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

LV: I recently started to use more twitter, so it’s my favorite at the moment 🙂

 

LL: Would you be willing to share your Twitter handle? (What do you think of Twitter so far?)

LV: Sure! Everybody can follow me at @liinavokk.

Twitter is great! I have found so many talented people over there who share their music and art.

LL: How about SoundCloud, do you still go on it much? (There is a link on your YouTube Page)

LV: Yes, I use SoundCloud too. Mostly for more chaotic things, like when I get an idea and then record it with most nearby recording device. I like to get my ideas online as soon as possible to minimize the gap between me as a musician and the listener.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

LV: I like Richard Branson’s blog a lot for its design. Nice and vivid.

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up?

LV: 9gag.

 

LL: 9gag! Really!? Would you also go to the site when you are stuck with a musical idea? (Maybe check out something like: ‘Cute cat just wants a kiss‘?)

 

LV: Pictures of cute cats always work 😀 When I’m stuck on a musical idea, I like to take a walk in the nature. It opens up the mind.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists? Specific people you wouldn’t mind reaching out and getting in touch with you either over the web or invite you to play a gig or two?

 

 

LV: I’d be very interested in collaborating with other artists whether over the web or live. I’m opened to all kinds of new connections over the world.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology? (Like internet security, tech linked to your artistic medium)

LV: As an electric guitar player and composer I do have interest in sound technology, from guitar effects to music production. The technology in general is getting more and more into being a natural part of our lives, no matter what area of life.

I take it as it is, not worrying about internet security and similar stuff, I just acknowledge the fact that everything we do these days is public to some degree. Just be the person that you are, no hiding, no faking. Being honest to yourself and to others is important.

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

LV: I plan to continue with uploading my favorite licks to Youtube. I’d definitely do things like Pat Metheny’s Map Of The World on requests and there will also be something from live gigs in the future.

* Liina Vokk is a guitarist based in Tallinn. You can find her videos here and can reach her through the form below.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May & June 2014) between Liina and Leigh. Subsequent additions and corrections will be added when available. Content has been edited for length, and the posting of the draft version of the Q&A has been approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

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