Listen to the live interview Episode #450 Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax


by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
Michael Gray (Guitar, harmonica, and songwriter) 

Todays musician has to move at their own pace. Occasionally you have to step away from it to get your balance and plan together but over all it’s a process you have to be willing to invest in. 


The music I write…
deals with themes of struggle, love, observation, and some contemporary themes, such as the environment and political oppression. Too Worn To Mend, was recorded and released a few years back and was a culmination of the songs I wrote over a period of 5 to 7 years. We are currently recording our second record, which is made up of songs all written and recorded since Too Worn To Mend was released in October 2012. The new record has a little more cohesion and has songs that connect a little more in theme. The new record will be released toward the end of this year after five long years of working on it. It includes songs of caution, some political commentary (which can’t be avoided these days), songs about specific events, and of course I believe there’s always room for songs about love and remembrance.

Deep Blue Lake …
The song is about the challenges of everyday life as we work toward some utopian place that marks the end of the struggle, symbolized by the deep blue lake. The meaning of deep blue lake is also dichotomous in that it represents the hopeful endpoint (a beautiful place), but in reality may not be exactly what you think it is as suggested by the adjectives “deep” and “blue”.

I wrote the song at a time when I was struggling with work, my marriage, and raising a family and could see no clear end to the difficulties that were causing the problems. It was the first song that I recorded independent from my previous music project and the first time I worked solo in the studio with my current engineer and co-producer Ducky Carlisle. This song was really the seed that became my new (and first solo) project, American Beauties.


We are from Boston Massachusetts..
The music scene is very vibrant, varied, and quite crowded these days. Depending upon what you like to listen to there are many local venues with live music. I tend to frequent and we often play the bars and small clubs around Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts where you can find live music almost every night of the week. There are many cool venues such as Atwood’s Tavern (who also host many regional and national touring musicians), Bull McCabes, The Plough and Stars, and Sally O’Brien’s. The venues have had a difficult time making ends meet and there was a recent rash of closings that impacted the number of available places to play, some that had been open for 30 years or more.


Music business…
Considering the new music business model of DIY, I believe we’ve been pretty successful getting our music distributed and have been fortunate to have many of the songs from the album picked-up by college, public, and internet radio as well as Spotify, Jango and other on-line music listening formats. Although we released Too Worn To Mend in October 2012, we still receive regular internet and some land based radio airplay. That is one of the advantages to the new format.

You can privately record, produce, and distribute your own music and if you work hard and find the right people to help you, it will be heard in many different places. It also has an extended life this way, since each new station that plays it may simply consider it a new release since they haven’t previously heard it. In the old format, it was difficult to be heard in the first place if the band didn’t have a record company or other entity to promote the record to radio. You would also get a shorter life cycle for the release since radio stations update they’re adds so often. You may have a song in rotation for a few months, then invariably they decrease the rotations and eventually stop playing it altogether. Considering the time, expense, and energy that goes into creating a record, this would typically make or break a band if the record wasn’t successful in that window.
Although there are more opportunities for independent artists to be heard, the other stark reality is that bands do not typically get paid for their work. At least not enough to cover touring, recording, and distribution costs. Nowadays, people no longer buy CDs like they once did, they can seek out and find free downloads of the music they want, and they typically aren’t interested in listening to more than just a couple tracks from a full-length release. It’s really over the last generation that listening habits have changed with digital music and downloads. My kids are a good example. They have huge diverse collections of music, they download it for free, and they cherry-pick the songs they like. My generation listened to albums that we physically bought from the record store, which would allow us to shop around and find other music we wanted. Then, the personal cost of having to buy music made you a more discerning listener, so you’d spend money only on what you really wanted to listen too. We’d also listen to the entire album back to back and become intimate with the bands through studying the packaging of the album, which is somewhat of another lost art.
This phenomenon also extends to bands who perform live. Many venues with live music expect bands to do most if not all of the promotion, and payment is based primarily on the number of people the band draws. The change in listening habits has also affected the number of people who go out to see live music, so you can’t really blame the venues, since it’s difficult to run a club. However, in the end it’s the bands whom bare the expense of making and performing music. All in all, there are some positives and some negatives to the DIY format for sure.
I would love to spend five minutes alone with Neil Young…
I have been listening to him since I was in elementary school and started learning guitar and writing songs based on my admiration of his music. He has had a very long successful career and has seen it all when it comes to rock n’ roll. I’d love to find out about his early days in music, because the music history of the mid to late 1960s is fascinating to me. So much happened in a short time and it seemed like all the artists travelled in close circles then. That happens to some degree today, but the scene was less crowded back in the day and there was more room to experiment artistically with song writing and performance.


American Beauties – Links to Music and Websites

Deep Blue Lake and the full album “Too Worn To Mend” can be purchased at CD Baby at the following link:

The links to American Beauties websites:

Official Website:




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