Composing Music

Julia Sheer Looks So Deep She Can See Beyond a Song

Julia Sheer (Photo by David Aday)
Julia Sheer (Photo by David Aday)

Usually, when you write your very first song and upload it to YouTube, you don't get five million views.

Julia Sheer did. That was when she was a high school senior in Golden, Colorado, and the song was called "You Will Never Be". Even six years later, after a lot more views on YouTube of a lot more songs that she sang, it's a song that's still a special kind of enchanting. Julia Sheer can write a song.

Usually, when you can write a song that millions of people listen to over and over, you would probably write a lot more songs and upload all of them to YouTube.

Julia Sheer didn't. She did keep recording songs, though, songs that meant something to her, songs that she thought people might want to hear her sing. When she put them on her YouTube, sure enough, millions of people did want to hear her sing. Most of the songs on her YouTube channel, the one with half a million subscribers, are songs that other people had written, although she didn't stop writing by any means. She released her own tracks and sold hundreds of thousands of downloads, making her one of the most successful independent, really independent, artists online.

It wasn't even really anything she planned. "I was just was kind of putting those videos up on the side, and then it just kind of snowballed in to what it is," she remembers. "I never really expected it to just take off and I would have all of these subscribers and followers and views, but it just kind of happened."

Naturally, when your YouTube channel has tens of millions of views by the time you get to your high school graduation, the great big music business is going to want to talk to you about it. That summer six years ago, when she was still only eighteen, labels began flying Julia Sheer to Nashville and New York, and she was offered several big record deals. Of course, if you're offered a big time recording contract right after you get out of high school, you wouldn't usually decide to pass all of it up because it's not exactly the way you want to make music. Julia Sheer did, but she doesn't regret it. "I thank God every day that I didn't sign those record deals," she says, "because I wouldn't be in Nashville making country music, and that's what I really really wanted to do."

That was only part of it, though. Sheer had a very good reason for what she chose to do, but the whole thing was just so unusual that nobody except Julia Sheer could really imagine what that reason could be, until now. It wasn't the kind of reason she could put into a sentence or two, so instead, she put it into the five songs on her brand new EP.

Robert Poss and Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry

Robert Poss (Photo by Michael Lavine)

Robert Poss is a forward-leaning composer because he's such an innovative guitarist --- he's been called a "guitar genius" by Tape Op Magazine, and an "enormously underrated guitar theorist" by producer Steve Albini, who observed, "the way he structures the song around the drone instead of finding a drone to fit into the song I think is wholly unique." Most people first heard of him after he and Susan Stenger founded Band of Susans, whose music Robert Palmer described in Rolling Stone Magazine as "soaring sonic architecture", and since 1995, he has composed extensively for Choreography and Film, continuing to explore the myriad possibilities of a musical universe that few can navigate the way he does.

Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry is Poss' latest release, newly available as a digital download at sites like Amazon. The album is a fourteen track collection of Poss' newest work, most of it originally composed for choreographers Alexandra Beller, Sally Gross and Gerald Casel. Settings opens with three tracks written for Alexandra Beller's "Other Stories", which her company, Alexandra Beller / Dances, is presenting in seven performances this April at New York's Joyce Soho, with Poss performing live.

"One of the things Alexandra and I have in common, one of the many," Poss says, "is that we operate in the realm between 'high art' culture and 'popular culture'. We're not afraid to be brainy and cerebral, but we're also not afraid to get down and dirty." That's only one of the dimensional spectrums that Poss' music, and Poss' approach to Music, explores. A few times through Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry will reveal many more.

"rolls_royce" -- A New Track From TOOM

Here's a great new track from TOOM called "rolls_royce" that we just found on his Sounclound at soundcloudcom/idigtoom. A steady, exotic groove right around 120, this is some imaginative electronica that's worth more than one listen. TOOM did the original score for Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn's most recent work, "Act II" from "Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles".

rolls_royce by TOOM

Hearts and Minds


Claire's new EP Release "Hearts and Minds" in many ways completes her transition from major label artist to self-managed independent. This is her third independent release, and like many artists in tune with both what changes and what stays the same, she's increasingly adapted her release approach to the digital-friendly EP. Hearts and Minds is a three-song collage of where her music is now, including flawlessly produced recordings with writing partner Tommy G ("A Long Goodbye" and "Winds of Change") and a beat-driven mid-tempo track with 'ohana Dreamdance producer Johnny Nevin ("Wouldn't It").

Claire came by Heart & Soul to talk about the EP's release -- about how the songs came to be, who was in on the project, and a lot more. “The EP is about balance or the lack of it,” she says. “In these songs, either the heart or the mind is in control – but you need them both working in unison to make choices for real happiness." Here's the ten minute interview, most definitely worth a listen to get a look inside the exceptionally creative mind of Claire Massey -----

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You can find much more about Claire at, and you can hear Hearts and Minds at cdbaby. We also have another podcast about the production of "Wouldn't It" right here, and you can hear the entire track in the story "Wouldn't It" from Claire's New Hearts & Minds EP".

"Wouldn't It" From Claire's New "Hearts and Minds" EP


"Wouldn't It"

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Claire Massey is the original vocalist in 'ohana Dreamdance, co-writing "Made To Love", and singing on four or five of the group's first tracks, only one of which ("Let Me") has been released so far. But most of Claire's music has come out of her successful collaboration with highly respected Chicago guitarist Tommy G., a collaboration that has included writing, performing and recording a number of noted projects. The two were founding members of the nineties pop group, now cult favorite, Tami Show, which included Claire's sister Cath, and after Tami Show's run through two major label deals ended, Claire and Tommy continued working.

Their 2002 LP Suncat Muse included the single "Butterfly", which, in complete defiance of the sordid financial realities of modern corporate radio, reached the Top 20 of the national AC charts as a true independent single. Their production technique has always come from traditional band-based arrangements, and it begins when Claire and Tommy write a song, usually a guitar driven progression from Tommy that Claire will put lyrics and melody to. When they're ready, they find some great musicians, usually the same ones, book studio time in a great room with a great producer/engineer, and work together with everybody until the track is right. It's the approach of most great bands, and a very different process from the producer-and-vocalist approach of most beats-driven music, like dance and R&B.

OVAL - Ah!

Isabelle Rune performing OVAL - Ah! • Photo by Sebastien Gonon

Choreography on film and video is not a new idea, but it still seems in many ways to be in its very early stages, not so much as an art form, but as an idea in the Dance community. Here's a video from Amberley Productions, a film and video company in Berlin, that is visionary in its sense of how to visually record choreography.

Comparing the often divergent, often converging worlds of music and dance is irresistible whenever this subject comes up. Way, way back, music was always performed, and never recorded, and it took decades, maybe six of them, before a gradual creative understanding emerged that the record does not have to be the same as the live performance. The record includes the performance, but it will always be more than, and less than, a live performance of the same song. You lose the intensity of immediate personal communication, but you have access to immense areas of more complex, more colorful communication; there are realms of technology-induced imagination that become available to the expression of the creative ideas in the composition.

Made To Love

Claire Massey cowrote this track with Johnny Nevin, and with Claire getting ready to release a new EP called "Hearts and Minds", it's a good time to listen to how she crafts a melody and lyric. Made To Love is due for a full remix and release early next year, and "Hearts and Minds" includes a track called "Wouldn't It", that Nevin produced, and that will show up here soon, maybe with some of the backstory.

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For more about Claire and "Hearts and Minds" her site is, and you can find Made To Love at iTunes, Amazon and in the U.K. at 7Digital.

'ohana Dreamdance Remix D. Jeremy

D. Jeremy "Stomp Your Feet"

Remixing ... one of the most variable, the most fun, and the most challenging (if you want to get it right for everybody) facets of record producing. D. Jeremy's track "Stomp Your Feet" was always an unlikely candidate for a remixer with any real common sense -- it's in the Beats-Per-Minute stratosphere (one-fifty-six), it's a rock track, and it's nothing like any of the 'ohana or 'ohana Dreamdance tracks so far. Have a listen, or check it out at iTunes, at Amazon, or at a rock site called Shockhound.

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So 'ohana Dreamdance remixed it (brought it down to 142 so you can slip it into your Trance set, but that might not be a great idea), and it goes like this:

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That's the full version, there's a radio edit available for free (legally): here are some of the links:

Stomp Your Feet (mp3)
iTunes ••• Amazon ••• Shockhound

'ohana Dreamdance, Shayna Swanson, and What Was Beyond

Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin worked with an amazing artist named Shayna Swanson, composing an as-yet-unreleased track they call "What Was Beyond". Shayna has a live video of her performance that you really have to see: it's at YouTube.

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