When Gary Waldman asked a few of his musically talented friends to help record a few original songs, he had been an established music manager for twenty years. Nevertheless, his friends were floored when they learned of their their longtime friend’s secret talent. Cut to a few years later and Waldman, under his musical alias Morebarn, has produced two outstanding music videos and shows no intent of slowing down. Waldman spoke to FDRMX about his long career as a manager and his promising new one as a recording artist.
FDRMX: You were a manager for over 20 years before you started with your music!
Gary Waldman: Yes. I managed record producers, singer-songwriters, and bands, and I still do that. It’s been very helpful because I’ve spent over 20 years watching people make records and have careers in music. I’ve learned a lot of things, especially things not to do. When I began my own songwriting career it all fell into place, as if I had years of training. My two biggest friends and clients were Jim Scott [producer for Wilco, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Tom Petty and more) and Neal Casal, a terrific solo artist and guitarist for Ryan Adams & The Cardinals and also the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. I also tour manage bands as well, which means I do lots of traveling. The change of scenery is very helpful for spurring song ideas.
FDRMX: According to Bud Scoppa, you were fostering your talent almost in secret. What made you decide to go forward after so much time?
GW: I’d played guitar since I was 16, but I had gone through fifteen or so years of working and managing while never really playing. Five or six years ago I had a bit of a muse moment with someone I met and felt I needed to write songs and play. There was never an “I want to have a career in this” idea. It was more “These things are happening”. All of a sudden I had lyrics, and a guitar riff, and a melody. Because I have so many talented close friends that are recording artists, producers and musicians it made starting up and getting feedback easier. By the time I was in the studio I wasn’t insecure because I had played my songs for so many musician friends.
FDRMX: Is your “muse” the woman that features in the “Silver Screen” video?
GW: Ha, You could say that. It was just something that happened. I had read stories about this writer or this artist that had a muse that inspired so many ideas, and that’s what happened with me. It’s pretty fair to describe it that way. I also became inspired with all kinds of different instruments. I would be able to pick up this random instrument and challenge myself. I’d go “I could come up with something on this banjo’” or “I can do something on this uke.”
FDRMX: “Silver Screen” is animated. Who made it?
GW: Julie Gratz, through her company Kaleida. We met at a Citizen Cope show a few years ago. I had finished recording the song and was walking around listening to the tune on my headphones and decided I wanted a music video for it, But I wanted it to be very connected to the lyrics. Many videos today can seem unrelated to the song they’re used for. I just had this whole picture in my mind of the animated world that would follow the story of the song. I then called Julie and hired her to do it. We spent a long time working on it and it ended up turning out exactly as I wanted it. She did an incredible job, and a big reason was she didn’t have the pressure of a deadline. It was incredible.
FDRMX: Did you have to act out the video for the animation?
GW: There was certain bit of that. I don’t want to reveal all her secrets, but there was some live action filmed so she would have a sense of the motion. But really most of it is hand animated and hand painted. Julie really called the shots. Once she figured out the process of how to animate the video she realized exactly what she needed from us. I don’t think she got a lot of sleep for a while.
FDRMX: In the “Silver Screen” music video, you have a very distinct look about you. Is your outfit planned or is it just how you look all the time?
GW: Ha, that’s how I look all the time. It’s kind of the way I dress. I wasn’t wearing anything that I wouldn’t normally wear everyday.
FDRMX: What are the biggest lessons you took away from managing so many different musical artists?
GW: I have respect and sympathy for what artists have to go through. I’ve learned what it takes to exist in the music industry and how to get your work the way you want it. Also, I understand the politics of negotiating with the record label, producers or managers. I spent a long time watching artists struggle or succeed and come up with ideas. I learned a lot listening to Jim Scott via any problems or successes he would have making records with artists as well, so that’s been 20 years of lessons right there.
FDRMX: Morebarn is a Neil Young reference. Were you afraid that a Neil Young reference would peg you as a Neil Young tribute?
GW: Not so much. My management company was called Morebarn for 20 years . The story of Morebarn was so great and the idea was wonderful. Neil Young is one of my favorite artists and I love imagining out there on his lake looking at his barn. When it was time to release the songs I knew I didn’t want to use my name because I felt the album was due to the hard work of so many of my musician friends who worked on it with me. It needed a project name. The name had a lot of meaning to me because it was a name that we created back in the early days of Neal Casal’s career, when we were dreaming big and learning about writing and recording.
FDRMX: Your newest video “Brand New Day” has beautiful scenery. Where did you film it?
GW: We filmed it in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It’s beautiful and filled with so many isolated areas that make you feel as if you really are deep in a meadow. I wanted to do a simple lyric video but I wanted to make it more than just the lyrics. The chalk was a great idea because it created a little map for us to follow. It didn’t take too long either; just four hours to film and a few weeks to edit and polish. I’m just gonna keep making videos every time I have an idea.
FDRMX: We never get a good look at your face in both videos. Are you a bit camera shy or camera conscious?
GW: Not camera shy, It’s more about creating a sense of mystery. I wanted more than a close-up of some dude singing a song. The next video will be me and the whole band together playing. Also that was Julie’s idea for Brand New Day to keep it mysterious by never showing our faces.
FDRMX: Is there a new album on the way?
GW: Yeah. There are a few that will be done in July and another batch that didn’t make the first album. Together it’s about 11 or 12 songs.
FDRMX: You collect a lot of fun facts about artists. What is it that drives you to do that?
GW: We’re all into the age of communication, me as well. When I was a kid you didn’t have constant exposure to your favorite band, you had to seek out music magazines or wait for a rare TV appearance. You couldn’t just look it up . And the concert-going experience was way different back then. When you were at a show you were paying attention to it. You didn’t have your nose in your cell phone. Today, everyone is on his or her phones. People aren’t as focused on the show as much as uploading a photo to their social media site. That’s a bit of a bummer. But back when magazines were the only source I loved reading behind the scenes stories of The Allman Brothers, Neil Young and other artists I was into. Maybe that’s why I went into management.
FDRMX: What is the best musical advice anyone has ever given you?
GW: Something I learned from Jim Scott, who I’ve talked to virtually every day for 20 years. I learned that if you play it great it’s going to be great and sound great. Put everything you can into it the first time. You don’t have to do trickery. Just be confident enough in your work not to nitpick yourself to death and re-record something 300 times. Some of my favorite songs on my album are the ones I did the quickest. “Silver Screen” was so fast. I played it once for Jeff Hill, who produced most of the album, and for the other guys and then after a few little arrangement changes we had it done!
The Encyclopedia of Music is extremely grateful for Mr. Gary Waldman’s wonderful answers. Be sure to keep up with the slew of videos he’ll be releasing by following his website and Facebook. If you’re in the mood for some evocative images, be sure to check out Kaleida’s animation homepage as well.