Five Questions with Music Creators Martin Weeks & Linda Keser by Copyright Alliance
This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Martin Weeks & Linda Keser.
1. What was the inspiration behind becoming Song Writers and Music & Video Creators?
The inspiration was literally from Linda Keser. I realized three years ago, she was an amazing lyricist and I’ve never been good at writing lyrics for original songs. Good at music arrangement, but not lyrics. Linda also has previous experience with photography and has expanded this into the world of video editing. So Linda contributes the lyrics and does our videos. And I do the musical arrangements, recording and mixing. We make a perfect “Point/Counterpoint” Team.
What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
Sculpting the music and lyrics and watching it evolve. No two songs we’ve written have ever been the same. Sometimes it starts from Linda’s lyrics, and sometimes she comes up with lyrics while listening to me playing something, or experimenting with arrangements.
2. Can you take us through your process? How long does it take?
From start to finish? Most often it starts with lyrics Linda writes. And she’s very diligent about it. Once she gets an idea going, she buries herself on the couch with pen and paper (yes I said pen and paper!) a dictionary, thesaurus and sometimes The Bible and doesn’t come up for air until she’s worked out every detail she can think of.
Then I will do some reading/re-reading. I’ll read once through it quickly just to see how the words play out and do I trip over my tongue trying to recite them. Then I slow it down and actually carefully read the words (paying attention to comas, …’ and anything written in the margins so I completely understand what is actually being said, implied or suggested? (is it a happy song, what’s the message behind the words…is it an angry cry out for justice, or just plain old fun stuff and so on.)
Once I’m comfortable with the words I usually start to recognize the cadence of it…how do the words flow and that’s what make Linda’s writing so much fun as its musical in nature. The vowels and consonants seem to always work well for a vocalist. And once I see in my mind how the words sing themselves the rest usually falls into place. Sometimes it might be a song that’s based in a piano style as the anchor instrument for the song. Sometimes it’s a guitar thing.
Sometimes the opposite happens, and I’ll be experimenting with something on the DAW tracks and Linda gets an idea for a song and comes back to me with something that just fits like a glove to the music.
I tend to use a drum sequencer a lot. I started out as a drummer many years ago, so using programmed drum patterns and fills is naturally easy for me. So once I’ve got a set idea for the music going, I will do the drum track arrangement first. I hate click tracks so prefer having that fat snare sound there telling me where 2 & 4 are in a given measure when possible. I’ll arrange that and place markers where they come in or break.
If there’s piano in it, that takes time as I’m not really a keyboard player. Ergo, multiple one handed piano chords and riffs and layer them together once done to make for smooth playing.
Usually though I do the acoustic guitar parts first (after the drums tracks have been arranged.) as I am a good acoustic guitarist. Even if I wind up not using acoustic on a song, it’s still the arranger for me.
Then whatever embellishments such as synth pads, or electric guitar solos done on synths.
Sometimes I will attempt to do bass using midi synth sound pallets but when possible I prefer to let my friend from Miami, Mr. Kevin Guhl do the bass tracks and email the stems back to me. Kevin and I used to play together in Miami for a band called “The Miami Blues Authority” which at that time featured a young but amazing guitarist named Albert Castiglia. Mr. Castiglia is now rocking the world with his awesome guitar blues!
Kevin and I have remained in touch with each other and he’s been a wonderful help for us for several songs already and hopefully a lot more as time goes on.
I do the best I can to capture (as in recording) the best possible vocals and instrumentation, then on to the mixing/editing phase. Keep lots of head room and organize and balance the tracks first and foremost. Once everything is properly balanced, panned and so on. I add the different buses as needed, put a little compression into the master bus and begin doing what’s called top down mixing. As much as possible I will rely on the different buses for things like compression and EQ. Often times I will switch the mix to mono when adjusting EQ to make sure my ears are not fooling me from too much time listening. Along the way I will do renders to stereo and then let Linda listen to what I’ve done. She will write down her suggestions and I go “Back to the Lab” and work on the song some more. Vocals are usually the last part of the recording process.
Once we both agree (using the toe tapping, hip swaying head bopping process…in other words are we actually liking the song like it isn’t one of ours…) Then we’ll master and publish the music.
At this point is where Linda’s other amazing talents kicks in…she starts making our videos. She has/had practical photography experience for a long time a while back. I’m talking real photography here not just using Photo Shop. So she has a natural eye for scenery, and light and transition.
Just as I don’t want any interruptions when I’m mixing music, she is the same way with the videos. So when she starts that process, I find someplace else to be for a while.
That’s pretty much the walk through.
3. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?
My parents were professional writers long before I ever picked up a guitar. Dad wrote and successfully published seven novels in his lifetime. So I saw directly and was able to enjoy the experience of what royalties from a copyright-protected, published product could generate – both in terms of income as well as in expansion of production. The traveling, the people one meets directly and indirectly from successful publishing and copyright. Again, anyone who thinks it isn’t real legitimate work and a means of income just doesn’t know or understand.
4. What is your biggest copyright-related challenge?
Always read the offered contract slowly and carefully. Especially the fine print. We are specifically focusing on sync licensing for TV and Film.
5. If there was one aspect of the copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
Larger percentage of total royalties. More direct control over the artist’s creative and intellectual property. Essentially the laws regarding percentages of royalties paid has to be raised. Like all other businesses we’ve had to deal with inflation, cost of living and so on. The percentages paid to the writers, artists and creators are way out of line with the cost of producing music. In today’s world, songwriters do all the work. We perform the music. We record the music, we do all the mixing, and production work. We do the distribution. We “Wear All the Hats” now. So a more fair payout for usage of our Intellectual Property is long overdue. This needs to be legislated as the large International Corporations like Amazon, YouTube and so on are ripping off the artists and simply not paying a fair compensation for all the business and income they receive from their massive worldwide distribution.
Hey it’s the “Uber Generation” now and it’s time for Indie Musicians and Creators to become the driving force behind Creative Endeavors…not industry big labels. Ever notice how when a new record label pops up…no matter how young the CEO’s are when they start out…no matter how long their hair or how hip slicking cool they are…they grow suits and fat cigars within a few years and become just like their predecessors? But the truly talented artists always form their own publishing and their own distribution and keep it real. Little Feat did that in 2001 with their “Grassroots Movement” And now they play as and when they want…they sell all their merchandise and music online, and don’t have to rely on any label. Uber/Indie is the future of this industry and that is why there’s so much BS going on now between the major labels These companies know they’re dying like dinosaurs so they’re eating everything in sight.
Before Unions were all but gutted in the 80’s musicians had a much stronger hold on creativity and marketing. Jimmy Page was a professional session player for years before Led Zeppelin and knew the biz from the inside… so as a band they were very careful NOT to let the labels and industry control how or what they played or created. And it’s most certainly paid off for them. They were smart. They kept control over their creative and intellectual property.
Martin Weeks & Linda Keser
Facebook Page: LinMar