The initial impetus for the award came after I received an electronic invitation to the opening of Jason Eskenazi’s “Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith.”  I am familiar with Jason’s work and knew that it wasn’t receiving the attention it deserved so I spontaneously gave him this award and forwarded the email to everyone on my list.

I told Derek Stroup the story of how I made up this award and he laughed.  He was very encouraging and said, “Just keep doing it, the next thing you know people will be sending you their portfolios.”

A month or so later, Jay Nubile happened to send me a You Tube link to a video he and Toby Kaplowitz made for an experimental video workshop.  I tried giving him five stars but the You Tube software had a bug in it and only three stars were given!  This made me mad so I gave Jay what he rightfully deserved -– 6 GOLD STARS ******!

The idea stems partially from my discomfort with traditional media’s methodology for reviewing books, films, art, etc.  I feel these large entities have too much power over what is promoted nationally.  How often does the New York Times review a photography or multimedia book?????  Most of the decisions to review something are coming from editors with an expertise only in writing and editing text.  The visual arts are so dominant in our society yet only a handful of these editors have a strong background in this area.

I’ve always had complex feelings about awards because they foster competition and if someone doesn’t win, the individual often feels sad.  I’m not a person who likes competition or believes people need to be validated by awards, especially in journalism, photography and the arts.  However, awards often promote stuff that might go unnoticed and the psychology behind an award is still very powerful……so the intent is for this to be a friendly, quirky, happy, nice award.

The name of the 6 GOLD STAR AWARD is derived from my early pre-internet days in photography when I used to star my favorite slides so the editors would know which ones to choose.  The best slides were exuberantly given numerous stars.  Despite my not so subtle efforts, these editors have a mind of their own and often choose photographs I don’t want published.  As anyone in field of communications knows these listening skill problems persist to this very day.

And of course….we can’t forget our days in elementary school when we eagerly awaited our gold stars.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Julia Autumn Ford Wins SL6 For Best New Singer/Songwriter

Julia Autumn Ford wins the Steve Lehman Six Gold Star Award for the Best New Singer/Songwriter.

It's an interesting story; she's the waitress at a diner I eat at in a tiny town.  I try to keep my “ear to the rail” and fish around a bit for what’s going on.  I asked Julia how her day was going?  She was all excited and said, "Great! My album just came out!"  She was selling them at the cash register.  She's very innocent and was going to give one to me for free.  I said, "It’s OK, I’ll pay for it.  I prefer to support you."  I was nervous the album would suck and I have to pretend it was good so I wouldn't hurt her feelings.  But I was like wow! This girl is great.  I was really surprised.  I was happy for her.  I actually went back in and told her it was great. It’s hard to get my attention.  I’m finicky.  Even with big musicians, I usually only last three seconds on song. I played Julia's songs a bunch of times already. 

When I first met Julia Autumn Ford we kind of bumped into one another.  I said to myself, “Who this girl?”  My instincts told me there was something special about her.  It was intangible, I didn’t know what but there was something there.  Who would of thought right in Winsted, I discover a star.  The sound of her voice is a better than most people.  It’s distinct.

Julia Autumn Ford has huge potential.  It turns out she's only 17 and she's already writing these wonderful songs.  Jewel comes to mind because she was writing great songs like “Who Will Save Your Soul” at 16.  It's rare where someone has that level of talent at such a young age.  Julia’s story is heavy.  She was planning to commit suicide but at the last second had a spiritual/mental shift put down the knife and started writing songs. It was a shock to find that out because she seems happy.  It's brave of her to tell her story.  There’s healing message and I think it’s inspirational for people who have depression or mental illness. 

If she got picked up by William Morris or CAA and had a lot of backing she could go all the way....  beautiful voice, good personality, right look, perfect demographic.  She’s needs more training and experience.  Julia is certainly better than that Myley Cyrus, Unfortunately, I know what those agents are like.  They would probably say were not interested and steal Julia Autumn Ford’s songs for Myley or Taylor Swift.  They get giddy over shit like that until someone bigger, badder, meaner, stronger shows up and screws them over. (*All this being said, the market for music has been crushed by the venture capitalists, Wall Street and elements of the government. It's debatable if anyone with great talent can do well.  Elements of the government don’t want artists to have power).

Connecticut has some very talented homegrown musicians....there's something going on here.  The quality is much higher than before and better than most places.  Toad's in New Haven was always an important place but the whole music scene has definitely evolved.  I go to some of these  open mics every now and then and some of these people are good.

© Steve Lehman 2014.

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