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WhySound's talent scout has abilities of his own

By Paul Christiansen
On April 10, 2014

Most Cache Valley residents who know Robert Linton think of him as the friendly, soft-spoken talent scout at local music venue WhySound. But many don't realize he is a musician in his own right — a contemporary guitarist who has worked with some big names in the industry to release two acclaimed full-length albums, "Whisperings at Nightfall" in 2006 and "Throughout the Autumn Light" in 2011.

Another record, "Beyond the Clearing," will follow later this year, with backers making donations to Linton's music through an online Kickstarter campaign currently underway.

"It's such a good feeling when you sell a CD to somebody or someone is just so into your live performances," Linton said. "You feel that support and that respect from that person, and that's the same feeling I've received from the Kickstarter donations."

Linton said the creativity-marketing website has given him the opportunity to connect with those who "believe in and support" his music. Because of that interaction and the donations he's already procured, he said, finishing touches should wrap up on the recording much sooner than he originally planned.

"I put on Kickstarter to have it done by October, but it might be done sooner than that," he said.

Artists need to allow themselves plenty of time to develop recordings and productions, but it often comes down to financial obligations. Linton said he is no exception, but because of this campaign, he's hoping to have the entire project completed by late summer.

"I think that'll be good timing for the album release instead of waiting until after the year is over and trying to promote it during January or early next year," he said.

Campaigns on the website can last between one and 60 days, but Kickstarter recommends those who launch campaigns stick to a shorter timeframe.

"Kickstarter feels that's less time to have a lull in the middle, so to speak," Linton said. "They've seen projects that progress very quickly in the beginning and in the end there's a surge of people who want to try to help — especially if you haven't met your goal. But the time in the middle, it kind of levels out and there may not be so many donations.

"Luckily, I surpassed my goal early on," said Linton, adding he will benefit from the extra money because Kickstarter collects a small percentage of any received funds as a fee for hosting the campaign.

Linton is grateful for every donation, but he realizes there is a delicate balance that must be struck between asking donors for too much and asking them for too little.

"I'm definitely not some famous rock star or anything," he said. "It'll be great now that I have the money to push the project further and get the CD done much sooner than I had originally planned. I've had to spread it out with my finances because I didn't quite have the money to take care of bills and all these things and then have all the money to pay for thousands of dollars of music. It's still worth it to do it how I do it, but it's still very costly."

If a campaign asks donors to pledge toward a goal that's too high and that goal isn't met, all pledges are returned and the campaign fails. Linton set his project's goal at $3,000 in order to ensure he'd receive all the funds pledged.

"For some people, it might not be unrealistic to aim high," he said. "Maybe they've already built their fan base and they have a huge group to tap into. I have to understand that I have a lot of people who support me and want to help with the project, but at the same time, if I were to ask for too much, it may not happen because there is only so much money that people can offer."

Before he began his campaign, Linton began writing and recording the songs to be featured on "Beyond the Clearing." He saved and paid for the recording of all of his guitar parts at Rosewood Recording Company in Provo with audio engineer Guy Randle. Linton will now work with Corin Nelsen, an engineer out of Bremen, Maine, who won a Grammy in 2004 for his work on the William Ackerman album "Returning" in the Best New Age Album category.

This will be the third time Linton has worked with Nelsen.

"In 2005 and 2006 when I actually flew out to Vermont to record my CD 'Whisperings at Nightfall,' Corin was the engineer for that album as well," Linton said. "I really thought that he does such a great job with what I do. The quality and professionalism is amazing, and I've always wanted to continue to work with him.

"What happens is I record the guitar parts here in Utah with Guy Randall in Provo, then I send it to Corin Nelsen in Bremen who molds it all together," said Linton, adding that Nelsen shapes the work done by session musicians to "compliment the guitar parts."

There are challenges that come up while working with someone on the other side of the country, Linton said.

"Corin's a very busy guy and sometimes the communication will stall, so to speak," Linton said. "He might have a project come up where he needs to leave for a week to work somewhere else. So all of a sudden, instead of being able to go into a studio and work with him in person, there might be a week or two that goes by before we can get my project up and running again."

Linton said that's a small price to pay for the opportunity to work with a Grammy-winning producer.

"He's really good at what he does," Linton said. "He's very organized and very timely, so it never feels like I'm being set aside until he's ready or it's convenient for him. He's always made sure that I know what he's doing and when he's busy. Then he'll make sure that I'm taken care of. He's always treated me with respect, courtesy and kindness. That's one of the reasons I enjoy working with him so much — the level of professionalism."

Linton said fans of his music can expect "Beyond the Clearing" to stay true to the style they've come to know him for, but there will also be some added production and layered instrumental parts he feels will become an "experience from beginning to end" for his audience, holding their attention throughout the entire album rather than simply putting his individual songs on a shuffled playlist.

One session musician who will be adding some musical layers is Jill Haley, a multi-instrumentalist from New York who added English horn to Linton's previous albums. She'll once again play horn parts on Linton's upcoming release, recorded and developed through what she calls a "virtual musical relationship."

"What I mean by that is that I have recorded over his pieces after he has already played his guitar tracks," Haley said. "The engineer he is working with will play the track for me when I am in the studio, and then I will play some English horn over his part. I frequently do this by necessity with him and other musicians due to logistics of location."

Haley said she finds Linton's guitar playing to have "a very delicate touch," adding she hopes the two can come together one day to make music in a live setting.

"I usually listen to the piece he would like English horn parts on a few times to become familiar with it, and then I will start creating some parts," she said. "The engineer then sends the English horn parts to Robert so he can decide if it works for that piece."

Linton's past work has been recognized through several New Age websites, podcasts and broadcasts, including Zone Music Reporter, a promotional avenue that links musicians with broadcasters and fans all around the world.

"The promoter that I worked with, he distributed the music to a lot of these broadcasters, and they would report back to Zone Music Reporter with the amount of plays they gave a certain album," Linton said. "It helped me to reach No. 2 on the chart for the month of June 2011. It went high as No. 2, then No. 4 for two months."

Zone Music Reporter bestowed much critical praise on Linton's "Throughout the Autumn Light," his first attempt at producing after working with Will Ackerman on "Whisperings at Nightfall."

"It would seem that Robert Linton learned — or absorbed — a lot from working with Will Ackerman on his previous CD, as 'Throughout the Autumn Light' matches any of Ackerman's releases that I have heard," wrote Bill Binkelman, a music reviewer for Zone Music Reporter. "Bold words to be sure, but that is how good this CD is as far as I'm concerned."

Linton hopes his "reflective instrumental music" — a term he coined — will once again garnish acclaim. Those interested in donating to his Kickstarter campaign can do so until Monday at 9 p.m.

"Even if I get one person that I don't know that donates, it's a success for sure," Linton said.

- paul.r.christiansen@aggiemail.usu.edu

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