I've known John Batdorf and his music since 1970 and have been a fan and a friend ever since. He recorded in the seventies on Atlantic, Geffen and Arista records with Mark Rodney in the band Batdorf&Rodney and also with the band, Silver.
Further, he did music several TV shows culminating in Touched By An Angel for five years, as well as enumerable studio vocal sessions for everyone you know.
We re-connected a few years ago and recorded for Beachwood Recordings a wonderfully received CD entitled All Wood and Stones (www.allwoodandstones.com), which was a reinvention of eleven of our favorite Rolling Stones songs.
Presently, John is on the road and the internet promoting his latest solo release, Old Man Dreaming, a wonderfully musical and thoughtful release. Last week it reached Number One on the cyber charts. Having been an independent for a number of years, I thought we would all benefit from his experience and his determination. Here are the questions and answers from our interview:
I notice that you have a very active presence on the web. what cyber avenues do you use to promote your new cd, old man dreaming?
I really like utilizing Facebook. It's very user friendly and I like to work in real time. I also use Myspace, Plaxo, Likeden, Yahoo
what services do you use?
I started by uploading my new CD to Airplay Direct and make it available to any radio station that wants to download it. I have an artist website, a Reverbnation site, Sonicbids site, Concerts in Your Home site, a TAXI site and I am sure a few more...Yikes
how much time a day to you spend on line promoting?
When I am not on the road I spend between 4 and 8 hours trying to work new angles and find new leads.
Your CD is number 1 on the Roots Rock Internet Airplay Charts.(http://johnbatdorf.blogspot.com/2010/05/chart-width725px-border0px.html) How did you assist making that happen (besides recording a great cd)?
It truly starts with making a great product for sure ,but I really was surprised by this. I had been on the charts a few years earlier with my Home Again CD. Somewhere towards the bottom but there nonetheless. I got an email from someone who said the CD was #2 and I was thrilled. The next week, May 4th, it went to #1. It's not the Billboard Hot 100 but someone had to be #1 and I am proud to have Old Man Dreamin' be just that!
do you have any people working your cd at radio, cyber radio, and other media?
Jeanette Lundgren of Mother Hen Promotions helps work the US Internet radio and Peter Holmstedt of Hemifran works all of Europe. My US radio promotion campaign is being handled by Peter Hay of Twin Vision out of Brooklyn NY. The CD got a great lift when it was first released when Bob Lefsetz wrote a wonderful review about it and sparked a lot of interest across the US.
How did you create a budget to promote the cd?
I created a budget by selling a 1947 D-28 Martin guitar. I really hated to do it but I really believed in the CD and knew that if I didn't spend the money, I would get the same stations to play my music and I needed to expand the radio base. I am now on stations all over the US that have never played my music before thanks to a fine job by Peter Hay. This CD has definitely raised my visibility as a solo artist.
do you think touring live is still a valuable way to promote your cd/music?
I think touring goes hand and hand with the radio promotion. New listeners that love the CD want to see if I can do the songs justice with just me and my guitar......Isn't that a song??? I sell more CDs live than I do anywhere else. Audiences see it, love it and want to prolong the show in their car stereo on the way home. I do the same thing.
Do you have an agent or are you booking yourself?
If you book yourself, what is your process?
I have built relationships with many venues and house concert hosts over the past five years by doing good entertaining shows and drawing an audience. The hardest challenge is to get new venue talent bookers to give you your first shot. They are so afraid to lose money, they don't often give new artists a chance which I find frustrating.
w\Where do you find venues and contacts for gigs?
Mainly word of mouth and research. New venues or house concert hosts don't stay strangers to our community for very long. Concerts In Your Home is a great source to find house concert hosts. I love house concerts but most will only hire you every three years, the need to find more hosts and venues is the big challenge. Also attending and performing at Folk Alliance conferences is a great setting to meet new bookers.
How much time to you spend a day booking yourself?
Unfortunately, I spend so much time booking that my writing time really suffers. See "Need agent!"
how do you create a tour? what are the parameters?
I try to get a good anchor date and build the tour around it. I usually only go out for a couple of weeks at a time.
With regard to the CD, Old Man Dreaming, you produced yourself. what processes did you use to produce yourself?
As I mentioned earlier, writing time is hard to come by. I had just spent the previous year supporting a live at XM CD I did with Mark Rodney, Still Burnin'. After that, I dedicated two months to just write. I didn't book any gigs and just went into my studio every day and tried to get an idea going and when you spend that kind of quality time writing, the juices really start flowing. I wrote all but two songs for the CD in that time frame.
I had written ten songs but I threw away two and wrote two better ones in the next few months. I co-write with Michael McLean and have now for almost twenty years. Once the songs were written, I like to do guitar/voice demos and live with the songs and make sure they feel ready for the final recording process.
This CD needed more production than the previous ones but I still wanted to make sure the featured act was the song and focal point of the accompaniment was my voice and my guitar. Once I was satisfied with the guitar and voice, I lived with that and got production and harmony ideas just listening in my car.
That is my favorite place to get ideas. I then hired singers and players that I thought would most suit the CD. I really reached out to many talented people on this CD. With the internet, I was able to get folks from all over the country to add parts swapping files. after all the recording is done there is more listening and sorting out. Each new overdub changes the dynamic of the song sometimes in a great way and sometimes not so great but that is the producers' job and I really love that process!
Are you the engineer as well?
I engineered most of the basic tracks and overdubs.
Did you mix the cd yourself or call in some fresh ears?
I have worked with wonderful engineer, David Appelt for many years. I would bring him in periodically to make sure I wasn't headed down the path of no return. I get so caught up in the process that it is imperative to have fresh ears that I respect, take a listen and give me their feedback
Once I get all of the tracks mixed the way I hear them I bring in Dave to fine tune the mix. Our inside joke is that Dave comes in and picks out all of the lint I have left behind. Dave has great ears and always makes the mixes better.
What about mastering? How important do you think professional mastering is and who did you use?
Mastering is the icing on the cake. When you and I recorded All Wood And Stones in 2004, I remember playing some rough mixes for Dave Appelt and he said we should consider mastering at Capitol. Once we were feeling pretty great about the final mixes we reluctantly went in to try a few songs to get mastered.
We thought our mixes were great, but we drove to Capitol and met Ron McMaster, who had been mastering for years on some of the great records of our time. He listened to the first mix and told us to go get some coffee and give him 20 minutes. We were thinking, how can a guy mixing two tracks make what we already thought was great better?
We walked back into the studio and Ron played the mix and it sounded great just as we remembered it on the drive in. After listening he asked, "Do you want to compare it to what you brought in" and of course we agreed.
Hearing our "great mix" after his, it was not quite as hot as we had thought. Ron used his incredible ears to find out where our mix was lacking and made it way better. I was sold from that point on and Ron has mastered all of my CDs. To me, he takes a great sounding mix and makes it sound like a record ready for broadcast. I recommend it for everyone
How much time do you leave between releases? You know time for recharging after the promotion phase?
I have been able to release 5 CDs since 2004 so I have been pretty busy but it just depends on the writing. I am constantly recharging after every phase be it writing, recording, gigging, booking and on and on.
My favorite way to recharge is to go fishing. My wife Melanie and myself always reserve time for fishing. Something about being on the water always heals what ails me.
Any recommendations for the people doing this for the first time?
If you are going to do it, you must be dedicated to see it through for the long term. Get as much exposure to great music via venues, house concerts and music conferences. Be open to learn. I am still learning today and when or if I stop learning, I won't continue to grow and we, as artists, are always having to re-invent ourselves so we can stay relevant.
Thanks John, I appreciate the time you took with the questions. See John for yourself live and at the following websites: