The other side of the show: an interview with Mindi Pelletier, a tour manager and music industry veteran

Gigmor was able to sit down and have a chat with Mindi Pelletier, a music industry veteran, who has worked as a tour manager for acts like the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, Tori Amos, and Stevie Nicks. She spoke to Gigmor about her background in the industry, how she got her footing in tour management, what changes she has seen over the past two decades, and a little bit of advice for up and coming artists today.

Mindi, it’s exciting to talk to a music industry veteran who has seen so much change and talent over the past two decades. Want to begin by telling me a little bit about your background in the music industry, and then more into how you got your start in tour management?

I grew up in a small town in Oregon, and we didn’t have a lot of live music or concert venues. In high school, my sister and I used to drive to either Portland or Seattle where we saw a number of different concerts and shows. I think it was an ACDC concert where something went wrong on stage — a pyro-related malfunction or something — and all of these people swarmed from the back onto the stage and fixed it. The show stopped for about a minute, but they came out and saved the show. That’s probably the first moment where I was exposed to this line of work and had that initial thought of “hey, that’s pretty cool.”

I also grew up in the era of MTV and was really inspired by the making of music videos at the time. I ended up attending the Art Institute after high school to pursue the music video production path, and there I met people who were also entering the music industry or who were already in it. Breaking into the world of music video production wasn’t super easy to do and I ended up taking a job at a friend’s stage hand company. From the very first day, it was tough; but I was hooked. And from there I just started working for his company. The company grew over time— going from 30 of us to over 250 people. I started being pulled into new or different roles that needed to be filled at the company and, although a lot of the time I didn’t know what I was doing, I was happy to be doing it. And I was learning a lot and no one had to know how little I knew going into it. I did that for years in Seattle and worked also in local production and other small jobs that introduced me to a lot of people on the road.

When did your work as a tour manager begin?

Bonnie Raitt came through once, and by that time I had bought a van and some other equipment that allowed me to act as a freelance production assistant and tour manager. I ended up driving Bonnie around for about a week while she was in town and then from there she asked me to go on the road with her as her assistant. From there on it’s been word of mouth, and a whole other new list of little production jobs, that taught me how to do things like production coordination and road management.

Then in 1999, I started as the tour manager for the Dixie Chicks. I acted as the band’s assistant and road manager, and I’ve been working with them for about 17 years now. A year or two after I started with the Dixie Chicks I started working with Tori Amos and then after that, I started to work with Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac on the production side of things.

Which do you prefer: production or tour management?

My heart is more in the tour management side. I think I’m better at doing the overall big picture logistics of putting on a show, and I’ve found that I work really well with female artists and communicating with them.

Where have you seen challenges for yourself and other women on the touring and production side of the music industry?

When I first started out on this career path there weren’t a lot of women and it felt very pigeonholed in terms of what you could and could not do — women were supposed to be wardrobe or catering or a production coordinator  — and that was kind of all that people looked at you (as a woman) to do. I grew out of those positions in the beginning. They are very skilled positions in their own right but I knew I needed to keep going and do other things. Working with the Dixie Chicks really allowed for me to do that. I was lucky because we all kind of grew up together: when I jumped into working with Dixie Chicks it was both my and the band’s first arena tour. We were all encouraging one another and the band always promoted from within, so I was able to grow and learn a lot.

It’s getting better but, sadly, it still comes up where people will not hire me because I am a woman. I no longer take jobs if people are unsure if I can handle it because I’m a woman. I’ve chosen to surround myself with people who embrace me as everything that I am.

What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your job?

If you don’t work on the production side of things you don’t realize how much work goes into every little thing, and I find it super rewarding when I come in with an artist during the afternoon prior to a show and everything is ready to go. You could have faced four or five different crises before the artists even got there — like a flood in a dressing room or something. That’s actually happened to me once, and we had to take out all of the carpets and put in new ones. Or sometimes you will have to load in twenty trucks in one day to a venue, and you have to get it done while racing against the clock.

Are you constantly exhausted? It sounds like you should be.

Well, yes. But it’s part of the job and I’m used to it. Sometimes there will be three shows in a row, like from Portland to Seattle to Vancouver. The show ends 2 AM, you’re back on the bus, maybe have a cocktail and then sleep for three or four hours until you have to get back up the next morning and start going again. It’s a grind. My grind is multifaceted though: sometimes I’m working as a sort of therapist for my acts and team by trying to make sure that everyone is in a good head space before they get on stage.

One of the things I learned early on is the show must go on. And sometimes that means sacrificing a couple days of sleep in order to guarantee that. It’s definitely better than it used to be, but a lot of the time that depends on the artist you work for. Everyone that I have worked with has been great and really works to create a family out of their staff and team so that everyone can take care of each other.  I have seen it not be like that on the other side.

How do you see your passion for music play into your job?

My passion for music is definitely what got me interested in my chosen career path but being in this industry for so long can make you a little bit jaded. I’m used to just walking in the back door — it would feel weird to walk in the front!

But it definitely did happen a couple of years back where I sort of lost some of my passion for music for a while. I had to start going to more shows and local music events when I am home or going to see other artists that I know when I’m on the road. Rarely, however, will I find myself actually watching a show. You have to keep that going, though — that passion for music. You have to force yourself to get out there and keep those juices flowing for the live music without focusing on the logistics behind it all i.e. how the lighting works or why they did this or that.

It’s not easy, though, and I definitely feel as though I got pretty jaded from all of that. I’m starting to do more and more of that, though, and I’m really trying to force myself to venture back into music and the discovery of it.

From your unique, more touring-focused perspective where do you think you’ve seen the most change in the industry over the past two decades?

Well with the rise of downloadable music and streaming services, you can’t sell your music the same anymore. And from my perspective, or from what I’ve seen, touring is no longer an option for artists. You have to do it in order to make money because you can’t really make money selling records like you could before. This change in how people are making money has also changed the music industry into more of a business. There is now more accounting, more multitasking within a job.

Albums aren’t as synced up with touring as they once were. For example, I worked on a tour with the Dixie Chicks that was in no way connected to an album release. A lot of artists have started doing that. But the reality of that too is that most artists who can tour so much have to have some sort of stationed following. Like when I work with Stevie Nicks — she tours because she loves it and she loves to keep her team busy. She is like your awesome cool aunt that employs you and feeds you tequila sometimes. There are tours, by the way, where you feel like it’s no longer a job.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the loss of ma and pa promoters, the small promotion companies that you build relationships with when you’re touring, a lot of those aren’t around anymore because it has become extremely corporate. I feel like that is one of the saddest changes that I have noticed; there were promoters that people used to work with in towns when they came through for years and years and they are just not there anymore. And because the music industry is so heavily focused on relationships and knowing people, you feel the change here. It’s more corporate, and you can feel it.

That is really sad to me, honestly.

It is, it’s sad but it does make space for people who couldn’t get out there before to get out there and have their music heard. That’s the benefit.

Have you had some time to look at the Gigmor site? Do you have any initial thoughts?

On the artist level, I think it has to be very convenient to have all of that information at their fingertips instead of having to cold call venues and contacts to get a gig — I think Gigmor is really going to help with that. It’s got to be so helpful — for both the artist and the venue — to have all of that information in a one-stop-shop.

The hard part has got to be getting everyone to use it, especially those who are more old school. That’s a road block that even I have seen in my job. But I think that you can work around it, and I definitely think that Gigmor has the power to do that.

Do you have any advice for anyone joining the music industry?

That’s tough because everything is so different from when I started but I would say that, for artists, you’ve got to work the social media.  I think you’ve really got to figure that out, and then you have to tour and have people see you. And hopefully, you are opening for a band that exposes you to some kind of larger audience.

On the production side of it, I think you’ve got to start locally, be willing to do anything, and maintain a positive attitude. I can’t stress enough how important it can be to have people that are pleasant to work with.  You also can’t expect to just jump into the industry and get the job that I have right off the bat. You can’t be a snob about the jobs that you are going to have to do in order to earn your seat at the table.

The journey and promoting of the 21st century independent artist: a conversation with Kevin Wright of Ramsay Mulholland Events

Gigmor sat down with Kevin Wright, the man running the show in the Marketing and Artist Development department at Ramsay Mulholland Events in Los Angeles. Kevin offered some insight into how to be successful as an independent artist and how he and the rest of the team at Ramsay Mulholland Events are working to better the promotions process for musicians today.

People generally describe music promotion as a thing of the past, but it seems like you and the team at Ramsey Mulholland have found a way around that. Tell me a little bit more about exactly what Ramsey Mulholland does.

Yes, of course! So we’re sort of set up in two different halves: accessible artist development for independent and local artists or entrepreneurs and the second is college-based touring and education.

Ok, let’s begin with that first part — what does artist development mean at Ramsay Mulholland?

What I saw when I was working at the label was that there wasn’t much we could do for people. The biggest artists are staying home anyways and doing their own thing — so what we noticed at the record label was that no matter how fast we move or how nimble we are, we can’t connect to the culture as efficiently as those who just are already in those cities and are currently experiencing that culture. Nashville, Austin, Atlanta, Chicago — they’ve all blown up, and the people who have grown from those places are choosing to stay there. Working at a record label taught me that and led me to decide that, well, maybe we should just switch the model. We started looking for artists who are just working on themselves in the space that they are from in specific areas across the United States. I wanted to take what I had learned as a label scout and give it to those independent artists and entrepreneurs throughout the United States so that they could reach a viable level of fame on their own. We are also trying to show them what they need and what they don’t.

So what does your interpretation of artists development and showcase entail?

It includes an artist meet-up and showcase. We saw that old model — where you get in front of a scout and anything could happen — and decided to flip it on its head a little bit where we act as the scouts that people get in front of but then we tell them what we think they should be working on to get noticed. We also try to get to know and work with artists before we get there and when we get there — until we leave honestly — just because the time we spend there will be so limited. We want to be able to speak of them and their act as well or as fully as possible because there is only so much we can do and say based on one specific performance. The more interaction and consumption of the artist, the better.

So the initial college tour will include thirty cities. We have invited artists, producers, DJs, managers, booking agents, and anybody that’s around the music scene in those cities to those events and we want to bring them together to connect and network. It’s 30 cities and about 10-12 artists for each.

What’s the college-based portion of your efforts entail?

It’s essentially the same thing as the artist development work we are doing — it’s a showcase and music meet-up. When I saw the guys trying to put the showcases together I remembered my time as a scout. I remembered people coming up to me when they were trying to put events together and using me as a scout at that time. They would go through the immense hassle of having to put an event together. And I remember wishing that when I was in college that there would have been an opportunity like this. I would have loved to have gotten involved — and I had the necessary skill set but no where to put it! So the idea of these showcases was sort of born out of that — they are not just for college artists, they are for the entrepreneurs and the business students as well. And the best part about it, honestly, is that it is for them and by them, with them being the college students who understand the community and music scenes around them.

From September through December of this year we are doing local showcases and then from January to May we are going to do the college showcases.

What is it behind all of this kind of work that drives you to do it?

Some of it comes from fighting for the independent artist but it’s also that the industry is changing super rapidly. It’s all changing so fast; I consider myself a student of the game and how it once was and what it will be due to the internet and the different ways by which we now as a culture consume music.

Everybody knows the artist, but what I learned when I got into the industry I learned that there are people behind the scenes — individuals like a Clive Davis or a David Geffen— that are 100 times bigger than you could ever imagine. For every one superstar that you could imagine they’ve got ten or twenty underneath their belt. Those guys are the real special ones, but the power there has been reduced over time. But that sort of power has been reduced, and now the artist almost has to create it on their own. The A&R men and women of the past were buying and then funding independent labels. I love that — they were removing the economic burden of these independent labels so that artists could have all the space to capture their work. They were funding them to have artistic freedom which is something that we hope to replicate on these college tours.

I wanted to bring that into the 21st-century music scene. All of these college kids think that they should be working towards a record label and how to suit those record labels in some way — and I’m trying to communicate to them and the entrepreneurs or business students around them that that old form is dead. The music industry is a changing game, and I want to relay those changes to these kids so that they and all their talent can react accordingly.

Everyone seems to have a doldrum outlook on the music industry. But you seem to have a hopeful outlook on it all, despite the criticisms of the masses. Why are you hopeful?

I remain super hopeful about the music industry, you’re dead-on. The music industry is healthier than it has ever been; there are more options for everybody and there are more ways to make money than ever before. In the transition, you had to lose some. You had to break a lot of eggs to make this omelette. But I really believe that it’s better and more inclusive than it has ever been. And it’s growing pretty rapidly. Most of us, us being the industry people, have to figure out how it is that our audiences are finding music now. It’s still pretty vague how people are consuming and looking for music, but we are getting better.

What’s even better about the current reality in the music industry is that it is a meritocracy. So if it’s great it’s going to survive and if it’s not it’s going to die quickly because that what the public decided.

What is some of the best advice you could give to struggling artists based on your perspective of the music industry?

I think that the most important thing is take the time and do your homework. I have my own label and that’s where I’m pulling this understanding from. It always starts with the music; everything starts with the music. People always come in and ask me: how are we going to promote this? And what about PR? And to all of that I always tell them to just go and make the music and you’ll be surprised how many opportunities come your way.

So one, make the music. And then two, do your homework. There are so many good songs that go out and no one is working to make sure that you are collecting royalties. It costs $9 to put a single out on TuneCore. It’s not that hard to get your songs out on Spotify, and SoundCloud is great too; but always do your homework because there are so many good opportunities online right now that can help you be more successful.

Any other specific recommendations that you would offer to up-and-coming artists? 

I would tell individuals to learn what TuneCore is, and learn what distribution is or label promotion, too. It’s not that hard to have your songs out there and seen by the public, but do your homework so that you can guarantee that you are getting the most out of every outing or performance you do. If you have a song on YouTube that gets one million or 100,000 views and you don’t do your homework, you’re likely to not make a single dime from it.

There was one duo that I developed outside of a label were two brothers who were really active on Vine. They had 300 million and 600 million in their number of Vine views and they just weren’t putting it on YouTube. I put a bunch of their Vine videos together and used their cellphone to do a sort of intro; we put that up on YouTube and now they have a new record deal at 17 and 18 years old. From that post too they got a deal with YouTube and their multi-channel network — they were doing all of the hard work but they weren’t doing the homework.

It sounds like a lot of your tour is focusing on smaller cities in the United States that still have a vibrant music scene but aren’t necessarily that immediate go-to place that a lot of people would consider. This is intentional, I assume. Why is that?

You have to make your music palatable, and I always think that you should start small and capture the attention of that small city. If you can capture the attention on that smaller stage, you can then take it to another, more major level. Someone like a Bryson Tiller who is from Louisville, Kentucky where everyone in Kentucky knew exactly who he was. Then, when you’re entering the New York or Los Angeles scenes, you’ve got far more people consuming your music but a foundation of fans to fall back on.

Gigmor’s New Live Music Marketplace

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of Gigmor’s new live music marketplace. Our mission has always been to develop innovative technology that addresses inefficiencies in the music business. We started by matching musicians with compatible players in their area. Today we added a crucial element: connecting them to paying gigs. The Gigmor network now has 50,000 artists who have played at over 1,500 venues in the US and Canada.

Our team has been working hard since last summer building our new site: a next generation booking platform focused on helping talent seekers find and book qualified talent for their venue or event. (A talent seeker is anyone looking to hire musicians, e.g., talent buyers, venue managers, promoters, event planners, festivals, colleges and individuals.)

Talent seekers can now publish gig posts and when artists apply to those posts, talent seekers can see their music, ratings/reviews and gigging history before making a hiring decision. Artists can post avails, which will become a valuable directory of independent artists for consumers and industry pros alike. Members can follow each other, allowing them to track the posting and booking activity of other members. We’ll soon be adding robust analytics tools that will help quantify emerging artists’ fan bases by city or region.

We’re super stoked about the new site. But we’re really just getting started—we have a ton of enhancements in the works.

We want more people to experience the joy of live music because Gigmor has made it easy to find and book the right talent!

Be Your Own Sex Symbol: Gigmor’s Interview with Sister Hyde’s glittery frontman, Hyde

A Toronto-based, Canadian born but internationally bred Hyde of the glitter rock group, Sister Hyde, took some time to talk to Gigmor this week to tell us a little bit more his history in the music industry, the past and present trajectory of his artistry, and the stories, tips, and tricks he picked up along the way.

 

Hyde grew up as a diplomat’s son — more specifically, as the son of a Canadian diplomat to Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela/ . In an arena of privilege and social importance, Hyde broke through with his ‘devil may care’ attitude to try and become his own sort of diplomat, one exclusively interested in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. From a childhood that had him bouncing from Canada to Mexico to other bits of the United States, Hyde had the magic potion: the mind and freedom to figure out just what it was that could and would turn him on. He built himself around and then into the thrills to be found in acts like Bowie, the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, and T. Rex. Gigmor sat down with Hyde of Sister Hyde to hear a little more about his history in the music industry, his influences today, and how it has all changed, or hasn’t, over time.

 

Tell me a little bit more about your background. Where did you grow up, and where did you collect these influences?

 

“I grew up in a backwater capital of Canada called Ottawa. My dad was a diplomat so I born in England but we moved to Ottawa right away. And Ottawa is just a place that is filled with civil servants and hockey players. And it was there that I got my roots, had all my first experiences and exposures. When I was 16 actually I played hooky from high school so I could go and see Alice Cooper for the first time. Hitchhiking along the road, I ended up getting picked up by the roadies for the band. With an iceberg of Peruvian cocaine in front of my face and a trunk filled with gimmicks, props  and rock theatrics in the back, this was my first exposure to a lot of things.”

 

Amazing. Found yourself in the middle of history there, eh? Were there any other scenes that you dug into?

 

“I found myself in England in 1976 at the very start of punk. I had a huge perm, like I got mistaken for Peter Frampton once. He was big back then, ya know. I saw that movement at it’s very beginning which, you know, is the best time to see a movement come to life. So when I headed back to Canada I was able to carry that with me and integrated into the band that I was in. We then became Ottawa’s first punk band. Now, presently, here, back in Toronto, Sister Hyde is doing well. But it’s difficult, sometimes it’s a matter of getting one fan at a time. It’s really a people business, there is no denying that.”

 

How is Canada treating you and your glam punk band?

 

“I’m going to stay in Toronto for a little while longer, Sister Hyde is having a lot of fun here — but it’s tough, you know, because a lot of places are closing down. Live music and rock music isn’t as profitable as having a club or dance music. There is one place in Ottawa, for example, that has just closed down.  Toronto doesn’t really have a scene flowing; I think that scenes can only ever really happen where there is low rent and where the artists can find it affordable to live there.”

 

So when your environment is failing you, you have to find something else to work with. Is that why you use something like Gigmor?

 

“Gigmor, yes, that helps because it has never really mattered where you lived now in the digital age. It’s more about being online and creating your opportunities there. But I do find GIgmor really informative too, especially with their newsletter and blog stuff. Because I’m doing all of the band outreach myself, I find all of that super helpful.”  

 

What are you and the band working on now?

 

“Right now I am working on an all analog album. It’s just pure, not a computer or another something digital in site. In my opinion, when you go too digital, you take all of the guts and goods out of a song. It can start to really sound like the best rock n’ roll you’ve ever heard.”

 

There is a darker edge that my new music will have is going to surprise some of the critics I think, and this album being all analog will reflect that, but I don’t mind. In my mind I find that has the world gets darker, so does my music. And these are some dark times. Maybe it could be even passing for something different — but it’s all still glam rock. This time, it just has more of a punk edge.”

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you can from some sort of strict, posh background. Something a little bit more proper, am I wrong?

 

“No, that’s not wrong. I mean like I said my dad was an ambassador to Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. And, funny story here, I actually went down to Mexico for school and got into a couple of scenes down there. I joined some Mexican bands, immediately got into the rock n’ roll, sex n’ drugs sort of scene. It wasn’t until my dad’s co-workers (the police) got ahold of me that I had to leave the country. My dad never wanted to see me again after that. It ended with me in a limo to the Mexican airport with two cops on either side. And all I could think was how fucking rock n’ roll this all was.

 

So then you moved to Los Angeles to continue pursuing your musical and artistic career, right? How did that go? What was it like to be surrounding by a lot of other someones pursuing a similar dream?

 

“I think of  performing as an art, and that’s the difference between a lot of people and me. What I find to be the most lacking in musicians and artists today is a little thing called attitude. And you can’t really buy that thing. Some people try and buy it, but you can’t.”

 

No I think you’re right, it’s not something you can acquire — it’s organic. You either have it or you don’t. And everything that you’re saying, I can see how Bowie became such a huge influence for you. Everything that Bowie did and said put artistry hand-in-hand with his music.

 

Oh yeah, Bowie is a huge influence. I met him and Jagger at the same time. And, you know, I remember, Bowie did this thing where whenever or whomever he was talking to he would never take his eyes off of you. He never broke eye contact. You were the most interesting person in the room. This was when I was living in L.A., and I met Madonna around those parts at that time, too.”

 

Amazing, absolutely amazing that you met Bowie. And Jagger. Madonna, too. You really were in the right place at the right time.

 

Yeah but you know you never really get anywhere without being a little bit of prick. You know, all of these people had a truly inflated sense of ego. And here is how I can think about that. And I think I always knew I had a final destination of being a rock star, I’ve always sort of thought that that was what I always wanted to work towards. But lately, especially, I’m realizing that that isn’t what is going to make me happy.”

 

Are you referring to the false god of fame?

 

Sort of, yes. A lot of people don’t realize that fame isn’t going to be the ticket to happiness. They are always trying to say you know ‘I’m going to be finally happy when I make it. And so I asked the question then, ‘Well, what if you don’t.’

 

Oh really? You were asking that question.

 

Yes, I’ve definitely started too. But when I was living in Los Angeles I used to ask the same question to everyone, ‘what advice do you give to a young person starting out in show business?’ And over time I got quite a few really good responses. One of my favorites was, ‘Do it. But make sure you’re having fun while you’re doing it in case you don’t make it. At least you had fun.

 

That’s great! And you could look at anything with that sort of perspective. If you give up and give in to whatever may or may not happen, but you’re still working towards that final goal AND finding happiness or having fun, then you won’t regret a thing. It won’t matter what happens in the end.

 

Yes, and that’s the reality that we’re finding more and more. Who is to say who is really happy? Was Prince really happy? It’s easy to imagine but that’s not always the truth.

 

You’re right, you’re so right. Only they could know. You have to still find happiness in it.

 

Yeah, yeah exactly.

 

Tell me more about the theatrics you use in your performances. Glitter punk calls for a lot, and I want to know what kind of tools you’re using to turn people on while on-stage.

 

Well you’ve got to do a lot — you’re really trying to keep people’s attention for a pretty long amount of time — but I have never found it too difficult. I try to do anything that I think will scare the someones in the audience. Anything that is counter-intuitive, counter-culture. If  you look down and get on your phone I will call you out, I’ll come trailing after you for that and put my guitar between your legs. Literally.

 

And do you ever find that when people are more conservative, or when people are almost tangibly putting up walls to something, that you’re even more motivated to turn it around and mess with them? I’ve only ever felt that in a sort of personal context, but I think that it reigns true for a lot of people.
Oh yeah, I find that to be really true with me. I do a lot for an eyebrow raise. I’ve performed on-stage in sequined black mini-skirts with fishnets and then a top hat and a navy pirate jacket on top. So the top is kind of male still, even though I have makeup on, but the bottom is kind of female. So anyone walking into to that is going to think ‘what the fuck?!” It’s all about that Bowie button, that kind of thing. I understand what you’re saying. I have to restrain that instinct sometimes, but I find that that is never what I want to be doing. I’d always prefer to be controversial, something sour. I always say, be your own sex symbol. You’ve got to turn yourself on before turning anybody else on, ya know? 

A Gigmor Interview with a D.C. soul band, The Levee Music Group

Gigmor was lucky enough to chat with Michael K. Potts (who goes by Mike) and Ainsley Delissaint (who goes by Saint) of the Levee Music Group to sit down and discuss what it’s like to be an up-and- coming soul artist, how they (successfully, I might add) survive the gig economy that consumes the life of a musician, and how they see their music in the national landscape of today’s divided political schema.

Where and when did you and the rest of the band get started in the music? Where did it begin? 

Saint: Mike and I were both musicians before we met. A year after my former band’s break-up, I (Saint) placed an ad online – the band broke up when it got hard when we started to make waves on the scene, getting national airplay and opening for established acts.  Michael’s response to my ad was, if I’m remembering correctly, the first I received.  At that time, I was either in relationship, or somewhere in the middle of a break-up, contemplating the possibility of moving to California or New York.  Once the two of us met, however, we knew we were on the exact same page when it came to music.  We were looking to be original and at the same time make a statement.  We wanted to be dynamic, better than good: for the both of us, this was our legacy.  We started in December 2012 and added a guitar player in our previous band but we felt his longevity was not best suited to our passion.  Mike and I then went into creative frenzy- keeping our heads low so to speak and building up a repertoire of new music- which took about two years.  We then started to build to actually build a band in 2016.  This was however, a different process.  We knew anyone we would have audition with us would be fans of the music- but we needed the right people.  We painstakingly culled through our knowledge of artists and professionals to reach the right people- in other words people who would be on our level of talent.  You’ll be surprised to find the number of “musicians” out there that need a little work.  So when I say it took- almost 11 months of auditions and meeting people it definitely was a task but we got it together!

Mike: I responded to an ad on Craigslist for vocalist looking to form a band. At the time, I was playing with a contemporary jazz group who had an excellent sound but no room to express my compositions. Along with jazz, I’ve always has a fondness for progressive rock, the blues and funk. I have played every type of music, except opera. I’m a self-taught bassist and in the beginning, I started listening to Motown (the great bassist, James Jamerson), The Beatles, particularly Paul McCartney’s singing and playing, Sly & The Family Stone (Larry Graham) and Jimi Hendrix. I kind of put them all in a stew to develop my finger style playing.

What was the music that inspired you? I can tell, in listening to what you have sent me, that you hit a range of type of artistry in your music. What kind of music has guided that? 

Saint: Excellent question.  The true beauty of it all is that Mike and I have the same exact feeling about music.  We are not genre specific- we love blues, soul, rock, funk, R&B, theater, ballads, classical….. Performance-wise my favorites are Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson.  As a matter of fact, many don’t realize that Elvis gave a lot of credit to Jackie Wilson for helping him create his style performance (both his dancing and singing.) Some of my truest influences are Prince, Hans Zimmer, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan are a few- but I literally believe every genre has great music.  I’m a big Adele and Amy Winehouse fan too.  Oh and Lauryn Hill – oh my god, yes.

What is your gig schedule like? How many gigs do you play and what cities are they centered around? 

Saint: At present we are slowly working on a gig schedule.  We did a gig in November 2016 and had an immediate call back to perform every week but we are prudent.  As a matter of fact, news already spread about our one show and had another club actually offer us standing weekly gig as well. Our goal is to reach as many different people as possible. When it comes to gigs, it’s not really about financial gain.  We agreed to do another show in January- on the night of the inauguration.  It would be fun to see how our music translates with people that night.   We will most likely start to get really busy right before spring.  They are currently centered in DC at the moment but we are destined to tour.

Mike: We are currently booking shows in the district, Maryland and Virginia, but we are looking to tour regionally as the band gains traction. We love playing out as the interaction with our fans is truly priceless.

Your music is great — soulful and moving. The lyrics and music is classically soulful yet interesting. Who is the lyricist in the band, and how do you typically collaborate when making your songs?

Saint: Mike and I are whores of collaboration.  So I love making music, composing, melodies, thought patterns and lyrics.  Typically, I will come in with a song idea to present to him (record it) and he would go mull it over and comeback with some sick bass line that then makes me think differently about the song.  I typically will have lyrics assigned but that edge he puts into makes us become even more creative so that we end up not sounding like anyone else.  Mike will also come to be with songs and I would do the same in return.  As a matter of fact, Mike came up with Loneliness Code- I restructured the song and worked on a separate bass line at the end.  Then Mike ran with it and the new bass line and added a kick butt ending.  Mike is a very, very unique bass player- following the norm be damned.  His bass lines are so melodic and different. As a matter of fact you heard the almost final version of Loneliness Code, the new version has slightly different chorus lyrics edge.  I do write the majority of lyrics. Poetry was my go to as a kid.  My second grade English teacher (Mrs. Singer) would let little me recite a poem in front of the class every week- I’ll never forgot her.  But most importantly, our friend Curt is probably one of the sickest engineer musicians.  He is as good a drummer as he is guitar player.  When it came to riffs and such he would add so much to our music. We try and incorporate him into our compositions as much as we can.

Mike: Ainsley writes the majority of our lyrics. I often times, on songs that I bring to the table, will have a few lines or idea of what I want the lyrics to say. Sometimes each of us will have a complete song but most often we will present musical ideas to each other and we go back and forth, adding or subtracting things musically until we get what we want. The majority of lyrics are by Ainsley, he’s an excellent lyricist. Then we present the finished song to the band.

Where do you see your music taking you? Do you have any planned next steps for the year 2017?

Saint: Festivals, festivals, festivals.  Building an audience in DC as it’s ideal to be in a place that technically has lots of entertainment but not many bands get build a rep and get into the mainstream.  So as difficult as it will be, it will be just a fun.  Eventually, opening for large acts then center stage in 3-5 years.

Mike:  We are looking to release music for downloads, finish our first CD, “Epitome,” and push for airplay and hopefully get some mini tours in our area and the rest of the east coast.

Do you the seemingly dire state of the world having any effect on your music?

Saint: Absolutely.  We are essentially ego-driven tribal creatures with a minimal lifespan compared to the rest of nature.  We lost so many people in 2016 and we forget that it’s not really about the accumulation of things but instead love.  I’m not Left nor am I Right.  I am also not in the middle- I’m a person who empathizes with each person’s unique experience.  Everything we are is learned.  We need to unlearn a lot of idiocracy.  If you’re racist- there’s a reason- you’re not born that way.  A homophobe?  There’s a reason.  We must not believe our own lies.  Afraid of commitment?  Think you’re unintelligent?  There is a reason for everything so I rarely get heated- I get deeper.

Mike: Absolutely. Even before the current US election cycle, the world was becoming a dark and sometimes distressing place, to the point I sometimes have to shake my head and say silly human race. My message through music is that there is still light and hope, but you have to be ready to give serious push back to the people, institutions and forces that may not have everyone’s best interest at heart. I think in r reality, ALL of us are not really that far apart in our hopes, dreams and aspirations. If we can make you think and feel something with our music, what more could we as artist, possibly ask for.