Is Folk Music Still Relevant?

Recently music journalist Juliette Jagger published this post to facebook questioning whether rock music was still relevant. This was a response to the fact that the Grammys no longer televises the best rock album award and opts to televise the comedy category instead.

I don’t consider myself a rock artist, rather a folk artist, but it nevertheless prompted me to question the relevance of my own music in today’s world.

In her post, she says “…rock and roll is not the social, cultural, and political force it once was. That is not my opinion it’s a fact. Does that mean rock musicians don’t write good songs? No. It just means they’re not moving the cultural needle right now.”

Folk music is a broad term which covers a spectrum of styles that are collectively much older than rock. Rock inherently moved the cultural needle rather violently in the 1960s and for many years thereafter, whereas folk might be considered the quiet older cousin which has stayed under the radar in many respects. Whereas rock was a revolution that shook the world, folk has always had a more peaceful wisdom in its approach to questioning the social, cultural and political mores of the day.

Today, other art forms such as rap and comedy may be more appropriate to the current Zeitgeist than rock, but folk music still, like the proverbial tortoise, saunters along with a persistent quiet wisdom that says “We’ve seen this all before. Problems like these have been around since before we were born and they will probably be here after we die. It sucks sometimes, but that is life and we’re going to keep on making the best of it.”

I’m the first to admit that most of my songs aren’t going to garner the mass excitement of the Beatles in the 60s or Nirvana in the 90s. But I am confident that my music is relevant today because I am a student of the human condition and I write these songs because of a burning need to express what I see happening in the world around me, combined with the hope and faith that in some way they will make a difference.

This Is Your Year

By this time in a new year, about 30% of New Year’s Resolutions have been abandoned. I want to help you stay focused and motivated about your goals in 2018. So I am giving away these postcards at Just Us! Cafe and TAN Coffee in Wolfville! Even if you don’t live here, I will mail you one (yes, in the post!). But only if you leave a comment about what you are doing to make 2018 a fabulous year for you!

Jet Pack Micro-song Video

 

Hi everyone!Hope all is amazing in your world!

I have been winding down toward the cooler months by getting my home recording studio set up and working on some videos with my friend Ryan Roberts. Here is my brief press release and the link to the video:

“Who says a song needs to be 3 minutes long? Mike Aubé has been creating micro-songs, the haiku of the music world, tailored to today’s short attention spans. The first release, “Jet Pack” is an amusing look back to when children of the 70s and 80s believed we would surely be travelling in flying cars and jet packs by now. The video, produced by Ryan Roberts of Songframes, features Mike in a cheap homemade astronaut failing to start his 1978 Chevette and instead shuffling awkwardly to work on a hoverboard!”

“Boxes” Demo

I have long been a fan of personal development books and videos from folks like Tony Robbins, Rhonda Byrne, Jack Canfield, Bob Proctor, Stephen Covey and Wayne Dyer. A few years ago, I was doing some goal-setting while working with Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Magic”. The idea was to set specific goals in various areas of your life – health, relationships, financial, career, etc. – then to choose your top 10 out of the entire list and visualize them as having been accomplished.

One of my goals (closer to number 10, but still important to me) was to have a home recording rig. Not necessarily a giant studio, but something I could record high quality demos with. Even though it hasn’t been a huge investment, my circumstances dictated that I slowly build it piece by piece over the span of about four years, but I finally have something I can work with.

So now begins the learning curve of recording, mixing and mastering. Granted, I have been around professional studios before, so my learning curve might be shallower than most, but it is a learning process nonetheless.

At about the same time that I bought the last bit of gear I needed to get started, I was listening to a Tony Robbins seminar in the background as I was going about my day. He said something that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t even know why it stuck with me because it is a very common metaphor, but he went on a little spiel about how we live (literally and figuratively) in boxes. Our houses are boxes, our workplaces, our cell phones are little magic boxes. And we also get caught in mental boxes, patterns of thinking. How about that tired old expression “think outside the box”? And yet how often do we stay trapped in our boxes because we are afraid of what might happen if we left them? They can be pretty comfy after all.

Anyhow, to keep this long intro relatively short, I wrote a song about it. And I chose it to be the first song I recorded in my little “studio”. Now…not only is this the first time I ever recorded anything myself, I also played every instrument, which is also a first for me.

My bass playing and percussion leave a little to be desired in my opinion, but I kinda like the banjo solos I layed down. So, I’m putting this out on the internet with the caveat that it is just a demo, but damn it, I’m kind of proud of it!

And if it can inspire one person to step out of their personal “boxes”, I think it’s worthwhile.

Farmers’ Markets and LaHave Folk Festival

Since returning to land life, I have picked myself a nifty little touring vehicle (my first car in over 5 years!!) And so, this month I have been travelling Nova Scotia, playing primarily at farmers’ markets. These are among my favourite types of gigs, because there are cheery people of all ages and walks of life, eating great food and perusing amazing local handcrafts.

I’ve been to New Glasgow, Hubbards, and Tatamagouche. This weekend will see me in New Ross.

The weekend of September 2 and 3 will be jam packed with goodness. Saturday morning I will play the Hubbards Farmers’ Market and then later in the evening I will perform right across the road at the beautiful Trellis Cafe!

September 3 will provide an even bigger treat as I will be a part of the 12th annual LaHave Folk Festival at the the Fort Point Museum (below). Details can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/LaHave-Folk-Festival-150728081620069/

Enjoy the rest of your summer and hopefully see you soon!

It’s Good to Be Home!

I must say I am loving being back on land, specifically in Nova Scotia and I can’t wait to be doing a few shows around the province this month! I’m going to be an early riser this month as 4 of my 6 shows are farmers’ markets but I don’t mind because they’re some of the funnest gigs around. It’s almost impossible to be sad at a farmers’ market and there’s always good coffee and treats. Road, here I come!

A New Beginning

The past 16 months has seen me log tens of thousands of ocean kilometres and over a thousand hours of stage time. I have met countless cruise ship passengers and visited about 20 beautiful ports from Miami to Aruba to Cozumel to Long Beach. I weathered hurricane Matthew and a few other tropical storms, visited Mayan ruins, strolled the Hollywood Walk of Fame, toured the Queen Mary, wrote 30 songs and saw way more lizards than I ever thought I would.

But while that was exciting, it is not quite as exciting as my returning to performing in Nova Scotia with a fresh new perspective.

As some of my followers on facebook will have noticed, playing cover songs 6 nights a week (i.e. being a “human jukebox”) wore heavily on me. Though I always felt deep gratitude and kept up my professional face, sometimes the thought of playing Piano Man for the millionth time filled me with dread.

I’ve had conversations with musicians and listeners many times about playing what the audience wants to hear. And opinions vary wildly. Some believe entertainers have a duty to play what a crowd wants. Some believe artists should play whatever they please and let listeners take it or leave it. And that’s the rub: as performers we are some combination of “entertainer” and “artist”. The entertainer entertains and the artist makes art. (The venue also plays a part in this, but I won’t get into that too deeply)

I have always aimed to balance entertainment and art. As such, I always felt that many of the venues I played called for a balance of original materials and cover songs. And because I was limited geographically and wanted to play lots of shows, I took gigs that called for lots of cover songs.

However, after my experience of playing almost exclusively cover songs for tourists, I realized that I was selling out my art. And so, I have decided to focus entirely on my own music.

This may mean fewer shows, but the bottom line is that if an “audience” does not want to hear my songs, they are not really MY audience. But they are probably someone else’s audience. So, if I play a show and the venue doesn’t want me back, it just means that is someone else’s audience.

By being more authentic in my art, I hope that I will build an even more authentic army of friends, supporters and co-creators that will propel my music forward!

Mike Goes to Hollywood

I couldn’t be in the LA area without at least a brief stop in Hollywood. Very touristy, but at least I can say I was there!

The Requisite
The Requisite
PANAMA!!
PANAMA!!
Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.
Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.
Screw you King Kong, I got me a star
Screw you King Kong, I got me a star
Hold still, Johnny, I wanna get a picture
Hold still, Johnny, I wanna get a picture
Fab Star
Fab Star
The end is near
The end is near
Kimmel don't like trespassers
Kimmel don’t like trespassers
I am not extinct
I am not extinct
The religion of CHAMPIONS!
The religion of CHAMPIONS!
You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, start a religion. - L. Ron Hubbard
You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, start a religion. – L. Ron Hubbard

Free Bird!!!

I’m just wrapping up writing a spoof to “Free Bird”, poking fun at the douchebags that yell “Free Bird” at music shows. It has been said that performers who get upset by people yelling it are just the type of pretentious artist the joke is meant to target. I must say that I don’t ever truly get upset. It’s a minor annoyance that most performers have had to deal with. And most people don’t mean it as an offense. They just think they are being funny.

But I will say that it is a bit offensive, and though I always deal with it gracefully, I always experience a brief grit-your-teeth flash of anger when it happens. There is a subtle implication is that your show is dull or that your music sucks, or at least that was the initial intent of the joke 100 years ago. It has evolved into something that is simply embedded into popular culture, perpetuated by drunks who don’t know any better.

At least this minor annoyance has kept me being creative for another day. On to bigger and more important things!