Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2014 Music Festivals to Fall For



Summer may be ending – and with it the warm, sunny weather that allows for outdoor concerts and events – but the party's far from over. Put one or more of these upcoming music festivals on your calendar, and you'll have plenty to look forward to this September:

Brews and Blues (9/6/2014) in Saratoga, California
Attendees of this fun-filled event, hosted at lovely Wildwood Park, will enjoy four full hours (from 3:00 to 7:00 pm) of craft beer tastings along with the musical stylings of an impressive lineup. Headlining act the Shakedancer Blues Revue features Grammy Award nominee and Blues Music Award winner Mark Hummel on the harmonica. Breweries scheduled to attend include local favorites Santa Clara Brewing Company, Firestone, and Faultline Brewing Company. Tickets are on sale now for $30, and you must be 21 or older to attend.

Sessions in the Park (9/6/2014 - 9/7/2014) in Memphis, Tennessee
Providing a fantastic platform for up-and-coming artists of all genres, this annual event represents all that makes Memphis great. The two-day festival will feature everything from Gospel and R&B to Rock & Roll at the heart of historic Beale Street. Independent artists will not only be able to perform in front of a sizable audience, but they will also get to make industry connections as there are sure to be plenty of representatives from well-known labels, companies and organizations in attendance.

8th Annual Bluegrass Adventure & Roots Festival (9/11/2014 - 9/13/2014) in Algoma, Wisconsin
True to its name, this event is sure to be an adventure. It will include three full days of live bluegrass and roots music along with camping, craft and music workshops for adults and children, and special activities like carriage rides and informal jam sessions. There will also be a Friday fish fry, a barbecue on Saturday, raffles, arts and crafts vendors, and free music on Thursday night.

Fall Music Festival (9/19/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Katonah, New York
This three-day music festival will combine American roots, jazz and classical music together to create a truly one-of-a-kind event. Not only will the different genres all be represented, but they will be combined and arranged in a way that you have never heard before. In addition to enjoying unforgettable live music, festival-goers will be able to explore the sound art exhibition in the Garden of Sonic Delights and also tour the historic Rosen House.

2nd Annual Oak Cliff Jazz Fest (9/20/2014) in Dallas, Texas
In response to the great success it enjoyed in its first year, this event is back – and it promises to be even better. Set within a 5-acre campus and hosted by the Labyrinth Walk Coffee House, the festival will feature 10 live musical acts and an array of vendors selling arts, crafts, and items made out of recycled materials. It's a family-friendly affair, so feel free to bring the little ones.

Bigfork Charlk n Rock Festival (9/20/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Bigfork, Montana
What if you combined fantastic live rock music with a love of original chalk art? Well, that's what this charming event does – and it does it well. More than three dozen street painters (or "Madonnari," as they are called in Italy) will come together to beautifully decorate the town of Bigfork, Montana. They will create spectacular pieces of impermanent art while a lineup of 6 musical groups provides a lively backdrop. You won't want to miss it.

Teddy Bear Two Music Festival (9/27/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Lebanon, Tennessee
Just as you might expect given its name, this music festival is all about the kids. The free event is being held to raise funds for the Monroe Carell Jr. Childrens Hospital at Vanderbilt, and all donations will go directly to the cause. The lineup includes Leona Williams, Lonesome Road Bluegrass Band, and the Antique Medicine Show as well as many others. While the concert is free to attend, onsite RV parking is available for $25.00 per night.

AZ Reggae Fest 2014 (9/26/2014 - 9/27/2014) in Phoenix, Arizona
Taking advantage of Arizona's still-warm weather, this 2nd annual event will be held outdoors. Guests may spend the two days shopping for clothes, crafts and art while sampling local cuisine, watching live demonstrations, and (or course) enjoying plenty of live music. This year's lineup is impressive, featuring the likes of Yellowman, Sister Carol and Barrington Levy. There will also be a beer garden and plenty of room for your lawn chairs and picnic baskets.

EarleFest – A Celebration of Americana Music (9/27/2014) in Santa Rosa, California
Billed as Northern California's premier Americana music festival, this event features a stellar lineup amid the beautiful grounds of the Earle Baum Center. Headliners include Todd Snider and The Brothers Comatose, and wonderful Sonoma County vendors will be there to sell delicious food, beer and wine. Without a doubt, this will be an ideal way to celebrate the last unofficial days of summer.

Oakland World Percussion Festival 2014 (9/27/2014) in Oakland, California
This free event has certainly got the beat! Attendees will enjoy four full hours of live drum and dance performances that will make it impossible to stay sitting down. Sounds from around the world – from Japan to Brazil, Guinea to Oakland's own neighborhoods – will set a festive scene while demonstrations and workshops will educate concert-goers on the art of percussion. There will also be vendors selling world cuisine, a community drum circle, and all manner of souvenirs and trinkets (including CD's and DVD's, handmade craft items, skin care products and more) for sale.

Other great events to keep an eye out for this month:

Miles of Memories Country MusicFest (9/4/2014 - 9/6/2014) in Hastings, Nebraska
Huntington Beach Food, Art & Music Festival (9/5/2014 - 9/7/2014) in Huntington Beach, California
3rd Annual Brazilian Beat (9/6/2014) in Boca Raton, Florida
Grinders Switch Music & Arts Festival (9/6/2014) in Centerville, Tennessee
Kayak, BBQ & Blues Festival (9/6/2014) in Pensacola, Florida
Soundwave Music Festival (9/11/2014 - 9/13/2014) in Berlin, Maryland
Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival (9/12/2014 – 9/13/2014) in Saint Joseph, Missouri
Annual ETC – Indie Music and Arts Festival (9/13/2014) in Norfolk, Virginia
Annapolis Craft Beer and Music Festival (9/13/2014) in Annapolis, Maryland
Berkeley Old Time Music Convention (9/16/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Berkeley, California
FreshGrass BlueGrass Festival (9/19/2014 - 9/21/2014) in North Adams, Massachusetts
36th International Folk Festival (9/26/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Long Beach Folk Revival Festival (9/27/2014) in Long Beach, California
New England Acoustic Music Festival (9/27/2014) in Putnam, Connecticut
Harmony Music & Arts Festival (9/27/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Harmony, Florida

For more information and updates from the American music industry, continue to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer's Last Hurrah: The Best Music Festivals Happening This August



We're officially entering the final leg of Summer 2014 – and while it may not feel like it, the weather will soon be changing. The days will grow colder, and weekend festivities will more likely be indoors than under the blazing sun. So if you feel like you have not yet taken full advantage of all that summer has to offer, now's the time!

Here are our picks for the best music festivals happening around the country this August:

Bass Mountain Music Festival 2014 (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Franklinville, New York
Originally started in 2012, this festival skipped a year – and now it's back! With four full days of camping and live music at the Woods at Bear Creek, this event promises to be one unforgettable party. The lineup (which includes over 50 international and national EDM acts on tour) features KJ Sawka, DJ Baily, Protocol, Subset and more. If you like electronic music, you will not want to miss this.

Mile of Music (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Appleton, Wisconsin
Billing itself as "the premier, handcrafted Americana festival of the Midwest," this annual event will showcase the best of American music – from over 200 artists, on over 60 stages throughout Downtown Appleton. From singer-songwriters to multi-piece bands, indie rock to soul and jazz to folk, there is sure to be something for everyone. Some of the shows require a ticket, while many others are free to the public. Check the official website for the full lineup and more info.

27th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival (8/9/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Long Beach, California
A time-honored tradition that Long Beach residents wait all year long for, the Long Beach Jazz Festival is a local institution. Now in its 27th year, the event will return to its beautiful setting on a grassy knoll overlooking a sparkling lagoon. There it will feature a fantastic selection of live jazz music as well as food, art and more. Bring the whole family and make a day of it!

Sweet Auburn Music Fest (8/9/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Atlanta, Georgia
One of the largest multi-cultural festivals in the Southeast, this one always draws an impressive crowd to the historic streets of the Sweet Auburn district of Atlanta. The family-friendly event will once again feature national recording artists as well as up-and-comers, as well as a delightful array of food and drink vendors. If you're looking for a way to soak up some local flavor, this is it.

Soulshine Farm Music Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/16/2014) in Green Mountain, North Carolina
Set within the picturesque grounds of Soulshine Farm, this three-day festival offers so many things to see and do. It will have wonderful live music, spectacular hiking trails, crafts for sale, organized workshops, local brews and healthy food, and even a special area for kids. The atmosphere is laid-back and family-friendly, making it a lovely way to enjoy the final days of summer.

Hudson Valley Jazz Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Warwick, New York
With four full days of live jazz in a picture-perfect setting, this music festival is the ultimate summertime event. This year's lineup features New York City's famous Vanguard Jazz Orchestra from The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, as well as other renowned acts (Adam Nussbaum, Jeff Ciampa, Peter Levin, and many more.) Venues are spaced throughout various Hudson Valley towns, allowing you to enjoy the scenery and culture while attending the shows.

COUNTRYGRASS 2014 (8/15/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Jefferson, Maine
Now in its 7th year, this much-anticipated event will once again be held at the Broken Acres Farm. Against a scenic backdrop, concert-goers will be able to enjoy the musical stylings of Leona Williams and her Son Ron Williams (who are among this year's headliners.) Also on the lineup: Fred and Pat Thomspon, Bob Elston, Slim Andrews, and many more renowned performers. The festival also offers free camping, but no seating – so bring lawn chairs and a tent.

Chicago Hip Hop Day Festival (8/16/2014 – 8/17/2014) in Chicago, Illinois
Love hip hop? Then you'll definitely want to get to this event! The free festival pays tribute to the genre's four elements, and especially the legendary contributions made by the city of Chicago. Located in historic Garfield Park, the grounds are divided into four sections that will feature b-boy and b-girl exhibitions, emcee battles, turntablism, and graffiti artists. From live entertainment to local vendors to educational workshops, this hip hop festival has got it all.

Blissfield Bluegrass on the River (8/23/2014) in Blissfield, Michigan
Just like its name indicates, this festival is held on the scenic banks of the River Raisin – and its pretty location is only one reason to attend! The family-friendly event, now in its 4th year, will feature the likes of the Bridge County Bluegrass Band and Fossil Creek. With 8 different stages featuring the best of bluegrass, you're sure to feel inspired. Luckily, you're also welcome to bring your own banjo or fiddle and join in on one of the festival's lively jam sessions.

17th Annual Rhythm and Roots Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Charlestown, Rhode Island
One of the hottest music and dance festivals in New England, this event serves as the unofficial end of summer in Rhode Island. It's got two and a half days of live music on five stages, and guests of all ages are welcome to attend. It's expected to welcome thousands of music lovers from around the region, many of whom choose to camp and thus transform Ninigret Park into a colorful, impromptu village. Come to enjoy world-class roots performers on several stages, lively dance floors, family-friendly activities like storytelling and crafts, and plenty of vendors selling everything from ice cream to clothing.

Cornstock Folk Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania
Described as an "annual acoustic and roots movement," Cornstock is a festival for die-hard music lovers. It comprises three full days and nights of concerts against a stunning backdrop in Lazy Brook Park. Come to the picturesque gateway to the Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania to enjoy not only beautiful scenery but also incredible music, workshops, and other activities.

North Branch Bluegrass Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Bridgewater, Vermont
Family-friendly fun and good, old-fashioned bluegrass music are the cornerstones of this annual festival. It's become a Labor Day staple for Vermont residents, who continue to love the 3 full days of live performances and 16 music workshops. Free camping is available, so bring your gear and the entire family to celebrate the final days of summer in outdoorsy style.

... Not what you had in mind? Here are other music festivals worth checking out this August:

East Ports Blues Festival (8/1/2014 - 8/3/2014) in Port Sanilac, Michigan
Tampapalooza (8/2/2014 - 8/3/2014) in Tampa, Florida
Jazz on the Lawn (8/3/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Santa Monica, California
Peninsula Music Festival (8/5/2014 - 8/23/2014) in Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Richmond, Minnesota
4th Annual Rocky Mountain Music Festival (8/10/2014) in Littleton, Colorado
Lake George Music Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/21/2014) in Lake George Village, New York
Centenarys WNTI Stage Summer Music Festival (8/15/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Columbia, New Jersey
Rock on the Fox Music and Camping Festival (8/22/2014 - 8/24/2014) in Yorkville, Illinois
Bluegrass 101 Bluegrass Festival (8/23/2014) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky

For even more upcoming festivals and events, be sure to visit Festivals.com – and also keep checking back with us at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you news and updates from the American music industry!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Remembering Paul Horn, the "Father of New Age"



You may not know his name – but if you have ever visited a spa or spiritual retreat, you have probably heard his music. While not widely famous in all social circles, Paul Horn was long ago dubbed the "Father of New Age." And this past June he passed away, leaving an impressive legacy behind him.

Paul Horn began playing the piano at the age of four. By ten he was also playing the clarinet and by twelve, he had added the saxophone to his repertoire as well. Needless to say, then, the fact that he went on to pursue a career in music (studying the clarinet and flute at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, and then obtaining a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music) was no surprise to anyone.

After finishing school, Horn moved to Los Angeles for a job with Chico Hailton's quintet. He played professionally with them from 1956 to 1958. Two years later, he recorded his debut album Something Blue. By then, he was already an established session player on the West Coast; his resume included Duke Ellington Orchestra's Suite Thursday and collaborations with the likes of Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole. He also scored the 1959 animated television series Clutch Cargo. However, his most celebrated and groundbreaking work was still to come.

Driven by his personal spiritual beliefs (Horn was a known practitioner of Transcendental Meditation), the musician and composer began a series of album recordings that he called "Inside." They were haunting, echoing sounds that Horn created by playing innovative melodies (typically relying heavily on metal and/or traditional wooden flutes) inside famous places of religious or spiritual importance. The first in the series was the result of Horn sneaking a tape recorder into the Taj Mahal while on a trip to India in 1968 with the Beatles. That recording was released as Inside, and its popularity within the New Age music world led to the release of several others: one recorded inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, one from the interior of a cathedral, one from the sacred canyons of the Southwest United States (recorded with celebrated Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai) and even one featuring the soothing sounds of orca whales.

In 1998, Horn was granted permission to record within the walls of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet – a massive structure revered immensely by Tibetan Buddhists. He was the first westerner to ever be allowed to perform within this sacred space – and in 2003, he returned to Tibet to film on the holy Mount Kailash, where he also scattered the ashes of his dear friend, Buddhist monk Lama Tenzin.

It is these anecdotes that set Paul Horn apart from other American musicians. While he can be objectively classified as a great jazz musician, his fascination with and resulting incorporation of spiritual practices and rituals were what made his music something truly undefinable. Aside from his legendary Inside series, he also left us an impressive number of mainstream jazz recordings that featured musicians from all across the globe.

Horn's success made him a six-time Grammy nominee, and he also played for a while with the NBC Staff Orchestra. In addition, he did some film acting (credits include The Rat Race and Sweet Smell of Success) and he was the subject of the television documentary The Story of a Jazz Musician. His 1966 album Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts won a Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. However, through it all, his deep love of New Age and World Music remained obvious:

"New Age music does something wonderful to the nervous system," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. "It settles you down into a deep state of relaxation. When people want to 'cool out,' a [New Age] record will do it real quick. It's meditative music."

And with those beautiful words, we at HillTop Records remember Paul Horn, the uniquely innovative and supremely talented Father of New Age Music. To learn more about his life and musical legacy, visit PaulHornMusic.com.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Celebrate America With July's Best Music Festivals



What month says "fun in the sun" better than July? Round out your summer schedule of barbecues, beach days and camping trips with one (or more!) of these great music festivals:

Vero Beach International Music Festival (7/5/2014) in Vero Beach, Florida
This inaugural festival promises to be a one-of-a-kind event, featuring Folk, Americana, Celtic, Rock, World and Jazz music as well as local students from the Mike Block String Camp. Along with a diverse array of live concerts, attendees will enjoy a Family Fiesta with special activities for kids, a dance barn, and many food and merchandise vendors.

New Bedford Folk Festival (7/5/2014 - 7/6/2014) in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Now in its 19th year, this beloved local folk festival just keeps getting bigger and better. Music lovers are sure to flock once again to enjoy the best in American folk and acoustic, live on seven stages. The event has been featured in numerous publications and guidebooks – and with good reason. From a special "meet the performer" area to workshops to a fantastic lineup, there are so many reasons to not this festival.

Bunbury Music Festival (7/11/2014 - 7/13/2014) in Cincinnati, Ohio
Looking for something fun and different to do this July? Head to the scenic banks of Cincinnati's Ohio River for this annual but relatively new event. First held in 2012, the alternative rock music festival was such a success that it is still going strong. This year it will feature six stages and over 80 performances by an impressive lineup of alternative and indie rock bands.

Stratford Stride 30th Annual Bluegrass Festival (7/11/2014 - 7/13/2014) in Stratford, Iowa
The same says it all – because for a music festival to last 30 years it's got to be good, right? With multiple bands, fantastic regional cuisine, a Sunday Community Church Service complete with live Gospel music, a 5k run/walk and even a parade, this is no ordinary music festival. It's a local institution.

Choochokam Arts & Music Festival (7/12/2014 - 7/13/2014) in Langley, Washington
Its name comes from a Native American Hopi word that roughly translates to "a gathering of stars" – and the lineup indicates just that. This year's event is set to welcome more than 115 artists, artisans and craftsmen offering live demos, fine art for sale, and education. Music lovers will enjoy over 50 live performances and everyone is sure to have a great time on beautiful Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound.

Annual AT&T Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival (7/18/2014 - 7/20/2014) in Norfolk, Virginia
Residents wait all year round for this event, which takes full advantage of summer's warm evenings by setting up outdoor stages all around Downtown Norfolk. Jazz enthusiasts will be especially thrilled; however, everyone is welcome to enjoy the smooth sounds and serenity along the lovely Elizabeth River.

Shady Grove Music Festival (7/19/2014) in Arden, Delaware
Known as Delaware's premier festival for local and original music, this event tends to draw quite a sizable crowd. It began in 2002 as the Arden Music Fest but has since grown to showcase both nationally touring rock bands and local acts. However, no matter how big the festival grows, it remains dedicated to promoting original, up-and-coming talent from the tri-state area.

Sourland Music Festival (7/19/2014) in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey
With proceeds going towards the promotion of ecological integrity and preservation of historical resources, this is one event that allows you to party for a great cause. Set within the beautiful Sourland Mountain region, this annual music festival tends to incorporate local tradition and flair. Enjoy delicious food, unique crafts, and a full day of bluesy rock music in a lively, family-friendly atmosphere.

JulyFest Art & Music Festival (7/19/2014 - 7/20/2014) in Mentone, Alabama
Perched atop Lookout Mountain in picturesque Mentone, this event (now in its third year) boasts spectacular scenery – and so much more. It includes free music by notable Alabama bands, a pet parade, a silent auction, and unique arts and crafts by local purveyors. Browse the booths and you'll find pottery, iron work, baskets, jewelry, paintings and more by about 50 truly talented artists. Attendees are also encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets to comfortably enjoy the live performances.

PAL Blues, Arts and BBQ Festival (7/25/2014 - 7/26/2014) in Redwood City, California
Presented by the Redwood City Police Activity League, this event offers live performances by talented musicians from around the Bay Area as well as unique highlights like an inflatable play land for children, and delicious cuisine from local restaurants. Get there early to take advantage of the glorious summer weather, and purchase a raffle ticket to be eligible to win a variety of wonderful prizes.

Not enough live music for you? Check out these upcoming events:

– Jamaica Day Reggae Festival (7/5/2014) in Crownsville, Maryland
New Hampshire Music Festival (7/8/2014 - 8/14/2014) in Plymouth, New Hampshire
Annual Grassroots Blues Festival (7/11/2014 - 7/12/2014) in Duck Hill, Mississippi
Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival (7/15/2014 - 8/12/2014) in Harrison, Maine
Buckle Up Music Festival (7/18/2014 - 7/20/2014) in Cincinnati, Ohio
Jazz & Rib Fest (7/18/2014 - 7/20/2014) in Columbus, Ohio
FARM Music & Arts Festival (7/24/2014 - 7/26/2014) in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Dallas Nelson Mandela World Music Festival (7/28/2014 - 7/27/2014) in Grand Prairie, Texas

Find even more information at Festivals.com – and be sure to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we bring you the latest updates from the American music industry!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Science of Creativity--And How to Use It

It's been a while since we've tackled the issue of writer's block here on our HillTop Records blog. Some songwriters are stunningly prolific--they manage to write beautiful and original pieces of music weekly, or even daily. But others have more difficulty getting their creative juices to flow--and we've all felt "stuck" at one point or another. 

Over the past few years, neuroscientists and psychologists have been studying the creative process to better understand why some people are more creative than others--and how to boost creativity and innovation in everyone. Here are some of there findings:

Creativity lives in the mundane.
How many times have you heard historical anecdotes wherein a seemingly mindless, mundane activity sparked a huge revelation or invention? An example is the story by ancient Greek engineer Vetruvius, who said that Archimedes was relaxing in a public bath when he noticed that the water level rose and fell as people got into and out of the water. He zoned in on the motion--one that we've all undoubtedly casually witnessed without a second thought--and suddenly realized that he could use water to help him calculate the density of gold.

Present-day tasks like driving home from work, taking a shower, applying make-up or lotion, or folding laundry can have the same mind-clearing effect. Researchers are not sure why these routine tasks help trigger creativity in the brain (perhaps, they speculate, such tasks allow two different brain networks that aren't usually turned on at the same time to be active) but the consensus is that they do. So the next time you feel stuck in the throws of writer's block, try cleaning your room!

Creativity sees in color.
It turns out that what interior designers have been telling us for years may, in fact, be true: The color of your surroundings can affect your mood--and even your brain chemistry! As we grow up, colors take on specific associations--red means danger and urgency, while blue means tranquility and calm. Recent studies show that these associations can actually be used to our advantage: In one experiment, people staring at a red computer screen did better at detail-oriented tasks like proofreading, while those staring at a blue screen did better at more creative tasks. The scientific explanation behind the results is that the color red tends to make us anxious, and anxiety causes us to focus. Blue, on the other hand, promotes relaxation--and at the same time, imagination.

Creativity has a sense of humor.
While anxiety may get you to focus, contentment and happiness are what liberate creativity. A 2010 study published in Psychological Science used cute and funny YouTube videos as well as mood-boosting music to see how simply being in a good mood can boost creativity. The results turned that whole "great art only comes from great suffering" theory on its head, proving that happiness is linked to creativity. The reason is that happiness resides in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex; this part of the brain is linked to decision-making, empathy and emotion.

Creativity has no comfort zone.
The term "seeing with fresh eyes" is not a new one, but it does take on a whole new meaning when you travel abroad. According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the act of traveling--or, even better, living--abroad greatly boosts creativity. In the study, those who had at one time in their lives lived abroad performed much better on creative problems and tasks than those who had not. Researchers speculate that the process of adapting to a new culture leads to some sort of psychological transformation that in turn enhances creative thinking.

Creativity needs to sleep.
Sleep helps generate new ideas in the brain in several ways. Above all, the act of sleeping causes the consolidation of memories--and even reorganizes thoughts. After your thoughts have become rearranged, you may suddenly be able to see something from a new angle--or have a new idea altogether.

Supposedly, Thomas Edison knew how to use sleep to his advantage during the creative process. He recognized the genius in those half-awake moments, and created a trick to help himself harness it: When getting ready to take a nap, he would hold a handful of ball bearings above a pie plate. If he fell asleep, his hand would open and the ball bearings would fall, noisily waking up to immediately write down his thoughts.

It's certainly worth a try, but you don't need noisy ball bearings to reap the benefits of sleep. Keep a notebook by your bed, and jot your first thoughts down when you wake up. However, keep in mind that this technique won't work every time--according to recent scientific research, the sleep-on-it solution works best when the person is already on the brink of an idea.

For more ideas on how to spark your own creativity, read our previous blog entry on writer's block--and be sure to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we bring you the latest news and updates from the music industry!