Review of Stay Warm

I’m back East after a wonderful trip to Alaska, in which I shared songs from Stay Warm in 4 magical concerts, laughed with many old friends, played hard with my 7 year old nephew Oliver, and watched the trees leaf out in fast-motion under the early June sun.   I think there’s a distinct Identity-with-Place that is unusually strong for long-time Alaskans.  Even if I’m not living there now, Alaska’s wild beauty and independent, quirky culture is a huge part of my identity and always will be…   Thank you, Alaskans, for your welcoming spirit and big support of my new album!!

Today I happily discovered a sweet review of Stay Warm written by Cile Stanbrough, who’s been a great friend and true music-appreciator since the early days of Whole Wheat Radio.  I’ve copied her essay here:

Keeping Warm with Esther Golton – A Review on cilesfineline blog – Sunday June 9, 2013

I have been listening to Esther Golton’s new offering Stay Warm for a few weeks now and enjoying the full sound and sweet expression only Esther can elicit in her musical offerings.  I’m a big fan of Esther’s instrumentals and I can hear in this album the force of this aspect of her talent gaining momentum, rising and merging with her songwriting making Stay Warm a multi-faceted and genuine delight.

Esther really shines in telling stories about her life in Alaska; in finding the words and music to express what it is like to live on the fringes of an America that is so intimate with the brutality and beauty of wilderness in the Alaskan bush. Her songs Fireweed Ladies, Wintered In, and Stay Warm reflect directly her experience in these wild places.  While topical in this way, the album explores some of Esther’s more personal side in the songs like Overjoyed by Christine Kane, and her own songs, Chokecherry and Face and the sobering Where is the Field add a poignant and personal depth to the compilation.  The cover Yula by Borrina Mapaka, besides being an outstanding interpretation of the tune, features Esther’s exceptional command of foreign tongues in song. For some of us long time fans there are new and exciting renditions of well-loved songs like Echo Point and a delightfully rocking, What Can I Say making a strong and clear comment on our addiction to wasting in this culture. There is also a whimsical tune called Nectarina and Avocado. You can listen to excerpts here.

My neighbor stopped in as the CD was playing and made an immediate comment on the striking quality of the sound and I had to agree that it is notable. Esther allied herself with talented musicians and the highly capable sound support of 10th Planet Studio in Fairbanks, AK, making this a beautiful offering from an artist that has indeed brightened many lives with her talents.  Buy and enjoy Stay Warm and melt into Esther’s spirited message. Take it to your heart and let it glow.

Esther’s CD (or MP3’s, if you prefer) Stay Warm can be purchased through her website or at CDBaby or Bandcamp

Photo Story: 10th Planet Studio and Musicians

Stay Warm has traveled far and wide in the last weeks, and I’ve been thrilled to begin receiving heartfelt glowing feedback from the first to buy the new album.  The music you’ll hear was a complex collaborative effort in my favorite studio with a number of Alaskan musicians, as well as a few from outside the state who added their parts remotely.  The photos below tell the story….

And now I must go pack for my trip to Alaska – I’m SOOOOO excited!

Click any photo to begin an enlarged slideshow. Captions explaining each photo will show at the top.  Enjoy!

Stay Warm MP3 downloads are ready!

Digital downloads of the new CD Stay Warm are available as of today!  Just click on over to either CD Baby or Bandcamp.

Here’s the enticing short description:

Adventurous mountain dulcimer, flute, & a sincerely expressive voice.  Artful lyrics & entrancing multi-genre instrumentation.  A love song involving a nectarine & an avocado.  Esther’s 3rd CD is a real gem for creative souls.

Both companies allow you to choose audio quality (file type) for your downloads.   (FYI:  CD Baby keeps a smaller portion of the total for themselves, but Bandcamp allows you to pay a little extra if you want.  I think they’re both great.)

Thanks to all who’ve already ordered physical copies of Stay Warm.  I’ve been mailing them off with joy and gratefulness.

I’m curious to observe a changing world.  When I released Unfinished Houses in 2007, the vast majority of purchases were for the physical CD.  Digital distribution of music was still in its infancy.  Now, I wonder how many of you actually prefer downloading your music.  I’m about to find out!

By the way, full-album downloads will count toward my 2000-album goal, and thus will help uncover the mystery painting.  Thank you!

Download Stay Warm via CDBaby or Bandcamp

Stay Warm (Part 4 of 4): IT’S HERE!



Buy the new CD Stay Warm

Physical CDs Direct-from-Esther ONLY for now.
Other outlets coming soon.

Order with credit card below.  If you prefer to send a check, contact me for mailing address.
Ordering FAQ (shipping cost, payment methods, etc)

$14.99 plus shipping
Stay Warm – a BRAND NEW collection of songs!
Hear audio samples in player to the right, read description here.
Want it signed? :
Esther’s previous CDs are available here.


Stay Warm (Part 3 of 4): The 2,000 Album Goal (And a Mysterious Painting)

Smiling fans and friends (my employers!) - 2007 CD release concert for Unfinished Houses.

Smiling fans & friends (my employers!)
2007 CD release concert for Unfinished Houses.

  • Tomorrow, Monday, May 6th, is the release date for my new album Stay Warm!  Parts 1 and 2 of this series describe the contents, recording experience, and cost.  And now for Part 3!
  • Where the funding came from:  I didn’t use Kickstarter or any other crowd-funding source to raise the $21,000 for Stay WarmNor did I borrow.  The funding for Stay Warm came from my business bank account.  From money earned and saved performing and selling my first two CDs plus financial support from two highly dedicated patrons-of-the-arts (thank you Mom and Dad!)
  • The 2,000 album goal:  I’d like to earn back what I spent on Stay Warm by selling 2,000 CDs, either physical or digital.  Simple as that.  I can’t do that unless you (and 1,999 other people like you) buy them!
  • Let’s have fun getting there:   I’ve created a webpage with a hidden painting that’s very dear to me.  It’s an oil painting that hangs in my childhood home.  There’s a neat story behind it.  For every 20 full albums sold (including any/all of my three CDs), I’ll reveal 1/100th of the painting!  Gradually, we’ll all get to see the painting emerge as we reach the 2,000-album goal.  When the entire painting is finally revealed, we’ll all pop open a bottle of celebratory beverage and I’ll tell you the story of the painting in a video.  And I’ll sing you a special song!  And I’ll say thank you for your support with all my heart.

Stay Warm (Part 2 of 4): What does it cost to record a new CD?

A slow reverent look at my first printed copy of Stay Warm at the CT ocean-side, just after picking up 2000 copies at UPS.

On Monday, May 6th you’ll be able to order my new CD Stay Warm.  It contains eleven tracks I’m very excited to share with you!

Independent musicians often crack jokes about their “job”, implying how hard it is to make a living, but rarely discuss the actual numbers.  Since most people don’t know what’s involved, I thought you might find it interesting to see what it costs to produce a high-quality record like Stay Warm.

Of course, CDs can vary immensely in cost and quality.  For example, recording solo voice/guitar is much less expensive than recording multiple voices/instruments.  I layered (overdubbed) quite a few vocals and instruments.  In my experience each layered part can add about 1-2 hours of studio time, including tracking, editing and mixing.  Bands who record all their instruments simultaneously rather than overdubbing individual tracks save considerable time and money.  Some musicians record on home computers, some find small studios that charge as little as $25 hour, some go for top-of-the-line big-city studios that charge $100+/hour.  There’s a huge range.

The biggest expense, by far, is the recording studio – so musicians must choose carefully.

I returned to 10th Planet Studio in Fairbanks, Alaska because I love working with engineer-musicians Pat Fitzgerald and Robin Dale Ford.  Professional equipment and skills are just the beginning.  Pat and Robin contribute terrific drums, guitar, bass and banjo.  They work their butts off to make projects shine and provide smiling encouragement (and strong coffee!) every step of the way.  Their studio is crazy cozy – a log house in the woods.  After long studio sessions, we’d take late-night hikes in the endless daylight of Alaska’s summer.

For this Alaska-themed project and the musical palette I wanted to paint from, 10th Planet Studio was a perfect choice.

I suspect Stay Warm cost a little above average for a solo singer-songwriter layering musical parts on top of each other.  I can’t be sure because money taboos prevent most musicians from divulging the cost of their CDs.

So what DID the new CD cost?

Stay Warm cost about $21,000 to make.

Here’s the breakdown:

$15,644 Studio time ($75/hour for tracking/editing/mixing + per-track cost of drums/bass when played by engineers)
$975 Mastering
$1280 Paying musicians
$49 Music notation software subscription (used to write cello parts, harmonies, etc)
$69 CDBaby registration (host for MP3 downloads) and UPC code
$364 Mechanical Royalties to writers of 2 covers
$35 US Copyright fee
$600 Graphic design for CD artwork
$2,060 Manufacturing 2000 copies
Incalculable My own lodging, travel, composing, arranging, notating, organizing logistics, rehearsing, tracking, listening, etc.

Stay Warm (Part 1 of 4): I’ve Got A New CD!


  • The new CD, Stay Warm, is finally done!  I’m so happy to announce my new collection of eleven songs entitled Stay Warm.  Woo-woo-woo-hoo!  You can order it as of Monday, May 6th, 2013.  In anticipation, I’m writing a series of four articles to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how Stay Warm came to life.
  • Wow!  When did this happen? I recorded it in Fairbanks, Alaska in the five months between April and August, 2012.  I collaborated with many fantastic musicians.  Shortly after the audio was “in the can” I began the next chapter of life by moving to an amazing Connecticut town called New Haven.  The five thousand mile transition from Alaska to Connecticut took so much time and energy that Stay Warm had to await patiently in its little can for another four months.  I returned to the project in January, 2013, taking care of mastering, graphics, web presence, and mechanical production, and … four months later … finally(!) … Stay Warm is out of the can and into CD form.  Here’s a long-arm self portrait taken just days ago under a New Haven cherry tree:

Long-arm self portrait snapped on the April day I received 2000 copies of Stay Warm.  Under a blossoming cherry tree, New Haven, CT.

  • What songs are on it?

1. Overjoyed (Christine Kane)
2. Nectarina & Avocado
3. Fireweed Ladies
4. Yula (Borrina Mapaka)
5. Where is the Field
6. Echo Point
7. Chokecherry
8. What Can I Say
9. Face
10. Wintered In
11. Stay Warm

  • Why Stay Warm? The cold is no myth in the far north, and Alaskans frequently depart with a cheerful “Stay warm!”  I wanted to express this sweet sentiment with my music.  The album weaves together my 15 incredible years in Alaska with songs of wilderness, whimsy, snow, and sunlight…
  • Musically, this is my most diverse CD.  Stay Warm mixes folk, pop, rock, funk and world with intimate vocals and harmonies.  I play the mountain dulcimer and tons of flute, and I play power chords (yes!) on a solid-body electric dulcimer.  I employ two djembe players, two cellists, and a classic funk clavinet player named “Mighty Dave”.  I stroke wind chimes.  I sing in the Lari dialect of the Congo.  Just sayin’…

It’s been quite a journey.  I’m thrilled with the results and think you will be too.

April 17th Concert in Hamden, Connecticut

Creative Commons Licence © ComputerHotline (Belfort, France)

There’s nothing like a move from Alaska to Connecticut to cause a long hiatus from gigging.  April’s daffodils have inspired me; it’s time to open up again.

I’m giving my first official concert here in CT on Wed, April 17th, 8PM at Best Video in Hamden.

Best Video?  Yes, it’s a video store!  And they offer a delightful listening room venue amidst shelves full of moving pictures.  They also have a coffee-beer-wine bar, and snacks.  You can even buy a pint of gourmet ice cream from the freezer, as well as locally popped kettle corn.  What more do you need to enjoy an evening of music with me?  It’s really a funky, unusual, cheery atmosphere.

If you’re new to my music, this show is just an hour long, so it’s a great intro for the curious.  I’ll tell stories and include songs from my forthcoming new CD Stay Warm, plus a few from Unfinished Houses, and I’ll also spin an on-the-spot improvised flute painting of the northern lights.

If you don’t live in New Haven, but know of someone nearby who might enjoy my music and stories, please share this post with them.  What can they expect?  How ’bout an evening of laughter, whimsy,  insightful observations, and musical expansiveness…

Here are the details:

What: Esther Golton – Solo Concert – Songs with Mountain Dulcimer & Flute

Where: Best Video Performance Space, 1842 Whitney Ave, Hamden, Ct

When: Wednesday, April 17th, 8 – 9 PM (just one hour)

How Much:  $5 venue cover

What it looks like, video shelves and all:

photo of performance space from

photo of performance space from



Elegy for a music teacher

Mrs. Hooper, my first piano teacher.   Her spirit exists in the music I make now...

Mrs. Hooper, my first piano teacher. Her spirit exists in the music I make now…

Today I received news that my childhood piano teacher, Maureen Hooper, died this morning.  With tears in my eyes, as a ripened musician, I tell you that I truly love my music teachers.

Mrs. Hooper was the first.

I dutifully attended weekly lessons at her house a few blocks away from the age of 6 to 16.  She gave me the basics of music.  How to read.  How to apply music-theory.  How Chopin was romance, Debussy was a paint brush, and Mozart was ecstasy.  How to understand emotions and phrasing.   “Now, again, with feeling!” she’d say.   And oh how I remember the incessant command to my 6 year old self:  “Curve your fingers, dear!”

I admit I got away with a lot as a relatively talented student.  I didn’t practice many days, and became very good at tricking Mrs. Hooper into thinking I had labored through the week.  Cheerily, she placed a check mark on each exercise or piece I’d learned to her satisfaction, or placed a new date next to the tunes that had not been mastered.  When I did work hard and shined with progress, she would chirp, with her wonderful British accent, “Well done, Esther.  Well done!

I don’t play the piano much these days, but I still know my scales.  I curve my fingers.  I sight-read with slow delight.  I lean my weight into the keys.  I shape a phrase with passion.

And I carry every bit of musical technique and wisdom she taught me into my singing, dulcimer, flute playing, performance and recordings.

My favorite bit of wisdom from Mrs. Hooper, which I will always cherish:

“Esther, you mustn’t practice your mistakes.”

Goodbye, Mrs. Hooper.  I will miss you.  You were a great teacher and human being.  Well done.  Well done.

Undoing Internet Sprawl

What matters to me, as a musician, is a tangible connection with you, people who like the music I create.

I want to play for you and have a face-to-face conversation after the concert.  I want to record music that brings you everyday pleasure.  I want to speak directly to you via my online-writings and e-newsletters, and hear your thoughts one-on-one via email.

This kind of connection matters both for my spirit and for making a viable business from my musical passion.


I am in the process of intentionally reducing the number of places I exist on the web.

Google my name.   Results include Myspace, Reverbnation, Sonicbids, Lala, Spotify, Last Fm, Emusic, Yahoo, Mog (what the heck is that?), Billboard, PayplayFM.  Etc etc etc…

I call it internet sprawl.

Wandering, confused, through internet sprawl...

Wandering, confused, through internet sprawl…

Some pages I created.  Some pages are content-sucking “paraSites”.  Most music people consider web omnipresence a good thing, incorrigibly spurred on by everything music-business in the age of the internet.  It’s considered a vital part of how to get your music out there.

Sure, that’s one answer.

But it’s not mine.

For me, being on multitudes of music and social-networking sites detracts from the connectedness I want to cultivate with you.

Yes, I might lose some random new fans.  Maybe a few CD sales, or (gasp!) an opportunity.

But it’s worth it.  You and I have a stronger bond.  You make your way to my concerts and website.  You tell your friends about my music.  You sign up for my mailing list because you care about future concerts and creations.

I really appreciate you!  You’re my peeps!

It’s scary to fly in the face of the articles about “success” for independent musicians.  But this is a path, a brave experiment, that feels good inside my bones.

Here’s where I’ll be on the internet:

  1. My own website/blog.  My home, my living room.  I intend to furnish this place (rather than a confusing bunch of other places) with real content:  Writings, tour dates, photos, videos, direct-from-me CD sales.
  2. CDBaby.  My MP3 download store of choice. Simple, easy, trustworthy.  They pay a reasonable 90% of download income directly to me.
  3. Bandcamp.  Also for digital downloads. I receive only 75-79% of the download income which is less than CDBaby’s 90%.   I’m using Bandcamp for the additional formats they provide, perfect for audiophiles who want the sound quality of a physical CD but prefer downloading just the music rather than ordering the physical thing.
  4. Facebook & Twitter.  I’m using Facebook and Twitter to notify people who rely on those social networks when I update my website.  I won’t often reply to comments there.  Instead, I welcome personal emails because of the private connection they allow you and I to make.  I’ll do my very best to write back when time allows!
Goodbye Web Sprawl.  Free at last!

Goodbye Web Sprawl. Free at last!