no such thing as a free ride: budgeting for an album explained

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m happy, overwhelmed and honoured by the response to table for one., both the live show and the recording.  However, this is my response to the most asked question about this.
Well folks, it’s happened.  Less than 24 hours of being available online, I’ve had the inevitable requests for a free copy of table for one.
If this happens in person, the person asking will likely get a head tilt, followed by “the look” and then a brief and simple “no.” from me.
If you were going to get a free copy of the $10 download or the $15 CD, you would have been notified of it already – my next list is the folks who graciously pre-paid for copies of table for one. along with their tickets to the August 28, 2016 concert.  These folks should expect their email from me by the end of the day!
However, even as a labour of love, I cannot simply afford to give my music away.  And honestly, as it represents 7 years’ of my life distilled down into 10 songs, putting a monetary value on it hurts.   But it also represents a LOT of work and the accounting below does not include the hours of writing, rewriting, rehearsal, travel and administrative work necessary to produce such a document.
Keep in mind that I did this album as frugally as I could without resorting to doing it myself on Garageband, as I wanted to focus on the actual performances while an incredible professional focused on technical things like microphone placement and compression.
I’m grateful for the folks who have supported me, however I’d like to at least break even on this, so I can continue to afford to make music.  So, if I don’t offer you a free download or CD…this is why.
You will note that even on such a small budget, I still have quite a way to go before even recuperating the expenses of producing this album and why I’m equally frugal with who gets free copies of my life’s work.  I make music because I love doing it and I’m driven to do so.  I’m not asking for huge success, I’m hoping it will be at least self-supporting.

rediscovering the muse

So after jumpstarting my musical output on August 28th and finally getting table for one. out of my system – the big question is: what next?

I’ve been muddling around with that one for a while and trying to avoid forcing the issue, and I suspect the answer will be an ongoing process of evolution and discovery.

Until then, I’ve had a few major epiphanies as of late:

The discovery of what has become for me “the perfect guitar.” By now, most everyone knows about my first “good” guitar being stolen from a gig and finally recovered 7 years later. By then insurance had replaced it with my now mainstay Taylor dreadnought guitar that I had developed a decent rapport with. When my old guitar was returned to me, courtesy of the shop I purchased it at and Metro Toronto Police, I tried to rekindle the magic but it was gone. I eventually sold it on consignment and continued to play the dreadnought.

Cue the fateful visit to The Acoustic Room in Hamilton and the discovery of a Taylor Grand Concert model steel string guitar that was built more like a nylon string classical guitar. I asked the owner about this guitar and proceeded to play it in the store, falling in love with its playability and tone immediately. I convinced the store to trade in a guitar I had purchased earlier but did not love. While it was gorgeous, it didn’t speak to me in the long run and I felt no love for it.

The Grand Concert guitar was different – it felt like the original time I picked up my first good guitar and then some. Since getting this guitar, I have fallen more in love with its feel, its tone and yes, its quirks and foibles. It was the main guitar used to record table for one. and both engineers on the project could not get over its tone, how easily it played and how it “fit” the mix. It is truly a special guitar and would be (along with Chloe) what I grab from the house in an emergency.

I’m in love with this guitar and have begun to focus on it becoming my instrumental voice.
Bob Weir’s loose, live performance at Amoeba Records. Following up with the perfect guitar, I have fallen in love with former Grateful Dead guitarist, Bob Weir’s current record Blue Mountain. I’m not the biggest Deadhead to say the least, however Bob’s solo discs from the 1970’s and his work with RatDog have been music I’ve enjoyed over the years. Earlier this week he performed an hour long set at Amoeba Records to promote Blue Mountain and his honesty, looseness and voice blew me away. I could sit for hours and listen to music like this – as it highlights my love for bluegrass, acoustic country and Appalachian folk music.

As a classically trained pianist and vocalist I used to strive for musical perfection (I still must singing chorally) but as a solo performer, I’m more focused on entertainment, vibe and honesty. Yes there are a few vocal clams on table for one., however the music is real and expresses the pain, anger and grief that the past few years have brought for me.
Bob’s loose, honest performance at Amoeba, combined with his humour and precision – when his guitar began feeding back, he asked the sound person to notch out at 300hz and the feedback disappeared immediately – showed his professionalism despite the clearly disheveled appearance. There was no pretense about it. Just a guy with a guitar, playing to a few hundred friends…I hope to give that experience in the years to come.

What’s more interesting to me is that the pieces from table for one. that are gaining the most attention are the two songs where I am at my most relaxed and, honestly actually letting go. “on being human.” is perhaps the most difficult song for me to listen to as it’s the song where I finally LET GO and let all the rage, fear, anger, angst and disconnect out, “moving on.” is a song which surprised many people as they aren’t used to me actually letting go and…GASP….HAVING FUN musically. Honestly I’m not used to either so they are both quite the experience for me.

After visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum and revisiting the photos from my 2013 visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Scottsdale, I decided to watch the documentaries “Dale Chihuly Outside” and “Dale Chihuly Fire and Ice.”

Both documentaries focused on Chihuly’s creative process – particularly how he is inspired by the spaces he will be exhibiting in and also how he works with the craftspeople who actually make the glass and metal objects he creates. It is amazing how he collaborates with both the space, nature and the people whom execute his vision, being inspired and pushed to create objects and make art that both adorns, emphasizes and co-exists with the spaces he is given to work with. Incredibly some of his works reside in nature years after he has created them becoming as much a part of the landscape as the features and organisms around them.

His ability to repurpose and recontextualize older creations, giving them new life in new surroundings amazes me and, seeing him visiting installations days, weeks, months later and reworking them as they no longer suit his vision is inspirational. This constant reworking of past ideas is what has endeared Frank Zappa and the Residents to me as they often revisited older works and recontextualized them with fresh eyes and ears.

Hence the song “table for one.” is an evolution of an earlier song “Untitled.” Interestingly enough, a number of the songs from “table for one.” are already taking on their own lives and continue to evolve, change and grow. It will be interesting to see what they will end up becoming as I continue to discover how they will fit in with my life as I move forward and build on my past.

So between finding what seems to be THE instrument to express myself with. Finding a new honesty in letting go and just being there for the music, warts and all. And learning to work with my environment and evolve with who, where and what I am at any given point in life.

I honestly haven’t found my muses, at long last they have finally found me.

an open letter to Devin Townsend 

Dear Devin,

I am writing this a few days after your Toronto show because I needed time to compose my thoughts and feelings.I sat in the balcony of the Danforth Music Hall, weeping, several times during the show. Your music has meant so much to me over the past few years as I’ve rebuilt my life from the foundation up.

You see, my husband of 15 years died in 2013 after a 7 year battle with cancer. My Dad died one year later and circumstances finally forced me to face and finally deal with an ugly truth about what happened to me when I was 13 years old.

I ended 2014 with a nervous breakdown and considering quitting my career as a musician, selling my home and walking away from it all.

Throughout all of this, Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction, Ghost and Epicloud were a major part of the soundtrack to my grief, my own dissolution as a human being and my subsequent efforts to rebuild myself.

I particularly gravitated to Ki and Epicloud as they were both introspective and positive in outlook.

As a longtime fan of yours – I first heard and saw you on the Vai “Sex and Religion” album and tour and have since followed you through Strapping Young Lad, solo, Devin Townsend Band and DTP efforts. I was kind of unthrilled with Z2, knowing that it was one last visit to your ego and “craziness” run amok – perhaps that’s why I listen to Deconstruction the least as I feel it is essentially a Ziltoid album at heart.

So I approached Transcendence with trepidation and hesitation.

When I first listened to it, I was walking through the city park near my home and actually had to stop, sit down and LISTEN. Stormbending brought on the first set of joyful tears, followed by Stars and From the Heart. I still can’t listen to From the Heart without my eyes welling up.

Thank you.  

For seven long years, I cried out of pain and sadness. Your music finally made me cry from joy.

Hearing Stormbending live, followed by Where We Belong and the closers Kingdom, Ih-Ah! and Higher was pretty much the perfect concert for me…

If Ki and Epicloud were the soundtrack to my grief and reconstruction, Transcendence has become the soundtrack to my rebirth.

I performed my first live solo show on August 28 (I covered “Divine” in tribute to my husband), followed by a week in the recording studio, working on an all acoustic album of the music written during the past seven years. The original four DTP albums gave me the strength to go through the mountains of notebooks and cull the ten best ideas and finally get them out there.

I am now ready to move on with my life and Transcendence seems to be the ideal audio representation of that. I thank you and the band for “being there” for me when I was overwhelmed and couldn’t do anything but sit/lie down and listen to music.

Wishing you peace and grateful for your music through the years.

Myke Hutchings

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

P.S. Apologies to Beav – I was going to have a bass lesson with him in Toronto, however my bronchitis got the best of me and I didn’t want to share it with the band and crew.