Stacey K. Black, known simply as stacey to Macjammers, has been working as a TV/Film/Print/Commercials Hairstylist for about 15 years in California, USA. As she puts it: “I always say, if I have to work for a living, which I do, then I have just about the best job there is.” She also spends a lot of time making short films, and is currently trying to raise the funds to shoot a feature film… Good luck, Stacy!
Stacey is one of those gifted songwriters on Macjams who hadn’t really found an outlet for her talent until Garageband (and Macjams.com) came along. It’s been rewarding to listen to her production abilities improve month after month, as she gets more comfortable with the digital home recording process. She caught my eye with her very first posts. Her lyrics, from a poetic female perspective, are compellingly honest, both vulnerable and strong, and include unique details and universal back-stories. Her melodies and performance style fit perfectly into the contemporary female sing-songwriter mold. (As a long time Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin and Indigo Girls fan, I love that.) Her best tracks keep it simple and let her internal humor/pathos come through, warts and all. The result is authentic intimate song writing…
Some of my favorite tracks are:
What Now? (highlighted in upcoming Macjams Podcast #12)
I Miss You (take two)
Just In Time (featured on CSI:NY) – check out the clip on YouTube
My Own Two Feet
Flawed and Flawed redux
Christmas In July
I Would Have Been A Coward
And check out here music video on YouTube: I Wanna Hurt You.
Did your Hairstyling gig help get your song placed in CSI:NY?
“While working on ‘CSI:NY,’ I handed the Executive Producer a copy of my demo and said, ‘I’m cheap, RIGHT NOW.’ It worked. They bought a song from me for one of the episodes. The song is called ‘Just In Time,’ used in the episode titled Heart Of Glass which aired Feb. 14, 2007. The song was ‘evidence’ in a murder scene, a ‘hit song’ for a fictional recording artist named ‘Becca.'”
Very cool. Right place, right time, right talent, right self-promotion. How well did the CSI sale pay?
“Well, when I told them I am cheap right now, they listened. We can put it this way: I didn’t get rich from it, and they sure didn’t go broke paying me!”
Congratulations. When did you start playing music?
“I started playing music at age 7, when my mother somehow found the means to purchase a piano and get me lessons. It’s been true love ever since. I was always singing and had a great passion for music at a very young age. Luckily for me, my mother recognized, probably before I did, that it is my true passion. I’m sure she went all out to get me that piano so I would be able to feed that need in me. I’m so grateful to her. Eternally grateful.
“I was the ultimate ‘band geek’ from 6th grade on. So, along with the piano, I started in school with the oboe, moved on to flute which I still play today, bassoon, xylophone, and dabbled a bit with the trombone. After high school I attended a community college for awhile studying music theory and arranging, and also played flute in the symphony. When my family moved to Florida, that’s when I finally picked up a guitar, at age 19. Aaaaahhhh… Like putting on your favorite pair of shoes! Since then, many years have gone by and although I never abandoned music fully, I did start to spend more time on my career in filmmaking here in California.”
Did playing oboe and flute influence your melodies? Harmony lines? Do you still play?
“I’m not sure, but most likely playing with an orchestra helped me with harmonies, since every element has to be in harmony with the others. I still play my flute, I’ve started collecting them again. I play flute on my song Savannah.”
What role did GarageBand play in you getting back into music?
“About five years ago, someone showed me GarageBand, and I went out and got a Mac, immediately, and I haven’t stopped writing and recording since. I’ve recorded approximately 150 original songs on GarageBand, and I think I’m about ready to try my hand at LogicPro, and ProTools!”
Your mother died about the time you discovered GarageBand. Do you think singing to her is also one of the reasons you got back into music?
“Funny you should ask that. I have such a hard time writing songs about her. I can’t seem to get through it without crying and getting too emotional. Also, I want the songs to be worthy of her. Does that make sense? I’ve only written 3 so far about her, ‘Hello?‘, ‘Christmas in July,’ and ‘Just Another Bump In The Road,’ which I have not yet posted on MacJams. It’s just not ready. But I’m always making notes and she is always on my mind when I write and record. I just want her to be proud of me.”
You mentioned 150 songs but have only shared 35 with us. Why not all 150?
“Oh I wouldn’t do that to y’all! Some of them are just crap! I like to post the songs I feel are good, and sometimes, if I think a song has potential, but I’m stuck, I’ll post it for the great advice I get from fellow MacJammers. There are some really talented, smart, wonderful people on that site.”
Many of your songs have to do with relationship, many broken. Care to share if this relates to your life experiences? Also, does writing about it help you deal?
“Oh yeah. I discovered GarageBand through my EX boyfriend. We were together 2 years, then he completely ripped my heart out. Boo hoo for me! Yes, writing about it really helps. I feel like I’ve created some art because of the experience, so I don’t feel like it was a total waste of my time. Hey, if I cry? I can write about it. And that’s always a good thing. I’m one of those women who has been kinda… oh, how to put this… CRUSHED by men my whole life. So if that is a common theme in my music, then I guess it makes sense! Hopefully, by writing and recording and sharing my art, I won’t become a bitter man-hating tyrant. That’s the goal anyway!”
You said you studied music theory. Where? How?
“I started studying music theory with my piano lessons at 7 years old. Then all through high school, and in college for a while. I’ve gotten a little rusty, but I’m studying again. Took me long enough!”
Most of your tracks seem to originate from a songwriter point of view, not a producer. Some sound like open mic one take live performances. Yet there’s often more going on than first noticed. Did you just use GB out of the box and run with it?
“I never studied music engineering, so I use my ear mostly to tell me what I’m doing. Usually, I will start with a guitar track, then lay in a scratch vocal track and play my MIDI drums around that for phrasing, tone and dynamics. Then I layer in other instruments as the inspiration strikes. Sometimes I’ll use three different guitars, keyboard, flute, bongos, whatever the song tells me it needs. However, my favorite music to listen to is a voice and a guitar. Simple and elegant. For mixing and mastering, I do a lot of track doubling and I play with the EQ and panning, volume adjustments, etc. I can’t explain it, I just fiddle around until it sounds good to me. Then when the song is assembled and arranged, I go back and redo all the vocals, then mix everything again. This is how I do SOME songs, mind you. A lot of them I just record and move on!”
I get the impression that you could sit and sing forever, making up stuff if not replaying songs over and over. There is a joy in your approach…
“I play to sing, because I think my strongest point musically is singing. I love to sing along with myself and find the most interesting harmonies. And, I love to sing on stage. When I play guitar and sing at the same time, I get nervous, but I’m getting better every day. My weakest point musically is that with all the music theory I’ve studied over the years, I find it hard to apply that knowledge to the guitar, so it takes me a while to transpose, or find the bar chord needed. It doesn’t just come into my brain, I have to extract it. I can get around it sometimes because, the ear knows what the ear knows!”
What comes first, the lyrics or the music?
“It just depends on the song. If I’m noodling on my guitar and come up with a chord progression that I love, I may start to hum a melody line, and a lot of times, the lyrics come out of thin air. Other times, I may have something lyrically and melodically strong to say, and will fit the music to that melody. It’s never a black and white process. I think probably every Singer/Songwriter would say the same thing.”
Who are your biggest musical influences?
“I don’t try to sound like anyone else, because I know I can’t. But my favorite recording artists that I love to listen to are Ani DiFranco, Joan Armatrading, Trespassers William, Colin Hay, Damien Rice, Tom Waits, Susan Cowsill, Patty Griffin, Creeping Lovely. The list goes on and on… ”
In a different style than the others, I really like What Now. Are you planning on using that style more? Is that you one piano?
“That is actually a GarageBand loop that I manipulated, doubled some parts, made it longer, etc. I do play the piano, but not that well. I’m trying to put together a song where I just play piano and sing. I’ll post it when it’s done. Thanks for digging that one though. It was fun to write the lyrics and melody!”
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
“I think the first song I ever wrote was lyrics, melody and harmony, to someone else’s music, and I called it, ‘Kevin Would Be In Heaven.’ Just a nice little 80’s ditty. And there’s no way I could play it now!”
What year did you write Kevin Would Be In Heaven? Was it a love song?
“That would have to be around 1989 or 90. I was living in Orlando and met this great guy through a co-worker of mine. He was her ex-boyfriend, and he was still really into her. Alas, I was into HIM… boo hoo for me again… Anyway, he was a musician and we recorded a few things together, but I wrote that song as a gift to him. He was Kevin and yes, he would have been in heaven in she would have taken him back.”
Do you play live?
“In April, 2007, I was introduced to a great bunch of guys who live near me and were in a band. They heard my music and told me I needed to get out of my laboratory. Dr. Frankenstein, get out and play in front of people! they said. So, I started playing with them, and we get out and play at local gigs 1 or 2 times a month. We’re called Nobody’s Station. If you’re in SoCal and want to check our schedule, you can do so here.”
How has playing live influenced your recording?
“I think mostly playing live has increased my confidence and that spills over not just into recording, but into life.”
What do you want to do with your music?
“I don’t have a general answer for that. I mean, my job is to create it. I wish I had the financial freedom to spend all of my time making music and movies, but alas. No silver spoon for this girl. I am fortunate that my profession does put me in the right place at the right time, on occasion. I would love to sell completed songs to be used in soundtracks for Film and TV projects. Also, if recording artists wanted to re-record my songs and make them hit singles, I’d be all for that as well! That could finance my whole master plan!”
Has MacJams impacted you and your song writing?
“I am in LOVE with MacJams. I have many playlists on my iPod dedicated solely to MacJams musicians. I find the music available on the site to be so much more interesting than just about anything on commercial radio. I am also indebted to so many MacJams members for their advice and inspiration. Tobin, you are definitely one of my favorite musicians on the site. I have a huge list of others, and if anyone visits my Macjams profile page, they can see my list of favorite MacJammers.”
What MJ song are you most proud of?
“I think I’m most proud of my song, ‘Christmas In July,’ because I wrote it to celebrate a sense memory of when I was a child, swimming with my mother. She passed away over 5 years ago, and Christmas… oh man, come ON! Christmas is so HARD! So, this past holiday, I wrote this song for her, and I still have a hard time singing it without crying. I’m pretty proud of it.”
“The key change was done because it was more comfortable for my singing range. Then I added some strings and backing vocals because I just love to PLAY!”
What’s the best way for fans to keep up with your career?