Tuesday, June 4, 2013


So I'm retiring this blog ONLY by address, all new entries will be posted in my new Tumblr (sorry Blogspot!) site which will act as the hub for my project that I have been talking about on here Topher James and Biscuit Brigade. Thanks for following me here, please go to the new blog and follow there.

Here's the link.

Monday, April 29, 2013

More Ramblin'

I'm talented when it comes to sleep, or I'm too full of whatever that stuff is that makes you go to sleep or something. I fall asleep at the drop of a hat when I want to. Twenty minute power nap? Sleep in the car? No problem. I woke up today and I had slept like maybe 9 hours. If I wake up and don't feel like quite getting up I can go back to sleep..and then do it again..and then again. It's not a great thing some times especially when you make your own schedule. That's why I try to have tasks for myself or meetings early in the day so I have other people I'm disappointing if I don't get my ass out of bed. It's hard being an artist  (poor baby right?) I know, I'm lucky, I do what I love and all that but when you really get down to what you have to do it can be hard some times. I watched this video with Jack White and I just love what he said. He talked about people saying artists or musicians are lazy and they don't work and all this. He said if you work at a factory making books (or whatever) you clock in, you got a time to come in, a boss making sure you are doing your job, and you can do your job. You can do more than what's expected, or just the expected, or even some times less than expected and you still have that job. You have your time to go in, time to leave, a pay check at the end of a pay schedule, etc. When you are an artist, or musician, or what not you have...well kinda nothing. You gotta go MAKE that something. That's ALL the responsibility. You are the CEO, the manager, the receptionist, the janitor, and the whole staff. It's just an interesting way of putting it and it's been making me think lately. If you have a chance go to Conan O'Brien's website and check out his "serious" talks with different people,,the one with Jack White is what I was referencing earlier it's really quite fascinating.

So back to my day today. I woke up not feeling like getting up I was just like ugh...don't want to. Luckily instead of wallowing in that which I easily could have done I told my self to just kind of get over myself and to get up. It worked..and I got a whole days worth of stuff done. I took it kind of easy and didn't pressure myself too much as I did have a pretty long week. I worked on memorizing a few covers and also some new songs I am writing. I also did some stuff around the house that just needed to be done..laundry, vacuuming, etc. It was nice and productive but felt relaxed because usually I don't have a lot scheduled on these Mondays. Then I went to an Andy Shaw Band rehearsal at 7pm so it ended up being a full day.

I had a crazy kind of week up til Sunday. Wednesday was Jimmy V's with Shaw Bros. which was pretty uneventful. Thursday I subbed in for a good friend Zach Whitney playing at the Treebar with a guy named Micah Lathrop. Some scheduling snafoo lead Zach to not be able to play so I pinch hit (pinch hitted?) for him. Michah's from South Carolina and he's kinda new to the scene. He's a great singer and songwriter so check him out if ya can. We had a fun time playing for not very many people..hadn't played at the Treebar since it turned over to the Treebar from being the Tree House. It's pretty much the same but they've re-done a bunch of the bar and it looks really nice. The music room is about the same though minus most of the tree and add a couple posters plastered to the wall. I wish they were able to knock some walls down in that place but I digress. Friday was a solo gig at Bokes Creek Winery near my lady (Becky's) hometown. This was a really fun night. A lot of Becky's family came out, she made a bunch of great food, and I played a great set for everyone. It was mostly great because everyone was super attentive and appreciative of my music. It's nice to have those gigs once in a while where people actually well...listen. I even had a guy I did not know at all come up and say some kind words, he bought a cd too. We stayed the night at her parents and had a nice breakfast (buffet style!) at the Plaza Inn near her hometown of Ridgeway. Saturday night I played at FM Bar in Gahanna with The Yeah Babies (formerly Matt Reed and TGP) and the Shaw Brothers. It was an interesting night as we would normally play this type of gig with the band and the whole night by ourselves. This night we played two sets each switching each hour basically. It was fun and I think the crowd really liked each band in their own right though we were very different stylistically. Sunday morning I got up and played the Upper Arlington Lutheran church service which I play 2 to 3 times a month. After that I drove to Athens and we finished up the horn parts on the record. I asked my good friend Dale Alkula, who plays trombone with Andy Shaw Band, if he could get some horn players together, arrange some parts, and figure the logistics all out. He did just that and they knocked it out of the park! The first time I was hearing these parts was basically on the recording, it was crazy. He made it super easy and I'm very thankful for that! Dan White and Adam Bidwell came through and finished out the horn section. Everyone was super nice and easy to work with. I had a few changes here and there, they worked it out, and it all got done in pretty great timing. I can't wait to hear everything together!

So..that was my week in a nutshell. I posted a video earlier a little bit about the horns and driving to Athens. Hopefully I'll get some tracks up here soon with progress on the album.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Too Many Mash-Ups

Decided to do a video blog entry today, some may call it a "vlog". I just call it a video blog because though I am a huge fan of combining words to make new fun words, vlog is not new or fun. In addition to it not being new or fun, blog is already kind of a mash-up of words (web and log). It's just too many mash-ups in my opinion, come on people. Video may be kind of boring but it sums up my day, and my overall spacey feeling today because of lack of sleep last night and 5 gigs in 5 days. Session did go well though, Dale did a great job on the horn parts. Dan White and Adam Bidwell came through in a big way as well nailing the arrangements and working with me even though I have never worked with horns in that capacity. Huge thanks to everyone so far for helping me piece this thing together. Excited!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Oh yeah..

Also, I forgot to mention in my last post that I worked out some horn parts today with Dale Alkula. I don't know much about arranging parts so he has been a great help getting some of my ideas down. He's been playing with a new soul band called The Deeptones and he's asked the horn section to be a part of my new ep...good stuff to come!

Lots of Progress

Whew, it's been a long month with a lot of progress, apologies on not updating..so it goes! So the EP is slowly coming along. Lead vocals have been laid down on I think 4 tunes or so and last week we laid down background vocals with Stephanie Rogers (Ladybird and the Vultures/Rust Belt Rumble Band/Max Power Trio and more) and Allison Woods, a student at OU whom I met the day of officially (we had talked on the phone and exchanged emails). I had sent them parts via email and got together with Steph once to talk about the direction of the album and everything came together in the studio quite nicely. I stood in the control booth, Steph was to my right in an isolated booth, and Allison was in front of us in the bigger room. It was fun singing with them and kind of directing both of them. They both have wonderful voices and I am excited to hear back what we did, I did not come home with anything so it'll be nice to hear the tracks with fresh ears once I go back down.

I have been rehearsing with a new drummer (Justin Campbell has since moved to L.A. so he is on to bigger and better things, good luck JCam you are already missed!!). Ryan Jessie is a drummer who I know through Chillicothe people, he just moved back to town from Tennessee. He is a great guy and was recommended by a trusted musician friend Stephen Hummel from down in Chilli and has been filling the "JCam void" very nicely. Jeff Bass is holding down the bass right now as well. We practiced the other day in the day time at my townhouse in the basement and his bass was rumbling the whole place..luckily we did not get yelled at by the neighbors (like last time when we practiced at night..oops). They seem to be pretty tolerable, since the townhouses are all technically connected I try to give them the heads up we're gonna be making noise.

So the other really cool thing with this project is the VISUALS! I always seem to be in bands that are a little less about the performance and visuals which is fine..it let's the music really shine. This time around though I'm looking to fuse the visual art with the music. First thing we gotta get right? The outfits! I've been working with Brittany Lawson who works out of a studio over at the 400 W. Rich St. warehouse. She is super cool and is helping create a custom designed suit for me. It's super fun going over there and being inspired by all the artists, trapeze artists, food trucks, and more. We had one of the final suit fittings today and she ordered the fabric today as well, I'm super excited. Check out my instagram @efilsitra to see some of the fabric and what the suit looks like, I'll try to upload some pics here as well as progress is made.

I'm working on my soul education as this project is all about groove, R&B, gospel, and soul so here are some covers I'm working on...some old some new:

The Walk - Mayer Hawthorne
Sir Duke - Stevie Wonder
Getting Out - Daniel Merriweather
That's It I Quit I'm Moving On - Sam Cooke
Baby Don't Ya Do It - Alvin Robinson

July 17th is going to be the big debut at Brothers Drake 9p-12a so put that on your calendars...getting pumped!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Name Decision and Recording Update

Topher James and Biscuit Brigade, that's the name I've decided on. The blog's title finally makes sense. It's my name but in a sneaky way (ChrisTOPHER JAMES Shaw) since there were too many Shaw projects (Andy Shaw Band, Shaw Brothers, and recently Dan Shaw and the Organ Crusaders) out there I decided to go against having my last name in there. Also, I just always liked the way "Biscuit Brigade" sounded so there ya have it.

So recording in Athens continued this past week with a vocal session. I feel really good about the vocal takes I laid down and "Just Maybe" is one of the tracks that's really coming out as a shining track in my mind. I have been playing that song for a while now so two vocal takes was about all it took to get it done which made me feel like a real musician..ha. Part of the process in Athens is to go with the flow and not tear myself down so taking whole takes of vocals (not cutting multiple takes up in Protools) is really nice. We may do a little editing and I'll see what Josh wants to do but we really only have a few takes to cut from anyway so it's nice for me. I am not a huge fan of over-doing recordings in general. I love to have at least some of the original integrity of the musician's take on the recording even if it has a few fuck ups. Often times those are people's favorite moments on records I believe. Next is background vocals and keys and I'm excited to say that some great local talent will be represented. Stephanie Rogers has signed on to do some tracks, we got together the other day and she sounded great working out some ideas. Also, playing a church gig with Jenny Lute almost every other week has allowed me to 1. Sing with an amazing singer multiple times in a month 2. Bug her to do some back ups on my album so I think she's signed on for a few tracks (at least) which is also very exciting. Dan Shaw (of the previous mentioned Organ Crusaders) has also agreed to lay some tasty organ down on the record. I always loved watching Dan with G. Finesse and now that he has a full on Hammond B3 it's just perfect. I think his skills are going to really up the ante on this project.

Last but not least side note SXSW is coming up and Andy Shaw Band will be traveling down for a quick jaunt as a trio (in the Prius!) to do a few showcases. To send us off properly there will be a FREE show with FREE Waffles --- duh Wafflepalooza 2013 --- at Brother's Drake Sunday March 10th 5p-9pm and we have designed and printed a very special limited edition Wafflepalooza T-Shirt for the event. Til next time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

This Week

This week was a bit weird with gigs in the week but none on the weekend (besides Sunday morning for me). Tuesday was Shadowbox Live playing at the Bistro with Shaw Brothers. Great gig, the monthly Tunesday Tuesday thing has only been going for two months so the crowd was not huge. I've been to comedy nights and they have a great crowd it just needs time to build. The audience was so attentive and we sold like 4 cds. Thursday was Franklin Park Conservatory for their Valentine's dinner which was also great. They had like 300 reservations so it was insanely packed. People were just lined up rolling in this place. Normally this thing is like "background music"..at least that's how most musicians play it but not us. We play almost every gig like it's a show so several times through out the night we had an audience crowd around and listen and clap and even take video. It's a great feeling to know people appreciate you and the tips showed it as well. On Friday I played my first solo violin gig in a while at The Capital Club downtown inside the Double Tree hotel. It was super fun and I used a looping pedal out for the first time that a friend let me borrow. I created little symphonies for the people sitting. Been working on different songs I can use for a looping set including Aint No Sunshine When She's Gone, Amazing Grace, Eleanor Rigby, kind of all over the map mixed in with some classical sounding stuff since it was a (rich person's voice here) >>fancy schmancy<< dinner. I love two hour gigs with a break, actually I prefer a little longer..I ended up playing about 20 minutes over. Nice and easy and then I could go do other things. That night I think we ended up going to Barrel 44 to eat and then Brothers Drake for Billy Zehnal's Playhouse which was fun. I walked in and I thought it was a cd playing..which I think is a compliment to a band that plays house *woah...playhouse* and dance type music. Carlos Fisher kills it on drums playing with triggers, loops, and playing keyboard/synth (I think) while playing drums at the same time and never missing a beat. Saturday was Dick's Den for Ooh La La's and Circus of Cool. My lady did really well of course, everyone had great things to say about her performance as always :) Matt Paetsch, Jim Maneri, and Joe Nelson playing some jazz in the breaks and behind spoken word poets. I love when I get to see spoken word poetry even if it is ALL about vaginas....almost all the poets did lady parts poems..I loved watching Michael Cundiff (wearing a giant purple fuzzy jacket on top of a fuzzy leopard shirt) go up to Jim Maneri before he read and said "funny but not TOO funny"..and they improvised it spot on while he did his poem about different kinds of "pussy"...I guess it comes with the territory?? Then Sunday night I decided after church, nap, dinner at moms, to not go home and to venture out. Though I've hung out at Double Happiness and loved it, I had never seen a show there and knew it probably wouldn't be a ton of people I knew there (unlike Hoodoo my normal Sunday spot if I go out). Plus, hanging at a bar by yourself is always kind awkward but fuck it. I saw the Facebook event and saw it was a BenCo show so I assumed there'd be a decent crowd and it was DoneWaiting's 10th anniversary (apparently they're going to print only?) so it was packed. Time and Temperature was first and she was just great. I have a cd of hers but hearing her live is way better in my opinion. She actually had a backing band (which I've heard is really rare for her) including Sharon (aka Counterfeit Madison) of Trains Across The Sea/Apes fame. She is soo nice and a wonderful musician. Val also had upright bass, drums, and violin backing and no one got in the way of her great finger-picking-soft-indie-folk. The Connections were next and to be honest I didn't really care too much for them. I have a feeling they are inspired by bands like The Ramones. They weren't a bad band just not my cup of tea, and I hate to sound like an old man but they were simply too loud for that room. Everybody plays the same rhythm, nothing fancy, no solos (I don't recall), it's definitely raw, but every once in a while I need a little guitar flourish or riff to keep me going. Again, not my cup of tea doesn't mean I think they aren't good. Next was Sinkane whom I've heard about through various sources. He was in Columbus and moved to Brooklyn and it seems his career has taken off. The first song was a pseudo reggae/dub groove that just made the room pulse. Mostly instrumental for the first song the bass just grooved hard over guitar (with heavy reverb and or delay), drums, and keyboard. It was loud but loud where it filled the room not pierced your ears. There were a couple songs I saw that were in odd meter, one in 6 and one in 7 I believe. Very rhythmic, groove oriented stuff with harmonies over top gets me every time. I'd say these guys fit in with a lot that's going on right now with the retro thing popular (I guess it always is yeah..just depends on the decade) Black Keys, Gary Clark Junior, but with a twist of Fela Kuti mixed in. That's what I got from the short time I was there. I really dug what they were doing.  Really trying to go out and see music these days it's good inspiration especially with all the great bands we have in town. Fun week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Be The Proof (new song)

I can be an over-analyzer I admit it but being a musician you kind of have to be some times. I think a lot about the career I have chosen because it's hard to find your way sometimes. It's also one of those jobs where for me I am alone a lot. I rehearse with people, I gig with others, I hang out in bars/venues, but when those things aren't happening it's a lot of alone time. Practice alone, work on booking alone, write alone (if not co-writing of course), etc. so it leaves time for thinking. If you don't choose some kind of path in music you can really get lost and I see this with a lot of people I know. You can really get into a pattern of playing lots of gigs to make money but then five years down the road you realize you are chasing the dollar and not a dream anymore. Connecting a bunch of "gigs" just to pay the bills is not what I want. I want to make an impact on people with my original music and find people I truly connect with. Long story short this new song is about that very thing and just the struggle with it.

I really enjoy the groove to this song which is inspired by Sam Cooke and classic soul and gospel. The lyrics so far (not all represented in this clip) are:

I want to be the proof
I want you to see the truth
I don't want to fake it I just want to make it on my own

Aint asking for much these days
I just need a little bitty raise
Just a little bit longer if I can only keep my head up

I want to be the proof that you can make a living doing something you actually like. I want people to see the true me, and I don't want to fake it by playing other people's songs or be this fake person in a cover band that I hate. The next verse is kinda self explanatory I'd say. 2013 is about getting to that next level for me. Please let me know what you think of the song. 

A Little About My Last Couple Weeks (posting late)

I wrote this post in December but realized today I never published it so here goes:

So this blog started out as me talking about my playing experiences around town. It morphed into talking about my new project and going from writing to recording. Well, I wanted to make kind of a side bar back to the first intention of the blog. I have lots of experiences with different musicians and still want to talk about those from time to time so here goes.

Shaw Brothers and Andy Shaw Band my two main gigging projects have been playing as always but not as much for the past month or so. This has allowed me to stretch out a little bit and play with some other projects. Phillip Fox Band has me sit in once in a while and I even recorded some fiddle on their latest ep which sounds great by the way. These guys invited me to do a video shoot at the Lazy Chameleon about a week ago which was fun. All the music was going through the board and being recorded and there was a live video crew there lead by Nathan William who did The Columbus Songwriter Sessions promos in 2010. It was a live show setting so the guys invited some friends to come out and be the audience...overall a great time. I love working with these guys because they are super professional and they work really hard. I like working with these kinds of people because often they have a pretty precise vision and they work toward that final goal. There is no "well...let's figure it out" "if all else fails.." or "umm....what?" It's just really fun to see the progression PFB in particular has made in such a short time. (Update: here is that live video)

I played Wexner Center with Mike Wojniak opening up for Patrick Watson. (Check this video out...amazing live show!)

 Patrick is a Canadian songwriter I had never heard of before and I am ashamed to say that after seeing him perform. The video is just what the show was like at Wexner, really cool use of projectors. Mike is a great songwriter whom I met during our South By Southwest trip two years ago and he was gracious enough to A: have me on his album B: let me play with him live even though I've said no a few other times due to ASB or SB gigs or something C: let me play with just one rehearsal! The show went really well and if you have not been to the Wexner Center Black Box performance space please check out a show. Everything I have seen at Wexner (which I admit is not a lot) has been amazing! (Update: I just found this video online someone took of the Wexner show..nice! Unfortunately it cuts off in the end but oh well.)
This Saturday I am guest spotting on violin at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington with Jared Mahone. He does a show every year I believe which is more acoustic than his normal full band shows and I believe it's holiday themed...somewhat. He really brings the funk but the two songs we are playing are more chill folky/pop arrangements. One is an original and one is Away In The Manger. Jared has worked up a really cool version of this song and I'm excited to play with him finally at a show. Jared performed at The Columbus Songwriter Sessions just a few weeks ago at Shadowbox.

Speaking of the Songwriter Sessions...well it happened. Phillip Fox, Andy Shaw (brosef), and I came up with this event a few years ago to spotlight some local talent. We wanted an environment that was listening, classy, and that people could really HEAR the music. So this year was a great great night full of amazing performers. It had been 2 years really since we had done the last one so we hoped people would get the word about it. Good news is, everyone that WAS there had a great time and next time we do it it will be even better. Aaron Tasjan stole the night just killing an acoustic set. I am a huge fan of his and have been for a while and the audience was just blown away you could tell by the reaction. RJ Cowdery and Jared Mahone killed it as well. It looks like we may be sticking around Shadowbox for this event too and more CSS concerts coming soon so look out for that.

I just finished up my fiddle group for this session at Wellington School today. I teach 5th-8th graders fiddle tunes by ear and we have a little concert for the parents afterward. The kids were great this session and I can't wait to get back in for another session. We even learned "Move It On Over" by Hank Williams and I had the kids shout out the refrain. I love seeing the kids have some fun with music. Often times at least in my experience you are encouraged to read off the page and get all the notes but the "fun" part is for some reason not encouraged. Music should be fun....period.

That's about it for now, leave some comments let me know what's up!