Respect and credibility
A few weeks ago SESAC announced their 2013 Jazz Award recipients, and SONAR X3 user Bobbi “Funkeeboy” Tommaro was one of the well-deserved artists on the list. I have been fortunate to get to know Bobbi in the last few years on and off the SONAR playing-field, and the first word that comes to mind is “respect.” These days considering the state of the music industry, the word respect has more meaning than ever and Bobbi has earned it from his music peers along with just about everyone else that hears his story. Besides respect, he has earned much credibility in the Smooth Jazz world from being a repeat-offender on the Billboard charts as an independent artist.
Bobbi who is also PKA “Funkee Boy” has amassed an impressive amount of credits throughout his music career. At the young age of 15 he was already making a name for himself winning the Connecticut State Organ Championship and also opening for national acts such as Spyro Gyra. As he progressed he scored numerous chart hits across multiple music genres, as well as, several top Billboard chart hits/Top 5 Smooth Jazz hits, and licensing deals on television networks such as ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, SHOWTIME, VH1, etc.
Before making his own records his music has [and continues to in terms of residuals] appear on some of the most popular and well respected shows ever such as Beverly Hills 90210, General Hospital, All My Children, Sunset Beach, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Love Boat, One Life To Live, Young & The Restless, They Call Me Sirr, Soul Food. Stepping out from behind the scenes as a songwriter/producer & into the forefront as a Smooth Jazz Artist, Bobbi’s track record progressed and continued to impress.
Most recently, starting off 2014 by releasing his 3rd CD “Soul Purpose”, the smooth jazz keyboardist/producer combined his talents with assembling a stellar line up of A-List recording artists. The newest award-winning record “Soul Purpose” features guest appearances from Warren Hill, Najee, Bob Baldwin, Cindy Bradley, Nick Colionne, LEILA, Surface, Lamone, Timmy Maia, Tevin Michael and more!!!
Chalk one up for the hard working jugglers.
A few key elements set Bobbi apart from the pack that keeps him successful. The obvious one is the raw talent of songwriting and performing his instrument, but if you go a few levels deeper, you will find a multi-instrumentalist, producer, mixing and mastering engineer. Peeling back a few more layers exposes an organized machine who literally “does not need a label” to hit the Billboard Top 5 Smooth Jazz Chart. In fact Bobbi has had many labels approach him and has respectfully declined any offers to do business. Why?… because he has cracked the code and found a formula that works for himself as an independent artist competing in the major leagues.
It’s not easy
Hitting the Top 5 on any Billboard Chart is not an easy thing to do. Besides the songs and production alone (which he does ALL in SONAR INCLUDING Mastering), Bobbi also has to oversee the efforts for Radio Promotion, Publicity, Social Media, Sales and Marketing. If you ask me, this is a very rare skill-set to have as an artist considering just the time it takes alone to write and record a [great] full length record. Bobbi does have help from his wife Leila who is also a very credible artist, and the two of them seem to have a great formula for getting the music out to the masses as if they were a Major Label.
Cakewalk: It’s pretty amazing that you do so much to get your music out, can you describe the short-form version of a typical record release?
Bobbi Tammaro: Sure, it’s hard to keep it short form because so much goes into it… So here goes.. First & foremost you have to want to make the record and thoroughly dedicate yourself to the entire process. This means emotionally, physically, and of course financially. You also have to make it for the right reasons. By this I mean that I make a record for me because there’s music inside my soul that I want to share with the world. There’s a sound, as well as, a “feel” a “vibe” that I want to represent ME as an artist. I don’t make a record to just release it into the market or to chase a genre or sound that isn’t me. So when I write and create songs I draw upon the musical influences that inspired me growing up and blend it with the artists and sounds that inspire me today. This inspiration starts in a variety of ways from a melody or lyric that’s in my head to a beat, loop, or chord pattern that just draws me in.
From there I start working out the parts and elements of the song. I get my basic ideas down and then I spend the time selecting the right sounds, re-playing the parts, developing the flow, and involving the right musicians. SONAR’s fast workflow is so critical in this process. I feel this really helps bring the song to life. Once all parts are tracked and recorded I then take the time to mix it and listen to each song over and over a gazillion times on various sound systems and headphones. I also concentrate on the overall flow and order of the songs on the CD. I know some musicians may feel this isn’t as important in today’s world because so many people just purchase and download individual songs from music sites. However, for me this is important. I believe your “true” fans will buy the entire CD and appreciate the journey that the music takes them on from song to song as they listen. This is also where mastering each song is extremely important and shouldn’t be overlooked. From there it’s making sure the visual aspects of your pictures and CD graphics match your sound and represent you as the artist. This is extremely important because when you start promoting your songs to radio they will open your CD and immediately get an impression. If their first impression is positive based on the look of your CD then chances are they will at least take the time to listen to it.
Now this is where finances come into play and your challenge really begins. I believe in hiring the right music promoter to help market a “single” to radio stations in your genre. Make no mistake about it… This is expensive. Especially after investing in the equipment, software, paying musicians and/or graphic artists, manufacturing the CD, etc… it all adds up and fast! This is why I started by saying that “in addition to committing to the record emotionally and physically you must not underestimate the importance of committing to it financially.” I wish it wasn’t this way, but honestly I don’t know any other way around it. It’s also why I do as much of everything else myself as possible from recording, mixing, mastering, graphics, video editing, web design, etc.
Cakewalk: In a bit of detail, what are a few SONAR features you use for your records that you can’t live without?
Bobbi Tammaro: The SONAR features I can’t live without are “everything!!” From the ease of workflow, editing, & visual representation to the ProChannel, Eq’s, Vintage Channel, and the Virtual Instruments included. They are all extremely valuable to me when making a record. Plus, I’m thoroughly committed to Cakewalk. I’ve been a user when it was just a sequencer and before it was ever an audio product. (Hahaha – I just dated myself).
Cakewalk: Along the way, what are some of the things you learned about releasing your own records independently against Major Labels?
Bobbi Tammaro: I’ve learned a lot and most of this I shared in the first answer. The number one thing is to do things right the first time, and be prepared to “invest” and financially support your record. As an independent artist your record has to look, sound, and feel every bit as good as any major artist in your genre. Sound-wise, remember to A/B your songs against other hit songs in your genre. Make sure your songs can compete sonically at that level and by all means make sure they are of “master” quality and radio-ready.
Remember not to underestimate the importance to budget enough in order to properly promote your record. This includes hiring the right radio promoter, doing CD release concerts, advertising it, etc.
Also, stay true to yourself as an artist. Draw upon your influences and know your vision.
I’m blessed to have been embraced as a smooth jazz artist. However, I’m far from a jazz player. I never studied jazz or even listened to it growing up. I grew up listening to Funk, Soul, and RnB, so the artists that I draw upon are Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower Of Power, Luther Vandross, Kool & The Gang, etc..
Cakewalk: It has been a tough year with a recent health issue, yet you have managed to stay so positive. What are some of the things that have kept you staying so optimistic and focused?
Bobbi Tammaro: Yeah, a tough year is an understatement. It’s been a hell of year. I was blindsided and diagnosed with Germ Cell/Seminoma Cancer. This was a complete shock since I’m a health fanatic that always focused on eating right and exercising. Ya’ know it was just one of those things that happens and forces you to deal with it head on.
What’s really kept me optimistic and focused is my wife Leila. Her dedication, commitment, and unconditional love for me are beyond words. Now add the support of my closest friends and the inspiring words from my fan base and it’s overwhelming. It’s helped me get thru the complications of Chemotherapy and treatment. And trust me, I’ve had every complication you can imagine and I still have to face follow up surgery in the next month or so.
Cakewalk: What are the plans for you in the near future?
Bobbi Tammaro: Right now my plans for the future are just to fully recover and say that I beat Cancer. I want to get back to the healthy physical state that I was in before this disease. Once that is done I’ll focus on going back to the studio and completing a new CD. I would also like to schedule some concert appearances, resume writing/producing for other artists and maybe even write a book with hopes to inspire others.
One day I want to look back at this time in my life and know that I helped to inspire others with my actions. In addition, if I create something tangible that I’m proud of such as another CD or a book, then at least I can say I’m still following my Soul Purpose.
For more information on Bobbi Tammaro please visit www.funkeeboy.com where you can audition and purchase his music. His award winning CD “SOUL PURPOSE” created in SONAR is available on ITUNES, CDBABY, and AMAZON.
[All of us at Cakewalk wish Bobbi and his family a speedy recovery from his current health situation, and we ask you to keep them in your positive thoughts.]