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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Malibu yesterday #palombophotography

A post shared by Alex Palombo (@palombophotography) on

 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.

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Q&A #23: Andrew Kolb

 

Andrew shares his journey of being an illustrator, his love for cookies, one of his methods of getting bad ideas out, and how his stinginess has amusingly become prevalent in his approach to investments.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your site I noticed on the upper right hand corner the picture of a fist that morphs into a ‘thumbs up’ if I hover over it. Has that been a new addition when you last revamped your website?

Andrew Kolb: Oh I’m glad you noticed! I wanted a quick link to my Facebook page and a friendly thumbs up seemed like an appropriate gesture.

 

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

AK: This can quickly get existential but I think my main driving force is making a strong connection between my mental and physical output. The hardest part, for me, is getting what’s in my head out onto the page. Sometimes it’s close and sometimes it’s not, but I continually strive to better connect the two.

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are as an illustrator?

AK: Oh I don’t feel like it’s a very exciting story. I feverishly drew as a child and continued to do so in my young adulthood. An art teacher directed me towards design, and that’s what I studied/worked as for a number of years. Slowly I realized I needed to transition more exclusively to illustration and the rest (after a slow fade from one into the other while also freelancing) is history!

 

LL: Does that mean you just drew everything that caught your eye? (no particular theme of drawings you were particularly drawn to? Meaning…you didn’t draw mostly…eagles…etc?)

AK: Sadly I didn’t draw nearly enough eagles in my youth. I really liked making something that people could recognize so I often drew existing characters (a trend that carries on to today).

 

 

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

AK: Not particularly. It usually depends on the project I’m working on and that will define what references from which I’m pulling.

 

 

LL: Can you share maybe three examples?

AK: Well there are two books that I couldn’t live without: The Graphic Artists’ Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and Business & Legal Forms for Illustrators. These combined are what took me from casual artist to a somewhat legit freelancer.

 

 

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

AK: I think the biggest challenge in my learning process is refining my communication skills. It’s ongoing but without the ability to get your thoughts and opinions across to the client, you won’t be able to effectively collaborate.

 

LL: So, a bit more like making sure the client and yourself are both on the same page before going to the next step of the process? (I’m interested to hear your thoughts relating to how you would approach if you were dealing with a client when after you’ve explained to him/her for 3-5 times what your vision is — or why specific changes would be helpful. And they still don’t get it. Would you pull the plug on the project? Refund their payment and mention that you’ve made a mistake committing early on and now know that there isn’t a fit?)

AK: No nothing that drastic. If I’ve committed to the project then I’ll see it through to the end. If, however, the experience was one where neither were really satisfied at the end then I’d probably have to really think on it before working together again. And to be fair, they’re likely feeling the same way. At the same time I’ll also reflect on the experience to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t properly communicating and perhaps I need to approach the conversation in a different way next time!

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who hasn’t paid attention to how they approach their drawings before, so they could have the capacity to write at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AK: I think everyone’s journey is unique but a consistent element for growth is reflection. Look back on your work and try to figure out what you like and don’t like about it. Look at other’s work that inspires you and define what it is that you like. Do the opposite for work that repulses you. Collect this info and just reflect on it.

How can you take what you like and make more of it? How can you mitigate what you don’t like about your own and others’ work? There’s no single answer to these questions but asking them in the first place is what’s most important.

 

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?

AK: An interesting observation! For the longest time I didn’t share process work because I thought it was uninteresting, and yet I was always fascinated to see the processes of other artists. I would say to this hypothetical person that they’re adding beauty to the world and that the kindest gesture would be to share that beauty with others.

 

 

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

AK: Perhaps a mix of discipline and perseverance. It’s tough to overcome the early work that you know isn’t your best but you have to keep going if you’re going to get better.

 

LL: Do you keep before and after photos?

AK: I don’t necessarily make a conscious effort but the Internet does a pretty good job of reminding you of your past. I still have people reference work that’s no longer on my site because it’s 5 years old and outdated.

All you need to do is go back to your earliest Flickr post or Tweet to get a quick reminder of where you started.

 

 

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

AK: I would say the most important lessons I’ve received haven’t been technical but were more ethereal. It’s important to talk to other people in your industry at different levels (more or fewer years than you) so that you can get a good perspective on how you’re doing. They might be able to provide you with direction or suggestions that you couldn’t conceive simply because you haven’t been around as long as them.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to work?

AK: I like the feeling of getting a lot of work done in the morning. If I finish a project in the AM then it feels like anything that happens after lunch is a bonus.

Is this sensible? No. Is it how I feel? 100%.

 

Adder's Fork

 

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

AK: I always start with pencil and a sheet of paper/sketchbook. Sometimes it’s just to get the bad ideas out but I never start right on the computer; there’s too much commitment there.

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete an illustration?

AK: It really depends on the complexity of the project. A single character image can probably be done after a few hours, but I’ve also spent hundreds of hours on more complex images. I try not to time my work too much as I find it limits creativity.

That’s not to say I don’t track my hours, I just don’t say I’ll complete a project after spending X amount of time on it.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style?

AK: Genial with a touch of overthinking.

 

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

AK: This is weirdly specific but if I was paid every time someone said they thought I did my work in Illustrator, I could retire today. I think there’s also a misconception about freelance in general that it’s all weekends all the time.

The truth is that you have to be more disciplined as a freelancer than if you were employed. Yes there are perks, but if you chase those perks for too long then they start to be what ruins your business.

 

No Strings on Me - Captain America

 

LL: Why do you think you get that comment a lot?

AK: Hmmmm. I’m not exactly sure why! Perhaps it’s the relative geometry with which I work or maybe because I don’t do a lot of painterly executions (something I’m working on right now!) so I think the assumption is “not paint = illustrator”.

This is a gross generalization but maybe that’s what’s happening?

 

LL: Can you give an example of how one of your days look like?

AK: No two days are identical but I try to keep to a general structure. I start the morning with emails for 15–30 minutes and then get to “work”. That could mean research or sketching or admin but what matters is that I’m not constantly checking emails. I’ll spend the last 15–30 minutes before lunch checking social media and then I take a break.

That process repeats after lunch (and sometimes after dinner) and I find it helps to break the day up into chunks.

 

 

LL: 15-30 minutes checking email. How are you able to stick with your time limit?

AK: I admit it’s not a hard rule. Sometimes it’s quiet and I only need a few minutes to reply to what’s in my inbox. Really what I’m getting at is that I don’t constantly check my emails. I scan the emails to see what’s most pressing, and then reply to those first. If I have time to start working on a more casual email then I will.

What this helps avoid is an email conversation as that starts to really eat up precious time.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AK: I’ve been exploring more restrictive palettes and, quite separately, trying to be more loose with my execution. I love a painterly aesthetic and I want to leave a softer impression with my imagery.

 

 

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

AK: Hmmm. Top three pieces of advice/approaches I find works:

  1. Draw every day (in any capacity and without too much filtering)
  2. Read a lot (business books, biographies on people who inspire you, stories about subjects you’d like to illustrate, whatever!)
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself (being unhappy doing the work that you love is a very difficult feeling to overcome).

 

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that it’ll be the take/version you like?

AK: This is so tough to say but I just kinda know. I’ll do a sketch and know ahead of time if they want to change something or not. It’s not a 100% guarantee but once you get to know your collaborators it makes the process so much smoother.

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AK: My day, when planned, is generally structured with emailing being the first half hour of the day, after lunch, and before I wrap up the day. Sometimes emergencies will negate that but it helps me focus when I know I don’t need to check something every 10 minutes.

 

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

AK: The transition from my drawing tablet to a screen based tablet was a big hurdle. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d gotten to looking in a different direction than where I’m drawing, but that mental shift took a while to correct.

 

 

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

AK: Well I use a mac mini outfitted with a Cintiq 22hd, Creative Suite CS5, and a second monitor to have research/comments visible while I’m drawing. My mouse and keyboard are as integral as the drawing stylus and music or a podcast is running in the background.

I’ve probably also just recently eaten a cookie.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

AK: Not much. I make a few custom brushes but outside of that I find I’m a fairly vanilla guy when it comes to my technology; I just need it to work.

 

 

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?

AK: Not that I can think of! I try to do a loooooooooot of research before I invest in anything and I think I’m so stingy that even if it wasn’t perfect, I’d make it work somehow.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics while working?

AK: I recently invested in a standing desk and that helps a lot. I also make sure to get up for regular cookie breaks.

 

 

LL: Okay…You’ve mentioned cookies twice already! I have to ask for the readers who are cookie fans: ‘What kinds do you keep within reach?’

AK: Well my mum and sister bake a lot so I usually get the spillover from their hobby. But I actually have a very low bar for baked goods and will eat pretty much anything.

But some faves: Chips Ahoy Rainbow cookies, Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Creations cookies, and Danish Cinnamon

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

AK: There is one thing. I invested in a fireproof box that I keep my external hard drives in. That’s pretty much it.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your illustrations?

AK: I keep a few prints on hand for sale; does that count? Outside of that I usually give copies of my work (like magazines I’m in or greeting cards) to my family members cause they like to see what I’m doing.

 

LL: Yes! That counts! What’s the magazine/greeting card limit when you buy?

AK: Oh I’m usually sent a few copies by the client and those get distributed as far as I can go. Immediate family is first and then grandparents and friends are next in line. If it’s something really big (like a magazine cover) then I just tell everyone I know so they can buy a copy and get the client to hire me more because that means sales go THROUGH THE ROOF!

 

 

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on 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’ll just be a matter of time before they’ll be paying for what they have done?

AK: Interesting. I can’t image someone trying to pretend their work is mine as what does that get them? Eventually they’ll need to create MORE work and I doubt if they’re that they’d be able to recreate the aesthetic. If they CAN then they’re probably talented enough that they don’t need to use someone else’s work. So I suppose that the law of averages will even it all out.

 

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

AK: The Vacation poster came about simply because Mondo had the license and thought I’d be a good fit! I actually did a bit of a process post about that very project over on my blog.

The opposites poster was for a gallery show in France and it was a lot of fun! It was originally intended to just be that piece but after a while it really felt like it could be more than just the one print. I reached out to the Internet in general and a lot of wonderful people helped me translate it into other languages so that it could get into as many classrooms or kid’s rooms as possible!

 

 

LL: Mondo? (Is that mondotees.com? This is interesting because — there are a lot of ‘tribute art’ out there that is being sold. Would be interested in hearing about your perspective on how you approach it. Would you not put out publicly any art that has a link to a particular brand? Also! The story behind your collaboration with Mondo! Was it because of an existing relationship? Or did you get your art on their site because someone recommended a previous work you did?)

AK: Tribute/fan art is tricky. I try to draw what I enjoy and occasionally that means working with existing properties. With that said, I also like to add a little something new to the mix (perhaps a different style, or an additional story) and I think that’s what caught the eye of Mondo (though I genuinely have no idea how they came by my work). They approached me about a Yogi Bear poster and I’ve been working with them on various projects ever since! They’re a great group of people and really have a passion for the industry.

 

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

AK: It’s tricky. Every client and every artist is different so I’ll only speak for myself; I think the best way to serve the client is to truly understand what it is that they’re trying to accomplish and offer the best solution you can muster. The client may see the problem as one challenge and you may see it another way, but that’s part of the dialogue.

At the end of the day, communication is what’s key. Listening is a part of that but so is being open with how you feel about what they need and what you’re doing.

 

 

LL: With your website, what process did you go through? (Do you do collect notes of the kind of changes you’d like to have, then after 2 years — roll them out?)

AK: Actually, yes! I take note of sites I like and try to parse out why I like them. Those items become a small running list in my head and eventually it spills over into a properly written list. That list translates into rough sketches and eventually a baby site is born!

 

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

AK:

  1. ‘What brushes do you use?’ (I use a few custom brushes and others from Kyle T. Webster).
  2. ‘What software/hardware do you use?’ (Photoshop and a cintiq)
  3. ‘What are your influences?’ (Too many to list!)

 

 

 

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

AK: I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous with sharing and I like how that’s going. Some projects require postings at certain times (days before a gallery show opens, not until after a project is made public) but process work is generally as I’m working on it and it feels more natural that way.

 

LL: I have to ask about part of your Twitter Bio (“…keepin’ it clean…”). Does that have anything to do with the kind of illustrations you do?

AK: Yes and no. The whole “Kolbisneat” moniker started as a double meaning since I’m both a tidy guy AND a fairly genial illustrator.

 

 

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

AK: Nope! The whole “spontaneous” goal means that I try to not overthink and just share. If it’s a simple sketch on Instagram then that’s okay! There will be more posts like it in the future and one dud won’t spoil the whole lot.

 

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

AK: I guess updating my website is the big one. Not that I’m putting it off so much as I just have trouble finding the time to take on something so big for myself? I’d rather be drawing anyway.

 

 

LL: Would getting someone else to do the work for you an option?

AK: Oh I’d never considered this!

I think when I was doing more traditional graphic design then I’d be comfortable with someone else making edits (usually text or photo retouching). As for illustration, I really feel like they’re coming to me as much for my execution as they are for my ideas so to pass off a stage of the project would be to fall short of what they need.

As for the website, I think I’m trying to be more strategic. Instead of coding from scratch I’m definitely working with templates so I suppose I am happy to release some of the responsibility.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

AK: Actually I am! One of my old design students is looking to get more into illustration so he and I have been chatting about where he wants to go and how he can best get there.

It’s still in its early stages but we’re both having lot of fun! Or at least I hope he’s having fun as well; he hasn’t told me otherwise.

 

View this post on Instagram

Repost of a little Home Alone preview for @mondotees

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: Oh! How did that come about?

AK: Well we’ve kept in touch since he graduated and I’ve occasionally offered feedback on individual projects. So the rapport was already established and we just formalized it and gave the interaction a little more structure!

Again this is my first attempt at something like this so I’ll be the first to admit that I’m making it up as I go along and as he offers feedback. Basically I give him goals to achieve and timelines by which to achieve them. If he doesn’t meet them then we discuss why and revise. If he has questions along the way then I’m happy to chat but I feel something this personal is still an experience to work through on your own.

I’m more like signage on a trail than a tour guide.

 

 

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

AK: I suppose it depends on what’s annoying me. If it’s something I can change then I start to try to enact that change. If it’s something I can’t affect then I try to remove myself from the situation or change it so that it doesn’t happen again.

 

 

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

AK: Right now I’m reeeeeeally into Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve always been into fantasy but something about role playing and being a proactive part of the narrative is really grabbing me! I listen to podcasts about it. I read blogs from Dungeon Masters. I read the books; anything I can get my hands on!

 

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

AK: Ha. I rarely preorder BUT I did just preorder the second volume of IDW’s TMNT comic series! They’re releasing the series in these beautiful hardcover books and the first volume is great so when I saw #2 listed I didn’t hesitate for a second!

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

AK: Artists to which I’ll never grow tired of listening: Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Sleigh Bells, Andrew W. K., Theophany. Authors whose work I’ll never grow tired of reading: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan L. Howard.

 

LL: How do you make sure that your media consumption doesn’t overshadow the time you have for your work?

AK: If anything I worry the balance is the other way. I’m so busy with client and personal work that I sometimes forget to take a break! With that said, I try to read every day and am sure to take breaks to see what my peers are doing (both for moral support and inspiration).

 

 

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

AK: Oh yeah! Some of my faves to both check out and thank for all of the help are Chris Lee, Meg Hunt, Kevin Stanton, Jared Schorr, Matt Kaufenberg, and James Boorman!

Some are great inspiration for the business, some are great for the ideas, and all are great for the visual expression!

 

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

AK: I don’t know if it’s so much about “discover” as it is trusting a few key resources. I try to collate my favourite bloggers and sites so that I can keep up on what they’re recommending for music, games, and books. The Mary Sue and the AV club are two examples of sites with a lot of overlap in tastes. If they’re highly recommending something, chances are I’ll also be on board.

 

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you? During days when you’re not so motivated and inspired…would you read a certain book? Think back on a certain experience? Find something random to do?)

AK: I’m not sure if they’re intertwined. I can be inspired by something but it doesn’t immediately motivate me to recreate it or do something else. If anything, it may get tucked away and not pop up again for months!

But when I’m feeling unmotivated I take that time to do the stuff that doesn’t require any inspiration (invoicing, proposals, all the boring admin stuff that makes the world turn).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

AK: Oh just go to my vine account and look at my likes. They may not all be PG but that gives you a good sense of what makes me laugh.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AK: Oh I love social media! I think I’m inclined to sit back and observe or respond when approached, but that’s something I’m trying to proactively change. Twitter and Instagram have been invaluable in not only growing as an artist, but connecting me with likeminded creatives who’ve helped me and I can help.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

AK: Feminist_Tinder on Instagram and Man Who Has it All on Twitter. Clearly I’m a feminist who enjoys biting satire.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

AK: One collective to which I regularly submit is Planet-Pulp. It’s a great collective and a nice way to keep up with a community in a casual setting.

 

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

AK: Hmmm. I admit I’m guilty of using an RSS feed aggregator so I don’t often visit the actual sites any longer.

 

 

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

AK: I usually go to my vine likes.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

AK: I do! It doesn’t happen very often but when I get the chance I will always say yes to a collabo!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AK: I don’t suppose I am. Perhaps in the big picture (what technology is breaking ground on a global scale and how that impacts our daily lives, but I usually don’t get very granular on the topic).

 

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

AK: Maybe it’s not a single post but I really like my Monthly Media posts. It’s just nice to reflect in some way and while the posts don’t get a lot of likes or reblogs, they do create a lot of conversation and it’s something I value far more than those little hearts.

 

 

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

AK: I do! But I try to balance that with recognizing if it’s a project that I should just as quickly end. Just because I’ve started something doesn’t mean I need to keep going. If I’ve learned from the experience and I’m no longer enjoying it then there’s no need to keep going (I’m speaking exclusively about personal projects).

 

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

AK: I’d hope it brings a smile to their face. Or even if it makes them think! Heck if they’re smiling and thinking at the same time then that’d be a dream come true.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AK: Finishing a good book. The first listen of a new album by a favourite artist. Not having to leave the house when it’s a rain/snow storm. Waffles. That perfect bite of a really unhealthy burger.

 

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list?)

AK: All of it! I try to keep up with social media comments but I admit they’re more frequent than personal emails. Tweeting at me with a question will usually get a response. Oh I’d say no matter the platform, brevity is key. I’d rather have two or three emails going with short answers than one email with 14 different questions.

(outside of this interview, of course!)

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet? (Also, if you’d like to give some guidance to those who haven’t found their tribe yet…where they should start…and how they would know they are in the right track…and when they’ve succeeded in finding ‘their peeps’.)

AK: I think a tribe/family is always changing shape. There are people that I really connected with for a time, and then paths change and that’s okay. There’s definitely a core that’s stuck it out with me and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Some are further along in their career and some are right on my heels, but I think what matters most is that I trust them fully with whatever I’m bringing (a problem, a celebration, just a random idea, whatever!).

As to where you should start, just trust your gut. I think if you try to force a friendship and you’re not 6 years old then it’ll be a hard feat to accomplish. Reach out to people you respect and admire and if something clicks then great! If not then maybe it’s just not the right time?

 

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

AK: I’m really excited to getting into more dimensional work. I’m currently exploring 3D and it’s sooooooo insane!

 

 

LL: This is probably a good time to bring up 1001 Knights. Are you all talked out about the project?

AK: Oh yeah! So Kevin (whom I just mentioned) brought me on board as he’s 50% of the creative force (along with the ever-awesome Annie Stoll.

Kevin pitched it to me as a way to offer a diverse representation of what a “knight” could be and I was immediately on board! It’s been a little over a year in the making and the Kickstarter has gotten wonderful traction! It started out as purely a labour of love for the curators and the concept and I think that’s the best way to get an authentic marketing experience out of it!

Any eyes on my work based on this anthology is truly because everyone put so much passion into the project.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

AK: I really like one-on-one interactions. I love teaching and working with an entire class, but when we get the chance to connect in small groups it really is a different experience. Outside of that, any chance to push someone further is great!

I’m guilty myself of putting too many constraints on my own work so helping others break down walls is oddly cathartic.

 

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

AK Yes?

 

* Andrew Kolb is an illustrator based out of Ontario. If you resonate with any of the information about him, he looks forward to hearing from you. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his blog entries.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (January-February 2016) between Andrew 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.)

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Q&A #22: Nigel Powell

 

Nigel shares his journey of being a drummer, the perils of being self taught, and how learning proper posture early on helped him with his playing.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Nigel, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your YouTube page, you use an alias, and from what I can notice, you don’t put your name in your videos. Is that something you just wanted to have a bit of play with?

Nigel Powell: Most of that is historical. My alias everywhere is sadsongco, which comes from The Sad Song Co., the ‘band name’ that I’ve so far released two solo albums under – my third is in the recording process right now.

I opted for that when I started working on solo stuff because I can’t see the name ‘Nigel’ as very rock and roll or credible! Probably a contextual thing. In my work with other people, especially Frank Turner, I go under my given name, but all of the social media accounts I set up used the project name.

 

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

NP: The bulk of my learning was copying records I liked. I tried teaching for a little while, but it didn’t feel right to me. I just wanted to say to students “go and play along with your favourite album until it sounds right”, because the way you do things wrong is what makes drumming develop and be exciting, and creates original and new drummers with identifiable personalities.

When I was first out and gigging there was a famous drum school in London called Drumtech, and whenever you came across a player who’d learned there you could instantly tell – they were like little drumming clones. They could always play the arse off everyone around them technically, but it always seemed to be lacking soul.

 

I do practice though. I used to do it much more, working on rudiments (which some drumming friends had showed me), working things out at home. We play so much with Frank now that I don’t practice in quite the same way any more, I much prefer playing with people in front of an audience. It develops different skills – my technical level has perhaps declined a little, but in terms of vibe and making a band sound good (which is the top of my priorities anyway) I’m as good as I’ve ever been right now.

 

 

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

NP: I worked through the first half of Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin a few times, and will still occasionally revisit to see if I can break through to the second half.

From time to time I work on pages from Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, sometimes hands and sometimes feet. But as I say, I’m on the road so much that that ‘woodshed’ kind of approach to my playing has taken a back seat to actually playing shows.

 

 

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?

NP: Definitely wouldn’t want someone to go through the same journey that I did. If I had to give advice it would be to get into a band with your mates at school (or even more than one band), and learn your instrument in the context of how it makes music with other people, rather than from a technical perspective.

Take some advice from knowledgeable people about simple technical things – how to hold the sticks, letting them rebound, that kind of thing – otherwise you will find yourself hitting a wall later on and having to unlearn things. This is a problem I still come up against because of my self-taught approach.

But as to drumming as a philosophy, find your own, and invent yourself.

 

 

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

NP: Motivation is harder now than it was. But the biggest challenge is always working through something that you can’t do, starting it slowly and patiently making it work. Do what I say, not what I do – I get frustrated and I’m bad at being patient!

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer? (That you were able to build up the knowledge and skill — and able to apply it)

NP: In terms of career success, I can only really put it down to always keeping going and staying positive, even when things were bad and I really should have given up pursuing it full time if I had any sense. It’s a boring answer, but I was very careful to plan myself financially and be careful with money so I could afford to ride out the bad times and keep going.

I had other jobs, responsible jobs, and things I was good at, but I always considered myself a drummer who was doing something else. You want to be in for the long haul as a drummer? Stop smoking and drinking, you’ll save yourself a rent’s worth of money every month so you’ll never be cornered into having to give it up!

 

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice?

NP: There have been times when I didn’t practice. Depression and negativity visit most people at some time, and I would sit on a sofa and play video games rather than improving myself. I think anyone who says that never happens is probably not telling all of the truth. I’m sure even Gavin Harrison has occasional days when he thinks “bugger this, I’m going to the cinema”.

But luckily there’s always been a gig on the horizon, so eventually I need to get myself back in shape or risk making bad music, or not giving someone their money’s worth. That’s the thing that truly drives me – live, someone has chosen to take a percentage of the money that they earn, possibly doing something crappy that they hate, and they’re spending it on coming to see the show you’re contributing to. If you have any respect for that, you always do your best.

 

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

NP: The advice I picked up was all in bits and pieces. I never had a specific mentor, but gleaned little bits of information here and there. No-one was really invested in my learning except me.

If anyone deserves props it was my mum – my drums were in my bedroom above the kitchen, and I used to play for hours while she’d be cooking or something. If it was me I would have gone insane within a month!

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

NP: Ummm… hard to say. I try to think about whatever music I’m playing first.

I guess my personal preference is I don’t care it it’s simple or complex, but I’m looking for something original, even if it’s just a subtle twist that you wouldn’t necessarily consciously notice. Take the new Frank song ‘Get Better’. When we were arranging it straight away I wanted that relentless ‘four crotchets of snare drum’ feel. After shifting things around a little bit, it became that with the Sabian Chopper as well, which gives it the slightly unusual sound.

Then on the left foot for the second half of the first verse I’m playing hi hat tambourine, but it’s a three bar phrase, so it shifts across the pattern as the verse goes past. I don’t think anyone would notice unless you pointed it out, but it gives a subconscious texture. Then in the second verse the hi hat tambourine switches to the backbeat to give an injection of urgency, but the kick takes over on the shifting three bar phrase.

Something like that sums up how I think of my drumming style – trying to find ways to make it different, without it being obvious or self-consciously different, and it still rocking hard.

 

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

NP: I’m a fan of some prog rock, so a few people who’ve known that have assumed I’m going to be playing massive fills all over the place. But that’s not really me. I do, unequivocally, love Phil Collins, but I equally love the work of Rob Ellis on early PJ Harvey, and in my work I tend to take that approach – slightly weird patterns, generally repetitive to create an original groove – more than the prog.

 

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished? (Idea, mental picture of how the end would look like, then chart it out? or are there people that note some input, then you go about finalising your work?)

NP: My concepts for things are all instinct, which I then use my right brain to realise. If it feels right when it’s done, it is right. I’ve never charted anything, except for occasionally in rehearsal where I’ve needed to remember something.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

NP: I’ve been practicing a bit more lately, trying to get my feet a bit more solid when playing double kick and getting through the glass ceiling of speed on my left hand. But that’s technique, not music. And everything that is ‘next’ for my playing is musical, not technical.

So it depends on what songs need their emotions refining and focusing as to what I need to do on the drums next.

 

 

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

NP: I’ve always sat up straight. I saw a Dennis Chambers video ages ago where someone described his posture as “like he’s welded to a lamppost”, and I took that on board.

Thank goodness my idolisation of Phil Collins didn’t extend to mimicking his posture; now that his back problems have come to light, watching old videos of him just hurt to look at.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down? (both feet?)

NP: Heel up for loud, heel down for quiet. Although my right foot has a weird thing it does on double, which is kind of a heel-toe thing, but not like I’ve seen anyone else do. The perils of being self-taught!

 

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

NP: I do half an hour of rudiments on a practice pad before we go on, to get the blood flowing through my hands.

 

 

LL: Favourite Shoes for Drumming?

NP: I’ve got a pair of Macbeth sneakers which seem to make playing easier. Totally psychosomatic I’m sure.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to play?

NP: When there’s other people to play with. Other than that, no preference.

 

LL: What’s your default gear set-up? (You did a walk through on your kit in this video — do the details still hold true currently? or have there been minor changes in your set-up since filming that?)

NP: That video is pretty much up to date. Little bits and pieces change from time to time, but that’s the basis.

 

 

LL: Do you keep track of your kit bits?

NP: I’m a bit of a hoarder, and I know where it all is.

I run a backline hire company with the bassist of The Sleeping Souls, so I own a few more kits that we hire out, but I love them all dearly. I still use my older drums for various things depending on what I’m doing. I recorded my third solo album recently and used my old Premier Genista concert tom kit and loved it.

The Dive Dive album we recorded recently used one of the hire kits with a 24” kick.

 

LL: Are you a bit of ‘gear-head’?

NP: Not really a gear head. If it works and sounds good then I’m happy and I’ll hang onto things forever.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

NP: I’ve changed hoops from time to time, but no, not really.

 

 

LL: Do you vary your kit tuning?

NP: More once it’s right, I stick with it. Snares go up and down a bit in the studio, and there was one song on the new Frank Turner record where I tuned the floor tom to a note for a specific purpose.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

NP: I look after all my stuff, clean it regularly (I polish most cymbals as well, except for hi hats). My Frank Turner kits are in big flight cases, and they live there between tours. I have an identical kit in the states, which also sits all quiet and lonely in it’s road cases when we’re not there.

 

 

LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs?

NP: Not really. I try and look after myself the whole time.

 

LL: When recording, are you pretty much hands on when mixing your kit?

NP: Depends on the project, but usually I make my drums sound the best they possibly can, and then trust producers and engineers to do their thing with it. I’ll throw my opinion in, but the best results usually come out of collaboration.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos on your YouTube channel?

NP: No schedule. If something interesting comes up then I’ll share it.

 

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

NP: I’m not mentoring anyone in the drumming sense of the word, but I have two children of my own so maybe there’s a bit of mentoring involved in that.

 

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

NP: Not that much annoys me, but unless it’s directly affecting me or someone I care about I try to let it go. There’s quite enough conflict in the world without trying to kick off because someone posted a YouTube comment you don’t like.

 

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

NP: I geek out about movies a lot. I love watching films for enjoyment, and then again looking at screenplay structure, editing, shot choice and other stuff. I’m totally an amateur about it, but they are excitingly complex things to analyse.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

NP: I’m sadly not that big a listener. I’m going to blame that on age – I think at a certain point everything begins to sound like something else that you’ve heard, and it’s harder to just go “that sounds COOOL!!!” at things. I’m too analytical.

Occasionally though things do have an impact. A few years back the first two The Streets albums blew me away; recently Mew and Honningbarna (a Norwegian punk band) have really been exciting me. I tend to fall back on familiar things too much though. It’s not healthy, but it is what it is.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

NP: ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’ by Iain M Banks. One of the Culture novels. Only ever feel like I understand about 50% of what happens, but I really enjoy them anyway. Planning on re-reading ‘God Bless The NHS’ afterwards.

 

 

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

NP: As above, not really. It’s got better recently, because my girlfriend is a music journalist, so there’s a constant flow of new releases knocking around.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you?)

NP: They are definitely intertwined. I find inspiration usually comes from doing something, and once you’ve got a kernel of inspiration it motivates me to chase it down and finish it.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

NP: Obvious answer, but comedy. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my Norwegian girlfriend to loads of UK comedy she hadn’t seen, and getting to revisit it. The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, Father Ted. All awesome!

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

NP: I have a very private personal Facebook which I really enjoy as a way of keeping up with friends, and I’m very selective about who I’m in contact with on there. Otherwise it’s excellent being able to have communication with people who appreciate your music through my more public FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I think it’s fabulous – face to face can be a bit threatening sometimes, but the technology allows a non-threatening way of having good two-way communication.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

NP: I visit Ain’t It Cool News most days. I used to visit Global Warming News daily, but it reading the comments was bad for my blood pressure, so not any more. Other than that, BBC News keeps me in touch from the road, and I click on The Hunger Site religiously.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

NP: I don’t, no. It’s not really my personality to be trying to foist my opinions on others.

 

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

NP: Kids. Comedy. Cooking.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists online?

NP: I haven’t done it, but I would love to. I don’t know if people assume I’m too busy with Frank, but I don’t get many offers. I’m always up for anything!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

NP: I’m competent at it, and I’ve programmed the back end to a few quite complex websites using PHP / MySQL. And from a professional point of view I keep up with what’s happening and where things are going, definitely.

 

 

 

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

NP: I upload things I think will interest people. So if the stuff I’m interested in shifts, then I guess my uploads will change too.

 

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

NP: I think I am. But I’m always cautious about making any pronouncements about what kind of person I may or may not be. That’s a question for someone who knows me!

 

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time (or attending one of your gigs), what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

NP: It depends on the video. A bit of entertainment, some info they might be interested in, something to briefly raise a smile. Whatever it happens to be.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

NP: My kids.

 

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

NP: Twitter and my public Facebook. Or just chatting after a show.

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

NP: I’ve always felt like a sole agent. I bounce around and am happy in a lot of people’s company (although usually I vastly prefer one-to-one over big group interaction), but I don’t really feel like I belong in a particular ‘tribe’, as you put it.

 

 

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

NP: I’m looking forward to getting the Dive Dive and Sad Song Co. albums out this year. Otherwise, I like to be surprised. Opportunities present themselves, I just have to be open to go “yeah, ok!”

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

NP: I taught on a BND Music for a long while, and I enjoyed trying to inspire kids through that kind of course. Other than that I try to make my default position to be ‘generous’, but again that’s something to ask a third party, rather than me pompously talk about how great I am.

 

 

 

* Nigel Powell is a drummer based out of Abingdon. You can check out more of his videos here and learn more about him on his Wiki Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-June 2015) between Nigel 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 Nigel 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 Nigel the option of answering).
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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).
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  • 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.
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Q&A #20: Janet Wasek

 

“Janet talks about her journey as a photographer and shares tidbits on maintaining a garden with squirrels nearby.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Janet, Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! Looking through your Photo feed, I’ve noticed you have a number of squirrels in your photos. Is that because of they are quite friendly when you are taking their photos?

 

Janet Wasek: Squirrels and I haven’t always been so friendly. I used to get angry with them when I’d find my gardens destroyed by their little diggy paws. But I made peace by teaching them how to take peanuts from my hand. My husband’s grandmother taught him how to do this and he showed me.

We had one very clever black squirrel trained, and the others caught on by watching her. Now we’ve got a few generations of squirrels that live in our mature oak trees, visiting for a free meal. They’re used to the sounds my camera makes as I photograph them. Squirrels, being very quick and well, squirrelly, challenge me to release the shutter at the right time. I usually miss.

 

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

 

JW: Photography has been a part of my life since childhood. I used to love it when my parents brought out their Kodak Hawkeye and waited with great anticipation until the packet of prints was ready at the drug store.

When I was a teenager in the late 70s I loved going to rock concerts and would take my woefully underpowered point-and-shoot 126 camera to the shows. I’d have photos of little tiny smudges, but knew those smudges were the members of Queen, The Who, or Led Zeppelin.

Eventually I got a 35mm Pentax K1000 and was able to get decent images at shows. But I soon realized I had more fun taking pictures of my friends, family, and other things in my life that made me happy.

Soon the camera became indispensable to me, and eventually I made the switch to digital about 10 years ago. This opened up a whole new world, to be able to see my images instantaneously and make adjustments on the spot. Translating that imagery, how I “see” things, has always been my goal.

 

 

 

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?

JW: I wouldn’t have the first idea how to accomplish this. I don’t give my photography enough thought to really examine what I do enough to understand it myself much less pass it on to others. It’s something that I feel rather than think about extensively. It has been a very personal experience, so I would emphasize that it’s important for people to discover what works for them, rather than try to copy someone else’s technique.

 

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?

JW: Over the years I’ve accumulated a shelf full of equipment that I no longer use, but all of it has been used at one point. I could mention the 35mm I had that fell apart repeatedly and was in the shop more often than not, but I don’t want to badmouth [the brand] since people seem to be satisfied with it.

I’ve purchased cameras that have rather fussy interfaces, and I tend to use them less. I favor straightforward equipment that does what I want it to do, rather than to have it second-guess for me.

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

JW: I like morning and evening, when the light is long and soft. But the kind of light I like the best is a nice bright overcast when it seems like morning lasts all day. On sunny days I tend not to photograph, as full sun causes such harsh shadows and I don’t carry around equipment to bounce the light. If the weather is dreary or bad (fog, snow, even rain) I lunge for my camera and dash out the door.

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

JW: I just assume I’ll always be taking photos, so to be prepared I go everywhere with my camera, and this was something I did before the advent of iPhones and tiny digital cameras. The camera is as essential as my driver’s license or wallet.

I tend to travel light, however, and don’t bring tripods or flashes or anything that I have to lug around when I’m out. I will use them at home, however. This is why I tend to favor bridge cameras with a large optical range so I don’t need to bring along extra lenses.

 

 

LL: Are there times when you bring more than one camera?

JW: I usually have my little Lumix point-and-shoot as a backup just in case I need it. Batteries die, cards fill up, lenses get stuck…so it’s best to be prepared.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

JW: I’m always learning something every time I use Photoshop.

 

LL: Do you have a specific site you go to for Photoshop tips?

JW: Flickr is a wonderful resource and I usually go into the Photoshop groups when I encounter difficulties or have an idea for an effect in mind but don’t know how to achieve it. Plus it’s always fun just to play around in Photoshop to discover new effects.

 

 

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

JW: I post photos on a regular basis, at least one a day. If I’m away from my usual computer I make sure to have some photos on a thumb drive so I won’t miss a day.

 

LL: How often do you back-up your photos?

JW: I back them up at least once a week – or I try to stick to that. I don’t always make it.

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JW: I love the music of Kate Bush and have for decades. I love her fearlessness and loyalty to her muse. Being American, back in the early days it was difficult to find another Kate Bush fan outside my circle of friends. This was long before the internet, you understand. Things have changed considerably since the advent of the web. It’s wonderful to know there are so many others out there who feel the same way. It was a dream come true to see her perform live in London earlier this year.

I recently discovered the music of Marissa Nadler, and her soundscapes have a certain kind of lighting and color in them (does that even make sense?) that I find inspiring.

 

 

 

LL: Do you think it’s because you can imagine how Marissa’s songs would look like if they were a photograph?

JW: Yes, I do tend to interpret other art in visual terms. With Marissa’s work it’s something to do with the light, I get a feeling of that kind of light just before a storm.

 

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

JW: In the 1980s I’d find out about new music from reading imported British music magazines rather than depend on the desert wasteland of radio or MTV. Now I find out about new music from recommendations from like-minded people on the internet and from other sources like Pandora.

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JW: Often I find myself looking back on the photos I’ve taken in years past, trying to recapture in my soul whatever it was that spurred on those images. Or seeing if I can do better with the skills I’ve learned in the interim. Of course, seeing other people’s work on Flickr is endlessly inspiring.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JW: The old bulletin board style social media from the 90s left me cold, so I wasn’t too keen on jumping back in. Therefore I was reluctant to get into the current crop of social media but I begrudgingly got into Facebook. I don’t do Twitter, but am curious about Instagram.

I loved Fotolog from the first time I encountered it, but over time the fun was lost there so I made the jump to Flickr and haven’t looked back. The people there are fantastic and inspirational, fun and interesting, happy and encouraging.

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

JW: I don’t participate. Just as I wouldn’t jump in to a conversation between strangers, I don’t feel right about doing so electronically. I guess my natural shyness extends into the cyber world as well as the real one.

 

 

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

JW: I really love the artwork on this site: https://artandghosts.squarespace.com/   Louise’s style is enchanting and I love to visit her site just because it makes me happy. I have some of her artwork framed and on my wall, and I never tire of gazing at it.

I also really admire Cate’s photography http://catedavies.com/ I find her style to be pure magic.

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

JW: I can always depend on the writings of Colette to take me into her world and when I return to mine, to “see” it better. Listening to Kate Bush’s Aerial – A Sky of Honey has the same effect.

 

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness? (either during ‘down days’ or when you get a disappointing result)

JW: Oh I have down days all the time, and am disappointed in my results more often than not. But when others see something I can’t, or have overlooked, that helps me look at my work with a fresh attitude. Feedback from the community is so important.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JW: I’m a total Luddite when it comes to this sort of thing. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s not that I don’t enjoy using technology and I do update my skill set as technology changes, it’s just that I’m not always looking for the next big technological change.

 

 

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

JW: I seem to have a rhythm to my work that coincides with the seasons. Each year I learn a little bit more, and build on the previous year. But I don’t see any big changes. Then again, the big changes tend to be the ones you don’t see coming.

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

JW: Oh, I can’t pick a favorite. But I am fond of my autumnal collections, especially the images of things I’ve gathered. I like the soft light of autumn’s cloudy days, and the lovely shades and colors both bright and muted as nature goes to sleep for the winter. I’m gearing up now for Autumn 2014.

I find it strange that some of my favorite photos are barely noticed, while ones I’ve put in my reject pile get so much love from others. This one’s a perfect example of that.

 

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

JW: Now that everyone has cameras on their phones I find taking pictures is much more acceptable. But also there’s the feeling that photography is something anyone can excel at if one’s camera is good enough. Not that hardware isn’t important, but there is something to be said for the eye that’s behind it. That part often gets ignored.

 

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

JW: I would want them to take a deeper look at the things around them, to see them in different ways or imagine seeing things through another’s eyes. For writers, the golden rule seems to be “write what you know” and that can be turned into “Photograph what you know” just as easily. To be able to transform something familiar in your life into an image that inspires you and others is a magical feeling.

 

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

JW: Being out in nature with my camera, but also finding time to be with my dear friends. Also, I love to explore new places almost as much as I love returning to beloved places.

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

JW: I never set out to have an audience, I do this for myself. Although, it’s nice to be able to share and I’m honored that others find what I do of any interest at all.

 

* Janet Wasek is a photographer currently based out of Maryland (just outside of Washington DC). You can check out her recent photographs by visiting her Flickr Photostream.

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August-November 2014) between Janet 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.)

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Q&A #19: Mark Diamond

 

Mark Diamond shares his journey as a bassist, how he navigated learning the craft mostly as a self-taught musician, amusing anecdotes when people attempt to guess the name of the instrument he’s playing, and his 4000 Facebook “friends”.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your Facebook page, you have a painting of a bass player. Is it a portrait of you?

Mark Diamond: Hi Leigh! Yes, it is a portrait of me! I was performing with my group Big Swing Trio at a now defunct club in Denver called Sambuca when a woman walked in with a giant blank canvas and said she was going see how the music inspired her and paint something while we played. This painting was the result! Her name is Michelle Torrez and she is amazing!

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing? (i.e. first you did your scales, chords, then songs…etc etc)

MD: Well, I started playing piano when I was very young. Along the way starting in 4th grade, I added clarinet, drums in 6th grade, and bagpipes in 9th grade, only for that year. I pretty much considered myself a drummer until I was 20, when I first brought an upright bass home for the first time. It was my cousin Howard’s bass that he didn’t play anymore,, thank you, Howard!

As to scales, etc, I had much experience with the basics and theory of music from the years playing all of those other instruments. However, when I started playing the bass, I really began to play by ear, just learning tons of tunes and styles of music. Three months after bringing this bass home, I started gigging and have never stopped. I’m now in my 41st year as a full time musician! Indeed, I practiced scales and rudiments early on, and still do sometimes.

My practicing now consists more of constantly learning new material, which takes me on many different musical journeys and challenges.

 

 

LL: Readers may be familiar with someone else who has the same last name, your son Dean (link to Dean’s Q&A)! (Do you think it was your affinity to the drums that made Dean interested in it? Or was it just because you had your old kit in storage…and he asked if he could use it?)

MD: I did not have my old kit in storage, as I traded my drum set for a bass pickup decades ago, (not the best deal) in NJ before I moved out to CO. When Dean expressed interest in wanting to play the drums, we got him a set, used, of his own. I’m sure my love of music, and him seeing what I do everyday sparked his interest in creating music, no matter what his vehicle for his expression would be; whether drums, guitar, or any other instrument.

 

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

MD: To be honest, I have piles of books that I have used over the years, but I wouldn’t say that I refer to them regularly, but they’re there when I need them.

 

 

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

MD: Each person’s journey is unique. My journey has worked, is working for me. I feel that people can learn theory from a million books on their own time, so when I teach, it is more of a hands on approach.

The upright bass has some extra challenges in the beginning, like building up calluses, gaining strength and endurance, playing in tune, as there are no markings for notes on this instrument. I teach beginners approaches to scales, and use blues bass lines as exercises. I have students bring in songs they want to learn and help them find their way to playing them.

I am a self taught musician, for better or worse. Some folks certainly want to go the school route which is great. Majoring in music was not my path and I’m not sure it needs to be for everyone. But always learning and hard work is always the path, no matter how you get there.

 

LL: Do you use products to protect the skin on your fingers? (For example Shakerleg uses tape on his fingers. Some volleyball players use a similar kind of tape on their fingers for grip/protection when tossing the ball)

MD: For bass playing, I am against using tape. You’ve got to develop your calluses, go through that painful but rewarding process. You can’t get a nice, natural sound on the bass with taped fingers. Skin on string is the only way to go. Taping is weak! :>)

 

 

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

MD: For sure! I take on some projects that seem utterly baffling at the start! I may ask myself, how will I ever be able to play this? That’s when I have to dig even deeper. I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator, but sometimes I know I’d better get to this if I want to be ready to perform this music.

 

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

MD: To be a musician, you need to be very self driven, self motivated. No one can do this for you. There is certainly discipline involved. Many months and years of being alone in a room playing the same things over and over again…..very slowly and then gradually faster and faster.

That said, time is also a big factor. It just takes time to build up chops and a song repertoire, especially in the jazz world. Most jazz players have literally hundreds of tunes in their heads that they can play at any moment. You better be able to if you want to hang with the major cats! That just takes time.

Having the opportunity to play all these tunes on a regular enough basis to let them start to sink in is very important too. I was lucky to have that early on in my career. Of course, there are some very young players who can do all this in a comparatively short period of time, but that’s not true for most folks.

 

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice? (What did you do to keep going?)

MD: Sure, most of the time! What keeps me going, for example, is knowing that I have to learn all these new tunes by a certain date, so I better get on it! Then there are other times where I just feel inspired to explore and try new things. Practicing can be boring or exciting, but always necessary.

 

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

MD: Being a self taught bassist, again, for better or worse, I really have carved out my own path to playing, and to the business end of being a musician. I did take a few lessons very early on with a great bassist in New Jersey, Don Messina. He certainly helped to show me some technique, but also turned me onto some great music like Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lester Young, Bird, (Charlie Parker), and some others which changed my life forever!

I also learned in the beginning that you have to play through the pain! If you have a giant blister on your finger(s), the best thing to do is to keep on playing. It can hurt like hell, but so what!

 

 

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?

MD: There is an amazing bass player whom I have never met, but I tracked him down by phone one time. He does this really cool thing where he plays his bass as a percussion instrument while playing the notes simultaneously, way cool. I asked him how he does it and he wouldn’t tell me. That’s okay, I get it.

If there is ever anything I can share with someone about how I do something, I’m happy to do it. I think most of the good players feel this way. Most of the musicians I work with are very collaborative. If they aren’t, it’s often because they have a precise vision of what they want, and that’s fine by me. I will strive to give them what they want.

On the business end of things however, I may not be so forthcoming. It takes a lot of time and energy and persistence to build working relationships with club owners and managers, agents, and folks who run festivals, etc, and I may not want to just give someone a name and number when it may have taken me a year to build this relationship.  

 

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

MD: The first misconception is that so often people ask me how long have I been playing the cello? Also, people ask me more often than you would think what this instrument is called. I always ask them for their best guess. The worst answer ever was when a woman guessed the oboe. I told her she needed to get out more often!

Folks think the bassist is just a time keeper. Everyone in the band better be a time keeper. That the bass is easy. I’m sure there are many misconceptions, but I don’t always get to hear them.

 

 

LL: Haha! The oboe! So, for those who need a bit of guidance regarding the difference between the bass and the cello, how would you put it? (Also…do you have a preference on calling it an ‘upright bass’? Apparently there are some who dislike using the term ‘double bass’.)

MD: The bass and the cello are in the same family, so I get it when folks make that guess. The cello is much smaller than the bass and it’s range is higher. I love the sound of a cello. It can go quite low, but not as low as the bass, and then it goes much higher, closer to viola and violin range. It is also tuned in fifths, like the violin and viola.

The bass is tuned in fourths, like a guitar. As to what to call the bass, I’m sure it is the instrument with the most names. Just add the word bass after each name…here we go: upright, double, string, acoustic, stand up, contra, dog house, bass fiddle, and bull fiddle (don’t add bass to this one). I’ve never heard of anyone disliking the term double bass.

 

LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs? (gigs close by, or when you are out on the road?)

MD: I kind of gauge my day gearing up for gig time so that I have my peak energy for those hours. I wouldn’t say I have a certain process, there’s lots to do before I leave for the gig, taking care of business by communicating with folks about upcoming gigs, dealing with organizing music and band members for upcoming performances, home stuff, yard work, whatever.

Food and changing into my “gigging vine” are the final preparations. On the road, depending upon where I am, I like to sight see, explore local foods, or have rehearsals if necessary.

 

 

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style of playing?

MD: I am a high energy, aggressive player, but I like to play slow and sweet too. I usually go through a wide range of emotions during any performance, so it all comes out along the way.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to play? (either recording/gigs/writing)

MD: I’m not a morning person by any means, so I don’t like playing early in the day, although some performances do call for that. Otherwise, I’m happy to be playing anytime. A two hour gig is too short, and sometimes a four hour gig can be a drain, so let’s say the best hours for me would be 9pm – midnight.

I don’t like to record on days that I have other gigs, so for recording sessions, it’s nice to have the whole day to settle in, relax by not worrying about the time, and get the job done.

 

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

MD: Some days I don’t like to warm up or practice before a gig because I know the gig will be so demanding I want to have everything to put into it. Other days, I may run some scales and patterns, warm up slowly and get faster to be ready.

 

 

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

MD: I must have a mental checklist.  I don’t have a written checklist because at this point in my career, I know if I’m prepared, or not, for anything that I have to accomplish.  If I’m not prepared, I get prepared in time.

If by “each work” you are referring to writing, I really don’t write. I collaborate with writers and help arrange.  I’ve never been much of a writer, and there are so many great writers out there, I am just happy to learn and play their music

 

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

MD: I have three basses. One is a Meisel that I bought brand new in 1978 at an import warehouse in Union NJ. It is a laminated, or plywood bass and is pretty good. I’ve done a million gigs and made many recordings using this bass.

In 2002 I bought a Juzek, a carved bass, each side of the bass is one solid piece of wood, and I love it! I also have an Eminence bass which is a portable, upright bass. I mostly use it for destination gigs when I need to fly. Since 9/11, TSA has made flying with a bass much more challenging, and this bass is just like checking a bag. The finger board/neck of the bass separates from the body and the two pieces go into a flight case that is the same size as if you were traveling with a set of golf clubs. No more hassles trying to talk my bass onto a flight that has already taken me somewhere.

Flying out of DIA was never an issue. It was always on the return flight that the trouble began. I got tired of that conversation! I have one German bow and one French bow. I prefer the German.

Over the years I have explored many different strings, but I keep coming bank to Dr. Thomastik Spirocores, until a few months ago when I tried Pirastro, The Jazzer. I am liking them very much!

I own four bass amps…one Hartke 15 Kickback, one SWR Workingman’s 12, and two Mark Bass 12″ combos. I am a huge fan of the Mark Bass amp and it’s the only one I will use. I try to get them provided when I travel. Sometimes that works out. That’s really about it. I’m mostly an LTD, a low tech dude. I just want to reproduce the natural sound of the upright bass as loudly as necessary.

 

 

LL: Fretted or Fretless? (Or both — when the environment calls for it)

MD: I only play the upright bass, which is naturally fretless.

 

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

MD: Over the years I have tried, and still do, many different pickups. I actually have four different pickups on my bass presently. I lean towards one of them more than the others, The Full Circle by Fishman. I also have a David Gage Lifeline, a String Charger, and an Open Source.

 

LL: Is it possible to have more than four different pickups? (Also interested to hear where is each pick-up located — and how you switch from one to the other. Are there separate plugs for each pickup?)

MD: I suppose it’s possible, but 4 is probably over doing it already! Yes, each pickup has it’s own jack.

I generally start with one of the pickups and if I’m not happy with the sound, I’ll try the others. Lately the Fishman Full Circle is my go to, and I stay with it. It takes time to learn how to get the right sound out of each one, how to set your amp settings, how any given room reacts to your sound. It’s a process.

The Fishman is built into one of the adjusters on the bridge. The Lifeline is also on the bridge held on by the pressure of the same adjuster, between the adjuster and the wood of the bride. The Open Source is like a piece of tape that is held in place between the low end foot of the bridge and the body, the top of the bass. The String Charger is attached by a bracket secured with velcro under the fingerboard and sits right at the bottom of the finger board. It is a magnetic pickup, (as opposed to a transducer like the others), which you find on an electric bass guitar, so when I need high volume with no feedback, I use this pickup in conjunction with one of the others. It’s a pretty amazing sound, if I say so myself!

 

 

 

LL: What’s your default gear set-up?

MD: I don’t use any effects. I just want to amplify the sound of the acoustic bass. I use a Mark Bass Amp, which I just love!!!

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

MD: My friend James Connell of Sol Vista Violins, who is my “bass guy” whenever I need anything taken care of is developing a new tail piece which will house a pre-amp, tone and volume controls and inputs for two of my pickups so I can blend their sounds.  He has a patent pending. I am very excited to try this when it’s ready.

 

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?

MD: I’ve gone through many different items over the years. I keep some of it and sell or give away some of it. Creating your sound is always a work in progress and new equipment is developed and comes out.

 

 

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

MD: My strings, for example cost about $280 per set, but sometimes I buy two sets at a time when they’re on sale. I go at least a year between string changes.

 

LL: Gear Maintenance and Storage?

MD: I have a shed at the top of my driveway under a car port where I store all my gear. The bass gets to come in the house! As to maintenance, if something needs repair, I do it right away. I don’t like when things don’t work as they should, or more to the point, as they need to.

 

 

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

MD: With my IPad and or phone nearby, I may send myself a note to remember a song that needs to be learned or worked on, a vocal harmony, etc. I can also make notes right on a chart in my IPad. On a straight ahead jazz gig, I know many, many tunes in my head…..not all of them, but a whole bunch!

 

LL: Are you mindful of ergonomics when you play? “(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? Do you use a strap when you play?)

MD: No strap for me, as I stand next to my bass when I play. I feel that there is an acquired skill to the art of strength through relaxation when playing. I try to stay loose, but I dig in deep when I play. I re-position myself often throughout any gig so no one area is being used too much for too long.

Of course, my hands and fingers and arms and shoulders are always in action.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

MD: I am always learning new songs and material. I am currently trying to work on the art of less is more, which is always a challenge, trying to leave more space, play less notes, and yet say more. I am proud of my musical diversity and being able to step into almost any situation, whether rehearsed or a one off with strangers, and doing a good job.

I’m almost never happy with where I’m at, which can be a good thing, to keep me working and striving to be better and as good as I can be. I may never get there!

 

 

LL: Do you think you’ll be doing any videos with just you in it? (Maybe jamming along with a looped chord progression or you doing a studio recording? Aside from the one you did with Purple Squirrel?)

MD: The Purple Squirrel video is actually a live performance captured. I don’t play alone, so a video of just me is not likely. Sometimes in the studio someone films us, but I don’t usually see or have access to those. It is for the person hiring me to play on their project who uses that for their own purposes.

I wouldn’t mind having some of those videos to see and share, but I don’t have them now.

 

LL: Are you open to teaching anyone to play bass?

MD: I’ll give my best shot teaching to anyone who wants to take lessons from me. One requirement is that they have to already have an upright bass, as lessons without one would be useless because they wouldn’t be able to practice what we’ve gone over.

You’d be surprised how many folks ask me if I teach, but don’t have a bass, at least yet. I don’t want to just take someone’s money!

 

 

LL: Aside from: ‘What instrument are you playing?’ — are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

MD: ‘How long have you been playing?’ I’m in my 41st year as a bassist. ‘Is this your real job?’ It sure is! ‘What do you really do for a living?’ You’re seeing it. ‘Do you play any other instruments?’ I have in my life but not anymore, except some drums once in a while.

‘How do you know where the notes are?’ It’s a secret! ‘Does it hurt to play the upright bass?’ Only when you don’t play for a little while. ‘Do you love what you do?’ Absolutely!

‘What kind of car do you drive?’ Presently a 2003 Honda CRV. The bass has been in many vehicles over the years including a ’68’ Beetle. It wasn’t fun, but it worked!

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

MD: I am not presently mentoring anyone, that I know of. Over the years though, people have thanked me for bits of advice or info that I’ve shared with them at some point in time, whether about playing, or how to approach getting a gig, or sharing info on how I get my sound.

I am lucky to surround myself with world class musicians who are also nice people. I try my best to always be at the top of my game to be ready to play in any situation that comes my way, with whomever it might be. Every phone call is a potential new adventure.

One of the only things I don’t do is play in a symphony orchestra. I love that music, but it’s not what I am striving for musically. I have, however, twice in my life, played in a jazz quartet with symphony orchestra. It was exhilarating to play in that setting!

 

 

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

MD: Wow, that’s an interesting question. I guess there’s the saying, choose your battles. I try to do that.

If it’s a situation where I may not be in the same setting for a long time, or ever again, I won’t do or say anything and just do my job and be done with it. In situations that are ongoing, some for decades, I will certainly speak up when necessary for the betterment of the project. I try to do it off the bandstand because that’s not the place to try and fix things.

Unfortunately, there are some folks out there that just speak up openly rather than wait for a moment in private to give some feedback —- it’s very uncomfortable.

I do vent though. Unfortunately, my poor wife gets the brunt of my venting!  Thank you, Karen!  

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about? (could be music or something not related to it! Specific thing / or things that you could end up going on and on about…if given a chance! Could also be either a topic which would get you talking endlessly — or something that has captured your interest recently. I’d also be interested to hear about a topic you’re hoping to get a chance to discuss more.)

MD: I try not to talk endlessly…..who wants to hear that?! Being like I said, a low tech dude, I don’t geek out on gear or anything like that. I’ll talk about my grandson for a while, if someone wants to listen!

I like sharing war stories of the road in the right setting. I always say, the worst times make the best stories!

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (Does your music library reflect the music you play? Or does everything you listen to eventually make its way to your playing? 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? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

MD: I do listen to a lot of music, a lot of different music. I’m sure all of the music I listen to seeps into my playing. It is not a planned thing, more of an osmosis situation.

I’d say my music library reflects the music I play and then some. Picking particular artists is always so hard. I can’t ever answer, what’s your favorite, anything, song, artist, food, etc. The mood, the location, the situation all play a role in what might be a favorite thing at the moment. I know that’s not what you asked, but there I was.

Musically, my influences are so vast. I grew up on rock and roll and music from Puerto Rico on my local am station, and George Gershwin, and then the history of jazz!

Who do I absolutely dig? Man, it’s so hard to go there. I’ll just start naming everybody from Bird to The Beatles. Okay, slow down…..I love a song called River Man by Nick Drake. I love vibraphonist Joe Locke, how he plays and arranges tunes. I still love Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Young…..all of them together and separately. Christian McBride is so amazing as is Rene Marie! Okay, now I’m just gonna start naming everybody and it’s sooooo many people!

I like reading people’s autobiographies, when I get a chance to sit around and read, which isn’t as often as I would like. I love all the arts that you mentioned. One of my brothers is a singer, actor, dancer who started as a classical ballet dancer in The Stuttgart Ballet in Germany in the mid 70’s….I love that too!

 

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

MD: I kind of answered this in the last question. I read all kinds of things in magazines or online. Could be music related, or about someone’s struggle or accomplishment in their lives…..I also love the Ted Talks!

 

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

MD: My motivation is often derived by a deadline! Motivation to me is having to get something done by a certain time, and wanting to do my best at it.

Inspiration to me is striving to achieve a level of something that I heard or witnessed and was awed by, and I want to get closer to that level. Maybe it’s the same thing.

 

 

LL: What makes you smile? (Could be something that gave you a really good belly laugh: a joke, anecdote, a scene from a video/film — if you can share one of the ones that come to mind the most, that’ll be great)

MD: Man, so much makes me smile and laugh, I’m glad to say.

Here’s a true story a friend of mine shared from one of his gigs a while back. He was playing solo piano in Buffalo, NY during a blizzard. There were only a few folks there, but he played and did his job, and nobody seemed to care at all. Towards the end of the night, all of a sudden at the end of a tune he heard this clapping and got a bit excited, as no one had responded all night long. He looked out in the room to see who it was, and there was a guy a few tables back who had just had his burger served and was slapping the bottom of his ketchup bottle to get it out. Ah, the life of a musician!

 

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)

MD: A friend of mine and I had a $10 bet that neither of us would ever get a cell phone! He lost the bet by getting one before. I soon thereafter got my first one. My kids got so tired of me asking them over and over how to send or check email. Well, I’m better than that now.

I mostly use social media as a tool to promote my performances. Sure, I’ve reconnected with friends from childhood and get to post and see other’s pictures of travels and family. It is a bit addicting if you’re not careful. Time can fly by when you get caught in the one thing leads to another….this story to that story, or videos of who knows what.

I have over 4000 Facebook “friends” some of whom I actually know in person! I do love that you can see photos and videos of gigs and life experiences in a handy manner.

 

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MD: Well, YouTube has the history of the recorded world on it, so that’s a pretty good one. I use it if I need to find and learn a song for a gig. There’s usually a version to check out.

Also, to be able to see footage of some of the greats that have been long gone, that’s really something!

 

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

MD: I’m usually pretty cheery, but if I need cheering up I will talk to my wife, or maybe listen to some music, or just be silent and think.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology? (Details of your Desktop/Laptop/Tablet?)

MD: It’s not that I’m interested in technology or not, I don’t keep up with it until it affects my life, I guess. The specs of my Desktop/Laptop/Tablet ….who knows!

 

 

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

MD: No! I am a procrastinator, but then again, when I want something done, I need to do it now! I think it’s a Scorpio thing. I’ve sure been quick to answer all of these questions right away! When I do have an idea, I suppose I do actually try to get the wheels turning quickly.

 

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

MD: If you mean someone watching me play “live” for the first time, folks tell me how animated I am, like a Muppet!

I want people to feel the joy and emotion of the music, listening to it, playing it, the sense of team work within a band. If you mean watching a video of me, well, the same goes. I think I’ve inspired others to work hard at their music and find like minded folks to play with and then bring it to the masses.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing? (could be things that energises you)

MD: The love I have for my family! When my family is good, so is everything else. Next would be when I get to travel, especially getting paid to travel and play music. That’s always a great combination!

Here is a soul singing moment to share:

It was the day of 9/11. I had been booked months in advance for a big, international corporate gathering. The tragedy of the day had occurred. First thing to find out is if the event is still going to happen. The band was to make some good money on this gig, and we really wanted it to happen, but there were so many other considerations to deal with.

Well, everyone was in town, there was no flying anywhere, food was ready, venue secured, etc. They decided to go forward and hold the event. There were people from like 40 countries at this gathering. It was less of the party it was supposed to be and more of a somber affair with only one topic being discussed.

After a couple of hours, a few people stood right in front of the band to actually listen. Within a few moments others joined them and before we know it, a large group was virtually circled around us. People from all over the world. Different skin colors, different garb, cultures, and for about five minutes, everyone stood shoulder to shoulder and let the music wash over them, letting them forget for just a few minutes the horrible event that had happened just a few hours earlier.

I don’t think I had ever witnessed the power of music as much as in that moment. That was some soul singing!

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list?)

MD: I make it a point at each performance to approach people in the audience and let them know how much it means that they are there, supporting me, the venue, live music in general. I like the personal touch! Of course if I receive an email or a letter form someone who I may have connected with on a musical level, I’ll thank them for thanking me!

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

MD: I’ve been fortunate to have many tribes throughout my life. From childhood, I always had a group of friends, some of who I am still in touch with today, meaning fifty years of friendship, and counting.

I have band mates of more than 30 years who are also great friends. I have my amazing wife and children and our growing “tribe”! My wife always challenges me to be the best person I can be, ever evolving, hopefully in a positive manner. The people I perform with are always helping to keep me, and I, them, at our highest level of performance and musicianship.

Surely some people come and go through these tribes, but everyone leaves their mark on each other along the way!

 

 

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

MD: I have played in Europe a couple of times as a side man, and would really love to bring one of my own groups over sometime. As to a specific artist, I’m not sure, but I’ve had the opportunity so many times to play with some of the greats, and I hope that continues along the way.

I’d also like to play more concerts, festivals, and high end corporate events and be on more recordings. I do all of those things now, but I’d like to do more of that than playing in bars and restaurants, not that there’s anything wrong with that. That’s where we hone our skills and keep our chops up, so we’re ready when the bigger things come along!

 

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

MD: Most of my lessons run overtime just because we are deep into something and I want to complete the discussion at hand. Some of my associates and I donate time to playing music at homeless shelters, as those folks don’t get to go to places to hear live music because they usually get throw out. We also do special lower rates for some fund raising events.

I am always happy to talk shop with my peers, especially with up and coming younger musicians and try to share any tidbits of wisdom I may have discovered in my own journey.

 

 

 

 

* Mark Diamond is a bassist based out of Broomfield, CO, and is a staunch supporter and creator of live music. He looks forward to seeing and chatting with you at any of his performances (and doesn’t mind if you ask about his grandson!). You can check out his personal site or his Facebook page for gig information.

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-May 2015) between Mark 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:

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Interested in reading more?

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Q&A #18: Josh Olds

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LL: Do you usually re-read books?

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LL: Any memorable answers?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

LL: The last book you were really excited about?

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

 

LL: Favourite place to read?

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

 

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

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

 

LL: Are you a fan of boxed sets?

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

 

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

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

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Sometimes my job is weird

A post shared by Josh Olds (@revolds) on

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Best year of life so far. #firstanniversary

A post shared by Josh Olds (@revolds) on

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

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

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

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

 

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

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

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

 

LL: What makes you smile?

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

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

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

 

LL: Do you currently post at forums?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

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

 

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

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

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

JO: Writing. I don’t do enough of it.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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