Q&A #27: Alex Palombo

Alex shares his journey as a photographer: how he infuses fun in his work, strives for authenticity, and his decision to rent rather than purchase equipment.

Leigh Lim: Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your Instagram page, a section (“all around goofy guy”) of your mini bio jumped out. Do you find that it helps remind people you work with that even though the work is serious they won’t be bored whenever they work with you? (Or that’s more on you outside of being a photographer…and with shoots you’re pretty serious and would like to make the turn-around for the work be as fast as you can? Or you’re just a plain fan of using profile images that you know would make people smile? Unless it’s more having to do with the platform? For example your Twitter Bio reads: “Alex Palombo is a New York City based fashion photographer with an eye for fun. Alex’s easy personality shows in his work which always exceeds expectations.” Which is quite formal.)

 Alex Palombo: Hi Leigh, No problem at all.  My pleasure. This is a cool thing you are doing.  

 

“All around goofy guy” was an attempt to show that I was not just a stick in the mud photog/human.  That I had personality, and like to have fun.  I feel too many people take themselves way too seriously.  “You just aren’t that important.  It’s not about you.”  I was trying to show that “hey man, I hear what you are saying, and I’m onboard let’s try to have fun while we are getting it done and make some kick ass work together.”

 

I try not to take too much seriously except the things that need to be taken seriously.  I do my best to stay away from drama, which is hard in my profession.  A lot of people think if you are not shaking your finger at someone or freaking out about something or everything isn’t on high alert than you don’t care and will do a worse job.  I am on the thought process of “those things actually hurt efficiency, clear rational thought, and creativity.”  I LOVE what I do when I do it, and I am good at it also-it’s not brain surgery-so lets have fun and if me being a dork at times helps with that so be it.

 

And yes, I do want to make people smile. I will nail what you need, so let’s enjoy it.  Does it remind people who I am?  Prob not, because most of them don’t know me.  Does it help professionally?  Who knows.  Probably not, for many of the reasons I stated above.  I sometimes think it works against me because people think I don’t take anything seriously and don’t care, which is 180 degrees from the truth.  I care a friggin s—load, so maybe the goofy thing is really a protection thing so I don’t get hurt.

 

HHMM, something to think about.

 

The thing is I’m not that goofy just a little at the right times.  I just think most people need to chill a little and if calls for me making them laugh then I am doing my part and making their day just a little brighter and that makes me happy.  The world might be a little nicer if we had more of this.  As for insta, yes I consider it more informal and personal than twitter, I don’t know why, however if my twitter sounds more formal I guess it is a good example of trying to find that good balance of professional and what people deem as “unprofessional”, because in this profession there is nothing written in stone.  It’s a free for all, until it isn’t.

 

The irony is that everyone will develop their opinions of me without ever meeting me and there is nothing I can do either way.  It’s all editing, I just try to be real to who I am.  One thing can’t describe me, and I can’t write a profile of who I am in 14 characters.  So I try to write one aspect that I like.  There are so many others, even ones I don’t even notice and takes others to see and let me know. 

LL: Is there a particular project that your fun-loving nature really paid off?

AP: Yes, I would say in most, however, one in particular was when I was shooting for Fitness magazine. They were a super fun group and we would basically joke around and have a lot of fun.  We got great images and all the shots we needed.

 

Within a couple months I almost shot the cover (which is a big deal seeing how I only shot for them at that point 2 or 3 times) which is because I could do the work but more importantly I think because of my personality.  One of my friends now is the former Art Director from there, I just went to her wedding in Atlanta.  Not only would she hire me again but she also knows we have a friendship and enjoys working with me because of it.

LL:  Why do you think you do the things you do?

AP: Everything I consciously do on this earth (and please don’t read into anything that I think I am on some other dimensional plane or anything such as that) is to make my life and those around me a little better.

 

Life is hard, really hard at times, and there is a lot of pain-so if I can make it any easier for myself or anyone else why wouldn’t I live for that?  I’m not saying I am always successful and haven’t hurt a lot of people or done stupid and bad things, I just try to honestly make my world a better place to be in, in my own way.

 

People matter, they need to know that.  Now if you are talking about why I do what I do in photo, it’s easy-I shoot fashion and fitness, that isn’t real life but if everything is pretty and beautiful and perfect maybe it makes the other parts of life that aren’t that a little more bearable and not as tough.  Also the crew I work with becomes a mini family which is something I didn’t have growing up(emotionally), so I get to create it making beautiful images.

 

In addition, I get to build and control my world in the view finder of the camera.  I get to control the chaos that is our world and put my creation down on paper(print).  Who wouldn’t want to be able to create a beautiful world where everyone looks good and life is a dream.  It’s not reality but helps us deal with it for a minute or two.

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

AP: BUSTING MY ASS.  haha.  But really.  Knowing I am as good or better than most of the people working out there.  And an incredible stubbornness to not quit.  There are two ways I can answer this: 1. the actual steps I did. 2. Actually how I feel I got to  where I am.

 

  1. Actual steps: Took a photo class in 12th grade and decided it was for me because I could not paint or draw and architecture was too much math and not creative enough. Went to art school, graduated, had odd jobs while I tried to assist. (Even was a guinea pig for a medication test-I don’t recommend that).

 

Eventually interned for free at a prominent photo studio in NYC, got hired full time, got fired, started working at another prominent photo studio part time while also working at a prominent EQ rental company as I tried to photo assist.  Eventual left those and photo and production assisted for a while (long while), did odd other things that all were in the industry (ie be a driver for talent etc.), eventually made a living assisting photogs, always test shooting, watching and learning, and trying to meet people.

 

Pounded the pavement, got a break here and there and got hired here and there.  And repeated that, until I was just shooting.  And got a buttload of help along the way.

 

  1. How I feel I got there: Again believing in myself and my talent, being stubborn as hell to persist when everything else said no. (including myself). Trying to be the best person I can be and ALWAYS working on myself.  Do my best to get out of the way of myself (I have been my biggest hindrance —- ah the irony…..ha).  Accept help, try to stay positive and live a healthy life.  And most importantly, accept who I am and use my strengths to get around my weaknesses and turn some of those perceived weaknesses in to strengths.  For me and I can’t stress this enough, always work to be better while being a good person.  And have fun doing it.  If you no longer are loving it, what’s the point?

 

I don’t have any mentors (which has made my path a little harder), however if there was one person that I owe so much to (and I prob could have asked him to be a mentor, but my pride is one of those things that not only works for me but that sometimes gets in my way as in this case), is the celebrity photographer Timothy White.  I assisted him for a number of years and what I learned from him from assisting, working, and being my friend is immeasurable, from every aspect of learning about being a photog.

 

Of course I did all this by observing because I didn’t have the courage to just ask for him to be my mentor.  (Which in itself is another great lesson-ASK FOR HELP).  It is so not just about taking a picture or knowing lighting.  Anyone can get that.  Let’s put it this way, I still use his advice, incorporate his process, and think about his perspective every day and not just in my career.

LL: You mentioned that you constantly were trying to be the best person you can be as well as working on yourself. Were there specific areas that you really struggled getting together?

AP: Haha. Yes, always trying to be better.  There are many areas that I have (and still do) struggle with.  But before I answer the next part I want to add, and this is important: is that everything has a plus and minus, a positive and a negative, and that it is really just how the thing is being applied that determines that.

I will give an example.  My hard time asking people for help.  It makes my life harder as I am doing everything on my own — however the positive in other aspects of my life is that it teaches me to be self-sufficient and if things fall apart I am confident in knowing how to get things done and am not helpless because I am used to having to learn and do all things on my own.

I’m competent.  So knowing that not everything is a negative and even our perceived negatives are positives also, we can accept them, work on them, and use them to our advantage.  It also stops us from putting ourselves down.

Now as for areas that I really struggled?  Yes, many —- and there continues to be — it’s part of what makes me, me. However, being aware of them and trying to accept and get on top of them and use them — that’s all I can do.  One example of an area that I have struggled with and have made great progress with and still need to is my habit of having to do things the hard way.  I can’t just do the easy thing, I have to “earn” it.  An example would be during my football game even though my team had way more talent than the other team, we had to keep them tied with us so we could win in double overtime.  It didn’t have to be that hard, but it being my team, and I the QB I made it harder.

This is a pain in the butt because it uses more energy, time, and keeps you under the radar which in photography is definitely not beneficial.  Why reinvent the wheel when you can just make it better and be on your way?  Life is generally better when it is easier. Not always, but most of the time.  I think most people can agree they wouldn’t want a hard life.  Working on this makes my life easier and more importantly more conducive to have a win. Whether it be football games, jobs, relationships, anything.  And people want to be with winners which makes more opportunity for more winning which creates more opportunities.  Winning also brings more confidence, which people also respond to and directly serves clients better.  Of course I still struggle with this, however I am sooo much better with it.

To follow up about the asking for help, yes I am so much better at it.  Do I still struggle with it at times, most definitely and a lot of times it is not easy, however I am finally smart enough now to say to myself: “Alex if you want what you want, you need to let go and get some help”.

Of course saying something and doing something are two separate things altogether. You just try to push yourself into that uncomfortable place and do it and hope the next time it comes easier. Again, easier said than done…ha!

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

AP: I do not have any particular photo books I refer to.  I have a few books I have gotten much inspiration from, (ie Robert Franks “The Americans”, Bruce Davidson’s “Subway”, and Henry Cartier Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment”) however I tend to not know a ton about other photogs and/or familiar with their work and rarely buy photo books.  But I def have my favs.

Bruce Weber, Avedon, Herb Ritz, Mario Testino, Ben Watts, etc.  I find it is a rare book that you keep going back to.  Outside of photobooks there are a few that I like to reread-mostly as a relaxation and for ‘me time’.

Two books I highly recommend to change the way you think and feel, Body for Life by Bill Phillips, and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  Both of these have nothing to do with photography in a literal sense, one is how to get in physical shape, and the other is to get in mental shape-however both pertains to success in changing your body and mind to better prepare you for this wild ride called life.

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

AP: There are frequently challenges in the process.  At least for me.  Some may have had it easy, and I wish that on everyone.  It wasn’t my path.

Now saying that did I struggle every day and have it as hard as some?  No, definitely not.  The thing here is that every individual has his or her own challenges and they could be a simple as English not being their first language, or they were born with a deformed hand.  Or even as unfortunate and basic as being ugly (and that is a real thing).

The on-set stuff is trying to figure out something such as one time I forgot a stand for the seamless (paper background) when I was on location and had to figure out how to get by without it.  That stuff is problem solving and I actually take great pleasure from problem solving both in photography and outside it.  So things such as getting creative on how to make a go around or rig something up-to me that is fun.  I love that challenge.

My biggest challenges and this is still to today is myself.  Getting out of the way of myself.  I know I said this before and I will again.  I am the biggest challenge to myself.  Any issues I have from when I was small to aspects of my personality that help me in other situations and hinder me in my career — those are the biggest challenges.

Look, photo is pretty simple: practice lighting, shoot a lot, and you will develop your style and talent.  That isn’t what makes a photographer.  You do.  Everything you bring to the table from every     experience you have had, who you are, what you are, that is what determines what you do.  And sometimes, just sometimes, s— luck.

So for me that has been the biggest challenge of my career.  For example, because of the tape recorder in my head (we all have one), my issues prevented me from asking Timothy to be my mentor.  Now would it have mattered? Maybe. Maybe not.

You can never play the “what if” game, however I do believe I missed an opportunity to make things go a little faster for my career.  Another example is when I was brand new to NYC and knew no one while working at the photo studio, David Lachapelle personally asked me to come with his entourage to his premier screening of his first film.  I turned it down because I had to work and didn’t want to just leave.  Was that an opportunity?  Of course!

However I realize now I turned it down because I was afraid to just go for it.  Of course at that time I used the excuse “I can’t bail out of my responsibilities”, when there could have been another solution.

The challenge for me has always been pushing out of my comfort zone and taking calculated risks.  And I am someone that does take risks!

And the motivation to keep pushing?  Easy, I had no choice, nor do I still.  I have to live my life this way (until I don’t anymore) the 9-5 corporate thing or whatever else is out there is death for me.  An average life, that at the end of the day, knowing I could have tried to do photo and didn’t give it a fair shot, or gave up, is plenty of motivation to keep me going. Even when it is hard.  And also please remember, there is nothing wrong with doing anything else — only for me it is.  And even that could change by the time you guys read this (hopefully not).

LL: Speaking of ‘risks’, I remember seeing on your Twitter profile photo a motorbike. Is that an aspect of your life that has been ‘riskier’ than most?

AP: Risk is interesting because it is so individual.  Not only is it individual, it also can fluctuate between yourself. Using the asking for help example, that is a risk for me in business and other things I do. Rejection, fear of someone thinking I am not skilled enough to do it, etc. — those are my perceived risks. However, if I would decide to take up pole vaulting, I would have no issue at all asking for help.  Not one bit. although that isn’t entirely true,

 

I have no idea how to pole vault —- I would try to figure it out on my own first —- however I would right away get over that and then ask for help. Ha!).  So what makes one scary and another totally not?  I also have no problem asking people for directions (most men do-haha).  That is asking for help though.  We can speculate why that is and I have my ideas, however that is another blog….

 

But as for your question about my motorcycle and risk there.  To me I feel no risk.  Do I know there is a risk, yes, I am not ignorant to the fact they do present risk, however I feel no risk (meaning I am not scared when I ride — and I love riding).  Are there times when I can feel risk? Of course (ie. ice, idiot drivers, metal grates over bridges) but overall I feel no risk.  I could compare my perceived risk of riding a bike to people feeling driving a small car is riskier than a big one. It really is an individual thing of what you are  comfortable with. There are two types of risk, calculated risk and uncalculated, and one is def smarter than the other. In fact, the latter isn’t where you really want to be most of the time.

 

That being said, I would argue (and this is soooo under appreciated) every artist that is consistently and honestly pushing and trying to put themselves out there and succeed, are significantly more comfortable with risk than the average person.  To put your heart out there, day in and day out with the odds and everything else against you, with all the blowback, to bet your life on that, that is risk.  And for us artists that do it, our tolerance for risk has to be higher from the start. 

 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? (Would you want them to go through the same journey as you did?)

 AP: This is easy to write, well maybe not, again what comes easy to me is not true for all.

My learning pack from my experiences is quite simple:

  1. Learn how a camera works — film not digital. 35mm, medium, and large format.
  2. Find and look at photographs and photogs that you like and want to emulate. look at the pics and take notes on what you see.  Try to recreate those pics.
  3. Shoot as much as you can what YOU have fun shooting, (usually what comes easy is what you have fun with, but not always). This is a biggie and hard: take pictures based on what you think is great, not about what you think others will think is great.  THIS IS HUGE (it is what will create your style and what people will respond to), and have fun.  If it’s not fun what is the point?
  4. And then and this is as important as knowing how to shoot (and maybe even even more sometimes), get to know EVERYBODY. It is all about building relationships.  Think of it this way, most people choose their doctor based on someone’s recommendation — that is life —why would the photo world be any different?

LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

AP: Artists by nature are insecure, we all are — it is part of what fuels the creative process.  Heck most humans are, however artists are maybe more so-coupled with the fact they lay it on the line when they present their work.  That can be extremely scary.  Or amazingly exciting.  It takes true courage.

Look, some people look at skydiving as something they would be terrified at while others love it.  With that said, yes artists are protective of their work for the most part. There are a ton of reasons for this which I can go into later if needed. 

 

How would I try to get someone to let go?  First I would say, we all need help.  NO ONE and I mean NO ONE did it by themselves.  You can’t.  No one can.

 

Then I would try to make them understand that the past does not dictate the future and that in life there will be times you are the hammer and times when you will be the nail.  You have to put yourself out there as an artist and know that you will get hurt.  To try to understand that is a chance you take and have to if you want it.

 

It is similar to joining the military, you join because it is a good way to get structure, a way out, etc, etc., however you have to know you may go to war and die or worse. If you can’t or don’t want to deal with that don’t go into the military.  You will be hurt pursuing the arts, you prob will be taken advantage of — heck I still am now and then (and laugh about it after the pain goes away), but that is just how it is.

 

Think of it this way: if you have a car you know you will prob be taken advantage of by the mechanic, are you not going to drive anymore because of it?  I know this is a silly example and not as painful as things that happen pursuing the arts, but it is true for all things. 

 

It is not if you get knocked down. You will get knocked down. When I was starting out I had a photo agent look at my portfolio, she told me straight to my face I should shoot weddings because I will never be a fashion photographer. (Talk about being crushed…).  It is how you get up and get back out there.  And if one day it’s not for you anymore that’s fine also — in the meantime try to enjoy the ride.

There are good and bad people out there-and you won’t know which is which until you learn          which is which.  It’s called experience.

LL: Yikes! I’m not going to even imagine how much that stung. Do you still remember how you reacted?

AP: Yes, you don’t forget those types of things, although sometimes you are better off if you can.  It was like finding out someone you love is not going to be with you anymore.  First its disbelief, then it’s anger, and then feeling that “I’ll prove you wrong”(which I think is part of anger), and then the hurt sets in. That is the hardest part — it is like getting punched in the face and you didn’t even see it coming.

 

The best way I can describe it is that you feel hollow.  As if there is nothing inside you and you are kind of Zombielike, just empty but still walking.  I remember going up to my then girlfriends appartment and she opened the door and saw my face, and not knowing what had happened she thought I looked like I was going to cry.  (I can only imagine what I looked like).

 

For me, luckily, I knew I had my girlfriend there to support me (which is why I headed to her appartment), so what I did was talk about it and share how much it hurt and what I was feeling.  I had learned earlier in my life, through 2 other personal non-photo situations in my life that the best and only way to make the pain lesson and move on is to talk about my feelings and the pain. You can’t keep it inside, it will always be there and it will find a way out at inopportune times or you will have to numb it away through some vice. (Hence how addiction comes about).

 

I am also competitive so after about 2 or so days after coming back to life from being a zombie, my competitiveness kicked in and I got pissed and told myself, “who the hell is she — I’ll show her!!!!”.  “She won’t beat me”.  It’s cliche, however I am not a quitter. (Again, stubbornness-and as I was saying in the previous question in this situation my stubbornness, which can be detrimental to my success, worked for me).  And then you go on with your life.

 

I don’t know if it ever goes away, you use it as motivation, although you accept it move forward.  It may take a little time, however the worst thing you can ever do is sit and lament and feel sorry for yourself and say “woe is me”.  Life doesn’t end, nor should you.  Some competitors use it for motivation when they need it, and that is another way to turn it into a positive.  Just don’t let it consume or define you.

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique? (I’m hoping you’d be able to share an example or two, relating to either a mentor, or someone who was invested in your learning. The issue you had to get past, and how they guided you and made it easier for you to learn/understand and find the best approach. You can talk about how you ended up going for specific techniques. You can go for a group or a partner you turn to when you need someone to bounce off thoughts.)

AP: As I stated above, one of the things I would recommend to aspiring photogs or anyone is don’t follow my example of trying to do it without help.  I had to learn the hard way to let go and understand that you cannot do it on your own.  And maybe this goes back to your other question about how to get over hurt and trust people.

 

I was always afraid to let anyone in because of trust issues from when I was small and my family life.  It is something I realized later to really work on including working with a professional psychiatrist about some of these things.  I still have a hard time opening up to people I feel are not 100% invested, however I am learning to get over that.

 

An example is even now, a girl I am dating who is an UX designer for a big e-commerce company took a look at my website and was like “your website stinks” in not so many words (and a lot nicer) and offered to completely remake it.  That is a hard thing to hear, because I thought it was good, even though she was 1000% right.

 

And it was hard to let go and say “okay, I trust you, you know what you are doing — I will go with what you think is best, and put my feedback in when it is needed”.  So for me, I let her deal with it and am doing my best to stay out of her way except when needed.  It is hard because everyone thinks they know what to do, but a lot of them don’t.  For example, my father is a very successful businessman building his own company, however he has no clue how to navigate my world because his rules don’t apply to mine.

 

As for people to bounce things off of, I have usually used girlfriends although that has had mixed results (some people have their own agendas).  If you are in college though, you are at an advantage because your art department/school should have people there that are there for the same reasons you are.  Use them.  It might be the safest environment you will have, to be totally free. The trick is to just find the right people.

 

One last thing, in spite of my best efforts to sabotage myself, I had soooo many people help me.  I was lucky in the fact that I have met some great people that really believed or liked me enough to try to help me succeed.  If you can let yourself be helped you are ahead of the game.

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a photographer?

AP: For me discipline, drive, ambition, and hustle has gotten me to where I am.  Discipline not in the sense of creating one lighting and only doing one thing over and over again (although maybe this would have been helpful) but discipline as in staying the course even through the hard times, when I am feeling low and doing things that I really don’t want to.

 

An example now (which is easy to decide) is I have a trip planned to Montreal this weekend.  I have never been and am visiting my friend’s new lake house.  I am sure it is beautiful.  I just got called to hold for a potential job shooting Under Armour. If it happens it may be some of the dates I am supposed to be in Montreal.  So it looks as if I am leaving Montreal early if the job happens.  That’s the discipline.

 

If you want to be a photog you compromise (which is different than sacrificing-although sometimes you have to do that as well). I always get bored doing the same thing over and over again, so I am always trying and experimenting with new approaches.  That is one of the things I love about photo, that even though you are shooting one job after the next it changes.  Doing the same thing every day would kill me.  I never want to stop learning.  The day you stop learning is the day you start dying, because at that point you are just passing time.

LL: What are your guidelines to joining artist societies? (Or would you focus more on ways to connect to the kind of people you’d be excited to work on projects that combine fashion and fitness? And maybe a collective that focuses on photography based niches like The Licensing Project?)

AP: As for joining artist societies, it is all trial and error.  Some may really help you, some may be a waste of time.  And these same ones may be both at different times in your career.  You only will know unfortunately by checking them out and learning yourself.

 

However with that said, you should ALWAYS put the most emphasis on connecting with the people who are in the fields you want to shoot in.  You can be the greatest Photog in the world, if no one knows you, you will still wait tables.  If you can join a stock agency such as The Licensing Project, I highly recommend it.  It helps you gain exposure, a little money, and to be out there.

 

In fact, thinking now, I need to be better at updating that.  I have been lazy and undisciplined in doing that. (again my issues are coming in to effect why I haven’t).

 

Basically if a group or something can give you more exposure that is a good thing whatever it is.

LL: Favourite time of the day to work?

AP: My favorite time of day to work is early afternoon right after 12 noon.  That’s when I am alert and have my most energy.  I’m not a morning person however I am trying to be more disciplined to start early because getting to bed earlier really is helpful for me, I have found.  Plus it feels good to have a lot of things done by noon.

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?

AP: I like to know as much of what I am doing, (direction) before I even step foot in the studio or meeting.  I like to have as much covered as I can because I know NOTHING will go exactly as planned, and that is part of the fun of it.  There will always be the things you can’t control so to minimize the time to improvise, know the things you can.  On the outside it prob looks like I just make it up as I go, but I do not.

I have numerous scenarios going through my head all the time to which I can fall back on.  Think of it like contingency plans.  The reason why on the outside it may seem as if I am pulling it out my ass is because of my dislike for drama and freaking out about things.  It may be madness but there is a method.

Of course every now and then there are times when you do pull it out of your ass, however that is not a good way to approach a shoot.  I am not the kind of person who does a bunch of things then waits and sees what sticks. I prepare, make a plan, execute, improvise, be efficient, then get the hell out. That said, even with that amount of effort sometimes it is for nothing, so I am ready if that happens too.

The challenge is the fun part.  I never understood those photogs that go in without a clue and have to figure it out as they go, while you change EQ set ups 8 times only to go back to the original one.  Then again, that is their process.  Definitely not mine.

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a photo?

AP: There is no rhyme or reason to the amount of time a shoot takes.  Some are hours, some are days, some are months.  And sometimes a job that once took 5 hours takes 10 the next time or 30 minutes.

 

For example I shoot for JP Morgan with some regularity.  Every now and then I shoot Jamie Dimon, the CEO. One of the most impactful CEO’s on earth because of the effect JP Morgan has on the banking world and economy.  When I shoot him I have 15 seconds.  Literally 15 seconds, I better be prepared.

 

However, that shoot is short, the prep is basic so that’s prob 20 minutes total.  The post is generally an hour or so, so that is pretty chill.  Another example, from my Instagram is the shot of the guy with the orange tank top on the turf doing lunges with the shadow cutting across half the pic.  Setting up that shoot took a long time to prep.  We planned it for months, literally.  Then it took a number of weeks to get it all together, get the location, had to change models last minute, and all day shooting for that and the other shots we were shooting  that day.  Then it took a couple weeks to collaborate with the art director editing, and a couple weeks to retouch.  All in all that shoot took almost a year to complete.

 

Every picture and shoot is different.  I’ve been called the day before and weeks in advance.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

AP: I would describe my style as fun, beautiful, and strong.  I feel I tend to focus on the subject very much, and really like colors popping however I have found recently I have focused more on monochromatic.  I am more interested however on what others interpret my style to be.  That I always find interesting.

 LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?

AP: HA!  I could go on and on about this one.  That all I want to do is bang models and party.  That I am homosexual, that I am not a real man.  That I am lazy, and don’t want to work.  That I am not intelligent.  That I am not a real artist (I have gotten this from other artists because I am a photographer instead of painter, illustrator, fine artist…etc., and even from other photogs because I shoot fashion).

 

That what I do is easy, and that I don’t do “real” work.  That I have no direction in life and that I am not serious about my life.  That I have no discipline.  (That last one was from my father.)  Many of these misconceptions cover both being a photog and an artist.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

In addition to this, I am a unique case because I am an athlete also.  I grew up playing hockey and other sports until I went to art school.  So I lived in two worlds, one being an artist and the other being an athlete as sports are still a huge part of my life still.  So I have gotten a lot of sh– from so called “artists” about this before they even knew me.  Williamsburg in Brooklyn is notorious for this.

 

I have learned as “open minded” artists like to claim they are, they can be some of the most closed minded ones out there.

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AP: As I tried to emphasis above, I ALWAYS want to learn new things and never stop.  I really do believe the moment you stop learning your existence is minimized.  Even if it is just what elephants eat, it doesn’t matter. Be amazed, see, and always ask why.

 

At the moment I am completely half-assing learning French because the girl I am dating is French-Canadian.  And being aware of what I do and how to be better at life is totally learning. If you are truly applying your experiences to making yourself a better photog, man, woman, brother, sister or whatever just in that you have enough to learn.

 

I am also at the moment trying to learn how to overcome my weaknesses and use my strengths (this is a never ending process).

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?

AP: 1. Dealing with my issues that don’t help me (insecurities-becoming confident in myself and my work), 2. realizing that accepting help is okay and no one can do it alone, 3. accepting the process and all its hardships and understanding my path is my path and that is okay (having faith that I am making progress and that it will come with patience and hard work), and 4. having fun along the way.

If you aren’t having fun find something else — this doesn’t mean you will have a blast all the time, (what I mean is if you really enjoy your life when you really stop and think about it).  Of course these are always a work in progress.

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that a photo is finished?

AP: Unfortunately everyone thinks editing is retouching probably because of Instagram.  Editing is a skill all it’s own as is retouching. However I will try to answer what I think you are looking for.  The first step is seeing that you got the shot in camera.  This you know when you see it, I can’t explain it (or prob could if I had all the pics in front of me) but you know when you got it.  Then comes editing and that usually is the art directors job.  As I said that is a skill to find the best one of what you shot. Usually there are 5 or 6 that could be winners, and you narrow it down to 1 or 2.  Then you go to post production and if you have artistic control, for me I like a natural look, so it looks as if there wasn’t any retouching.  When do you know you have done enough?  For me when there is nothing I can be critical about it with.  When there is nothing I see and say, “that needs….”.  I can be a perfectionist so when I am satisfied, I know that is when I am done.

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AP: My go-to set-up when I had no money was seamless, 1 strobe, umbrella with umbrella sock, and bounce.  When I’m on shoots, it usually is some variation of an octabank umbrella with a profoto head, maybe some fill cards/V-flats, some heads with grids, and probably heads on trees (light stands-two heads per stand) and a seamless or on a white cyclorama.  Ideally since I prefer natural light and location photography my go to is the sun with bounce, usually a flex fill.

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

AP: No, most of everything I learned and used was based out of necessity (and affordability and what I was able to get access to with no money) and what I could get that could work for me professionally.  Its not about the equipment however you do need equipment that can get the job done.

 

I have seen all sorts of stuff used that has produced great work — it is just, what will make your life easier?  And that is what professional equipment does.  Just makes your life easier.  There is always more than one way to skin a cat.  (and I like cats..haha)

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

AP: Really all I own is my camera, 2 lenses, Tripod, monopod, some maxi stands, umbrellas, seamless, on camera flash, monopod strobe, a flexfill, light meter, and then my digital stuff.  Computer, cards, card readers, harddrives, adobe photoshop, capture one, etc.  I don’t own much equipment, on shoots it’s either provided for me or I rent it and client picks up the expense.  There is usually a budget for equipment.

LL: Have any of your equipment undergone customisation?

AP: Nope, I’m not really a techie.  Again I don’t feel it is about the equipment.  You can make amazing stuff on a pin hole camera.  The latest gizmo’s and all that is super fun for a little, and as I said it can make life easier, however if I need it I rent it.  For me I’d rather spend my money on other things-such as a lens that I do need.

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?

AP: My film cameras were great buys at the time especially my 503 hassellblad. (it’s an awesome piece of machinery), however now they are useless as I don’t shoot film.  I haven’t got rid of them, although they do take up space.  (I have a bad habit of not throwing things away).

 

However, as I was saying I am pretty minimal (a large part of that is because I live in NYC where there is no place to put anything) so most of the stuff I have I use, except the film cameras….

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot? (Are there specific things you’ve done over the years to make sure that you are taking care of your posture and not putting unnecessary stress on your body? Is this the reason you chose specific equipment in your set-up, like laptop stands, tables, chairs? Or is it more about making sure you exercise regularly, and you’d be able to handle anything that gets thrown at you?)

AP: This is a good question because photography is a hard job on the body.  It really is a manual labor job. Now saying that, it isn’t like digging ditches, but there is wear and tear on the body.

 

I also feel there isn’t enough awareness about this issue.  With that said, posture and being in shape has always been a priority for me since after college.  As a was saying I was an athlete, and still think I am (haha). So being in shape has always been important to me.  Also being healthy is extremely important to me.  The mind and body are the same thing and if one suffers as does the other and vice versa.  And also, posture conotates confidence and people respond to people that look strong and healthy better than people who are schlumped over or overweight.

 

One of the reasons I like shooting is because you are active, so being in shape gives me an advantage over most photgs that aren’t.  And when I was assisting being strong gave me an advantage because I could carry equipment.  Also there are a lot of photgs that now have what I call the S body-the forward head, curved midsection, and legs behind them.  The look like the letter S from the side.  ahha.  It creeps me out, so I never want to get that way-even when I am old if I am no longer shooting.

 

I don’t buy anything specific gearwise, I work out 6 days a week, and play sports.  That is the best way to take care of yourself.  One day I may buy the knee pads because my knees are shot from growing up playing hockey but hopefully that would be it.

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage? (Is there a specific part of your kit that you are extra careful in transporting and handling? If you own a Mac, there is a saying that Mac users tend to clean their computers more often…so it’ll be interesting to hear your response about that! And of course your view about wanting to spend time at the beach as frequently as possible while being able to take good care of your gear.)

AP: Again I don’t own a lot of equipment, however what I do own I am very careful with.  It is electronics so you have to be careful, same thing with storage, I am careful with it.  I also like my things to look and work new so I am careful with them.

 

With that said I am only going to do so much. Things will happen and I try to keep them out of situations in which they could get damaged, but in the end I am not going to obsess over it.  I mean obviously I will be more careful with my laptop than my light stands but that is kind of common sense.  I had my iPhone 4 for 4 years never once put a cover on it and never cracked either side so I just try to be careful. 

 

About the Mac saying, I have never heard that, interesting…. 

 

 

I don’t think it is true as I have seen people from both ends of the spectrum.  Nut jobs that treat their equipment as if it is baby Jesus and then idiots that rest their coffee full to the brim on their Macbook.  I like people that are respectful and care about keeping their stuff nice and in good shape as I try to do.

 

The beach haha — yes, the beach is not a friend to electronics especially cameras with moving glass.   Seriously though, I try to not use my EQ as much as possible-meaning whenever I work and can rent equipment especially my computer.  I do everything I can to not use my personal computer ever shooting a job.  The exception sometimes is my camera.

 

But if I am shooting on the beach then I do try to rent instead of use mine, but a lot of times I do shoot with my camera on the beach and do try to be a little more careful.  Sand does get everywhere and salt water will eat anything.  I am respectful when I rent though.  But I am respectful of anybodies property anywhere, whatever it is.  That is just part of who I am as a person.

LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when transporting your work?

AP: Hmmm, getting help or paying someone to do it that is competent is usually a much better way to go.  And if the budget isn’t there for that, give yourself enough time and don’t procrastinate.  It is usually going to be a pain in the butt. ha!

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos? (Or maybe if there is a request for a print, what size format would you usually have it made?)

AP: I do keep some prints of my photos usually if it really speaks to me I will frame it and put it on my wall.  That is usually rare though because I know me and I usually fall in love with something I have shot and then don’t think it is a big deal once I shot something new and fall in love with that new work.

 

There are a few that stick with me, however I have found I am more impressed with things I do on other mediums that are mine than I have done photowise.  Maybe it is the challenge of the other mediums I respond to or the fact I feel I accomplished more because I don’t feel as strong in that medium, I don’t know why.

 

If there is a request for a print, I usually ask them for a size that they want.  8×10 or 11×14 is usually the norm though.

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on the photos you share of your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest? (and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it would be quite difficult to do?)

AP: I have found people who use watermarks are not usually shooting the type of work I am shooting.  There are a few reasons I don’t do it.  1, Every shot I make by law is instantly copyrighted.  2, I’m not big enough yet (or maybe just haven’t run in to a situation yet) where the court costs of taking someone to court would be worth it. 3, Everything has been done, you know how hard it is to prove you did it first. 4. Unless they are going to make oodles of money on that image is it that big of an issue.  (the exception to this if it is the same players doing it repeatedly, then they should be beaten down.  Really.  Cowards.)

 

I have seen work that has resembled something I did, you also run the risk of retaliation in my field.  That isn’t saying don’t stick up for yourself. Definitely do. However, understand actions have consequences. 

 

 

What drives me insane are people that get jobs that are copying my stuff. It’s like just friggin hire me — that’s what irks me.

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

AP: Sure, first it is worth saying that there are many different things that inspire me when making a photo.  But 2 big ones are location and clothing.  With that said, I’ll go on…

The Jump – I wanted something dynamic because I had this really cool location.  We had all these dirt hills and all that, and because I am an 8 year old at heart and love running and jumping on them and I knew there was a cool shot in there.  The funny thing is, is that the jump perception in most pics is usually false in this case it was actually pretty high.  I just picked a dirt hill where there was another dirt pile that he could jump into, (you can see the dirt on the bottom of his shoes) or he would have messed himself up pretty good after one landing.

Because the sun was just about over head I had to be careful on how I shot it or the light would be not the most interesting and exposure would be a nightmare as I didn’t want to use flash.  So I positioned myself so that I would have the overpass creating a natural element to show depth and create lines and negative space and all that, but also to block out the sun.  The lens flare I kept to give it a little something — a little light play that makes it a little more fun.

I also wanted to be under him a little to give a much more dynamic angle for the viewer, so as to make it look more dramatic.  I actually shot this from two different angles and distances and edited it down to two pics and let my art director choose the most impactful one.   (Here’s an example of getting help, letting go, and trusting another with my work and process-and looking back now at the two finals, she was right in deciding on this one)

Vanilla Star Jeans – haha no posing.  I actually try to get my subjects to not pose at all.  I feel it looks stiff most of the time and ‘posey’.  Plus I am not great at it (most likely because I don’t like it), some photogs are amazing at this, I am not.  I like natural and movement and energy.  I LOVE energy.  This is something I always have to work on with myself giving energy and not being afraid to put it out there.

That said, the model was fantastic and because it was a total 80’s hip hop vibe, we wanted something that gave energy and recollected the old school hip hop movements and more importantly attitude.  So it was a mix of having her move, directing her to give that attitude and feeling and her being a great model.  Trying to capture a moment.  It’s the in-between moments that are the magic.

The Kiss – This was a personal shoot I did with my cousin (who is an aspiring actress) and her then fiancé, now husband.  They were coming to NYC to propose (well she didn’t know it) and we decided to do a photoshoot.  I’m close to my cousin and don’t get to see her a lot so this was a fun excuse to hang out.  It is actually a part of a story we did based on the movie “breakfast at tiffanies”.

There is a scene where Holly goes and lightly kisses her beau in the hallway.  I decided to do it outside as around the corner from where I live are all these nice brownstones and would give it a more olden day look.  I had them stand where they were and told Matt (her husband-then fiancé) to grab her and kiss her passionately.  Which he totally nailed.

The light was going down so I was at a slow shutter speed which is why its a little soft, which does bug me, however that bike in the foreground was just chance and luck and makes the picture.  I knew the red coat would pop and it contrasted perfectly against his jacket. Now if this was a paid shoot those cars in the back wouldn’t be there but over all this was a planned shot that exceeded my expectations because of Matt and Rachel and the unknown biker.

As I was saying before you can plan as much as you want sometimes things just happen.  In this case it all came together.  The soft focus still does bug me though.  Stupid light (or dumb photographer, you decide)…haha.  This story I did is a perfect example of what I mean by you gotta have fun.

Audrey Hepburn was stupidly gorgeous and there were so many great scenes in that movie, and it was such a classic —- it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.  And we had fun.  My cousin and her fiancé were totally into it and we got amazing shots.  It was just for us and we had a blast shooting all day.  You gotta love what you do, and especially do some stuff for yourself, because it’s yours.

Eyes Closed – This was another personal project.  I started out in college doing what I call expressive portraits.  I love psychology and love to read what is in people’s heads and try to get it out in their image.  Who they are.  When you nail it a lot of times they don’t even see themselves that way.  It’s connecting on a human level that is so beautiful and human even if it is not “pretty”.  So this was a series (always in progress) of portraits that I started doing of my friends that I play football with.  We took about 40 shots (give or take-to remind me of my film days, 36 exposures) and for me I just sit and watch and let them have their personality come out.  And then try to capture it.

With Sean this was him, or at least one aspect of him.  He is an orthopedic doctor, you would never see him with his eyes closed or smiling this way at work, being relaxed and light-but this is him.  As much as I prefer eyes open, this spoke to me the most.  Sometimes it is just a feeling.  And again this was a shoot I did for fun.

LL: What are the kind of goofy things that you think defines you as a person? (Is it that you enjoy certain kind of jokes? Or more often you poke fun at yourself and rarely make others the butt of your jokes?)

AP: Haha, I am a big dork.  I’m not cool, which makes me cool.  Haha.  I make a retard out of myself and I tell dad jokes. (even before it was a thing).  I do make fun of myself a lot.  I rarely do make others the butt of jokes.  I don’t find that funny as I know firsthand how it feels to be made fun of. 

Unless of course they deserve it….heh, heh…

LL: Was how you built your client base linear? Or are there times that there is a burst of referrals…then sometimes not? (Or was it just about finding the connector?)

 AP: For me, my client base has never been linear and there is no rhyme or reason to it.  I have met people because I bumped into them out in the street. I have had a burst of referrals from one person. I have found a connector, and I have gotten jobs by just pounding the pavement.  The hard sell is not something I like or do so my clients have mostly come from other referrals or people I have known from past working relationships.

LL: So what’s the story with you and salads?

AP: Haha.  Sometimes I start craving salads.  Either Cobb salads or Caesar.  Mostly Cobb, and that is all I want to eat for the next however many days.  I usually go to a place around the corner from me, but it was freezing outside as it probably was in the dead of winter, and my apt was so warm.  I didn’t want to go outside.  I think I ended up going out.  Or eating pasta…ha

LL: Next time….off to Andriod?

AP: I was extremely frustrated with Apple because of all their proprietary crap.  I use Apple but hate it — they do jerky things to just make more money.  Unfortunately, most creatives use apple so it is easier in that regards to use their stuff.  And it looks better.  (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em-haha)

LL: With your website redesign — was it easy sailing? (Or did you end up adding a number of things you didn’t expect?)

 

AP: Haha, I thought it was relatively easy, thinking what I wanted was really cool and looked great and was easy to use.  Then I met a UX designer and she trashed everything about it.  And now I am redesigning it as we speak. Haha. (Although when this blog is published the relaunch will have already happened).

 

With the website I tweeted about, it took a long time to build, longer than I thought it would. And now I am rebuilding it from scratch again after about 3 months.  As for things I didn’t need, I didn’t have to compromise with that really because I actually had my people build it from scratch. This second one though I am using a template.

LL: In your bio — you mentioned that you only knew one person in NYC before moving. (Was it the case? or did you end up finding more people you knew prior to moving? Do you think this is the importance of making sure to keep in touch with people…particularly ones you don’t mind spending a heap of time with? And does this link with your last statement in your bio wanting to get more people to visit as you love entertaining?)

AP: No, I only knew one person.  My best friend Mike whom I had been friends with since I was 4 years old.  We are kind of like brothers along with one more friend and Mike just happened to be working and living in NYC at the time.  Lucky for me because he had a sweet place to live which I still live in (he has since left NYC).

 

This is only one of the reasons it is super important to keep in touch with people and meet everyone.  Mike worked on Wall Street, he didn’t know any fashion people or artists.  (This is before wall street people tried to get with fashion people, i.e. models).  An example is as follows: there was a college classmate of mine that my teachers loved (they didn’t care for me too much) and one professor got her an internship with Annie Leibowitz.  Are you kidding me?  I would have killed for that.  Unfortunately, my “things” kept me from getting close to my art professors in college and I did not have them as a resource when I moved to NYC.  This is why I try to get people to visit NYC. I love to show them how cool it is and I like hosting.

LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

AP: For me it is the same for anything I want to do well at.  Care, be a good person, be honest, work hard, don’t half ass, do what you say (stick to your word), do the best you can, have fun, and try to create a positive fun atmosphere.

 

Find out what makes them laugh, it loosens things up and makes everyone more comfortable.  Another is give the client the attention they deserve to their ideas.  They need to understand I respect their thoughts and ideas and in return I think I gain their trust and respect.

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

AP:  I don’t think so….However, I love helping out and answering questions.  I am a huge believer in asking questions, the most important one being, “why?”.  The only thing that does bother me are when people ask questions that they don’t really want to listen to the answer to, are looking only just to hear the answer they want to hear, want it not to be honest (“sugar coated”), or are just asking questions for the sake of asking questions-don’t really care about answers.

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting?

AP: No, and posting is something I need to up my game on.  I am not good at doing it, mostly because I hate doing it. It is strictly because I have to —- otherwise I wouldn’t have Twitter, Instagram, maybe FB however I am rarely on FB anymore. I try to do it at least once a week, and it prob should be more.  I am not good at that stuff.

 LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something on Instagram of Twitter? (what process do you go through to make sure that you are not rushing to post something that you would want to take back later? Do you consult someone to bounce off ideas before you make the final decision whether to go ahead with it or not?)

AP: I wouldn’t say I hesitate about posting things, however I do think about it and edit what I post (edit as in choosing images, not retouching-don’t confuse the two) before I post anything.  I definitely am very selective about what I am putting up based on different factors.

 

My process is to see what I have recently posted, see what I have, and decide what would be the strongest next image I could put-then post.  As for consulting someone about what I am going to post-no, I choose that myself.  The exception is Twitter, I did have a friend handle that, however, I had to stop with that because I found some things about her that made me very concerned about my trust in her.

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

AP: Chasing after unpaid invoices — I have two now that are due to me and have for a while and I need to get them because it is significant money and has been way too long.  (one of the reasons I am doing this right now) I have been putting it off because one of my problems is being pushy and demanding things even if I am in the right and it is something that is owed me.  I don’t like confrontation in my business and am trying to work on that.

 LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

 

 AP: I am not, although I would if the person was serious about it.  I have briefly in the past, however in those cases I feel the people liked the idea of it more than the actual practice of it.  I don’t have those other people although I would like to.  I am a pretty big self-motivator and am extremely self-critical however we all can use some help.  I have found I tend to be very “life coachy”.

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

AP: I am somebody that believes in making things happen and changing something if you don’t like it, instead of sitting around bitching about it (which is what most people do). So I think about what is the best and the most efficient way to change or fix the situation and then I try to do that.

Sometimes I get too caught up on it and spend too much time on it though. The things I have no control over I walk away from. I feel I have become very good at picking my battles.  I don’t have time to fuss over the things I can’t control so if I am annoyed and know I can’t do anything about it, I walk away.  If I do come into contact with it again and this time I can change the situation, yes, I definitely try to change it.  I believe in being proactive even if it isn’t in my personal best interest.

LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?

AP: There are a lot of things, photo, football, human psychology, and useless information.  I can talk about any of these things forever, not on any mailing lists (I don’t like to read things online) or anything such as that.

 

One topic I would like to talk about more is personal accountability. Not only understanding how what you say and do has a cause and effect but also how scapegoating runs rampant and that people don’t want to take accountability for themselves and their situations.

 

I will give a small example, although I really don’t want to get political.  I know you are Australian but maybe you have heard of a policy here that was causing debate, building a wall to separate the US and Mexico.  Hahaha.  Now I personally think it is absolutely asinine to do that for a myriad of reasons, however I do feel it is absolutely beyond stupid that many people that are against this are for having fences around their houses.  What is the difference?  Really?  A fence around your house is keeping others out and you in which is no different from a wall around a country keeping others out and you in.

 

People don’t want to hear that though, they don’t want to be personally accountable for the fact that their feelings about fences around their house (“my yard is private and I want my privacy”), leads to feeling about walls. Don’t scapegoat that it’s “them” when it is you.  Hypocrisy drives me insane and I use self-awareness and brutal honesty with myself (as much as it is possible to) to improve as well as feedback from others I trust have my best interest at heart.

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

AP: HHHmm, There are some, I can’t remember them off the top of my head. (I prob will once I hit send)  My buddy Scott McKay @scottmckay17 does some fantastic work and is completely under the radar.  Also two more photogs that their stuff is great that I am buddies with as well are Jonathan Meter @jonnymeats and Stephan Reel @stephan.reel, neither is what I shoot-just photgs that I like looking at.

 

I haven’t had a “whoa, I gotta try that” moment in a while.  There are things I am still thinking I want to try.

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

 

AP: I have never pre-ordered anything.  I think.  I have ordered things that were out of stock and waited until they were back in, however that is not the same.  Personally I have never wanted an object that I had to buy so badly that I needed to pre order it.  I don’t think there would be either unless it was cheaper by pre-ordering or something such as that.

 

Even the next book in The Song of Fire and Ice series. But I am getting more convinced every day George RR Martin will never finish it…haha.  Yes, I have bought a box set before, it was an anime cartoon from my childhood, the Robotech series of the Macross saga, the Robotech Masters, and the New Generation.  There most likely been box set books as well.

 LL: Are you a big listener of music? (Does your music library reflect the music you write? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Or maybe if you were to pick a track/album for someone to listen to while viewing your work? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

AP: I am a very big listener to music and am right now in fact.  I stopped trying (stress ‘trying’ — haha) to write music way back in high school when I used to play guitar.  So there are many artists I love and I am sure many people have heard of them, Bowie, Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G., Musicals…

 

Songs or albums that I repeatedly like usually greatest hits of the artists I like, some compilations.  I have a serious variety in music taste.  I will listen to about anything except Reggae, Country, and then there is the stuff I can only listen to for a little such as Techno and House.  One definite album I listen to a ton is ‘All Day’ by Girl Talk.  Usually my pump up studio or gym album.

 

Some things I like reading are fantasy such as the aforementioned, A Song of Fire and Ice series and Lord of the Rings. 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

 

AP: Right now I am reading the book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicolas Talib, sorry I don’t have the link. (and it is not the movie) I recommend it to anyone that thinks about how to actually see reality as it is, not just what we want to see.  It is tough reading but worth it.  Next will be “Liars Poker” by Micheal Lewis, then “The Simillarian” and “Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien, and then “Fooled by Randomness” again by Talib.

 

That should sustain me for a good while.  And then in 2058 when “Winds of Winter” finally comes out, by whoever ends up finishing it, I’ll read that…haha

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

 

AP: Hmm, inspiration I look for just by going out and looking.  In seeing.  Keeping my mind, eyes, and ears open and taking in as much as I can.  That is usually how I become inspired, by seeing, or hearing, or thinking about something that clicks with me.  It can even be a belief or a desire.  What gets me motivated?  A bunch of things, financial status, competition, insecurity, anger, love, (that’s the best one), confidence.  I think this is a partial list.

 

If I am not inspired or motivated, that is usually when I am feeling low, or hurting.  When I am feeling that way I try to do something creative I don’t usually do.  Play guitar, draw, paint, make some sort of clothing thing, etc. I also talk about it with someone that will listen.  I try to also really hear people when they say things to compliment me.  And try to feel as if I am productive.

LL: What makes you smile?

 

AP: Lots of things make me smile.  People laughing and really enjoying each other, playing-whatever it is.  Right now off the top of my head it is Boaty McBoatface. haha.  It is a great story.  I absolutely love when people who pride themselves (the science minister of Britain) on being “the experts” or “know it alls” show how little intelligence and lack of foresight they have and have to eat crow.  Basically, when they think too much of themselves and think they are better than everyone else and people prove they are asses.  Here is another great article about Boaty McBoatface.  haha (although what happens at the end does annoy me a lot.)

LL: What’s your view about social media? (Were you reluctant to get into it the first place, or were you happy to experiment and play around with specific social media sites)

 AP: I don’t like social media.  To me it’s a waste of time.  Unfortunately, it is a fact of life — so I accept it because I can’t be a dinosaur.  I try to use it to benefit me.

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment? (Are there ones that you find particularly informative, addictive or inspiring?)

AP: I have 1 because I don’t look for things online unless I have a specific reason to.  So I guess even though it may not be my favorite my most often frequented is google.com.  That most favorite one is www.palombophotography.com (shameless plug-haha)

 LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

AP: I rarely post, and if I do it is only FB, Insta, and to a lesser extent Twitter.  Every now and then I will put in two cents on a FB post, but FB is when I am procrastinating and I hate procrastinating.

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

AP: Nope.

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

AP: If I can go outside to the park or somewhere in nature that is peaceful and beautiful that can do it.  Or go for a run, or a good workout.  Laughter is the best, unfortunately sometimes it is hard to find funny people to laugh with.

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists? (via YouTube or specific collaboration websites)

AP: I don’t know any specific collaboration websites, and I really don’t like youtube, however I love collaborating with other artists.  I believe in cooperation over competition any day.  And I am competitive.

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

AP: This changes most every time I shoot something new.  Although now that I think about it, may be, and probably is, candids of good times with either my friends or my family, or both.

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

 

AP: I am someone that definitely has a hard time starting things — alot of time I have to really force myself to do something.  However, when I do start I usually become extremely focused and don’t want to stop until it is done.

 

This questionnaire is a great example. The first set of questions sat in my inbox for a week or so and then I said to myself, “just do it”,  (I hate the feeling of knowing I need to do something and not doing it) and I didn’t stop answering the questions until it was done. (not including stopping for eating, sleeping, etc).

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

 

AP: In all honestly, to hire me, and want me to shoot for them for a lot of money.

However, with that said, I would like them to take away that I can make a beautiful image and have talent and that it makes their day a little better in some way, even if they get to escape something for a little while enjoying the photo.  I would want to inspire them —- it doesn’t matter to what but to open their minds a little to plant a seed of something that could be possible for them.  Yea, an inspiration.

LL: What makes your soul sing?

 

AP: Knee deep in the Caribbean ocean shooting pictures of beautiful people with an amazing crew on somebody else’s dime.  Sailing a Hobie cat or single hull in Grace Bay in Turks and Cacaos.  Or being around my friends and/or good people and laughing my ass off.  Any or all of those three would do it.

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

 

AP: For me the best way to connect to me is e-mail if you don’t know me.  If you know me a phone call or meeting up.  I don’t like to send or respond too much on social media as I don’t have any of the messenger thingys set on my phone.

 

Anyone interested in supporting me, I would like them to know, “Thank you!” and that I greatly appreciate it and mostly spread the word about my work, pass on my details, and if there is something that I can do to help you, I will try.  Instagram is probably the social media platform that I visit and respond to the most and I think other people in the creative fields use it more than other platforms as well..

 

I don’t think I have a “biggest fan”, I do have people interested in my work, however I wouldn’t know who is the “biggest”.  There have been people that have given me great compliments, most of that is through Instagram I believe.  Most of the people I have found that resonate creatively with what I do has been through Insta, mostly because I have seen their work.

 

However there have been times also that people have found me whom work was spectacular. It is usually random for me anyway.  If there is a way to search it out, I would like to know, although I think it is just a matter of taking the time to go through everything.

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

 

AP: I don’t believe I have, and I don’t think I ever will.  I do have a very small core (3 people-2 best friends and my brother) who I consider all my brothers and I know will always be there and I trust them with everything I have and will ever have.  They are special and will be with me until they leave earth or I do.

 

To answer your question about a “tribe”, for me I have to say I have found those people a few times and will find them again.  As a person I have never felt as if I belong in one group nor could ever be defined by one thing.  This is good in the regards of always seeing new perspectives, people, and things, however it also makes me feel as if I have never belonged and always been an outsider. 

Truthfully also, I am too curious to stay with one thing-I want to see what is so scary, or what is behind the curtain.  It is great when you find that “tribe”-sometimes it lasts months, years, or a photoshoot.  I accept that life is always changing, people come and go, as do relationships.  I was in a fraternity in college, for 4 years that was my “tribe” and it was awesome.  Once I graduated, it went away.  Doesn’t mean I don’t hold those people dear to me — just life goes on.

 

I worked on a shoot for Ralph Lauren years ago. For a week I found my tribe and then the shoot was then over. I don’t see them barely at all anymore however I am very friendly with them if I see them and would hang out.  And yes I have had and continue to have multiple “tribes”.  Currently I do not because I am in a rebuilding phase and that happens sometimes as well.  Most of my tribes never overlap, however that is more of who I am and my varied interests so I attract all different people. 

 

Also, being that I never feel as if I belong I am never comfortable in one group and knowing life changes, I rarely fully invested in one group.  I do feel you can be more productive if you can find your “tribe”, just be careful to not become to tunnel visioned.  For those that are like me, and never feel as if you belong, accept it, and be good with it and enjoy the groups and relationships you make along the way as you do your thing.  Know some will stay with you and some won’t and that is ok.  Read “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein, it about sums it up.

 

However if you are not like me, start with the things you love, and/or where you want to be or do and put yourself out there.  You will attract people like that.  Contrary to what people think you only attract people like yourself.  Athletes hang out with athletes, artists to artists, criminals to criminals, etc.

 

Put yourself out there where you want to be and the friendships and partners and associates you become close with will build your “tribe”.  You have to be proactive though.  You can even do it with people who you are not crazy about, however that won’t come as naturally.  I really hate buzz words though…..

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

AP: The opportunities I am looking for are ad shooting jobs with pro athletes, and jobs that send me away to shoot in the Caribbean. (while knee deep in the ocean…..).  Nike, would be a very cool client to shoot for.  There are a ton. Ralph Lauren.  Or as I said anything with pro athletes.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

 

AP: In anyway I can.  It could be career, physical, mental, how to solve a problem, guidance, motivation, inspiration…there are a ton.  As long as they are willing to do the work and it doesn’t hurt me and I don’t want it more than them, I’ll do whatever I am able to do to help anyone if they are a good person.

 

I am busy so I might not be able to give much or not have certain resources to give them anything, unfortunately I can’t do anything about that.  Just don’t waste my time, or I will drop you like a bad habit.  However, that being said my favorite is psychoanalytic and physical help.  Being a part of someone getting in the physical shape they wanted to or overcoming something that has been hindering them is absolutely awesome!

 

I believe the mind and body are manifestations of the same thing which is why either one is my favorite.  One of the greatest things to witness is being a part of someone overcoming a phobia.  Really amazing, powerful stuff.  It’s awesome!

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

AP: It’s funny, if I were to quickly think about it I would say, “no, I haven’t done anything that amazing as I am not where I want to be yet”.  However, that is a subjective, self-critical perspective that is not the truth because it is based on my warped sense of success.

 

If I were to really take a step back and objectively look at my path (my journey) and to really see it objectively and where I was, how I did it, and what I dealt with, and the risks and gambles I took and the stupid decisions I made along the way, along with the smart ones, if I really looked at it truthfully and honestly — f— yea, I’m beating the odds so many times.

 

It is rather amazing. I mean not even including all the crap before NYC, I have been here 13 years, knew literally one person when I moved here with a duffel bag and a few boxes of film and contact sheets, and am a professional photog, living a fun life (and yes, I am not doing a lot of things I want yet), and did it without sacrificing my morality and values.

 

Yea, you better believe that alone is pretty amazing.  Now throw in everything else before NYC, it is amazing.  It’s been a fun ride-and I hope it just keeps getting better.  Thank you for asking this question. It made me stop and think about it. (Sometimes you get stuck in it and don’t see the forest for the trees.)

LL: How can we support your work?

AP:  The greatest way anyone could support my work is basically to keep me shooting.  That entails passing on my information, hiring me for jobs, developing relationships, being good people, and even though I already stated it hiring me on great jobs and if you are excited and happy with the results (which I believe you would be) hire me again and tell your people.  (Or a jackpot winning lottery ticket…hahaha)

 

I’m a huge believer of give a man a fish he eats for one day, teach a man to fish he eats everyday.  I love  shooting, not hand-outs.

And in the meantime spread the word!  Instagram: @palombophotography  Twitter: @palombophoto  Web: http://www.palombophotography.com

* Alex Palombo is a photographer based in New York. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. If you come across news that “Winds of Winter” has finally come out, he’ll welcome the news via email (Of course you can ring him and he’ll have an unforgettable story to tell: a stranger rang him to update him about the “Winds of Winter” and it was one of the best days).

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August – September 2017) between Alex and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a Sydney musician helping brands get their mojo back. When she is not doing that, she can be found spending time through various rabbit holes (offline and online) sniffing out stories for a music discovery project.

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Alex that should be included, please do leave a note (opting for your question to be displayed publicly gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community as well as giving Todd the option of answering).
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  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Twenty Six) is posted that would be a companion piece to Alex’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

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The Quote Jar: Twenty Four

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Justin during his Q&A.

 

“It was something that we don’t see very much of today. We used to get together in each others home, believe it or not.” – Benny Golson (via Bob Rosenbaum)

“We both started playing piano at age six or seven…and we played for a long time. That’s where I learned most of my theory. We had an old Russian teacher who was a very fine concert pianist; in fact, our parents wanted us to be concert pianists.” – Eddie Van Halen

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter/Facebook, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • The Q&A also has a home on Facebook! 🙂 In the feed you’ll find related readings from past Q&As as well as curated posts to help artists find new ways to engage with their fans.

What are some of your favourite quotes?

🙂

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you’ll have to publish it on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook then reach out to me directly to send the link, once I receive it, I’ll embed your feedback or comment!

Q&A #25: Justin Schroder

Justin shares his journey as a guitarist, a reason why unprepared drummers make him crazy, and his affection for his family.

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Justin, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! How would you describe your target audience?

Justin Schroder: I like this idea and you have chosen a great name for your blog. It’s important that we have real discussion regarding how players become good musicians.

I would say my audience is elusive. I have no idea who they are, what they want, nor what use I am to them. That reads poorly, but I just don’t know anything about my audience because there is so little commentary or conversation.

 

 

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

JS: How did I get to where I am as a player? Well, twenty years’ effort, frankly. If I may digress for a moment, there is a saying in the auto racing community, “There’s no replacement for displacement”. ‘Displacement’ is the size of an engine and all engines can be made to create more power than its original output, but bigger engines always have more potential for power. I use this example because no matter how many shortcuts, lessons, tips, tricks, etc. a person uses, one can only be as good as their CUMULATIVE PRACTICE TIME allows.

 

So, on to the specifics: I started playing songs. I didn’t learn exercises, scales, chords, etc; I learned songs. I still love learning songs. I also create songs. Sometimes I create songs from a musical concept, (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.), other times I create songs by manipulating bits of other songs that I like to play/hear. I teach people a finger exercise to gain finger independence because I struggled with that as a beginner and it puts everyone a few steps ahead of me as I was at the beginner level. Same idea when I teach chords, chord groups, and barre chords; it’s just a way to bring people to a playing level in fewer years than I took to reach the same skill levels. Students that play for hours/day like I did are ALWAYS better than I within the same number of weeks, months, and years in my early days of playing. ALWAYS, but time spent playing is #1.

 

 

 

LL: You mentioned you create songs from a musical concept (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.). Can you give two examples?

 

JS: Here is the link to the video of me discussing and playing Parking Lot Birds and Cream Soda:

 

Parking Lot Birds is a song for the little birds one sees in parking lots hopping about and picking at little bits of things on the ground. PLB started with the melody and I took a year or so to decide which chords I liked best. I essentially stole the A section chords from Benny Golson’s Killer Joe and from the Bridge of various I’ve Got Rhythm tunes, I developed the B section of PLB.

 

Cream Soda is a tune that started with chords from which I created a melody. I found myself drinking a lot of IBC Cream Soda at the time, and figured it would be a great title for a Smooth Jazz sort of a tune. I like most of my tunes which start with chords a little more than those which start with a melody, but I think Parking Lot Birds is my strongest Melody First tunes.

 

LL: What would your advice be to someone who has only a limited amount of time (Maybe 1-2 hours a day) to plan their learning and practice?

 

JS: If someone has limited time (Don’t we all?), I would suggest spending 90% of it playing. Too many people, myself included, spend too much time thinking or looking for efficiency or short-cuts; the truth comes with playing.

 

 

 

LL: How about getting the next generation to practice? Isn’t it all about starting as early as possible? (NPR has an article)

JS: Getting the next generation to practice is just like the old generations; if they want to play, they will. I still  get new students who outpace students who have been with me for a while just they spend more hours with their instrument.

My favorite concept: Be aware of the difference between a guitar OWNER and a guitar PLAYER.

 

People start playing music or anything else when they start. Age is only relevant because as we age, we often become more aware of our preferences and have developed better work habits. I find adults will advance with less effort because children waste more time and effort avoiding work than would be spent DOING the work in the first place.

 

I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 18 and I was teaching by age 23. I played many hours each day because I wanted to play. If my fingers hurt from playing, I moved to listening. I kept music playing while I slept. The funny part about that is when I suggest to students with the worst sense of time to sleep with the metronome on; the idea is for their brains to develop a sense of tempo.

This is a great article. The end of it is the real meat-and-potatoes of practice; getting good results regarding improved skill, higher self-worth, and organizational skill development.

 

LL: Sounded like you wanted to share a funny reaction to students with the worst sense of timing to sleep with the metronome on.

 

JS: No, that’s all there was the example of sleeping with the metronome clicking. I’m sure there are some funny stories, but I don’t think parents have told me about them.

One thing I’ve done in sessions with students who either A. Refuse to honor the time being clicked by the metronome, or B. Are so preoccupied with what their fingers are doing that they can’t ‘hear’ the metronome, is that I will plug the metronome into an amplifier and make it so loud they have no choice but to play ‘with’ it. To be clear, this is not so much an abuse tactic as it is a method in making the metronome as loud as a drummer.

People ALWAYS play in time with a drummer. This is what makes me crazy when a drummer is less than prepared for whatever we are playing; I can’t pull them back into place

 

 

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?

JS: Start with thinking about where you want to be as a player by considering your favorite artists. There is usually something that someone else has done which inspires us to start playing.

Then discover where you are failing to have that ability and practice that until you are great. Remember there is no substitute for time on your instrument playing music. Just don’t forget that if you can’t play the music you want, you have some work to do and it should be in the form of an exercise using the actual music. If there is a two-measure section of a solo or rhythm part that you can’t play, then you should be playing it 5,000 times in a row as if it is an exercise, because it is and you will reach your goal directly.

 

 

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

JS: Learn piano. Seriously. Guitar is by and for crazy people. Piano is logically laid for the eyes and hands. If someone wants to be a songwriter, the keyboard is more intuitive so one will achieve better results in less time by using it.

 

 

LL: Is that why guitarists usually find it difficult to transition to piano? (and pianists usually have no problem…and if they do…they can easily figure out a work around?)

JS: Well, I don’t play piano, but I’ve tried a couple things on piano and I can certainly confirm that my problem with piano is trying to play one rhythm with the left hand and another with the right.

For guitarists, we need to have good timing with our left (or whichever hand is fretting), but it doesn’t exactly play rhythm. In a nutshell, the fretting hand arranges itself for the sound and the picking/plucking hand initiates the rhythmic quality of the music being played.

Eddie Van Halen is a primary exception because he played proper piano as a child before learning guitar.

 

 

LL: In one of your videos (Creative Soloing), you do a whole lesson (about an hour) — can you give a rundown of what you covered? And was it easy to get your students to agree to be videoed?

JS: The basic outline of the program is that we learn the five scale shapes, the five pentatonic shapes, the seven 7th harmony arpeggios in each of the five positions (many of which repeat), and we don’t move from the first of any shape until everyone in the class is competent to a certain level. Basically, it’s a 32-week course with so much playing that everyone’s skill jumps by leaps and bounds.

 

It’s really intense and it isn’t easy finding students who can dedicate the time to take it, but those who do grow tremendously as players/musicians and are very thankful to themselves for being dedicated to the process.

 

 

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

JS: Ah, the goods, the tools of the trade. Well, I have a Breedlove AC200/SM that I love to hate. We fight all the time. I have been playing it almost exclusively for the last several months almost with a battle mentality. I have recently started using 11 gauge strings, D’Addario EJ26. I had been using the originally intended set which were D’Addario EJ16, but I just couldn’t get what I wanted from them. It just sounded like there was a blanket over the instrument. I have played other guitars with 12s and they feel the same, so that eliminated ‘specific instrument’ from the equation.

(I have since returned to the D’Addario EJ16 strings and also using either Fender Medium or Jim Dunlop Big Stubby 1.0 picks for a brighter tone. This seems to be the best arrangement. At least until I change my mind again. Musicians: We’re a nutty lot.)

Funny enough, I will be using D’Addario EPN115 strings soon on my electrics. I have been using Ernie Ball Power Slinkys and D’Addario EXL115 for a while and just purchased a batch of the pure nickel strings to try. I think I will like them for their more mellow tone. I use a Bugera V22 that has a bright tone and I think a mellow set of strings will take some of the harshness away without making the sound dull. Just a hunch.

(Another update since first being asked, I sold the Bugera V22 because I wanted a smaller, lighter amp for greater portability. I now use a Fender Blues Junior with an Eminence Cannabis Rex replacement speaker. Yes, it’s made of Hemp, and yes, it sounds fantastic and is a solid 10+ pounds lighter. The D’Addario EPN115, Pure Nickel strings, are also here to stay. For now-ish.)

I also have a HiWatt Bulldog 10 from the 1990s. Great mellow clean tone from that and a nice RAWK sound on the distortion setting. Unfortunately, ten watts is not enough for any gig and the distortion setting is not foot-switchable. It’s very nice to carry though.

In the last couple years I have crossed the river regarding the use of pedals. I have been using a Electro-Harmonix LBP-1 in my effects loop to boost my solos when playing tunes that require some crunch for the rhythm sections. Using a booster in the effects loop allows me to make the tone remain exactly the same except louder. Plus, using a booster in the effects loop gives it a very wide range; it takes very little boost after the preamp section to make the volume increase a great deal. Putting a booster in the front end of an amp acts like a gain booster more than a volume booster.

I also have a DigiTechJamManlooper. Great for practicing, solo gigs, testing drummers’ listening skills, etc. I also use a HardWire SC-2 Valve Distortion pedal. I tried a Boss Super Overdrive and really liked its tone, but it isn’t touch sensitive like the HardWire series.

(Additional updates regarding effects: I have also acquired the Digitech Trio Plus which is a fantastic evolution of the looper to include the creation of bass and drum parts which are ‘Trainable’, and also a Tech21 Hot Rod Plexi pedal which emulates a Marshall Plexi sound and is a noticeably different sound than the Hardwire SC-2 Valve Distortion. I use each for different needs because both sound great, just different. The best function of the Tech21 HRP is that it has two stages of gain which gives me the opportunity to have a dirty rhythm sound and a slight boost in saturation for solos. The Hardwire SC-2 has similar functions, but the switch isn’t foot-operable. If only…)

My first guitar was a Peavey Predator from the early 90s. One of the ‘Crafted in USA’ models. I still have it and it sounds fantastic, but it needs a refret because, well, I played it a lot and now the frets are too low.

My favorite guitar is a Korean-Made Epiphone Dot from the late 90s. I sent it to Dan Erlewine for a refret, installation of Gibson ’57 Classics, TonePros bridge and placement modification, and a retrofit Buzz Feiten nut and tuning compensation. Plays and sounds like a dream to me. I have owned many Korean-Made Dots and this one is my favorite. Plus, it is a rare Tobacco Burst which had a small run for Dots and was mostly used on Sheratons.

My most recent acquisition, which was last year (2013) I think, is an Epiphone Les Paul Plus Top, or some such. The color is Trans Amber, which my wife says looks like baby poop, but I like it. The electronics are dull like most stock Epiphones, but I’m sure it will come to life when I upgrade the pickups. I’m also considering upgrading the pots and wiring with a rewiring pack from Stewart-MacDonald. I’m hoping to get it to function like my Dot which is wired so the volume and tone pots are independent.

I think that is all I have for guitars and amps. Picks are another story. I had used Fender 351 Medium Celluloid picks for a very long time. Then, I had a trio that played uptempo Blues and Jazz tunes with a set of Surf music like Dick Dale, The Ventures, and so forth. For some of the faster tunes, I noticed I was having trouble at higher tempi, then through some experiments I discovered that the pick was not returning to its ‘playable’ position soon enough to actually strike the string as my hand passed it. So, I tried heavier picks made of different materials. What I am using now are: Big Stubby 1.0 picks for acoustic playing and Fender 351 Heavy Celluloid for electric playing. The lexan of the Big Stubbys has a brighter tone and the Celluloid has a mellower tone (remember, the Bugera is bright).

Oh, and the same fingers as always. Much of our tone comes from the fingers, but everything else affects it too.

 

 

LL: How did you end up saying yes to a Breedlove guitar?

 

JS: It was the right shape, sound, and price for what I needed in an acoustic instrument. The Concert body style works best for my playing. It makes the single notes more defined whether these notes are melody or bass.

 

LL: So this love/hate thing you have with your Breedlove AC200/SM?

JS: I think the love/hate relationship is more about acoustic vs. electric than this specific instrument. I did recently change to an 11 set of strings on the Breedlove and I am feeling much better about everything. Now I have about ten sets too many of 12 gauge strings. Need any?

 

(…and have since returned to 12-gauge strings as mentioned above. Now I have two leftover sets of D’Addario EJ26, 11-Gauge strings which need a new home.)

 

 

LL: Have you used the HiWatt Bulldog 10 in any of your videos?

JS: Yes. I made a series of videos by playing some fun Rock tunes/solos/etc. and I’m pretty sure I used the HiWatt for most of them. Here is Judas Priest’s Livin’ After Midnight on which I used the HiWatt.

I think it’s a great sounding amp, especially for a solid state amp. I primarily use tube amps. The HiWatt is just 10 watts and, while plenty loud at full volume in a small room, it just doesn’t have enough volume for playing with a drummer in a larger room. I may experiment with it one day just to hear it in an A/B arrangement with my larger amp.

 

LL: Did you have to do any set-ups or adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

JS: I setup my guitars once when I acquire them. Sometimes they will need a minor adjustment every couple years, but I don’t break out the feeler gauges when the humidity or temperature changes ten points. The process I use is time-consuming and more intuitive than scientific. If the job gets into nut or fret work, I hire someone else for the job.

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide? (tablet, bits of paper,mental notes..)

JS: For Rock, Country, other Pop type gigs, I try to play by memory so I can move around and make a show. I play musical theatre and read the book because: A. I need to be spot-on and predictable, and B. I’m not part of the show. I have been part of the show once though. I went wireless during a dance routine in one show and crossed the stage during an improvised solo. That was cool.

For Jazz or Holiday gigs I use lots of charts or charts with improvisation ideas because nobody is paying that much attention since we are usually just ‘Mood Music’. I take the opportunity to be an ‘Artist’ during these gigs by working on my ‘Improvisational Voice’ and play some of my own creations. I can usually predict/remember my screw-ups.

It’s very important to know one’s self as an artist and player. I need to work more on the ‘Artist Me’ by doing more concerts instead of atmosphere music gigs.

 

 

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

JS: I subscribe to the Barney Kessel school of warm-ups: “Stay hot.”. I warm up on mid-tempo tunes. I use exercises for mechanical problems. It took many years for me to realize I should have balance in this regard. I usually only discover playing problems during an improvisational concept that I try on a gig and fail because I never thought to try it before.

Exercises are for building a skill that one does not have; it is not a way to become a better musician, it is a way to become better at instrumental execution. (How do I play this musical idea on my instrument?)

 

LL: Description of your playing style? (i.e. you like keeping it simple, no riff-busyness/crazy solos, go-to picking style..etc)

JS: The music dictates my playing style. To me, there is no rhythm, lead, left-hand, right-hand, etc., there is only ‘What must I be able to do to play the music?’ and ‘Can I do it?’. Sometimes I can’t ‘do it’, and that informs my next practice session..

Most recently, a couple years ago, I was rehearsing with a Hard Rock band and I couldn’t play some of the solos at the final tempo. These were a Judas Priest and some Guns ‘N’ Roses tunes; a couple others too, I’m sure. Anyway, I had to spend about six months really working on these solos to be able to play them at tempo. I essentially went from sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm. I’m not talking about an exercise at 160bpm, this was the music, what I really wanted to play.

 

 

LL: What was your practice routine structured like during those six months (to be able to go from soloing at sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm)

JS: I used the same process I teach: Learn the music at a slow tempo (50% or less), then move the tempo up ten points and play through. Keep raising the tempo until mistakes begin, then return to the last perfectly played tempo. Stay at that tempo for one week, then start raising the tempo again until mistakes begin and repeat the process. I did this until I could comfortably play the music at 10 bpm higher than the final tempo required. It takes a long time, but it’s worth it.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

JS: Taming the acoustic, becoming more of an ‘Artist’ regarding my voice in arrangements, improvisation, song choice, etc.. I will discover my weaknesses sooner by learning new music.

I’m also pursuing more concert opportunities instead of ‘Club Dates’, (Which are gigs at venues ‘needing’ atmosphere music for 3-4 hours.). I’m sure I’ll still do some weddings and other special events, but concerts are where I believe I will grow the most as an artist with message.

 

 

LL: Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JS: Not really since I don’t have any upcoming gigs, but I do have a voice and guitar duo that is on hiatus (the vocalist is having a baby in June 2014) and a guitar and sax duo. The guitar/sax duo is just two weeks in the making, so we are still finding a start to our voice and choosing tunes. The real work begins when we have the music chosen and we need to find ourselves inside of it.

(A bit more updates: I’m currently have a guitar/flugelhorn duo, solo-guitar arrangements, and two possible guitar/voice opportunities, and a full band concept for which I can start booking concerts. Since first answering the above question, I have decided to pursue concerts as a primary goal and I want to have different levels of hire available to select venues. Some venues are a small, intimate setting, and some are larger and prefer a larger group for a more intense experience.)

 

LL: Pretty happy with where you are at now?

JS: HA! Never happy! However, I do consciously decide to stop ‘Improving’ so I can really internalize the recent changes to my playing. In other words, I have to make myself stop trying to be a better ‘Guitarist’ and remain in the work of becoming a better, more soul-touching ‘Musician’ with my current skill level.

Ever hear a guitarist play only scales or strumming patterns? Yes. Did it touch your soul? Probably Not. We need to work on the other bits of musicianship by ceasing the work on mechanics.

 

 

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

JS: The funny thing about questions is that I don’t believe I hear any of them repeated. I know that may seem strange, but while my answer to the students’ questions may contain the same information, every question is different because each student has a different hole in their understanding.

As an example, the most common topic I discuss is improvisation. Most people know something in regard to improvising by the time I see them, but there is always something they don’t like about their playing, or something that has become stagnant to them. So, we discuss keys and how we make chords and melodies from the notes within. Then we learn more about how we can play them in a practical manner on guitar.

I guess the second most common topic is that of rhythmic concepts. Unfortunately, none of us manipulate rhythms as much as we should; music could be so much more interesting if we did.

 

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

JS: No, I’m not part of any underground faction that is hip before anyone else. I’m 42. Ha!

Most of my new discoveries are from the social media posts of others, YouTube suggestions, online programs such as Tiny Desk Concerts by NPR, and other random finds.

 

 

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

JS:Man, what a list that would be and who has the time for all that listening? Joe Satriani, Led Zep, AC/DC, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Big Bands, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Stu Hamm, John Scofield, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Roy Clark, Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Appetite for Destruction, INXS, U2, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Arlen Roth, Booker T. and the MGs, Christian McBride, James Brown, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Vince Guaraldi, Dave Holland, and many more.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover music you haven’t heard before?

JS: Sometimes I accidentally find something on YouTube or a blog that I like or some Pop star like Lorde is in the news and I YouTube them. However, I certainly don’t go out of my way. I don’t think we need to go out of our way any more. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m 40 years old, so I remember when one had to hunt for music. Especially if you lived in the woods or the hills.

 

Now it’s almost like the matter of finding music is as easy as picking a blade of grass while in a park; we’re just surrounded my sources of music.

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JS: YouTube and watch the masters at work.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JS: Social Media is, to me, a contradiction in terms, but it is important. I think ‘Social’ is about time with or making friends and ‘Media’ is a method of distributing information. I don’t think the two are ALWAYS good together as are chocolate and peanut butter. ‘Social’ and ‘Media’ are better as a small part of two concentric circles.

I like Twitter best, but some people lump YouTube in the Social Media box and I think we know by now how I feel about YouTube. Ha!

 

 

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

JS:  Twitter.com/ JustinSchroder

I’m concerned about upcoming changes to Twitter since there have been some leadership/ownership changes, but so far, they haven’t pulled a Yahoo! and done anything ridiculous.

I like Twitter better than Facebook, primarily because I only have so many characters to create posts. This has helped me learn to communicate more effectively. I find that most of the people that don’t like Twitter are people who don’t like to work on their communication. I don’t feel good about my communication, so I like to work on it.

 

I also go through phases of posting in Haiku form, just add an additional challenge.

 

 

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

JS: Most websites have good designs now. Site design means little to me unless I’m trying to pay a bill or see my bank balance. Some companies have websites which drive me bonkers. How wrong can one be when designing a website? Well, pretty wrong sometimes.

 

LL: Name a website that you would go to when you need cheering up/inspiration?

JS: Outside. Not a website. I find my pets, children, or wife when I need good feelings.

I like bike rides, especially in the woods. My wife likes hikes, I like hiking with her, but I would never decide to go on a hike on my own. I prefer rolling friction.

 

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

JS: Absolutely.

 

My strong skills are harmony and melody, not lyrics or singing. So, I need to have others to complete my work. Also, I’m good at developing and leading bands, and most musicians/singers are not good at the management of musical endeavors.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JS: Nope. It’s just a means to an end and, thankfully, systems like WordPress, YouTube, SoundCloud, et al are great for technologically imbecilic people like me.

 

I think that is the greatest societal improvement given by computers and the internet; it allows otherwise incompetent people like me to be able to produce documents, audio, video, and other forms of gaining an audience without needing to hire someone or develop into a Jack-Of-All-Trades to be an artist.

 

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

JS: No. Frankly, I have found that very few of my videos are being discovered or watched by people whom I believe I am trying to help. So, evidently, I’m not as helpful via video as I thought.

 

 

LL: Or are you looking to do different things?

JS: Something that a lot of people will find helpful. It’s not so much of an ego-centric ‘Hey, look how many views I have!’. It’s more a matter of ‘Hey, look how many views I have by people I can help!’.


We seem to be moving toward Live online events through FaceBook Live, Concert Window, Periscope, et al, and I am upgrading my tools to take advantage of this trend. It’s interesting how our intrinsic Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is fueling the technological and social changes we are seeing.

 

Perhaps FOMO has always been the foundation of technological and industrial advancement.

 

 

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

JS: That’s an impossible choice, but it would be one of my youngest daughter Claire either playing violin, singing, or riding her bike for the first time. We were too poor when my oldest daughter was little to have any video of her and now that she’s a teen we just have pictures of her being beautiful.

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others? (Is there a particular cause that you resonate with the most?)

JS: What I enjoy most is helping people realize how being a good musician isn’t as difficult as many other people make it out to be.

Essentially, there are a lot of people discussing music concepts in such a convoluted manner that it’s nearly impossible to understand or apply them. I really enjoy working with performing musicians who want to discover more about themselves musically. Working with a group of musicians is probably my favorite environment because we can inspire each other to do our best. It’s easier and more fun to be creative in a group setting because one idea triggers another and the creativity builds.

If I were to describe a cause which motivates me the most, that would be the success of the student. Nothing motivates me more in teaching than seeing a student surprise themselves with their playing or with a sudden moment of clarity. Most of the time the problem isn’t the student’s level of effort, but rather the music concepts being made simple, clear, and immediately applicable.

 

LL: How can we support your work?

JS: I teach at TrueFire.com via video exchange, which is probably the most efficient way to teach and learn for the intermediate to advanced player.

Players should take this link to register and learn the benefits of studying with me there. Visiting my website, JustinSchroder.com, will give people the opportunity to learn what I am doing as a teacher and performer. It’s also the best way to contact me regarding how I can help them. I am currently focused on performance and group education. I am available for concerts in solo, duo, small combo, and big band settings, as well as related workshops, clinics, and guest performer bookings.

Simply put, supporting my work is as simple as hiring me to help people and organizations reach their musical goals.

 

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

JS: I’m amazed that I survived! 🙂

Frankly, I’ve noticed more of the effect I’ve had on students, other musicians, and just people generally since I retired from teaching daily. For various reasons, my current schedule and physical/mental condition are more conducive to effective thought and being present in my daily activities than ever before.

When I am looking for a video I made or a blog post to send to someone, I must say I’m a little surprised at how many videos and blog posts I have created. I’m sure they’re not all great, but I did them and they were evidently something I felt worthy of sharing.

I guess what is most valuable to me at present is the growing awareness and appreciation that I have a family, a job, and the ability to create and re-create Sound Art for my enjoyment to share with others.

 

 

* Justin Schroder is a guitarist based in Lynchburg. Witness him working on learning to communicate more effectively (in 140 characters or less!) via Twitter. You can pick his brain by watching him share playing nuggets on Youtube, through his entries, or by going through the really intense 32 week course.

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May 2014 – October 2016) between Justin 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 out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #21: Scott Raines

 

Scott talks about his journey as a guitarist, the importance of spending time with your chosen instrument, the importance of having a coach (no matter where you are) and the reason learning/practicing for him was never a chore.

 

Editor’s Note: Before you start reading Scott’s Q&A – play at least minute of his cover of Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’. Let those chords and notes get in your veins!

 

(Word of warning: after checking out Scott’s videos on YouTube and reading his Q&A, you might be struck by the desire to fly to where his next solo show is going to be)

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through your YouTube videos I notice that you have quite a variety of artists you cover. Is this a reflection of your own listening habits?

 

Scott Raines: With covers, I generally play what I like (my taste has a wide range). Sometimes I’ll learn or play something special for someone just because or if it’s something I like and is requested at a gig 😉

 

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

SR: I was about 8 years old when my playing journey began. Growing up in Slocomb, AL, there were no local “mentors” or influences really. When I was 9, I had a really good friend (Johnny Hendrix), who was my age and knew some chords and played CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival]. Sometimes we had music books with chords, but mostly we learned by ear.

Randy Thomley moved to Slocomb with his family from Michigan.  He turned me onto great rock like Ted Nugent, Montrose, etc. Of course, as I got older and travelled, I had many influences and mentors.

 

2 of my best friends, my older brother and I formed a band at very young ages and were playing honkytonks at the ages of 13 & 14 (my brother was older). We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that we needed to sound like the records we were listening to. So we would put the needle on the record and learn stuff note for note. There is no better ear training than that. We didn’t have another band in town with which compare ourselves, but only to the bands/artists themselves on the records. We blew everyone away from very young ages. The older bar cats/musicians didn’t know what hit them.

 

I grew up in the Church of Christ (no instruments), which is known for their awesome singing and vocal arrangements. I was hearing harmonies from the womb. I have always had a natural ear for harmony because of that.

 

 

LL: What pulled you to travelling?

 

SR: I knew I wanted to play music from a very early age. As soon as I was old enough, I hit the road. I took a break from traveling while my daughters were very young. They are older now, so I am enjoying traveling more again.

 

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

SR: As a kid, my problem was keeping my fingers from bleeding from playing so much on a very cheap guitar.

 

Most of my challenges came later when I crossed into other genres or between playing acoustic and electric (which are really 2 different instruments technique-wise). I never had a problem with motivation. I was going to do it/learn it, period. I would just listen to and play with the music, jam with people and study until I got better. Learn stuff note for note, then use the concepts and apply them to my own playing, etc.

 

I get blocks and hit ceilings, as I’m sure everyone does. That’s when you go see live music, get on YouTube and watch some greats, go jam with friends or put on some old music that takes you back to what got you into music in the first place.

 

 

LL: Does that mean now you’ve learned how to pace yourself? (making sure that you don’t injure your fingers? Or did you just find a way to protect the tips of your fingers as a kid – maybe with something like Micropore Tape?)

SR: As a kid, small Band-Aids, then superglue worked well. After you have played for so long, you and your fingers get in shape and it doesn’t bother you any more. Playing regularly keeps them in shape. I often play with heavier gauge strings, which keeps them strong as well.

 

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

SR: I was turned onto SCALES AND MODES in the Beginning by a friend (Mike Barnes) who was/is an amazing player who trained at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now MI – Musician’s Institute]. I was already playing much of that stuff I learned by ear, but this book enlightened me on some of what and why I was playing some things (scales, etc.). I don’t think it really changed my life or anything.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a learning plan 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?

 

SR: For me, playing guitar is mostly right-brained. It’s a feel thing. It’s a passion thing. My thirst for theory didn’t come until later when I wondered why I played what I played. My advice would be to explore the technical side as well as the creative. Feel what you are playing, but also explore what is going on under the hood of what you are playing and why.

 

Take lessons, get mentors, jam with artists much better than yourself. If you are really serious in making a living at it, go to where the music business is; L.A., Nashville or New York City.

 

Start writing your own stuff from day one! Learning covers is good in that you pick up technique, feel, etc., but don’t spend too much time on it. Put a band together and write your own stuff, no matter how bad is sucks. Just keep writing!

 

If you are seriously learning guitar (or ANY other instrument), consistently practice with a metronome. Rhythm is your job. Take it seriously! If it is your job to start or count off a song in a pro show, you’d better have a click in your ear or metronome on stage in order to start it at the correct tempo. There are too many factors that can affect your inner clock (butterflies, adrenalin, distractions, etc.).

 

As good as Tiger Woods is, why does he still have a coach? The best drummers in the world come to practice and to the gig with a metronome. That’s all I will say about that.

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a guitarist?

 

SR: It was never a chore for me to “practice”. My body and soul become one when I have a guitar in my hand. I can literally feel my blood pressure even out. You hear people speak of God-given talent. Maybe there is some of that, but I tend to believe it is more of a God-given passion.

If you have true passion for something, NOTHING gets in your way and “can’t” is not an option. Yes, running scales can get tedious, but by keeping your eye on an end result/goal, it is just a necessary thing. Task over time is the only way to get great at something.

 

 

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

SR: Over the years, I have learned to not waste time inventing the wheel and go straight to someone who is doing what I want to know how to do and ask them. I call it Continuing Ed. Ask them, jam with them, pay for a lesson or whatever it takes. I have played with some amazing guitarists over the years and I have to give credit to Jack Pearson, one of my current coaches/mentors.

Jack takes playing guitar to a whole new level, stepping into multiple arenas (genres, techniques) and drops jaws wherever he goes. I try to see him every few weeks when I make it to Nashville. I will pay him for a lesson, we will go to dinner and then we’ll go out on the town to see some great players.

 

I learned a lot by watching and playing studio sessions. Good session players, engineers and producers are incredible to watch. The way they create such masterful arrangements on the fly is just amazing. Hearing myself on tape put things in perspective. I had to practice more!

 

LL: Would you mind sharing some of the recent lightbulb moments you’ve had during your time with Jack?

SR: Jack and I are friends. I have never really taken formal lessons, though I would have liked to go to a music college like MI if I could have afforded it. Teaching guitar is a source of income for Jack, so I support him by paying him for lessons and subscribing to his online guitar school while I get top notch jam time and custom direction on new perspectives of the fingerboard.

 

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

 

SR: Get a chord book/app, learn the basic chords and go for it. I enjoy picking up instruments that I don’t play and banging around on them. This has inspired some pretty cool original ideas for me.

 

LL: Can you share three music theory related ideas that helped you become a better musician?

SR: The Nashville Number System (Number System is part of general music theory) has been the most useful for me. Generally, I can hear a song for the 1st time and have it mostly charted by the time it gets to the end. Great tool in studio sessions. Most of the jam sessions in my life, players are yelling numbers to each other, not chords. It is also invaluable when the singer decides to change the key of the song. The 1 is the 1 no matter what key it happens to be in.

 

Sight Reading staff certainly has its place.  I just never find myself in those places.

Not really music theory, but I have to mention that if you want to be a great musician, it is VERY important that you learn to listen to what else is going on. Do not stampede on top of vocals, someone else’s solo, etc. What you don’t play is MORE important that what you do play! Playing music is not everyone banging out the same chords from start to finish.

The arrangements are carefully designed for the instruments (including the voice) to work together. This may mean that you don’t play a single note until the bridge and when you do, it is only 3 notes (maybe not even chords). The same goes in jams. When someone else is singing or playing a solo, SHUT UP or at least bring your volume WAY down. It is a conversation. Let the others speak, too. All this depends on the genre as well. There are exceptions 😉

 

Another thing that has helped me is learning other instruments’ parts in songs. Organ voicing is very fun on guitar. Sax solos are very similar to guitar licks and lend another perspective/approach. Piano parts are a lot of fun on guitar. I have played guitar synth and would learn many parts like organ, horn lines/stabs between guitar parts, etc.

 

Finally, BE NICE! Just like everything else, it is all about relationships. Learn something from everyone you meet and be nice to your fellow musicians, club owners, managers, producers, etc., but especially your fans. Nobody wants to be around an ass—.

 

 

LL: Do you do your own chord experiments?

 

SR: Every time I pick up a guitar! I play with inversions, especially on an electric. One of the best things you can do to learn your neck is to jam with a song a thousand times and play it different every time. Play each chord in different locations of the neck every time it comes around, on 2 strings, on 3 strings, skip strings, play the chord in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, with the root on bottom, 5th on the bottom, 4th or 7th on the bottom, etc. There is no end to how many ways to play a simple song like Take It Easy. Per my answer above, learning other instruments’ parts helps with this, too.

 

LL: What’s your view on alternate tunings?

 

SR: I have played with alternate tunings in other artists’ music, but haven’t really gotten into it with my own music. I enjoy drop D, open A, D & E for slide. I wouldn’t hesitate to go there if I heard something I needed to capture that couldn’t happen in standard tuning.

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

SR: Yeah, there are endless ways to approach playing this song (and most songs). Depending on my mood, I may play a song different every time. Sometimes I want to play very sparsely to let a song breathe and bring more weight to the voice/lyrics. Sometimes I will play a piano line/part instead of guitar, etc.

 

Being a hired gun, my playing will have different colors, depending on whom I’m playing with, what instrument I am playing, the setting or music style. My playing style will always complement the song or type of music I am playing.

 

I do a different thing with my right hand, in that I hold a pick, but still use my other fingers for picking (unless it is a full on strum). I use this technique with acoustic and electric guitar.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you come across about you — as a musician?

SR: Musicians/artists come in a wide variety and unfortunately many generalized opinions of them are justified by the actions of the egotistical, undependable, entitled and generally unprofessional actions of more than a few. It is a tough business and it is an uphill battle to make a living as an artist. Too few artists know anything about the “business” of their craft. It is very important to learn that side as well.

 

When I was young, I played by ear and would nail the songs I had learned. I had no idea what I was playing or why, but anyone who heard me thought I was amazing. This was NOT the case! Sometimes I would land on the wrong dot 😉 Ouch!

 

It’s funny when you see someone who shreds some song(s) and you want to jam with them and explore with them, but in reality, they can’t as much as open jam on a 1-4-5 blues. All these great clips on YouTube are cool, kids playing Eruption, or whatever, note for note, etc., but I always wonder if they have anything else. I like to think so.

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

SR: I’m almost always happy, but never satisfied with where I am knowledge-wise in general. I’m a student in life and am always hungry for knowledge, especially musical knowledge.

Right now, I am working on my voice a lot. After singing all of my life, I have only recently learned about chest voice, head voice & the mix. There again, I’ve done it for years, but never really knew what I was doing and why.

I am currently spending a lot of time writing for a couple of different projects.

 

LL: Do you think you’d be on the lookout for a vocal coach as well?

SR: I heard a lot about Brett Manning in Nashville as the guy the record companies sent their new artists to in order to dial their voices in. I ordered a couple of programs from him that really helped my technique. When I am in Nashville, I like to schedule a one on one session with them.

 

 

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

SR: D’Addario electric strings and Elixir acoustic strings. I mostly use V-Pick for electric guitar (mostly a custom Tradition) & mandolin. For acoustic, I mostly use Dunlop Tortex (1.14mm). I use heavy pics unless I am playing a strumming rhythm acoustic track in the studio where you want to hear the sound of the pick on the strings, which syncs with the drummer’s high-hat.

I have many guitars. Which I use depends on the gig or style of music I am playing. My favorite is Fender Stratocaster (I mostly play a Jeff Beck model). I like the percussiveness of a nice clean single coil. It can get very funky.

I have Strats, Teles, Larrivee, Taylors, Peavy Wolfgang, Ovation, Brian Moore, Kramer, mandolin, dobro, ukes, etc.

 

LL: Do you go for D’Addario strings for your electric because they have extra flex in them? (for bends…and other nutty electric stuff. I have the impression that Elixir is great primarily for their longevity. Are those part of the choices for you?)

SR: I don’t break D’Addario strings like I do other brands and they sound and react really well. Elixir strings are for the lively sound and yes, for longevity.

 

 

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

SR: Different gear for different genre/gigs. I use different amps for electric; Rivera, Fender or Marshall usually. If backline is provided, I usually get Fender, Marshall or Blackstar, depending. I’m pretty much ready for anything in my pedalboard.

If we fly to a gig, there is backline provided, so I will only bring a guitar or 2.

 

LL: Did you have to do any set-ups adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

 

SR: I’ve never had a guitar come straight from factory perfectly set up for me. The setup depends on what I’m going to do with it.

 

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

 

SR: With experience, you learn what you like. If I’m playing slide, of course, I don’t want the strings lying on the neck. Unless I am playing really hard rock, I like my strings up a bit so I can get percussive without splatting out.

 

Acoustics have a better tone when the strings are not right on the neck. Heavier strings help, too. I use .013 Elixirs on most of my steel string acoustics.

 

 

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

SR: If I’m doing a cover solo gig where people make requests, I have my iPad to pull up lyrics from the Internet so I can play songs on the fly. Plus, I can pull up songs to see what key they are in so I can get as close as possible. I play many songs on a gig that I have never played before. The ones I like, I’ll fine-tune later and keep.

 

If playing a show/concert with one of my regular bands, no. We follow set lists for those.

 

If I am hired for a show or session, I will have charts, probably on an iPad.

 

And of course there is always this mental note: Don’t screw up, because if you do, it will show up on YouTube and you’ll have to live with it the rest of your life!

 

No, seriously, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. EVER! Everyone makes them.

 

LL: Would any clips from solo gigs end up on your YouTube channel in the near future?

SR: Other people upload most of the videos I see on YouTube, so I imagine they are out there. I know the APB videos pop up all the time from videographers and people in the crowd. I like it. I can critique myself.

 

 

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

SR: Before a show, I warm up with scales on guitar. Some voice warm up. Then I’ll sing and play a bunch of songs with my acoustic to get all warmed up. Ideally, I like an hour to warm up.

For practice at home, it depends on my mood.

 

LL: Have you always been mindful of ergonomics when you play?

SR: All that just comes naturally. For guitar or voice, you should be very relaxed. That being said, I don’t like to sing sitting down. Even on solo acoustic gigs, I stand up for a better voice. Economy of motion is very important when playing any instrument.

 

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?

SR: Since I have regretted almost everything I have sold, I pretty much hang on to my gear. I love going through old boxes and finding cool pedals I forgot about.

 

 

LL: Do you buy consumables in bulk?

SR: We have string and pick endorsements. When I buy, I always buy in bulk. Saves $.

 

LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

SR: 50% humidity. Most of them are hanging in my music room, ready to pull down and play when the mood hits.

 

LL: Would you have a humidity monitor in the room?

SR: I have a temperature/humidity monitor in the room. I use humidifiers to keep the level at 50%.

 

Editor’s Note: Scott tells me that this picture he shares on his Facebook page belongs Jake Peavy (a dear friend of Scott’s and current baseball pitcher with SF Giants). Scott clarifies that his (with 50% humidity) is similar, but smaller.

 

 

LL: With your videos, what process do you go through?

SR: The ones I have done, I just start the machine and start playing. The first ones I put up (after being urged by so many people to do so), I turned the recorder on and played about 20 songs straight through. I uploaded it, split them into separate songs, trimmed the beginning and end and uploaded them. What you see/hear is what you get. No editing. Plus I like everything dry. Just guitar and voice. If it doesn’t sound good, I have nothing to blame but me. Practice will fix it. Not reverb 😉

That reminds me of one of my favorite comments on one of my initial 20 videos. Some guy said something like, “Dude, you are awesome! You are good enough to go out and get paying gigs so you can buy a new shirt!”.


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

SR: I always have stuff I would like to record and upload. It’s just the challenge of time. I hope to get better at it.

 

 

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

SR: No, I just post what I want to when I have time. The idea of setting it up is a bit daunting. I need to do it more so I get more comfy with the process.

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next? Has your approach to learning changed in the last 5 years?

SR: I have grown more in the last 10 years than my previous years combined. I have craving for knowledge and for the betterment of me.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

SR: On my life path, I try to learn as well as teach, serve or inspire any place I can. As humans, we have a duty to do these things.

 

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

SR: I am rarely annoyed or offended. I have learned that it is really easy to shake things off and move on. Life shouldn’t be that serious. We fail, we learn from our failures and hopefully next time, we’ll remember the lesson we learned. #fallforward

 

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

SR: Technology, business & investing (especially real estate).

 

LL: Are there artists that you would hope more people should listen to?

SR Music is a very personal thing. Some types of music or particular songs, solos, etc. touch everyone differently. Find something that moves you and get lost in it.

 

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

SR: Right now, I’m reading “How To Use the GoPro Hero 4”, by Jordan Hetric. For building a strong life foundation and attitude, I recommend books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), The No Complaining Rule, Energy Bus, Training Camp (Anything Jon Gordon). I like business news, I follow the stock markets as time allows, I like commercial real estate and retail stats and trends.

 

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

SR: Every day! I mostly Google to find information. If I want to dig deeper, I look for a book.

 

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

SR: I stay motivated because I’m always feeding myself spiritually, mentally and physically. I play guitar, read positive books, I avoid negative input as best I can (sometimes this requires staying off of social media…or ALL media), do yoga, bike, run, swim, workout, crossfit, etc.

 

 

LL: What makes you smile?

SR: After a couple of days on the road with the Artimus Pyle Band, my face hurts from laughing. Great guys that love to have fun!

 

LL: I’ve been checking out your Facebook page photos and couldn’t help but be amused! Is enjoying life (including not being afraid to look silly for the camera) what you aim for each day?

SR: Every day, I want to lift others up, learn something, better myself and HAVE FUN!  EVERY day.  And I am a HUGE t-shirt fan 😉

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SR: It’s a great tool and a curse. I jumped right in, however with all the political and social rants that has taken over; it takes a lot of weeding out and unsubscribing. I mostly just post and try not to browse much.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post at forums?

SR: I never got into forums much.

 

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

SR: No. I’m all about content.

 

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

SR: Grab my guitar or go for a run.

 

 

LL: What do you enjoy most when collaborating with other artists?

SR: I love that music in an international language. It has been the catalyst for dear friendships across the globe. We may not speak the same language, but we can speak musically endlessly.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

SR: After drinking the Apple Kook-Aid, I am mostly Mac now. I love my MacBook Pro. I could not function without Dropbox and Evernote. My home recording software is Presonus Studio One Pro. And I love building out Excel files for real estate investment and cash flow analysis.

 

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

SR: Probably will change things up as needed. 

 

 

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

SR: I enjoy looking at videos that pop up on YouTube after a run of shows. I like getting the crowd’s perspective.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

SR: I’m a note taker. I have to get my ideas down and “whiteboard” them so I don’t forget or lose the vibe I had when it hit me. I can add to, edit or trash it later if it doesn’t do anything for me.

 

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

SR: I hope to inspire.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

SR: Playing in front of thousands of people and directing/connecting them in unison (hand claps, applause, singing), flying down a mountain on a single track bike, jumping out of a plane, overcoming my limited mindset and pushing through a ceiling…any ceiling.

 

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

SR: Messaging on social media is probably the quickest. I don’t think YouTube has messaging notification outside of email. If it does, let me know.

 

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

SR: I am open to all opportunities. I would love to jam with someone in every country on earth.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

SR: Our Church is very hands-on in the community and around the world. I don’t know an organization that does more in the world than ROTARY. I am an active Rotarian and the mission trips I have been involved with have fulfilled my soul.

 

 

* Scott Raines is a guitarist based out of Asheville, and is a walking jukebox (ask him how many tunes he can whip out!). He looks forward to realising his dream of jamming in every country in the world — and is open for an invite to visit a country he has not been to, and jam. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014 – July 2015) between Scott 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 out of 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 slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Scott that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Scott the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nineteen) is posted that would be a companion piece to Janet’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

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

The Quote Jar: Eighteen

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Mark during his Q&A.

 

“I can’t try and triangulate and think, ‘I’m not that interested in hearing this, but I know an audience might be’…” – Joe Boyd (Nick Drake’s Producer)

 

“Things that don’t pertain immediately to music, but [things that] I think are really important and essential to creating art and being human. Ultimately, that’s what being a musician is supposed to reflect.” – Joe Locke

 

“Legacy is something you talk about when you are finished, and I’m not finished.” – Stephen Stills

 

 

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂

 

 

What are some of your favourite quotes?

 

🙂

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

The Quote Jar: Fifteen

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Emily during her Q&A.

 

“They eventually stopped telling me to go to medical school.” – Ira Glass, This American Life (Slate)

 

“…these days we mix for headphone listening rather than speaker listening.” – Jad Abumrad, Radiolab (Ghostly)

 

“Sometimes you have to take time off this to do that and that to do this.” Ani Difranco (ORIGIN Magazine)

 

 

Notes:

  • 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’!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂

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

 

🙂

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

The Quote Jar: Fourteen

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Anton during his Q&A.

 

“People are coming not because of the hype of one single they’ve heard on the radio or on MTV; they genuinely like the show and they tell their friends.” – Gavin Harrison (Examiner)

 

“Me and my brother have made music together since we were little children, and Morcheeba is very much our personal project – it’s a family business.” – Ross Godfrey (Digital Spy)

 

 

 

Notes:

  • 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’!
  • WNEQA is now on Facebook! 🙂

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

 

🙂

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