I realized today that I’ve been a gigging musician for half of my life! My first band, Barabbas, was mostly covers of Christian pop and rock artists like Third Day and Jars of Clay, formed with some youth group friends. I’d been playing guitar for just one year. We only played together for one year and did a handful of shows at youth rallies and churches. Being in a band was just a fun thing to do in my friends’ spare time, but it quickly became an obsession for me. I really only know how to dedicate 100% to music. That has at times caused tension between me and both my bandmates and family members, but it’s where my passion is. I’ve played different roles musically in all of my projects, but a common theme has been that I am always making a plan. Whether it’s booking shows and tours, writing new songs, or designing merch, I’m always looking ahead.
This year is no different. It can get discouraging and lonely doing all of this myself, even on the small scale of being a solo artist. On the one hand, it is nice not having to check others’ schedules before committing to a show or practice. On the other, I can’t delegate any responsibility to a bandmate, and there is no one else to pool monies and resources with. The label has helped with distribution costs and my labelmates have been a good sounding board for songs in the pipeline, but as far as directly making decisions, it is up to me. I feel like the genie in Aladdin – I have total creative freedom, but also all of the responsibility is on me to keep the project running.
Man with the plan
All of that said, I have a loose plan for the next year of Sempervivi. The end goal is going back in the studio to track my second EP, currently titled “Always Alive”. The plan in question was getting there financially. I’m staying fairly busy with shows, and the kind of shows I’m doing right now are quite diverse. Being a solo acoustic artist actually opens up new possibilities for venues and artists to play with. I never thought inside of one month that I’d play a songwriters show, a 90s party in a bowling alley, a rap show, and a local TV morning show, but that’s what’s on the agenda coming up. I want to stay busy, but if I’m going to record full band in a studio, I have to raise some monies. I’m having fun and making friends doing these shows, but I’m not exactly making a lot of cash doing them.
I put a lot of thought into trying to make a go at the local covers circuit. There are a ton of bars and restaurants that feature live music here in Kentucky. A few other artists I know stay busy and make part or all of their living playing covers. I used to think the whole prospect was super lame, and it does annoy me when a crowd only wants to hear covers, but I’ve softened my stance quite a bit. I did a lot of legwork and logistics on trying to secure a regular spot doing all-night covers sets, but the more I looked into it, the less I wanted to. Nothing against anyone who does this. Quite to the contrary, it is a lot of work, and I decided that it just isn’t feasible for me to make a go at it in this stage of my life. Caring for my son, running my business, and family time does not leave as much time for music as I’d like. With the little time I can make, I want to focus on my own material if at all possible. If I’m playing out, I’m okay with the occasional short covers or novelty set, but for the most part, I want to play my own songs for an audience that wants to hear originals.
I talked with my wife (the financial wizard of the family), and the plan now is to budget part of the money I make as a freelance graphic designer toward recording costs. Once I am able to record, we may launch a preorder campaign to offset packaging and costs. In the meantime, I’ll be playing out a few times a month and continuing to write and formulate plans for 2017 – a full band Sempervivi EP, and hopefully a handful of full band shows. I’m ultra excited about these new songs and letting everyone hear them in a full band format, and I hope you are too. Let’s get together and make these plans a reality.