I heard from psychologist Kelly McGonigal that you want to avoid telling people about your goals because it’s demotivating. I can agree with that and I’m trying to apply that in practice this year…but that doesn’t say you can’t brag about past accomplishments ;-p
Facebook contacted me in November and invited me to a creator program that had a pretty substantial cash bonus and free promotion associated with it. They’re obviously trying to bring YouTube down, and I didn’t feel empowered to do much except take the money and benefit from the clash of these two titans. I don’t personally like any company that’s bigger than 80 people, and while I have had to endure some querulous looks from friends (and myself) for accepting that Facebook money, it’s going to allow me to put some epic things out there.
I’m finally revisiting all my web content (after probably a year and a half of neglect) and aiming to offer some level-ed up things this year. Stay in touch and comment/message me if you have requests or ideas and I’ll try to be open to them, but thanks for everyone who supported me up to this point. They must have picked me because I did something right, and that shows because so many people talked to me, talked about me, liked, subscribed, supported, commented…all that jazz. Thanks. I would be nothing without you all!
The basic idea behind this has been to interview people and write songs about them. I’ve been working on this idea for the past two and a half years, and it’s almost ready to begin release. I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but I’m 90% certain I’m going to be releasing a 60 minute documentary at the end of April, two more longform pieces before the year’s end, and then switch to a short-form format with regular releases by 2019.
Part of the problem has been that I’ve had to learn how to be a filmmaker…wasn’t in the original plan. Had to upgrade cameras, learn about exposure settings and production schedules, and just get familiar with the flow of how films are created. I just had this hunch that, of all the hair-brained ideas I’ve had, this way of marrying music and film had a special potential about it. I can feel this electricity when I talk to people about it. Perhaps delusionally, it seems like people both understand and are excited by this idea in a different way than a lot of my past creations. I haven’t given up on any of my other ideas, but this one is getting the royal treatment right now and I hope it pays off.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars of my own money and the money from my Patreon donations on studio time for original songs, filmography, travel for interviews and post production, and gear to make this something I could do regularly. The goal is in sight; the main documentary is ahead of schedule and I think I’ve got a watertight plan to make this a regular reality before the year’s end.
The main reason I wanted to do this show is because I feel so many of us have music disconnected from the things that matter in our lives. There is a lot of personal satisfaction, growth and even transformation that can come from learning music. That being said, a lot of us have faith/hope that we will experience certain things only to find that we’ve come at it the wrong way and wasted a lot of time and tears learning the wrong things. I’ve been there more than a few times, and I know from talking to you all that you have too. As I’ve developed this show, I’ve been searching for stories of people who I could help with my music. I wrote about pretty much whatever my subjects asked me to write about, but I was always looking for some way to write a song that would make a difference in their lives somehow. As this moves along, I really want to see us develop a different way of writing songs. A way that doesn’t involve trying to force the masses to relate to something generic, but to harness the creativity we find on our streets, in our bedrooms and basements to transform our lives and our world to the world we wish for.
My subjects have brought me an incredibly wide range of topics to address. Subjects have talked to me about songs they’ve never finished, stories of personal trauma and survival, insights on world peace, and their own stories of using their creativity to create the world they want to live in. I get my hands dirty walking with these people on their journeys while also considering the philosophical and cultural implications of every story. The series is going to be an ongoing journey in how listening affects us and how we can use musical gifts to their fullest capacity.
If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to the Listener Effect YouTube Channel to keep up with episodes, full length documentaries, music videos and vlogs about the creative process. The Listener Effect also has its own website (under construction as of Jan. 3rd 2018) and social media that you can check in on for updates. Hope it does something good for ya!
Questions Nobody Asked (QNA) with Jon Michael Swift
In committing to release a Q&A upon hitting $100 a month with his Patreon campaign, Jon has stayed true to his word and uploaded a comprehensive new video in which he addresses a number of commonly asked questions on his YouTube and Patreon feeds.
Jon first covers “genre hopping,” or more specifically how to accompany many different styles of music and the relative and derivative techniques one can use in the pursuit thereof.
What are those things on your fingers? One can get away with styled fingernails on a nylon guitar, but when the inevitable move to steel strings happens a musician needs to consider long-term, effective methods for consistent, accurate, and euphonious playing. Jon illustrates his personal method of using four Alaskapiks and a thumb pick so that his hands can keep up with his professional schedule and demands.
Many of Jon’s subscribers have been asking about as-yet unproduced advanced lessons for a number of serials; Jon fills everyone in on his 2017 plans, which lessons he plans on touching on soon, which will be a little further down the road, and how to support his work or get voting power in pushing for specific advanced lessons.
BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!
At one point or another, every serious musician is going to run into performance and practice injuries. Jon talks about how these “setbacks” can be turned into advantages or can serve as spontaneous lessons in developing method and style; he busts out his Uke to demonstrate ways to account for blistered or injured fingers, and shares an anecdote of a time he had to adjust his own picking pattern during a gig to solve the problem of an out-of-commission finger.
Have music/guitar/vocal questions you’d like answered? Contact Jon here, check out his YouTube channel for tons of free guitar instruction, or contribute to his Patreon campaign for the right to vote on upcoming content and get quick answers to pressing questions.
Matt Ward works with Jon Michael Swift on a number of creative projects.
It’s a little past three o’clock in the morning, early January 2017; I’m sitting behind a camera, Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic hooked to a Tascam portable audio recorder, and moving tiredly to check the levels on a second recorder that’s hooked to an interface. To say I’m ready for a break is a euphemism – I’m ready to go home, shortest route possible through the bitter cold, and hit the sack. My brain feels like it’s about to override my will to stay awake, as if to say “All right Matt, you can’t handle this – time for sleep.”
The thing I can’t handle is the thing that’s been blowing my mind since a little before midnight – just three hours ago, three hours since megastar Ed Sheeran dropped a midnight release of his new single Shape of You.
Its name is Jon MIchael Swift, and it’s telling me it’s ready to nail another take of Shape of You with (in three hours) complete guitar music, percussive effects, vocal leads and harmonies, memorized lyrics – that hey Matt, I’m feeling wide awake and may even throw in an improvised guitar solo this time!
So I – I, the person exhausted by three hours of just recording this mad genius, of essentially just sitting on a stool watching him stick the guitar riff, hack the bass and chorus, deconstruct the vocals, memorize the lyrics, mastermind the loops, all with an ease and coolness no one person ought to be gifted with – I get myself up, jot down the take numbers, recording file names, time stamps (my hand feels to tired to write, yet Jon has been playing for hours, and ripping random solos and arias between takes like it’s no big deal), and let him know he’s good to go.
I make a quick ISO adjustment on the camera, because he’s outlasted the batteries on our photography lights.
I then press three record buttons and watch Jon Michael Swift play and sing Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You to near perfection, nearly note-for-note – except for the original, improvised solo he throws in to tie it all off.
I enjoy the musical genius of Jon Michael Swift.
When it’s over, Jon casually racks his guitar and turns off the looping rig; hooks the camera up to the computer and uploads the video and audio files (I’m supposed to be doing this and I know it, but I’m staggering around stupidly tired trying to wrap up XLR cables and generally making an even bigger mess); lines up the audio and video and cuts it quickly (also my job) and uploads it YouTube (his setting are in German).
“You tired? Want to do some other stuff?”
Good lord, please God no.
“Let’s meet up Sunday then.”
And I’m borderline-impolitely out the door and into the bitter cold, portering my film gear across the central Pennsylvanian tundra. Then, for the first time it really hits me that I just watched someone hear a song for the first time and then play and sing it, with improvisations just hours later.
Jon hates adulation and constantly has me make changes to the website and other projects to make them less self-centered or monetized or market-y. Before we started the video I posted above, he told me he hates that he’s “anklebiting Ed Sheering so hard his ankles are bleeding in England.” The only thing he’s said so far about his Shape of You cover is that he thinks he could have done better. And I’m sure as I sit here writing this, he’s metaphorically cooking up some more mad-music-science and improv which he’ll wish he could word at harder and longer.
But because Jon wouldn’t do it, I wanted to give him some props here on his own site. This may be the last you ever hear of this user – Jon might delete me for being to promotional. But every good employee and friend tells his boss the truth; so whether he likes it not, I thought it ought to be said: