behind the sounds feature

I was recently featured on the Philadelphia Jazz Project’s website for a series called “Behind the Sounds.” It includes interviews with a handful of audio engineers who do a lot of work in the local jazz scene. I’m incredibly honored to be included, and have a tremendous amount of respect for the PJP and all that they do. Check out the full interview here.

songs in the key of free

I’m producing an album inside of a prison.

I’ve shared this news with friends and colleagues, stated just as I have above, to mixed reactions. Some simply say, “wow,” and change the subject. Others say, “good for you.” Some want to hear more. If you fall into that last camp, please read on, as I have a lot to say about this project.

I met Miles Butler, co-founder of Songs in the Key of Free, at my neighborhood cafe. He and co-founder August Tarrier have been conducting songwriting workshops at SCI Graterford for the last year and half. During that time, they have cultivated a community of men who have composed a collection of songs. Now that the songs are ready to be recorded, they’ve tapped me to helm the production.

And these songs deserve to be heard. There is pain, love, regret, anger, and frustration throughout this group of songs, expressed by men with nothing to lose. It’s an honor to be in the unique position of facilitating the encapsulation and distribution of this music that would otherwise go forever unheard.

To those with the mentality of “lock them up and throw away the key,” I would respond by saying that someone does not cease to be a human because they have committed a crime. And just as we are free to make music as soon as our young bodies are able to figure out how to make sounds, it is my belief that music is a basic human right. Not only that, but many of these men will rejoin society at some point. How can we expect them to be adjusted members of a community if they are not treated as human beings while they serve their time?

Miles and August have done some incredible work with this program. They have cultivated a community within the prison, and these participants, that is one of respect, communication, and admiration. Most of these guys have overwhelmed me with their humanity and wisdom, and trust me, it comes through in the music.

If you’d like to learn more about this project, check out the video below. They are in the middle of a crowd funding campaign to help pay for this ambitious endeavor. Feel free to throw some bucks their way if you want to get involved. Thanks for reading.

beats per minute

Maybe it’s fueled by my desire to connect with the local community. Maybe it’s my selfish need to play the music I want, whenever I want it. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m kindred spirits with Marc Maron and Terry Gross. Whatever it is, I’ve started hosting a radio show.

I’ve always had a fascination with radio. I think it started when I was an intern for a local station in high school. It all seemed so whimsical – a relationship with the community through the air. A personality that people knew, but never met. When I was an intern, the DJs used to send me on ridiculous missions – most notably dressed up like a Christmas tree and waving to people on the side of the road, or being the gatekeeper of concert tickets where listeners had to decipher clues over the air to find me in town. It was a great way to encourage my shy high school self into becoming a sociable person (or at least less shy).

The new show is whatever I want it to be, which I continually find to be incredible in this carefully calculated, mainstream radio climate. Due to streaming services and other factors (thoughts on that for a future post), the radio industry is certainly not the giant it once was, so it seems that all stations are doing everything they can to hold on to listeners. At a low-power, non-profit FM station, that problem doesn’t exist. It’s been a liberating, exhilarating experience, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

The show is called Beats Per Minute (after my initials, BPM), and I’m doing it twice a month so that it doesn’t ever feel like work. I have guests, I play records, and talk about whatever I feel, to whoever wants to listen. Check it out sometime, either on 92.9 if you are in the NW Philly area, or gtownradio.com.

aaron & the spell

Well, it’s been a while. This site has grown embarrassingly out of date, and all I can say is that life happens, the good and the bad, and updating my website somehow became the last item on my list.

Enough of that. Plenty has been happening, and I plan to post with regularity to document and reflect the highlights over the past couple of years. Plus, I’ve updated my bio, music, and film pages, so please take a peak to see and hear what I’ve been up to.

But this post is about Aaron Parnell Brown. I had heard his name and his music around Philly for several years, and been a fan. I’ve just started playing with Aaron and his band, The Spell, over the last 6 months or so. His music is exactly the type of stuff I love – soulful, bluesy, energetic, all with something to say. Aaron is a thoughtful leader, and the band cooks. The first time we got together to rehearse, we already felt like a band. That’s no small task.

Last month, Aaron wanted to film an NPR Tiny Desk audition. Regardless of what happens with the video submission, the filming was a lot of fun. We shot the video at RareCo, this great antique shop in South Philly. They had the greatest collection of old, weird, cool stuff I’ve ever seen in one room. Just as an example, there was a giant high heel hanging from the ceiling. Like 10 feet long, and oh, it was built completely from wire clothes hangers and zip ties.

I hope you enjoy the video, which I also had the pleasure of mixing.