GOT GRIND?

 

Labour day. Work. Jobs. Holiday. Day off. Time and a half. This day lends itself to many thoughts, meaning many different things for many a different folks. Just so happens I’ve been thinking a lot about my jobs lately. I have three. I work a record store. I work a bar and I work for myself in music. I don’t do any of these gigs because i have to. I do them all because i want to. Each one gives me something i need or desire in return and as a result, i enjoy these various jobs. My Dad was a “workaholic”. My mom too. I don’t view that word poorly, as some may. Both my parents worked hard at their jobs because they seemed to enjoy them, or that’s how i perceived it. This was not lost on me as a youth and certainly not as an adult. I’m pretty fortunate to say that there have been only a few times I’ve done a job that i didn’t like or want to do. Those ones always filter themselves out though. So I believe I come by my work ethic naturally. I was instilled with values. An appreciation for hard work, follow through. Respect for a job well done. These traits have been a great asset to me in my life and likely, at times, a real pain in the ass to other folks that i’ve worked with. Be it in my own business or working with coworker in someone else’s business. I can be demanding. I’ve mellowed as I’ve aged, yet I still have high expectations. When it’s something I care deeply about, only the best is good enough. I will drive myself crazy to get it done. To sweat it out until it is just how I desired. Grind. That’s right. Grind people. Follow though. To me, this is the ability persevere. To triumph adversity. To fail and continue on in the face of defeat. Rise above. Grind. It. Out. I got grind. I don’t need to convince you and have you agree with me for me to know this. The truth is not dependent on your belief in it. My resume from the past ten years tells the truth. The respect I have from my peers tell the truth. That is enough for me.

So why the diatribe? I’ve been working at The Snooty Fox again lately. I took an eight year break from bar tending. Then I found myself single again, back in Fredericton with some downtime and needing a break form music. I was all too happy to accept the job offer from my old friends, Kyle and Krista, owners of The Snooty. This has been a real blessing. It reminded me how much of a social creature i am, even though at times i like to hide away. It also reminded me how much i need human interaction to aid in my writing. It reminded me how great it is to pay off bills again. I have met some great folks from bar tending there. I love them all. Such Characters. A couple of these folks in particular set me to thinking about GRIND lately. It has become apparent that GRIND is a thing that seems to be missing in society today. The willingness to follow through. to see it go the distance regardless of outcome. Where has that gone?

Society seems all too quick now, to accept the instant, temporary, satisfaction of a lesser quality product. I too, have been guilty of this. I had a revelation while streaming the first four episodes of Game of Thrones when it was leaked online. The quality was terrible yet i wanted that immediate, temporary satisfaction of seeing all four episodes NOW!!! Instead, i should have waited. Watched them as they aired. Enjoyed the suspense. Watched the masterful videography in HD quality, as it was intended to be enjoyed. But no. I wanted it NOW! This woke me up. The world is deep under the wheels of this bus. Jobs. Food. Relationships. LIFE. We all want that quick, temporary satisfaction. Even if it’s not the high quality long time satisfying feeling we could have if we Grinded it out. Waited, were PATIENT.

Last month I had two gig cancellations in the same week. This amounted to the lose of $2000.00 for my business. That spins out into two employees losing money and a variety of local businesses not getting my hard earned money and had I not taken the job at Snooty Fox it most certainly would have meant I could not have paid my bills that month and I CERTAINLY wouldn’t have been able to afford to paint my house. I lost one gig after I had been under the impression we were confirmed, when the “council” decided to go with another band. One month before the Scheduled gig. Disappointing for sure. But as I was told “such is life”. Can you imagine trying to use that phrase with your plumber? Your banker? Your boss? Your employees? The second gig was cancelled less that two weeks before the event. This gig was for a beer festival and was on a Saturday. PRIME booking night. At less than two weeks to gig day it would be impossible to re-book the show. The reason for cancelling? The presenter decided to cancel then, rather than closer to the day of the event. It seems that the presenter booked seven bands, organized a one day event at their business, which would spin off into many other financial obligations, and the entire time, at the back of their mind they thought “well if it looks like I’ll take a loss, I’ll just cancel”. Grind? I think not. So, the business cancelled, saving their own asses yet at the full expense of everyone else involved. Not to mention I found out about the cancellation by seeing they had cancelled the event on facebook! This my friends, is the opposite of grind. I have booked many national tours, produced many shows. Very few have been what I would call profitable. Many have broken even but a handful cost me my shirt. I never ever thought it was ok to put my tail between my legs and screw my employees or other business associates over and pull the plug and go home. I always found a way to pay who needed to be paid and I always looked back and learned a lesson. Now, I know not every single human is ignorant of this. I know many people who have grind. In fact, when I look around, I see that I have in fact, surrounded myself with people who have grind. I don’t think this was intentional per se, but it sure does make me happy to see my peers busting ass and doing what needs to be done at their OWN expense.

I used to take every gig I could because I loved playing that much. Then I took every gig I could because I needed to pay my bills. That was a dangerous place to be and nearly ruined music for me. Now that I have a bar tending gig again I don’t have to take any gigs I don’t think will be emotionally or financially rewarding. This has been a real blessing. After Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival I will be taking the least amount of gigs I have done in a decade as I take the fall off. Oh, I know what you’re  thinking…”that doesn’t sound like grind”… fear not my friends. Grind takes place above and below the surface. Don’t think for a second that I don’t have a plan. I’m still working on music. There will be new music from me in 2016. I’m also, and most important, working on me. Searching deep. Asking the tough questions. Finding out who I really am. What it is I really need and want. Passing over the immediate, temporary satisfaction. I’m Grinding it out to get to the good stuff. The long lasting, satisfying stuff. How about you?

Stay good. Grind on,

Ross

 

PS…shout out to Kevy and Joe Paw for making me thing about Grind.

PPS. I know that things are rarely as they appear and sometimes there are things happening that leave people to make decisions  out of their control. This is not lost on me. I try to be seeing the big picture all the time. However, there is always a big picture on the other side of the coin too. This is MY side of the coin.

Genre-lize

Sunday morning is coming down. It’s freezing rain in The Hampton. It’s snowing in Fredtown. I’m depressed cause rehearsal has been cancelled. I thought about getting stressed because it’s one less chance to run the tunes that are so rusty but really, we’re going to be alright. It won’t take more than a few shows to knock the dust off the tunes and find our groove. I’m mostly bummed because i was looking forward to playing music today.

Instead I’m listening to some great stuff. Ever heard of KEXP out of Seattle? If you haven’t you want to check out their YOUTUBE page. It is FULL of killer live performances from just about everybody. Listening to Jason Isbell and Shovels & Rope this am has got me strolling the dark hallways of my brain. I’ve been thinking lately about my music career and what i’m doing over the next few years. I recently started working with an old friend who is going to attempt to help me “deal” with the business of music. This help couldn’t come at a better time as I’ve been burning out lately. I don’t mean with writing and performing music or touring. I LOVE doing those things. They are my whole raison d’etre so to speak. It’s the other side that has been wearing me down. Booking the tours, dealing with the alphabet societies, playing the game. It drains you if you’re not one of those people who gets off on it.

  Anyhow, something that has been on my mind lately is genre. You know…”what do they sound like?”…what pigeon hole do they go in? americana, blues, blues/rock, singer songwriter (what the fuck is that anyway?), pop, pop/rock, metal, death metal, black metal, jazz, bebop, funk, acid jazz, country, alt country, twang (what the fuck is that anyway?) etc etc etc. It’s overwhelming. I seem to live in the “blues and blues/rock” genres. I guess that’s ok but I also hate it. I’m told genres are necessary and helpful. It helps people know what kind of music you play and whether or not they will/should like you. That is ridiculous! You know how I know when i like a band or music? I LISTEN TO IT!!!! When did it become that you could only write or perform one kind of music? Why do people throw a fit when their fav artist “changes” their style? PEOPLE! a musician or songwriters STYLE is to MAKE MUSIC!!!!! Don’t ya think?

There are many artists I’ve listened to for their entire careers. Take Neil Young for example. I freaking LOVE Neil Young. There is much of his music that is as important to me as air, food and water. However, there is also music he has made at points in his career that I would rather never hear again. For example, the TRANS album. Not my fav album in Neils cannon. However, when you hear transformer man on the MTV Unplugged album, it’s killer. a GOOD SONG. It’s just the way it goes. Some artists have a constant theme or style in their entire career (nothing wrong with that either) but some artists like to do whatever they feel moved to do at that time. Two examples: Colin James and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Say what you want about Colin James. Like him or hate him. Doesn’t matter. What I LOVE about Colin is this: He has seemingly done whatever he likes at the time. Be it a pop album, an acoustic blues album, a SWING album (or three). Alvin Hart is the same thing. Alvin came on the scene as a savior of acoustic blues. MAN can he kill the straight natural blues. You know what though? Alvin is also a rocker at heart. He nails any classic rock tune from the 70’s, or his own rocknroll originals with his band Muscle Theory, right on the money and with as much conviction as the delta blues he plays.

I love to write songs. It’s such a mystery to me. I don’t know “how” to do it or where they come from. I’m always grateful when one comes to me. Working a song up with my band is one of the most amazing, gratifying experiences in life for me. It is the best feeling. I go home and listen to our shitty demos over and over again. And you know what? I never think when writing or working up  a tune with the band “oh my god, this isn’t a blues tune”. You know why? Because I’m more concerned about writing a good song. I don’t give a shit what “genre” it fits into. That’s for other people to decide. I would never NOT want to perform a song I wrote because it doesn’t fit the genre I’ve been put into. I certainly wouldn’t want to NOT write a song because it didn’t fit into what people expect of me musically. I just want to write good songs. That’s all. You don’t have to like them all. That’s ok. Hell it’s not even expected. As I mentioned, it’s rare I love every bit of output from an artists career.

Recently I had a conversation with someone about music. Theirs and mine. They gave me the impression that I wouldn’t like their music because it wasn’t rocknroll or blues. This made me angry. All they seemed to think that I wanted to discuss was blues music. No. I like to talk about MUSIC. Or when I say to my peers I’d be happy to record on their album and they say “oh well it’s not really a blues song”, as though that’s all I’m capable of. I grew up on Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, Twisted Sister, Platinum Blonde, Poison, Cory Hart, Cinderella, Guns N Roses, The Cult, Howlin Wolf, Albert King, Stevie Ray, Metallica, Megadeth, KISS, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, The Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash, Muddy Waters, The Allman Brothers Band, U2, Bon Jovi, The Doors, Deep Purple, Pantera, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, John denver and so much more. Every single one of these and more have had influence on me as a person and musician. How I play and write songs is a result of listening to ALL of these styles. I love all kinds of music and only want to serve the song I’m playing at the time in the best, most suitable way possible.

I see a lot of grumblings on the internet about who is and isn’t getting gigs or what is and isn’t “real”. It really breaks my heart. I know I have been and will be guilty of falling into that trap too like everyone else but I’m making efforts NOT TO DO THAT ANYMORE. We all like what we like. If you don’t like something then that’s cool. Don’t like it. Do you need to publicly bash or make fun of it though? I don’t think so. No one is perfect. People all do their own things. And as I’ve said before, we’re ALL hypocrites. So lets get over hating on shit and judging and pigeon holing and saying “they don’t deserve this or that” and get back to loving music. Not Hating it.

As Dave Grohl once said, “NO GUILTY PLEASURES”. Get out there and listen to stuff you haven’t heard before. Find new bands to get excited about. Love it whether your friends do or don’t. Get out of your comfort zone!

This Spring Tour I’m about to embark on, with my trusty rhythm section, you can expect to hear some blues, some rock, some country, some pop, some classic rock, some folk and who knows what else. We might play some blues in the style of rocknroll. we might play some rocknroll in a blues style. perhaps we’ll rock up some folk? perhaps we’ll folk up some rock. All I know is we’re going to play our songs and songs we love, from our hearts each night, as we always have. You’re going to like or you’re not. Either is ok by me. See ya at the Music show.

Ross

Ross Neilsen Band: The Great Bass Player Search (Episode Five)

Hey there everyone.

Here it is. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The finale to our web mini series The Great Bass Player Search. As you enjoy the last episode I want to thank you all for watching, sharing with your friends, and support in general. We head out for a ten week tour Thursday morning. No small feat to fend for ourselves living in a van across this nation but with your help, we abide. Please check the tour dates here and pass em along to your friends in the towns we visit. Looking forward to seeing you again! See ya out there!

Ross Neilsen Band: The Great Bass Player Search (Episode Three)

Ok, friends here it is….Episode three in our mini-series which chronicles how Young Will Pacey got the gig as my new bassist. Check it out….laugh, cry, vomit…SHARE with your friends, or don’t. Whichever you like….

Watch previous episodes here

Song a Week Challenge(week 8): Juanita (Blood for Blood)

Hey y’all

Man this challenge is hard to do on the road. Shit! I drove from NB to Toronto arriving late afternoon. Checked into my hotel, checked my messages and then wrote and recorded this tune. It is by far the fastest and sloppiest I’ve posted a tune from zero to website. So, that down side is, I didn’t spend much time on takes. This was the 3rd i think. I don’t feel comfortable belting it our full volume in my hotel room so I just committed. I’d like to re-record this one at some point and give er a proper go. Anyhow, this one is inspired by my new guitar I got. It’s a mustard yellow 61 re-issue Epiphone SG. It has P-90 pick ups which i typically hate but these sound ok. It was cheap! I wanted something I wouldn’t cry over if it got ruined in Mexico (i leave in the am). It is such a nasty colour that I named her Ugly Juanita after a bar in Memphis. Once I got in the hotel room here I started thinking about my trip and then “pop”, out came this tune and what do you know, the woman’s name is Juanita. I don’t know what will happen next week as I’ll be in Mexico. I’ll try and find a way to get something up on here. Worst case scenario I post it when I get home mid week before I start my solo tour dates here in Ontario….Here tis, Hope you dig.