Terry Wollman: The Powerful Album “Buddha’s Ear” & His Proposal To Independent Artists

Terry Wollman is a man of many talents, and his latest album Buddha’s Ear proves a graceful demonstration.  In this release, the accomplished musician, composer, and producer brings to life the sounds, cultures, styles of his travels and experiences, all with the help of some extremely talented instrumentalists. Read on to learn about the creation of this powerful album as well as Terry’s proposal to independent artists.

Without using the words “alternative,” “jazz,” “pop,” or “instrumental,” describe your sound.
Contemporary jazz mixed with R&B, World, and Pop… oops, I said Pop! I actually consider myself a pop musician with a jazz background. The music that I write is a direct response to what I hear and see around me. It has always been important to me to expose myself to different cultures, styles, and perspectives. Growing up in Miami gave me a good start in seeing the deep musical connection that bonds us all together. The more I have traveled, the more clear that connection becomes. I love to write when I travel, and when I return home my “sound” is what comes out naturally when left to my own devices in the solitude of my recording studio.

What was the inspiration behind your latest album Buddha’s Ear?
It had been a few years since I had recorded my previous album “Say Yes.” During that time I found myself touring with other artists, working as a session musician, and writing and recording music for Film and Television. I also co-wrote and produced an album called “Shall We Dance” for a Pop/Electronica group named “Baila,” followed by a collaborative album on the opposite end of the musical spectrum called “Sleep Suite.” I also continued to write songs, both vocal and instrumental, some of which I produced and recorded finished masters of, and others that were just basic sketches for a later time.

The inspiration for “Buddha’s Ear” came when I was working with a good friend of mine named Keb’ Mo’. We were sitting on his back porch passing an acoustic guitar back and forth when he asked me when I was going to start my next album. I told him I had been thinking a lot about it and was not sure of what musical direction to take. He simply said “I think it’s time” and we grabbed another guitar and wrote “Mandela” which ended up being my 1st single on radio.

Can you describe your instrumentation process?  Do you write all of the parts before the recording, or do some things just come together organically during recording?
Since my background is in arranging, I do sometimes write out all of the parts before going into a studio. However, my vision on this album was to keep the recording process organic and let the music be my guide as to what instrumentation would work best on each song. I also had a clear picture of which musicians I would be bringing in and left the space for them to add their own spin on the music. I am a big believer in casting the right player for each song. My recording band of world class musicians included Abe Laboriel (bass), John Robinson (drums), Luis Conte (percussion), Gerald Albright and Mindi Abair (sax)… as well as special guests Keb’ Mo’, Melanie Taylor, and Melissa Manchester (vocals). I also recorded a String Quartet at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and a Cello Quartet in my studio.

Did you have a marketing plan in place when you released Buddha’s Ear?
Yes. My first goal was to make the best album I could possibly make. I believe that regardless of your marketing plan, you first must have something worth marketing in order to be successful. After doing extensive research on options, I decided that my initial marketing focus would be on developing a radio presence. I ended up hiring an established company called Gorov Music Marketing for radio promotion and my first single debuted #1 Most Added on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz chart. Jason and Cliff Gorov have worked with some of the top artists in my field so I thought that they were the best choice, and it turns out that working with them has been a great decision. Now that the album is moving up the charts I am focusing on booking more live performances. We’ve done a few shows already and have been having a blast playing the new music!

How do you continue to market and promote the album now?
I work with a website designer, Lena Ringstad, who has a background in graphic design, photography and advertising. We are constantly updating the site with new album information, audio clips, videos, photos, and links. I am also quickly learning the fine art of reaching out through Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and interviews like this one to reach new fans.

How involved are you in the mixing and mastering of your music?  Do you work with others?
Extremely involved! I love mixing and consider it a very important and personal part of my creative process. Having my own studio allows me the luxury of experimenting with instrument levels, panning, and effects to help create the stories I tell through music. I also believe in working with the best engineers I can to get my final mixes to their full potential. That is why I brought in Peter Kelsey to mix and Bernie Grundman to master my album. I look at these engineers as artists who bring fresh ears and a wealth of knowledge to the final process of completing an album.

It’s clear that a lot has gone into each recording, production and performance wise. How does that translate to a live stage performance?
Great question. I’m approaching it a few different ways. The easiest and most obvious way to translate the recording to a live performance is to play the songs with the full band to “re-create” the original recording. That works well and is a lot of fun, but not always practical or possible. I’ve also been exploring the songs with 2 or 3 musicians to see how to capture the “essence” of the songs in a more intimate band setting. In addition to doing that, I’m experimenting with playing to track mixes, as well as revisiting the songs as solo guitar pieces… as they were first conceived. Ultimately I think the live show will incorporate all of the above approaches.

What projects do you have in the works?
Well, after I get some sleep… I am thinking about starting my next album. Maybe I’ll do a solo guitar album this time? I’ve also got some upcoming performances scheduled with a few other artists that I work with, so I’ll be learning some fun new music in the coming weeks. In my spare time, did I mention I’m thinking about doing a video?

Any closing thoughts for other independent artists?
I have a proposition for EVERY one of you that is reading this article. We are a tribe of Artists… 300,000 strong and growing. The record industry as we knew it no longer exists and the old rules do not apply. The upside is that we collectively have the power for our music to be heard, the ability to support each other as Artists, and the opportunity to make a profound change in our future by taking the music business into our own hands.

I propose that everyone who is reading this right now… go to iTunes to download one single song from my album and write a short review. In turn, I will do the same for the featured artists that appear on this page over the next 12 months. I’ve already started by downloading the single from TuneCore’s previous featured artist “Cartel.” I am asking you to invest 99 cents and ten minutes of your time to see how we might change the way new music can be discovered and more importantly… how we can support each other as a community of musicians. I propose that we make a simple and powerful commitment to support each other in sharing the music that we create. Think of what will happen when iTunes sees 300,000 downloads from an independent artist in one week. Now that we have their attention…

Thanks for listening.

Download Buddha’s Ear On iTunes

Learn More About Terry Wollman

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  • Reliabledrummer

    just brilliant and inspiring. i am compelled to expand my musical horizon, just from reading this interview…
    and i shall

  • Bookings

    Nice sentiment but how does a struggling artists buy tracks by 300,000 independent artists. Unfortunately it works fine for the first few but then turns into a pyramid sales idea with lots of losers…great for itunes bank balance too but doesn’t address the basic problem that modern music rarely makes it on merit but on huge marketing budgets….
    Here is a better idea have a new chart where the artists have the marketing budget taken away from the sales total and enforce it with exclusion if you lie. You will see a chart of music people actually like.

  • Joebloe

    more elevator music :>(

  • Marcjknight

    How does one get their music heard without it costing their life?

  • Marcjknight

    How does one get their music heard without it costing their life?

    • Anonymous


      upload a video to YouTube, create iMixes on iTunes with your own music, start a Twitter account and through reciprocating tweets gain followers, start a blog, create playlist on AmazonMP3 with your own music in them, create playlists on Spotify with your own music in them, post gig ask people to your merch table record them and make a podcast including them in it, involve your fans and ask them for help and in return give them things (songs, t-shirts etc)
      there is a lot more as well, but, most importantly, have a song that causes reaction…without that, nothing you do will cause it to sell


  • Sayde Black

    Great interview! Interesting take on inspiration and innovative ways to harness your passion and make it thrive for you. This industry allows for our creative abilities to guide us where we need to be and take us into the unknown! “Kites fly highest against the wind” FLY….
    Light& Music
    – Sayde Black
    “The Slow Reveal”