A Conversation with Deborah Magone
By Ken Wallis
Deborah Magone is an established musician/artist from Rochester, New York, USA. She plays slide acoustic & electric guitars, dobro, and piano. But it doesn’t stop there. She has extensive interests and accomplishments. She’s a vocalist, songwriter, producer, teacher, and activist. Plus she’s an art, music, karate & meditation Instructor. She’s also a radio producer and host of Rochester Free Radio's show ALL in ALL.
Ken Wallis interviewed her for his radio show, Blues Source International. The following features excerpts from that interview.
That was Deborah Magone from her release Alternate Realities…the song is Queen Bee and joining us is the Queen Bee herself Deborah Magone. Deborah thanks for coming on the show…it's so nice to see you
Thanks so much for having me…great to see you too Ken.
There's so much going on in the world and particularly for musicians…I've known you for quite a few years now…you're a dynamite vocalist...a guitarist…a songwriter. I'd really like to get your current take on what's going on in the music industry in this day and age.
Like everything else I always say there are no accidents in the universe. There is a plan. I feel like what's happened for me from my point of view and I see it and hear it around, we're now being called upon to step out of our comfort zone in so many different ways…it's unbelievable now.
Before Covid-19 hit I had decided to pull back from gigging because I wasn't doing the creative work as much…I was focusing on gigging and that took so much energy. It takes a lot of the fun out of wanting to write…you get home you're exhausted and then you're planning and rehearsing for that gig and marketing and promotion. Being at home I'm able to create more…be more creative. You could reach out to so many more people online. I did some live streaming from a few gigs and…it was wonderful five or six hundred people tuning in.
When you're playing a little cafe or club wherever…I know that a lot of musicians going out and doing copies and covers that was their bread and butter. However a lot of musicians are doing the same thing but now online and they're putting a donate button or a Paypal button and doing the live streams just the same and you could reach so many more people without having to get out of your pyjamas.
I'm connecting with more people globally. I did a benefit out of the U.K. over the holidays for Cystic Fibrosis with fellow indie Grammy members that I couldn't have done live in person and we were Grammy members from all over the world. Somebody was in Italy and another person in England… people in California… me here in New York. It was amazing…it was wonderful. The United Nations had me perform for one of their online zoom peace gatherings with people from countries all over the world. So there's a positive side…there's a lot to be learned and so much to do and see from your own living room. I know there are people out there that are. like, oh girl, there's nothing like performing live on stage. Yes I totally agree with that, however, we can't right now so make the best of what we got.
The sense I'm getting from talking to a lot of musicians is this is their most creative period because there's a lot of writing and they're really enjoying that. I'm having a ball making videos with my students. I've never done the split screen video thing before and using different effects. I've always dabbled in Final Cut before and I've always had a hand in creating my own music videos, but now it's just me and Final Cut. I have my students record a song on zoom and do their part…I do my part and put them together. I have one video we just did with three, four, five people and then I add a few little funny elements into the video…but you know it is a very creative time and and I'm actually glad because it's pushing me to be more creative as a musician.
Do you feel it's just fun and good times or is it just downright hard work?
It's both. I have to be fair…I'm a Virgo on the cusp of Libra so there's a lot of hard work that goes into it but if you put in the work it can be great fun and a great service to people because I know how people feel about music…live music…recorded…whatever…it's therapeutic. It brings people joy and makes them cry. It memorializes events in their lives so it's both absolutely.
As far as recorded music is concerned it's becoming much more digital. What kind of challenges does that put out to a musician? In my case I think it's amazing how good you can sound nowadays. I have to say and I don't mean disguising one's voice but I mean recording your organic voice and instrument. It's amazing how it picks up everything like HDTV know picks up the whiskers on the hairs on somebody's face…same with digital recording. It's just fantastic and then I'm also a proponent of recordings that sound like you're sitting on the front porch…like a few of mine from my first cd. I had a few of those but that was intentional because I didn't have fancy recording gear but it gives that organic down-home feeling.
You've been an independent artist for a long time but you've found a way to sell your tunes online. Tell our audience all about that because I find it fascinating.
Well when I first got online with my music it was the early 2000s when CD Baby came online and they were very smart. They knew what was coming and they are a distributor for those people who don't know their music distributor. So musicians would sign up with them and they take a small percentage for promoting your music across the spectrum. However across the spectrum meaning Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music now, there's so many outlets now. Those streaming services will take a membership fee for people to sign up to listen to the music yet they don't pass on that money to the musicians…they pay the artists one-thousandth of a penny if that, if there is such a thing and it gets ridiculous. I've been studying social media marketing for the last 20 years because I knew everything was going online and recently I hooked up with a guy called Rick Barker who does social media marketing for musicians. He used to be Taylor Swift's manager. It's good money for his course, but if you're serious about what you're doing It all comes right back to you. He introduced us all to Bandzoogle, which I was familiar with before. I actually started a site on it but I never paid any attention to it. I just put it out there like everything else so I'll have a presence there. Well, Bandzoogle as far as I know is one of the better sites for musicians. It's a reasonable sign-up fee. You can pay monthly or by the year. It’s a free trial for 30 days. By the way, if you try it mention my name because it helps us. They give you the online store and a decent website you can put your music up and your fans can go to your website and buy your music. Bandzoogle does not take a cut because they charge you a fee to have the site and that's all they need. So otherwise I'd have a regular website which I'd be paying for, the money that I’m paying now to Bandzoogle, and they allow me to have my music up there. And yes, you can do that with your own site too, but there's so much more to it. They make everything easy. We're having your own site and doing everything yourself. Being your website master is not easy as many people know but Bandzoogle makes it very user-friendly and convenient to store music and pictures. You can sell merchandise as well one-stop shopping and you have your Paypal button on there and when somebody buys something it goes right to your Paypal. You make money while you're sleeping.
I've heard from a lot of musicians and a lot of people who point to Spotify and some of the other streaming services that they take your songs and they make the money you get very little. As a crazy thought…should all musicians just band together and say heck with you streaming services…we're pulling our music off of there and you've got no business anymore.
That's a wonderful thought. You know how many people have thought that thought?...millions but I guess it's like herding musicians is like herding cats…ain't gonna happen. It ain't gonna happen because music is a very emotional thing and it takes a certain type of person to do music. A lot of musicians don't care about the money and that's cool…that's very cool…to each his or her own. But after a while when you see people making money off of your music that's when you start to think wait a minute and then you know when you actually could use that extra money for groceries or whatever…like during a pandemic. There's a lot of different thoughts on that but it would be great if that could happen.
So Deb what's the future hold for Deborah Magone? Are you going to start producing more music or are you staying more behind the scenes with your creativity?
Well four years ago after my dad passed. I took care of him for ten years while doing music and everything else…taking care of five people and two dogs and trying to have a life. I decided to take a break for a little while and I went inward and did some meditating and realized that I needed to take better care of me. I've been taking care of everybody else. I've been a teacher for decades with thousands of students across the country and so I went inward and decided to ask myself what do I really want?
It was very difficult…in the rock field and even in the blues-rock field being a woman. Other women can probably attest to this…in that genre it's very difficult. I don't even book shows sometimes because you show up and you get questions like would you mind playing some acoustic stuff instead. I decided that I wanted to create music that was positive that benefited people globally and work with people who also do positive things with their music globally. So I meditated on that and did some manifesting and then the first thing that came along was an offer from a fellow Grammy indie member to play on the soundtrack for a film called One Little Finger which is about the ability in disabilities and it's a wonderful movie. I got to play guitar on one of the songs on the soundtrack and other people…other luminaries on the soundtrack were people like Quincy Jones who produced…Julian Lennon played on some of it. there were some wonderful people on this soundtrack and we ended up going out to L.A. for the film premiere and meeting Quincy Jones which was an ah moment. He held my hand and asked where are you from?...I said Rochester and he said Chuck Mangione and the famous drummer Steve Gadd. And I added Deborah Magone and he laughed. He and his wife said they had friends in Rochester.
So after that I started looking into connecting…networking with other people and started doing that on a more global level. One day I was online looking at my notifications and one came in from the Grammy indie site that we have as a group and I saw a female vocalist opportunity and you must have your own studio. I thought, all right let me check this out. I gotta hear the song first though so I clicked on it and sent them an email saying send me your music…I'd love to hear it. I ran out the door and never gave it another thought. Next thing you know I get an email with this song that was fantastic. However, it was in a genre that I never ever thought I would be doing and my alter schizophrenic personality loves all kinds of music…pretty much everything but negative rap and very old country. So you know I sing in Italian too… Ave Maria…you can find that online. I just love all kinds of music…so let me try this and it was pop dance music. I investigated the writer and composer and the writer Mike Greenly has been on the billboard charts number one with a few of his lyrics in dance tunes and Scott Williamson an awesome composer of dance music.
They had someone on the track and I said why don't you use the female that's on the track? They said she's got other things going on… she doesn't have a lot of time. I said well okay…how much creative freedom do I have? They said go for it…do what you like and I just went to town. I employed my favourite, personal favourite engineer in town Sam Polizzi and between he and I we knocked it out of the park. I'm so proud of it because vocally I've been studying for four or five years…I had gotten serious do some training. I was using Skype four years ago for voice lessons with my teacher who lives in L.A. and I got my voice to a point where I was just having so much fun. I was copying riffs from a Broadway play musical and put that in the song and some of my New York humour like “what's your sign big boy”…just a lot of sexy low voices are in the song and that is You're The One. That's the first in a series of about five songs that we're collaborating on the three of us… Scott, Mike and I and we're going to be submitting it for Grammy consideration this coming fall…. but yeah that's what's going on right now
Deb it's been terrific catching up…You are the perfect person to talk about the music industry… your experience is so widespread andI really appreciate you updating everybody. I think a lot of musicians are going to read this interview and take a few hints from you.
Thank you Ken…thanks so much…I appreciate it!