Ryan Welton

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YouTube songwriter discovery (Oct. 28): Emily Schultz, Andy Tunstall, Bill Fonner + more!

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Life as a YouTube creator has at least two parts: the creation and the participation. To grow a channel in 2018, one has to be as good a participator as they are a creator.

And that means commenting on other videos.

Being part of the community.

However, it can’t be shallow and spammy either. As a songwriter, I try to devote an hour or so every week to finding other songwriters on YouTube, and I’d like to start introducing you to them on my blog as well. I make it a point to only offer positive comments and only do so on songs or channels I really enjoy, as a means of offering other artists encouragement.

What you end up finding are a whole bunch of talented folks. Let me start you with my favorite find of the entire week, a young woman named Emily Schultz.

I’m just guessing that Emily already lives in Nashville or L.A. Vocally, she’s a lot like Colbie Caillat or something you’d hear in Little Big Town. However, my first impression of her was the same as when I saw Amy Winehouse or Tori Kelly for the first time — an immense talent. How she only has 70 subscribers on YouTube is shocking to me.

Shocking. Go subscribe now!

This is the song that caught my attention, and it showed up this week using the search term, “original song.”

That’s just fantastic. She’s clearly a pro. All three of them; the harmony is tremendous.

I’m guessing that most of the original songs I feature I out here aren’t written by “pros,” meaning not by people who make their living in music. I could be wrong though. Oh, before I forget, the other female singer and guitarist on the song is Alexandra Willett, and the young fellow is Jordan Hart.

The next tune I’m featuring is a song called, “I Break,” by a singer-songwriter named Andy Tunstall.

He’s based in the United Kingdom, but I was feeling a strong Kenny Loggins vibe. Kristi was sensing more of an Oasis’ Gallagher vibe.

Bill Fonner posted this one recently, a tune called “This Fire.” I really enjoyed the musicianship and his vocals, which remind me strongly of Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts.

Speaking of soundalikes, I sensed a strong Darius Rucker-vibe from singer-songwriter Graham O’Connell. Of all the videos I stumbled upon in my new “original song” queries this week, his was the most developed. The tune is called, “Get A Life.”

There aren’t many original country writers on YouTube, not at least that I’ve found. I stumbled upon one guy who impressed me quite a bit both with his musicianship and vocals. The writing of all these people here is solid to boot.

The name = Chris Munson. The tune = “Let Her Be.”

Last but not least is a young guy named Matthew Robinson, and I ended up being his very first YouTube subscriber. Listening to his original song, “Stories of Dragons” evoked images of Ed Sheeran in my brain. I was particularly impressed with Matthew’s lyrical ability.

Is it a memory
Or Is it etched here in stone
Was it carved by our mother or one of our brothers
We couldn’t be here alone

So when the lights go out, what will you leave
you think you’re all alone, that’s way too hard to believe
when you stand on stone you didn’t lay

even told stories of dragons you didn’t slay

As for me, the little bit of positive participation on YouTube netted me 10-15 new subscriptions. It’s by a mile the most effective tactic I’ve ever used to build my audience on YouTube in a short period of time.

By a mile.

You can’t go into this effort expecting the people you say nice things about to subscribe to you, quid pro quo. In fact, you probably won’t even know who subscribed to you.

Instead, you have to go into this with the mindset of spreading positive influence on other creators worthy of a good word. That encouragement can be a big deal to somebody! It’s the right thing to do as a member of the YouTube community.

Ryan Welton just watched the Cleveland Browns lose again this week, which could be compounded by the Thunder starting 0-5 and the Dodgers being eliminated by Boston in the World Series. Not a great sports week — but it’s been an awesome week for him on YouTube. You can check him out at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic

Songwriter’s notebook: Perfection is the enemy of good

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Perfection is the enemy of good. Perfection is the enemy of good. Repeat it and repeat it.

It’s not that creatives don’t strive for greatness; it’s just that many of us nitpick our own work to the point that our quantity of production is minimal with no tangible improvement in quality. Some of the time, production for the sake of production is tantamount to a repetition that gets us closer to the significant improvement we desire.

As a songwriter, I try to be prolific. I try to churn out the tunes.

Sometimes, I go about a song as if it were a long-term project. Heck, I have one song that I’ve dummy-titled “Joy” that I’ve been sitting on musically for five or six years, waiting for the perfectly open day when I could devote all of it to its lyrics.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time, for anything, you’ll be waiting forever.

Trust.

Sometimes, I knock it out super fast, knowing that the music and subject matter isn’t so much “throw away” but that it’s not in the realm of something I consider seriously to be good. Truth be told, some of the times, however, I end up with my best work when I don’t think about it so much.

Take last Saturday when I decided I was going to conceive both the music for a new song and its lyrics in a three-hour window, whatever it took to accomplish. That type of setup can be too much pressure on some days, and I end up on the couch watching baseball or surfing the interwebs.

What I do is start pounding the keys. I typically start with something funky and see if a brave new c-jazz or Steely Dan-esque progression emerges. Barring that, I find myself rerouted toward something that’s more yacht rock or 80s pop. I’ll go back and forth and forth and back until a riff and a melody emerges.

If one doesn’t after 20-30 minutes, I get up from the bench and do something. Sit on the porch. Read a book. Mow the yard. Run a mile. Eat. Maybe not eat; I don’t like to be all belchy before I record.

Periodically, I force myself to go basic on the progressions and focus on 1-4-5 type of songs. Keeping things to three chords can force a meandering brain like mine to keep things simple enough that I can focus on developing a melody.

That’s what I did this weekend with my new song, “Wandering, Wandering Me (The Container Store Song).”

Although it’s not technically 1-4-5 (it’s 1-6-4-5, I believe — F to Dm to Bb to C in the verse), it’s still super simple. In terms of inspiration, I was trying to channel a little bit of Glen Campbell or Jerry Jeff Walker, especially in the chorus. It might not surprise you to know that I loved Glen Campbell, but it might shock you to know how much I love Jerry Jeff Walker, especially this song, which lyrically was kind of an inspiration for this song.

Musically, it’s quite different.

The title for the tune just started coming to me, “Wandering, Wandering Me.” I don’t know where it came from. I think I was THINKING about Warren Zevon and “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me” when I was riffing with the chords. However, I liked the title, and as my process goes, I rolled with it.

And then I get to writing lyrics.

I had an afternoon appointment to make, so I needed to boogie and get words to paper. My process is pretty simple. I start rhyming and see how the story develops. It’s as if I don’t even know what I’m going to write when I do, searching instead for interesting phrasing or well-crafted rhymes.

Once I get a verse, I immediately get to a chorus, even foregoing a pre-chorus until a second- or third-take.

At this point, you know kind of what the story is about, and if you’re feeling traditional, you try to develop that story. Advance the story is what my far-more-experienced songwriter friends call it.

However, I don’t let curve balls or crazy ideas throw me. In this case, I was writing about the week after Mom had died and the trips I took back-and-forth to Henryetta. There was no Texas. It was a metaphor (or just an excuse to mention the great Lone Star State). In the third verse, I talked about wanting to settle down, which I’m presently doing (details soon), while at once maintaining my freedom.

In my case, that mostly means freedom to create (content creation, songwriting) and freedom to “Ryan.” Ryaning is the name I give to the process of me taking a whole day to work on projects of interest to me, which typically includes household errands, cleaning and organization. So, I wrote my truth and then faced a conundrum.

How do I explain, “How to write some songs and organize?”

Does he mean organize such as in a union or as in a community organizer? Is he an activist?

That’s where I threw in the line about The Container Store.

And just like that, I’ve explained what was an extraordinarily satisfying afternoon of songwriting, fighting the urge to review and edit and take months to produce a piece of content. Truly, if somebody came along and said, “Great concept. Would you mind hooking up with a co-writer for some collaboration?” then I’d do that in a heartbeat.

Yet the sooner that you finish one song, you can get to the next.

I don’t necessarily apply this to all pursuits, and it’s definitely not an excuse for sloppiness. But I find that striving for perfection is just a recipe to quash production.

Strive for good. There is no perfect. Check out my new song, “Wandering, Wandering Me” and read the lyrics, below. You can find more from me at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic


“Wandering, Wandering Me”
Copyright 2018, Ryan Welton

Verse:
I have a hard time trying to stay in one place
One day I’m here then I’m gone with no trace
Though it might be hard to swallow
I do not want to be followed
It’s just wandering, wandering me

I like to take the back roads Into small country towns
One minute I’m your neighbor then I’m never around
If you think it’s cause I’m flaky
You can take me at my word
It’s just wandering wandering me

Chorus:
Baby, I remember Tulsa, Oklahoma
Summer nights of harmless fun
Then I packed my bags and drove to Texas
With the sun
Put a lot of miles on
Never took a day off
Saddle up, and there I’d go
And there’s not a single minute
Hardly even seconds
I’m not missing you so

Verse:
It’s mostly human nature as I know it to be
I wanna settle down, but I want to be free
Free to write some songs and organize
But end my day deep in your eyes
It’s wandering wandering me

 

Best new contemporary jazz sound comes from sax player Justin Young

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This is a totally self-serving post.

But if you enjoy contemporary jazz or smooth jazz and haven’t given saxophonist Justin Young a listen, do yourself a favor and check out his new album, “Blue Soul.” You’ll get to hear three tunes I wrote as well.

There’s the self-serving part!

Justin is currently based in Seattle, but I got to know him when he and his wife, Rachel, lived in Oklahoma City. She and I worked together at a TV station in town (not the one where I currently work). As soon as I found out that Rachel’s husband played sax, I sought out his music and was blown away — not only by his technical skill but also by his sound, which I found quite compatible with mine. When I write instrumentals, it’s often with a sax lead in mind, and I usually have had players like Dave Koz, Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and many more in mind.

Luckily, I met Justin.

I immediately started combing through all my recordings in hopes of putting together a demo CD for him. The hope was that, maybe, someday, he might record one or two of them. It turned out that he liked many of them, and he and his dad hooked me up with recording equipment to start writing more, some of which you can hear on my SoundCloud channel.

That was an incredible opportunity for me because it allowed me to learn Logic Pro. I got pretty good at it, although I’m not a Mac guy and will probably have to start over with FL Studio soon on my new laptop.

Justin went into the studio, and I knew that he might use one or two of my tunes, but I didn’t know which ones. He ended up picking three, and was pleasantly surprised by two of the three he picked. The one I knew he’d pick was called “Sweet Release,” a tune I first put together about 15 years ago. He did an amazing job with it.

The first version here is the track I put together in Logic Pro, not the original original of this song that I did back in 2003. But I still kind of liked what I did. This was after only a week of tinkering around in Logic.

But then Justin killed it on the album version. Yowsa:

The first of the two tracks that surprised me was a song he ended up calling “Razzmajazz.” I called it “Moment of Indecision” when I wrote it 18 years ago. I’ll put my original up first and then his, and you can see just how much he and his team of musicians and producers livened it up. Wonderful job.

“Moment of Indecision”

“Razzmajazz”

And then the third track he included on the album is the title track, “Blue Soul,” a song I called “Night Things” when I originally put it together in 2000 or so. I wasn’t expecting this one to get picked, but Justin heard something in this composition and again blew it away on the album.

My version of “Night Things” here:

And then what Justin did as he turned it into “Blue Soul.” Amazing.

If you see this post, do me a favor and go follow him on Facebook or pay him a visit at justinyoungsax.com. If you happen to have Sirius XM, you can also hear Justin on Ch. 66, Watercolors.

 

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