Interview with Emily Higgins, Folk Music DJ

Hello friends!
Recently, I had lunch with Emily Higgins.  Emily is the producer and host of the delightful music show “The Mulberry Tree” on the NPR affiliate KSMU 91.1 in the Ozarks.  And a lovely musician, too.  I asked her about sending music to radio show producers like her.   And she had a lot of great suggestions.  Here are my reflections from that conversation…

Find people who’s job/hobby/passion it is to share music.
And make their job as easy as possible.
Radio producers, blogs, podcasts, media, etc…
Also, look at the Folk Alliance Website or other trade organizations’ websites for a list of folk music DJs.

Put your track runtimes on the CD case.  
Producers need to know exactly how long songs are when they are putting a show together.  Or else they have to load up your CD to see how long a track is.  When they have a big stack of CDs, every little way that you can make a producer’s job easier will help your music get played.

In your CD package, include a card with a few song suggestions.  
Tell the producers what your strong songs are.  They’re not going to listen to a whole album unless they like what they’ve heard so far.  Help them out.  Also, on the card include a short description of the songs.  i.e. “Moderate paced ballad” etc.  Think of a producer putting together a mix-tape of songs they may not have heard: “what kind of song would fit here?”

Include a list of who’s playing what in your liner notes.
It gives the producer a chance to give a shout-out for a well-played part.  And it never hurts to share the credit with the musicians who helped you put your project together.

Include a short story of the musical process.
Tell about the musical experience as a whole, but keep it brief.  What went into making this project?  Include the musicians and/or community who helped.  You want a producer to think to theirself, “Oh, I bet this’ll be good!”

Coordinate radio-play opportunities with events: Think ahead.
Emily produces out her show at least six weeks in advance.
If you have a particular event, or album release that you’d like to highlight, try to time radio-play opportunities with your event.  But you have to think ahead!
If your CD packaging won’t be ready six weeks (or whenever) before, it’s okay to send a producer a link with your music and some kind of note: “…and here are three songs that I’d suggest [with descriptions]. I’ll send you a physical package, later.”

Register your music copyright on
The minute you create a work, it is copyrighted, but registering it will give you much greater legal protection.  Also, there’s no such thing as a “poor man’s” copyright.  i.e. mailing it to yourself.
It costs $35-65 per item to register and takes 5-15 months to be processed, so don’t mess around.  You can also copyright whole works, but you’ll need to look into which is right for you.
Include copyright info in your liner notes.  (Even if you’ve started, but not completed the process.)

Register your music with BMI or ASCAP
And include that info in your liner notes.  (Even if you’ve started, but not completed the process.)

If you’re still in production, invite the community into the process.
You don’t have to show them everything, but little bits of information, short video, photographs will pull people into your world and process.  Facebook, Instagram, a blog, etc.  Maybe even ask the community for ideas on a song.  They’ll feel a part of your project and want to follow along on its development.  It’ll get folks talking.  Plus, it will make your songs better.

Other people/places to check for advice:
Someone who’s recently made and released album.  Especially an album that you dig.
CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog.
(And, voila!
“The right format for the occasion: Submitting your music to blogs, radio, festivals, venues, labels, and licensing agencies”
And another: David Wimble’s article on how to contact music sites. )

Thanks to Emily Higgins for her thoughts as a producer and host.
And thanks for reading,

Emily Higgins recently released “91 Acres”, an album of songs inspired by an Ozarks farm.

Emily’s show, “The Mulberry Tree”, airs every Sunday evening 9/CT.


Wayfaring Stranger – Tinydesk 2017, with Have Fun Storming the Kasell

I had the good pleasure of recording my new version of Wayfaring Stranger with the talented Liz Carney, Molly Healey, and Austin Wilson.  We gathered at Molly’s house and put it together.  We used some ribbon mics that I made to record the song.

The track can be found on my Bandcamp page.

If you would like more information about upcoming album releases, touring, or crowdfunding opportunities, please email
If you’d like us to email you when we’re playing in your area, please include your zip code, too.

Thanks to my brother Steve for the band name pun idea. It’s from – “But wait, wait, don’t tell me!” I hear you say.  Well, as you wish  : )

A Song for Mrs. Bennet (“Pride and Prejudice”, Ribbon Mic Test)

A test recording I made on October 20th, 2016.  Playing with four ribbon mics that I just completed.

Signal Chain:
Vocals, Mandolin, Spinet Piano recorded with four custom ribbon mics. (Piano – two mics)
Vocals and Mando – ART Tube MP
All tracks – Steinberg UR 44 preamp/interface
Logic Pro 9 – Tape Delay (Mod), Compression, GoldVerb, EnVerb
Written, performed, and recorded by Will Chiles.  Recorded Oct 20, 2016

©Will Chiles 2016

Thoughts on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest

Recently, I submitted a youtube video for the Tiny Desk Concert contest, hosted by All Songs Considered of NPR. The Tiny Desk Concert series has been a fabulous way for folks to discover new artists and gain new appreciation for favorites. The good people at All Songs Considered decided to open up the series to anyone by way of a contest in which an artist can submit a youtube video of an original song, performed at a desk.

That’s it! It’s easy. If you win, you get to play a few songs at the original All Songs desk.
Google “tiny desk concert” for all kinds of good stuff.
Google “tiny desk contest” for even more.

I like this contest for a few reasons:

1. It creates a national conversation about putting your music out into the world. A national Show and Tell. A cultural expectation to create and share. Really, the possibility of winning is a small incentive, or honorarium, for participating in the music-making and sharing. The community that the contest engenders is the pot of gold!
Here’s some musical gold from The Lacewings…

2. I like to connect people. When my musician friends make Tiny Desk videos for the contest, I can use the videos as and musical business cards and a common experience to connect artists with one another.
Nash-villains! Dear Kaston , I’d like to introduce you to Kaitlyn.

3. If musicians make these videos every year for a few years, it creates artistic touchstones with which to follow their development and craftlearning.  I’m excited to watch how my friends (and friends to be) and I develop as artists over the years.

Growing artists is like growing trees. It takes a lot of patience and pruning. And keeping cattle away from saplings.

I hope the folks at All Songs Considered (and the musical community) keep the contest going: As long as they host it, I’ll keep submitting videos.

And so, here’s my 2016 Tiny Desk Contest video. (I’ve already come a long way since last year.)

Thanks for hosting, NPR. And see you next year, Tiny Desk contest!

Side note: A bit of the video making process…
First attempt (10 days before deadline): Started getting things together for a video in Missouri, but didn’t make enough time to complete it before I left for a trip to Nashville.
(Song: A Song for Mrs. Bennet)
Second (26 hours before deadline):  Recorded at a couple of friends’ house in Nashville with the addition of their lovely harmonies.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t set up my mic correctly and the mandolin was way too loud.  (Song: Driving Steel)
Third (7 hours before deadline): Recorded in the backyard of another friend’s house the next day.  A nice set-up outside!  Took several takes that I wasn’t happy with, but as the sun drifted below the horizon and the rain began to fall, I finally got one that was good enough.  Alas!  My phone had run out of battery right before that last take. (Song: Midnight Special)
Fourth attempt (5 hours before deadline): Set up again inside my friend’s house and after playing around with the mic and several takes, I finally got a track that worked.  Though I’d rather’ve completed my video with more time to spare, my previous attempts were good practice for the take that I submitted.  As long as I’m clarifying and bettering my process, even if the “final” product isn’t yet satisfactory, that is progress and a measure of success. (Song: Midnight Special)

Enough of that!  Here’s the video!


Music, Cumulative Effects, and Secrets of Cooking

For the most part, there are no big secrets in cooking.
        Just lots of small ones.
It’s a pile of details that makes the work a whole.
        (And delicious.)

As with art
        And creative pursuits of any kind,
It’s lots of good days, mixed with bad,
        Piled and grouped towards a common goal.
               (A string of pearls.)

Even if today isn’t going to be a “good” day.
       Do one thing that moves you forward.
               (You might be surprised.)

Metroid Homage!

A new score in collaboration with retro-artist Platinumfungi!  Platinumfungi is making a name for himself online as an innovative and creative artist, and bringer-together of creatives (twice on the front page of Reddit, Kotaku, ThinkGeek, etc).  He produced this short to support the #metroidcelebration that he and his merry crew organized!  It was delightful to research and adapt the original Nintendo game Metroid and the ground-breaking score that “Hip” Tanaka wrote for it.

Drivin’ Steel – American Songbag Project

Drivin’ Steel – American Songbag Project

Originally posted for the Tiny Desk Concert contest.

I’ve been taking lyrics from traditional songs and writing new songs for them. These words are kind of like old marble steps that have been chipped and worn by time and feet, but they still help folks take a step up. The lyrics are from an old work song called “Drivin’ Steel”
that the poet and author, Carl Sandburg, collected in his “American Songbag” (1927) compilation.

Thanks for reading,

And there were Shepherds in the Fields Nearby – A Choral Piece

And there were Shepherds in the Fields Nearby – A Choral Piece

Composed for the Springfield Chamber Chorus, William Gowers, director.

Performed by the Springfield Chamber Chorus on December 2013, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Springfield, Missouri.
Directed by William Gowers
Soprano Solo by Sara Coleman
Music Composed by Will Chiles ©2014,
Springfield Chamber Chorus, Composer-in-Residence
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