As the frontman of Carbon Leaf, Barry Privett has successfully toured and recorded with the same band since 1992, crossing paths with huge names in the music business (Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler, Avett Brothers, and many more).  Over the course of their continuous 27 year career, he has learned many things about music itself, the music business, record labels, touring, and strategies for keeping the peace among band members.  Joe McMurray and Aaron Sefchick enjoy the opportunity to dive deep into the world of one of the music business’s hardest working bands!

In Part 1 of 2, Barry tells the guys about the beginnings of Carbon Leaf, their early influences, and their workman’s approach to the business.  He then tells us about their unique method of songwriting in which band members submit song ideas to him and he writes lyrics and melodies to those ideas. The band has been incredibly professional in their ability to work together, use facilitative language to provide constructive criticism, and come up with seemingly endless song ideas.
Joe and Aaron ask Barry for his back story and learn of his early musical influences and training, including piano, trumpet, guitar, and choir experience.  He tells them about Carbon Leaf’s first gigs playing at college bars near Richmond, Virginia.
Next, the guys talk about touring.  Barry tells them about the vocal strain of performing every night, but how in-ear monitors have helped to reduce that strain.  Carbon Leaf runs their band like a business, cutting out unnecessary costs.  They drive their own tour bus, they each have ancillary duties (social media, recording, etc.), and play a lot of shows.  Barry explains their process for booking tours.
Finally Barry talks about how the changing music market has influenced their recent strategy of foregoing record labels, building their own recording studio, and nurturing their fan base.
Fun facts: Carbon Leaf featured Katy Perry in their 2006 music video, “Learn to Fly.”  They recorded music for 2009 film Curious George 2. In 2002 their music was featured on national commercials for the Pontiac Vibe.  They have played with/crossed paths with major other major acts including Dave Matthews, O.A.R., The Avett Brothers, Sister Hazel, Big Head Todd, Blues Traveler, Jason Mraz, and many others.
Welcome to Fret Buzz The Podcast. My name
is Joe McMurray and I am Aaron Sefchick.
Today we are sitting down for a
conversation with Barry Privett, the lead
vocalist, songwriter and manager of
the band Carbon Leaf. An incredible band
they’ve been touring for 25 years,
they’ve been grinding it out
successfully. I really love their music
and I even went to a concert of
their’s a few weeks ago. I was telling
Aaron, part of why I’m so interested in
talking to you is because you’re
very successful on this long
range. 25 years is success in my
mind. You’re not mtv for the most part I
don’t know if you have been but you’re
not like Katy Perry you’re like actually
out there working which is far more
interesting to me it’s much more
interesting that a Maybelline contract
yeah so sometimes I wonder at least for
the for us looking in it’s very
interesting yes
well it’s funny you mentioned Katy Perry
she was in our first video a second
place but and was wondering about yeah
but yeah you know it’s yeah we early on
yeah I think some bands click and gel
and you know the thing that they have
just kind of gets broadcast and people
that embrace it and things are a lot
easier for us you know we it took us a
very long time for us to kind of figure
out what we were what we were doing as a
group musically and you know during this
period we were just kids you know we
were just kind of kids just feeling it
out and and took a while for the sound
to get there and so you know we couldn’t
couldn’t really buy help you know we had
to we had to learn to do everything
ourselves and and did and and a lot of
our careers been like that there’s
there’s a brief period where you know
through through doing things ourselves
we kinda
got to where we felt like we were in a
good place and and then got some
attention but I didn’t start like that
you know there wasn’t this fireball you
know wasn’t like Dave Matthews Band you
know that’s just like they get this
magic kinetic thing together and then
like you know all these people were just
like beamed in on it and then picked up
by the management and the label that’s
right right we kind of had that the
Workmen’s approach and you know we’re
able to I think and at the end of the
day kind of kind of saved our necks on
more than one occasion when we had to
take those reins back off after having a
bunch of team on board that stuff kind
of comes and goes and a lot of what
kills bands is that they don’t have
those skills you know if they get really
success or they get a lot of handlers
they don’t know how to run their own
business and no one sits when that stuff
goes away and you’ve got this top-heavy
thing that you’re trying to learn how to
manage then you know it can kind of
crush you it’s fascinating did you were
you coming out at the same time as Dave
Matthews just down the road you guys
were like within a hundred miles of each
other yeah you know he’s some more time
yeah they I think they formed maybe an
89 and we we formed in like 92 93 so by
the time we had like just started
playing they were um they were like a
year away from being like blowing up and
and by that time like in 93 I mean they
were doing kind of regular gigs I think
it tracks in flood zone on the Tuesdays
and Wednesdays you know the free shows
or the five-dollar shows or whatever so
they were they were definitely getting
getting abuzz but you know our first our
first outdoor shows a band was on campus
at our alma mater randolph-macon up here
in Ashland Virginia for Earth Day spring
of 93 and it was opening for
Dave Matthews they were headlining the
the college the campus concert there’s
all like 200 people there so they were
still very um under the right offer a
lot of a lot of people but then I think
I think under the table and dreaming
came out like a year later and then and
then so our paths yeah while we kind of
started within the let you know three or
four years you know you know we were
just like a cover band and they were you
know they they cut it we kind of it
that’s rejecters kind of went like this
yeah so yeah took us eight years to kind
of get out of the you know we’re a cover
band we’re just having fun
wait we’re gonna let’s do this seriously
well if we’re gonna do this seriously
let’s let’s not play covers we’re not
enjoying that let’s try writing took us
some time
what’s that 95 album meander the first
original album yeah so we recorded
though the very first recording we did
was a four song demo tape and we did
that at a friend’s Tommy Gwaltney did
that did that at his house studio in
Virginia Beach because he was into
engineering at home so we recorded in
his in his house we had amps everything
spread all through his house and he did
a good job and we got cut four songs our
first four songs and we handed we we
would dupe those for that whole that
whole year when we were starting to play
out we would we had we had all these
tascam tape decks stacked in the in our
living room and we would just we would
just hit record on you know these things
and and and make dupes and then we would
hand we would throw those out it shows
that was kind of like our thing I pull
out a backpack at a certain point and
I’d throw these things out and we did
that for a couple of years before we
made meander which was our first album
and like a CD so it was like a big deal
because you know CDs were like we can
put this on a CD you know yeah and four
of the songs that were on the demo made
it onto the the amanda album so
that was our that was our first official
full-length record there were a couple
of those songs that had a very Red Hot
Chili Peppers and kind of vibe and one
Ketel had a very Pearl Jam feel to it
well yeah and if you wanted to keep
going I mean that album was basically
you know Red Hot Chili Peppers meets
Pearl Jam meets nirvana meets REM it was
like our first 12 songs as a band and
the five of us had very different
influences our bassist at the time
Palmer Stearns original bassist was
super into Chili Peppers yeah even if we
were like riding a pallet he was likes
laughing you know and but when you’re
young and you’re you’re you’re writing
your first you know group of music as
you all I’m sure know that that feeling
of being you know just young you’re in a
room doing this the energy is just like
so kinetic as you’re creating something
it’s like everything’s allowed it’s like
that’s great you know you’re not
scrutinizing a whole lot at that point
which is actually really a nice kind of
pure state to be in yeah and sometimes
you wish you could get back to that you
know because sometimes I feel like I
don’t know but I would say part of me is
we’ve gotten really good at censoring
ourselves for good reasons and then part
of me says you know keep an open mind
look let’s try this so that album it was
all over the map stylistically and it
was you know and I think there’s like I
think there’s like five or six good
songs on there and the rest are not good
zones but it represented a time you know
time in our career where it
it was everything in the kitchen sink
and there wasn’t a whole lot of judgment
on it and for that reason I think it was
kind of a it’s nice to look back and say
this was the start for better or worse
it’s probably something on there that
each band member really liked
of with a lot of my bands I’ve there’s a
song that like I might not have liked
one song but it’s my bass players
favorite song right that seems to happen
cuz everybody’s just got different
things they’d like more yeah and yeah
and you know you’re you don’t have any
you don’t have any real rapport yet as
artists with one another you know you
don’t you don’t quite know how to use
constructive criticism or facilitative
language hey I really love this part
what about this other part here maybe
maybe we can do something differently
you know you don’t really have that have
that language and we had to learn that
language in subsequent records and you
know it definitely got contentious and
it was hard not to offend or be offended
but we all kind of had to take our lumps
and you know I remember several
instances where you know I was I was
called out for you know things that just
weren’t good either thematically or
vocally or or what so you know it’s just
part of growing up and and working with
with people in a very sensitive thing
where you’re collaborating artistically
okay put your heart out there and then
when somebody criticizes it it’s hard to
accept that a lot of times yeah there’s
their songs like on that since you’re
talking about that album I mean you know
I’m thinking through it and I mean
there’s there’s definitely I definitely
remember not really liking certain
certain things about it you know the
bass was a good example where at Palmer
is a great bass player and had great ear
for melody and was dexterous and you
know I I leaned more towards the more
melodic stuff and so whenever he started
slapping I just it wasn’t that it wasn’t
cooler or interesting it’s like I didn’t
know quite what to do with it because I
didn’t grow up on a lot of that kind of
music you know so so I’m trying to write
my way into
you know his his vision for the song and
we you know both coming from different
places so sometimes you can collaborate
and come up with something fresh and
original and it’s amazing sometimes you
can collaborate and come up with
something that’s different but maybe
doesn’t hit the mark yeah you get a
fusion of everybody’s influences and
that could be something really special
that you wouldn’t have ever been able to
come up with on your own right and and
you know part of the part of if it’s one
thing we’ve learned about you know the
first pursuing art is that you can’t be
don’t be so precious with it with it
that you don’t experiment and that you
don’t you know write those songs that
fail hmm because frankly you might be
able to take a little teeny piece of
that to to use down the road and make
something you know better so I guess
you’ve got to kind of not hold back on
just trying stuff so that you let that
if there’s gonna be stinkers you may as
well get them out get them over with
yeah there’s no better way to learn
really right
sometimes it’s I know that sometimes
it’s hard to like you were saying before
sometimes you’re presented with an idea
or something from another member and you
don’t really know what to do with it but
you gotta at least try because on the
other side of it you may come up with
something that’s really interesting yeah
and some stuff will sit I mean you know
that’s a frustrating thing I know for
the guys you know we’re we’re a band I
write the lyrics I come up with the
themes and the concepts and the vocal
melodies and all that’s kind of my thing
and then you know historically the guys
would write a piece of music or or they
would get together in groups of twos or
threes and you know they either have a
little sketch or a hook or a verse or or
even a whole song and they would send it
to me and and and I’ll take it and
I’ll kind of funnel it into my system of
things to listen to and then see what
bubbles at the top so there could be
songs that they’re submitting for me
that you know sit on the shelf for years
and years and years and they never hear
from it again until maybe one day
something strikes me and I pull it out
and you know we have a song so they’ve
they’ve kind of learned that that to
just keep trying stuff keep floating it
out there but not like get real hung up
on the turnaround time you know right
right right
when you write your lyrics do you write
are you inspired from the overall
feeling from the stuff that they submit
to you or is it more of a subject matter
that you’re kind of applying to the song
or its mix of it’s happened both ways it
I would say more definitely early on
more about listening to the music and
then seeing what’s gonna come from it
right okay and that still remains kind
of the easiest way for me to to get my
ideas that’s my springboard you know and
I’m lucky because the guys you know have
different styles and skills and sounds
and textures and genre styles so I get a
bunch of different pieces of music that
I’m allowed to kind of go in some
different different directions right and
that’s the that’s the easiest way you
know if you have a song like lake of
silver bells you know really that for me
that concept entitling just came from
this weird overtone sound within the
recording that I only think was
deliberate and I was like you know I’m
like leaning and I’m like what is this
what is this real shimmery kind of weird
sound and to me it just like it started
evoke in this this place you know this
this battle in this lake in this house
and this all of a sudden the song kind
of just started gushing out but but then
there’s other other other
things that I do either keep a notebook
of ideas and/or if I have an idea I’ll
pick up a guitar and play you know play
my 10 chords and come up with you know
an approximation to give them and make
make prettier but um the war was in
color as another song that actually
started from the idea as opposed to the
music I had written down in my notebook
just the line the war the war was in
color and I didn’t know what it was
gonna be I didn’t know it was gonna be
if it was gonna be a song or a poem or a
story or whatever I had no idea and I
think it sat there for several years and
then when Carter turned in a demo of
this guitar riff he’s the lead guitar
it’s for everybody listen orders the
lead Carter’s our lead guitarist and um
and he turned in this this this guitar
lick that just sounded like the type
that it just my mind automatically went
to that that line I wrote in the
notebook the war was in color and I was
like that you know and he didn’t know
about it he just is submitting music I’m
like that that that hook that guitar
part is the war was in color and so I
wrote that and it’s great when it’s
great when that happens because then all
you need is kind of your melody and then
everything writes itself you know what
you’re supposed to go with it then it’s
just kind of time in the water with the
notebook you know yeah it’s like a
puzzle putting it together a lot of
times for me yeah trying to make the
like if you have a if you have a main
hook idea for a chorus and you’re trying
to build the verses to make the chorus
make sense or sometimes it’s the
opposite but a lot of times I do end up
sitting in a notebook trying to make it
work out the rhymes and sometimes they
don’t work and you’ve gotta somehow get
your point across a different way yeah
that is one of the toughest things to
learn for me
is that all you know when you start
thinking in term in that early on it was
a big it was a big thing like I’m still
kind of I’m still fairly wordy but like
when I was our earlier stuff things were
like super wordy and I wasn’t taking
into consideration the music side you
know the consideration of less is more
or hey people actually want to hear some
of the music and not hear you singing
over it and like what you’re talking
about where you when you realize some of
those things but you’ve kind of setup
you’ve kind of set up this template and
you have to blow that out that’s tough
so I try to I try to really keep that in
mind more now about in terms of just
you know melody first you know melody
first don’t get locked into a rhyming or
a lyric pattern you know really really
see how much that you can make the music
breathe and then and then try to fit
your words around it but I still
struggle with that struggling I’m
struggling with one right now like that
where I’m like you know maybe I’m not
writing enough cuz I’m forgetting some
of those things you know yes it’s it’s a
cool time to bring this up because aaron
has started a songwriting critique that
uh airs live on Friday nights once a
month verifying it sometimes it is
sometimes it’s it’s it’s nice because
you know sometimes we as artists put
ourselves in this bubble and it’s nice
to hear an outside influence from you
know other musicians on there artists
and and how they hear and how they view
your your work it kind of opens your
mind in terms of you know things that
you could work on and other directions
that you might want to go or I’m sure
it’s it’s definitely a cool process a
little nervous sometimes but it’s a it’s
all good in the end
yeah and anybody can submit to this yeah
I wasn’t actually on the recording that
he had a panel of teachers that sat in a
room and listened to submissions and I
actually sent mine in I just emailed it
to Aaron and I got to listen to a
critique of my song it was really cool
things so any of our listeners out there
if you do have a song you’re working on
and you want feedback on it you can send
it in and you know five six music
instructors will actually critique your
song and give you honest feedback it’s a
really cool thing it’s completely free
it’s actually helpful to us if you
submit songs yeah thanks oh that’s a
brave back to you know I mean to be able
to expose yourself to opinion yeah it
takes takes a lot of a lot of guts you
know yeah yeah it does especially if
it’s not a finished product right
yeah and that’s that’s that’s that’s a
that’s a tough line you know that’s
that’s a tough thing to determine as the
creators is when to kind of share it
with people and you know if you get in
the habit of you have to understand kind
of why you’re wanting to share it you
know if if you’re just looking for the
efemer of feeling good of you know about
someone’s feedback sometimes that can
kind of blow up in your face if you’re
if you’re not going through the revision
process of what you’re creating you know
if you’re not letting up too if you’re
not letting it sit cold and kind of
revisiting it and kind of and sharpening
your own acumen you know for critique
mmm that that’s kind of that’s my thing
it’s like I’ve learned when it’s time to
share something and when it’s not and
you know if I can let something sit cold
and come back and go through that that
part’s not good let me fix that you know
and then when I feel like it’s it’s
where it should be you know then then
I’m kind of more apt to share it as
opposed to like
I don’t know what do you think but
that’s not saying that’s that’s wrong
because like you said and you you know
you might very well have a fresh
perspective someone else yeah yeah if
they’re just not even thinking about
yeah and then one thing that I do and we
Joe and I were talking about this
previous to to the show is is that we do
give a short three-minute synopsis of
things that are that we’re aware of that
you know we have mistakes we are all
human beings and like I even I was
saying it before I went through my
submission you know I’m aware of things
that I need to work on and these are the
things that I can hear in the song and
I’m sure you guys will agree as well I’m
just wondering if there are other things
that you guys hear that I am I not here
so yeah I mean it’s it’s not like I said
it’s nice to be able to hear what other
people here because we are as and as
musicians we kind of do get into these
especially webs as we gain a fanbase or
we have followers we have a tendency for
those followers just to praise
everything that we do and likewise with
friends and family they kind of have a
tendency to go oh no that sounds great
that sounds great and it’s kind of a
biased opinion you may not get getting
the the best feedback yeah well and and
starting out that may be the feedback
that they need the most though is just
encouragement to keep going right and
that’s where the facilitative language
comes into play and you’re like you know
I really like this part you know yeah
yeah more like bit more like this part
here yep a facilitative language is such
a good it’s a great phrase yeah yeah
it’s great for any line of work but it
is especially important in songwriting
yeah and Kate you know and when you’re
young and we worked with you know we’ve
worked with young people before both
just on borders
team and crew members and but just in
dealing with with younger musicians
well well young and old people but just
young in their art really doubling down
on the encouragement and picking out the
things that you think are inspiring and
great can be can go so much further than
just be like you know this is you know
you got some problems here you know you
know that’s tough that’s tough to take
yeah I try to do that in my private
lessons with my students I’ll listen to
something and something will perk me
throughout their whole like you know
they’re playing the song they worked on
and I have to take a breath and I’m like
okay this part was great you did your
rhythm was greater your dynamic
something I try to I try to force myself
to say something really nice before I
yeah yeah to try to like you know make
them feel like I’m not just attacking
them yeah and that in that less the
lesson realm is probably very difficult
too because there’s there’s I’m sure
there’s so much there that um is not
necessarily a hundred percent effort
sometimes I mean if I remember back when
I was taking lessons and you know what
show up because I had it scheduled but I
didn’t do didn’t really rehearse
practice I mean then you’ve got the
instructor there that clearly knows oh
yes that you haven’t put in the time and
you know you wanna you wanna you want to
tell them the truth that you’re wasting
both our time and I’m just taking your
money right now and you know two weeks
will pass and we will have been talking
about the same thing yeah that’s tough
but if I imagine imagine your job is
easier like you say about picking the
stuff that’s encouraging if they’re
really like working at it you know and
you feel like they’re doing that yeah
yeah it’s I mean you’re being paid by
their parents often to make them get
better so you do have to you’re like I
feel like I’m under the if the kid
doesn’t improve I feel like I’m at fault
and so it it you do feel like you need
to you have to bring up the negatives
though oh yeah is your there coach yeah
right now I want to go back to you you
said you took lessons retaking voice
lessons what what were year what is your
musical for a hospice origin I don’t
really have a musical origin you know it
was just kind of you know I took I took
piano for three years when I was you
know 10 11 and 12
I took trumpet when I was 11 12 13 I
picked up you know the guitar you know
half dozen times between you know my you
know 15 years old and 30 years old and
you know it only just saying you know a
little bit in the choir and I was a kid
you know at church didn’t really start
doing any kind of singing until college
just fell into the bands so I don’t
really have a whole lot of um I don’t
have a whole lot of musical growth from
a young age I’m a more of a utilitarian
kind of musician you know not even a
musician I guess I’m just kind of
facilitating music sometimes I feel like
you know I’m the lyric writer I’m the
vocalist I can kind of I can kind of get
to A to B but there’s definitely a
difference in my my skill level in terms
of a vocalist with real vocalists out
there you know I mean it’s it’s clearly
it’s cool you can clearly hear the
difference that probably comes from you
know a lifetime of devoting to it but
also just in my in my daily routines I
have a finite amount of time where
things need to happen and so I try to
schedule singing time for myself when
we’re off the road but you know it’s
probably and it’s an hour to an hour and
a half as opposed to what should be like
four four or five hours you know but
there’s some at a certain point you’re
just like this is what I have time for
these are the priorities so I it’s fine
and I regret I regret not keeping up
with piano and I love the piano and I
still have fantasies about like getting
back into it learning but I still relate
everything to you know to the treble and
bass clef you know it’s like ice when I
when I I can still read music and I
still when I when I hear notes or if I’m
working through things I still relate it
to how they lay down on the piano
keyboard so that’s good it’s fascinating
to me that you don’t have your voices so
you have a very clear like it’s a
powerful voice it’s not like an operatic
voice but like you you’re not like it’s
a very pleasing voice I don’t know how
else to say it but it’s it’s a warm it’s
like if Anthony Kiedis from the Chili
Peppers had a cleaner like a like a
stronger clearer voice to me but it’s in
that realm of like male baritone yo it’s
like you’re not getting up into falsetto
you’re like you have a very yeah it’s a
nice yeah I enjoy it thanks but it’s
depressing me that you weren’t didn’t
have any training because it does sound
polished I I I kind of work in my
limitations you know but I took I took
lessons from a guy VC you for I don’t
know a year two and this was back and we
were first starting to tour and we would
weren’t even touring we were just kind
of like
weekend warriors at that point coming
out of college where we would go and
play fraternity houses on Thursday
Friday Saturday nights and then I come
back in for my lesson on Monday and and
back back then when you played these
college gigs you these fraternity things
you would play from 10:00 to 2:00 that
was like the contract it was always the
contract 10:00 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
and we would play that whole thing we
were basically then we were cover band
we would play we would play that whole
time except for a one 20 minute break
and yeah it was just like I you know
could never do that now but when you’re
21 you know you just got it do it we
were playing like really you know just
just just you know just anything under
the Sun but it was very taxing on the
vocals and so I’d show up to Monday with
you know at the piano you know with the
teacher and maybe try to teach me the
proper way of breathing and singing and
we’d be doing all these show tunes and
my voice was my voice was smoked and I
mean I could just tell that he was just
like he’ll he’ll do it he’ll show up you
know bill me but it is not doing me any
good so I had to give that up sometimes
a little when I took voice lessons the
first couple lessons just learning how
to breathe properly made me
significantly better like there was
there’s never been a spike as big as the
from the first few vocal lessons of
having someone teach me how to properly
breathe right so there’s some quick feel
like anybody could benefit from from a
few vocal lessons I know the breathing
thing is the hardest thing and I know
it’s it’s kind of like stretching or
yoga it’s like what if you do it once
you’re like oh oh well clearly I’m just
gonna do this every day cuz this is the
easiest path towards getting stronger
and better and all and then and of
course you’re like well I only have 30
minutes so let me just do like this
really hard you know let me just sing
really hard for 30 minutes because
that’ll like that’ll be that’ll be
I’ll cover I know I know I need to sing
hard let’s just do that we’ll skip the
Spree thing and stretching part but
you’re right if I just had five hours to
do it I’d be a better singer for a lot a
lot of a lot of my job I’ve kind of
learned it’s it’s if I’m singing by
myself in a room I’m not I’m definitely
not like a real ornate singer but if I’m
singing in a room by myself you know it
is definitely more there is there is
more nuance but when I’m playing in the
band my it’s it’s a it’s a different
beast you’re basically we’re trying to
get your vocal to kind of cut through
all of this stuff onstage mm-hmm and
even just the physical proximity of
where I am on stage between two
guitarists and then the drummer and the
in the bass and behind me you know your
voice becomes all of a sudden you know
the resonance just kind of starts going
like this and then before you know it
your voice is like this and you’re just
you’re just trying to shoot your voice
through everything you know and so that
that that you know over time that would
that really trains your voice to kind of
act a certain way as opposed to like a
singer-songwriter who’s sitting there
playing and singing it’s a different
thing out of curiosity do you guys use
an in-ear monitor system or anything
like that on stage yeah we do
and that certainly helps we went ten
years without them right when we started
out and then we were you know 2002 when
we started really touring a lot and
started noticing the ear fatigue we
switched to ears yeah and and that’s
that saved our hearing saved my hearing
and but it’s still it’s still not
it’s still not the same as just singing
in a room now right you’ve got these
impressions that are going down into
your canal so you’re now yes you’re
hearing sound coming through those but
you’re also hearing the bones in your
head and your singing is informed by how
you know the sound is resonating in your
in your head you know if you plug plug
your ears you’re gonna hear different
different your voice reacting in the
different way that you can’t just
simulate with just putting sound through
the ear monitors there’s concessions you
just have to make do you feel like while
you’re on tour do you actually do you
ever get hoarse or deal with like vocal
fatigue that act you think hurts your
performance yeah
so yes the and I just actually purchased
a new set of ears like I’ve gone through
five different companies you know for
ear monitors trying to find like this
this perfect thing but the reality is
there’s there certain there’s certain
parts of my range that will get that
will get fatigued or blown out and you
know can I start to get real Reedy in
certain spots that said when we go on
tour let’s say we go on tour like we’ll
go we’ll leave Monday for a month and
the you know the the first three or four
days are tough like day four is like
really tough because your schedules
different and you’re you’re performing
live for two hours a night and once you
get to that fourth day
you’ve kind of got day four day five
where things are kind of shaky and then
from there though once you get to day
six or day seven you’re kind of over
that hump and then bite a date and
you’re bulletproof and so from there
you can do 30 30 days in a row and and
do everything you want to do for the
most part I’ll lose I’ll lose
I’ll lose some I’ll lose some notes at
the top of my range you know which we’re
doing like a 30 day run there’s certain
songs that I know I’ll have to alter the
melody on a few places
mmm-hmm to not completely destroy me for
subsequent days so that’s just kind of
the reality there but yeah once you get
once you can kind of if you can do four
or five days in a row and push and get
through that then you can do you know
you can do the 30 days in a row and we
do that usually because I’m just taking
days off is um just costly and a couple
of guys that are married want to get
back so instead of spending you know
eight weeks out west we will do it in
four and we’ll trim out a lot of the
in-between places and we’ll drive
through the night to get to you know
where we want to get just keep keep
pushing and frankly when you get to a
point where you’re just going every
night it’s easier to do that than to
take a day off right what do you do on a
day off you guys let go like you know if
you’re like driving on that Westies do
anything together as a group
pretty write songs so last year we did
28 shows in 30 days out west and usually
if it’s a day off you’re driving say
let’s say you’re driving from you know
Austin to Phoenix you know so it’s a
drive day so there’s not a whole lot of
there’s not a whole lot of luxury there
we used to have back when we had more
days off when we were on the road more
when we you know that when we were
younger and we didn’t have obligations
back home and life was a little simpler
yeah we would you know we would have the
sit-down breakfasts and we would you
know tool around a bit but uh it’s not
as it’s not as romantic like that these
everybody just relaxes on the bus and
everyone’s got their own space on a bus
yeah and I mean I’m I managed
van so I’m usually working I mean no get
up exercise in the parking lot and fix
breakfast and you know while we’re
rolling and and then just manage things
on the road the guys you know if we’re
we drive ourselves so you know whoever’s
driving the shift otherwise guys you
know sleep or they you know read or do
whatever they do kind of home in their
own worlds so so since you manage and do
most of the legwork you’re talking about
touring and setting up 30 day gigs how
do you go about that process is is that
something that you do all on your own in
terms of reaching out to venues and then
you know setting up the the path of that
tour or how does that though we have
each of us has several duties within the
band you know Terry does a lot you know
has been doing a lot of social media and
marketing stuff and and then I in terms
of the booking goes I we have a booking
agent that’s that’s the one person that
we that we have okay that actually gets
the contracts I will I will take the
year Oh print out I’ll print out every
month and calendar of the year and I
will post it note where I want to be on
what night what city I want to be in
what night throughout the whole year
we’ll say look this is when we’re gonna
be in this region of the country and we
map it out like that so and and and then
I will you know I’ll give that to our
age and say this is let’s let’s pursue
this and he takes my calendar of the
cities on the nights that we want
January through December and he goes
about pursuing the contracts are getting
the holds for the venue’s because which
is which is that’s tough that’s that’s
that is a lot of work because there’s
thousands of bands
yes meeting competing for the same you
know three venues worth playing in in
San Francisco you know right yep yeah
you know you try to jump in early as
possible but you know you could be fifth
hold or fourth hold behind three other
acts that need to you know either you
know clear the date or you know say
we’re confirming it so it’s this it’s
this it’s this big kind of amorphous
thing if something doesn’t work out in
that city for you then you kind of have
to shift your strategy you know for the
week and maybe you want to move San
Francisco to a different night which
means you’ve got a you know deal with LA
and deal with Portland and you know
everything that she hits along your
route yeah yeah so we do a pretty good
job you know between with that system we
get about 85% of what we want in terms
of the city in the night and then how on
average and obviously that fluctuates
how in terms of your gigging schedule in
your touring schedule how often or how
many dates a year do you generally like
to tour right so at our peak back when
we were touring behind Indian summer
which was released in 2004 and was
getting radio play did that have life
less ordinary on it life less ordinary
it was kind of the single at the time
and it was getting trapped it was doing
well at triple-a radio and then it was
getting traction at the hot AC radio
which which opens up your opportunities
and and also really jams your schedules
so and that was back in the day when you
could tour behind the successful album
for like two years right you know it was
just it was it was it was a lot so so
when I think at our peak we were we did
like 250 days a year out on the road
right now we’re like now we’ve drilled
down to about 80 to 100 days out on the
road okay and most of those are shows
like I said we don’t do a whole lot of
days off
if we’re out we’re playing and unless
we’re driving somewhere so we kind of
slashed a lot of the fat off of the tour
you know and a lot of a lot of the just
said goodbye to a lot of markets and and
do typically now we do a big fall kind
of September through December is when
we’ll do the kind of us and then that
the spring we do kind of a handful of
shows in kind of secondary markets
usually everything kind of west of the
Mississippi okay I mean east of the
Mississippi okay so anything more than
that really like creates a lot of
tension with you know again three of the
guys are married with kids so the right
balance a balance you’ve got a strike
there and you know and also frankly you
know your creative output suffers if
you’re just on the road all the time and
even now you know 80 days is – you know
is feels like too much sometimes I mean
to put on to coordinate a hundred days
you know when you’re self-managed is is
you know not just a hundred days of tour
about a hundred days of cup reparation
for that tour right so it’s just less
time that you have to create and also
that’s that’s something we’re trying to
address is is to get some extra help to
help us cover some of that legwork so
that we can spend more time in this in
the studio that we you know built
creating right how when you play venues
are you typically paid on the door or or
do you have a house payment usually
structured for these types of venues it
typically shoot for a guarantee versus a
percentage over a certain amount of
whatever the house nut is some venues if
you’re you know not a proven thing in
the market or
or they’re not they’re not into doling
out guarantees sometimes you just do the
you’ll do a door deal so it really
depends on where you are in the market
and kind of what you can negotiate but
typically we like to get a guarantee and
then and then if it reverts you know
then it reverts over a certain a certain
percentage of the door so when you go I
mean if you go out and play somewhere
kind of out west do you do the crowds
what are your crowds like in smaller
places do you have people that just come
out that you’ve never that have heard of
you and you actually can fill up a place
in a small town out west yeah it’s funny
we can it seems like now we can kind of
go just about anywhere and they’re like
it’ll be a hundred people at the very at
the very least right which is still not
terrific but then again it’s it’s not
nothing right right and you know on
nights like that where you’re you know
you are in between your major markets it
certainly it covers your bottom line if
nothing else covers your expenses for
the day puts a little bit of money in
your pocket so those those can actually
strategically you know add up and you
know the days of we’re just people
randomly like come out to check you out
you know there’s not tons of that
business some places or more than others
like FINA you know if we play Phoenix
they’ll be there’ll be a good amount of
people that are just there checking you
out but but mostly it’s just its fans
that that know you’re coming come into
town so you know on the low side that’s
you know you get a hundred people in the
door on the on the high side out west
you know Seattle’s a good market for us
so we’ll do this fall we’ll do
one night at a Standing Rock venue which
is I think 650 or 700 people we usually
sell that out and then the next day
we’ll do a seated cabaret venue which is
like 300 seats and we’ll do two shows
back to back on that on the following
day so that’s a good weekend for us in
Seattle and play in front of a lot of
your fans and do two different types of
shows and a kind of big electric rock
show and then the received acoustic
shows and you know make me make good
money and and all that
Portland’s usually like 350 400 people
you know la is like 150 San Fran’s like
300 and then San Diego is gonna be like
a hundred twenty-five hundred fifty is
that is that because you guys like your
music doesn’t connect with that the
people in that region or because you
haven’t toured that area as much to
build up a fan base over time yeah you
know a lot of it has to do with how much
you know Seattle’s Seattle Portland San
Diego Boise Spokane all those all those
some of those places I’m out west we
were did Bob Denver we were getting good
radio play for a couple of years and
that meant that helped jumpstart the
audience yeah
that also has actually added you know
after those kind of couple of years of
activity where you all your shows were
backed by heavy radio promotion you know
where they were sponsoring the events
and you got just tons of mentions I mean
you still can’t you still can’t you
still can’t compete with that kind of
reach you know I mean if someone’s if
you have a radio station as listeners
and their station sponsoring the event
and they’re mentioning it I mean that
goes a long way right
once that kind of goes away you know
the you shuck away a lot of those people
and then you’re kind of left with your
your fans but the fans that you’re left
with are really dedicated and you know I
can I can predict pretty accurately by
now who’s going to show up just by our
email list right which is a great place
to be if if you don’t have the outside
promotion so but but Seattle we got a
lot of we got a lot of support and it’s
a great town you know so we’re lucky to
have that kind of as a cornerstone is
San Diego on the other hand we got good
play there and over the years that
audience has kind of come down a bit I’m
wondering I don’t know is it more is it
more of a transient town did like the
fans that you know come in into those
you know those early shows did they kind
of move away because it’s probably like
maybe half of what it used to be and
then do you see any do you see any
anything come from things like I know
you guys have done things like Curious
George or you have like commercial type
stuff that you’ve done for like Pontiac
or somebody did you see any return from
any of that yeah I think I think it all
kind of adds but it’s not like any of
that stuff is ever a game changer no no
no no no you know and frankly there’s
George I mean that was yeah we on the
surface we got paid well but when you
actually break it down into the amount
of work that you put into it over the
time you know it’s not like it’s just
again it’s not like it’s a it’s a game
changer it’s just one it’s just one more
thing that you can add right no to to
the story
the Pontiac Vibe thing I mean we didn’t
see any kind of spikes we got paid
really well for not doing anything what
we want to Conte
you know and he got paid $20,000 to win
a contest and they put the song on the
commercial but that’s nice yeah you know
I was back that was kind of back in the
dot-com era when when you know the the
the internet was still kind of becoming
a thing yeah and you know in 2000 and
you know 2099 in 2000 2001 2002 it’s
like everybody was having these contests
all these websites were having contests
enter enter enter these cut you know
enter this band contest yeah we entered
Terry our guitarist and at the time he
was working at a recording studio and in
his off time he would sit there on the
computer and he would just enter all
these contests you know and you have to
upload an mp3 which took like you know
an hour and he’d fill out you know fill
out a form and upload a song and there
was there was real they were giving away
real money I mean we that’s how he won
the 20 grand off Pontiac and it’s how we
you know it got entered into the AMA
contests and yeah it was it was a
different era but it was it was there
for the taking
yeah yeah it’s definitely uh the music
scene has definitely changed over the
past you guys talking how about used to
had started in 93 25 years you know
mm-hmm it’s it’s changed many many times
what how how do you see it currently in
terms of the whole streaming and very
social media centric right now it’s it’s
very much a different landscape yeah I
mean kind of the traditional marketing
is change you know we’re you know just
where we were talking about all this
this promotion you know where you could
win contests on the internet and and all
of a sudden you know it meant something
to kind of be endorsed by someone or
you know that American Music Award
contest that we entered and became a
finalist and then we went on these this
big tour promotion and it was sponsored
by coca-cola and all the sudden nothing
attracts a crowd like a crowd you know I
feel like a lot of that’s kind of a lot
of that’s gone away and there’s so much
competing for people’s attention an
entertainment dollar you you know 10 15
years ago you you you you really focused
on trying to throw the net you know in
search of search of new fish you know
you spent a lot of time and money really
looking in in places and you know when
we when we realized you could spend the
rest of your life and money going into
the hole doing that strategy you know
was that going to be the best the best
thing for us and in 2010 when we kind of
run the course at the record label when
they weren’t offering really anything
other than just you know money to make a
record with no real true marketing plan
muscle and reach you know we we decided
let’s build our own studio let’s bring
things let’s rein things in like we used
to do let’s stop you know investing in
all of this overhead and team and let’s
see let’s see where the ceiling is with
just being as autonomous as we can
and then let’s stay solvent let’s not go
into debt and we did and you know we set
a goal of making a new piece of music
every eight months so in 2010 we felt
the studio and we just started releasing
records directly to our fans and in
short we were like let’s just pay
attention to the people that are paying
attention to us all that and see what
well let the audience our audience know
that we’ve accumulated the last fifteen
years that we’re serious artists that
we’re going to be writing and recording
and touring and join us on this journey
and and so that’s that’s how we’ve had
to combat kind of how do you compete in
a in a and then industry winners just
there’s so much noise this there’s
competition coming from every every
corner and and and I guess the answer
let’s not compete with that
there’s limitations I mean you know
we’re playing to a much more
concentrated audience and it’d be nice
to have more marketing dollars but it’s
hard to know kind of where to put that
right now so we’re just trying to
control what we can and and then if an
opportunity opens up we’ll hopefully
we’ll be in a good position to make make
those adjustments that is gonna do it
for today for part one of two with Barry
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