Musicians’ Diary


Our thoughts, our creative steps, our everyday questioning about being musicians, emerging ideas & projects… and basically anything we want to share !

Blog, Musicians' Diary

Summer 2019… About failure, sadness and hope.


We filmed a bit in Carnac (a beautiful and magical location in the south of Brittany) where we were some days ago, we wanted to share a bit with you what we are at. If you have a look at our tour schedule, you’ll straight away notice we’re far from being over-booked for next summer, and we thought it would be fair to also share with you what has been going on. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel if you haven’t yet ! And leave any comment that could support our moods 🙂

In case you wonder, we’re doing much better, the small tout to Catalunya and Portugal were amazing and like the medicine we needed, but we are still practicing intense self-care, as much as we can. We still have our job contracts running up until early July, but we still manage to squeeze in some creative time.
For me personally, creating and editing videos is a fun way to do something different, and stay creative, which makes me feel much better!

Thanks for reading and following our creative crazy journey, even in darker days *Simone.

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Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Creativity, a need or an addiction for artists? 5 things I do to stay focused on my art!


June is around the corner. And it’s almost the end of the school year which for us means the end of our job contracts in high schools/ secondary schools. And it means also look behind and realise that despite of all going on in our lives, and we’ve definitely had our share this year, we have still been quite creative since January. 

Yann has done some deep sound work in the studio, and rethought the all way we organise our music set. I’ve done some small videos (some are even published on Youtube here), learned new editing tricks, taken pictures, done small drawings. Nothing physically released that’s for sure, no new recording, although we’ve tried hard on that.

I guess like for most artists, creating is a need, can I even say a basic need? One that if it isn’t met messes up all of our lives even where all could go well? Or maybe it could rather be an addiction. Something we got so much used to that we feel we need and to want to experience it again and again?

As the years pass by I’m coming to the conclusion that it isn’t just about “being creative”. It’s also about “staying” and “feeling creative” no matter what. No matter the turmoil of life, no matter if our art doesn’t generate enough revenue to make a living and get us back to side-tiring-non exciting-jobs.

1 Recognise what can’t be done right now

Sometimes it’s just not the time and recognising and accepting it seems to make it easier to navigate through. I’ve seen too many times what denial could do to us. Denying that we aren’t getting the expected gigs/sales/views/streams. Denying that it makes us feel sad and worthless. And fooling ourselves pretending it’s about not giving up. Getting revenue to sustain our living and ensure we’ll be able to live decently, afford healthy food, replace expensive violin strings, do some unavoidable repairs in the house or on the car, all this certainly isn’t about giving up on our creativity.

2 See instead what you can do & start creating something small

We all hear about “dream big”, and keep on seeing this quote shared by anyone on facebook “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (which btw is by Norman Vincent Peale, author of the Power of Positive Thinking which worth a read ). I feel it’s ok to do so…. when it makes me feel good! When it doesn’t, because let’s be honest when my tour agenda is almost empty the gap is too big for my mind to deal with, I can’t fool myself on that one.

I realised I hadn’t created many videos in years, although it made me extremely happy, and I just thought this was extremely sad. I used to vlog for Astrakan Project. To shoot little sequences just because they had interest for my eyes and because I wanted to see them come to life. There are many reasons for why I was doing less of these. On one hand it’s true that the small equipment I’m lucky to own has its limitations. A lot of limitations for sure, and the truth is also, when I hear our music, I have visions of glorious landscapes and skies that I can’t capture. And I imagine scripts (I wrote a few of them, some even with a storyboard!) that can’t be done with me alone so far.

What was then my cure? Go back to step 1! I acknowledged I couldn’t do these projects right now, and started thinking about what was doable right now. Doable technically. Doable schedule-wise too. I realised I was aiming at creating a full music video, with our tracks being almost all more than 5 min long, that’s a tremendous amount of work, and just the thought was pulling me back from doing anything.at.all! And guess what? It made me so happy to imagine, shot and edit this small sequence with my son!

In a way, I try to change my perspective. Instead of staying stuck into “want I want to do”, I gently try to push myself to also see “what I can easily do” and that makes me (quite as) happy too.

I’m preparing a few more, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel here if you haven’t done so.   http://www.youtube.com/astrakanproject/?sub_confirmation=1.

3 Reduce social media

And I’m serious on that one! More than often I can be more than happy about friends having gigs, tours, exhibitions, and I’m happy to listen to new music people share, discover new videos. But again, if the gap is too big with what I’m experiencing right now, I just see how it makes me feel sad to hear/see their own achievements, and then it builds up to resentment, to feeling like a victim, and I deeply believe feeling like a victim doesn’t really pair with being a thriving artist! My feeling again, everyone is different, some people may get motivated by some sort of competition or revenge, but it’s not my case at all, I need to be centered and at peace to create.

the ghost of me - Simone Alves - Astrakan Project
The Ghost of Me.

Since a reduced my scrolling time, I noticed how I had more clarity, more ideas, and more focus for sure to deepen the ideas I have, and actually create them (I also noticed I could remember vibrant dreams, is that related?). I feel that even “nice”, “inspiring”, “classes”, “how to” content is an excuse for not being creating myself. There’s so much waiting to be done! I have a long way to go, but I’m taking responsibility for trying it out.

4 Read (or listen) to inspiring books instead!

My bible will forever be The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. I don’t know if there’s anyone around that hasn’t heard about her book, but if it’s your case, know that it’s been a companion for a decade, and it’s more than a usual inspirational book. It has concrete steps and exercises to get back on creativity. I could even award it as best-value-book-ever!

My second go to book is Big Magic, Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I listen to it actually rather than I read it, but I love it and it has changed my perspective on the expectations I had towards my art. I realised I was putting a lot of pressure on what I was creating. It had to please me, to make me happy, to get me revenue (oh! That’s a big one!), to get me to travel, to get me to meet new people. I realised I needed to accept (remember step 1 😉 ) that if it was really cool when it would happen, I should relax, step back, and re-focus on the process of creating, not on the out-come. To be honest, that’s way easier said than done and experienced!

The author has also a very unique take on inspiration and ideas. For Elizabeth Guilbert, ideas have an existence on their own, like they are floating around waiting for someone to grab them and materialise them into the physical world. A very profound book that I feel like… listening to again as soon as I press the publish button on this post!

I’m personally a big fan of audiobooks, especially for non-fiction books, books about creativity, motivational books. When I discovered about it, I was in awe with all the possibilities. I already loved long drives, but that definitely make them even more exciting! Same goes for cooking sessions!

(This link should give you 1 month for free, which means one book credit for free)

That’s all for today folks, if you have any advice or thought to share with me, please to in the comments below, if that was useful too 🙂

Wishing you a lovely, peaceful and creative week!

A galon / with heart, Simone

PS: Links may be affiliated for some of them (on Amazon for instance). As a friend of Astrakan Project, you allow us to earn a small commission if you make a purchase through our affiliate/referral links. This doesn’t affect you in any way in the checkout process. Thank you for supporting our creative journey!

Blog, Musicians' Diary

Hum… We just got nominated for fRoots editor’s choice indie 2018 album


 

Capture

We feel very honored to be among all these talented artists. And it gives extra value to these months/year of deep and profound search around music and sound. And also it cheers us up as we are just back from almost a week of radio promo in Brittany. We did very nice interview, met very nice people too, and let’s be honest, it always feels good to talk about this very personal projet.

So, why? Why do we need to be cheered up? Well, despite of dedicated promo work, and having the chance to be welcomed by most of Breton radios, it hasn’t really translated into sales. Not sales from Brittany at least. And of course, yes, we’d love to also have some more folks enjoying and supporting our music over here. After all it’s Breton music right? Also, every single sale pushes the day we’ll have to go back to employee job a bit further away, and everyday staying focussed on our music and art is to be enjoyed and made great use of!

Live results tomorrow 11pm on BBC radio 3  (London time obviously) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001g72

Fingers crossed ?Capture

Blog, Musicians' Diary

Joyful dance + more tips to stay creative and overcome musician’s fears


 

This is true. Our child is rather enthusiast, and also we promised he would get extra carousel rides for each book and album sold, but without that it really makes him happy when we have sales.

Probably he also feels our own happiness. We always celebrate when we get a sale, a new Facebook like, a new gig, a review, a nice message from fans, whatever. Always.

This goes back to the topic we bringing up yesterday, and could be the second tip to deal with anxiousness of having our music appreciated by audience and reviewers (side note, nope, I didn’t say “not being liked”, I clearly talk about your music! You’re much more than your music!).

The tip is to celebrate. Over-celebrate. Be joyful. Over-joyful. Be grateful. Over-grateful. Be like a child!

arrivee CDs kristen montage

Why?

If you fill your day with celebration, joyfulness, chances are you’ll have less time to be wondering about a review you’d like to have or the sales you hope to make. Of course, ask for sales, advertise, share about it, be professional and enthusiastic about your project. But also detach enough from it to avoid suffering due to unfulfilled expectations.

Celebrating helps. At least it has helped us.

Have a joyful day out there, and share any tips you would have to dissociate from your music so that it doesn’t kill you!

And if you want to make our child and us even happier, yes you have that power! One click to order!

For more videos, you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel >here<

~ Simone.

 

 

Blog, Musicians' Diary

The fear of disappointing your audience and reviewers + a simple tip to overcome them


As we already mentioned in previous blogs, we are in this awkward time frame. Inês is released, copies have been sent to most of our audience that supported the project along the crowdfund campaign, we’ve done some limited sales on our network, and we’ve sent a couple of copies for review.

They’re a few types of possible reviews. The ones that previously supported our projects, the ones we never sent any material too but are now getting in touch with, and the ones whom we probably won’t bother sending to this time, since we are trying to slash down our promo costs too (we’ll have a Vlog running on the topic pretty soon, hit the subscribe button on our YouTube channel).

Regarding medias that had already trusted, supported and reviewed our project with respect and understanding from the very beginning, we noticed it with B album, we freak out with questions like “will they like it this time?” “does it add anything so that we’ve leveled up from previous recordings?” etc, etc…

One tip we happily use is to  gather all the kind messages and even print them out. The first impressions tend, from our experience, to be the good ones you receive, the enthusiastic ones, the supportive ones. When in doubt, go threw the message and that will make us realise that indeed we truly are supported by lovely and kind people. Do you have any other tip? Share in the comment section please! We’re always up to learning new tricks!

But today we can breathe and celebrate, fRoots that had us reviewed for both our albums and also made us the great honor of featuring us on their cover, has included the last song from the album on its autumn playlist here:

Click on the pic or here: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/froots/episodes/2018-10-07T12_00_00-07_00

Astrakan Project got one song featured on fRoots Radio podcast n°194 - dark folk medieval
Astrakan Project got one song featured on fRoots Radio podcast n°194

 

You’re still on time to grab your copy, and remember we are still in Greece, and postage will save you some good euros/pounds/dollars…

Have a lovely day, stay true to yourself and your dreams 🙂

~ Simone.

The way to the post office. Make your dreams come true and become a successful musician, and find others streams of income.
The way to the post office, in Nea Peramos, Greece. Doesn’t it look like paradise?

Blog, Musicians' Diary

List of Breton music essentials you’ve been waiting for!


Have you ever dream of a list of Breton music to listen to? Essentials that you could be introduced to ? Fascinated by breton fest-noz music and not knowing where to start from?

We’ve had the request quite often, and since we’re catching-up on all we postponed during Inês album recording and release, here it is: a WIP list of breton music that we like and that has influenced us. You can find the list on this section of tour web-site that we plan on up-dating regularly, as well as books recommended for artists, online ressources and links to the gear we use for music and video. But, without further due, let’s get in to the world of fest-noz and breton music: 

Fest-noz & modern breton music

From late XXc – 80’s and 90’s power!

From 00’s on

  • Karma – fest-noz, fest-noz by the Diwan generation.
  • Plantec – a band around two brothers, and in the beginning quite influenced by Ar Re Yaouank, then experimented also with some live electro.

Experimental, world, cross-over, others

  • Bugel Koar – Ar solier, with the singer Marthe Vassalo. A very interesting project, with a lot of gwerz (breton type of lament) from Trégor (and we love gwerz from Trégor!). N’ebaon the second album by the duet is also really good. (and more likely to be available)
  • Any album by/with Erik Marchand worth it! His collaboration with the french oud player Thierry Titi Robin in the 80’s: chants du centre Bretagne and An Tri Breur deeply and profoundly inspired and nourished our musical experiences. He’s also famous for his fusion world music with musicians from the Balkans. Our favorite ever is Pruna (although Unu, daou, tri easily available or Dor are totally worth it). Another favorite of ours is his collab with the french indie musician Rodolphe Burger which resulted in the unexpected album Before Bach.
  • Norkst and Kreiz Breizh Akademi. It sounds weird to add an album in which we personally performed, but when it was released in 2005, it was quite a unique project, both artistic and pedagogic, upon an idea from Erik Marchand. The project still goes on with several albums released by different KBA bands, but Norkst being the very first one, it certainly would be the one to listen to as it opened the road to all the later ones. (let us know if you’d like us to elaborate on the project!)
  • Au Café Breton by Rolland Becker and Regis Huiban. A project around breton music as played in the 20’s 30’s and influenced by Parisian accordion musette style (it has influenced a few fest-noz bands like Le Bour / Bodros )
  • Jacques Pellen – Celtic Procession. A project that started in the 90’s, with loads of versions, guests, etc, but generally with a jazz flavour.

Gwerz, kan ha diskan and a-capella albums

  • Tradition Chantée En Bretagne – Les Sources Du Barzaz Breiz Aujourd’Hui . More specialised, this is a collection of gatherings from the XXth century from songs that were previously to be found on the XIXc book “Barzaz Breizh”. Raw a-capella singing, but a treasure if you fancy authentic traditional style. The booklet is quite thick and very useful and contains all the lyrics with french translations.
  • Kan ha Diskan by Loeiz Roparz. A collection of kan ha diskan with several singers and Loeiz Roparz, known to be the “inventor” of fest-noz in its actual form.
  • Kan ha Diskan – Yann-Fañch Kemener. Kan ha diskan from Yann-Fañch Kemener with most of big names from the breton kan ha diskan scene, both old and new scene: Erik Marchand, Annie Ebrel, Patrick Marie, Valentine Colleter, Claudine Flohic, Marcel Guilloux, Ifig Troadeg. A must have!
  • Fest-Noz en Poher. Not very often available, but pay close attention to the name and picture, so far there isn’t any re-edit, but if it at some point would show up on the second hand market, be quick! Simone has practically learned all the basics from Kan ha Diskan with this excellent very traditional album. Features gavotte from Annie Ebrel with Noluen Le Buhez (excellent and brilliant energy!), from Fustec/Le Corre and Les Frères Dilasser – both huge favorites and role models for kan ha diskan when Yann was a child (and also probably the only recording available from the Dilasser Brothers).

Enjoy, and let us know in the comment section if you have any request or suggestion!

Links are amazon affiliated, if you decide to buy any of these based on our recommendations, please, do use our links, you will pay the exact same price, but we’ll receive a little percentage that can help us producing more music and share more useful links.

Also, this list is based on our personal musical journey, on what made a difference to us, and also on our personal tastes! This ain’t meant to be a chart, or any “ultimate” listing! Get inspired, enjoy our story sharing, but create your own story and connection with breton music.

Blog, Musicians' Diary

Special price & big dream sharing.


One of the things we weren’t expecting while preparing Inês project album, was the huge raise in postage costs happening on the 1st of July in France. It costs 9,60€ for each piece to Europe, and 10,60€ for the rest of the world. Which is …. huge!

But here’s the good news! We are in Greece working on promo+new ideas+new videos+new concerts, and postage is extremely cheap, you get to spare over 5€, we’ll be here until the 26th of October morning, so take your chance! After that you’ll have to wait for us to come next to your place on tour 🙂 Which is cool too! (and if you have any suggestion, as usual, one single click here and let us know: astrakanpoject@gmail.com )

nea peramos post office succesful artist selling music albums around the world
Nea Peramos Post-office

 

Honestly, Nea Peramos is very special to us! Outside Brittany, it’s our perfect ideal place on the sea, the light is brilliant to paint, take pictures, shoot videos, dream and imagine costumes and stage lights. It’s also so close from Istanbul, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia… All these places that inspire us, are part of who we are, and find their way to our music. We left back in 2015, but we promis, we are doing all we can to get back here part time, because this is the place we can make magic happen, this is the place we get to be creative, and also, we have about 3 album projects that we’d love to see happening very soon, and we know we need to be somewhere between two worlds to have the balance we need to create.

dream board - live in Greece to create amazing art and music
Nea Peramos – east Macedonia

So, please, take a breath, and wish it along with us: we’re very soon back to Nea Peramos! Thank you! Trugarez!

 

§ Simone.

Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

On the (music) road. A long (emotional) road.


We’ve arrived in Greece after 2 weeks travel across the Balkan region (mostly Serbia and North Macedonia) that we miss so much. It had been 2 years since we hadn’t been around, and it really feels like we’re reunited with an ambiance that is deeply part of who we are – or rather have become.

 

We are very happy we had the plan to travel once the album would be released. We did some little promo before our departure, and thanks to the Internet (and easy cheap sim cards!), we can easily manage the rest of it for when we’ll be back to France early November.

Our happiness comes also from a more relaxed way from our behalf to deal with the album release. It’s a true fact that with the experience, we get better at it. And I’m not necessarily referring to the contacts, or the sequence of what needs to be done. That’s the easiest part in a way.

I’m here rather referring to the emotional part of the release, how having a limited audience in a niche style affects what we can do at release time. Basically, despite of the nice support we got during the crowdfunding campaign, we didn’t have huge crowds waiting for Inês album. Also, we got amazing feedback from some media, but also plenty of no replies from radios we’ve worked with previously. From people too. Some sales in the first week, though nothing exceptional.

Honestly, it can be an artist’heart’s killer! But as I said, we now plan for it, and planning for what we most love in the world *travelling* certainly smooths all the mixed feelings we experience. And don’t get us wrong! We do enjoy every bit of this amazing project, all is part of the game, it’s just music after-all, isn’t it? And as years pass by we do improve at staying motivated and grateful no matter what.

http://www.astrakanproject.bandcamp.com/album/in-s

§ Simone.

 

 

 

Blog, Musicians' Diary, Sound & Video

Ar Chaseadenn – The Hunt


Our Kid has grown with the story of Pedro and Inês, even before we started to compose for Inês album. Here’s his version of the Hunt (n.III on the album), in French, but during next UK tour we’ll train him to do it in English 🙂 All illustrated elements are to be found in Inês book.

 

Blog, DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Hard-copy is not dead & about music visual identity


This unique piece of Artwork travels to Ireland as a reward for contributions to our Crowdfund campaign. Yann has been a few time to Ireland, but I haven’t so far… I’m hoping this painting is opening the road for me, it’s still a dream to go and visit some of the incredible megalithic sites as well as sites linked with Celtic Irish Culture. Performing there would obviously be a bonus 🙂 Let’s send this wish out into the winds!

Music is a classic performed by The Bothy Band in 1976/77 and released in 1996. Full version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aWl_qdUK1o

 

And this one is on its way to the South of France…

ines bras

 

We are still only realizing how slowly incorporating my artwork into the project has become part of it, part of its identity, and has considerably impacted too the way we now envision projects. With the small audience we have, we probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the goal on the Crowdfunding campaign. The artwork is what has generated interest, it made it easy to post regular visual up-dates whereas posting music studio ones could feel a bit of the same.

When we went to local record labels with the project last year, I could sometimes hear something like “is it a book or is it a music album?” “how can we promote it if we’re not sure what it is?” “if it’s a book with just the lyrics, then it might just be a booklet, not a book.”

 

Once again, we are shown that what is hard to understand in the beginning is what makes us stand out and makes us different, and thus helps getting our project been noticed. In a way, the strong visual identity we’ve developed over the years balances the fact that the language we use can sometimes be an obstacle to dive in into our music.

Now that we started to get fantastic and lovely feedback from people receiving the first orders, we also can feel how the visual impact the way they perceive the music afterwards – so far in a very positive way.

Photo Joelle

Every music style is different, but in our case, we can confirm that we get to earn some money from hard copies sales while we barely make any sales on digital-only editions. We even had already a couple of people that ordered first the digital edition (that still includes the book in pdf) and re-ordered the hard-copy, and that was just the first week!

Is there any conclusion? While we hear very often that digital is the future, we can see exceptions all the time, and personaly it’s not what we’ve been noticing (since 2012, we’ve released 3 hard-copies and 2 digital only). Is there any rule? And who makes up the rules? As artists, we are creative people, and being creative is also something we can apply to the way we connect with our particular audience. We still have a lot to learn on that field, but the last months of conceiving and releasing Inês project has certainly been very inspiring in that field.

To be followed!

– Simone.