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!”
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.
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:
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!
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!
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!
Yesterday I was walking down the street and bumped in to a real, honest-to-Pete alien with big bulgy eyes and a huge head, the works. And he asked, “Why is there war here?”
I said, “I don’t know, man. But maybe some people just want a bigger piece of the pie.”
He said, “There’s pie??”
“No, that’s just a metaphor”, I said.
“…but I know where we can get pie.”
So over coconut creme pie, he asked me again why there is war on Earth. I said, “I think it all boils down to human insecurity. We feel that there isn’t enough to go around. We fear scarcity. We alienate (no offense) certain groups of people because of their religion, their ideas, their culture, their sexuality, their skin colour, and we make them an enemy because they are supposedly different. But that’s only a justification. It’s all about a mindset of lack and fear and mistrust.”
The alien played with the whipped cream on his pie as he considered this. “Don’t they know that the sun provides ample energy to support you all, and that cooperation is better than fighting?”
I usually don’t succumb to depression. I had a big enough dose of that in my thirties, and I promised myself I would never let myself go down that dark road again. But to say that I am immune to it would be kidding myself. There is unfortunately much sadness in this life, in our own lives and at the world at large.
Sometimes you just have to lay down and feel the sadness. Just don’t do it for too long. Despite what some people think, forcing yourself to feel good all the time is a burden. It is important to keep a positive outlook, as this is how you attract more good into your life. However, feeling good all the time is impossible and trying to impose it on yourself is setting yourself up for failure.
Feel the sadness if it is there. But have faith that it is temporary. Take care of yourself, but persevere. Nothing great was ever achieved by laying down and giving up. But there is nothing wrong with laying down for a while to recharge.