Introduction: I want to thank my friend Nick for the awesome opportunity to write this piece, and for being a stand-up guy in general. Ever since my first Backstage Music Lesson with him in the ancient basement of the Turf Club last year in Saint Paul, Minnesota, his kindness, passion for music, and down-to-earth vibe were immediately apparent through the thick and wonderfully fragrant smoke that poured from his spliff, and I knew he was a person I was lucky to be spending time with.

First, please do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing EP — https://sym.ffm.to/ax5ykwk

It’s…


It’s been my personal experience that the more I learn, the less I feel comfortable saying I “know” with absolute certainty, because you realize that no human will ever have the capacity to “know” everything.

Therefore, when I see a strong statement about something, I’m much more apt to look at it as an opinion (no matter how well or ill intended, informed, or researched), rather than mistake it for being an absolute truth.


  1. No feeling lasts forever. The excitement of success eventually wears off, and then it’s time to get back to putting in the work that got you the success you achieved in the first place.
  2. “Making it” in music for me isn’t likely going to be one event. As amazing as it was releasing a song with Johnny Cosmic, it’s just a piece of a bigger whole. My definition of making it will most likely come through a bunch of relatively smaller successes like this that build upon each other.
  3. My anxiety about releasing new songs went up once I had…

Life is more complicated than memes and witty anecdotes. Although memes and anecdotes usually have elements of truth in them, they rarely reflect much of the greater context or bigger picture.

I enjoy them as much as anyone else — they make me laugh, are super entertaining, and can actually contain really powerful information.

But I have to remind myself not to let them completely shape my opinions on things, because situations are more complex than many people seem to give them credit for.

Before forming an opinion on something or someone, you should research multiple reputable sources, see for…


I was looking over my social media pages recently and comparing them to artists with bigger followings to see if I could find some inspiration to help continue growing my musical community.

I fairly quickly came to the bittersweet conclusion that the difference between my pages and most of theirs was the amount of time I’m investing in them.

The great news with that is that it’s not going to take some stroke of genius that I don’t have access to in order to keep growing my community — the not-so-great news is that extra time is an asset I…


“Perfectionism is just insecurity with lipstick on”.

I saw Gary Vaynerchuk post the above quote today, and I thought to myself, “Yup, that’s me”.

Far too often I find myself searching for an unattainable (and often undefined) standard in how every single sound in one of my songs should sound, and I’ll spend hours trying to alter sounds without even knowing what I’m really going for.

This often results in me blindly applying different effects without even knowing what I want the sound to sound like. …


Before you do anything, please listen to Johnny Cosmic’s incredible new song featuring The Movement — I promise it’s better and more interesting than anything I have to say here. Go on, I’ll wait :)

Johnny Cosmic (with The Movement) — Kingdom

It’s hard to believe that just ten years ago most of us didn’t know who Johnny Cosmic was. He wasn’t playing sold-out shows around the world with Stick Figure yet, and didn’t have his name on songs and albums that were being streamed tens of millions of times.

No, 10 years ago he was just a kid that…


Photo by Joe Wilson of Bulldog Media: https://www.facebook.com/bulldogmedia707

Before you do anything, please listen to TJ O’Neill’s first solo single “Beginning to End”, produced by the one and only Johnny Cosmic.

https://ffm.to/beginningtoend

This song is said to have come into existence while TJ was playing guitar and singing in the living room up at Stick Figure’s Great Stone Studios. Johnny Cosmic happened to overhear it while he was making dinner, and said to TJ,

“Let’s go record that right now.” In just one night, this pretty, poetic, acoustic jam that might be classified as “outlaw country” came into existence.

Who is TJ O’Neill?

TJ O’Neill is the stuff of legend among Stick Figure’s…


Photo by Phil DeSimone

Kevin Ries, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist for The Ries Brothers, released a self-produced EP under his solo project “Echoing Dream” today. It’s a release that captures his raw talent as a multi-instrumentalist, as well as his production and songwriting skills.

Listen to the EP Here

I first had the pleasure of meeting Kevin in person at the California Roots Music and Arts Festival a couple years ago. We had been chatting online and sending each other dub songs we were self-producing before we’d actually met, and we were both fans of each other’s work. …


Backstage Music lessons offers the most memorable and awesome experience you could imagine — a 1-on-1 music lesson with your favorite band.

When I was in high school learning guitar, I sat in my room alone for hours every single day, painstakingly working on chords, and fumbling around for what seemed like an eternity before making any progress.

But I loved every second of it, even the struggle, because learning an instrument is one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences you can have. …

Brendan Clemente

I write and produce music

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