Eric Mullis

Monday, November 15, 2010

In memory of Stuart Sloan

Posted By on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Like many Charlotte-area musicians, I met Stuart when I took a crappy three-song demo down to the Salvador Deli in NoDa. Stuart took me back to his office and played the CD and said, “Sounds good, let’s get you a date.” It was that easy. Stuart was always giving local musicians a great venue to play in, a venue that put them in front of music-lovers from all walks of life.

My band owes Stuart Sloan a lot. Not only did he help get us started, but he would give us great summer dates to play and those shows helped spread the word about our music. It will always be one of our favorite places to play music.

We will miss hanging out with Stu before and after the show and playing to such a great group of people under the night sky. Further, Stu was always great to chat with before and after shows. My guess is that there are many local and regional bands that are feeling the same mix of gratitude and sadness that myself and my bandmates are feeling right now…

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Venturing out of your comfort zone

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM

It’s often remarked that Charlotte can be a compartmentalized town — you can stay in your neck of the woods and rarely find the need to venture into other areas. You could live in the University area, for example, and never desire to check out Plaza Midwood or Dilworth since everything you need is in the University area.

After playing music in Charlotte for the last few years, I’ve noticed that the area music venues also tend to draw the same crowds. Some folks like to hang out at the Double Door, others call Snug Harbor home, and so on.

There are a few reasons why this happens.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Live vs. studio recordings

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM

My band is at a crossroads.

We put out a studio CD last summer that we ended up being happy with. A local sound engineer with experience recording jazz-fusion groups and — believe it or not — experience recording vibes did a bang-up job and gave us a great sounding CD.

Since then, we’ve changed quite a bit and have added a guitar player that gives us more of an edge and our live shows have gotten more energetic. Folks have been telling us that we should do a live recording for our next CD so the energy of our live show will get captured and the CD will better represent us.

Like anything, there are pros and cons.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pushing beyond normal boundaries

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Let me tell you a quick story...

Back in the '90s, I went to see Morphine play a show at Tremont Music Hall. I had been a fan of the band for some time and was pumped about seeing them play in my hometown. I’d never heard of the opening act that they were touring with, a band from Denver, Colo. — Sixteen Horsepower.

This opening act put on a show that I will never forget. The show was unforgettable — not only because they were talented musicians and performers but because it was one of those shows that you go to and leave a different person. I mean, I couldn’t exactly figure out what I was listening to and the group played with a terrifying kind of intensity that kept me riveted to the floor.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Going through performance withdrawl

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM

I've been on a study-tour with some students in Vietnam for the past two weeks and haven't been able to practice or play any music with my band. Before I left, we were playing almost every weekend and I got used to regularly performing. Indeed, it turns out I'm some kind of addict because I'm having performance withdrawals that have got me thinking...

I first noticed it when we were riding on the tour bus. I was listening to music on my phone and felt energy welling up from deep down. I wanted to express that energy by playing and performing but couldn't. I could only listen to someone else's music while sitting on a hot bus.

I also noticed it the night that I found a jazz club in Hanoi. I could barely sit still as the band worked their way through standards that I play back home at the Double Door with Bill Hanna. I was that annoying guy who clapped too much and was a little too enthusiastic about the music. It was a great show but it was depressing at the same time.

I think that every performer is aware of that expressive energy on some level but it's in my mind since that energy has no where to go.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Coming in June - Groverfest

Posted By on Mon, May 3, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Charlotte is a bit of a dead-zone when it comes to music festivals. There are a few festivals held uptown every spring and summer, but the music is usually paired with food exhibitions and the bands are often cover-bands or “safe” national touring acts. Unfortunately, there’s not much love for local and regional bands at the festivals held uptown. Maybe the promoters want to play it safe and/or assume that the festival goers aren’t musically adventurous…

But in 2007 a group of enterprising musicians from the Mooresville area took it upon themselves to put a bona fide music festival together — Groverfest — a festival that focuses on local and regional artists… both well-known acts and up-and-comers.

As I said in my last blog post, a good music festival gives festival goers and chance to get away from day-to-day routine, to get into nature, and to share in the experience of music. The Groverfest family of musicians takes this in stride by offering on-site camping at the Millstone farm in Davidson and by having concerts running on outdoor stages throughout the day and on an expansive stage in a rustic barn at night (with full light-show!).

This year, they are teaming up with The Carolina Live Music Society to pull together what looks to be a great festival from June 4-6. This year’s line-up is already quite impressive:

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Festival season will soon be here

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Thankfully, spring is here and music festival season is rolling around…

There are regional festivals like Groverfest (in Davidson NC), Groove in the Holler (Prospect Hill), The Getdown Festival (Prospect Hill), and Smilefest (Pinnacle) are revving up as are the larger festivals that attract national acts — Bear Creek (Live Oak FL), Bonnaroo (Manchester TN), and the like.

It goes without saying that music festivals are fabulous since they give people the chance to catch many bands in one setting, to get outdoors, and to experience music with one another. They also give bands the chance to play in front of scores of music lovers.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Where music is an appetizer...

Posted By on Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 12:16 PM

You’ve probably been in a Charlotte restaurant and noticed that a musician or musicians were playing over in a corner somewhere. I’ve played many a dinner gig and have noticed something that you might find interesting. Let me tell you a story…

The bass player for my band and I sometimes do duo gigs in restaurants for some extra money when our band takes a break from doing shows. We had been playing about once a month at a NoDa restaurant (that shall remain nameless) and had been digging it. We played a couple of sets for a couple of hours, had a few beers and grubbed on some good food.

As with most restaurant gigs, the crowd didn’t really care about the music but, after all, they’re there to have dinner and drinks and probably didn’t choose that spot because they wanted to hear some live music. That’s the name of the game when it comes to these kinds of gigs — your music is part of the restaurant atmosphere/ambiance and usually doesn’t take center stage by any means (as an aside, it always makes me laugh when I hear musicians griping about not getting enough attention when they’re playing in a restaurant. If someone digs your music, that’s cool, but remember that folks came out to that restaurant to, well, eat.)

Anyway, we’d played this gig several times and I asked the manager what he thought. He said he thought it was great and said he’d call about booking a date in February. So, he calls me up and wants us to play on Valentine’s Day. He also wanted us to play for an hour longer than we usually played. Naturally, I asked him how much extra he would be paying for the extra time and he said “nothing.” So I replied, “Well, we normally play for a couple of hours and get paid X but you want us to play for an hour longer but still get paid X?” He replied, “If you don’t want to do it, I’ll find someone that will” and he hung up. I tried to call him back to negotiate, but he wouldn’t answer — call blocked.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Improving the music scene isn't easy

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Jeff Hahne’s recent music blog post about the lack of support for live music in Charlotte generated some good discussion on the Creative Loafing site. I’d like to take a second to throw a thought or two into the ring with the hope that my thoughts might focus in on what I take to be the root of our problem.

If you missed the recent turn of events, the Neighborhood Theater was rumored to be closing its doors in March and that created an outcry. A facebook page called “Save the Neighborhood Theater” was created to which over 5,000 people joined. The ins and outs of the Theater situation aside, Jeff rightly called attention to the problem the Theater (and any other live music in Charlotte) faces concerns revenue. Simply put, they all need more people going out to shows and supporting live music.

After Jeff posted the blog, many people started posting replies that began speculating about why Charlotteans don’t tend to support live music. Maybe it’s because Charlotte is too spread out and you can live quite happily in your section of Charlotte without ever venturing into NoDa, Plaza-Midwood, etc. Maybe it’s because Charlotte is a banking town and everyone is too obsessed with making money. Etc., etc. Since, we’re talking about a large city with many demographics, it would be difficult to pin-point exactly what the central causes of the problem are and this leads me to think that trying to nail down THE cause is hopeless.

Regardless, the point I’d like to make is that cities and communities tend to identify themselves in light of commonly held cultural values. Those values can be political, religious, philosophical or artistic in nature. What I would like to point out is that Charlotte is still quite young when it comes to its artistic identity. Of course, the city supports the fine arts by funding museums and the North Carolina Dance Theatre. It also provides grants to independent artists whether they be painters, photographers, sculptors or jazz composers.

However, Charlotte’s live music scene and especially its LOCAL music scene is not intertwined with Charlotte’s identity as it is with other cities in the Southeast such as Asheville, Athens or Greenville S.C. Of course, as a reply to Jeff’s post rightly noted, we’re not the only city with this problem (I went to graduate school in Columbia, S.C., and was always puzzled that a city with a robust university in the city center didn’t have a burgeoning local music scene).

So, with all this said, the million-dollar question is: What do we do to change? What do we do to turn Charlotte into a city that has a robust live music scene that is part-and-parcel of the city’s identity?

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The critics vs. the haters

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 11:16 AM

If you’re a musician or a band, you have to get feedback on your sound, compositions, performances and so on. There are many folks out there who will give you that kind of feedback, but it’s often difficult to figure out who you should listen to. In the best of all worlds, you’ll get an independent and knowledgeable music lover to listen to your music and to catch your live show. Ideally, they’ll give you some quality feedback since they know about your genre and since they’ll take the time to reflect on your music and your performance.

Of course, the reality is that the feedback that they give you might not be as good as you’d like it to be. They might think that you’re okay or mediocre or they may think that you’re generally good but that you need to work on some particular thing (for example, maybe your album is great but your live show is boring). So what do you do with that kind of feedback?

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