Ian Schwartz and The Sour Candy Orchestra

So I’ve been doing a fair amount of writing and recording, but I need ideas. I don’t know if anybody actually still reads this (that’s what I get for not blogging for like 2 years) but I’d like to try a song suggestion “contest”. Basically, post your song title suggestions in the comments and I’ll try and write a song to fit the title and post it here on the blog.


A little, I think.

I mean, I’ve been working. A lot. Evenings. For like 2 years now. Which is all fine, except that it hasn’t left a lot of time for SCO endeavors or gigging or whatever.

And in all honesty, it’s hard to play shows. It’s hard to manage the time. I’ve been bad.

But one thing I can do is record. I’m working on writing and recording on a pretty intensive basis for the first time in a very long time. Eventually I’ll bring in the SCO to overdub parts on the songs that they play on, but just the process of recording has been really nice for me.

Step one has actually been trying to record covers so that I can sort of get my sealegs on this recording thing.

Don’t you dare judge me! It’s just the first couple of verses, no bridge. It’s definitely not finished.

In the rare event somebody still has this on their RSS feed or something feel free to let me know what you think. I’ll probably put some work-in-progress stuff on this blog from time to time, saving the finished recordings for a sale album or EP.


The band hasn’t practiced in a long time…. But I’m going to start posting some solo recordings soon. So hopefully somebody still reads this site…

I’ve had a fascination with American Sign Language for several years now, ever since I took 2 semesters of it at Bergen Community College. In that class I made friends with several Deaf students who were, I assume, taking beginning ASL as an easy elective credit. I don’t know why I signed up for the class in the first place, but I fell in love with the language and the Deaf culture. My new Deaf friends and I got drinks on occasion and they even picked out a sign name for me, a quick way of saying a name without spelling it out, often descriptive of the person who is being referred to. Mine was a variation on the sign for “tall”.

And then I moved back to Boston and was gung ho and ready to continue my studies in the subject… But I didn’t. I don’t know why. And now I’ve forgotten most of it.

Anyway, I’ve got a real appreciation for the language still and on the rare occasions I see people signing on the street, I can still pick out fragments of what they’re saying. Just fragments though. When I was on my ASL kick, people used to comment how odd it was that somebody who loved to play music could also love Deaf culture. And it is a little weird. Until I saw the above video.

This guy is awesome. I’m pretty positive that he isn’t Deaf, but his signing is impeccable. Like all the best ASL story-tellers he relies on facial expressions and body language just as much as he relies on actual signing. I don’t know if everybody will think this is as awesome as I do, but I think it’s awesome.

Oh and the song is Blue Sunny Day by Jonathan Coulton. So that’s cool too!

When I busk I play a relatively small selection of songs. Actually I mostly only play two songs: The Weight by The Band and Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. This is not to say that I don’t know more songs than that. I know a lot of songs. Hundreds, actually, and I’ve got a good enough ear that I could figure out a lot more on the spot if I had to.

But I mostly play those two songs over and over again. If each song is about 4 minutes long, with a 1 minute break in between, and I play for 6 hours a day, two or three days a week…

Well, let’s just say that I play those songs a lot. But the advantage of this is that I can play those two songs very well. And it’s important to play them well because that’s how I make my money. I get about 10 people a day telling me that Hallelujah is their favorite song. Shouldn’t I at least do them the service of not making mistakes?

The other benefit is that you can experiment with interpretation. The songs might sound shaky the first few times, but eventually, you get to the point where you make the song your own. It doesn’t need to sound like the CD, and in fact it’s better if it doesn’t. People want to hear your voice in the music and there is only one way to do that: play it until you’re sick of it. So that’s what I do. Only I get paid while I practice. ;)

You know, I was always told as a kid that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. But with a week until April, it’s just not lamby enough for my tastes yet. Highs of 50 and lows of 30 do not a springtime make.

I’ll be a lot happier to be a busker when it’s a couple of degrees warmer out.

On a different note, have you thought about coming to see us at the Cantab on April 6th?

Beth and Rebecca don’t have to deal with the number one problem I face as a musician: Sore fingers. Behvin probably does to a certain extent.

There was a time when I played a really crappy Yamaha guitar with a high action and high-tension strings. And I had lovely callouses. I could put out cigarettes with my fingertips. Seriously.

Then I became a ukulele player and spent almost 2 years with the uke as my main instrument. And my callouses got softer. See, the uke is easy on your fingertips. Too easy.

Then a month ago I started busking full-time, and I found that I preferred using the guitar for this. And it turns out 8-hours of guitar playing takes its toll on your wittle fingews. Big time toll taking. The first time I finished an 8-hour stretch, it hurt to type. It hurt to point.

It’s getting better, but not fast enough. Yesterday, I played for 8-hours and when I finished, my fingers were fine. I couldn’t feel a thing. I was ecstatic. Some time around bed I felt the first twinge. Today, well, it doesn’t hurt to type, but playing guitar is pretty much out of the question. Believe me, I tried. Even my classical guitar is too ouchie.

Some say you can increase the callouses with rubbing alcohol and other tricks. I’m just going to hope that as the weather improves, so does my fingertip stamina.

So I got a present in the mail today. But in case you need the back story, here it is:

It reads “Hello Ian. Thank you for watching television and playing the ukulele.” And it’s signed “John ‘Kloster’ Hodgman.”


From misc

So, I’m going to be laying down some serious recording shizznit this week which I can then take to the band so that they can record their parts. Between the last show at the Cantab and the next show at the Cantab, we will definitely have enough money to do a short run of the album.

This, of course, begs the question:
Which format should the album be released in first? CD? Or Digital Download card? Eventually I’d like to have both, offering the cards for a lower price than the physical CDs, but we have to do one first.

CDs: Purchasers can listen to it on the way home
Compatible with CDBaby (which in turn gets you up on iTunes)
Good for giveaways and promotion

Cards: Cheaper to produce, therefore cheaper to sell
Fans are likely to just put the CD on their iPod anyway, right?
Less impact on the environment

CDs: We all have iPods now, don’t we?
They can get scratched
Our budget means we’ll likely be using jewel cases, which are not a cool first choice for packaging. If we wait, we might be able to afford digipaks

Cards: You don’t have the actual music in hand
Easy to lose on the way home, maybe?
No artwork, no liner notes

I know we don’t exactly have a lot of readers yet, but I would really appreciate some input in the comments section if anybody has any.

I went to go see Brief Awakening the other night at the Midway Cafe, one of our semi-regular gigging spots. Mainly I went because two of the members had come to our show (comprising about half of the audience), and I thought one good turn deserved another.

They were good. The music speaks for itself, I think. The use of djembe was awesome, and the sound was unique. Consider me a fan.