Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sandy Hathaway News: Evolution of Songs

Sandy Hathaway News: Evolution of Songs: A song may be written from the heart but never heard because it is to ambiguous and vague.  Remembering the creative writing rules of "...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Evolution of Songs

A song may be written from the heart but never heard because it is to ambiguous and vague. Remembering the creative writing rules of "who, what, when, where and why," are important whenever a story is being told. Writing from a sensative part of one's soul can often prevent the writer from opening up to criticism about his or her song. I opened myself up to criticism with open arms, I wanted my CD to be the best that it could be. 

I presented the songs to
Robert Lang, the producer at Big Bug Sound.  There were songs that we had already recorded and new ones that we needed to analyze. I knew Robert would speak honestly to me about what he liked or did not like about the lyrics and music.  There were a few songs that required intesive editing and others that were complete.  We recorded the completed songs first and corresponded through email about what changes or improvements could be made. Pages of editing notes passed back and forth. I carefully edited line by line after accepting positive criticism. When all the edits were completed I could not deny that the songs were much more appealing to a listener. 

Brutial honesty can be more 
important than flattery when song editing is in process. If a producer only tells you how good you are find someone who will find the flaws. The engineer and producer of Edge of Twilight was also a musician with an impecible scrutinay for perfection which is a nice way of saying OCD. Indeed, changing songs that I had performed on live stages hundreds of times over a period of ten years was difficult. The production side of a song shines a spot light on the lyrics and music. Some songs needed new lyrics for a bridge, or changes to make the story more complete. This creative process can completely change the outcome of the message. 

A song seems to take on a natural evolution during creation.  Words from the heart pour out onto paper from inspiration, imagination, and even perspiration.  I have always written my songs on paper and then transferred them to a text edit form to manage during the sync between music and lyric.  Music and lyrics don't always sync and so there is also the "tweek" phase of songwriting. Small changes during the editing stages of songwriting can improve grammar, verbiage, and song flow. Just a few word changes can drastically improve the delivery of the story. 

Radio Days began as a happy and carefree look at a simpler time when seat belts were not used and doors were not locked. We wanted to add a bridge to make the song more interesting.  This song took on an entirely different purpose and meaning after the bridge was added.  Some words were rewritten and the song told a powerful story about love and grief.  

New Songs
The process was countless hours of editing, recording, listening and rewriting. This experience has made me more aware of when I need to make changes to clarrify the story and meaning of a song.  I have written a couple of songs that tell the story exactly the way I want to tell it.  In the case of a song about my father My Dad, I wouldn't change a thing because this song is very personal and about him.  Knowing when to reach out for the opinion of other knowlegable songwriters is important to achiving excellence. 

A month ago I went back into my archives of mediocre songs and discovered a gem that was waiting for my point of view to mature.  Dysfunctional is a song I wrote about ten years ago and even played at live shows.  The story just didn't seem complete and I wasn't ready to tell it. This was a song about my parents.  My Dad struggled with the demons of schizophrenia and my Mom used alcohol to cope with such a heavy burden. My Mom passed away in 2005 and my Dad died in July 2013.  Now I had a strong desire to tell the stories as if I were in their shoes.  I added a bidge to tell the brave story of how my Mom stopped drinking and found her own happiness. The message is about mental illness and addiction, two subjects that I thought were deep, dark secrets when I was growing up.  Now I know most people can relate to my experiences.

Radio Days by Sandy Hathaway-Video Produced by Sandy Hathaway

Sandy Hathaway
Singer Songwriter and Recording Artist
Twitter:  @Sandy_Hathaway

Saturday, March 15, 2014

DIY CD Project means you are the Project Manager.

Do It Yourself doesn't mean doing it alone. Contracting skilled partners is key.

The Do It Yourself CD turned out exactly the way I wanted it to. The digipak was exactly the package I wanted to have.  Why did my new Edge of Twilight CD package turn out exactly the way I wanted it to?  Having the right tools to do the job is important. If I don't have the tools or skills to do something wisdom dictates that I should contract that task.  

Lets start with the beginning of the project.  I had ten original songs that I recorded over a period of six years with full production and session musicians. This means I worked a day job, taught guitar lessons and played hundreds of music gigs to pay each session musician, and the producer. Big Bug Studios made my songs sound exactly the way I want them to sound.  If you are able to include your own songs on your playlist and enjoy them then you are recording with the right sound engineer and producer.  

Mastering the CD. I know from experience that mastering is an art that I am not skilled at.  Most of the time the producer/engineer will have recommendations for a reputable mastering studio.  Robert Lang at Big Bug Studios suggested Sonourous Mastering because Dave Shirk has done quality mastering for him with excellent results.  I knew Dave was going to make the songs "radio worthy" and playable from all types of players.  I have had CDs mastered before but was not aware that I could sit in on the project and provide input.  Dave Shirk has all the right tools to get the job done and a dedicated studio.  Robert Lang sat in on the session too, this is a producer who takes ownership of his projects.  We discussed how each song should sound using examples of classic recording projects. Dave quickly had an array of CDs laying on his desk and queued them up quickly so we could listen to example tracks.  I could only stay an hour because of a photo shoot (more in next paragraph), but Robert stayed and even picked up the Master CDs for me.  

The Cover Art.  Many musicians are also "right brained thinkers" and I have a collection of original mixed-media paintings that I created in a 12 year timeline which were used in the artwork design.  I took my own photos of the art to digitize them.  Using a quality camera is important when digitizing your photos. I had lots of photos of myself but nothing current or the right ones to make the statement I needed to make.  This CD was such an important part of me that I did not want to cut corners.  I spent a week looking for a photographer who could create an iconic photo for my cover within my budget.  

Photo by Scott Schauer Photography
Photography. The right photographer can bring out your personality.  The research lead me to Scott Schauer Photography and Scott Schauer, a photographer in Scottsdale, Arizona. We did an outdoor shoot by the chicken coop and a Western setting.  Scott took hundreds of digital photos and then we went into a theatre room where the images were projected on a wall.  Scott had me narrow down my best three shots using the eye doctor's method of "which looks better, the one on the left or the right?"  When we came to THE shot, I knew it was the one for the CD cover. There were a few more photos that I purchased for the booklet cover and promo purposes.  

Replication. There are many affordable options and here is where research will pay off.  Most of the online options include various levels of graphic support. One may choose to lay the entire graphic project into the hands of a graphic designer who is fast and has all the templates to make your CD look fantastic or upload the graphics to a drop box or email the templates to the final graphics sales team at the company that will produce the CDs. 

CD Packages. If you know what type of packaging you have in mind you should compare the cost of that package from various online replication sources.  This is not a commercial so I will not recommend one but you will find many sources. When you have selected the company you will work with you need to download the design templates.  Look for package deals because some companies offer a "meal deal" type of package where you may get options for color print, 9 page booklet, shrink-wrap and other options for one discounted price. 

CD Package Design. I chose to design the artwork for Edge of Twilight  because I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like.  I knew it had to be a Digipak.  Jewel case packages are inexpensive and sleeves are economical, but this was my ten year dream project so i went with a Digipak.  Downloading the correct templates for the Digipak you want to design is imperative.  Creating the artwork with the templates requires special software that can create a PDF file exactly the dimensions of the template.  MS Photoshop is one of the applications that can turn your templates into a PDF but many online replication companies make it easy if you can't afford Photoshop.  The software options will vary depending on the company you choose. In my case I knew my son-in-law had Photoshop on his Macbook Pro so I contracted for him to make my templates and designed all the artwork myself.  I wanted special fonts that I didn't have on my Macbook Pro and was able to obtain these online. 

DIY CD project means you are the project manager. Working with contractors who have the tools and may even do the task faster can be less expensive that experimenting on your own. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Radio Days by Sandy Hathaway

My new video for Radio Days by Sandy Hathaway

Please listen-the bridge takes a twist that you won't expect and pays respect to US Military Members.~Sandy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This Ain't No Kickstarter CD Project!

This Ain't No Kickstarter CD Project!

by Sandy Hathaway 

The CD project began in 2008 but half of the songs were written between 2003 to 2005.  

The songs developed organically over time.  When I recorded the EP This Gallery,  I chose to work with Robert Lang at Big Bug Sound.  I had already recorded one song in Big Bug Sound and was happy with the results because my song sounded like I wanted it to sound. 

Last week I was curious about just how long I have been working on Edge of Twilight  CD project.  Keep in mind that when I started the project I knew that I would pay all the session musicians a fair rate as well as the producer.  I was surprized to see that we actually began the project that is scheduled to be relased before the end of 2013 back in 2005. 

Six years, it has taken me six years to afford to produce a CD that I can be proud of and thousands of dollars.  I have always sold live recordings at my live shows that were burned on-the-fly, but this was a full production product.  Many musicians have spent hours preparing and recording the music.   After recording over six years at Big Bug Sound I have watched the studio evolve into a technically sophisticated and creative art space.

Producing an indie album is expensive and a lot of hard work. If I had to quantitate the hours and effort spent on one album I know it would be so much more than most people would believe.  There are the days and hours spent writing, playing, performing, rewriting, and recording the music.  The session musicians are hired for that perfect sound and backup singers who spend hours preparing for the recording. Years of precious time, having to work a day job to pay for the project and planning that most people do not understand. 

The CD has taken me much longer to make than I originally anticipated but taking a long time for the project has allowed even more creative ideas to manifest during that stretch of time.  I will have a quality CD that I will be very proud of and my fans will be able to buy them at my shows and online.  I wouldn't expect my listeners to drop a few hundred dollars into my tip jar with a promise that I will deliver a $15 CD someday.  You get what you pay for most of the time and this is true after you discover the right producer for your project.

So what about the musicians we see who are using Kickstarter to fund a CD project?  It sounds too good to be true.  Well it just might be.  The Complaint Board website lists plenty of reasons to read up about the website.  I will continue to make music the way that I have been because the results are fabulous!  One more track to create, and one to redo and the CD will be finished.  

The CD artwork has begun, I have decided to name the LP "Edge of Twilight." There is still the cost of one complete song, production time, and redoing one older song that did not match the quality after all the others were finished.  This DEFINATELY is no Kickstarter project--I guess I can call it a Bootstrapper CD project.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Musician Managing Social Media, Web Sites and EPress

Musicians Social Media Management

Musician Self Promotion and Web Management

There are many ways that a musician can promote music on the Internet in today's Online Market.  Recording Artists have sites to sell and promote CDs and Singles. offers promotional tools for free and fee based promotion.  Many of the sites are free and allow musicians to pay for one-time-only promotional ads or monthly and yearly programs.  

EPKs (Electronic Press Kits) such as and are a professional way to promote and book gigs with low overhead costs.  

I attended a web promotion information workshop about a year ago.  The speaker mentioned that putting a video can help promote traffic to a website. 

Share buttons, widgets, MP3s, Websites, Apps, Online Stores and Social Media are all tools that musicians did not have to work with in the 80's and even in half of the 90's. Music Marketing has changed completely in the last fifteen years. Staying informed and learning how to use these tools give modern musicians an advantage for getting music to the masses. Occasionally paying for advertising can pay off when used wisely. All of the websites that I listed above offer advertising for a fee.  

Twenty years ago most of the references that I have listed above would not have meant anything to us because they did not exist.  Vinyl records may still have a cult following, but MP3's and MP4's are the format that most listeners purchace. MP3 converters can be downloaded free and Garageband can record, mix and covert to MP3 format. Taking the time to learn to use these web based tools can increase exposure for musicians. 

Sandy Hathaway
Twitter:  @Sandy_Hathaway
Booking:  602-751-2284

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Lovely Afternoon

I had the opportunity to write a song for a short film called "A Lovely Afternoon."  

The script was moving and I was inspired to write a song that that tells my interpretation of the story. This was my first attempt at writing a song for a script so I was very glad to have  a story that inspired emotion. This happened before I attended the Songwriting class (April 11,2013 Songwriting) in March and April 2013. 

The song unfolds the story about a man who continues to celebrate the life of his daughter who died as an infant. The story is true and is about the author, producer and director of the movie's infant daughter. The movie maker, Michael Kirchoff casts the perfect set of characters for the three rolls. The father is played by Mat Lien, Anna Harr plays the daughter and Lawannah Curry plays an on-looker who is visiting her husband's grave site. ~Sandy Hathaway