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Cheryl Hodge: Chasing the Muse

Kathy Sanborn By

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As much as I love playing live, I relish studio work even more. In taking stock of my musician friends I realized that there were some people I still really needed to record with: the beautiful, soulful jazz vocalist Dee Daniels, jazz guitar god John Stowell, bass great Stuart Hamm (formerly with Steve Via & Satriani). Then there's one of my oldest friends, Jim Cox, currently on tour with James Taylor, and Pat Mastelotto (a former band mate, currently with King Crimson), and David Longoria, a master trumpet player. I have all the resources I could possibly want at my fingertips right now, including a great co-producer/guitarist (Brian Cunningham) and a fellow songwriter/brilliant sax man, Josh Cook, along with all my fave musicians in past endeavors (guitarist Cliff Maddix, bassman Dave Captain, drummer Charlie Doggett). I've been so, so blessed in this life. Every single person I approached was on board, in a major way, including my own son, Dylan Hodge, an extremely gifted bassist in his own right. The end result has been, in my opinion, a beautiful dream come true—and my only concept album.

AAJ: Now that you have created your musical masterpiece, what works best for you in promoting it: radio promotion, publicity, self-promotion—or all of the above?

CH: Really "all of the above." I begin with your standard CD Release Party. Then I go back over websites that have worked well in the past, in garnering recognition for my music: Reverbnation.com, NumberOneMusic.com, and my own websites: CherylHodge.com & JazzBoulevard.com. Also radioindy.com (they gave me a "Grindie" award a few years ago.) Then I hit all the deejays, and try to form as many business/friend relationships there as possible. Currently, I am my own publicist. That means that right now I am nearly going crazy by doing so much of my own promotion work. I'm about to hire someone to take over (company yet to be determined). Be forewarned. Double the price of what it takes to produce your album. Expect to put that much again into promotion. In the end, if you have a product that appeals to enough people, you will garner some rewards (and awards), which will lead you to bigger and better gigs. When I won the Best Jazz Song 2013 from the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, that changed my life a bit. Some rooms which were formerly locked tight became open to me, and I began to see my name on bigger and better marquees.

AAJ: What do you feel are the main challenges you face right now as a jazz performer and recording artist?

CH: The greatest challenge for myself and many of my friends has been "how to sell your music." We're living in an age where nearly all of our music is attainable for free, or a penny a cut. Lack of gigs, funding, etc., is a huge challenge for all of us right now. I had roughly 43,750 downloads of one of my jazz cuts last December. That translated to $437.50, because each download was a penny. When you consider that the album cost something like 12K to make (a steal!), it becomes a bit disheartening. I push iTunes as much as possible. At 99 cents a cut, it's a great deal, and people are being supportive of the artist's work. In the 1950s, on up to the late 90s, most people averaged spending about ten dollars on recordings per month. You can see why most of us feel this particular challenge too overwhelming. We are a family, we musicians. We need to support each other, and urge our audiences to support musicians they enjoy.

However, I do this because I love it. LOVE your music. Practice your craft. You've got to keep playing, no matter what. Put one foot in front of the other, and don't get too preoccupied with an end result. The rewards are happening every time you sit down with your instrument, and every time you play with a great player or a great friend. Stay positive by playing, singing, writing—however you are connected to your art. Art is its own reward. Do whatever it takes to keep ahead of things monetarily: day jobs, night jobs, whatever. But stay true to your craft.

AAJ: Persistence does pay off, for sure. I have seen that in my own career as well. How is using social media working for you as a mode of promotion?

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