Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?
I grew up in a little town called Essexville in Michigan. My dad always picked up an acoustic guitar around campfires in the summertime. “Blackbird” and “Dust in the Wind” were some of his favorites. Something as simple as a familiar tune and an old guitar brought my family together – taught me empathy and gave me a playground to explore ideas. I think seeing the effect music has on people from such a young age really had an impact on me. I went to an arts boarding school for my last two years of high school in which I majored in songwriting. That was a major turning point in my life. Coming from such a small town, pursuing a career in music is fairly unheard of, and at times highly criticized. If it weren’t for the nurturing artistic environment of that school, I honestly can’t say I’d still be doing music today.
As an artist, how do you define success?
That’s always such a tricky question to answer. I usually tell people half-jokingly that my primary definition of success is paying rent. That being said, I do have creative goals and standards that I try to live by. Ultimately, two things need to be happening in order for me to feel successful. First, I need to be making art that excites me. This will inevitably change over time, but at the moment, this means releasing content that feels significant in some way. I’m currently concerned with the business of connecting people to one another – building up empathy and creating an environment for safe and productive conversations to be had. I think that’s really important work in our country today. My second barometer for success is working with people that inspire me. I had an awesome professor in college that always used to say, “success doesn’t happen in a vacuum”. It’s really easy to forget that, especially as a solo artist. I always seem to write better music in collaboration. It’s also more fun (if you do it right). As long as those two things seem to be at play, I’d qualify that as success. Although paying rent is cool, too.
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
I’d say keeping on top of the media aspect of everything. Posting on socials, staying on top of email, keeping up mailing lists and website updates… the list goes on. I don’t particularly enjoy being so attached to what I like to call “screen life,” so that makes all those aspects of the business I mentioned above especially difficult for me. I also struggle a lot with keeping a healthy mindset surrounding social media, which unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) wields some major power over having an artist career in the music business.
What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?
Another tricky one! I hope to achieve a great deal things over the course my career. All of what I said for my definition of success definitely applies here, but I typically think of “goals” as being a bit more short term. That being said, mine at the moment would be paying my rent solely through music income. Realistic gets kind of boring though, because it usually implies some sort of societal pressure in defining what is an isn’t realistic. Personally, I think what’s realistic boils down to perception. If I tell myself that winning a Grammy at some point down the line is a realistic goal, does that make it more likely to happen? Who knows. It definitely can’t hurt, though.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
I loooove movies. Everything about them. Going to the theatre, audience reactions, scouring YouTube for behind-the-scenes, reading up on the actors, and oh yeah, watching them. All art tells some sort of story, and there’s something magical about experiencing them through film. I want to be super artsy and over the top now and tell you that I write a song for every movie I see, but alas, that’s not exactly the case. However I will say that watching movies gives me a chance to escape – to live in someone else’s skin for a few hours. A good film leaves my head in the clouds – outside of reality, where the best creativity happens: chock-full of buzzy inspiration.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)
Photo: Danni Mai