Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Molly Ryan!

“Elegant vocal style evoking the big band singers of the 1930s and breathes new life into familiar old standards”.
-Will Friedwald on Molly Ryan

An all-star cast of jazz greats. Sumptuous, sophisticated & swingin' vocals. You can help make it happen!

"Art isn't easy" to quote Mr. Sondheim. I have been in this business since I was thirteen. I'm fifty-three. You can do the math. It is always an eye opener speaking with other artists about their experiences in the world of entertainment now.
The subject of today's blog is an artist I saw a few years ago at The New York Sheet Music Society. I was blown away by her performance. I heard late last week of her Kickstarter campaign for her latest CD. Kickstarter is a MAJOR way artists are now funding their projects. For many, it is the very essence as to whether or not they will or will not move to the next step in their careers. If you are like me, there are innumerable requests daily for our money and time. I sometimes wish I was at the level of Oprah Winfrey to help and support the artists I believe in.
One such artist is Molly Ryan. Molly launched a Kickstarter campaign
for her new jazz album about three weeks ago. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform. Its mission is to help bring creative projects to life. In today's world, the "record labels" that once flourished have almost completely ceased to exist. So, often, the only way an artist can fund a project is to go directly to his/her audience.
Molly has a star-studded cast lined up for her sessions on May 19th and 20th - pianists Dick Hyman and Mark Shane, trumpeters Randy Reinhart and Bria Skonberg, trombonist Dan Barrett, guitarist John Reynolds, bassists Joel Forbes and Mike Weatherly, drummer Kevin Dorn, and...Dan Levinson. Her engineer is Grammy Award-winner Stewart Lerman, who has engineered all four seasons of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It's hard to imagine topping her last album, Swing for Your Supper, but she's going to do it. This one's going to be a masterpiece.

I began this interview by asking Molly how she begins each day, a question presented to me by Tommy Tune!
Molly tells me she begins most days trying to remember why she needs to get up! Once the brain starts going, and she starts to think about all the things she needs to get done, sometimes that makes her desire to stay in bed a little longer. The purpose of life is that we HAVE to get up!
Molly has been in this profession professionally approximately eleven years.
Molly started out entertaining in jazz festivals as a teenager. Then, she made a big leap to New York from Sacramento, actually Roseville,  in 2003, hoping to go to college. She received the tuition pack in the mail when she was still in California.
She then realized that she didn't desire to teach; she wanted to entertain. On a performer's salary, she would never be able to pay off that tuition even with a loan or grant. After arriving in New York, she moved in with her then boyfriend, now husband, Dan Levinson. The Mississippi Rag calls Dan Levinson the "in-demand reedman." He started letting Molly sit in on his gig at venues like Terra Blues in the Village. Meanwhile, Molly went to "beauty school" just in case. She needed a back-up career as a safety net.
The career, as is the artist's life, ebbed and flowed. There were months in which Molly never sang at all and then there were months in which jazz societies would invite her to their monthly concerts.About five years ago, there was a giant resurgence of "young people" singing older jazz.
They were all around Molly's age give or take a few years. It picked up for Molly as well. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Prior to that, there wasn't much work. This "movement" began to create work. Eventually, Molly began performing smaller gigs which led to private events, more jazz festivals, concerts overseas; it just spiraled. Molly has become very selective in terms of the gigs she now accepts.
She would rather do fewer gigs and have larger audiences than more gigs with smaller houses. She has wisely learned that she will fare better if there are fewer opportunities to catch her work LIVE.
The part of her career that she loves the most is being able to do what she does with her husband. They have their intimate family at home.
They also have a larger family of the jazz community of all the jazz musicians. It
is almost as if they ARE a big family. THIS family branches out, so they have those from the Broadway sector and the cabaret sector and etc.
They are all intertwined and they become a wonderful support system. Molly is reminded of the "tree" that is given out to parents when kids are in school so they can all reach out to one another. For Molly and Dan, when they really need something, they just ask someone in the community and they are there to help. They are all out in the same pond trying to do the same thing.
Of all the things that she has done so far, there was a moment of pure joy that really stands out.
Photo by: Collette Lash
It was when she heard the completion of her last album. She had this moment of achievement. She had done what she had set out to do!  She had made the songs that she had desired to make. She wanted to put out an album that she was really proud of. She was/is so excited to have an example out there. This was a chance to share what she does with a larger audience. This special moment wasn't surrounded by glitz and/or glamor. She wasn't in a ballgown. She was in her car, but it was the most beautiful moment.
The biggest changes that Molly has seen and experienced first hand since getting into this profession all revolve around the digital age. When Molly first arrived on the scene, there wasn't as much downloading and streaming as there now is. Everyone would pay for what they wanted. People bought albums, CDs, cassettes. That has shifted dramatically. Now, EVERYTHING is on line. Audiences desire to download the songs they like. People who couldn't find old obscure songs from the 1920s, for example, would spend ages trying to locate something. Now, it is right at their fingertips. The Global reach has no boundaries. On one hand, that is fantastic. It is so nice to be able to find what you are looking for. It's sad to Molly that previous generations did not have this.
Photo by: Lynn Redmille
On the other hand, it means that musicians are not making as big a profit in music because everything is being streamed. It also means that there is a depreciation of music. Those of us from previous generations were taught to LISTEN to music. We were all taught to sit down and put on what we would like to listen to. We paid attention to it. We would learn the words. We would know everything we could about that piece of music we were listening to as a form of entertainment. Now, because music is so accessible, it is EVERYWHERE. You can't go into an establishment or restaurant without hearing SOMETHING. It has gotten to the point now where some people actually have a problem with SILENCE!
Photo by: Collette Lash
It has become a distraction. They need some form of music going on in the background because they have gotten used to it. Molly believes that music is not as appreciated in those instances. There is always a give and take, some good, some not so good. Molly does like the fact that she has been able to learn so many new songs because of easy accessibility on the internet.

The CD that Molly is now working on is her third solo album.

The process of creating each CD varies. Sometimes, like with this one, she has a theme. They started with a list of songs all related with that theme.
Along the way, some songs become casualties. She wants arrangements that are perfect for HER. She refers to Frank Sinatra's Come Fly with Me, an arrangement that was just perfect for him.

No one needs to go in and try to replicate that to make it better. It was already represented very well. Molly tries to go in and find things that haven't been represented as well so far and try to give them a new life and in the process, hopefully create something magical.  

From there, they will chop off what they need to help shape their vision of the album so they don't have too many selections for one disc.
This next question comes from another great artist I recently interviewed, Sarah Dashew. What is Molly's favorite season and how does it affect her?
Molly's favorite season is the autumn. First of all, there seems to be fewer allergies associated with it. She loves walking out on a crisp autumn day when the trees are ablaze with color. She also loves the spring with flowers, but the orange and red hues of the leaves are just incredible. She loves that little nip in the air alerting us to the fact that winter is imminent.
We are still grateful that it is not here yet because we still desire to enjoy those dwindling days outdoors.

Being an artist, depressing times come with the territory.
When asked the lowest point of her career, Molly says there is no particular time. There are very heavy days and moments in which she finds she is focused on everybody else but her. Whenever she starts to think, "Alright, why not me? Why ar they getting a certain opportunity instead of me?
Why are they getting success when I've worked so hard?"
Their successes have nothing to do with Molly. It is out of her control.

When her focus shifts to THEM, that's when she gets low and her self-esteem falls to the floor and she feels hopeless and feels like she is in a pit and feels like she doesn't desire to get out. She would rather sit in the darkness and be alone and wallow in self pity. It is a terrible place to be.
Molly tries very diligently not to fall into that pit by trying to focus on her and try and do the best work possible for her. That darkness hovers around no matter what.
The music industry today is a game. You have to be a good player and you have to know exactly where the pieces fit. It's not about music anymore. It;s about profit. The artistry is such a small part of the entertainment and music world. Molly has such a strong opposition to these new apps that corrects vocal challenges.
Dan Levinson and Molly Ryan Dan and Molly at their wedding in Big Sur, CA - 2008
There are those who practice from the time they are small children to hone their skills on their instruments to be the best they can be. That is what they aspire to.
They desire to be great musicians and to perform and entertain and bring joy to people.They put in hours and hours and money in lessons and schooling and degrees, EVERYTHING that goes into this. Nowadays, however, there is an I phone app in which you can hum a melody into your app, without any previous training whatsoever, and that app will create chord changes to go around that melody and will create a song and that song can be given to music executives and become a hit for some pop star. Molly does not agree with this part of what is fast becoming the norm in the music industry. It is quick easy money.
It is no longer about producing something beautiful that comes from the heart and will touch people and inspire them. The music industry is not what it used to be.
It used to be powerful and people CARED about putting out great music. Now, it's about how much music they can put out and how much profit they can make.
Molly sings a lot. She sings in the shower. She sings when she is walking down the street.
She sings in the car, anywhere and anytime something comes into her head, she sings it. She always seems to have a song running through her head. Some people have an inner monologue, Molly has a playlist.
Molly doesn't have a favorite room, per se, to perform in. She gravitates towards those rooms with a great sound. She dreams of performing at Dizzy's Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center.
"They really know how to build a theatre there." When her husband is not home and she is alone, Molly puts on an album that she can sing to, she becomes a goofball and acts like a child dancing and singing around the apartment. It is her favorite place to be!
As far as Molly's current CD is concerned, the arrangements are still being written.
 Dan Barrett, in California, has been writing out arrangements and sending them to Molly periodically. From Molly's own band, Dan Levinson is also writing arrangements like crazy, too.
The photo shoot for the album photo has been completed. Right now, the photographer is editing those. As soon as they are edited, Molly will send them to the album artist who will then design the album cover. The theme is in place. They have the songs. The musicians are all booked and they are recording on May 19th and 20th at Avatar Studios, which is a very prestigious recording studio in New York City. With much hope, they have already booked their Pennsylvania CD release party for September 28th. They are flying Dick Hyman up from Florida. They are keeping him here an extra day or two for the recording session. He is 87!

The wheels are in motion and everything is set! Right now, there are two CRUCIAL days left on this Kickstarter campaign. It ends at noon on Thursday, May 1st. They need to raise roughly $6,000! She is at 60 % of her campaign to reach her $20,000. Molly's Kickstarter goal is $20,000. That amount may seem ambitious, but in reality it doesn't even cover the final cost of producing a CD after you factor in artists' and arrangers' fees, engineering fees, studio fees, travel and accommodations for out-of-town musicians, artwork, liner notes, manufacturing, and promotion once the product is finished.

Backers receive rewards and are offered special experiences in exchange for their pledges - in addition, of course, to a copy of the finished product. The quantity and value of these rewards and experiences increases with the amount pledged. "Diamond Benefactors" can choose a song for Molly to record, which will be available on the download version of the album, in addition to other rewards. For "Global Diamond Benefactors," Molly will perform a private concert in your home!

It's important to understand that Kickstarter is all or nothing - if a project doesn't reach its goal, the artist gets none of the pledged amount.
Molly has just a few days to reach her goal - her campaign ends at noon on Thursday, May 1.
If you give, you WILL receive something in return. It will be something to add to your playlist and you are helping a great artist succeed. Molly will not put out anything less than the best. This was also done with the last album and it was superb. It will also show ME the power of my blog! Let's do this!      

From Molly Ryan      

After the successful completion of my first Kickstarter and album release I'm back here asking you all to help me DO IT AGAIN! For this new project I've assembled another top notch group of world-class musicians, including jazz piano legend Dick Hyman! We'll gather together for two days in May at Sear Sound and Avatar Studios in New York City (with Grammy Award-winning recording engineer, Stewart Lerman - "Boardwalk Empire") and create some beautiful sophisticated swing music for you to listen and dance to. 
Dan Levinson

In today's world of "free music" the majority of independent artists need help finding funds to create the music you want to listen to and enjoy. We love sharing our music with you and we want it accessible. With this online Kickstarter platform, YOU, the listeners can make it all possible. The number one question most people ask is "How do you decide the goal amount and where are the funds going?" Taking what I learned from my 2012 Kickstarter I have compiled a list of every facet of the project requiring funding; from the making of the Kickstarter video to the promotion once the album is ready for you, the public. It's important you understand just how much time, dedication and hard work go into a single album.
It takes months getting everything just right, but we won't settle on making anything less than the very best musical product for you.
Funding includes, but is not limited to:
Kickstarter photos and videos (including trailer)

Kickstarter promotion (including ads / posters / postcards)
Kickstarter and Amazon payment fees = 10% of total amount reached

Album photo shoot (including editing)
Album artwork / packaging / design (including front cover, back cover, liner note insert, physical disc)
Recording studio + engineering (including mixing & editing)
Song arrangements
Musician fees
Musician airfare + hotel (for out-of-town artists)
Production and manufacturing of physical albums
Post completion promotion and advertising (including posters / flyers / radio mail blast / website features)
Any leftover funds will be used for the creation of the music video we plan to record alongside one of the tracks from the new album!!
We are thrilled to be working toward another album. Please take some time to learn about the musicians and recording engineer. Browse their websites, biographies and discover the incredible talent I've lined up for your musical pleasure!

Adrien Chevalier
Dan Barrett : Craftsman of the trombone, Barrett sings and swings with his horn. www.danbarrettmusic.com

Adrien Chevalier : French violinist Adrien Chevalier brings a worldly flare with his knowledge of jazz and balkan music.    www.adrienchevalier.com

Kevin Dorn : Without a doubt the best swing drummer in the world. www.kevindorn.com

Joel Forbes : One of the most sought-after bass players in the jazz scene, Joel is swingin' and rock solid.

Dick Hyman : Jazz master Dick Hyman is a living legend and brings the power of over 70 years of music-making. www.dickhyman.com

Dan Levinson : This in-demand reedman brings his beautiful tone and lyrical playing to our party. www.danlevinson.com

Randy Reinhart : Bringing a delicate sweetness to the cornet, Randy is indeed irreplaceable.

John Reynolds : His fun and quirky personality shine through when he plays guitar. He is indeed the best.

Mark Shane : Magic on the ivories, Mark's playing is dreamy. www.shanepianojazz.net
Mark Shane

Bria Skonberg : Rising star in the jazz world, Bria stakes her claim on trumpet and vocals as one of the hottest players on and off the scene. www.briaskonberg.com

Stewart Lerman : Stewart is a stellar recording engineer with an extensive discography and a Grammy Award under his belt. www.stewartlerman.com

Thank you Molly Ryan for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!  To all who read this blog, IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share  on Twitter and Facebook for a chance to win fabulous prizes!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

 This Blog is dedicated to Patty Farmer who told me about Molly Ryan's Kickstarter Campaign

My Blog on Patty Farmer

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