So, I’ve started doing open mics, with the goal to do one every night. Every night! In the last four nights, I’ve done two open mics and went out for two others that turned out not to exist. 🙂 But the two that I did were totally awesome. I am realizing the power of live performance. Even one open mic that gets me 3 new email addresses on my email list feels SO much more productive and helpful than myspacing for a few hours, and I think fan connections made in person are way stronger than those made online. I always find that when people meet me, they’re interested in hearing my music, so I believe all I have to do is just meet everyone in the whole world, and then my music will be really successful! 🙂

I’ve been practicing guitar a lot, but still the only two songs that are ready to perform so far are Texas Boys and You Don’t Have To Worry, so I’ve been doing those, and about 5 others should be ready to perform soon. But Texas Boys delights audiences wherever I play it, and it’s been so awesome to hear everyone laughing REALLY hard at the jokes in the song. It really draws the audience in and makes them remember me. One person who saw me perform on Tuesday night even bought the song on iTunes with no prompting from me!

After I play at a mic, I gather people’s email addresses for my list, and reach out with a personal email to each person before adding them to the list, reminding them who I am and thanking them for letting me stay in touch and offering them a free mp3 as a thank you. People have been responding really positively and seem really interested in keeping up with what I’m doing. I think if I keep playing an open mic every day all month, I could have a really good number of people at the show on January 30th!

I also have my first rehearsal with my backing band tomorrow, which will be really great to see how the songs are coming along. I have been really blessed to find some excellent people for this band, so I hope they like working together!

Oh man, I wanted to blog about Tuesday’s open mic, because it was amazing. It’s called Penny’s Open Mic and it’s on the Lower East Side. You go down into this narrow, pitch dark little entranceway, down a bunch of stairs, into the Below St. Mark’s Theater, which is a lovely little black box space, you pay three bucks admission, and then you put your name in the bucket, the names get called, and the weirdest, most awesome, friendly open mic in the world starts. Every single act except for like 3 out of 34 acts was at least really interesting, if not totally great. It was fascinating to see what other people are working on and thinking about, because some of it was totally off the wall. The feature act was a man who played Satan and stripped naked and masturbated live on stage with a wooden box draped over his head while discussing the difference between art and craft and revealing that he had been a virgin until he was 31. I mean, you just cannot make this shit up. It was amazing. It was shocking and moving and so well done and so fearless and vulnerable and hilarious. I really commend that guy for his bravery.

And anyone who thinks things have changed in the East Village and that it’s lost its edge has not been to the East Village recently. I think everything I saw that night, I also could have seen in 1988, had I not been five years old at the time.

So I had to wait till 2am to perform there after arriving at 9pm, and the room was freezing for the whole 5 hours, but my set went over great and everyone was so cool. I think I’ll definitely be going back there soon.

I can’t believe I was dragging my feet about the idea of really committing to getting out to open mics. They are so amazing and fun! I think they’re gonna be my new obsession!

When you want to accomplish anything, in any industry or pursuit, you should tell everyone you know/meet about it. You’ll never believe how many people can help you out that you already know or that you will meet in your life. Sometimes the person you’re talking to has the power to help you him/herself, sometimes they know someone who can help you, or sometimes they just know something that can help you get where you’re going faster. But nine times out of ten, they’ll have something worthwhile to share with you. When I tell people I’m pursuing a career as a music artist, I never, ever get a blank stare. I always get one of the following responses (or something close to it):

“That’s awesome! It’s so admirable that you’re pursuing your dreams and not just settling for some lame job.” (This makes me feel good about myself and my decisions about my life, which gives me confidence to keep going.)

“Oh wow, I want to hear your music/come to a show!” (This also makes me feel good, and as though people give a shit about what I’m doing and are actually willing to support it or at least give it some of their attention.)

“Cool, you know, I know a music blogger/singer-songwriter/record label employee/manager/agent/booker/guitarist you should talk to–here’s his info…” (This helps me make a connection that is helpful no matter what–whether I just get a bit of advice out of it or a record deal.)

“Oh great, you know, I’m putting on a show and I’d love you to come play…” (That person just booked a show for me. Great!)

That’s why, when someone gives you an opportunity to tell them about yourself, you should tell them what you most want them to know, what you want to be true. You talk about what’s important to you, so they make a response that’s relevant to that part of your life. You’re basically telling them, “This is who I am. This is how I want to be known/seen.” So if you’re an aspiring screenwriter, don’t say, “Well, I’ve been noodling around with this movie script in my spare time, but it’s nothing special.” Say, “I’m working on a movie script I’m really excited about, and trying to figure out how to get it to the right people so it gets read.” Showing that you’re serious and are doing the legwork is what impresses people and makes them want to help you. When people ask what I do, I say I’m a singer songwriter who’s hitting a lot of open mics, doing shows with my band, making my own music videos, learning to accompany myself on guitar, and basically working towards a high-flying pop career. Now, do I also have a day job? Yes. But is that my ultimate goal and dream in life, with which I want help moving forward? No. I want help making progress in music, so I talk about how much work I’m doing on my music, and people are impressed and interested and offer to help.

Also, it’s important to know that people want to help you. People love helping other people. Personally, one of my favorite things to do is connect my friends with other friends and contacts who can help them do what they want to do. It gets them excited, it gets me excited for them, and it makes everyone happy. But, they have to let me know what they want so I know who to put them in contact with. If they don’t say anything, I don’t know how to help them. So don’t be shy about talking about your passions and goals, and ask people for the help that they’re just dying to give. They’ll give it, you’ll get it, and it will be awesome!

In our society, there’s a pretty clear idea of what constitutes a happy life: a hot partner, a beautiful home, a red-hot career, and lots of money. So why are so many people who have these things still so sad? My guess is that it’s because they think negatively and don’t monitor and control their own thoughts before they are incapacitated by them.

I used to get frustrated when I’d hear celebrities say “Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. That’s how you achieve all your goals in life.” “BUT HOW?!” I’d shout at the TV. “WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS?!” I always thought that saying “Believe in yourself,” was a quick, mindless answer to that question until I realized what it really means. Believing in yourself and thinking positively are not passive activities. To believe in yourself, you must actively think positively and monitor your thoughts so you realize when you are being negative and putting roadblocks in your own way that don’t really exist outside of your mind. Think about all the negative things you’ve thought about yourself. “I’m too fat.” “I’m not smart enough to do that.” “I should have done that, but I was too lazy.” And on and on and on. What if you took notice of every time you thought something like that, and actively stopped yourself and thought a positive thought instead? What if every time you thought “I’m too fat,” you stopped yourself, and said to yourself, “I work out and try to eat the right foods. There are parts of my body that I love and find beautiful. No one is perfect. My body is an incredible instrument that performs incredible feats every day to keep me alive and let me do the things I love, and I appreciate it.” You may notice that “I’m too fat,” is just an opinion, whereas the positive thoughts I suggested are all facts. I don’t know about you, but I find that really, really powerful.

When it comes to music and pursuing my dreams, it’s incredibly important that I monitor my thoughts constantly. If I let myself think “I’m never going to make it,” for too long, eventually there’ll be no motivation to keep going. So whenever a thought like that pops into my head, I am sure to counter it with thoughts such as, “Careers can take a long time to build. I’ve accomplished a LOT since I started out. I believe in my music. I believe in myself. Hard work pays off, so I should keep working and not worry.” Again, the negative thought is impossible to prove, whereas the countering thoughts are pretty much facts. So the positive thoughts are always far stronger than the negative thoughts.

If you can get in control of your thoughts, you’ll get faster and faster at stopping your negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with positive thoughts that disprove the negative ones and make you feel better. The faster you feel better, the less time you will have wasted being sad. The less time you waste, the more time you have to use productively. Using time productively leads to accomplishing goals. And there you have it! Believe in yourself, have more productive time, accomplish your goals! It really does work!

I’ve had a couple weeks away from my dayjob this month and I can’t believe how busy things have been–and how much I have yet to do!

I’ve put together a backing band for live shows and booked our first show for January 30th at 8:40pm at Public Assembly in Brooklyn (www.publicassemblynyc.com). The goal is to have one full-band show per month to start off, as well as do as many solo open mic performances as possible to drum up a fan base, make connections, and refine my performance/guitar skills.

I’ve taped half my YouTube cover videos that I wanted to do with a solo guitar accompaniment so far, and am doing the other half tomorrow. I’ll post those on YouTube asap and hopefully start getting lots of views!

I’ve revamped my website according to some of the helpful hints on www.ArielPublicity.com, and made it much better-looking and more user-friendly, so hopefully that will help me retain fans when random people come across my stuff on the internet and want to support me. BTW, as you’ll see, there’s a notice on the site to email me if you want a free mp3 of mine, so if any of you reading this want a free mp3, email me at talktojccassis AT gmail DOT com and lemme know! Don’t get annoyed if you’ve already bought my album–you got 13 tracks for the price of 10 because of the way iTunes prices albums. 🙂 But you can always get a free mp3 from me once I’ve made some new music!

With the remaining vacation time and beyond, my next set of goals is to finish/post those cover videos, book a February gig with the band, write and record new music for the next album, learn pro tools, make merchandise for my online store, and finish perfecting my guitar playing on the additional songs I’ve been learning for open mics, then get out there and play as much as possible. I also want to join Taxi, the independent A&R company, and see if I can get any cool opportunities through that. (www.taxi.com)

Wish me luck! I’m excited!
-JC

Food for thought: the average American watches 4 hours of TV per day. That’s right–FOUR hours, PER DAY.  If the average American spent 4 hours per day doing anything, ANYTHING more productive, can you imagine how much better of a nation we would be? If we spent four hours per day mentoring kids, or parenting our own, or helping animals, or standing up for human rights, or cleaning up the environment, or exercising, or learning new skills, or meeting our neighbors, or ANYTHING but watching TV? Jesus H. Christ–I can’t even get my head around what a different world it would be.

My point being, if you have a dream, like I have a dream, step number one to achieving that dream, no matter what it is, is TURNING OFF THE TV. Just do it. Even if Dr. Phil is in the middle of a sentence. Turn it off, get off the couch, eliminate TV watching as an option for a time filler in your mind, and go do the things you need to do to get where you want to go. Go do research on the internet. Go practice a skill. Go network with a contact. Go work out. Go keep yourself healthy. Go make a new contact. Get out of the house. Learn something. Do something. Achieve something. Make a “to do” list. Map out how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Even if you only watch an hour of TV a day, it adds up. That’s seven hours a week. In seven hours, you can do a lot. In seven hours, I could write seven songs, or reach out to a hundred music bloggers, or research a boatload of other artists’ career paths, or practice a new song on the guitar until it was perfect. Or expand my fan base.

Time is exceedingly valuable. I’ve come a long way in the two years I’ve been working on my music career, but it took thousands of hours, divided over hundreds of days. I haven’t watched four hours of TV in a single day in a LONG time, and I don’t plan on ever really doing it again in my life. I used as many of my free hours as possible to do things that would help me get somewhere in my music career, and in two years of putting my free hours to good use, I have made many new friends and contacts, kept up old friendships, learned web design, recording and music production, written an album, put my album up for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and many other sites, made four music videos, learned to play guitar, expanded my fan base, done shows, and on and on and on, all while holding down a full time dayjob.

Nobody who has ever made it at anything, especially music, has done it by sitting on their ass watching TV. Making it is a full time job. TV will not help you make it in any way, ever. So stop watching TV and start moving towards getting on it!