Ashland songwriter a prolific hit from YouTube to Britt Festivals stage
Posted: 2:00 AM August 03, 2011
musician Gene Burnett is finding the harmony between softness and
firmness in his writing and singing. Instead of pursuing a career in the
music business, Burnett has found a way to focus on the creative joy of
writing and the fun of performing.
A t'ai chi
teacher for 26 years, Burnett views his music as an expression of his
t'ai chi practice, which is the search for unforced balance.
want to show softness and firmness in my voice, my writing, my t'ai chi
teaching, and in my relationships," says Burnett. "T'ai chi is my main
livelihood but music is a close second these days, I just want to
perform everywhere I can."
Make no mistake, Burnett isn't a typical
Ashland hippy into his music and spiritual martial art practice. He
hosts a themed open mic on the first Wednesday of every month at the
Wild Goose. This month the theme is songs about drugs and alcohol, of
which Burnett has plenty.
"We're really loose
about the theme, they can be pro-drugs or anti-drugs," says Burnett.
"The main thing is that it just provides a limitation for the artist to
think about: 'Do I have any poems or do I want to write one about this
subject?' We have good turnouts and everyone has a really good time."
themed open mics have been on the topics of road songs, weather,
animals and weird and unusual covers. Burnett's songs are funny, honest
and true to life. He's written more than 500 songs since he started in
"I'm especially into lyrics. I write
funny songs, serious songs, love songs, songs that contradict each
other, songs with adult language, topical songs, and personal songs," he
says. "I love to put the right words and music together that express
how I'm feeling and thinking. I call it 'releasing a charge' and it's a
big part of finding that unforced balance in my life."
of Burnett's songs has even gone viral on the Internet. Written about
the financial meltdown, the song was filmed at the Ashland Cemetary by a
friend of Burnett, and posted to Burnett's YouTube channel. The video
was then ripped off the Internet by a man in Holland who edited some
political commentary during the instrumental break into Burnett's music
In three hours the newly edited version
had 600 views on YouTube. Now it has more than 132,000 views. "It was
on Mother Jones for awhile. People post it on websites," says Burnett.
"It's not typical of my work but it's gotten me more exposure to my work
in two years than there was in 30."
one of Burnett's quirky songs caught the attention of an automatic
chicken coop company that contacted Burnett and got his permission to
use his song about free range chickens for their website. The company
used Burnett's "Free-Range Chicken" song to make a video for their
website and now has more than 30,000 views.
internet popularity can be attributed to his prolific songwriting and
his extensive YouTube channel with more than 100 uploads of his
performances. A peak in his career happened recently when he opened for
America on the Britt stage this year.
for America was wonderful," says Burnett, "I sold, like, 66 CDs at the
show which was thrilling. It was just a really good really fun gig. I'm
not that into traveling, so I'd like to stay here."
big supporter of the Ashland music scene, Burnett also hosts an open
mic every Tuesday night with Robbie Lindauer at Tabu, in addition to his
regular gigs every third Wednesday at the Wild Goose, and First Fridays
at Geppetto's. All of Burnett's performances and music videos can be
found at his website www.geneburnett.com.
available on his website are all 25 of his self-recorded albums
available for free to download. "Actually I've made more money from the
site in a sense, than I did when I was giving away song samples and
charging $10 an album," says Burnett. "On my site they can download as
much as they want and tip as much as they want."
Burnett's site he's put up a digital tip jar that is connected through
paypal so fans can contribute what they can to support him.
latest version of just doing it all for free, doing it all for love,
that's been by far the most satisfying way of doing music," says
Burnett. "Like that America gig, it was me on the stage by myself in
front of 1,500 people, but the next day I was at the coffee shop doing
my normal gig. I just keep showing up and hopefully more good comes from
Burnett will play a few short sets as
he hosts the drug-and-alcohol-themed open mic at 8 p.m., tonight at the
Wild Goose, 2365 Ashland St.
Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or by email at email@example.com.
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