David Barrett, Passionate Music Educator and Blues Harmonica Master

David Barrett, BluesHarmonica.com, School of the Blues, Music Educator

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If you’re a regular listener of this podcast you know that I recently published milestone episode 25, featuring Mike Dawson of Modern Drummer Magazine and The Modern Drummer Podcast. Well this is another milestone episode. It’s the first to feature a live guest performance. That performance and today’s interview is by acclaimed music educator David Barrett.

David has made a living as professional harmonica player & educator

David has made his living as a professional harmonica player and as one of the most widely respected educators of the instrument. In fact he’s largely responsible for taking the harmonica from novelty instrument to highly coveted art form. He’s published 70 book/CD sets and over 4000 educational videos, all of which is part of BluesHarmonica.com. David’s an extraordinary individual. He’s very self-motivated, has a keen appreciation for systems, and has a true love of community. In 2002 David opened School of the Blues in San Jose California, which is dedicated to the study of blues.

Building a business around his love of harmonica & teaching

David built a business around his love of harmonica and teaching, and it all happened somewhat organically. As he became a respected harmonica player, David was asked to teach private lessons. Private lessens evolved into workshops, which lead to the realization that there was an absence of quality literature for harmonica, and particularly blues harmonica. He learned to play harmonica by listening, but turned his skill into a teaching method that has garnered a longtime partnership with Hohner. His craft has also garnered him respect among the most noteworthy players across two or more generations.

In our conversation David opens up about the evolution of his educational programs and business, marketing, community, and his new emphasis on gear reviews. His story is fascinating, he’s a good communicator, savvy in business, and passionate about teaching. I enjoyed our conversation so much, that I’m hoping to have him back for a part-two interview. Hope you enjoy listening to our conversation as much as I did recording it.

If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review and rating on iTunes. I’d be forever grateful!


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Lannie Flowers on Being a Career Musician, Songwriting, Studio Work, and Awards

Lannie Flowers, Songwriter, Career Musician, The Lannie Flowers Band, Spyder Pop Records, Studio Recording Engineer

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In late October I was enjoying craft beer at one of my favorite watering holes with some of my favorite people. This was at Kool Keg in Arlington Texas, next door to the very place that I met my wife of 23 years. Recent podcast guests Chris Raspante (episode 2) and Neil Schnell (episode 8) would be joining me. Chris and Neil did indeed join the party, accompanied by singer songwriter Lannie Flowers. The last time I’d seen Lannie was in 2013, when his Lannie Flowers Band performed at Hotel Utah in San Francisco for the International Pop Overthrow Festival. His band was an amazing wall of sound that night. I thought we were meeting for the first time that night, but quickly realized that we both grew up and played in the music ecosystem of Dallas-Fort Worth. We’d probably met years before.

Lannie sees his music as just rock & roll with harmonies

Lannie has been awarded ‘Record of the Year’, ‘Rock Artist of the Year’, ‘Breakthrough Video of the Year’, and ‘Social Media Artist of the Year’ by the LA Music Awards. He’s helped keep the power pop genre alive in the process. We began our interview with Lannie’s ties to the power pop and his thoughts on the state of the genre. He says it was all quite accidental that he ended up within the power pop genre, adding that these are simply the people who took to his music. Lannie sees his music as just rock & roll with harmonies, and recalls that it was his album The Same Old Story that power pop fans first bought. Lannie sites power pop as a very niche genre that comes with very loyal fans. He says it’s particularly popular in Spain, Brazil and Japan. He finds this all a little surprising and even a little strange, but it’s a reality that’s clearly contributing to his success. It’s also contributed to Lannie’s bucket list accomplishments of performing the world famous Whiskey a Go Go in LA and the Cavern Club Liverpool. Continue reading

Terry LaPorta On Being Parent and Manager of Teen Pop Star & Radio Disney Artist Samantha LaPorta

Terry LaPorta, Parent, Mom, Manager, Disney Radio, Samantha LaPorta,

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Terry LaPorta says her daughter’s singing started out as a hobby, but that by age 11 she was performing in Nashville honky-tonks. Her now 16-year old daughter Samantha has since become a Disney Radio artist, and is showing little sign of slowing down. In fact, with the new release of It’s a Girl Thing, Samantha LaPorta (featured in episode 24) appears poised for a rapid rise in popularity. In this interview, Terry shares stories of her daughter’s journey and what it’s like to be her parent and career manager. She also shares useful tips for other parents whose children have Samantha’s level of talent and potential. Continue reading

Mike Dawson’s Home Studio and Social Media Strategy

Mike Dawson, Modern Drummer Podcast Host, Pro Drummer, Managing Editor at Modern Drummer, Recording Studio Engineer

Also available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

Mike Dawson would tell you that he’s a total drum nerd, and he’d be right.  He might even go as far as to say he’s an all around dork, and he may be right.  I jest, and with much admiration and affection for the guy.  He’s one of the coolest people I’ve met in the last year.  He’s a lot of other things, including great drummer, podcast host, and Managing Editor at Modern Drummer Magazine; but my favorite Mike Dawson qualities are generosity and humility.  I believe it’s these two qualities that brought him back to the podcast to help me celebrate milestone episode 25.  Would you like to know a bit more about him?  Check out episode 1 of this podcast. That’s right, he was my very first guest.  For this episode, I had two primary interests for this interview. One, find out Mike’s secret sauce for success on Instagram and Facebook.  And two, dig into the details of his home studio setup.  Here’s what I learned.

The first order of business was talking about how Mike has built his impressive following on social media.  He summed it up in a word–consistency.  He said his strategy has been simply to put some grooves on Instagram every day at about the same time of day.  When asked about his preference in terms of social channels, he went straight to Instagram, because it allows easy-to-use editing, trimming, filters, and more.  He also loves how Instagram easily and conveniently feeds right into Facebook and Twitter. Continue reading

Radio Disney Artist Samantha LaPorta on Performing, Songwriting, Recording and Giving Back

Samantha LaPorta, Disney Radio ArtistAlso available on iTunesStitcher & Google Play Music

At age 16, Samantha LaPorta is the youngest guest I’ve had on the podcast. Our conversation took place on the same day that her single It’s a Girl Thing was released. She’s a Radio Disney artist, something she always wanted to be, and she’s has acquired a number of awards and accolades, including social site Sweety High’s Best Holiday Songs of 2016, NCMA‘s 2015 New Teen Artist and Best Teen Video, and the 2015 Nashville Universe Awards nominations for Rising Star, Best Song, and Best Female Artist. Clearly Samantha has caught the attention of people who matter, which is a testament to her drive and self motivation. All of this in spite of the fact that she’s at a very early point in the trajectory of her fast moving career.

Continue reading

Aki Kumar on Chicago Blues, Bollywood Blues, Harmonica, and Performing

Aki Kumar (Photo: George Zaferes), Aki Goes to Bollywood, Bollywood blues, Chicago blues, West coast bluesIn this episode intro I refer to Aki as a Bollywood blues sensation, not only because his latest album is a fusion of Chicago blues and Bollywood pop classics from Aki’s youth, but also because Aki is so good at what he does, I think he’s likely started what will be seen as a bonafide genre. I’m referring to Bollywood blues.

Aki Goes to Bollywood is a great album, but Aki didn’t start off this way. I first saw him fronting George Brandau’s Chrome Deluxe. Brandau was my featured guest in episode 22. That night I saw and heard a man of Indian decent who sang the blues, played blues harp and entertained at a high level. Yet the final two tracks of his first album Don’t Hold Back are perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.

In the early days of his love affair with the blues, Aki focused on learning to play harp and performing blues classics and eventually composing his own tunes. It’s probably fair to attribute some of his success to the people he’s surrounded himself with, including the likes of David Barrett, Kid Andersen and Jim Pugh (see show notes below); but Aki is a star in his own right. He’s a fantastic performer/entertainer with a flair for style. He’s also a consummate professional, which I have no doubt contributes greatly to his current success.

An interesting side note is that Aki the blues artist exists at a point in time when the music business is at perhaps its midlife phase of change. Still, I suspect that his dedication to the blues and his Bollywood blues sense of adventure will propel him toward a long and successful career. When I asked him about business and where he’s currently focusing his energy, he said without hesitation– Live performances.

Show Notes