©2011 Master Seven. All rights reserved.
Interview with Jared Bartman
Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
Congratulations on the release of your Jersey Shore CD. How is that progressing?
It’s gone over pretty well. When I first released it, it was the best time for it. I had a record release concert and sold a lot of copies of it. Unfortunately, a few months after the release, the TV show of the same name came out. That marred the success of the record a little bit…. It has nothing to do with my record but people kind of associate it with that (show)…. Some people thought my record was some sort of tongue-and-cheek parody of that. The music has helped people look past that association.
What were your thoughts when you were putting together this concept CD? What were you trying to achieve?
It is a semi-fictional narrative about relationships…. It begins with a relationship (that develops into a) marriage and (ends with) the eventual breakdown and divorce of this couple…. There are elements of myth, different areas of different literature, and elements of truth from family members, people I’ve met…. You go through the record and it starts with the male character … looking back on his life. It then goes to the beginning of the next song.
Have you found that people can relate more to the record once they understand this?
Yeah. I feel some people are really interested in lyrical content and some people just aren’t…. I’ve had some people come up and point out that they did notice some in-depth narrative threads that are moving through all of the songs…. That’s been kind of cool….
Who is your target audience?
I would say it’s for college-age and older adults who actually want to spend time with it. I’m really big into literature. I was an English major in college. I’m into dissecting pieces of music and literature. I was looking for a crowd that would want to look for a variety of different meanings and understandings within them.
What were your thoughts about using a wide variety of classical and unusual instruments, such as the Contra Alto Clarinet, for this project?
I think it was the environment I was in. Erik Juhl and Aaron Kavelman both play a wide variety of instruments. They trained in jazz and classical music as well as rock music. Working with them encouraged some experimentation. Also, my producer Mark Rubel has a studio full of curiosities and conversational instruments and gear. He really revels in taking an idea or novel approach and running with it. My goal is to stretch the concept of a songwriter and the kind of record that a songwriter could make. It was very much a collaboration as far as the arranging goes. I wrote all of the songs myself. We then rearranged them together.
One task of the mixing engineer is to separate overlapping frequencies and textures. Do you consider this when you choose various instruments and when arranging your songs?
Absolutely. I think we did a pretty good job with that. One choice, for instance, was using the Contra Alto Clarinet. We were looking for something to fill the bass register very well, something different than an upright bass or an electric bass. Erik hit upon that instrument to fill that area. I think we had different times where we needed to take a part out that I had arranged or one of us had arranged and reconfigure it quite a bit. It is definitely a process. We had a lot of different ideas and a lot of interlocking parts. Sometimes there is the law of diminishing returns where you keep adding more in and it’s not really working. It is sort of a consideration of classical counterpoint like in the days of somebody like Bach where there was a very eloquent arrangement of interlocking parts. It is definitely a work in process trying to get that right.
There is a lot of effort to be put into a concept album such as this. Were you concerned with how commercially successful this record would be?
It really wasn’t commercially successful. It’s been successful within a small group of people who listen to my music. I think there was one song that came out that could be a single. My manager and other people encouraged free downloads for it.
Which song is that?
That would be “Guillotine King.”
That’s the one I picked.
Yeah, it kind of sounds more like a single. I didn’t really plan it like that. I think (this project) was a good stepping stone. I wasn’t working with a manager then. I’ll be releasing a 7” vinyl on April15th…. We’ll be sending it out to different labels. There is more of an agenda behind it.
Is this your Two Poems release?
It’s interesting that you are having a limited quantity of 500 pieces pressed, an MP3 download is included, and people can select their own price above the five dollar minimum. This is a great idea. How did you come up with this approach for releasing this record?
Well I had the two songs…. My manger and I were talking about how we can make it cost-effective. My friend does high quality turn-of-the-century printing. She made a really cool design for the cover. It’ll be like a collector’s item in that they will all be hand printed. Some of them will be different colors.
Jared, are you talking about Nicole Blackburn’s work?
Yeah. She did that. They will be … hand-numbered. I’m trying to offer a limited-time collector’s item thing for a reasonable price. Hopefully people will come forward and be interested in that. It is an experiment. We have it up on Bandcamp. It seems to be a popular thing now. Everyone, especially bloggers, if they don’t see a Bandcamp thing on your submission to blog they sort of ignore you. If this thing does well, I will do another one.
It seems like a very good marketing concept.
Many artists do not want to be in charge of selling their songs and CDs. What are your thoughts about marketing your work?
I think you have to. It’s part of the grind of making a living. It’s good if you want to be a songwriter in your spare time, like in the evenings after your day job. (But if) the goal is to be autonomous, then you have to be the one to make your Facebook events and maintain your website. You can have a manager but you still need to be involved with it. If not, you’ll have people directing you somewhere that you don’t want to take your music. It would be nice to focus in on composition all of the time. I wish I could spend more time doing it but part of being an independent musician is doing a lot of the work yourself and learning things about the music business so you don’t get walked all over. Hopefully at some point I’ll find an independent label that will work for me. But I’ll still have a large hand in everything.
What is the significance of the title of your CD? Does it relate to New Jersey’s seashore?
At the end of the record there’s a passage that is set in the United Kingdom. The female character passes over the ocean to the US and to the Jersey Shore. It is symbolical as in a Greek myth.
You had Adde Russell do the artwork on your Jersey Shore CD and Nicole Blackburn is working on your Two Poems record. How does this artwork fit into your music?
I start working with the art after the record is done, so I have a good idea of what I want. I am not a visual artist – I have to have somebody to work with. I give them a lot of input and we have this back and forth email conversation to work it out. With Two Poems, I showed Nicole this copy of the book, Three Tragedies, by the Spanish poet and playwright Frederico Garia Lorka. It has this interesting and modern 1960s design on the cover. I wanted some sort of stark, plain, and minimal design for the cover. That was a good starting block for her. It’s a collaborative process. I don’t do any of the artwork but my opinion is pretty ebbed in whatever comes out.
Did they have an opportunity to listen to the music before proceeding with the artwork?
Yeah. I always give them a final copy of the record.
How involved were you in the actual recording process?
For Two Poems, I recorded some of the basic tracks myself. I recorded guitars and drums. Then I took it to Mark Rubel. For Jersey Shore, I really didn’t have a hand in it although I was there for every session. I would like to work up to where I can coproduce or produce my own work.
With the three records, The Kathy Clark E.P., I Refute Technology, and Jersey Shore under his belt, Jared Bartman recently released his Two Poems record on 7” vinyl. Today we discuss Jared’s current CD Jersey Shore. This record features multi-instrumentalist composer Erik Christian Juhl, percussionist Aaron Kavelman, and record producer Mark Rubel.
Were you present at the mixing sessions?
Yes. I was present at the mixing and mastering sessions. I was paying attention and asking what they were doing. I was giving my input on different things.
Many indie songwriters sell their CDs and downloads on iTunes and CD Baby. Why is it important for songwriters to also fulfill sales (as you do) thru their websites?
It's important for songwriters to fulfill sales outside of the standard iTunes and CD Baby online formats because, for one, you're establishing a closer connection with your fans where they can contact you personally to buy a record. It's also helpful to cut out the middleman whenever possible in selling records because the artist makes more money by selling records directly to fans than by selling through record stores or online retailers, which all charge some sort of consignment fee.
Which blogs do you believe are key and important for songwriters?
I personally feel that any press is good press, so I really never turn down an opportunity to get coverage from a blog. However, I do think there are a lot of taste-making blogs that can significantly help an artist's career through their coverage. Some good examples of these are Pitchfork (of course), Stereogum, Brooklyn Vegan, You Ain't No Picasso, Aquarium Drunkard...and the list goes on and on. Another local Illinois favorite of mine is Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good.
Besides Two Poems, what projects are you working on for 2011?
I have another 7" ready to go for fall of 2011. The songs are both recorded and mastered, and I'll just be getting everything pressed and assembled over the summer. I'm writing for a new full-length record which will hopefully see a release in late 2012, and I am working on some pieces for string quartet which may or may not come to anything.
You can purchase Jared Bartman's Jersey Shore CD at:
CD Baby - http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/JaredBartman
iTunes - http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jared-bartman/id304345275