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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to NewAgeReporter.com. Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Gypsy Soul, Jun. 2007
A Conversation With Michael O'Connell, Mar. 2007
A Conversation with Paul Avgerinos, Nov. 2006
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation with Vicki Logan
February 2004
It's not often that you can connect contemporary instrumental music and Prince, but composer/producer/keyboardist Vicki Logan has done just that -- albeit one step removed. Her latest album, The Ride, has Matt "Doctor" Fink ("of 'Prince and the Revolution' fame") co-producing, co-arranging, co-engineering/mixing and sharing keyboard duties with Vicki. Looking to create "a new 'sound' and direction" for her music, The Ride also features performances from Bobby Schnitzer (guitars) and Kenni Holman (saxophones and flutes).

Besides Vicki's work as an artist, she's also very active on the business side. In addition to running her own Carvic record label, Vicki does speaking engagements with Open U in Minneapolis and in 2002 was elected the President of the Minnesota Association of Songwriters.

If you'd like to learn more about Vicki and her music, please visit her web site.
Vicki Logan
"...if a person wants something bad enough, he/she will figure out what it takes to accomplish it..."
Jamie: You write on your website: "Dreams are only dreams unless YOU are willing to make them a reality." Which, to me, is somewhat akin to one of my favourite quotes by Goethe: "Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. "How have your own dreams affected where you're at today both as an artist and as a label owner?
Vicki: My dreams have given me hope and goals to shoot for. They have taught me that, if a person wants something bad enough, he/she will figure out what it takes to accomplish it and pushes forward, even though there are obstacles. I don't realize how much work I'm actually doing because I love it. And, as I move on, certain aspects of the dream come to light and change my perspective. What you THINK you want may not actually BE what you want. I've always wanted to create music. I got the tools...I listened...read... tried...did...and now I'm creating MY music. I thought I wanted a record contract. I got one. It wasn't everything I had hoped it would be.

Two years later, after the contract was terminated, I began marketing, promotion, advertising, mailings, demos, building relationships...as my own label. It's part of the dream. Not the part I "saw" originally, but a part that developed as I learned; a part that needed to be accomplished to bring to life my dream. I may not be a big time, internationally known star, but I'm successful as I believe success to be; I am doing what I love and am paying the bills... almost... (Soon!) Like anything, the successes don't "happen" overnight. As I push forward, work hard and learn more, I find my dreams change, but I never stop dreaming.
"Like anything, the successes don't 'happen' overnight."
Jamie: This is one thing that keeps coming up over and over again when I talk to artist/label owners -- the importance of a good work ethic. I'm certainly not discounting luck, both good and bad, but, as you say, things in the music industry don't just happen. And unfortunately, a lot of the work to be done is sheer drudgery. But that work is part of what it takes to reach the public and I feel it definitely helps to have a positive attitude towards the non-musical aspects of this business.

Consistency and the ability to roll with the punches are two other traits that I feel are critically important. Every business has its ups and downs, but it's the ones that are able to keep going (and producing good work) in the tough times that end up staying around. As you say, you've had a few bumps in the road and have had to change direction -- from signed artist to independent. Obviously, you have new, and probably greater business responsibilities running your own label, but how has becoming an independent affected your music?
Vicki: For me, becoming an independent has actually been a good thing creatively. I don't feel like I have to write something that will fit into a mold. I can be who I really am; write as I want to write; in the style I want; from my heart. From my artist hat, whether it's commercially right or wrong, I really don't care. From the business hat, of course, it has to be good. I don't want to push below average material and gain a poor reputation. I have to listen objectively and select only that material I am confident in; would I peel $15.00 out of my pocket for this CD? If I wouldn't, how can I expect someone else to.

You can definitely see and hear the difference in what I have learned from the creation of my first CD to this newest one. But, writing music is fun and relaxing for me, which is the other reason why it works so well being an independent label. I stress out over all of the business aspects and then write more music in order to relax! In other words, I'm always writing!!
Jamie: HaHaHa -- that's great! Seriously, you do make a good point about putting yourself in the consumer/audience's position. I think it's important to show respect to the audience -- whether they're listening to your albums or seeing you live.

"The Ride" is co-produced and co-arranged by Matt Fink. How was that experience in the studio? Is Matt the same Matt Fink who used to play keyboards with Prince?
Vicki: He is the same Matt "Doctor" Fink of "Prince and the Revolution" fame. I was told that by a mutual friend, but it didn't really dawn on me as to who he was when we began recording. I just thought he was an incredible performer/producer. A bit later, it hit me...like when I saw the awards in his studio kitchen. Dah... But, in the studio, Matt and Steve Hall (his engineer) were the best. I learned so much from them both. Matt and I both had similar ideas and desires as to where to take the music from the demos I made, so we worked well together there. Steve mixed everything with a very technical ear and taught me what to be listening for. They listened to what I had to say about the music and I let them do their jobs and show me what else could be done with it to make it better. I'm an okay player, but having world class musicians like Matt Fink, Kenni Holmen and Bobbi Schnitzer perform the music...well, it just took the music to a whole new level.

And that's what I had hoped to accomplish on this CD...a new "sound" and direction for me; aka-growth. Sometimes that means letting go of some control and trusting in the people around you; always keeping your options open and listening; realizing your strengths and weaknesses. Some things will work and deliver beyond expectations, but you'll never know if you don't try new things. So, to answer your question about the experience in the studio...it was awesome!
"...it just took the music to a whole new level."
Jamie: Sounds like the sessions went just great! How defined were your demos? Any pieces that ended up sounding completely different from what you had initially envisioned?
Vicki: My demos were pretty complete. I recorded all the tracks with a Roland A90 digital piano, a 3080 synth module and a Dr. Rhythm drum machine using Pro-Tools Digi 001. They weren't master quality but anyone listening knew where I was trying to go and what the parts were. Matt redid all the drums from scratch which made everything sound much more realistic versus the pre-set rhythms I was using. "Just To Be With You" originally had a sax/flute duet, but once we recorded Kenni playing the soprano and tenor, we liked that better. The original melodies stayed the same on all of the songs, but the guys were given free reign to add their personalities with little embellishments, rifs, the works. Matt did things on the keyboards that would have tangled my fingers! But by listening to what we have recorded, I am learning how to play what he did, with some effort, but I'm learning!

"An Engagement With Time" was reworked probably the most out of all the songs. There was a lot of "dueling" going on-syncopation between the sax and guitar. Matt put in some new chords to create a much better bridge and that made all the difference in the world to the whole song. Kenni and Bobbi got to "let loose" on their solos and really did an awesome job. Overall, because Matt had the type of background I was looking for...what I want to have someday...the intent of the project remained intact and Matt, as the producer, brought out, not only the best in the music, but the best in me as well. So, in the long run, I guess you could say the project came out even better than I initially envisioned.
"...the project came out even better than I initially envisioned."
Jamie: You're right about learning from those around you. I think it's important, as a producer, to give musicians a certain amount of freedom and not to micro-manage them. I know when I work as a sideman that's what I'm looking for!

Have you played any of your new material in a live setting? What's the live scene like in Minnesota?
Vicki: I play a lot of my new material in live settings to see what the response is. I even play material I haven't released on CD yet to gauge the response. It helps me to decide what my audience likes and doesn't like...from a record label point of view...so I put out the best CDs possible. The live scene in Minnesota? I really can't give you a great answer there since the type of music I play doesn't really do well in club settings. I perform mostly at corporate functions, benefits, expos, retirement/assisted living homes, hospitals, or an occasional coffee shop more as background music rather than the major entertainment. At some point, I will begin a concert series...maybe this summer to help promote the new CD...but, unlike a rock or pop band, I can't sell beer and get folks dancing. My music seems to appeal to a different audience. I target those areas where my music fits. I do my research. That's what has allowed me to be successful as I see success. "That's what has allowed me to be successful as I see success."
Jamie: A lot (all?) of artists in the contemporary instrumental genre have to be creative in finding live venues. And in the end a gig is a gig -- it doesn't really matter where you're playing. Still, especially for emerging artists, it can be one heck of a challenge finding good venues.

I know you've attended INATS (International New Age Trade Show ) a couple times. For those of us who have never made the trek to one of the conventions, could you describe the experience? Are you going to be attending any future INATS?
Vicki: To explain a bit about INATS: The major attendees at this particular event are retailers/store owners for new age products (ex: spas, gift stores, health and wellness). I am supporting my distributor (who takes the orders) at this event and I'm getting the music heard. I don't get paid to and I cannot perform unless I am represented by or have a booth. (They are NOT cheap.) This is part of marketing and promotion; the business/label side. Retailers want to know you and your music. If you create a relationship with them, it is easier to find places to sell your CDs.

Every show I go to, I make new friends. Some of the people I meet find new venues for me or stores in which to sell product. I've met DJs, record labels, agents, other artists and distributors of the type of music I perform here. Again, you have to do your research. A heavy metal band will not do well at something like this, but there are other retail shows where they just might. Expos and events where I can sell CDs directly are the money makers for me. But, again, you have to do your research as to where your music will be accepted. Will I be going to future INATS? I hope to be attending Denver's next year in June. This year, my summer is getting really booked!
Jamie: So what's upcoming for you this summer?
Vicki: So far, we've booked a few expos, gift shows and smaller events and several speaking engagements with Open U in Minneapolis concerning submissions and starting an indie label. As we book more events, they'll be posted on the web site. We are also gathering information on some smaller, intimate concert venues that we hope to set up for September/October. There is a ton of work involved with those, so I want to make sure I cover all the bases and do the best job I can. My friends/fans/supporters deserve it.
Jamie: That's a good attitude! Could you tell me a bit about what you cover in your speaking engagements with Open U in Minneapolis?
Vicki: During the speaking engagements, I cover submissions and some of the basics of being your own independent label. I teach from experience. On submissions, I go through the copyright forms, organizing (which I've put into a workbook) and how to package your press kit including the information that labels and publishers are looking for. I usually have samples of everything. I go over the aspects of targeting your information...which means sending the appropriate materials to the appropriate person. I also give ideas on researching and how to market and promote yourself.

On the label side, I go over some of the basic ground work; should you be a sole proprietor, a partnership, an S-corp, what these things mean and how they effect you, record keeping (receipts and the like), how to file the appropriate paperwork with the state for a tax ID number, and then on to marketing and promotion. I think that not only do the artists get a better understanding of the music business and what goes on behind the scenes, but I think they get a clearer understanding of what they really want for themselves.

When I'm teaching, I ALWAYS concentrate on the positive things that we can do to get the most out of our passions. I don't know everything, but I do know that what I have accomplished speaks for itself. I found my strengths and use them. I know my weaknesses and continually try to improve on them, and I always keep an open mind, listen and learn.
"...I ALWAYS concentrate on the positive..."
Jamie: I think that's really the best way to teach. I know I've learnt as much from my students as from my teachers.

If someone was interested in attending one of your speaking engagements how would they go about signing up?
Vicki: I definitely agree there. I learn a lot from my students as well. You can contact Open U in Minneapolis at 706 North First Street; Minneapolis, MN 55401; Phone: (800) 872-6639. Or, groups can set something up practically anywhere just by calling my office line at 877.257.5678. I will also do personal consulting with bands or soloists.
Jamie: O.k. one last music related question.... What are you listening to for inspiration?
Vicki: Let's see... I have classical CDs and 60s/70s folk like Glenn Yarbrough and John Denver to more rock like Black Sabbath, Chili Peppers and Matchbox 20. I've got Tangerine Dream and Outkast, Nickelback, Nickel Creek, The Eagles, Craig Chaquico, Ottmar Liebert, David Gray, Alabama, Donovan, and I have even more of the independent CDs. It completely depends on what kind of mood I'm in as to what I listen to. I just like everything!
Jamie: Sabbath, Outkast and Liebert together at last! Now that would be an interesting record....

Thanks for taking the time to do this conversation and best of luck!
 
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