Enforcing Your Rights
Many songwriters and artists believe the myth of the “poor man’s copyright.” As the myth goes, an author places a copy of his work in a self-addressed envelope and mails it back to himself. When the author receives the envelope with a dated postmark, an enforceable copyright registration is created in the work. This is a myth because it does not jibe with what it takes to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
If you obtain a certain level of success or exposure with your songs, you may indeed encounter an issue with copyright infringement. I am not talking about the loony “Garth Brooks stole my song!” type of copyright infringement. Rather, I am talking about solid cases of copyright infringement, like when a rapper samples your music without permission or an advertisement for dish soap exploits your song without permission.
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Q&A: Will Sheff Finds Emotional Truth, Gets Nostalgic about Childhood on Okkervil River’s Silver Gymnasium
For Okkervil River singer-songwriter Will Sheff, the band’s seventh album The Silver Gymnasium comes as a revelation, not just as a songwriter but also of his own beginnings. Growing up the 1980s in the small 500-person town of Meriden, New Hampshire, he saw the world through limited but still rather unique perspective. On the album he draws from his childhood experiences with honesty, exposing the wonders and trials of growing up, and ultimately discovered an “emotional truth” and underlying meaning of his childhood that others could relate to. Sheff worked with producer John Agnello, noted for many highly praised albums from the ’80s, to emerge the listener in paying homage that time period in Sheff’s life, referring artists like Bruce Springsteen in sound and throwing in cultural references like Atari video games.
Review: Okkervil River, The Silver Gymnasium
He could have stopped there with the album. But he’s been a man on a mission to create a fully vivid experience, including a map of Meriden draw from a child’s point of view, visits to his schools including the high school gymnasium for which he titled the album, and an online adventure game in partnership with Eyes And Ears’ Benjamin Miles that pays homage to early video games and features chiptune versions of songs from the album. Prior to the album’s release, I talked with Sheff to find out more about the album’s creation.
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Breakaway Music Festival Announced: Empire of the Sun, Wu-Tang Clan, Matt & Kim and more
Soccer stadiums across the nation will host a brand new music festival this fall: Breakaway Music Fest. The concert series, organized by Prime Social Group, will feature artists across multiple genres, including alternative-rock, rap, electronic and pop, among others.
Breakaway Music Fest seeks to combine elements of both music and sports, providing attendees with a one-of-a-kind festival experience. The festival also emphasizes local music, sporting the slogan “Your Field. Your Fest.”
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Ghost Stories: A Q&A With Iron & Wine
Like the soundtrack to some forgotten film from the 1970s, Iron & Wine’s Ghost on Ghost casts a look backward, mixing vintage saxophone solos and ‘70s string arrangements into one of the year’s most forward-thinking albums. We caught up with Sam Beam before a solo show in Chapel Hill, NC, to talk about the songs, the studio, and the challenge of combining New Orleans funk with British prog-rock.
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Anna Bergendahl Serves Up A Cultural Gumbo On “Fun”
Tired of “We Are Young?” We are too. Here’s a new kind of “Fun” to sink your teeth into, though, courtesy of singer/songwriter Anna Bergendahl.
Already a chart-topping artist in her native Sweden, Bergendahl will make her American debut with Something to Believe In, a collection of acoustic folk songs and driving roots-rockers produced by the same man who brought us Tracy Chapman’s Our Bright Future, Joni Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast, and Shaw Colvin’s Fat City. Premiering today, “Fun” finds Bergendahl referencing everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Kim Kardashian over a southern-flavored jumble of slide guitars, piano, and driving drums.
“During the writing of the whole album,” she tells us, “we had an ongoing conversation about love, music, cultural history, politics and so on. “Fun” plays with a lot of the things and characters we talked about, but the song is really about the need of letting go of all the intellectual stuff — letting go of all conversations and just having fun. I’ve never laughed so much during a writing session, and the song is a blast performing live.”
Song Premiere: Denison Witmer, “Asa”
Denison Witmer has been cranking out finger-plucked folk and acoustic Americana for more than a decade, spinning the sounds of his predecessors — Nick Drake, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens — into old-school songs for the modern age. On the self-titled Denison Witmer, he mines the death of his father and the birth of his first child for inspiration. The result is an album that looks ahead while also reflecting on the past, just like Witmer’s music.
Not all of the songs are his. “Asa,” a slow-burning tribute to childhood, floats Witmer’s voice above beds of pedal steel, organ, stripped-down percussion and thick harmonies. Bry Webb wrote the tune, but that doesn’t mean “Asa” — which coincidentally doubles as the name of Witmer’s son — isn’t one of the most personal songs on the disc.
“After my wife and I announced the name of our son, my friend Lisa sent me the song “Asa” by Bry Webb (of the Constantines),” Witmer says. “Bry wrote it for his own son named Asa, who was born the year before. My wife and I listened to the song over and over again as we held Asa on the night he was born, and the song has a great deal of meaning for me. It’s a beautiful song. It’s gentle and it’s universal. I was particularly moved by the way Bry centered the lyrics on the many meanings of the name Asa: “morning,” “little hawk,” “healer.” Even though I’m not much of a cover artist, I knew as soon as I heard this song that I wanted to include it on my next album. I knew I could sing it with conviction and personal honesty.”
Jessa Callen On Dabbling with the Power of Music
Jessa Callen is a pop singer and harpist for the sibling duo The Callen Sisters. They’ve been together as this group since 2006 and are releasing their new EP, The Light Bringer, which focuses on current-day controversial issues while simultaneously providing a ray of hope for listeners. Check out the sisters here or listen to their newest single “Silhouette” from the EP here.
Jessa provides some insight about her process for incorporating pressing and timely issues into The Callen Sisters music and the unique power she believes songwriting holds.
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Pop Artist: A Q&A With Devendra Banhart
“Hello, my name is Devendra,” says the voice from the other line. Then, he’s gone. Dropped call. It could have been the perfect Zen interview for Devendra Banhart — the one where nothing happens— but soon I have him back on the line, citing my editorial concern for an interview with no text. “The hierarchy of journalist and editor, owner and publisher,” he scoffs.
On Banhart’s eighth studio album, Mala, the Venezuela-bred songwriter explores more stripped-down arrangements than the jammy Cripple Crow or Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Mountain. It’s less polished than his 2009 outing, the retro rock opus What Will We Be, his last record for major label Warner Bros. The new album is at times a lo-fi, electronic homage to Arthur Russell. At other times, it’s a full-blown dance record, as on the Euro Club middle section of “Petting Duck,” in which Banhart duets with his fiancée, the artist Ana Kras. In a way, Mala feels like a return to Banhart’s earliest solo recordings. We’re still not sure if he agrees.
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Steve Earle & The Dukes and Duchesses: The Low Highway
Steve Earle & The Dukes And Duchesses
The Low Highway
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
He’s such a busy guy these days, what with his acting and writing careers, that it’s possible that some younger folks might not realize that Steve Earle is one of the finest songwriters of his generation and a fearless recording artist. Those talents have been hidden somewhat in his last few releases: 2010’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alivewas more like a collection of stray songs than an album proper, while 2009’s Towneswas a covers album featuring Steve’s old buddy and musical influence Townes Van Zandt.
The Low Highway leaves no doubt that Earle is clearly focused on his music. Whereas his original music of the past decade has had an unrelenting political bent that sometimes overwhelmed the craft behind it, he has found a way to deliver a much more balanced album this time around, probably his best in that regard since 2000’s excellentTranscendental Blues.
Earle by no means has abandoned his social concerns; in actuality, the first three songs on The Low Highwaycombine to create quite a damning portrait of this country. He does this not by taking pot shots at easy targets; instead, he builds his case through character sketches and telling observations. The album-opening title track, for example, takes its cue from Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” in the way that the narrator catalogues the rot and desperation he witnesses. He can’t help but see “the ghost of America watching me/Through the broken windows of the factory.”
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Kris Kristofferson: On Record
Though Kris Kristofferson just released an album titled Feeling Mortal and turns 77 in June, the man who penned some of the most beloved songs of the past half-century (including “Me And Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night”) is hardly ready to put a coda on his celebrated career. He admits concussions suffered during his boxing and football days are now catching up to him, but says getting old ain’t so bad. “In fact, it’s kind of nice,” he reveals. “I’m surrounded by people that I love [including his wife and eight children] and I’m respected for doin’ what I love to do. It’s been a good life.”
You’re calling this album the third of a “twilight-years trilogy.” Does that mean it’s your final recording?
No, no. Unless they throw a curve on me. I think I’ll be recording for the rest of my days, as long as I can still come up with some songs I can believe in. I enjoy working with [producer] Don Was.
In the title song, you thank your lucky stars “for the artist that you are/and the man you made of me.” Who does that refer to?
Me. And God. [Laughs.] I’m grateful for this trip. When I look at all the things that I’ve been blessed to do – everything that I’ve always loved; even though I’m not big, I got to play football and box [and fly military helicopters], and when I decided to follow my heart and go into songwriting, it all turned out for the best.
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