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No Schedule Man Podcast: Episode 5 – Jay Doerr

I never expected to end up working at race track, let alone manage one.

I just wanted to be a radio announcer. And I was. Early in my radio career, I somehow got involved in hosting a radio show about auto racing. Next thing I knew, I had been hired as an announcer at one of the tracks we covered on that show, a place called Delaware Speedway. And only a few short years after that, I found myself leaving my chosen profession and role as morning show radio host at CHOK Radio in Sarnia to become the Sales & Marketing Director at the race track.

Just over three years after that, I was General Manager of the place. It was a role I never aspired to and still have mixed feelings about. But I can tell you this: our team worked our asses off during that time and did the absolute best we could. We won some, lost some and learned and experienced more within a couple years than I think I could have in a decade at any school.

Jay Doerr, my son Eddie, and me with the "Cash Car" we discuss in the podcast. This was probably 2003 or 2004.

Jay Doerr, my son Eddie, and me with the “Cash Car” we discuss in the podcast. This was probably 2003 or 2004.

Jay Doerr was just starting out his Delaware Speedway racing career right around the time I began as an announcer. As the years went on, my career progressed and so did Jay’s racing efforts. We gradually got to know each other,  just as I also became more familiar with dozens and dozens of other drivers and teams. So when I got put into the General Manager’s role, I suppose I had already formed some strong friendships with many of the race crews, and I felt a tremendous responsibility in not wanting to let them down.

I have deliberately not thought or talked much about Delaware Speedway over the last many years. But that’s starting to change, and having the chance to enjoy this discussion with Jay, a 3-time series champion and long-time top Ontario competitor, was a real treat for me. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think it would be safe to say that Jay and I always have had mutual respect for each other and I think that comes across in our conversation.

I hope some of the many people I got to know in that time enjoy hearing some of these stories. I’ve no doubt there are many, many more to come.

The podcast is now available for streaming, download and subscription on iTunes, as well as on our YouTube channel or SoundCloud page.

No Schedule Man Podcast, Episode 1: Derek “Rock” Botten

The time since I first jotted the note “start a podcast” somewhere on a scrap of paper can probably now be measured in years. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. A long while. And now I’ve finally got one to share.

In this first episode, I talk with my very good friend, Derek “Rock” Botten, a deeply respected radio broadcasting legend in this part of Ontario, Canada, and my former announcing partner at a stock car racing track called Delaware Speedway. In the late 90’s, Derek and I began as an announcing tandem for the local stock car races, a role we enjoyed together for over half a decade. We have been best of pals ever since.

Me and Derek in the first podcast guest selfie, taken in the “studio” (my kitchen).

In this podcast, some memories of those times are discussed, including some that proved to be, quite literally, life and death.

This podcast is available on our YouTube channel, and it can also be accessed on our SoundCloud page.

Enjoy.

Stories From a Short Track, Vol. 2: “Snow Crossed”

As the grip of this relentless winter starts to slowly let go, I can’t help but recall one of the coldest, most challenging projects of my career:

Snowcross at Delaware Speedway.

Back when I was General Manager of that half-mile stock car track, the people I worked for thought it would be a good idea to try and create another event in the wintertime.

214770_8596Part of the reality of a “seasonal” business is that you only have so many chances to try and put money in the bank. You’re not open fifty-two weeks of the year like most businesses. At best, we had around 30 – 40 dates annually to bring in revenue (in other words, we would go 325 – 335 days of the year without any actual event). That’s daunting, and not an especially comforting business model.

Still, we understood this and so we worked our tails off year-round to supplement that trend by strategically trying to spread out the flow and timing of other forms of revenue, such as: annual banquet, driver registration and membership, event and race division sponsorship renewals and deposits, billboard advertising renewals, and season ticket renewals.

But the bulk of the revenue came from ticket and concession sales and sponsorship directly associated with a race. So it was decided a winter event was a good idea.

And so, in the winter of 2005, we set  about the task of dumping snow on our race track.

The concept of Snowcross was to turn the track into a venue that people could visit in February. Instead of watching stock cars on the asphalt, they’d watch snowmobiles on (and above) the snow. Think motocross hills, but with snow instead of dirt and snowmobiles instead of motorcycles.

Sounds neat, right? I agree! But I wish it had been hosted by somebody else.

And here begins the lesson in this story.

For starters, the possibility of conducting this particular event required snow, and lots of it. So the first challenge was to find approximately 400 truckloads of the white stuff and deposit it on to the front straightaway of our race track, and on top of pit road. Say that out loud and see how it sounds: “Let’s take our race track, which has not been resurfaced for roughly 30 years and which we depend upon for the very existence of our business, and let’s drop 400 truckloads of snow on top of it.”

Hmmm …

We had no way of knowing whether we would even get enough snow or cold temperatures in the area to make it happen, let alone how we’d get the snow to the race track. We could well have done all the work to prep for the event and end up not having it happen. On top of that logistical challenge, we were also faced with the reality that our facility was never meant to be used in the winter. There was no heat in the concession building or ticket windows, nor in the announcer/scoring tower, washrooms or hospitality lounge.

In addition, we had to try and figure out how to staff the place for just one day, how to find and activate sponsorship (the event really couldn’t be very profitable without it), and how to advertise and market it. Preparing for the upcoming stock car racing season came to a temporary halt.

581435_92802822Despite all those challenges, lo and behold, when the day actually came, we somehow were ready to host a legion of snowmobile racers that were going to jump over hills and amaze and entertain us.

I will never forget that day. It was frigid. I believe the high reached about minus fifteen Celcius. Before we opened the gates to spectators, I was troubled with how much ice was caked all around the facility. Parts of the grandstand steps – already crooked and uneven at best – were icy. The walkways: ice. I furiously tried to put as much salt down as I could before actual paying customers came in. I remember worrying that someone would get hurt.

Amazingly, no one did get hurt, though we came within an eyelash of a disaster in the parking lot. A number of vendors had created a “tented village” along one part of the fence inside the facility. Unfortunately, someone had decided to tether all of the pop-up tents together, and when a strong gust of February wind arose, the tents all went with it, flipping up and over the wall separating the track from the parking lot like a cross between dominoes and a giant snake, barely missing a hydro line that ran above that fence. I can recall with exact emotional clarity how I felt at that moment: I wondered what I was going to see when I went into the parking lot, fully expecting to discover a series of smashed windshields and scraped-up hoods. I knew there was no way those tents could not have fallen on top of the cars of some of the customers from that day.

But they hadn’t. They missed by inches. I couldn’t believe it.

By the end of it, people that attended did seem to have enjoyed it. The folks that ran the Snowcross organization were lovely people and nice to work with.

But, ours was a 50-year old stock car track, made for the summer, not for a snowmobile event in the winter.

All told, financially, the event did a little better than breaking even. But the true cost would not be clear until much later.

Four hundred truckloads of snow do not melt quickly. Nor is it clean, especially when you’ve had racing machines running on top of it. Much of it was trucked in from places like shopping mall parking lots. As it melted, we began to see the sheer volume of garbage, salt and filth it carried with it. It literally turned black as winter turned to spring. And it reeked.

Pit crew members of race teams stood on top of hills of blackened, stinking, rotting snow hills during the first couple of open practice sessions for stock car race teams that spring. It was a sorry sight. If the race teams were upset about it, I wouldn’t have blamed them one bit.

583219_98979002As time went on, the physical effect of that event left real consequences for the track owners. In short, dumping all that filthy snow on the facility pretty much wrecked pit road. It eventually had to be completely re-paved with concrete, a job costing tens of thousands of dollars.

All told, while well intentioned, adding one random Snowcross event to the schedule of a facility that was not built nor personally equipped to handle such a thing, ended up being little more than one big party whose bills continued to show up for years afterward.

The lesson? In your business, know your core product or service and stay true to it. Even (especially?) when times are slow. Know your key customers and what they come to you for and prioritize them over “side shows” and other distractions. Otherwise, you may find that chasing short-term gain might just bring you long-term pain.

And your business may get left out in the cold.

Stories From a Short Track, Vol. 1: “Dipstick Down”

Here’s a True Story  …

In my days as Sales and Marketing Director at Delaware Speedway (a half-mile stock car racing track near London, Ontario, Canada), we were always looking for ways to expand our fan base and broaden our demographic.

And we wanted to appeal to kids. Future customers.

At one point, we came upon the notion that, perhaps, the track would benefit from the presence of a “mascot;” you know, like the San Diego Chicken, to whom the kids would relate. Armed with the knowledge that Charlotte Motor Speedway had such a mascot, named “Lugnut,” we decided to embark upon our own characterized adventure. After some deliberation, we settled upon the name “Dipstick,” for three main reasons:

  1. A dipstick was part of any vehicle’s engine. It’s how you checked the oil!
  1. “Dipstick” was what Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane often called Deputy Enos in the TV Show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”
  1. We wanted to poke a little bit of fun at ourselves

After agreeing on the name, I can well remember the discussions of character design: should he have a “T”-shaped head, or a “loop?”

We began examining the dipsticks of any nearby vehicle we could find and, in time, decided that a “T”-shaped head would make for a better character.

Yeah.

We also embarked upon the task of finding a company that could actually design and construct the costume for us (We eventually found a business based out of Edmonton, Alberta. The name escapes me, but they were the ones that made the costume).

In the preliminary drawings, Dipstick actually looked pretty cool, and somewhat agile.

In reality, he was shipped to us in a giant crate. And the costume inside ended up being one big, rigid, giant, heavy box that afforded the person inside almost no mobility, limited visibility and nothing for reach but the equivalent of little T-Rex arms.

In short, a lot of money later, Dipstick was a disaster.

Whoops.

Undaunted, we decided to unveil our new creation to the “world” (or, about 1500 people) at the race track’s annual appearance a London Knights Ontario Hockey League game (note: this was back in the day when the Knights played in a rinky-dink arena and few people followed them with much passion. Nowadays, the Knights pack around 9,000 people into almost every home game. This event pre-dated that trend).

Between periods, our new mascot was to take to the ice to wave to the fans and thereby represent the race track proudly and convert all in attendance at that hockey game into instant stock car racing fans. The plan was foolproof!

When the time came, the players left for their dressing rooms and the zamboni set about its duty, flooding one clean patch of ice down the middle of the rink to begin the task of cleaning the playing surface.

Dipstick stepped out in front of the fans and took a few tentative steps on the frozen stage. Gaining confidence with each step, he shuffled further into the center of the rink, only to come across the freshly flooded center spot where the Zamboni had just recently been.

“Whoosh!”

As soon as Dipstick hit that flooded patch of ice, his feet went out from under him.

The box-like behemoth of a mascot landed with a resounding thud, and it quickly became apparent that the dimensions of the costume were going to make it a challenge for the person inside to get up and resume entertaining the crowd.

As if that were the only problem.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

With Dipstick flat on his back, in front of the crowd during intermission of a hockey game at the old London Ice House, I walked over to him, along with young Stephen Richmond, a Delaware Speedway Junior Racing League competitor at the time. When we arrived at our fallen mascot, we both figured that we’d be able to take his hand and lift him back to his feet.

But that didn’t work.

We tried to raise him off the ice.

Nothing.

We tried again.

He didn’t budge.

It was then that I realized, with our newly minted mascot lying flat-out on our local hockey team’s playing surface, that we had a bigger problem on our hands.

Dipstick had frozen to the ice.

The “flood” left by the zamboni mixed with the fabric of Dipstick’s costume and, by the time he’d fallen, the water had frozen, taking Dipstick’s upper body with it.

He was stuck.

True story.

I can well remember it. People in the stands were howling. Tyler Anderson, who was inside the costume, was flat on his back and staring straight up at the ceiling. He commented that all he could see were, “bright lights.”

We eventually got him up and off the ice surface, and the game continued. I can’t recall who won.

But I can tell you this:

Next time you come up with the “next great idea,” take a few extra days and think it through. Once you’ve examined every angle, you may find it’ll work out fine.

Then again, you may end up with your Dipstick stuck to the ice.

Recording Journal Vol. 47: “Rollin’ Again”

If was the kind of person that thrived on sympathy, I’d have been in heaven these past few days. But I don’t want sympathy.

I want to be a part of the action.

Which is why I bought a cane and hauled my busted-up body out to the race track this past weekend.

I have learned that you have to have a pretty strong sense of self if you’re going to go to a stock-car racing track with a cane when you’re only in your mid-thirties. When you do that, you get one of two reactions: 1) sympathy 2) serious razzing.

Actually, both were kind of fun. And people have been exceptionally kind to me and I am grateful.

If you want to know what the sympathy and the cane are for, please read last week’s journal entry. As for the razzing, it was pretty funny: “What the heck!? Here comes Bulmer with his sympathy stick!” All sorts of ribbing.

I’m just over seven days removed from a four-day hospital visit. I managed to rest myself enough to improve slightly every day over the last week and meet all my obligations at the same time. It wasn’t easy, but I did it and I don’t mind telling you that I’m proud of myself.

My team from CPT Entertainment had a big role in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race that ran at Delaware Speedway last night. Ours is behind-the-scenes kind of work, but it’s important. And you need to know what you’re doing. We do. Though I wear out quickly with this herniated disc in my back, I wasn’t going to miss the race last night or anything leading into it.

And I didn’t.

On top of that, we managed to mash the throttle in preparation for our “No Schedule Man” CD release too.

Earlier this week, I was able to collaborate with Angela from “Distinct Impression” graphic design as we worked on a number of things for some music-related merchandise. I’m pleased with the results and excited to move forward. Angela does great work and she and I seem to be on the same page. That’s rare, and also a lot of fun.

I met with my favourite promotional products company this week as well, and we picked out some hats and shirts and other items that we’re going to turn into merchandise. We’ll order that this coming week.

Of course, I’m not going to just sit my CDs, shirts and hats out on any plain old table, so I’ve also been thinking full-steam about a themed merchandise sales area called the “No Schedule Man Trading Co.” Luckily, one of my best pals has a brother who is ridiculously talented with things like that. Luckier yet, said brother also is a friend of mine and happens to be willing to help me out. After having discussed it a few times, he and I met this morning and purchased some material and so the construction is now underway.

I met with my favourite print company, Middlesex Printing here in London, earlier this week. There, I was able to – finally – submit the artwork for the CD insert, cover, etc. It should go to print this coming week. I will be very proud to have it printed there, where my friends Terry, Jody, Kathy and Cynthia have encouraged me for many years.

And speaking of the artwork, constructing it has been a collaborative effort between me, my buddy and business partner at CPT Entertainment, Jeff Graham, and my mother (who took some photographs). Jeff has done a wonderful job (as always) and I’m glad to have had his hands in the projecet.

If you’ve been following along with this journal, you’ll remember that I had some promotional photos taken a couple of months ago and as part of that process I visited “Joe Kool’s,” my favourite local restaurant. It so happened that I was back there this past week, visiting with my great good friend Jimmy, and while we were there we were greeted by Mike Smith, the owner of the place. I told Mike that one of the CD artwork panels was going to consist of a colour photo of me outside his restaurant and he seemed genuinely pleased. That was cool. I’m going to frame a copy and bring it to him in a few more weeks.

I also had the pleasure of visiting my buddy and music producer, Kevin Gorman, this past Tuesday night. At that time, he played me some of the songs that he’d been working on while I was cooped up in the hospital. The song I wanted to hear most was “Kevin’s Prayer.” Well, let me tell you: when he played that song for me, the hair stood up on my arms and neck. Darn near moved me to tears. The song sounds almost exactly how I was hoping it would. And friends, that almost never happens.

Now that I’m feeling a little better, we are going to pick back up with rehearsals tomorrow night.

In a couple more days, I have a meeting with a highly respected community group. We are gathering to discuss and fund-and-awareness-raising campaign based around my music. I will be thrilled if we can bring that together and I am able to help a worthwhile organization, even in some small way, through the presentation of my songs. I hope very much to have some news to report to you on that front next week.

Aside from all of that, I confess that I am my own worst enemy. While we are in the final stages of post production for the acoustic-driven “No Schedule Man” CD, I have been spending whatever little creative thinking time I can find on my rock material. I’m very excited about it and I plan to do it next. In fact, I’ve already discussed with KG that I want to be recording the rock record while we tour in support of “No Schedule Man.” Truth be told, the rock project has had a name for over three years. So it’s not a surprise. And I’m ready to do it. Soon.

But we’ll see.

We’ll get there when we get there. Just like the song says.

Recording Journal Vol. 43: “Butt Massage”

Things in CD land have slowed down this week after much excitement the previous seven days. We pressed hard in order to be ready to release two new songs and also to be prepared for our live radio interview and performance. The whole week was extremely gratifying. There is always a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you fulfill a goal and we did that last week.

The only trouble is … we’re not all the way there yet.

After our CKXS adventure last Friday, I was right back into action in my CPT Entertainment duties, spending the entire day Saturday back at Delaware Speedway as an announcer coach/consultant. I then spent a good deal of the following day (Sunday) compiling my “reports” after the fact. Next thing I knew, it was Monday again and time to get back to business.

It never stops, friends. Not if you want to accomplish something out of your ordinary.

The process of finishing the whole “No Schedule Man” CD is pretty much in KG’s hands now. Everything is recorded except for some piano parts he may choose to redo. We are officially in “post production.” I have a lot of work to do in completing the artwork and other behind-the-scenes activities, but for the most part it’s up to KG (Kevin Gorman) to deliver us to the CD duplication company prior to our deadline.

I went to see him Tuesday night and it was immediately clear that neither of us had much enthusiasm for doing anything new. We were both tired. He had worked for a few hours on the song “Awake (But Not Alive)” so we listened through that, chatted, and called it a night. Our feeling was that sometimes the best way to reach a goal is to leave it alone. I know Kev is working at it through the week. But as I’ve stated in this space many times before, KG and I are not professional full-time musicians. I own an event and media management company and Kev is a full-time producer, teacher and man of all musical trades. We both have many other people and projects that we must report to in order to make our living. The “No Schedule Man” CD is a labour of love. That means we love it. But it’s also labour. You don’t always feel like doing the work because the time to do it is primarily in the evening or on weekends. Or, if you have to take some time out of a “regular” work day, then you darn well better make up for it. For in the world of entrepreneurs, you either do the work or don’t get paid. Everybody should have to be an entrepreneur at some point in their lives. But that is another opinion and story for another day.

With KG and me, we’d just been pushing ourselves so hard to obtain our goals that we’d finally worn out.

And so it goes.

So now we ramp up for the next run: completion of the CD and rehearsal for the first show (June 12 at the London Music Club) and all of the shows that come after it. That’ll be fun.

The other thing that I’ll look back on and remember from this week is a debilitating pain on the left side of my lower body.

In short, I’ve got a tight butt.

Laugh if you like, but it’s horrible. I have been doing my best to overcome lower back pain for the last four years. Much of it has to do with stress I’ve brought upon myself and the accumulation of some less-than-productive habits. I have been working to get in better shape and to that end I have good days and bad. But I have never felt anything like what I’m fighting through this week.

It has been diagnosed as a pinched sciatic nerve (aka “sciatica”) on the lower left side of my body. It means you’re in discomfort from your lower back right down to your toes. At the start of the week, I could not function without some Advil in my system and I was not pleased about that. I’ve been working hard to put fewer toxins in my body, not more. The discomfort prompted me to finally do what my doctors have been telling me to do for three years: go get massage therapy treatment.

I went for my first massage yesterday. All I could think about was George Costanza in Seinfeld, when he got massaged by a guy and later said to Jerry in a panic, “I think it moved!” Well, I didn’t care if a guy worked on me, a girl or if they drove a bloody truck over my back. I just wanted to feel better.

It turned out to be a woman that treated me, but I can assure you there was absolutely nothing erotic about it. Oddly, having another woman rub her hands all over your rear end is not anywhere near as exciting as one might hope. It was painful. Also, it was not quite embarrassing, but it was close. It felt like paying someone to treat you like a baby.

At one point, this nice lady had what I assumed (hoped?) to be a knuckle driven deep into the sorest point on my left butt cheek. She must have known that I was in pain, because I stopped talking. I never stop talking. But I did then. So she said, “Take a deep breath.” I thought, “I will if you take your knuckle off my butt.” But she did not, at least not for a few seconds.

So I took a deep breath. A few of them, actually.

Soon thereafter, she told me that the muscles all up and down my spine were, “Among the tightest she’d ever seen.” So there: my back muscles are tighter than yours.

Even so, I never got so much as a participation ribbon for all my troubles.

When it was done, I got dressed and then she asked me how I felt. I didn’t know what to say, because I honestly felt the same. So I came up with the only insightful, helpful thing I could think of and answered her by saying, “Umm, I don’t know.”

Nice.

She said, “Some people feel great right away. For others it takes a while longer.”

Hmm. Okay. Well, I agreed to go back next week and then limped back to the Kevin-mobile to take me home.

So here I sit today, happily visiting with you, shifting in my chair every few moments to ease the pain emanating from my left gluteus. My back and butt woes are officially “to be continued.”

When we finally finish our CD, please don’t congratulate me by slapping me on the rear.

I’d rather have my finger caught in a mouse trap.

– Kevin

Recording Journal Vol. 41: “Whipped From Water, Work & Waiting”

What a week. I’m whipped. And looking back in my day planner and listing out all the things I’ve tried to tackle, I can understand why.

Got my taxes finished, submitted and processed this week. I got our car e-tested and the plates renewed. I also had to turn to Tracey’s dad for help in solving a water-in-the-basement issue that had been going on for almost two weeks. He and I gobbled up an evening and part of the next morning diagnosing and fixing it. However that was only after I’d contacted the company that provides our water heater and had it replaced (which turned out not to be the issue).

That was Monday.

I won’t even get into the puzzle that exists in the land of CPT Entertainment. It’s too much to describe. It’s all good, but too much to describe. I bet I would exhaust you if I tried to explain it. So I won’t.

My role (through CPT) in assisting our partners at Delaware Speedway has also become one that I won’t bother attempting to articulate, other than to say that we are on the doorstep of another season and we are all under a crush of deadlines. It’s fun and exciting, but it’s the kind of thing where you need to stop yourself from time to time, take a deep breath, focus, re-prioritize and then cut to the heart of the matter. Fast. And then do it again. And again.

And then there is the music, which sees us creeping closer and closer to various deadlines, the latest being our promise to release the first two singles from the new CD on CKXS FM next week. Since they are featuring us in their Local Spotlight program, we have the wonderful opportunity of having our music played on an FM music station and around the world via their internet stream. It’s important to me that we take advantage of that opportunity by having some new material to share.

You might think that several months’ warning would be enough. Me too. But it never seems to matter; when I come up on a deadline, there always seems to be a scramble. Maybe that’s why I set deadlines. Anyway, the time is upon us and one way or the other, we’ll be ready

Monday morning, I asked KG (Kevin Gorman) if he’d make me a CD copy of the two songs we’re releasing next week (“Hope Over Hurt” and “Do Better”). Now, in order to understand why I asked for that, you must realize that, for the last few months, we’ve been hearing the songs in bits and pieces; a vocal line here, a piano part there. It’s been a while since we just sat back and listened, start to finish, to a couple of full songs. The parts of what I’d been hearing of each were good. And the individual performances were also pretty good. But I wanted to get a sense of how it felt as a whole, and how close (or far away) we were to being ready. So I popped by to KG’s around lunch time on Monday and collected the CD from him. I promptly put it in my car stereo and turned it up full.

Soon after that, I felt a little ill.

We’re always our own worst critics, but I felt that we were off the mark on “Hope Over Hurt.” Now, I knew that there were edits and mixing issues that we hadn’t yet attacked and would be fixed, but I was still jarred at the overall lack of “feel” in the whole thing. That was my honest impression.

“Do Better” gave me a slightly better feeling, although there were some things missing that made me a little uneasy. And I know better. I asked KG for the songs before they were done. I knew there were things missing. But I felt I needed to stand back and hear it as a whole and when I did, I thought, “Oh boy; we’ve got work left to do.”

I wonder if painters do that; just stand way back from their work and take it all in from time-to-time. KG and I do. It’s just that we’ve been so focussed on a lot of little things over the last few weeks that we haven’t stood back to hear the big picture.

After listening to “Hope Over Hurt” several times, it started to become clear to me that the song was okay, but it just needed some adjustment, sort of like a race car that’s just not tuned up quite as well as it can be. The more I listened to it, the more I felt confident about what we needed to do, and none of it was a big deal.

I texted Kev, telling him that I “Had some thoughts about ‘Hope’ and would email him later.” He said that was fine. So after dinner and after putting the kids to bed, I sat down at my computer and typed out my thoughts. In the interests of giving you the inside look on how this stuff comes together, here is exactly what I wrote to KG that night:

Hey Kev,

It’s going to look like I’m being hyper-critical. I’m not. I love both songs. Just giving you my gut feeling on a few things with each:

Hope Over Hurt

Notes

Piano – are we overdoing it? I’m wondering about something more basically “rhythmic” like what you do in “Glass.” The fills are nice but it almost seems to slow the song down. Plus, I wonder if we did less of that through the verses if, as a result, the solo would really pop more? Just a thought. This is my fault, I know. Seems you would have learned by now!

Bass – I know what you’ve got in there is just a placeholder. I think there can be more from the bass, especially in the solo, to help drive the song along.

Beginning – I’m not convinced we need the beginning to be that long. My gut says we should go back to the way we had it before and cut the intro back to half of what it is now. Start with just the guitar for 4 bars and then the piano would come in with the vocals when my voice says “pilgrims” (by the way, the opening lyric starts just a hair too late … easily fixed!)

The Ending – I’d like to hear how it sounds if you filled out the ending on the piano a little more. Sounds too sparse to me. Sorta’ my feeling about the song as a whole … needs more balls to give it that subconscious confidence right off the hop. Just a thought.

Percussion – I have an idea. Ask me tonight and we’ll see if it’d help or just make things a whole lot worse. Hahaha.

Vocals – There are a few shaky moments for my voice but we’ll just have to live with it I guess. I wonder about the descant. Part of it sounds off to me (at 2:58). Not sure if you were going to do that over or if my ears are screwy.

Do Better

Notes

Too much echo/reverb on my voice. I sound way too far away. Rough mix though, I know. Just thought I’d mention it.

We need your voice in the chorus and in the “na-na-na” part to balance it out. We have to have you in there!

There is a little “pop” in the vocals after the line “permanently gratified state” (I think). I could hear it in the car but not on my computer speakers and I can’t quite place it on my iPod headphones. But in the car, it comes off as an audible “click” from an edit. Easy to miss.

Tuesday night, I returned to KG Records (albeit 2 hours late because of the basement water woes I mentioned earlier). Kev smiled and held up the paper with the email you’ve just now read. He chuckled and said, “Now, you may not remember this,” (I smile) “But just about everything you’ve mentioned here, we’ve talked about before.”

“I know,” I said.

KG smiled. “I know you know. And the good news is that I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.”

The only thing Kev talked me out of was my proposed change to the beginning. He convinced me we should leave it the way it is. I’ll be interested to know what you think of it when you finally here it.

The rest of the night, we worked on some minor editing and arrangement issues and I felt better about things when I left.

Later in the week, I saw Kevin again, along with Alyssa Sestric, a cool young lady who is lending her talents to some harmony vocals on our CD. Alyssa is a big fan of country music. As you might know, I spent over three years working with BX 93, the FM radio country music monster in this market. Weeks ago, I asked Alyssa if she’d like to go and see the station and meet some of the people that work there. It didn’t take much convincing. She was enthusiastic, to say the least. So, after clearing it with my radio pals, I met KG and Alyssa at the station Thursday afternoon, gave them the “tour” and introduced them to anyone I could find that was willing to talk to us.

Of particular interest to Alyssa was my great good pal Chris Harding, the afternoon drive host and Music Director at BX 93. I’d told Alyssa that Chris would be willing to offer her some advice and share some stories, and he did just that. Chris has a great ear for music, far more so than you’d be able to tell by simply listening the station (regardless of what you think about the song selection that actually goes to air, I can promise you that far more work goes into it than you could possibly imagine).

It was fun to watch Alyssa. She was clearly excited to be there. She listened intently to everything Chris had to say. I am very grateful to Alyssa for the time and energy she has put to what is largely my project. And I am also very grateful to Chris for being a great friend, mentor and just an overall good person. To see them together was especially gratifying to me.

We also stopped by to chat with Barry Smith, the Operations Manager. Barry is another person I hold in the highest of esteem. I will never forget that he took the time to offer me his constructive feedback about 15 years ago, even though I worked in another market (Sarnia) and for a rival broadcasting company. Little did I know that he and I would cross paths again, and that he would throw me a lifeline back in 2007 when I needed it most (but that is another story). It was fun for me to go back to him and say, “Here is a young person I believe has a lot to offer by way of talent and personality” and to see him agree and encourage Alyssa.

In any event, the whole thing was fun. It generated some positive energy, got me back to see some of my radio mates and got KG, Alyssa and I together away from the studio for the first time.

Moving on to today, I popped in to see Kev at his studio again for a couple hours and we worked out more of “Hope” and I got him to sing the parts I wanted him to do for “Do Better.” The results were great. We’ll be back at it again tomorrow. And when 99.1 CKXS FM comes a-callin’ we will be ready. Besides all that, I’m so ready to share some of this newer music, I feel about ready to bust. Today I felt like just screaming at Kev: “Just FINISH it!!” Hahaha. But of course it’s not that simple. He’s working as hard as he can and so am I.

In the rest of the world, I must admit I am a happy guy. In terms of the things that entertain me, it would seem that the stars are all lining up to put on a show just for me. I’m delighted! Earlier this week, the mail carrier brought me my copy of Craig Werth’s new CD “The Spokes Man.” It’s terrific; a gorgeous collection of songs (matter of fact it’s on right at this very minute; the song “I Had To Get Here”).

On top of that, my favourite band of all, EXTREME, is on the verge of releasing their first-ever live CD/DVD combo. I have pre-ordered it from Amazon and will try to be patient while I await its arrival. I have had a love affair with Extreme’s music in a manner than I’m not sure I can explain. Their 1992 album “III Sides to Every Story” not only changed the way I look at music, it changed the way I view the world and myself. That view still holds. There is something intangible about the combination of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt together that hits my music nerve. I don’t know what it is. But I do know that others out there like me share the same affliction. When EXTREME’s “Take Us Alive” CD arrives at our door, we’re going to have a hard time listening to anything else for some time.

It is also not lost on me that Jimmy Buffett (another one of my absolute favourites) has released a new collection called “Encores.” I look forward to hearing it, though I’ve decided I’m going to wait to get that one until I’m really in the mood. For all I know, that’ll be tomorrow. Or maybe months from now. I don’t know. But I do love Jimmy Buffett and I look forward to hearing “Encores.”

As for this last one, you might find it funny. But I’ve always liked the rock band Jackyl. Tracey and I went to see them a few times in the early-to-mid nineties. I’ve always liked their attitude and their straight-ahead, no apologies brand of rock and roll. So when I learned that they have a new CD on the way within a couple of weeks, I was pretty happy. I bought their new single on iTunes the other day and have been pushing the limits of my car stereo with it ever since.

I am also looking forward to Carl Hiaasen’s next book and the new TV series “Caprica” (now that I’ve watched all my Battlestar Galactica DVDs). That’s all good.

Gotta’ have things to look forward to.

And I am looking forward to finally getting this CD completed, releasing it and sharing it with whoever will listen. The work doesn’t go away; it just changes from creating it to playing and promoting it.

And I wanna play.

– Kevin

PS – A week ago today, my ‘big’ sister Karen was born. Today, one week later, I celebrate the arrival of my baby sister Janna (or, as I know her, “J”). I am constantly inspired by both of my sisters. But what J has accomplished, I’ll never quite understand. It amazes me. Years ago, she ventured up north as north can be: to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. I didn’t think she’d last three months. Instead, she adapted to the climate and the culture and she has not only made it her home, she has become so involved in the community as to make a truly positive difference in the lives of many people. She has married a terrific fellow named Kurtis and I am just so proud of my sister, I can’t tell you. My lone regret is that J is as far away as she is. Of course, she could say the same thing about me. We may be a long way apart, but I love my kid sister as only a proud brother can. I love you J. Happy Birthday.

Recording Journal, Vol. 29: “Time to Sing?”

It’s been almost a month since KG and I last put anything on tape. Whatever momentum we had is long gone, and it will take some work to find it again. We’re still not sure when we’re going to start up again, although the time seems to be drawing closer. I talked with Kev yesterday and he told me that the re-construction of the new control room was coming along well, and that he was hopeful that the details of the Christmas Eve break-in will be resolved sooner than later.

Meantime, I haven’t seen him in about two weeks and that’s far too long. In that time, I’ve strummed my guitars for a few minutes here and there, but haven’t sung a note in a great while.

In any case, the last couple weeks have been an absolute blur. It feels to me like Christmas was a year ago. Last week in particular was one of the most intense times in recent memory, as our crew worked overtime (and then some) to confirm and announce a mammoth event for our friends at Delaware Speedway, while at the same time prepping and executing a large-scale trade show (our 3rd Annual CPT Racing Experience).

The last seven days have been a wild roller coaster ride of contrasting emotions. When you’re focusing with such intensity, working long hours and celebrating the highs while acknowledging and attending to the inevitable lows, it wears you out. This past weekend, I was mentally exhausted before we even opened the doors for the trade show. But we got through it and on the whole, I feel pretty good.

But I’m ready to get back to my music. I don’t even care if anyone wants to listen to it. I’ve learned that I just need to do it for my own sense of well being, and whatever happens with it is fine. I don’t like deliberately setting it aside, because I did that for about five years when I was working at Delaware Speedway and I won’t ever make that mistake again. But just like there is a time to sing, there is also a time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

My crew worked hard the last while. And we will continue to work hard.

But soon it will be time to sing again.

Can’t wait.

Kevin

Recording Journal, Vol. 28: “Focus?”

With my company’s next major trade show now only six days away, it occurs to me how ridiculous my definition of “focus” has become. For instance, knowing that I must set a few things aside until after we’re done with our event, over the last week I have knowingly “focused” on the following tasks:

Management, delegation, creation, sales, promotion, marketing , implementation and execution – along with my teammates – of our company’s (CPT Entertainment Inc.) major trade show (the CPT Racing Experience); Identification, creation and implementation of Delaware Speedway’s strategic market plan for the 2010 season (just wait’ll you see what’s coming); continued preparation and execution of the BX 93 evening show five days a week; and, most importantly, being as good a husband and father as I can possibly be.

Left out of the above scenario is, of course, music, along with any other development of our music project (artwork, booking gigs, creating merchandise, etc). Also absent are necessary tasks such as reading, sleeping and the always necessary activity known as “goofing off,” not to mention any other aspect of CPT Entertainment, and there are many.

My favourite radio host (and about the only radio personality I can listen to and truly enjoy anymore), Colin Cowherd (ESPN), will often encourage listeners to “say it out loud” when they’re considering or trying to evaluate something. Just say it out loud, he’ll say, and see how it sounds.

Given what I’ve written on how I’ve “narrowed my focus,” I think that what I’ve said out loud sounds completely ridiculous. But such is the life I’ve created, and I am grateful for it. I just need to manage it better I suppose.

The music project, achingly, is on hold at the moment. The clock continues to tick at seven months and counting. It is maddening. So close, yet so far away. But our time will come. I at least have learned enough patience to know that.

While I am toiling with my CPT duties running overtime, KG continues to try and pick back up from the Christmas Eve break-in, and re-construct the “real” control room at his studio (we’d previously been working from a make-shift temporary control panel along with his “real” vocal booth). Perhaps it’s a sign that the timing is exactly how it should be. I suppose I’ve no choice but to take that point of view, unless I wish to become frustrated, scattered in thought and more anxious than I already am (which is plenty).

And so, though it currently feels as if it will take forever, I realize that the next seven days will be gone in the blink of an eye. And the next time I write, CPT’s next trade show will be referred to in past tense, no matter how it turns out, for better and for worse. And I will come out of it ready to get back to the studio. And KG will land with his feet on the ground and be ready to finish this project once and for all.

And then the real work begins.

Bring it.

– Kevin

PS – Thanks to my buddy Derek for lending me “The Coffin Dancer” by Jeffery Deaver. It was the most enjoyable read in a while. Currently, I am enjoying a “Spenser” story by Robert B. Parker. My dad says they’re fun. He’s right. He usually is.

Recording Journal Vol. 14: “Four Things”

It’s Wednesday night. I’m sitting here doing four things:

1 – Writing this journal
2 – Keeping the Kleenex companies in business while I fight a cold
3 – Listening to Aerosmith’s “Nine Lives” CD
4 – “Watching” the progress of the Tigers’ game against those pesky Twins … on the computer

It’s a sad state of affairs when, here in London only two hours away from Detroit, we can’t even hear the Tiger games on the radio. And for the first time in four seasons, I decided I’d rather have my money than the extra cable sports package that lets me see all the games. But right now, I kind of wish I could see it. Instead, I’m watching the updates flash onto the screen on a nifty little feature called “Gameday” on the Tigers official site.

By the way – and I don’t mean any offense to the folks in Minnesota (I’ve been there and loved the place) – the Twins are a real pain in butt and I wish they would go away. As I write, the Tigers are up 4-2 but it’s only the fourth inning so it doesn’t mean much yet.

As far as progress on the song front goes, there’s not much to write. KG and I haven’t worked on anything in well over a week. In fact, to tell you the truth, my guitar is still sitting in its case, exactly where I left it when I came back from a session at Kev’s place nine days ago. So what’s kept me from working on the tunes? Well …

  • An appearance at a BX 93 event
  • “Meet the Teacher” night with my oldest boy, who is in grade one
  • The first soccer night for my youngest boy
  • A full day at Delaware Speedway, representing CPT Entertainment for their last event
  • The first soccer morning for my oldest boy
  • Groceries, errands, laundry and watching as much of the PGA Tour Championship as I could
  • Radio
  • Prepping for the London International Travel Show
  • Shopping for Stars Wars figures in the brief window while I have both my kids temporarily convinced they like it
  • Most recently, a cold that knocked me on my butt to start this week, resulting in the cancellation of a scheduled music session

Other than that, nothing’s up.

I did get to KG’s earlier today though, but on CPT business this time. Once again, we collaborated on some radio ads, writing and producing the original music and then writing and recording the script for our London International Travel Show commercials which will hit the airwaves next week. As always, we got the job done but also managed to slip some great laughs in between. That seems to happen when we get together.

Meantime, a piece of good news is that the new CD from David Francey and Mike Ford, “Seaway”, is apparently complete. I ordered my copy from Francey’s site yesterday. Now I’ll have a reason to look forward to opening the mailbox sometime in the next couple of weeks.

And, with a little luck, maybe some Tiger playoff games too.

– Kevin

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