Category Archives: songwriters

Music Producer Follows Homeless Kid Off Subway; Records His Demo for Free


Go to the profile of April Greene

In December 2013, my dance music producer friend Andrew was riding the New York City subway when a homeless teenage guy stepped into his train car and started singing R&B. The soulful Christmas mashup so moved Andrew that at the next stop, he followed the singer off the train and offered to record him a demo for free. The kid bit, and the two became fast friends.

I thought this was one of the cooler things I’d ever heard, so I asked if I could buy them coffee and hear more about it. In our interview, Andrew and Julian discuss their chance meeting, unlikely similarities, and musical futures.

Andrew and Julian in Manhattan last winter

Julian Brannon (the teenage guy): Well, my goal is to be the best, so let’s just get that out there. There’s no one in the industry that looks like me or sounds like me right now, and I think they need me.

Andrew Toews (the producer): You are unflappable!

Me: Wow, quite an intro! Could we back up for a sec? How did you guys meet?

AT: Sure. It was just before Christmas last year. I was on the train, and Julian got on and introduced himself and started singing sort of a holiday medley, in an R&B, soul style. I think it was: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and…

JB: And “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey.

AT: You can tell when someone has something to pitch you on the train and you’re like, “Dude. Seriously. Don’t.” But I liked this guy, I liked his energy. There was this spark. I actually thought, “I want to hang out with this guy!” He was making my day a better day.

JB: You know, I relate to that. I know I’m there making money, practicing, getting over stage fright. But at the end of the day, I want to make people feel better. I want them to call their mother after I sing Boyz II Men “A Song for Mama.” I know I can do that for people.

AT: So I thought about it for a second and chased him off the train. I thought he might think I was a sexual predator, or otherwise a weirdo; there was definitely fear of rejection in the air. But this was a case where my talents were uniquely suited to you — you’re not a guy with a trap kit who I liked listening to but wouldn’t know what do with in the studio. You’re a singer. So I gave him my email address. I didn’t think he’d bite.

JB: Well, most people don’t respond to me! Guess it goes both ways. I thought, “I don’t know what kind of experience this guy has, but it’s practice.”

AT: It was practice for me, too. Better than spending the afternoon drinking beers, if you ask me.

JB: It was my very first time being in a studio. By the way, your studio was small! I was thinking, “This is not Cadillac Records!” But hey, this is where I’m at. I just knew I should sing into the mic. Andrew told me to just try some a cappella covers, so I did some Mario, some Adele, Guy Sebastian, and The Fray. I put it all on the Internet and it’s gotten me a couple gigs. It’s made me money! It’s badass.

AT: I didn’t want to overcommit to a bunch of studio work; didn’t want to have to tune things later. We’re selling his voice, after all, so we just went for it straight up. We kept the imperfections.

JB: I wanted to keep the personality in it as well. I put some new runs in the songs, which were great, I thought.

AT: I liked when I asked you who you listen to and the first person you said was Adele. She’s one of the only people on the radio now who doesn’t have Auto-Tune on her voice.

JB: Yeah, her and Beyonce: who won seven Grammys and who won six? Know what I’m saying? At the end of the day, raw talent will always win out over good looks.

Me: Can you rewind a bit, Julian, and tell me your backstory?

JB: Sure. I’m from Houston. I used to weigh 300 pounds. I came to New York to sing. I’m a good singer and I can easily act, but I didn’t want to do Broadway. I wanted to be a real artist, go solo. My friends would do talent shows, and I’d say, “Okay, that’s cool — you do you, but I’ma do me.” Don’t get me wrong — musical theater moves people, too. But every note is perfect; there’s no life, no meat. That’s why I like R&B, soul… That music knows how to make people feel things.

I also wanted to get a better education, be with like-minded people, live at a fast pace, not have a car… And when I came here, I sure got all of that! But I also experienced what I would call… a graceful fall.

Long story short, I enrolled in Pace University in 2012, and the classes were easy enough — except algebra; I’ve never been a math whiz — and I was able to network a lot there. But I had to leave prematurely when I couldn’t get enough loans. I even dressed up in a suit one day and canvassed Wall Street to ask people for loans — nothing!

So I needed something, and I got this crazy pyramid scheme direct marketing job right away. I became the number one sales rep in no time. I was on fire, I had no choice. I have many talents besides singing — I’m good at sales, drawing, art. If I tapped into any art, I could master it, but music is what I care about.

Am I talking too fast? No? Okay.

So when I got kicked out of the dorm, I got into a cab and went to a hostel. I told FEMA my house got blown away in a storm so they’d pay me! Then I moved into an apartment in Harlem, where I was suddenly partying with adults, people age 25 to 45, and some of them were very wealthy. Then my company wanted me to open their new office in Texas, so I moved back there to do that. But there was some shadiness, some managerial shadiness, and suddenly my paychecks were much smaller.

So I moved back to New York again to get away from all that, but I was super broke. I stayed with friends for a few months, but wound up in a shelter. It’s a shelter right in the middle of NYC, though! And it keeps me not feeling homeless. It’s not an apartment; it’s a shared room and bathroom. And I’m choosy about who I associate with there — it is a shelter, mind you. If I get signed or put into a financial place where I can afford it, sure, I’ll move out. But other than that, it’s fine; it works.

Anyway, I found I could make more money singing on the train than working at Bill’s Burger. $50 an hour! Your minimum wage for a day is what I can make in an hour! So I was doing that a lot toward the end of last year, and I got a lot of attention from people on the train — producers, etc. I was auditioning for showcases and all that. I’m actually going to an audition right after this, and I’m doing Amateur Night At the Apollo this coming week.

I surround myself with people who are going to help me get where I need to get. It’s all about progressing. We know it will take hard work to live a privileged life, and we can be an inspiration to each other.

But here’s the thing: when you hit rock bottom — when no one’s answering your calls, when no one will let you sleep on their couch — you realize what you still have to offer. When I was singing on the train, I was thinking, “This is all I have.” But that was a good thing. That’s when I realized that’s what I really have to give in this life.

Plus, when I get rejected, it’s a positive thing, because when I get big, that’s one more person who’s going to be like, “Damn! I missed that one.”

Me: Does your family worry about you?

JB: Family? My mother, yes, it stresses her out. She’s stressed out to the max.

AT: I can imagine!

JB: But I tell her that I’m a survivor, and that I survive with dignity. It’s a struggle. But I try to do it with dignity — ask don’t steal.

AT: Reminds me of conversations I had with my mom when I was around your age — 18 or 20. I moved to L.A. with no plan. I got kicked out of a warehouse squat; was sleeping on roofs… My mom was living overseas and I called her and said, “Okay, I’m sleeping on rooftops, but I have a job, I have a car. Sure, I’m spending a lot of time in McDonald’s bathrooms scrubbing my armpits, but I’m not a scumbag and I’m not on drugs. I could do something different, but this is what I’m doing right now. I’m keeping it together.”

JB: One time my mom got a call from the police because someone found my wallet. She thought I had been killed, murdered, stabbed… But I was just at work. At the end of the day, my mother is my best friend, she supports me.

I’ve never been in love, or anything like that. I’ve been alone all my life. Not that I haven’t been close to people or they haven’t showed me love, but not intimately.

Me: Wow. Drew, would you record another singer like this?

AT: Yeah. Not right now because I’m super busy and I don’t have a studio outside my house anymore, but in theory sure. Then, if I had the time and the opportunity showed itself.

I tend to be a fearful guy. I always make myself do stuff, but it never comes easy. So this was good practice presenting to people. You don’t have to be the best in the world. I don’t want to say, “If I’m not going to be Beyonce, I’ll just quit.” That’s not the attitude I want to have.

JB: You learn certain things in life. I believe in the law of averages. No matter what you try to do, it will happen — it’s just a matter of time. If you shop yourself to 1,000 people, one of them will like you. Life is a numbers game. I’m just waiting for the date. I’m trying to set up a foundation to build upon. I want to go a record label and say, “This is what I got; what can you do for me?”

AT: It’s a big world, and it does take a certain brashness. Fear of failure is rampant, so to see someone who’s willing to rock a crowd is really good. I became a producer in part because I can be a part of that balls-out performance experience while still having a measure of control.

JB: I want to open up my own studio one day. Then I want to be a pastor in my later years. I can relate to a lot of people, I can elevate them.

AT: You grew up singing in church, right?

JB: A little bit. But my mother didn’t take me to church that much.

[I zoned out for a minute here and stopped taking notes.]

JB: Yeah, drinking. The struggle is so real; we all have to cope. But I try not to drink too much. I mean, I smoke weed. But at the end of the day, I do what I do because it’s artistically helpful.

AT: Oh man — you burn? We could have burned!

JB: We could have burned?? If we could have burned, we would have been burnin’!

AT: We need to do a follow-up session.

I asked Andrew and Julian what they’ve been doing since our interview last winter. Here’s what they said:

Andrew: “Drew has been keeping the disco fires burning at his new home studio in Bed-Stuy. He stays DJing dance parties, producing original material for a handful of artists, cranking out edits and remixes, and building a small sound design and production business. He’s also offering private music production lessons, with an emphasis on Ableton Live techniques and workflow.” Get at him via fakemoneynyc.com or drewjoy.com.

Julian: “I’ve been working in music. Planning to work with a close friend to produce our first project for my EP. Also starting a wedding singing group to support the financial aspect of producing an EP and a potential album come this time next year. I’m still living in Hell’s Kitchen saving up to move. I am currently working as a barista at FIKA in Chelsea. Great filler job while I focus on my real dream.”



‘Light Infused Dust’ by Jason Grundstrom-whitney



I wrote the song ‘Let Love Abound’ thinking about the mental illness and substance abuse that my family has suffered from for a very long time and the beautiful people I work with. In this song I am talking about stigmas that run very deep in America.

The stigmatization of those that suffer with substance abuse, the stigmatization of those that suffer with mental illness, and the stigmatization of those assumed to be prejudiced .

Our band was based in Virginia Beach for awhile. I ran into Bluegrass players that were very open and not the judgmental or prejudiced people that many assume. I pray that we stop stigmatizing those with mental illness, substance abuse, and open our minds to people as they are as opposed to who we think they are. I pray that we, ‘Let Love Abound’…..




Live Music is the Best Entertainment – Check Out Your Local Bands!!



JD Couch
Columnist
Read more about JD!

Live music is something we all need. Nothing is better to have at the end of a hectic work week. It will wash away all the daily trials.

It’s Friday evening. We’ve thought about going out and catching a great live band all day. But which one should we sample? There are so many to choose from, it’s hard to make up our minds on which band we want to see.

So, we ask ourselves, should we go see a rocking heavy metal band or maybe a great southern rock band? Or we could choose a band that plays the oldies. Just maybe, we’d rather see a multi genre band; one that plays it all: country, gospel, rock, blues, bluegrass and even original tunes created by the band.

As to myself, I’m open-minded to a band’s original music. I’m a singer-songwriter. I’ve written many original song lyrics. I know how much hard work goes into writing a song.

The first draft of the song is usually the easy part; perfecting the song to a shine as pure as gold lies mainly in its length. Most song verses have four lines, but it’s best to keep it under five. The chorus is usually three lines, but again no more than four. This way you have a chance it could be played on the radio one day.

When I was a young man I wrote a song entitled “Rock-n-Roll Boogie”. It has three lines in the first verse, three in the chorus. The second and third verses have four lines each. It’s what we call a southern boogie. It has an upbeat sound and it has never failed to pack a dance floor.

Since I wrote it for bars and dance clubs, it probably won’t be put on a purchasable CD. But to this day, people love to hoof it up whenever we play it. But I’ve added it to the sample CD I give to club owners interested in our music. Several cover songs by different artists will be on the list too so they know we have a variety of songs to play.

We’re musicians who love putting on a good show to entertain the crowd. It lets people know who we are. And there’s no other feeling like it in the world.

No two musicians have the same style of playing or singing. We each have a deep passion for what we love doing. All that passion comes pouring out of the soul once we’re up on that stage; that’s when the audience knows the quality of the band comes from the passion.

Maybe you have a taste for jazz, R&B, or even rap. I’m sure live bands are out there in your favorite genre, ready and willing to entertain you. If you know where to look, then give the local guys a try!!

Everyone should support their local musicians. Great entertainment lies all over this country. Go check it out some weekend soon. You might be surprised at how relaxed and entertained you find yourself. There’s nothing better than live music. Check out your local musicians and have a fun time!!


Wow! What a Great Song



When a songwriter produces song after song after song of this quality, promoters such as myself, sit up and listen. David Powell is one of those musicians. I make no apology for sharing my new found star from West Virginia, USA.

More from David Powell

David Powell
David Powell and son



 

How Can I Promote My Music?


Join Freedom For Musicians at our Facebook Home

Freedom for musicians is an international cooperative for musicians to share and cross promote each other’s work. In our Facebook group you can promote your gigs, products and
services to an international audience. You can also feature on our website www.ffmrecords.com

What Freedom for Musicians can do for you:

By joining the Facebook group you are automatically a member of FFM.

You can have your music blog or articles published on the website.

You can have your music videos and youtube channel published and promoted at FFM.

You can list your products and services on our musicians directory and in the musicians market.

You can publish your events and concerts on our Upcoming Events feature.

You can be a featured artist.

You can become an FFM Ambassador for your country.

Music students can featured in our Spotlight.

You can release your digital music via our own independent record label FFM Records.

Come and join FFM’s Facebook community and be part of the fastest growing and most dynamic international musicians network.



Promote Your Music Online for FREE


With more than 400 articles, FFM Magazine is packed full of great stories, music, videos and resources for the music enthusiast. Join our community for free or just browse. There is something for every musician at Freedom for Musicians.

At Freedom for Musicians, our philanthropic purpose is to serve and support musicians from any genre, style or culture by providing a free promotional service via FFM Magazine.

Continue to our Articles




The unmistakable sound of David Powell



By Roger Moisan

Many people possess a talent,  great singing voice or a natural ability in music but are never heard. Occasionally, a few of these unsung heroes will surface after many years of quietly honing their skills and become an ‘overnight success’.

One such musician is Blues guitarist and singer David Powell. David’s voice sits somewhere between Joe Cocker and John Lee Hooker with his authentic and powerful guitar playing completing the package.

David is building a catalogue of his own songs including the moving ‘Jesus is Crying’, ‘Desecrated‘ and ‘At The Bottom‘ with this music fan’s favourite being ‘Crawling into Yesterday‘. This song caught my ear as it demonstrates David’s classical guitar technique fused with the blues feel and powerful vocals.

This amount of talent in one place cannot go unnoticed for long and as David Powell is experienced by more and more lovers of the genre, I am sure we will soon be able to enjoy David’s first commercial release. I for one would be more than happy to release a Powell debut album at FFM Records, but I imagine we will be beaten to the post by the big boys in the industry.

David Powell
David Powell and son



 

Introducing the brilliant Lisa Ballew – Why Did You Wash Me Away?



The talent for writing and crafting a song aren’t always innate, but with Lisa Ballew it was something that was instinctive. Raised on the west coast of California, she connected with a deep-rooted musical family tree and began writing her own music at the early age of 13.

At 20 she ventured to Nashville to grow her musical prowess and feed and perform in a creative community. She eventually returned to the West Coast to be near family and continued to develop her art. She has crafted hundreds of songs that are ready for an audience.

“I think there was a period where my songs were cathartic and more for me…an outlet to express how I felt and saw life during both beautiful and difficult times. I finally had a realization that I had been stowing away my songs, my gifts and talents. I felt a strong sense that it was time for me to put it all out there. I needed to move forward in my musical journey and share my songs.”

That journey lead to the creation and release of “Ready For The Ride.” It showcases a pop sensibility and Lisa’s ability and passion to create songs that are relevant and commercial. This is just a glimpse of a deep catalog of songs waiting to be heard. The ride is just beginning…… 

Large H

Visit Lisa Here and check out the full album




Brent Smith: The New ATTITUDE of Shinedown


Introducing Luca Brassy



For the past 13 years, Luca Brassy, born and raised in Upstate NY, has been building a reputation in the Tri-State area as one of the hottest emcees in the region.  His journey really started in entertainment through professional wrestling at age 13.  By the time he turned 16, Luca was running his own professional wrestling training center (24/7 Wrestling Productions LLC) in Upstate NY.

Due to things out of his own control, 24/7 closed its doors in the summer of 2003.  From there, Brassy had a hard time finding himself again until he discovered his love for writing and music in 2004.  In October 2004, he met Jgreen Moneytalkz who has been producing his music ever since.

Luca Brassy has performed at numerous cities and states including Schenectady, Albany, Glens Falls, Syracuse, Amsterdam, Rochester, Pittsfield, Pittsburgh, Massachusetts, Buffalo, Newport Rhode Island, Brooklyn, Bronx NY, Manhattan, Staten Island, Ardmore PA, Uniontown Alabama, Birmingham, Atlanta GA, Marshall NC, and Memphis TN among others and has been building a name for himself based on his politically and socially oriented music.

Among other great accolades, he has opened for several well known emcees such as Rakim and Lil Kim.  Brassy is now moving in a new direction with his music and putting his old school lyrical mentality to use with his club vibe which has brought him a whole new fan base as well as a different kind of recognition.

Brassy’s first mixtape was released in 2006 titled “The Project: Stereotyped”, and his first full length album “The Narration: The Heart of a Champion” in 2010.  A remake of that album was released Through Tate Music Group in 2014 titled simply “The Heart of a Champion.”   Luca was recently signed to Sony RED where he released 2 singles “Like That” and “3000” (produced by Younglord).

With this, he continues to be active around his own community as well as others.  He continues to grind and make new contacts in radio, magazine, film, blogs, etc.  He most recently was signed to CNY Mode modeling agency based in Syracuse NY!  In music, his newest single “Lose Your Mind” was recorded in Los Angeles with the music video being shot in ATL.  Brassy stays on the grind and is always active in his music and all business endeavors.  Stay tuned for the latest on Luca Brassy!  POW!!!

Luca Brassy
Visit lucabreassy.com

 

Luca Brassy