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Jim Hiltz and The Rhythm Surf Monkeys on Creating Relatable Songs

Roll on Jim Hiltz

“My personal definition of success is being happy and respected for your artistic craft, being called a good songwriter, being told someone could relate to a song. -Jim Hiltz and The Rhythm Surf Monkeys

Jacqueline Jax logo photoGETTING TO KNOW JIM HILTZ- THE RHYTHM SURF MONKEYS
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio

The beginning…

Corporate America just forgot how to treat me like a human being. They did not care about family time and being creative was frowned upon, so music became my mid-life crisis.  I was not going to be defined by a 9 to 5 job.  I expect better for myself.

My personal definition of success is…

being happy and respected for your artistic craft, being called a good songwriter, being told someone could relate to a song. Two years ago, we performed our song called “The Old Soldier” for a salute to the troops show. I had a gentleman come up to me and say thank you since my song reminded him of his father who had passed away years before. That will be something I will never forget.

My overall professional and personal goal is…

for my kids to grow up happy and healthy and to live prosperous lives by always giving something back.  As for my music career, my goal is just to be respected for writing good songs that others want to record.  I want to tell a good story musically.

I challenge myself to move forward towards my goal by…

1)  Living today and not worrying about tomorrow, since it may never come. Be the best you can be today.
2)  Writing a better song than the last one I wrote. I know what a good song is. Recognize it and go for it.
3)  Surrounding myself with great people in life, great musicians who are even better people.  I want to hitch my cart to folks like that.

I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…

John Mellencamp. He seems real, his songs talk about real issues, and he is just a hell of a songwriter. “17 turns 35” is still one of my all time lines.  I appreciate the philanthropic aspect of him as well. I would just like to have a five minute conversation about songwriting and the inspirations behind it. Did the lyrics come first? Did the music come first? Mellencamp would be awesome. Can you hook me up? I admire him because he keeps it real. He addresses Issues that matter. He supports some great causes such as Farm Aid.
Being current and trendy is not important for me…
I write what comes out of me. A lot is influenced by 70’s rock bands, horn section from Chicago and Rolling Stones, etc. I truly write for what I like to hear if I were listening to the radio. You got to write some bad songs to write the good ones. I keep it basically to rock 120 beats per minute, tap your foot music.  I want my music to be a feel good IV that pierces your soul and flows through your body.

I am most afraid of…

writing good music that never finds its way to listeners. However, I am not afraid of failing because failure would have meant I have never tried.  I would just like to have someone says “man that song rocked! Can I hear it again?”

The Rhythm Surf Monkeys

“Reinvented”

is about what I was feeling as my marriage was breaking up.  It is about rediscovering who I was, moving on, feeling really good about who I was and knowing I tried my best. This song was about as easy as they come to write.  It was where I was in my life and being able to be brutally honest with the person who was staring back at me in the mirror. There is nothing sad or funny about this song, just the usual studio cutups and laughter.  We knew we nailed this song.  We felt that people would be able to relate to it in this day and age. The significance of “Reinvented” was really huge for me as a songwriter.  Since I fund this entire project, I learned so much from recording our first cd, “Highway9”. I was less wasteful of studio time during “Reinvented” sessions, the songs we brought in to record were ready to be recorded, not worked on as we recorded them. The musicians had to be ready to record, although I had one musician who obviously came in not knowing his parts.  I told him “man this is my life savings and my heart here, this isn’t bush league, we are serious about making a great album.”

You can expect from my music…

Rock and Roll and Bluesy Rock, real guitar solos, drums and always a solid set of vocals, male or female on our tracks. Having the music well produced in studio is essential as well. There is no sense rushing the music. You will know when it is ready.  Do not cut corners at the end, or the song will suffer and make your own deadlines.

Our newest album…

pretty much tells you where I was in my life.  It was the only way I could express myself. I wanted to have some of my musical influences to be heard. Every song on this cd is a part of my life. “Pen of Cowards” speaks about teen suicide, “The Bridge” was written about a high school classmate whose daughter was bullied and committed suicide as a result. We hope that this album will find its way mainstream. It has won multiple songwriting awards and was number one requested song on KXRL radio L.A. in June 2015.  But this is a hard industry to be heard in and sadly we have met enough shady promoters who have stolen our hard-earned advertising dollars. But we continue to believe. We just would like an opportunity to be heard. Local radio ignores us, but internet and college radio has embraced us and we are so grateful for them all.

We hail From Eldersburg, MD…

The music scene in Maryland is a hot bed of music. The Rhythm Surf Monkeys has had 2 members of The Ravyns record with us (Fast Times at Ridgemont High notoriety). There is The First Maryland Music Icon award winner, A former Member of The Little River Band, and so much more talent.  Maryland musicians just want to make great music. Guys like Rob Fahey and Crack the Sky have set the bar high in our area.  Pier 6 and Rams Head Live are great venues in our area. When we are not doing music, my kids and I are roller coaster junkies. Jet skiing is a close second too.

The Rhythm Surf Monkeys indie music

The music business has a lot of pros and cons…

I love the studio part of the music from writing to mastering.  when you are done there is no greater satisfaction then playing back your music. Hearing your music on the radio is even better.   The pros have been the reception of the music and the charity work we have been able to do with our music. The cons, wow, are the promoters that take your money and then do nothing with you. They lie, they do not return calls nor emails. Artistpr.com has been the worst. In February 2015, they approach us and offered us a package unsolicited. Now, 7 months later, they have not done ONE thing. You cannot get a live body to return a call, nor reach a live body.  They will not email you back. So very frustrating because they STOLE our money, money we could use for recording, packaging, you name it. To this day, we cannot get through to get a refund.  I have all the emails I have sent.

Overcoming the hurdles and pitfalls…

I have found that overcoming the hurdles is hard because of the money and time invested when you are scammed is mentally fatiguing. However, through Reverbnation and social media, we put out there who to avoid in the promotion business. This group has started a Facebook page called “Musicians helping musicians avoid being scammed”.  Artistpr.com is front and center for us and we want other unsuspecting musician to avoid them. We are a smarter bunch of folks, we take our time in the studio. We have had a lot of success with “Reinvented”, we feel our follow up cd “Roll On” is even better. That is our goal to be better overall.

I like social media…

it as helped people hear our music.  But then, people want to post all over your page their own music, so that is a drag. Twtter is cool as well. I respect the bands on Reverbnation, there are some talented people there. I think you have to get lucky with music, there is so much out there, and a billion ways to get it out. It is more power to everyone. We have made now 3 albums, we have our needle and we threw it in the music haystack. We are proud because you have to make the music to earn that needle. We pray that needle gets found by a listening audience because we will be one appreciative band to them.

Releasing singles vs an album…

Our first album was a full length album called “Highway 9”. After reading a book about Indie Music, we have now opted for the 7 song EP. We feel we can keep a listener’s attention with our 35 minute offering. We feel we can put out great quality, and we feel we can follow that EP format more efficiently. Now, it is still a 14 month process for us to complete. Ranking your own music one through seven is hard. We are going to add 2 more tracks to the mix of the new cd because we want to make our new 7 songs grab the listener instantly from the first lick. I feel it helps my writing as well, it really challenges me to be a much better songwriter.  I think 15 song albums are going the way of the dinosaur (greatest hits albums excluded)

Our marketing strategy is still in progress…

We are still finding our footing there. When we release “Roll On” we are going to play live and just find and build an audience. I can tell you we truly will appreciate our fans. We want to let them decide. We will be able to tell by their reactions.