Need Help Understanding Return

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jwmullins
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Need Help Understanding Return

Post by jwmullins » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:11 am

Greetings TAXI colleagues,
I recently made my first TAXI submission (3 songs) and unfortunately got my first return (all 3 songs). It was to a country listing for contemporary country:
S100407CO

CONTEMPORARY COUNTRY SONGS a la THE PARKS needed by the Sr. Director of A&R at a Major Nashville Label for a Father/Son Duo. For stylistic inspiration, take Southern Rock, Texas Outlaw, and Country Singer/Songwriter attitudes and blend them altogether. All tempos are OK. They are looking for two hits to complete this project! Vocal and instrumental demo presentation must be top-notch! Please submit one to three songs online or per CD, include lyrics. All submissions will be screened and critiqued by TAXI and must be received no later than Wednesday, April 7, 2010. TAXI #S100407CO
I generally understand what's in the return and it was generally helpful. However, one thing that caught me a little off guard was the assertion that the songs didn't sound country enough. I'm country as a dirt clod, so I didn't even know I could sound "not country enough". :shock:

Specifically here are the relevant responses for each song:
Go Out With Me:
"...not particularly Country in the actual craft of the music and presentation of it..."
The Truth Is:
"...clearly the basic music of this is more Country in intention, although in a more tried and true way to some other songs....same concerns about the presentation aspects of this..."
What I Should've Done:
"...same concerns as with the others in the overall level of presentation, and this being more of a Rock or hybrid thereof song, than contemporary Country..."
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with it, I just don't quite understand it and how I can improve upon it (hence my post). When I think of many of the recent contemporary country hits from artists like Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, they seem much farther from traditional country than "The Truth Is". Similarly, Jason Aldean's sound (also several recent hits) I think is much more rock than "What I Should've Done", but it's also considered contemporary country.

If you guys would be so kind as to listen to those songs at http://www.taxi.com/jwmullins and help me interpret this that would be awesome. Likewise, if you have any suggestions you have on how I can improve them, I would be most appreciative. Thanks so much!

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by eeoo » Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:09 am

Hi James, welcome to the forums -
The thing that stood out to me is that the listing said demo presentation should be top notch meaning it's gotta sound pro. I think to pitch to these kind of listings you might need to invest in some new sounds, especially drums. I liked the songs but would have preferred to hear them with just your voice and an acoustic guitar. Country listings are generally "high bar" meaning everything has to be better than good enough, tough nut to crack. The good news is you're a good writer, just need to work on your production/engineering chops.

"I'm country as a dirt clod" would make a great song!
Good luck! eo.

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by jwmullins » Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:26 am

eo,
Thanks for the welcome and for the advice. I know I definitely have some work to do on the production/engineering side. While I'm working on that I may have to give serious consideration to writing "Country as a Dirt Clod". ;)

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by glender » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:02 pm

Being that this was a duet listing and none of your songs were recorded as duets I think you were pretty much doomed from the start. Hopefully you got a full critique so you could at least get an idea of where you stood on the other aspects of your songs. Production quality is a biggie when pitching to an artist listing. In Country I'm starting to think that any score lower than 9's-10's aint gonna cut it. The first submissions are more of a reality check anyway to see how you rate in the real world.
gl

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by slowdance » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:44 pm

James,

Welcome to the forums.......you need to up your "production" part.....especially if you are sending it onward to country targets.....the bar is too high ......work on your stuff and then throw it out on p2p and get some very candid and good critiques on what your doing....

Regards,
Dick

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by deantaylor » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:05 pm

Hey James,

Welcome. You're a good writer. I like the songs. I like Truth best .. then wisd. Though it does take you a while to get to the hook on Truth, doesn't bother me personally, but 'they' say it's best to get there in under a minute .. those A&R guys might turn you off after 60 secs if you don't. I wouldn't change it though.

I think the songs themselves ... i.e. the songwriting .. is country enough. And the vocals are definately country enough. I think your PRESENTATION of them ... the backing track .. may NOT be country enough. The reviewer does say this about the PRESENTATION, but he also says the songs may not be country enough. Like you, I disagree with the latter, but .. I could be wrong.

When he says wisd is more of a hybrid of rock-country .. ok, fine .. i agree with you .. that IS countemp country to me. Maybe there is a semantics issue, idk.

Keep getting more opinions, if a bunch start saying the some thing, then put more credence in it. Trust your gut. And I'd try to get the production sounding more like a Nashville production.

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by ottlukk » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:33 pm

James;
I listened to "Go Out With Me". Both the lyrics and singing is very "country". It's the background production that isn't "Nashville". The thing is, I liked the background production -- even thought it might make a nice instrumental -- but I sort of understand the screener's comments.
Personally, I liked it. Welcome to the forums.
Ott

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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by rnrmachine » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:44 pm

Hi James,

Welcome to the forums. I gave "The Truth Is" and "What I Should Have Done" a listen. The songs are not bad, but the drums are really bad. The bass guitar, usually a very strong aspect in country is practically non existent. I can hear it if I strain, but it usually is really solid at the bottom end in country (now-a-days). You sound like you have talent. It's hard to catch the lyrics and be 100% sure if the lyrics are there. Your vocals are a tad pitchy at times which to me, makes you more country past then present. My Dad LOVED country so I have heard a ton of the older country and you sound much more like that to me. To sound more modern, your production is going to have to increase exponetially.

Vocally your voice sounds great, thick and rich. The only work there would be to practice the songs a bit more so you hit ALL the notes better, not just most of them. Like I said though, only pitchy at times and it does sound more like REAL country to me (your vioce). Not this modern day hybrid country ( I too feel that today's country is a hybrid of rock and country). You will have to do a lot of research if you are going to continue doing your own recordings. You will have to pick out a Softsynth drum program that is very country. Then you will need to find a bass softsynth or spend some time learning the "how to's" of recording/mixing a country bass guitar. It really should be carrying the bottom end of the song, not just an after thought in the background. Or find musicians that want to work with you and know how to record their parts properly. You can't slap together drums, do a basic bassline, put in some just "OK" guitars so you can get right to the fun part... singing. You need to treat each instrument with TLC and do what real musicians would do. Shine on their instrument. (we all start out this way, do not feel bad) For me it was.. get to the guitars... I wish I had a dollar for everytime I got cut up on recordings but heard, vocals were ok but I LOVED the guitars LOL

You need to have a CD (NOT a MP3) of whomever you are trying to emulate in sound and compare your mix to it. It is fine to try and pick one that you think would be easier to emulate. If you can't get that sound or close to it, you need to research and find out why not. Gone are the days when a thrown together demo will make you, unless you get Lottery Lucky, and get hit by Billy Joels Limo while strolling around in NY...

Sorry for being blunt but around here there really isn't any other way to be or we're not helping, we're just being part of the problem,

At least you have the hard part knocked out, you have talent, which I guess is the easy part for folks with natural talent, but gear, production you can learn, having a good singing voice is pricless.

Rob
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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by Len911 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:04 pm

Is Brooks and Dunn country? I thought your songs were all were very much what they might do. And they are a duet. Well were anyway, I think they broke up.
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Re: Need Help Understanding Return

Post by 1.7 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:08 pm

The Truth Is, is very nice. Put your first chorus at the 45 sec mark (after verse 1) and it would be strong (may req rewording the Verse a bit). Maybe keep the drums out (or make it a light rim shot) until that first chorus as well for more impact/contrast.

The other two songs seem to have an overt R n R guitar attack. Maybe mix the guitar down in volume and give it a cleaner tele sound and let the songs breath a bit. Less dense guitar (and attack) will help to make those two less R n R and more country sounding.

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