Interview: Jaye Foucher

Dan McAvinchey: Jaye, three years have passed since your last CD, "Infectious Licks" and
now you've released another CD in the 'communicable hooks' series, this time entitled "Contagious Grooves". When you started recording, did you have any ideas on how you were going to distinguish this release from the last one?

Jaye Foucher: Well, for one, I knew I was going to stick to the instrumentals this time around. Although I did receive some kudos on the two vocal songs I had on the last CD, I really felt that I wanted to stay within one vein on this album.

Other than that I just tried to make this album an improvement over the last one, in terms of writing, playing, and production.

Dan McAvinchey: Where and how was the new CD recorded?

Jaye Foucher: This CD was recorded on a computer, believe it or not! It was done entirely digitally, using Digital Performer, up in Shaun Michaud's personal studio. I have to admit it was completely fascinating to me -- it brings the whole concept of recording into a more visual realm, and for me that makes it easier to understand. You can actually see right on the screen what your playing looks like in terms of soundwaves. For example, there was one section in the middle of "Zombieland" where most of the instruments are playing a unison rhythm, and I wasn't too confident of what the rhythm was
(despite the fact that I wrote it!). But I could watch the screen as I recorded my rhythm parts, see where the downbeats were and where the drum hits were falling, and was able to actually read it almost like you would
read sheet music.

And that's only one of the benefits of recording digitally. The things you can do with it are just amazing. Sure, I know there's a warmth you get from tape/analog that you can't achieve with digital, but I honestly like the
whole digital process.

Dan McAvinchey: You've used fellow musician Shaun Michaud as producer and engineer on
both your recordings. What do you feel you get from him that makes the end result so 'infectious'?

Jaye Foucher: I don't think what Shaun does for me is the infectious part (laughs) -- I think/hope it's the songs and licks themselves that achieve that. I definitely feel, however, that these albums would never have sounded this good without him. He's just magic in the studio. He's got this rare gift when it comes to mixing and recording and producing. I've done tons of recording in the past and never have I come across someone this talented. I mean, if you could see the small amount of equipment we did the first CD on -- you wouldn't believe it. I've been in the highest quality studios with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and not gotten a recording as good as what Shaun accomplished on an ADAT with a single rack of gear (my first CD). Since then he's expanded his studio immensely, so the quality of my second CD is even better. But it really goes to show that it's not the equipment but rather the person behind it that makes the difference. Let me just put it this way: I wouldn't want to work with anyone else. If a record company gave me a huge budget and the option to use anyone in the industry, I'd call Shaun.

Dan McAvinchey: Did you try any new recording techniques or effects on "Contagious Grooves"?

Jaye Foucher: I tried recording while standing on my head, but it didn't work out so well so I decided to stick with the more, I really should get more sleep before I do interviews!

Seriously, I think we used less effects and drier sounds on this CD. In fact, when I started rehearsing again for live shows, after months of recording, I actually went into my Voodoo Valve programs and removed some of the effects! I still can't believe I did that. I just got used to the lack of heavy effects I guess.

One definite new thing, though it doesn't have anything to do with the recording part of it, is that I wrote two of the songs on the album on a 7-string. There are also a lot more keyboard parts in these songs than on the
first CD. In fact, I did a lot of the writing on the keys this time, rather than on the guitar which is how I have written in the past. The keyboards are more integral to the songs this time around.

Dan McAvinchey: You're credited on the CD for guitars and keyboards. Are you self-taught on both instruments or did you go through a formal training period?

Jaye Foucher: Both, for both instruments. I've played piano/keys as far back as I can remember. I initially started lessons with my Mom, but she grew impatient with my constant thirst for more (I was begging her for a new lesson every day) and told me either I'd have a lesson once a week like the rest of her students or no lessons at all. I chose no lessons at all and just worked my way through the various piano books lying around the house on my own. By the time I was in 7th grade she realized I was serious about it and offered to
pay for lessons with a teacher that she herself had studied with. So for about the first 6 or 7 years I taught myself, and then studied formally for another 6 or 7 years.

As for guitar, I took lessons for about 5 years right from the start, plus I went to the Guitar Institute in Hollywood for a year. But all along I've done a lot of learning on my own, simply because I wasn't getting enough from the lessons to satisfy me. I bought books and tapes and videos, I learned countless songs and solos through transcriptions and by ear, and I bought some classical books (violin music) and learned to play them on guitar. I also took whatever my teachers gave me and then did it backwards, forwards, in every key and every position on the neck, regardless of whether they'd asked for that or not! (And it was usually not.)

Dan McAvinchey: You've been incredibly successful at attracting reviews for your first CD. Do you anticipate even better coverage for "Contagious Grooves" and to what do you attribute your ability to get press?

Jaye Foucher: I definitely anticipate at least as much press on this CD, if not more. I've had requests for this CD for months before it came out.

I find it hard to believe that some people have trouble getting press. It's not really that difficult to do. I think the hardest part is letting go of the fear of a bad review. I've spoken to colleagues who don't send their CD out because they're afraid it'll get trashed. Yeah, it might. But you have to take that chance.

There are tons and tons of little indie magazines and fanzines out there willing to review demos and CDs. It's tough to get a major magazine like Guitar Player to review it -- instead you need to start small, and gather a
lot of indie reviews before you can expect a large national magazine to pay attention.

As far as where to find these magazines, I've found a lot of them through ads they place in other magazines. There's even a magazine called the 'Zine Guide which does nothing but review magazines.

The advice I'd have for other artists wanting to get reviews is to start creating a database of names/addresses of publications. There are web sites out there that list musician resources, there are music 'zines that publish
lists of publications (like the Northeast Performer and the Music Connection), and there may even be some sort of resource guide available to you at your local public library. Then start sending a cover letter, press
kit, and CD to each of them. Ask them to let you know how to obtain a copy of the review when/if it's published. And be aware that for every five packages you send out you may only get one review, but that's just how it works.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into the decision to form your own record label and release
an independent record?

Jaye Foucher: Well, it's not really a label in the real sense...just a way of getting my own stuff out there. As far as releasing independently - there's really no other way. Instrumental music (other than 'happy saxophone' music I suppose) doesn't really get a lot of support from record labels, guitar magazines,
radio, whatever. So, if you love doing this kind of thing, then you really have to accept that you've gotta do it yourself. Put your stuff out there and try to develop a small fan base along the way so that you can afford to keep doing it.

Dan McAvinchey: You've been an independent artist for a while now. If you had to mentor a young musician who is now where you were seven or eight years ago, what would you tell him or her to get them started in the right direction?

Jaye Foucher: Learn as much as you can about the business side of it, because in the end there are tons of good players and good bands out there, but if you don't know how to market yourself and if you don't treat it like a business then there's a good chance you'll fall into obscurity with the rest of them.

Don't listen to the negative nay-sayers who'll try to hold you back or knock you down. Recognize the difference between a constructive comment and someone who's just jealous and trying to make themselves feel better by putting you down or trying to harness your dreams. If you believe in yourself and your music, then hold onto that belief with both hands and don't let anyone pull you away.

Know that sometimes you have to take risks in business in order to get ahead. When I first wanted to put out a CD and ran it by the guys who were playing with me at the time, all they had to say was how it was too expensive to do, how would we make the money back, blah blah blah. But a year later I did it completely on my own, and I'm glad I didn't listen to them. It's scary to put out a ton of money and not know whether or not you'll make it back, but if it's a calculated and thought out plan then the odds are probably in your favor. Don't let fear hold you back.

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Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel the music press, including the well known guitar magazines, are currently dealing with guitar-oriented music, especially from instrumental artists and bands?

Jaye Foucher: Well the well-known, larger guitar magazines in the US seem to have gone along with the current trends in music, and often feature guitarists that, in my opinion, aren't exactly the top of the heap playing-wise. But the indie magazines and publications in other countries still seem to support
guitar-oriented music, so there are still plenty of places to get press if you're an instrumental and/or an indie artist. I think there's definitely a market out there -- however underground it may have gone! -- for good
guitarists, and there are publications out there that target that market. Same goes for prog-rock. There are a lot of prog-rock fans out there, despite the fact that you never hear the stuff on mainstream radio. And the web has helped us indie artists enormously.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there any other guitarists you'd love to record or collaborate with in the future?

Jaye Foucher: In all honesty I really haven't thought much about collaboration with other guitarists in terms of writing or recording. Not that I'm against it or anything. I just usually think more along the lines of collaborating in terms of business and gigs and promotion with other instrumental guitarists. Like putting together some guitar night shows in my area. And the whole Guitarapalooza website concept.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have any plans to explore any other musical avenues on upcoming CD projects?

Jaye Foucher: I'm thinking a lot right now about starting or finding a vocal-oriented project, in addition to continuing my instrumental stuff. As far as the instrumental music is concerned...I really don't know what direction it's going to head in, although I'm sure I'll be sticking with what I love most: prog-rock. I hardly ever plan it out; I just pick up the guitar and play whatever comes to mind, whatever comes from within. I guess you could say I'm just planning to close my eyes and go along for the ride!

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Take five parts musical talent, one part music business savvy, one part persistence, one part hard work, and one part common sense, shake, and pour, and what have you got? You might have the recipe for Massachusetts area guitarist Jaye Foucher, an incredibly resourceful instrumental artist who has decided to forge her own independent path through the unforgiving and highly competitive music business. She has just released her second solo CD, and is also busy as webmaster of the Guitarapalooza web site, an e-zine dedicated to guitar rock. Foucher personifies determination and vision; she is dedicated to making sure her musical work finds it's audience.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Foucher to get the lowdown on the new CD, as well as her thoughts on life as an independent artist.