September 2008

 
Smooth Jazz Notes
Interviewed by Michele Witten

The music business is changing with the advent of the computer and Internet. Chris Standring is one of those musicians who has latched onto the changes and is using the computer to advance his career. His latest CD, "Love and Paragraphs" is doing well and all who buy the CD get an extra added surprise, the ability to download Chrisís first ever solo CD for free. What does Chris get out of this? E mail addresses of his fans so that in the future he can send offers directly to them, cutting out the middleman. Many musicians feel that this is the wave of the future. With the way the industry is set up now, the artists make very little, when they should be making a lot.

Chris Standring was born in England and emigrated to the United States to further pursue his musical career. Classically trained at the London College of Music, he sharpened his skills working for the BBC and theatrical orchestras on Londonís West End. Relocating to Los Angeles, Chris became a sought after session player in the lucrative LA music scene, releasing his first solo effort, Velvet, in 1999, scoring with the radio hit, ďCool Shades.Ē Hip Sway (2000) was his second CD. The title track peaked at #2 and was one of 2000ís most played songs, featuring Richard Elliot on saxophone. In ďLove and ParagraphsĒ, Chris Standring revisits his blues and rock roots in five songs playing two Fender Strats, instead of the jazz guitars he usually plays. He teams up with longtime collaborator, Rodney Lee, who plays keyboards for Mindi Abair. Rodney mixed and mastered, featuring performances by keyboardist Jeff Lorber and saxophonist Everette Harp. Chris Standring is the bandleader in his own right. He has backed Rick Braun and Marc Antoine, and recently he has performed with Paul Hardcastlesí ďThe JazzmastersĒ alongside Gregg Karukas and Shilts.

We caught up with Chris Standring in Walnut Creek, California at the Broadway Plaza Concert Series in July of 2008.

SJN: Love and Paragraphs, the song is doing well on the charts. Can you tell us the story behind the name?

Chris: I have a very good friend in London who I used to know when I was very young. We sort of fell out of touch, and recently she got back in touch with me. She wants to be a writer so she started e-mailing me tons and tons of pages of e-mail...things to catch up on and what she has been doing. I would reply to each paragraph because I wanted to acknowledge that what she was saying was not in vain. I would reply Ďyes,í Ďno,í Ďmaybe,í I wouldnít really elaborate much. This would frustrate her to no end. So, when I went back to London to do some shows, she came to a show and held up a CD and said, ĎYou own me more paragraphs.í So I grabbed the CD and wrote ĎWith much love and paragraphs, Chris.í I decided that was a nice title for an album.

SJN: You have gone back to your first love the Fender Strat on this last CD. Why did you decide on this guitar for this CD?

Chris:
I started out many years ago playing a strat, but playing a much different sort of music. It was much more fusion. That was the trend at the time. Coming back to it is like wearing old slippers, really. Donít get me wrong, I love playing jazz guitar and Iím doing just as much. But for this record, I went back to this guitar and got much more bluesy and Iím having fun with it again.

SJN: Have you decided on the next single?

Chris:
Yes I have! Itís called ĎHave Your Cake and Eat It.í

SJN: We hear you have a new home studio. Please tell us about it?

Chris:
Well, itís not much. Recording studios these days are little more than a computer and a mic per, a microphone, and a couple of speakers. Youíve got a completely competitive recording studio, which is great for me because I was never interested in amassing all of this ridicules amount of gear to get into this game. So the fact that everything is on software now and plug ins, virtual, as they call it. Itís nicer for me because I donít have to utilize much space. I got into kind of late, but Iím really enjoying it. Iím getting good at it, so Iím seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. It was very overwhelming at first.

SJN: Recently, you started your own independent record label "Ultimate Vibe Recordings", why did you decide to do this?

Chris:
The music business is in transition now. The old model for record labels is changing and it is changing fast. As a result, a lot of the old school record labels are going out of business because they donít know how to keep up with the changing times. So, I asked myself, Ďdo I want to be signed to a record company who may not be here next year?í I was in a situation where I didnít need to sign another deal, my option was up. I had a couple of offers, but I thought, íI donít want to do this!í I donít want to be in a situation where the record company goes under and contractually I canít get back my masters. I didnít want to be in that situation. Secondly, we sell a lot of records when we tour, but in order to sell CDís at gigs, we have to buy them very expensively from the record company. It is not cost effective to do that. It basically means we make next to no money selling CDís at shows. The promoter takes 25% as well and we have managers who cream off the top. Itís crazy! So I thought, Ďnoí, Iím not going to do that anymore. Iíll start my own record label. I can manufacture CDís for under a dollar and come out here and actually make most of the profit.

SJN: It is a risky time to delve into the record business. What do you see as the future of the CD format?

Chris:
Well, a lot of people think CDís are going to go away. I donít think they will go away. I think, in fact I know for sure that all the retail stores are going to go away. So you wonít be able to find CDís in stores. As far as I am concerned, the quicker that happens, the better because it means that everyone can focus their marketing efforts online. Most of it will be digital. People will eventually gravitate towards the digital, embrace it and understand that it is actually OK to do that. I donít think that people will stop buying CDís from places like Amazon.com and personal websites. People want the solid thing, they want to see artwork, they want to read about stuff and you canít do that in digital format. So, I donít think it is going away for a long time.

SJN: Will you start representing other artists, as well?


Chris:
I thought about it, but I donít think in this genre. It is too risky. Not one record company in this genre is making money right now.

SJN: So, what genre would you be interested in?

Chris: My influences donít come from Smooth Jazz, Iím not a big fan of the genre, to be honest with you. I personally come from be-bop jazz guitar, but the music I like is much more straight ahead jazz, progressive club music, and orchestral music. I like the amalgamation of all these things put into a unique and edgy way. Because Iím a jazz guy, the way it comes out means it can be marketed to a Smooth Jazz audience.

SJN: You have several websites, aandronline.com, a place for aspiring musicians to get their music heard and to learn about the industry.

Chris: It stands for Artists and Repertoire Online. It started out several years ago as a forum for artists to showcase to the industry, at a time when record labels were flourishing. Also, because artists were being featured, it was a place for record companies to go to discover new artists. I had a sign-up newsletter for the industry and I had a sign-up newsletter for the artists, so it was kind of a networking thing. If I found someone I completely raved about, I could go directly to the record companies, have a meeting or Fed Ex a CD to them. It was a really cool thing until the business started going downhill and record companies stated going away. People stated being fired right, left and center, and I couldnít keep up with the relationships that I had. So, I got a little disheartened about doing that for artists. Now it still exists but it is more of a resource for artists to be totally educated about what is happening in the business today. I have written books about the music business and I sell them there.

SJN: You also have other websites, playjazzguitar.com and guitarmadesimple.com Can you tell us about these sites?

Chris: I have two home study guitar courses. I have an advance jazz course which is play what you hear that I sell on playjazzguitar.com and I have a beginners guitar course for those who are not ready for that course and I sell that at guitarsmadesimple.com. Each site has been growing over the years and they are now communities for people interested in learning guitar. On playjazzguitar, there is an unbelievably highly trafficked forum for jazz guitar players who want to network and discuss. Itís all very geeky!

SJN: You have also written several books, "So You Think You Want A Record Deal" and "Street Team - A Killer Marketing Strategy For Indie Artists." International Music Publications (UK). Please tell us about this?

Chris:
This is stuff online too. Again, it is for artists who want to learn how to market themselves. Creative ideas to get seen and get heard. (www.aandronline.com)

SJN: You grew up on a farm in Aylesbury, England. What kind of farm was it?

Chris:
It was a sheep, cattle, and corn farm.

SJN: How old were you when you discovered music?†

Chris:
I had my first toy guitar when I was two and I got a new one every year until I was old enough to get a real one. Some of my first words were 'guitar!'

SJN: Are your parents musical?

Chris: No, not really at all in any substantial way.

SJN: You worked for the BBC before you came to the US. What did you do at the BBC?

Chris:
The BBC had a couple of late night radio broadcasts and they would invite certain arrangers and composers to assemble a team of musicians. I would arrange music for people to come in. We would do some of my music and some covers and it would get played on late radio broadcast. I must have done 20 of them. It was my first introduction to royalties. (laughs)

SJN: Why did you move across the pond?

Chris:
Fame and fortune. I moved over in February of í91.

SJN: Anything exciting happening that you would like to share?

Chris:
I am promoting this record right now and doing gigs. Iíll probably do another record soon. Trying to keep it fresh and edgy and interesting as I go. Trying to stay in the game!

SJN: Thanks so much Chris and good luck with the new CD!