Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ownership: Claiming The Gift of Greatness


Remember when Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed and arguably "greatest of all time" was banned from boxing during his prime only to come back and win the heavyweight title?

Do you recall when Michael Jordan, basketball's version of the "G.O.A.T.", retired after his Chicago Bulls completed a 3-peat, played minor league baseball, and returned to the NBA to win three more championships in a row?

Maybe you're not into sports or you're not familiar with those iconic figures because of your age or lack of exposure to their greatness. Whatever the reason, and there could be a myriad of them, I'm sure at some point in time you've heard the expression "still got it". For those not hip to the phrase, "still got it" means still possessing the quality, talent, or characteristic that makes something or someone unique. When Ali reclaimed the heavyweight crown after being banned from the sport for 3 1/2 years, his fans could be heard shouting, "He's still got it! The greatest of all time!" Michael Jordan switched back to number 23 from the number 45 (the number he wore during his minor league baseball stint with the Barons) during the 1995 Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Orlando Magic and those who quipped, "45 is not 23" had to enjoy a slice of humble pie and a tall glass of he's "still got it". Jordan and the Bulls lost that series but went on to complete a second 3-peat from 1996-98.


The point is, no one can take away your gift of greatness. It is a gift from God.  Your gift doesn't always reap instant rewards and praise. The was a Great Depression. You can be the greatest loser of all time or the greatest liar or the greatest thief. Some would call you a member of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a lawyer, or a politician but I'll do my best to refrain from being tangential.


In my last post I spoke of having the honor and privilege of playing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the greatest human beings to walk this planet. A man who didn't necessarily want to be seen or known as the face of a movement but accepted his God given role as its leader, King just wanted to do God's will. He was assassinated for it. However, the bullet that took his life could not take his greatness for we now have a national holiday commemorating this man and in some homes you can see his face included in the Trinity of Jesus, JFK and MLK. One could argue that that was a time of great men.  Men were still gentlemen, wore suits and stood for a worthy cause. In history books we read about the "greatest generation" being those who withstood the hardships of the Great Depression and fought in World War II not because it was cool or going to earn them fame, but because as Tom Brokaw states in his book "The Greatest Generation", it was the right thing to do. Being great doesn't always make you popular. Some might dislike you or even kill you because of it. Just ask Jesus Christ.


What makes you great? Are you a great singer? Do you possess great typing skills?  Are you a great athlete or great teacher? Maybe you're a great parent or great listener or great lover or great friend. Whatever it is, that makes you great, OWN IT! It's your gift.  Let NO ONE take it from you with their most valiant effort.  God gave it to YOU for a reason. Only YOU can use that gift in the way God intended it be used during your time on this earth.

I've been called many things in my life. I've only won a few awards and if you Google my name, many guys will appear on your screen before you find me.  I don't have tons of friends on Facebook, very many fans or followers on social media @boogiejones30 for the Twitter and Instagram folk. In fact, I don't know if there's anything about me that is "great". I make the best of what I've been given and if I love you, I do my best to show it and let you know. It has pushed some out of my life and brought many closer to me. That's the extent of my greatness.

After my last post, I received an angry email from someone because they weren't mentioned when I talked about my journey to letting my light shine. They vowed to no longer read this blog.  I let that feedback rob me of this form of expression and to those of you who enjoy reading these posts, I apologize for not having a thicker skin. This blog is mine. It is written by me so that I can get things off of my chest or give insight to what my life is like as a working artist. Recently, a dear friend of mine suggested that I write, not knowing that I have this blog that I use from time to time. I then thought of how my girlfriend and a few other friends have enjoyed my posts and realized that maybe one of the many gifts I've been given is the written word. Why should I let one person's opinion or whatever they were going through at that time prevent me from using that gift?


If the great ones allowed one person's opinion stand in the way of them sharing their greatness with the world, this place would be even darker than it already is. Don't misunderstand. I am not saying I'm a great writer, but I do acknowledge that this gift of writing is mine to share with the world, with YOU.  I have to admit, writing the first few lines of this post were hard. My fingers were stiff on the keys and my thoughts were scattered.  It had been months and I was worried that maybe I'd lost it- that those of you who read this would not think, "he's still got it".  Then I remembered that's not why I started writing in the first place. This blog isn't for the praise and approval of others. It is a form of self expression, take it or leave it.  I enjoy doing it and hope that through my expression someone somewhere is enlightened or moved to do something that contributes a note or verse in this song of life.

Find what makes you great and own it. You may have already found it and embraced it.  You may already possess it and just don't know it. I'm still searching.  Maybe I'll find that I'm a great business man who helps make Urban Creek Records a game changer in the music industry. Maybe I'll find that I'm a great uncle to my nieces and nephews or a great friend to those in need.  Maybe one day I'll find myself as a great husband or a great son. I may already be those things and have yet to embrace them. No one can take away from you what God has given as a gift. Accept it and share it.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

From The Bottom

I've been wanting to say this for some time, and now, as a part owner of an independent record label (Urban Creek Records), a successful working actor, musician and supporter of many with dreams, I have to get this off my chest.  It is a matter that has been weighing heavy on my heart...

As I sit here in apartment #8 in my appointed actor housing, a perk for playing Martin Luther King in Capital Repertory Theatre's production of The Mountaintop, I think about where I am. This apartment is the eighth of eight apartments on the top floor of a building at the top of a hill on Columbia Street in the capital city of New York. Not unlike my home in Park Slope Brooklyn, New York, which is also the eighth apartment on the top floor of a building on a slope, it is fully furnished providing most of the comforts of home.  I sit here in a high place, but I am writing from the bottom.

Courtesy of dark.pozadia.org
The bottom it is perceived to be a dank, lonely place.  At the bottom, there aren't too many real friends or supporters.  There aren't too many reasons to believe that you can ascend to the top or that there is even a top to see.  At the bottom darkness threatens to smote any glimmer of hope with the whispers and sad songs of your naysayers and doubters.  You're definitely not alone when you're at the bottom because there's always someone there in need of company that will do whatever they can to keep you down there with them.  But, there is a song.  A song those at the bottom can't stand. A song my Grandmama taught me as a little boy in Sunday school at Greater First Baptist Church in Sharpsburg, Kentucky. A song that's a declaration that no matter how low your bottom is or how alone you may feel, you have a song to sing.  A song that stares darkness in the eye and exclaims with exceeding joy that, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine".  That light is a fire that burns deep down that no one and no thing can extinguish. When your friends won't support you but talk shit about you behind your back, let it shine.  When your family won't support you because your road to Glory is one less traveled, let it shine. When you find yourself at the bottom and beat down by life remember that there is a Joy and a Light that was given to you that only you can share and you have to let it shine in order to rise!

Courtesy of http://s3.amazonaws.com

You see, down at the bottom, there aren't too many cheerleaders.  There aren't many offering to lift you up when you're tired or feeling weary.  Many of you have dreams and ideas that others may shoot down or laugh at as foolery. They'll call you crazy, a dreamer, too ambitious, corny or tell you that you're not good enough and they won't always tell you with words. Sometimes the lack of words speak loud and clear. Sometimes, the action of taking no action and ignoring you says it all. Those things can threaten to keep you down and cause you to lose focus.  Those things can ruin your vision and mess with your depth perception.  Just remember your Light and let it shine brightly so you can see things for what they really are.  That Light allows you to see in 3D and that 3D vision is what will keep you speaking from the bottom but rising to the top.  When your Desire keeps you Determined you're Dedicated to reaching whatever goals you've set for yourself.

Courtesy of www.jimmyandcarolowens.com
Today, I speak to you from the bottom. It's not the bottom littered with doubt, confusion and hopelessness.  Instead I speak to you from the bottom of my heart, the depths of my soul.  Support your friends and family who dare to let their Light shine and climb their mountain.  Too often I've seen friends not support their friends until strangers do.  Promote them.  Encourage them.  Encourage children who are gifted and talented and intelligent.  If someone Loves you and is brave enough to tell you and show you, be brave enough to receive it and if you feel the same, be brave enough to reciprocate. So many people are afraid of the dark but that's where they choose to stay. They refuse Light because their eyes have grown accustomed to not seeing and not knowing.  That blindness is sometimes mistaken for tradition, religion, or a way of thinking.  New ideas offend them.  They won't make Love with the lights on because they feel they're not supposed to enjoy the naked body or are ashamed of the way they look.  When you can't see you can't see your own Beauty let alone the Beauty of others in this world.  Thank God for my Grandmama.  Thank God for my true friends and family who refuse to let me not see the Light.  Open your eyes.  They will adjust to new Light just as they do when you wake in the morning. If you see something you don't like or that isn't aiding you on your journey, keep on climbing and the next time you see it, you can keep it moving toward your goal because you ain't got time for all of that. Once you allow yourself to do that, you'll begin to see in 3D, speaking from the bottom as you ascend your mountain to the top becoming a beacon to those who might be tired of the darkness but afraid to walk in the light. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

To the Mountaintop and Beyond

Happy New Year good people! It's been a while since I have graced your computer screens with a post but not for lack of something to say. The final quarter of 2013 was a very busy one in some instances:  holidays, movies watched, a new single released, a new record label created, new acting jobs booked, and a new 9 to 5 to help pay the bills. It was also a time that allowed me to do some soul searching and I think that along with A LOT of prayer and unwavering support from my inner circle helped get me to 2014. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!  At the risk of being cliche', I really could NOT have done it without you. To you all I am forever grateful.

So, I realize I just listed a bunch of things that could be interesting to you, if you had more information about them.  Well, you're in luck my friend, Boogie's about to give it to you! Not like that!  Pervs...


The last time you heard from me I had just released my then new single, Shot of Bourbon.  I was flying high and feeling good.  I had my days free to write and play and work on projects as I had been laid off from my job and could finally focus on the artist aspect of life. Well!  That only lasted for so long as more money went out the door than came in and I found myself at a fork in the road. Be like everyone else and just have a 9 to 5, or keep pushing and pursue my passions by using my God given gifts were my two options.  You may be thinking that it was a no brainer for me but it really wasn't.  I struggled for weeks as I posted my resume on Monster dot com, and searched Craigslist for jobs.  I went on interviews for bogus jobs.  I called my old job, a temp agency in Manhattan, and told them that I was willing to take a permanent position if they could place me.  I had to do something.  I couldn't stand there as the freight train of life was charging full speed ahead and threatening to ruin my life as I knew it.  My old job told me they'd be in touch and let me know if they found anything.  Fair enough.  The train kept coming...


At least I had some sales of the single keeping my spirits high as folks seemed to dig the video and song.

That said, I didn't feel very good about myself. I wasn't making money and I couldn't really do the things I wanted to do.  All of my needs were met but you know how we are, we always want what we want, not what we need. Thank God for my best friend, my rock, my "contonto", Nicole. She kept me from laying my life on those tracks and letting the train run over me by reassuring me daily that, "It's all going to work out" and taking me to movies and making sure I ate healthy meals to keep up my strength and morale. I'm sure in the back of her mind she was probably thinking, "This fool better get his ass in gear and get up, get out and get something!"  That's what I did.  The train kept coming...

I filed for unemployment.  I didn't get any.  Not one penny.  It's funny, I had actor and artist friends tell me how they received UE benefits and it's almost as if they were from some unknown galaxy light years from Earth because I knew nothing about what they were saying.  Since I couldn't find anyone who would pay me, I decided that I would find a way to pay myself.  My cousin and fellow artist in the struggle, REAL Tha Poet, producer J-Ideas and visual artist/hip hop artist Deedot King and I decided we would no longer wait for the world to come take notice of our talents.  We would bring our talents to the world as an independent record label. We kicked around names, some better than others and agreed on Urban Creek Records.

*Shameless plug*

At Urban Creek we provide alternate themes and sounds within the realm of popular music.  However, popular music is not our box.  There is no box at Urban Creek.  We make our own rules by having no rules and let the consumer inform us while we give them high quality products in music, media and merchandise.

Check us out!  www.urbancreekrecords.com 




 I have always wanted to have my own label to release my own material and be my own boss. This was a dream come true!  However, there were setbacks in terms of financing and getting our first release my EP Shot of Bourbon ready for release. Contracts had to be signed, paperwork had to be filed and the EP didn't sound the way I wanted it to sound.  The train kept coming...

After being unemployed and stressed for a month, I received a phone call from my old job.  They had good news! An assignment!!  I tell you, I felt like a cocker spaniel that had been left home all day only to be greeted by a familiar face and treats.  Okay, no, I didn't pee on the floor from my excitement but that damn train was getting closer and closer and this was my opportunity to get off the tracks or at least redirect the oncoming locomotive. Once I had the information for the interview, I went in looking sharp.  Hair lined, clothes clean and dapper, ready to impress. All I had to do was go get the job. I went to the location and met with G, the director of the office.  We hit it off immediately.  Right away G took an interest in me and everything that G had to say, sounded like music to my ears. Work three days a week, sometimes from home, make your own schedule, creative freedom, my own corner office with a door that closes and a window!  For some of you that might not sound like much, but had you been in my worn down shoes, you would have been wagging your tail at the opportunity. We spoke about and agreed on terms, shook hands and I had a job!  I had a job.  I still hadn't been paid for now the 6th week in a row.  The train kept coming...

The following week, I started.  I was trained and given every resource I needed to succeed.  I was feeling good.  I wasn't worried that the chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a of the oncoming train was at a deafening decibel and the thunderous vibrations made it hard for me to stand my ground but I would not relent. I gritted my teeth, bowed my neck and called on God asking that His/Her will be done.  The whistle of the train was so loud I could barely hear my own prayer.  I could see the rust on the front of the locomotive and smell the smoke as it rapidly approached bringing with it my certain demise.  Then, I received a message from a mentor of mine who would be directing a play written by Katori Hall, The Mountaintop.  It's a two hander (two person play) and take place in room 306 of The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968.  For those who don't know who stayed in that room that night here's a clue:


Yep!  I know.  The director said that he wanted me to audition for the role of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I replied, "No, I'm busy.  I have a new 9 to 5.  Thanks, but I have to respectfully decline." If you believe that, you're absolutely NUTS!   Of course I accepted the invitation.  I had auditioned for this very role in this very play a few weeks prior to receiving this chance and I did NOT book the job. Hence the train.  However, this time, I had a new attitude, a newly found confidence.  Things were starting to take a turn for the better.

The audition would be on a Thursday.  Contonto Nicole helped me prepare and I went in there feeling and looking to the best of my ability like Dr. King.  This was fate.  This was my job to book. Yes, there'd be a time conflict with the new 9 to 5 but as an actor I could not let this opportunity pass me by. I auditioned and was called back the next day, a Friday.  I didn't want to jinx anything so I kept it hush hush around the office.  I had been paid for my work the week prior and I noticed the train was slowing.  I heard the assistant engineer hit the brakes and the screech of metal on metal reminded me of sharp fingernails slowly dragging down a chalkboard as the sound pierced my ears almost making me double over in agony.

During the callback I read with the reader, let's call her A.  I read with another young lady.  I was asked to stick around in the hall.  I checked in with Contonto just to keep her updated and even joked with my buddy Larry to keep me loose. A familiar face of a woman named L, whom I had seen the previous day at the audition approached down the hall.  She had been there earlier in the day this Friday and now returned. We read together and she departed. I was asked to stick around, this time the door closed and I was in the room with the director, casting director and artistic director of Capital Repertory Theatre. The train was slowing. I saw the sparks shooting off the tracks as the wheels locked.  I could make out the shape of the engineer's young brown face.  A look of worry on his brow as he did his best to bring the locomotive to a stop.



I was offered the role. I hugged the director (no lie) gave many thanks for the opportunity and went out into the hall to thank and praise God.  I called Contonto and gave her the good news.  I looked back at the train and it was as if someone had poured super glue as thick as molasses on the tracks because it was barely moving toward me. The engineer's tired brown eyes were visible after he wiped the sweat out of them with his dirty sleeve then fanned himself with his cap using his gloved hand. His eyes were familiar, but smoke from the commotion made it hard to see the rest of his face.

In the days that followed, were holidays spent with new family and friends, I informed the office of my new opportunity and they were delighted.  I played my first solo gig of more than two songs at Brooklyn's Freddy's Bar.  A 45 minute set that concluded with an impromptu version of Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer" that I will probably never do again but had a great time doing to close the show. Bills were paid, presents were given and received for Christmas, Love was in the air.  The EP was complete and we had a game plan to release it.  The train had stopped.  The engineer stepped out of the train.  The assistant engineer and conductor were nowhere to be found. As the young man walked toward me, I recognized his face.  It was me.  He removed his hat and gloves, shook my hand and said, "You control where she goes from here." He smiled and disappeared into the brush lining the tracks that held the gigantic locomotive.

As I walked toward the locomotive I began to hear my music playing.



I climbed aboard the locomotive and pulled the whistle.  I had always wanted to do that as a kid.  The train began to move and I heard the conductor say in MY voice, "Next stop, The Mountaintop!"  I looked around hoping to get a glimpse of the man but he was nowhere in sight. A voice from within echoed, "You control where she goes from here."

I arrived in Albany, NY on December 26th and began rehearsal on The Mountaintop the next day.  After 10 rehearsals, I have felt so many emotions: longing for the comfort of home, overjoyed with the opportunity and work being done in rehearsal, extreme doubt that I'm not good enough to bring life to this role and that my music isn't good enough for folks to buy, and last but not least, confident that no matter where I direct this train- a NYC office, down the rapids of Urban Creek Records or through the peaks and valley filled pages of The Mountaintop, God is with me and I'm where I'm mean to be. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Back to Life: Moving On After Success or Failure

What a week!



Our government shut down causing the media to do their best at creating must see TV and nearly every social network to overflow with comments about President Obama (yes PRESIDENT, not Mister, not Barack) being at fault, the Tea Party, and how ridiculous it all is.  No matter your opinion or view, it is safe to say that if you didn't have one before today, you probably have one by now or are too damn fed up with being laid off or having so many people screaming in your ear and pointing fingers that you turned off the TV and computer and dropped to your knees to pray that you had acceptable healthcare and didn't have to read another racist comment from your Facebook "friends" about certain members of the government.

Maybe that wasn't your week.  Maybe you opened a show or started a new job.  Perhaps you had a baby or bought a new house or moved into a new apartment.  Some of you may have made a new purchase or read a new book that is gripping and you find it hard to put down long enough to spread the word about how great it is.  I know there are many of you who had a rough week.  You may have lost a loved one, or received one too many bills all at once.  Maybe the grocery store stopped carrying your favorite product or you had the worst luck traveling to and from work.  You might have found out that a hospital was going to be expanding by knocking down buildings on your block so that they can build up to your back door. Wait, wait, I know... Your favorite sports team lost and you've been in a funk ever since the final whistle.  Whatever happened to you last week, good or bad, today is a new day and it's time to learn from those experiences and get back to life!

courtesy of http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/


Last week was a busy week for me!  I was so excited to release my debut single and title track from my EP, Shot of Bourbon.  I made sure to research the best time of day to release the song & video.  I even consulted with people whom I consider to be my inner circle and chose 11 AM on October 1.  Well, so much for that! I was so excited in my preparation that I accidentally released the video 15 minutes early via twitter and Facebook.  I was alerted by my friend and producer J-Ideas and I quickly deleted the posts only to re-release a few minutes after 11 AM EST.  I had a good sniggle (snicker and giggle) and continued to be blown away by the response to the song and video. In less than a week, the video had over 250 views on YouTube (if you have yet to see it, check it out below).



The song was being downloaded and shared left and right (and probably forward and backwards but people don't usually say that so I'm not sure) to the point that I went from #150 to now #13 on the Singer/Songwriter charts on the music website Reverbnation.  I found myself nearly obsessed with the statistics of the song and video, checking my phone constantly while not really doing much else for about 4 days. Having your music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Myspace Music, CD Baby, Last.fm, Rdio, Google Music and other online retailers can really drive you crazy... if you let it.  October 4, 2013 I played at the Brooklyn Conservatory Concert Hall and as soon as the show was over I beat myself up because I felt that I didn't play as well as I could have (see footage of St. James Infirmary below).

Clip of St. James Infirmary

I know, I know, some of you might be saying, "Aww, that's cute" or "Dude, get a life!".  I agree with both sentiments.  After building up the courage to finally share this music with the world and finding out that the world didn't hate it, I realized it is okay to enjoy this taste of success and also time to move on and get back to living life.

I have to get back to work as bills don't pay themselves.  I have to keep exercising and eating healthy foods.  I have to leave the house more than once or twice a day for something other than going to the store or checking the mail. No matter how good or bad LAST week was, this week has just begun and I have to keep living and moving forward through life. It's a little difficult, I'll admit.  As an artist you want success and you want people to appreciate your efforts and for them to want more of your work. I'd be lying if I said I don't want to keep basking in the glow of last week's success.  However, looking back will cause me to miss what's coming my way and basking in that glow for too long could blind me from my responsibilities as a man.

So, how do I balance the two?  How do I enjoy my modest success and keep living and working hard.  Easy, I was raised and surrounded by people who instilled in me to be humble and maintain a good work ethic.  Psh, c'mon, ask me a tough one, right?! Right?! (crickets)

courtesy of newnownext.mtvnimages.com

Okay, bad joke, but seriously, how do we not let good or bad things get to our head?  We have to stay in the present, the now, and do whatever we have to do (legally) to get more of that good feeling or make sure we don't experience more of that bad feeling. Yes, that's vague, but for me, I know I have to keep working hard.  I have to make sure I practice playing guitar and singing every day. I have to keep reading plays and working on my craft during my down time.  I have to make sure I stay in shape and also keep in touch with directors, producers, and other artists with whom I've had the pleasure of working. I have to keep myself surrounded by honest, grounded, like-minded people who have my best interest at heart.  It sounds pretty simple but you don't go from Hannah Montana to twerking without being blinded by the limelight and having one or two people on your team that steer you into a crash and burn.

courtesy of starwallpict.com

courtesy of Lucy Buckland

I'm not hating on Miley.  Let's face it, we're all buying what she's selling in some way.  You may disagree with her performance or her popularity, but you talk about her and try to keep her from your children, right?  That's what she's selling!  She wants people to talk about her and when that happens she's relevant and when you're relevant people are caring about what you're doing regardless of if they want to admit it or not.  Yet, she too, must move on and live life and keep evolving as a person and an artist... at some point.

Don't worry, I won't be twerking or pulling any Miley stunts to get your attention.  This week will be spent updating my 9-5 resume so that I can keep cash flowing into my bank account between acting gigs and music projects.  I will be emailing my temp agency to let them know my availability so that I can get back to reality.  As you see, my life has yet to reach the glamourous state.

I still have concerns of paying bills on time and having enough food in my cabinets and fridge.  When in the comfort of my own home, I wear a pair of broken glasses to let my eyes rest from wearing contacts.  The glasses are so broken that they only have one arm and the right lens only stays attached to the frame if I wear them on the tip of my nose.  It could just fall out at any moment.  There is STILL a bag full of laundry that needs to be done, even though that chore was completed last week. My bedroom needs to be repainted and so does my kitchen.  Did I mention I have a slow drip from the faucet in the kitchen sink? I have at least 99 problems.  Thank God a bitch ain't one. HIT ME!


With that  said, it's back to life for me and back to work I go... after all, I am a working artist whose life is his art.  Thank you for finding it interesting enough to keep tuning in- damn my right lens just fell out... 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shot of Bourbon: The Video



Remember I told you about a music video I shot while visiting my hometown of Paris, KY?  Well, the video is ready and it is my pleasure to bring it to you! Here it is: the video for my debut single, S.O.B. (Shot of Bourbon).  Shot and directed by Jake Drescher (J-Ideas) and starring yours truly (Brandon Jones), REAL Tha Poet, Nicole Palma and Doug Jones (yes, relation).  Shot on location at Doug's Bar and made with Love, Happiness and good times.  If you like the song you can purchase it online:

Shot of Bourbon on iTunes

Shot of Bourbon on Amazon

Enjoy, share and thank you all for you unrelenting Love and support. The EP is coming soon to a music provider near you.

I'm so excited that I accidentally posted the video and song 15 minutes early while editing my website and getting things in order to release the song.  This is a big deal to me.  A lot of time, effort and literal blood sweat and tears went into making this moment come to fruition. I might need a shot of Bourbon just to calm myself down!  (Spoken rapidly on one breath: "I do not condone the consumption of ridiculously copious amounts of Bourbon or any other alcoholic beverage to curtail excitement or stress.")

Y'all be good until next time... Then, you can just be heathens!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

S.O.B.

It's September 5, 2013. Thursday, early afternoon.  I'm in my Mom's silver KIA sedan and driving on familiar Paris, KY roads that I haven't driven in nearly a year.  In the backseat is my cousin and fellow artist/performer R.E.A.L. Tha Poet aka Russ to family.  Riding shotgun is none other than my co-pilot and partner in crime and first time visitor to the Bluegrass State, Mocha Frappe aka Nicole to family and the rest of the world.  We're en route to the location of my first video shoot... well, the first shoot of a video for MY song, S.O.B. (Shot of Bourbon).  In January, Russ and I drove to Pekin, Indiana (a small town not unlike Paris, KY) to shoot his video for his outstanding song "Last of the Mohicans".

6 months ago I couldn't imagine shooting a video for my music.  Then, I had only finally found the courage to share my music with the rest of the world instead of the safety net of my family and friends.  Despite my inexperience, I feel adequately prepared.  As an actor, I know that showing up on time and prepared to work is something on which I hang my hat as a professional.  On the outside I'm cool.  I'm laughing and enjoying the conversation with Russ and Nicole as we drive on 8th Street approaching our left turn onto Gano Street.  Everything has been going smoothly.  We have a screenplay, we have the cast and we have the location and we have each other.  The only thing missing... is the DP (director of photography)/cameraman with all the equipment to shoot the video.

Jake aka J-Ideas, is the DP as well as producer of the song for which the video is being shot. Without him, I'm not sure if any of this would be happening as it was his idea to do a Blues fusion album after our first collaborative effort, The Sound of Love, was warmly received.  Ideas is driving from Pekin, IN although he has visited Paris in the past for other projects. We have a later start than originally planned but I'm not stressed because 1) I'm on vacation. 2) I'm with people I Love. 3) I'm doing what I Love. 4) Did I say I'm on vacation with people I Love doing what I Love?

It's nearing Ideas' ETA (estimated time of arrival) but we haven't heard from him.  Russ suggests I give him a call.  I take the suggestion and when Ideas answers he tells me that he's in Paris... on Gano Street!  You're kidding me!!  This could NOT work out any better.  We meet Ideas on Gano and he follows us to the location: my Dad's house!

You're probably wondering why I'm going to my Dad's to shoot my first music video for a song about Bourbon.  Well, I'll tell you why:


Paris, KY is in Bourbon County

I was educated in the Bourbon County school system and graduated with honors from Bourbon County High School

Bourbon is my spirit of choice (Knob Creek neat)

I grew up in Bourbon County and spent countless hours in the garage/turned man cave that is the set for the video.

So, you see, this place is perfect for my first shoot because I know it well.  It's a piece of me and that's what I want to share with each song on my upcoming EP: Shot of Bourbon.

We pull up to the house and everything is as I remembered it. The yard is green and cut, my Dad's car is parked in the large driveway in the shade of the large tree standing guard next to our mailbox in the front yard.  We all get out of our vehicles and Dad comes out to greet us, followed by my step mother Bonnie, a petit woman, with coal black hair, a sweet Southern accent and a warm embrace.  She invites Nicole into the house and the men stand outside to chat and catch up as Ideas builds his dolly for the shoot.  We all laugh and joke and talk about times past, the current events and the plan for the day.  It's warm, actually it's muggy and sunny.  I go inside to grab bottles of water for the fellas and before you know it we're ready to shoot.


Inside the garage, the set of the video, looks like a sports bar.  The walls are covered with UK and Cincinnati Bengals memorabilia along with Coors, Bud Light and Stroh's lights.  There's a dart board, fooseball, flat screen TV and full bar with barstools along with three tables at which to sit and dine or enjoy a drink.  There's even a lounge area with a couch, recliner and rocking chair if you want to relax while watching the game or listening to music from the Sirius satellite radio fed through the stereo system.  Behind the bar are shot glasses and spirits along with two turntables and a microphone and crates of hundreds of vinyl records from my Dad's DJ days and love of music.

We set up the first shot and I run inside the house to change into my costume and say a prayer.  Hey, you can never have too much help from God when it comes to these things.  A once over in the mirror and self pep talk a la Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights and I'm ready to shoot!


Everything falls into place and we shoot the rehearsal and then get a couple more takes for safety.  Russ is prepared and delivers his lines with exquisite timing as the Bartender.  Jake is in full effect running the shoot and Nicole is in charge of lighting and continuity.  Dad is handling craft services and it all flows fluidly.  We shoot for hours getting every shot we have on the shot list while consulting the screenplay and also improvising.  Cast, crew and environment is clicking far better than I could've ever imagined or hoped for in my dreams, making for a fun-filled learning experience.


Between shots, I take a few seconds to marvel at what is taking place.  As a kid growing up in this house/garage/neighborhood/town I didn't know what I wanted to be or do with my life.  I went from wanting to be a pediatrician to orthopedic surgeon, to football player to basketball star, to actor.  In the 14 years I've been getting paid for my acting skills, I've considered quitting all of ONE time and even then, God stepped in to get me back on track so that this moment, shooting a music video on a Thursday afternoon in September of 2013 in Paris, KY could happen. I take it all in and I'm humbled by the determination of these people who believe in me and what I want to accomplish.  Everyone is on point with suggestions and their performances.  We don't have a Hollywood budget, the set is homemade along with the dolly.  We don't have the most expensive camera, hair and makeup artist or costume designer.  No big name director is at the helm and no record company is pressing us for time.  All of this is being done on our time, with our dollar and being done our way because of Love.  Everyone here wants to be here because they Love the people involved and that shoots the enjoyment of the experience into a stratosphere not often visited in the world of theatre, film or TV and music production.

We break for dinner and enjoy a meal that consists of grilled chicken and ribs, sweet potatoes with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, grilled corn on the cob (in the husk), and other delectable dishes that you have to be here to fully appreciate.  While we eat we relax and it feels like we've just been hanging out having fun all day.  I don't feel like we've done one bit of work though we've accomplished so much.  At this time Peyton Manning and the Broncos are putting an old school butt whooping on the defending champs, the Ray Lewis-less Baltimore Ravens to kick off the 2013 NFL season.  We catch a glimpse here and there and then decide we want to have Russ wrapped after day one of the shoot.


Once again, we get the shots we need and Russ is wrapped after day one.  Ideas and I talk and realize we only have about 3 or 4 shots to get the following day to wrap this shoot.  UNBELIEVABLE!  When we planned to shoot this video, you couldn't tell me that it would only take 2 days to shoot and that we'd have this much fun doing it.  I mean, you could probably tell me but I wouldn't have believed you.  You could try to convince me all you want with cinnamon and sugar goodies and I would've shook my head and laughed at you as if you were Kevin Hart telling jokes about his Dad.  I would've hit you with a, "You go'n learn today!" and kept it moving.  BUT...

photo courtesy of blackdiamondonline.com

You would've been right.

Day 2 of the shoot goes just as smooth.  We start the day off with a good and very entertaining breakfast with my Mom and Aunt Vickie at iHOP and we drive back to Paris to wrap the shoot.  One of my cast members was unable to be in the shoot due to an illness so my Dad, Doug Jones, steps in and does a great job at the last minute with little to no notice.  Even Ideas makes a cameo!  After the shoot, we help Ideas load his equipment into his car, give him a pound and send him off with gratitude and well wishes.  Nicole and I stay and chat with my Dad in the shade of the tree in the front yard.  Everything feels right.  We set a goal to do something we hadn't done and we did it!  In the process we all enjoyed the experience immensely, grew closer, and I left feeling inspired.

I wanted to give the world a shot of Bourbon it had yet to taste, a shot of something that I've been reluctant to offer to the world's palate.  Conquering fears has been a mission of mine this year.  Conquering my fears of playing/singing in front of more than 2 people at a time, taking on roles that will challenge me in ways that take me out of my comfort zone and having confidence in who I am as a man and artist have been on my 'to do' list for 2013.

I just watched the first cut of the video and am very pleased.  A few tweaks here and there and I will be happy to offer you not only a shot of Bourbon but a shot of me... Cheers!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making A Pit Stop

"I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!"


Photo courtesy of treveccalive.com

Sound familiar?  For all of the little engines that could, can, or at least think we can, this mantra seems to be the coal propelling us forward through the good, the bad, the ups and downs of daily living.  If you're an artist, you live and exhaust yourself because of it.  I know I do.  I often bite off more than I can seem to chew because I love to work and then find myself run down, at times, feeling burned out like your favorite candle when you want and need it most. 

How do you or I prevent that from happening?  Well, the easy answer is to say, "Duh, Brandon! Don't bite off more than you can chew!"  Yeah, I hear you, but for those of you who are NOT artists, you have to understand there's this thing inside those of us who ARE artists, that needs to be fed.  We need to create.  We need to perform.  We need to do it NOW but... we need a little more time to feel good about what it is we are creating before we actually perform it in front of an audience.  Face it, we're a little crazy.  My man Seal said, and I agree with him 100%, "we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy".  Think about it, you probably do some pretty weird shit that others would consider crazy when no one is watching or you may enjoy doing those things more when you know you have an audience. Whatever category you fall into, my point is that we all have to feed that engine with something to keep going while learning the art of knowing how and when to pump the brakes.


photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com/Sonja Fagnan
I recently told myself, my family and a dear friend that I cannot WAIT for August 12, 2013 so I can take a much needed break from it all. This year I have taken on project after project after project, some paid, some as favors, some... we won't get into, all so I can feed that engine. That said, my engine needs a break.  I go hard or I go home.  100 mph, throwing caution to the wind, saying "yes" to anything that sounds interesting and challenging, I do my best to live up to the title of "working artist".  I leave early and get home late, often times going days or weeks without taking time to exercise or get enough sleep. Living with me can't be easy and Lord had mercy on those who have tried.  All of that has caused engine wear.  I feel tired, run down, and getting me to start the day is like pulling permanent teeth with butter fingers and imaginary string.  Not easy.  I feel old and cranky when I get home at night.  The lack of professionalism and respect for one's craft I have encountered on my journey pisses me off even when I'm refreshed so imagine the smoke coming from my ears now that I'm due for a tune up. 

Sometimes, we have to ease off the gas.  It's okay to drive the speed limit or a little below it.  Enjoy the scenery and pullover to the shoulder and just take in the sights and sounds you miss when speeding through life living to work.  Instead, work to live and enjoy the life you work so damn hard trying to have.  We are some trying people, aren't we?  "I'm trying to do this... I'm trying to do that..."  Stop trying and just do it.  I had to tell myself that and for once, I'm actually taking my own advice.

Well...

Not until after these next two great projects on which I'm currently working.  The first is a musical spinoff of the hit TV series Scandal  starring Kerry Washington.  The name of the project is Scandusical! Below is a little taste of what the show is:



The second project Monosyllabic written by Tyler Rivenbark.  A married couple attempts to have a conversation in the bedroom in which the wife caught the husband cheating just 4 hours prior.  Yep, it's a comedy.  If you live in Bushwick Brooklyn or are interested in the play and want to check it out, please join us at Mellow Pages August 9-11, 2013.  Seating is limited to 15 people per performance but we may do multiple shows on a given night if need be. 


Photo Courtesy of Mellow Pages, 56 Bogart Street Brooklyn, NY  11206

The finish line, at least for this leg of the race, is drawing near and getting clearer as I approach. This pit stop will be a trip to the garage so that I can recharge my batteries and give my little engine a much needed rest.  During this time I will give attention to my music and those who need it most, myself, my family and my closest friends.  Listen to your body/engine.  You can push it all you want but eventually it wins. Do any and everything you hope to do, just make sure you're enjoying your life as you do it. It's too short of a ride not to.

"Try not to try too hard, it's just a lovely ride."

-James Taylor, The Secret of Life