Doing what I do allows me to meet and get to know the nicest folks. The wedding event I provided music for this past weekend just outside of Annapolis, MD was no exception. I was honored to provide the music for everything surrounding Casey and Jordan Tyler's beautiful wedding. I was also humbled and honored to receive a glowing review from them. Here's what they had to say about my services:
Where to begin my review of Owen Poteat? Let me just start by saying he is phenomenal as a musician, singer, and person! I randomly found Owen last year when internet searching for a musician to play live music as our guests arrived, for the ceremony itself, and for the cocktail reception for our daughters wedding in North Carolina. He drove 5 hours to play for that event and he was perfect! His style of music, his voice, his willingness to learn every song we requested were over the top. Fast forward one year later and we have another daughter getting married, this time in our home state of Maryland. There was no question that we all wanted Owen again. I contacted him and this time he drove TEN hours and joined us for the whole weekend, playing at the rehearsal dinner, prior to and during the ceremony, the cocktail hour, and live for the first dances. Again, he learned songs and made changes to them that we requested that brought tears to our guests eyes. Once the live music portion ended, Owen switched to DJ mode for the reception, and again, did a phenomenal job. In addition to his talents as a musician, he and his wife Lynn are just all around good people and a pleasure to work with. I would highly recommend him for any event that you need live music and/or DJ service. You should consider yourself very lucky if you are fortunate enough to book Owen Poteat!
Mother of the Bride
My newest song, Tiki Bar, is ready for you to listen to. It is the first song to be completed for my upcoming Island Songs CD. You can listen to it now on my Soundcloud Station.
Today I'm in the studio recording my latest song, Time Sure Flies When You're Drinking Rum. This is the first song I've written specifically to go on my upcoming Island Songs CD. I got the idea to write and record an island music themed CD while in Florida again this winter.
The warm sun and breezes and the laid back way of life is addicting, with a much slower pace than I've experienced at other places, and it definitely has an effect on your attitude in a positive way. When folks would buy my CDs, many times they'd ask if I had one with the island songs I usually play there on it. I had to say no this past year, but next year I'll be ready for that question and will point them towards Island Songs. This first song, Time Sure Flies When You're Drinking Rum, is spot on with what I want to write and record for this CD. It speaks of living life from 3 until 3 each day at a couple's favorite Tiki Bar watering hole, dancing and partying with the locals and tourists, making memories and friends. Other planned songs for the CD include Hop On In Slide On Over Here and I'm Shagging, both of which I've written and licensed to other bands but have never recorded properly. I'm also going to put my version of crowd favorites Stand By Me and My Girl on it as well as 3-4 more songs I hope to write based upon my inspirations or yours that you share with me.
So why am I telling you this now? Not so I can beg you for money to buy it before it's real or to pay for recording it. Nope... I just want to say out loud to those who follow me that I'm going to do this. Asking fans to pre-pay and fund a recording project seems to be a hot trend now and I'm sure my friends and fans would hop on board with it too, but that's just not the way I operate. I'm just standing on the mountain top today yelling out at the world to "look out, I have a new CD coming!" Doing so makes it real, putting more pressure on me to actually work on writing songs that fit a theme instead of just whatever happens to hit me.
It also lets you know the new CD is coming and I could use some inspirations when you see them. If you hear or see any catchy signs or words about life at the beach or on an island, please shoot them my way. The latest song was inspired by a sign we saw at the beach that was making a play on the line "time sure flies when you having fun" by substituting having rum. So if you see or hear any catchy lines be thinking about me. Shoot a picture of it or write it down and get it to me. If I write a song based upon your inspiration then you'll not only get your name in the credits but you'll also get a signed free copy of the CD.
It is with a sad, broken heart that I lay here on the couch tonight without my best buddy, Jake. His kidney failure only worsened today and at 5:35 this afternoon he put this life in the rear view mirror and left me and his mom with a hole in our hearts and our lives. Those of you who knew him know he was the sweetest guy in the world and so smart and faithfully loyal. Now Lynn and I must face tomorrow morning without our best buddy by our side, a task we could see coming but never wanted to do.
7 months ago I wrote this song about my best buddy, stirred by noticing how quickly he was aging and slowing down. I hope this song is true and he's really now a pup playing frisbee with angels, waiting on us to join him. He brought so much happiness to our family and although we babied him he gave much more than he received. I just listened again to this scratch version of Jake's song and can hear when I start to tear up singing it. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to sing it again. My heart is so heavy tonight with the pain of this loss. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers through all of this. It means more than you could ever know. Jake Poteat... you were the best and life will never again be the same without you.
Many of my music buddies ask, how do I go about making a good living playing music... like you? This picture is how I do it... $1 at a time.
So to answer the question is difficult, but I'll try hear while the thoughts are fresh on my scattered brain.
1) You have to define for yourself what you mean by "a good living". For us it's being comfortable. We don't splurge on a lot of things. We cook a few times a week, eat leftovers and go out to eat every now and then. We enjoy the simple things in life, that fortunately do not cost too much. If that's not you too then in this music market I'm betting you'd have a difficult time making what you'd need to call "a good living".
2) You have to work at your craft. Being good at just doing what you do is just not enough anymore. That means hours of practicing, even though you're already good enough. That means nights and nights of tweaking your set list to fit the crowd and never being satisfied with just playing the same old thing. It means being OK with the fact that you, as a musician/artist, are going to evolve and change. Embrace that and make the most of it.
3) You have to genuinely love people... talking to them, being friends with them and genuinely loving each one of them as a family member. My journey from working a Fortune 50 job to being a full time musician has been a trip of getting to know and love one fan/friend/family member at a time. People are naturally inquisitive about how I make my music and that leads to tons of conversations and friends. Those friends/fans are what we as struggling, small musicians thrive off of. We're never going to fill a big arena with fans that have never met us and are just there because a friend of theirs said we were the stuff. But that doesn't mean you can't have a following of family that continually grows and helps shape you as an artist and person. 100s of you reading this know that because we have become like brothers and sisters on this journey. It honestly means more to me than my music does and inspires my music in ways you'll never know.
4) You have to be a good businessman or business woman about how you approach things. You have to tell the world who you are in a way that they want to hear it. Through Facebook, Twitter and your www presence. You have to manage your finances and your music's finances. You must keep impeccable records. For me it's critical to look back at last year's trip to Florida and see what worked and what did not. It will be the same with you.
5) I think you have to be relatively debt free to be able to make it through the hard times. At least be in a position where you can make your mortgage payment easily. Be OK with driving an old car that's dependable. Be OK with wearing the same shoes for years. If you can have a budget of say $1,500 to pay your monthly bills then you can easily do that. But if you need $4k a month then that's just a lot of pressure on you and your art.
6) You have to be dependable. Just this past Friday a venue that I'm friends with posted several derogatory remarks about their booked musician not showing up. That's just totally unacceptable and it's those things that make it hard for those who treat this as a business to overcome. No wonder venue owners resort to a juke box... unless the power goes off it will be there. You, as a working full time musician, have to be like that juke box. Sick, happy, lazy... however you feel... you still have to go to work. You don't get sick days or vacation days. "The show must go on" is something we've all heard and there's a reason for that. You have to be willing to show up early and stay late. You have to be willing to take very few or no breaks. You have to be willing to play what the crowd wants to hear, not what you like to play. It's a business, not a hobby and you have to treat it that way. You have to communicate with the boss, whether it's a bar owner or a bride. If I'm running a little late I always text. If I'm cutting it close I always call. It makes a huge difference but honestly just goes back to treating others like you'd like to be treated if you were in the same place.
7) You have to be willing to do "whatever it takes" to make it (legally). That means having multiple means of income from your music. For me it breaks down into 5 ways of making money with my music, listed in the order of what I consider the most financially rewarding. 1) Wedding events, private parties, corporate events and festivals. 2) Bar/pub/restaurant gigs/shows (there is a difference between a gig and show). 3) Busking and Markets: Some of you will say never will I to either of these, but you're missing out of great experiences, friends and $$. Did you know Ben Franklin was one of the first buskers. He'd stand on the street corner reciting poetry with his famous hat in hand. Folks you know that have done or busk regularly include Sir Paul McCartney, John Butler and even Bob Dylan. More on that soapbox later. 4) Recording music for others... ie... writing songs for those who have words but can't play music. I have a few guys who keep me pretty busy and they're like brothers to me with way more money than sense. 5) Music licensing and publishing. I'm relatively new to this. As some of you know I have one song that's been picked up so far and hope for many others. That's a long term money stream though so until that river starts flowing you just have to keep pushing the pump handle by continuing to write and put your music in front of folks. I use Broadjam and Taxi online and my busking puts my music out there in the masses, from which just this trip I've met a publisher and a record label.
8) Share the journey with your musician friends. Lift them up, support them and make them better and be happy with their successes. Many of you who read this are in this list for me. Guys who would do anything for me and who I'd do anything for. It's a sad fact that some musicians, usually good ones, are pretty much A@@holes. But, for every one of them there's a true, caring friend who you know you can count on because they count on you in the same way. It makes the journey so much sweeter too. I learn so much from many of you on a regular basis and that music buddy friendship is a gift I cherish. If you're not doing this you should try to start. You're gonna need some paw-bearers one of these days and other than blood family, for a musician it will probably fall to your musical brothers to carry you out. Just be willing to do the same.
Whew... there you have. My Dummies Guide to What It Takes To Make A Living As A Musician. At least part one of it. One friend, one fan, one family member, one song, one show and one dollar at at time.
We're back in the room after a long, cold walk. For those waiting to hear... I did not make the semi-finals this year. I've made lots of new friends and fans and congratulate the guys from my venue who are moving on. Thank you Charlotte Blues Society for sending me here this year and your faith in my talents. And to my friends, fans and family, thank you for your support, love and encouragement. It means more to me than anything.
Memphis this year has been a year of brothers in music. I can't believe how many bear hugs from fellow musicians I've had so far. I believe you are made better by making those around you better and by supporting their accomplishments and dreams. It's good to see that there are many, many others who believe the same thing in the world of music. I am blessed and happy to no end.
It's been a busy week preparing for my 3rd IBC (International Blues Challenge) in 4 years. I have been blown away by all the notes of support from my fans across the country. The Decorate The Suitcase campaign has been so successful I just don't have anymore room on the suitcase to put any more stickers. I had to make the stickers much smaller than we wanted because there were just so many of them. Like I said, blown away! I had three different people make significant donations and want to name the suitcase drum. In the end his name will be "The Daddy Ray Suitcase Drum". A 5x7 picture and name is front and center giving the honor due to such a fine man who meant so very much to one of my special fans.
I also had to turn the suitcase in to a suitcase drum that was consistent with what I've been playing for my shows. The hard part, the design and layout, was easy because I just did what has worked on the tweed case I use on my music cart. In the process I've made two major improvements to the design. First I moved the crash cymbal to the left of my left foot and added a tambourine to the mount as well, giving every hard count on the kick drum a tambourine sound too. Pretty cool. Then by accident I discovered that by only mounting the heel of the pedal for the snare I could slide it in an arc. At first I thought, crap I've got to stop and fix this... but then it hit me, listen to all the different sounds that are coming from the Pearl snare now. Wow. Popcorn pops, deeper sounds in the sweet spot and most importantly, by slide to the right I now have a way with one pedal to create rim shots too. Talk about excited. I know... I'm easily excited huh? But rim shots are a big deal for me and my songs. It gives me a definite verse vs. chorus drum sound when needed. To get this before I've actually had to set up a separate pedal. Now it's simple.
Then there's been the saga of replacing my blown harp amp. I thought it would be simple but it has been a nightmare. Just yesterday I bought two amps locally, one just like my old one... but when I got home both have issues (they are used so that's the chance you take). My long time friend at B Strings in Winston Salem gave me a tube amp Saturday. At first it was feeding back like crazy at stage volumes, but last night I was able to make a few tweaks to it and it sounds great now. So hopefully that's solved, except for taking the two malfunctioning amps back today.
The next few days will be 3-a-day mock shows that we video tape and review. I know I'm anal about this but as one of the judges said in a blog, this is most likely the most important three days of a lifetime for those competing. You guys have been so supportive and Lynn and I believe that anything you do you owe it to yourself and those who care about you to do your very, very best. The hard part now is narrowing down the song list from 8 potential songs to as few as 4. Each of these songs is like a child to me, so it's hard to say yeah that's a great song but it's gotta go. That's part of the process though. Wish me luck! Just 4 days left to complete the preparations before making the 10-hour trek to Memphis. I am so excited and happy. I wish each of you could come along with us. It would make me much less anxious about the opportunity. :-) Much love!
Wow! It's hard to realize but this time next week I'll have the car packed, new strings on the Gibson, the harps all tuned and cleaned, Jake boarded and the bags packed and ready to head to Memphis for the third time in 4 years. I can't believe how fast time has flown since winning the Charlotte Solo/Duo Blues Challenge in October, yet at times it seems like its just crawled.
So what have I been doing since then. Well, it's been a busy time for sure. Lots of shows, several fund raisers for the trip, the name the suitcase campaign and lots and lots of practice. I learned the hard way in 2011that it is just as bad to practice too much as it is to not practice enough. Maybe even worse. I worked so hard getting ready for that one that I completely wore my voice out and had very little left when I got on Beale Street. I did great the first night but I was shot by the middle of the second night.
In 2012 I wrote down a "lessons learned" journal after my run to the semi-finals that year. What would I change and what had I done right. I've re-read that over and over during the last few weeks. One item listed is "Don't add any new songs during the last two weeks before the show dummy". I might be breaking that rule... maybe. I have two new songs that are the kind of songs that really accurately define who I am as an artist, "No Second Chances" and "Little Brother's Got A Gun". Both are great stories, unique guitar licks and hot, hot harmonica. So each day I'm practicing those along with my set list I came up with in September. Lynn is usually the first one to say don't add anything new, but loves both of those songs so much that she suggested I may want to consider it. So... we'll see.
Another thing I've been doing is because of my lessons learned journal. "Getting on stage quickly and as simply as possible it Top Priority". So I purchased another vintage suitcase and over the last week have transformed it into a great suitcase kick drum with a snare and crash cymbal. It has a folding velcro covered platform that is actually attached to the suitcase stand and just folds down, making it extremely stable and really simple to get set up and minimizes the chance that something bad might happen to throw me off. We have only 5 minutes to get on stage and start the first note so it's important to make sure I can get setup quickly. I timed it tonight and in less than 55 seconds I was on stage, drums set up, guitar and harp mic plugged in and ready to go. There's a lot going on but I've worked hard to keep it simple so I can replicate getting on stage over and over very quickly. Something may still go south but at least I'll have almost 4 minutes on stage to figure out what and why.
By the way, on Wednesday I'll be adding all the bumper stickers of encouragement that you, my fans, have sent to me. That will be cool and I can't wait to see how the final drum setup is going to look. Having all those bumper stickers on the front of the suitcase is going to be so unique and awesome and I can't wait to see it finished.
To be honest I'm getting nervous but super, super excited. I can't wait to see a lot of my old friends on Beale Street and I can't wait to perform there again. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that has come my way three times. I am lucky and happy, which makes it darn hard to have the blues. But believe me, I got the blues. A friend of mine from Memphis, who passed away a few years ago, told me something I'll never forget. He said, "Owen... the blues ain't nothing but a thang baby". Tim you were so, so right. The blues ain't nothing but a thang baby!
There was a great article in the Mt Airy News today about me, my music and my music career. Talks about the road to Memphis, the times I've been there before and the people I've met along the way