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SONGS APLENTY

Ari Hest launches ambitious Web service

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It's not unusual for a musician's calendar to be filled with commitments a year in advance.

New York singer/songwriter Ari Hest's datebook for 2008 is rather unique, though. Throughout '08, he will deliver one new song per week to subscribers of his Web-based service called 52, which he launched Jan. 7 with the song "One Two."

Hest says he felt it was time to try something different after parting ways with Columbia Records. He asked out of his deal last July, roughly two months after the label released his most recent album, The Break-In.

"[The disc] was getting no push," he says. "It had already happened with another album of mine there [2004's Someone to Tell], and I was not gonna waste any more time."

He'll need to make valuable use of his time in 2008 in order to keep up with his one-song-per-week commitment.

"I had a good 15 or so [tunes] in the works [prior to launching 52]," he says, "but none of them were finished except for 'One Two.' I have a lot of half-written material and plan on writing a whole lot more for this.

"I'm finding the challenge to be more with the recording/production phases, where I am treading in unfamiliar waters. I'm expecting a lot of stress each week, but I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks."

Listeners will play a role in the creative process, Hest says.

"I will be asking them to submit possible song titles to me throughout the year and pick a few to do," he explains. "Those will probably be the most difficult because there will be less time to think things through, but who knows? Maybe that's a good thing."

Hest is leaning toward sparse production, and there will be some full-band-type recordings among his high-quality MP3s.

"I am trying to play all the instruments, but there are going to be some [songs that will require] outside help," he says.

Hest's 52 initiative will not prevent him from concert performances in 2008. He expects to do "a good amount of both college and club tours."

"I plan to be out on the road in March and April a good deal," he says. "I can bring everything I need to record with me.

"That's the beauty of the 'studio' I have. It fits in a bag -- a small bag. I haven't made plans for summer or fall touring but do expect to do some then as well."

At the end of '08, Hest will compile the top songs as voted by listeners for an album that will be released in 2009.

-- By Chris M. Junior

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