Writing, playing, working

Well it is mid February 2016 which means that in less than 3 months I will be back in the recording studio to lay down the tracks for my next album and I am SO EXCITED!  i will be returning to Tiny Telephone studios to record with John Vanderslice.  However, this time we will be recording in their brand new Oakland studio.  I was so utterly pleased with the results of the last album that I could not resist working with John again.  I have been writing a bit and I will have a fair amount of new songs but I may have to dip into the vault of older tunes to round out the album.  I am hoping to record 14 again and then choose the best 11 or 12 for the album.  I am even considering going with vinyl this time, since I want to make at least one vinyl album before they put me 6 feet under and you never know when that is going to happen.

I had a great show at the Fremont Theater on January 24, 2016 opening up for Paul Thorn.  The Fremont is our little gem of an art deco theater here in SLO, CA.  I had such a nice time playing there.  The sound was exquisite and the audience was attentive.  That is about all I can ask for.  I played mostly new songs that will appear on the upcoming album.  Oakland, here we come!

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Live Oak fest, etc.

Wow, what an amazing 6 months it has been.  In January I got the invite to play the Lie Oak Music Festival from the fine folks at KCBX, which was a huge honor, as I have been attending that festival for over a decade.  The performance date was Father’s Day, June 21st, so I had 6 months to get myself into fighting shape.  I played out  a lot and I also enlisted the services of one Bob Liepman, cellist extraordinaire.  He played a few songs with me.  Evidence to come.  And on the eve of the performance I asked my friend Alyson if she would be so kind as to be my go-go dancer and she willingly obliged.  I had a great 8 song set that i may or may not elaborate on in another post.  Meanwhile, here is a snippet of the action.

Prepping for the Live Oak Fest

It was in January when I received an invite to play a set from the folks at the Live Oak Music Festival. I was honored and immediately said yes. I have been going to Live Oak for years and I am thrilled to be a part of it this year as a musician rather than as a spectator. That January invite gave me 6 months to prepare, and I think I will need every bit of those 6 months. See, I have been playing solo acoustic and I really wanted to bring a fuller sound to my set, so I quickly began trying to put a group together. And i am still trying. What I have found is that putting a band together is a difficult process.

Originally, I managed to line up a drummer and bassist, both of whom were very good. But after one practice they gave me the heave-ho, so it was back to square one. Then I heard from my cellist friend Bob Liepman, who offered to accompany me. We have had a few practices and it is going well. Bob is a fantastic cellist and that instrument works really well on a lot of my songs.

My Live Oak set is only 45 minutes long. I have played 3 hour sets before and have enough originals to play 5 hours if I had to. But for some reason I am having a hell of a time picking the right songs for a good set. I am also trying to figure out what I want in a live band post Live Oak. Bob is going to work great for Live Oak, but I still would like to put together a somewhat traditional rock set-up with drums, bass, and lead guitar. It must be the classic rock midwesterner in me.

I’ll be playing the Live Oak Music fest

I got exciting news a couple weeks ago, as I was asked to play a set at the Live Oak Music Festival. I’ve been going to Live Oak for several years but I’ve always been a spectator. If you want to see me play you’re going to have to go easy on your Saturday night because I play at 8 am sharp on the Sabbath, June 21st, which also happens to be Father’s Day so happy Father’s Day to me. Yes, that is 8 AM, as in morning. So grab a cup o’ joe and stop on by the Hot Licks stage. I’m not sure what form my band will take. I have been doing nothing but solo acoustic gigs these days but I have a hankering to put a band together so we’ll see what happens. Yay.

Album Review from Americana-UK

It was nice to wake up Friday to find the cover of my CD on the Americana-UK website alongside such stalwarts as Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, and The Replacements. Of course, I had not actually read it yet, so there was no telling what was going to be said. And with Americana UK, they score the album from 1-10 so a number was awaiting me along with the prose. So, if you are wondering what I faced, here it is.

My New Album is Available

Hooray. At long last my new album, called The Technological Breakthrough, is available. I recorded it at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco and it was produced by John Vanderslice. The album artwork was done oh so nicely by Joe Koenig at Konig Media. It is available at Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo, iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify, dereksenn.com, and bandcamp. I am very proud of it.

Picking away at the album to-do list

This is the first time I have ever gone through the process of making a real album. It is a LONG process and the first ingredient is songs. In order to write songs you need inspiration, which can’t be bought at the drugstore. Well, some might disagree with that assessment and come to thinkk of it I suppose i have walked out of the drugstore with inspirational products on occasion but I digress No songwriter knows when inspiration will strike, but the first step is usually to open the door by writing and playing the guitar. Once the ideas begin arriving you need to chip away at the inevitable drivel to get to the song material. Then the songs have to be written and shaped and sung and tweaked and reshaped and resung and rewritten and resung again, preferably in front of an audience. That process can take a couple years at least to get a batch of 10-12 songs in fighting shape. Then comes the recording, mixing, and mastering process which takes time, planning, and MONEY. Then comes the arduous process of deciding which songs make the cut for the final album and which order they go in. And then there is the album art. The cover is agonized over. The font is agonized over. The copy in the liner notes has to be written and layed out and rewritten and re-layed out. Then the CD artwork and master CD have to be sent to to a manufacturing facility. And how many CDs will you make? And what about vinyl? And how will you do digital distribution? Have you created a publishing company? Are you going to sign up with ASCAP or BMI or do you think they are the Devil incarnate?

And what about a Kickstarter campaign?. If you do a Kickstarter you have to make a video (don’t half-ass it) and offer prizes (don’t half-ass it) which usually means more graphic design and t-shirts and beer koozies and private backyard VIP concerts and updates on the process and a CD release show (which results in a looming deadline) and pressure to deliver a product that lives up to the hype of raising $10,000 because you don’t want your benevolent donors to think “What? I gave Derek Senn $100 so he could go dick around in the studio and all I got was this piece of shit CD and an ill-fitting t-shirt?”

Then the CD’s arrive, all 1,000 of them, which sounds like a paltry sum until you realize you only have 27 fans, 14 of whom aren’t really your fans but feel obligated to support you anyways since they are members of your immediate family. So how to get rid of those 1,000 CDs? Local press helps. Maybe a morning radio show. Nothing like getting to serenade the masses at 7 am while trading barbs with the Tom and Brian. Maybe a newspaper feature. And gigs. Gigs and more gigs. Gigs at 8 PM on a Monday in the dining room of the Best Western playing to unsuspecting businessmen and imploring them to drop $10 on a form of nearly obsolete technology that they have not actually bought since picking up the latest Jack Johnson CD on a whim 3 years ago at a Topeka Starbucks. So after selling 7 CD’s in 4 weeks you conclude the reason they are not selling nothing to do with the quality of the product but rather the apathy towards the medium in general. They are not valued. At least not as much as a nice buzz, so you sit in wonder as people at your shows refuse to lay down $10 for your amazing music but do not balk at ordering multiple glasses of very mediocre Pinot Noir at $12 a pour. Maybe a few holdout hipsters buy CDs these days; those who are fortunate enough to live in one of the few remaining outposts on earth that actually have independent record stores. Wal-Mart and Starbucks ain’t gonna carry your shit, and those are the only places you can buy actual CD’s anymore in most parts of the Country, so unless you are Mumford and Sons or Norah Jones (or Jack Johnson) you are screwed on the retail front.

Thus begin the giveaways. A full crate on the floor of the car slowly begins to dissipate as you randomly pass out discs to whomever; the car wash guy, the homeless dude who would far prefer a dime, random sedans in the Bev-Mo parking lot, a shrink-wrapped disc furtively slipped under the wiper blade to greet the unsuspecting driver who upon return who will invariably be disappointed that it is not a coupon for 20% off Old Navy next door. Colleagues and co-workers will privately cringe upon receipt as they wonder what to do. ” Do I tell him it fucking sucks and that he should really just focus on real estate, or do I just sort of pretend like I never received it?”

So, um, I’m working on finishing up the CD artwork, working as fast as I can before the CD medium becomes obsolete and before I decide the songs I just spent two years writing, woodshedding, and recording totally suck, so that I can give the CD to you so you can decide whether or not the songs I just spent two years writing, woodshedding and recording totally suck. Hang on, I’m almost finished!!!