How did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.
What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.
When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.
You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ? My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..
What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.
Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game? If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.
Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.
In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann