Famous Fans of the Laptop Sessions with Jim Fusco

Okay, so they might not be household names, but Jim Fusco’s acoustic cover song music videos have gotten some pretty interesting comments over the years.  Here’s an ever-growing list of notable people that have become fans of Jim’s videos:

Geoffrey Cushing-Murray: This late-70’s Beach Boys lyricist wrote “Goin’ South” with Carl Wilson and even “Love Surrounds Me” with Dennis Wilson, which appeared on “L.A. (Light Album)”.

I enjoyed seeing this very much. It’s gratifying to know this song still has a life. Carl and I were very proud of it and hoped it would find an audience over time. Thanks again and good job. Geoffrey Cushing-Murray

Greg Douglass: He wrote the music to the #26 hit “Jungle Love”, made famous by Steve Miller in the late 70’s.

Wow. I co-wrote this tune, and this is impressive. Works well unplugged! Good work, dude…Wrote the music & played guitar on the track, as well as touring with Steve for a few years. Again, cool job. Always fun to see something I’m involved with re-interpreted.

More to follow!

Laptop Sessions article: “Why do we listen to music?”

By Jeff Copperthite:

Before I begin my article today, I want to give you an update on my New Year’s happenings.  Obviously, if you’re a visitor to this site, chances are you have followed us throughout our excursion and foray through 2008, as we covered a song per day.  The holiday season was a good one, but it surely made me a bit under the weather for some reason.  I may not have slept as well as I thought I did.  Because this week, I’ve been fighting off a cold and (again) a lost voice.

However, I had this article in mind for quite some time, so now is the time to bring it to you.

It is a question some have wondered about.  Well, some is basically Anthropologists, Sociologists, Theorists, Philosophers, and the like.

Why do we listen to music?

It’s not the same question as “Why do we make  music?”.  I think the two have some drastically different responses.

Furthermore, you can add in the question “What determines what people listen too?”, because that also has a series of drastically different responses.  I myself am not entirely sure why I grew up listening to rock, alternative, and video game music.  I know I enjoy them.

But that’s different.  I want to examine some of the reasons that I listen to music, and some events that I recall in my mind when I think of this.

One reason I believe is for motivation.  I have glowing memories of listening to a select few albums when I was in High School on the Cross Country team.  On the bus to meets, before the meets after stretching, while eating a peeled orange and drinking a grape powerade.  I always had the CD player running.  Sometimes players would have to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention to do the premeet preparation or the course walkthrough.  I listened especially to the 2nd disc of “The Wall” by Pink Floyd (fans of this album should already know the song that stuck out the most), but others were “Villains” by the Verve Pipe, “Pet Your Friends” by Dishwalla, “Master of Puppets” by Metallica (especially the track “Orion”), and “Foo Fighters” (self-titled initial release).  Those tended to psych me up for those 5k runs and made me ready to go.  I would also “listen” to the songs in my head as I ran the meet.  I’m sure people use music to psych up for sporting events, but I am sure the selection of the type of music will vary greatly.

Another reason is relaxation.  However, this is where a lot of people differ in what is considered relaxing.  Personally, I don’t find a lot of my playlist to be terribly “relaxing”.  I mean, putting on “Firestarter” just wouldn’t make me destress.  If you’re like me, you need something a bit more slow-tempo, perhaps acoustic or – dare I say it – classical.  Well, the classical station is reserved for those particlarly stressful days, like when students are overly sarcastic or not interested in making themselves smarter or being proud of their acheivements (i’ll save that for another article).  Destressing is something we all have to do.  What’s funny is the music that I listen to to relax me, may make some very stressed.  And vice versa.  That’s the really weird thing.

A good reason that people listen to music is tied to the previous two reasons.  Music can be a mood changer.  As pointed out by a friend of mine, sad people may listen to specific songs that contain sympathizing lyrics.  It is a coping mechanism that people use to help them through a tough time.  In a way, the previous paragraphs are mood changers as well.  If I wanted to feel psyched up and motivated, I had music to listen too.  When I had my first (and only) break from my then-future wife, I had specific music that I used as sympathizing music.   It does in a way make me wonder if the reason people listen to specific music, is to fit the mood that they are most comfortable with.  Perhaps there are people out there who are “content” on feeling angry, so they listen to angry sounding music.  It’s an interesting hypothesis.

Whatever your reason, I’m sure you can understand that you listen to music for perhaps drastically different reasons.  But one thing we all have in common – we listen to it.  It’s a wonderful piece of art.  We get to enjoy it throughout our lives, and in many different settings.  I hope this makes you think about why you enjoy it, and then I hope knowing that brings you greater appreciation for it.

I will see you next week!  Have a great weekend!

Review: “Surf: The Musical” Opening Night Performance in Las Vegas

By Jim Fusco:

Last week, my wife and I were on vacation in Las Vegas.  We were SO excited to learn that we were there on opening night of “Surf: The Musical”!  We got tickets and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.  We went over to Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino…

Well, we were pleasantly surprised!  The show featured 30 Beach Boys songs and even had a couple of obscure ones, like Dennis Wilson’s “Be Still” (from the 1969 album “20/20”) and (slightly less obscure) “Getcha Back” (from the 1985 album “The Beach Boys”).

One of the coolest moments was after a car crash, the chorus sang “Our Prayer” (from Smile)- it was the perfect song choice.  Actually, I was surprised at how well the lyrics to all the songs fit in so well with the story.  They had to change a few lyrics (mostly gender-related), but it was done well.

Of course, the show was “Vegas-fied” with a lot of dancing, skimpier outfits than anyone would’ve worn in 1965, and there were a lot of special effects and lighting tricks.  The background was a set of three large LCD screens.  That was a great touch because the background changed with each scene- it allowed them to have different “locations” without having a ton of set props.  There was even a really cool Ferris Wheel effect that drew applause from the audience.

The singing was done pretty well- normally I can’t stand hearing people over-dramatize my favorite songs.  But, these stayed fairly true to the originals.

Overall, we had a ton of fun and I would really recommend it to any Beach Boys fan.  I hope it does well!

In Search of the Perfect Acoutic Guitar…

By Jim Fusco:

A little over two weeks ago, I got the urge.  On a chance visit to Guitar Center in Manchester, CT (while my wife shopped at the Christmas Tree Shop), I began getting that familiar, “I really wanna buy a guitar” feeling.  I started to think about my fellow “Traveling Acai Berries” member, Steve, who has a beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) Martin D16-RGT acoustic guitar.  I remember playing it and noticing how well it sounded.  Every fret was in tune.  I didn’t have to try so hard to make it sound great.  Plus, it had some nice volume without having to strum very hard.

So, I thought about the idea of actually purchasing a Martin guitar.  I mean, I was always a nay-sayer.  I remember countless conversations with my brother, saying, “Oh, Martins are overpriced- there’s no way they can sound THAT good to justify being over a thousand dollars!”

Then, I played Steve’s guitar.  It was magical.  I knew I had to have one someday.  Little did I know that day would be now!

So, the bug was in my mind.  I began doing some research and honed-in on a few models.  I decided right off the bat that I wanted an all solid wood guitar.  To me, there’s no other way.  I actually didn’t even want Steve’s same model because of its Micarta (synthetic) fretboard.  Not to say that it’s a bad thing- I mean, it’ll NEVER wear down- but, to me, I really wanted an instrument I could hand down for generations.

You see, Martin guitars have been around since 1833 and have been produced (the all-wood ones, at least) in Nazareth, PA for over 175 years.  That’s pretty incredible, especially considering that, after all this time, it’s STILL a family-run business!  When you buy a high-quality Martin, you keep it for life (it has a lifetime warranty, too) and it only gets better (and even more valuable) with age.

So, my search brought up a few potential models, including the DSR, the D-15 Mahogany, and the DSM.  These guitars are all “custom” because they were made for major guitar retailer Guitar Center.  So, they’re not the standard Martin models, but they do offer a significant savings.

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, I gave myself a budget on this, but I really didn’t want to limit myself budget-wise.  I mean, I set out to buy the best acoustic guitar I could possibly purchase- one that sounded great.  I wanted the best acoustic money could buy.  But, I ended up saving a lot of money only because “the best” to me didn’t include a ton of pearl inlays and fancy appointments.  I think it’s true that, with Martins, they stop sounding better at a certain point…and then just start looking better.  Sure, I could’ve gotten one with the perfect cut of wood on the top (no “bear claws”, as they say), but that doesn’t make the sound any better now, does it?

So, I went to a couple stores to try things out.  I played the highest of the high end Martins, including the famed HD-28 and the Eric Clapton signature edition, which actually contained his signature inside the guitar!  But, I didn’t love the sound.  They sounded too muted to me.  They certainly didn’t have the booming, yet sparklingly clear, tones that Steve’s model had.

So, I had to do more research.  I learned that I was looking for a guitar with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides for the tone I liked.  But, I wanted to get a mahogany neck, because I simply can’t resist that intoxicating mahogany smell.  I also decided that I wanted a guitar with an ebony fretboard, because it was the kind of fretboard they used on the highest-end Martins.

I ended up finding the Martin DSR, which had everything I wanted except for the fretboard.  I could’ve lived with that.  But, the guitar had a satin finish to it.  It looked okay (other than the tacky white binding) and was LOUD- a big plus.  I came to the conclusion that the glossy coat was what was holding the other guitars back from being as loud as they could be.  Then, I started thinking about the fact that I want this instrument to be the be-all end-all acoustic guitar.  Am I really going to hand-down a guitar that didn’t have full-body gloss and that had a lower-end fretboard?  I mean, the guitar was about $1000, but I still felt that I would be taking the low road.

So, I got pretty disheartened and kept searching.  I spoke to my brother Mike, who then told me to expand my horizons.  Martin isn’t the only high-end acoustic guitar company, you know.  So, I seriously considered Taylor (so many famous people play them) and Larivee (a Canadian company that Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies uses).  But, stores around here don’t sell Larivee and I’ve never heard or played one in person.  And, I tried a couple of Taylors that were around $1,000 and they didn’t trill me.  To me, they played like every other guitar I’ve tried.

And then, in my search through literally hundreds of pages of online forums and articles, I came across one post that mentioned the Martin MMV.  It’s a model, originally made in 2005 (thus “MMV”) for Guitar Center.  It featured EVERYTHING I wanted in the guitar: glossy, Sitka spruce top, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, and the elusive ebony wood fretboard!  It had that same white binding, but I felt a lot better when I realize that the famed HD-28 had the same binding and looked very nice when glossy.  I was so excited, but realized that I would have to buy this sight-unseen.

So, I did as much research on the guitar as I could.  I literally read every webpage I could find about it.  I wanted to buy it on eBay, but really wanted that Martin Lifetime (yes, LIFETIME) warranty, so I decided to buy it new.  I finally found a 15% off coupon from a reputable site, which was good because this model (at Guitar Center, at least) was a full $500 more than the other models I was looking at.

Let me just say how much I love and appreciate my supportive wife, Becky, for understanding that I need such comfort items as these after working all day and night for the past year and a half!

Back to the story: I even got the guy to throw in six sets of Martin strings!

The guitar came in on Tuesday and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It’s LOUD and sounds amazing.  It also smells wonderful.  It came with a hard shell case, too.  I realize that even higher-end Martins use “choice woods” and other classy appointments, but I truly believe that this model sounded better in my ears.  It’s not the flashiest guitar, but I think it’s the highest quality and best sounding Martin before you just start paying for visual upgrades.  I will be proud of this guitar for the rest of my life and will be proud to hand it down someday.  But, they may have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. 🙂

I hope this guitar will further excite me to play music and inspire me to continue writing new songs.  I look forward to playing it all the time now and feel like I finally have an acoustic guitar that brings me to the next level.  I’m glad to be a Martin owner, too.  I join some pretty good company there.

So, again, this may not be the perfect overall guitar, but to me, it certainly is.  The sound, the look, the prestige- they all fit me like a glove.  I hope it will be the last acoustic guitar I’ll ever need to buy.  Of course, that just leaves me more room for my growing electric guitar collection!

Stay tuned- next week I bust-out the Martin MMV for my first Laptop Session acoustic cover song music video!  See you then.