I first heard of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canadian born and based band ‘Soap Box Duo’ earlier this fall. I happened to be looking at all the bands who had graced the summer music festivals when I stumbled across an interesting post with the hashtag #soapboxforhaiti. Immediately I was intrigued and connected with the band (no, I really don’t waste any time – Reporter brain over here…). I began my research and immediately fell in love with the bands music. What struck me even more was their reasons for diving into a humanitarian effort by bringing global awareness of how people can help by working alongside impoverished people through a 20-minute film documentary created from their trip to Haiti in October 2017.
I admittedly have a soft spot for individuals who utilize their creativity, status, and talent with the purpose of helping others, and with this being my first introduction to the Soap Box Duo, I am proud to welcome them into the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Family. Tomorrow, the band will be hosting their FIRST self-produced benefit concert at the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, Alberta where they will air the documentary video followed by a live performance. I encourage anyone in the community to get to this show! Any remaining tickets can be purchased (here)
Aside from their humanitarian efforts, the bands’ music is a delightful blend of Alternative/Folk that hits you right away – it’s the ‘feel-good’ music that everyone should have on their playlists that are perfect for that mid-day pick-me-up we all experience throughout the work week. They also have created brilliant original works with songs like ‘Walls‘ (video below) which bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse along with their support for organizations like ‘Little Warriors‘. The band consists of Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin whose music influences include The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Since the bands’ inception in 2015, they have been nominated for many prestigious awards, launched their first EP, and have had several television appearances. I am not surprised because this isn’t only a band with a highly contagious sound, they are path-pavers whose honest compassion for humanity set them apart from the rest. You can read the bands’ bio at the end of our interview as well as tap into their social media links. I look forward to following this dynamic duos’ journey and in supporting them going forward through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. Welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Soap Box Duo
SMC – Hello Soap Box Duo! We are very excited to have you on our exclusive SMC Spotlight platform! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?
SBD – We saw SMC feature some of our friends from the Edmonton music scene on Facebook.
SMC – Let’s delve into your background and roots in music – can you tell us what inspired your music careers?
Alexander- Honestly I owe my music career to Guitar Hero. I got so good at that game I thought that the next step to make it more challenging would be to learn real guitar. Then when I was 16 years old I started learning songs from artists like John Mayer, Bon Iver and Ray LaMontagne who were my biggest influences at the time. After performing my first original songs for friends and family I was shocked by their positive response. They really felt that I had a gift and I was inspired to grow as a musician so that I could pursue music as a career.
Jenesa- My parents always tell me that I sang before I could properly speak; it’s been a part of who I am since infancy. Then as early as age 7, I wrote my first song. I was put into dance, theatre and music lessons and was a huge pop music fan. I was that sappy kid who loved NSYNC and Destiny’s Child. To be honest, I still listen to Destiny’s Child. My focus on pursuing music as a career came in my teen years when I realized I could make money as a songwriter and performer and could hold a position of influence through my music.
SMC – Tell us more about yourselves for our new readers. We will get to your project later in this interview, but for now, let us know about you!
SBD – We are vintage-pop artists that go by the name Soap Box Duo. We chose that name because we want our music to be a platform for issues we want to address in the world. Our main focus is the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. In the early-mid 1900s if you wanted to rally people for a cause, you would stand on a soapbox and gather a crowd for your purpose. Now-a-days we have social media as a ‘soap box’ so we use that to connect with other passionate people.
We both met while studying music at MacEwan University. What brought us together was our shared passion for music, justice and God. We both had similar dreams of a career in music where we could support a family and live a life of purpose.
SMC – What instruments are you both proficient in?
Alexander studied guitar as his primary instrument while attending music school. He also sings, plays drums, bass, basic piano and recently started learning the cello.
Jenesa studied vocals as her primary instrument while attending music school. She also plays guitar, a little bit of piano and percussion.
SMC – You are both fairly new to the music scene as ‘Soap Box Duo’ – can you tell us what the reception/support in the local community has been like?
SBD – We have been blessed by the support of family, friends and the local community. When we started Soap Box Duo full-time in January 2015 we had no recorded music yet and needed to earn credibility in the music scene. It was so encouraging to be given a chance to prove our worth as writers and entertainers. Venue owners, radio hosts, booking agents and other musicians in the scene gave us the opportunity to share our music and our passion.
SMC – Who are your music mentors in the Edmonton community?
SBD – One key person who we have learnt a lot from is Rhea March who really helped us with our first few steps when we first started playing full-time in the city. But I would say that other musicians in the local scene have been consistent mentors to us. People like Brennan Murray, Jeff & Carol-Lynn Quinn, Joal Kamps, Jen Perry- to name a few- have taken the time to share their ideas, tricks and methodology with us.
SMC – You have some major accomplishments under your belts – your track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Tell us how that came about and the result of each – how exciting!
SBD – Thank you so much! Our tracks were entered into both of these contests and we were proud to have been named finalists. These things have given us more visibility, connections in the music scene in North America and encouragement to continue refining our song writing and performance.
SMC – I also read in your bio that In fall of 2016, you were nominated for the Gospel Music Associations (GMA’s) 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year”. Another huge accomplishment! Tell us about this more about this!
SBD – Thanks again. It was an exciting surprise for us to be nominated. As musicians trying to make a full-time income you enter your material to be considered for awards and contests. It’s often hard to believe in your own music. But we took some chances and submitted our songs. When we heard that we got nominated for “New Artists of the Year”, when they were considering musicians from across Canada, we were blown away. It was really humbling.
SMC – You were also nominated for your song ‘Complexion’ (see below) at the 2016 Edmonton Music Awards for the ‘Adult Alternative Recording of the Year’ category. You have made some amazing accomplishments! What was it like to be nominated for so many prestigious awards in your short career as ‘Soap Box Duo’?
SBD – We are so grateful to have been recognized for all of our hard work. There are so many incredible artists out there writing amazing songs, so to be considered among those people is a dream. We actually have a big collage of images and words on a board that hangs in our bedroom. This is a visual reminder of our goals and dreams and we have been blessed to see so many of the things on this board come to pass- this includes our first royalties payment, songwriting awards and playing live on radio- to name a few.
Soap Box For Haiti
SMC – This interview has been a long time coming and I am very excited to learn more about the upcoming event ‘Soap Box for Haiti’ on November 30th! Tell us more about what this project is about and the event.
SBD – This project is one that is close to our hearts. We are inviting our fans to join us for a night of live music and a chance to be the first to see the documentary we recently filmed in Haiti. The venue is a theatre, which is the perfect place for this event. Our audience will be able to really hear our lyrics, feel our music and be a part of memorable moments without distractions.
SMC – Why Haiti?
Jenesa- I traveled to Haiti three other times, the most recent trip was nearly 8 years ago. I have dreamed of returning there, as I love the country and the people, and wanted to share that love with Alexander.
SBD – We were happy to partner with Nicola Topsom of Floriana Wedding Project to travel to Haiti and see what they do. We brought wedding gowns and bridesmaid dressed that were donated for the store they have set up in Port-Au-Prince. In August, as we were preparing to go, we had the idea of making a documentary while there. Nicola helped to connect us with other organizations that we could interview as well as setting us up with opportunities to film “The Real Haiti” to show people back home what the country is like.
SMC – You actually went to Haiti in October to film your documentary – what was it about?
SBD – The goal of the documentary was to show ordinary people who were doing amazing things there while giving viewers a glimpse of the beauty of Haiti. We hope to inspire our fans to partner with organizations that they might relate to.
SMC – What was the experience of actually being in Haiti like?
Jenesa- Traveling to Haiti is always a culture shock. Since they are the poorest country in the western hemisphere, they live very different from how we do here in Alberta. But aside from the discomfort and the emotion of seeing the abject poverty, I was again reminded of why I love Haiti so much. The people are incredibly inviting, generous and loving. I felt like family again so quickly, even with the new friends we made.
Alexander- Before we left for Haiti I didn’t know what to expect. I was initially shocked by everything I saw. Though I was ill and was being stretched outside of my comfort zone, I was happy. The friends I made there were so loving. Part of me went there with the mentality that I was going to “help” them but in reality they were the ones who were taking care of us.
SMC – What did you feel most profoundly while in Haiti?
SBD – We were humbled by the resilience and joy of the people we met there.
SMC – What has the local response been like for this upcoming event?
SBD – So far, many people have been very supportive of this event! Over one-third of the tickets are sold and we predict that the event will sell-out in the next 4 weeks. Some people who aren’t able to attend have even given donations!
SMC – What can one expect to see at the event?
SBD – This will be our BEST live show yet! The audience will see us perform as a duo, with a full band and will hear both fan-favorites and NEW songs. This is the first show where we will have control of lighting, media and sound. This will be the only chance to see the pre-screening of the documentary on a BIG SCREEN as well! A local realtor has donated Oil Kings tickets that will be silent auctioned during the intermission. Audience members will be able to purchase our merchandise as well as unique items from Haiti, all in support of this documentary project.
SMC – What are the proceeds from this event going to be put towards?
SBD – The cost of travel, accommodations and food in Haiti for the duo, along with the director of the documentary, was quite high. We have taken on further costs with the post-production work required to finish the film. So the proceeds of this event are going to cover the out-of-pocket costs of being able to produce this documentary that will showcase different organizations and hopefully get more people connected to investing in Haiti.
SMC – Some would ask if you are also involved in the charities in your local community – are you?
SBD – We sure are! Little Warriors is one organization that we are very closely connected with right here in Edmonton. Stay tuned for some news on how we are partnering with them in the battle to prevent childhood sexual abuse.
SMC – What is the one thing you would like to see happen as a result of this event?
SBD – It would be amazing if people would be moved to get involved with the organizations we have showcased and perhaps even travel to Haiti themselves. If only one person is moved to get involved, we will count it as a success.
SMC – Your self-titled EP ‘Soap Box Duo’ is dynamic! I have had a listen and love it! What has the radio support for your EP been like? Are there any stations you would like to shout out to?
SBD – Thank you. 105.9 Shine FM, 88.5 FM CJSR, CBC Radio 1, 106.5 Mountain FM, 90.5 CFCR FM and GRadio are a few local stations that gave our first album a chance on air! We are super grateful to these guys for their support.
SMC – Can you tell us what the album means to you both ‘thematically’?
SBD – Thematically you could say it was an introduction to us as Soap Box Duo. This album shares about the start of our relationship as well as some of the first experiences in our marriage. It also talks a little bit about some of Alexander’s struggles before meeting Jenesa and the couple’s passion to help those affected by sexual abuse.
SMC – Which song is your favorite off the EP and why?
SBD – Our favorite song would have to be “Silver Lining” because it’s very emotional for the two of us. During our first ear of marriage we both had full-time jobs, we were teaching music in the evenings and we were trying to get Soap Box Duo started writing songs, rehearsing covers and building our online presence. We barely had time to get to know each other and those moments where we could stop and be with each other was the silver lining in our busy lives.
SMC – Let’s delve into the album ‘Serenaded Through Seaweed’ which appears to be a compilation album – can you tell us more about how you went from the Alternative Folk to Electronic genre with your song ‘Adventure Island’?
SBD – We were honored to be asked by our friend, Nathaniel Sutton, to be guest vocalists on a song he wrote with his band ‘Brother Octopus’! Nathaniel was so fun to work with. We laughed a lot when recording the ‘gang vocal’ bit from the tune.
SMC – What music do you have planned coming up? Can we expect another EP or album release in the near future?
SBD – After interviewing producers from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and even Nashville, this December we will be recording with Justin ‘Dunna’ McDonough of Resonate Music Studio here in E-Town. It will be a 6-song album. We have been working on developing our “vintage-pop” sound and excited to showcase our strengths as writers, vocalists and instrumentalists. ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse has been an inspiration to us as we’ve been preparing for our next recording project.
SMC – I know that your Haiti project would have been very time-consuming but I was curious to know if you were inspired to song-write while you were there?
SBD – When we were in Haiti we didn’t have the time or energy to song-write, unfortunately. Now that we are home and working super hard at getting the concert event ready, we haven’t quite had the chance to process our experiences in Haiti. We did however write a song leading into our trip called ‘Greenback’ which is about poverty and can be found on our YouTube channel.
SMC – Aside from your November event, are there any other shows you plan on performing at during the holiday season?
SBD – There are a number of events we will be performing at during the Christmas season. One, for example, is a corporate function at the Hotel MacDonald. These are great events that give us a chance to share our music while making money to pay the bills! Ha ha.
Much of our month will be spent on recording and preparation for an upcoming opportunity that we hope to announce soon on our social platforms.
SMC – You two are a team and are always together – how do you separate career from home life?
SBD – Ha ha. This is something we haven’t quite figured out yet. We honesty don’t have much separation between our career and our personal life since we work from home and are both working all hours of the day. We really do love what we do and are happy to spend every moment together focusing on living a life of purpose.
SMC- How did you two meet and just know you were meant to have a career together?
Alexander- When we were still in school, Jenesa asked if I wanted to do a book study on ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren with her. The book was so good for us because it asked questions that really reached into the core of who each of us were, what we had lived through and who we wanted to become. This was actually how I ended up sharing, for the first time in my life, about having been sexually abused as a child. There was a closeness we shared so early in our friendship that led to us collaborating, dating, dreaming about a future and eventually marrying- all with Soap Box Duo in mind.
SMC – I would like for you both to answer this one: What is the one thing you admire about the other the most in terms of personal and career?
Alexander- I can’t pick one. I admire Jenesa’s work ethic and creative ideas musically and business-wise. She has an incredible gift for lyrics and melodies. She is strong everywhere I am weak which makes us a fantastic team.
Jenesa- Wow, this is a hard one! On a personal level I would say that I most admire his honesty. Trust is such a crucial part of any healthy relationship and I am so grateful that I have someone I can really trust. As for our career I would say that his true love and magnetism to music and creativity is what I admire most. He could honestly sit and create on his guitar for hours and he’d even forget to eat! I guess that’s where I come in 😉
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment a fan has ever given you?
SBD – The greatest thing we have heard from our fans is when they have come up and explained how one of our songs really touched them. To know that something we created has positively impacted someone else’s life is extraordinary.
SMC – Which social media platform are you on the most and why?
Jenesa- We use Facebook the most because we have the largest engaged fan-base there. Plus, I’m not super “techy” and Facebook is user-friendly. Haha.
SMC – Alright – final question: What is at the top of your list places to perform in and why?
SBD – We are excited to perform in any space with engaged listeners but I think we would LOVE to do large theaters and arena shows.
SMC – Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Soap Box Duo Bio
Coming onto the scene early fall of 2015, this prolific pair saturated the Edmonton and area music scene playing more than 200 live performances to date! Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin are a Canadian pop duo with a folk undertone, hinting of both rock and jazz. This powerhouse vocalist and innovative guitarist met at jazz school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their unique sound is influenced by the music of The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin and Gungor, to name a few. Their passion is to use music as their ‘soap box’ to encourage and inspire others toward justice. The couple writes and performs about topics that stir their hearts, from personal experiences to being an empathetic voice for the burdened. These two create catchy melodies and unique instrumentation as a foundation for their lyrics; lyrics that they hope will be both heard and felt by their listeners.
Since January 2016, the couple has released a music video, recorded & released their first EP, appeared on Shaw Television and were featured on multiple radio stations including CBC Radio 1. In fall the couple was nominated for the GMA’s 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year” for 2016. Their track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The two took to the road in March 2017 on their first Western Canadian Tour and, most recently, the duo’s song “Complexion” has been nominated for the Edmonton Music Award for the “Adult Alternative Recording of the Year” for 2016. Just last month the dynamic couple attended an intimate songwriters retreat with Judy Stakee, formerly of Warner Chappell in LA, where they ventured to further hone their craft as musical storytellers.
On June 30th, 2017, in the midst of our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Artist of the Year competition (aka: chaos), I noticed a very confused, yet, humorous comment on one of our Artists’ voting poll posts. It went something to the effect of: ‘Did my vote register? I didn’t get a notification that it registered. Maybe it’s Trump…’ Of course, I had to respond. For two reasons: 1. Anyone who would take the time to ensure that their vote was, indeed, registered, enough to comment about it tells me that this is someone who pays great attention to detail, and 2. Anyone willing to make light of an (almost) pandemic situation (it was the last day to vote) by poking fun at their own government (even though the contest was global) had to be a friend of mine (that warped sense of humor – perfect!). Now, almost five months later, some in-depth conversations (and intense research on my part) later, I am happy to say that New York-born and based Singer/Songwriter, Author, Poet, Filmmaker, and Artist, Robert Segarra and I have struck a kinship that is pretty hard to beat. Not only is he incredibly talented (he’s an award-winning poet!), he devotes his time to others through charity work for many organizations in New York, particularly in the Brooklyn area where he was raised and where he calls home. This alone weighs very highly in my books.
As I always do with people I am fascinated by, I began reading about Segarras’ background to discover he had very recently written a book called ‘Temporary Angels’, a true account of his own visions of the afterlife that he’d been experiencing since he was very young. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ‘visions’ he was seeing of even disastrous events in dreams were prophetic in nature and he has documented this throughout the ‘Temporary Angels’ novel (read ‘Exterminance Cometh’ – a novel he wrote as a non-fiction account of countless dreams he had been having long before 911, about 911. This is discussed below in our interview more in-depth). These were things that resonated with me greatly being that I have also had experiences much like this of my own.
I then delved into his poetry and understood immediately why his work has been recognized and awarded. A good poem demonstrates excellent command of diction and syntax, not to mention, deliver a strong emotional impact without giving away too much or too little and all of this is what is prevalent in the book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. Although he has written a newer poetry piece ‘Heaven’, both past and current works demonstrate Segarras’ ability to maintain a fresh approach to each piece he writes. Some people think writing poems are easy but in reality, the best poems are the most thought provoking and complex, leaving you to wonder. Admittedly, Segarra is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe which made sense to me after reading his works which are equally as great.
But there is something much deeper than that to this exceptional individual…
So, I dug deeper, discovering that Segarra has, in fact, written several scripts that have garnered massive media interest including the New York Times. Several were produced, and some have been aired on television. I recently was privy to reviewing an unpublished script he wrote called ‘The Littlest Hitmen’ and after reading every single page, I became more and more intrigued. I could visually see the actors, the mood, and the imagery flash before me while I was reading. I am a visionary as well, so it was interesting to be able to connect with another profound visionary in this way. I am looking forward to reading more of what he has written in the coming months and if people ask me ‘what I am reading’, more than likely, it will be something by Robert Segarra.
Throughout the summer and into the fall of this year, I also began observing Segarras’ music and video content on his socials and was pleased to discover that he had released an EP and full-length album this past spring: ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, and ‘Transition Man’. The former is a delightful and magical blend of songs that brings me to the topic of his children’s book ‘A Christmas Mouse’. It takes a certain kind of character to write for children. It impresses me when I see a fellow Writer creating a work of art explicitly to bring delight and wonder to a child – to me, that is indicative of a very selfless individual. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, to me, is the music version of this work of art. Audibly, I can also see the all the songs on this EP translated onto a children’s film and that is something I would definitely like to explore more of in the near future. ‘Transition Man’ is a full-length album with more of a classic rock sound that is easy on the ears, and soothing to the soul. With the gentle, charismatic charm in Segarras’ vocals, combined with a true classic rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles or Jimmi Hendrix and intriguing lyrics, I feel this is an album that will appeal to all ages. Songs from the ‘Transition Man’ album have been already spun on Limehead Radio in the UK, and KB Radio in Ontario to name a few. I will not be surprised of some of Segarras’ songs like ‘Parkside Girl‘ or ‘Beautiful Girl‘ aren’t picked up also. These are previously recorded songs which, I feel, would be well-received by his fanbase. Luckily for our readers today, I have included these in the ‘MUSIC CAREER‘ section below. Enjoy!
After thoroughly examining all of Robert Segarras’ social media platforms and seeing his devout dedication to Artists within the entertainment and writing communities it was becoming very apparent that this was someone I wanted to work with on a more involved level. He is selfless and has often supported others when even his own brilliant works have had to be put on hold which also resonates with me. I spoke in-depth to him about what that might entail, and I am happy to say that we will be launching an official page on the SMC website as well as the SMC Spotlight for Robert to showcase his talent as well as collaborate with SMC on future projects. Some of these projects will be of the entertaining sort and will be formally announced well into the early part of 2018 as our creative juices flow. His official page on the SMC website will launch on November 30th, 2017, complete with new branding and content (did someone say, a Christmas video?). I think this is the perfect way to end 2017 for SMC, and I look forward to many exciting, upcoming projects with Robert as an official part of the SMC team. Watch for his bio and content in the coming weeks as well as a very special announcement in the new year! His OFFICIAL BIO is now on the CONTRIBUTORS section of the SMC SPOTLIGHT (click in the top menu to check it out!)
Editor’s Note: Robert, you are a shining example of what it means to be truly selfless in this (more often than not) chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in. If we had more people like you bringing the kind of perseverance, patience, and artful beauty you possess to this planet, this world would be a heavenly place. I look forward to working with you on making just that happen. I appreciate all that you have done not only for SMC through your unwavering support, but also for that of others. I have seen you on social media constantly support the same people you believe in day in and day out and I admire this greatly. Where many fall off or fall short, you have been the lighthouse on the shore for many of your peers. Your art, in all it’s multi-faceted forms are a true reflection of the beauty you have within. I see a solid foundation and great potential in you and I look forward to seeing where this partnership goes. Now, let’s help make that star of yours shine bright, shall we?
Welcome to the SMC team. More importantly, welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview with Robert Segarra
SMC – Hello Robert! I am very excited for this interview – there are so many different facets of your career as a writer and artist that I would like to cover, so I will break this down into a few categories to make it easier. Let’s begin with how you found out about SMC?
Robert – I’m very excited for this interview, too. I feel quite honored to be a part of it. I’m relatively new to the online community of musicians. I was an active musician for years, but only within the last four or five years did I rekindle playing and recording again. At one point I had given up playing altogether for almost ten years. It seems I’m always on the verge of quitting. Then just as quickly as I had quit this last time, I picked up the guitar and started playing again. I re-recorded some songs and got them up online. Then I began exploring ways to promote the songs online, and this is where I began to find Internet radio stations that offered this kind of support – some for free, others charged a fee. I went with the ones that didn’t charge a fee. Through Hannah Clive, one of the artist musician friends I had made in a chatroom, I found Starlight Music Chronicles when she was in the running for Starlight Music Chronicles’ Artist of the Year in June 2017.
SMC – We have now welcomed you as Contributor to the SMC team. We look forward to seeing where this venture will go. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – First and foremost, I am really thrilled and honored to be a part of such an awesome and all-creative organization. I think what appeals to me most is the fact that creativity is nurtured here, and I am beyond pleased to be a part of such an exciting group of individuals, at such an exciting time in its history. I look forward to contributing in any and every way that I am able.
SMC – Part of your new profile which will launch on our site November 30th, 2017 means that we get to showcase you and your art/projects alongside some of the other Contributors to our site. What kinds of things would you like to see happen for SMC?
Robert – I would definitely like to see SMC recognized as the multimedia powerhouse that it is. I’m not sure if people realize just how much reach and influence SMC has. I thought the recent interview that you did with Dacre Stoker (on Limehead Radio – see here and the SMC Spotlight – see here) was amazing and fascinating. I was glued to my PC as you interviewed this blood relative of Bram Stoker, no pun intended, and got to hear stories of what inspired him to write his legendary ‘Dracula’ novel. The public’s fascination with the story has only grown through the generations. I think people need only look back at past interviews and see the important work that SMC has been doing to support artists and bands.
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any current projects that you are working on that you can share with our readers?
Robert – I am always working on something. I am currently working on some scripts, as well as music. I am in the middle of re-recording music that I wasn’t happy with, such as my Christmas song. I am also writing new music – which is actually some of my old music, written in new ways. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on projects within the SMC family.
SMC – What role do you see yourself playing as part of the SMC team? Meaning: what would you like to do creatively with SMC?
Robert – Creatively I can see myself assisting in any way possible within the SMC organization, whether that involves writing, music, artwork, promotion, or support of any type that’s needed. I see an evolution with SMC, and we’ve spoken about this. I see SMC getting involved in all sorts of ventures – including film production, whether for TV or the theater. I can see book and script development. I can see music development, and collaborations with other artists. I think the skies the limit, and I would assist in any way that I can.
SMC – We are featuring you on the SMC Spotlight where we place all our high caliber artists. This will be your first feature on the site which will become what we call a ‘SMC Spotlight Numbered Series’. We tend to like doing follow-up interviews as an artist expands their career. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on becoming a part of our ‘biography-style’ journalism?
Robert – I’m flattered and humbled beyond belief. Starlight Music Chronicles has a reputation for focusing on some really amazing talent, and words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. I’ve seen and read about some of the artists that you’ve featured and it’s quite a list of talented folks. I’m honored to be included among such individuals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.
SMC – We recently did some interviews with Limehead Radio and as a result, talks are in the works for my own show on their station. If we asked you to do an interview with me for the show in, say, December, would you be up for that?
Robert – I wouldn’t be against it, but I think an interview on me should cover new territory, and not just rehash something that has already been discussed. I’ve only done a handful of interviews, mainly because I don’t think I’m all that interesting. People may find my projects interesting, but I think I’m only interesting for being part of those interesting projects.
SMC – We have also talked about having our own podcast with SMC – and you being a part of that. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – I think podcasts are fascinating and essential tools for getting information out to the public. As long as there is something interesting and fresh that needs to get out to an audience, then I think podcasts are just another facet of accomplishing that goal. So, with regard to getting SMC material out to its audience, I would be more than happy to do what I can to facilitate that. I have done everything from background music to actually writing interview questions for podcasts in the past, and I would be more than happy to contribute and continue doing that with SMC.
SMC – What involvement do you like to have in creative projects? Some people like to be front and center and others prefer to be behind-the-scenes. What is your preference and why?
Robert – In general, if I am involved in a creative project that I am pursuing, I tend to take on a more direct role. But when I am asked to become involved in something that didn’t originate with me, but with someone else, I tend to work more behind-the-scenes, only because I have always seen myself as a team player, and I don’t want to railroad someone else’s vision. But when required, I am more than willing to do whatever is asked of me in order to get the job done.
SMC – Before we dive in, can you tell us which career path you tend to gravitate toward more than others?
Robert – I started out as a playing musician. I played places when I wasn’t legally able to play them. I played with older musicians, in general, and sometimes we would play some tough places, like bars and strip clubs. I wasn’t legally allowed to be in these places as a customer, since I was a minor, but because I was part of the entertainment, nobody ever asked my age. They basically looked the other way. We played at lots of legitimate places as well, but the seedier places stick out more in my memory because I would be more anxious than usual during the performance. Over the years I sort of drifted away from wanting to play in front of a live audience, and prefer to focus more on songwriting now more than anything else.
SMC- Being a lover of classic rock sounds, upon first listening to your music – it was like finding that gem of an album on record store day. How refreshing it was to hear ‘Mermaid Serenade’! Can you tell us what your process was in creating the ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ EP?
Robert – I’m really glad you like that song. That song was important to me. It proved to me that I could write a song that wasn’t your typical love song. Not that there’s anything wrong with love songs. Most of the songs on ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ are old songs. Most of the songs on ‘Transition Man’ are also old songs. In putting together ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ I basically put together songs that I thought would go well together. ‘Mermaid Serenade’ was heavily influenced by The Beatles. They were always a major influence on me and my music, and it was the fun songs on the White Album, such as, ‘Obladi-Oblada’, ‘Bungalow Bill’, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’, that were in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘Mermaid Serenade’. The Beatles were such amazing musicians. They could write songs on just about any subject imaginable. I wanted to do that, too.
SMC – Indeed you have also been getting some fab radio play from this album as well as your other album ‘Transition Man’ – both released this year. Can you tell us who you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to for spinning your music?
Robert – Where should I start? First, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. Your support has been very important to me. And I’d also like to thank the people who are listening to my music and buying my tracks. I’ve been lucky. A lot of places have played my music, starting with Take 2 Radio, Howard’s Power Pop Stew, Frontier Radio, Wig-Wam Radio, Rocker’s Dive Radio and a bunch more, but there are a few that have really shown me an amazing amount of support, with the first being Stephen and Anne Lambert of EGH Radio. They were the first to show me a real sense of belonging. Stephen is a visionary and a jack-of-all-trades, and Anne was the first person to recognize my roots in British Invasion music and Glam Rock. They’re great supporters of Indie and Unsigned artists, and they host shows every week where artists and basically anyone interested can take part in chats, while they play an amazing mix of music. Victoria Dee at Open The Door Radio has also been extremely supportive of me and my music, and I want to thank her for debuting many of my songs. Most recently it’s been Al Yardy of KB Radio that has been giving my music tremendous airplay, and I’d like to thank him for that. I’d also like to help spread the word that KB Radio suffered some major damage and is trying to rebuild. They have a GoFundMe page where they are accepting donations (see here). I truly hope that KB Radio can continue to do the fantastic job they’re doing in giving independent artists as well as established artists a forum. It’s a really amazing feeling as an Indie artist to hear your music in rotation with bands like Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Celine Dion and Kool &The Gang.
SMC – What has the media response been like for these albums?
Robert – The response to my music has been really positive. In fact, back when I was first playing music the old fashioned way, the response to my material was decent, but it was slow going in getting exposure. I had to push relentlessly in order to get the message out. With the Internet, the response is so much quicker, and generally a lot more positive. An artist can have an easier time finding a receptive audience with the Internet, as opposed to how it used to be without the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for independent artists today. Demographics and analysis is quicker and easier using the Internet, as well. I’ve found that audiences are much more receptive to my “sound” in Canada and Europe and in other parts of the world, than they are in the United States, and I believe that’s only because Indie artists doing anything other than what I call Disney-pop, Hip-Hop or Rap, are not getting the airplay or exposure that these other genres are currently getting, and have been getting for some time now in America. The Internet came along at just the right time for artists doing rock, alternative and other genres. If it weren’t for the Internet, the careers of Indie artists today would be much more difficult to get off the ground.
SMC – In the entertainment industry, we always hear about the kinds of struggles that artists go through to get themselves established. What would you like to see happen as far as change for artists in the industry (music, film, etc)?
Robert – I think there is a revolution coming within the industry, where the old ways of doing things will be changing forever. And I believe it has been a long time coming. I think artists, and creative individuals should not have to sell their souls in order to follow their dreams. I think it’s been this way for far too long, and for generations now, especially today, we are seeing the abuses that have come from such ingrained, highly imperfect and sometimes predatory institutions. But these things are already changing. Almost anyone can produce a film these days. Decent cameras are available at somewhat reasonable prices. Writers can take the initiative and get their music up at iTunes and other music sellers. And writers can get their works out in a number of ways that weren’t always available to them.
SMC – Can you tell us why there was a full-length album and EP back-to-back release for your music?
Robert – That’s a long story, but in a nutshell, one of the reasons, and there were many, was I was tired of writing, recording, and producing music under the name, Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders. People were always getting confused and asking me who Billy J Bryan was. People couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was doing this under an assumed name. It was as if this had never been done before. And this all came about while I was working on more material, so rather than wait, because I’m always working on new things, I decided to re-release the older material under my real name, and also release what I had been working on without a break in between. I think it worked out okay because the material on both collections is so very different. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ is essentially an acoustic album.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you naturally gravitate toward in terms of other Artists?
Robert – When it comes to other music that I listen to, the list is endless. I have loved and enjoyed the music of everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, 38 Special, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Queen, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Nirvana, and even bands like The B-52s and McFly and Blink-182. Through my experiences with Internet radio I’ve discovered a whole new set of artists whose music is just as exciting and valid as these established bands, such as Chris Watkins of Drunk Poets, Red Light Revival, Anchor Detail, Free to Grow, Twenty6Hundred, Hannah Clive, and more bands and artists than I can list here. I feel that there is a whole crop of undiscovered and exciting talent simmering in the Indie Internet radio-sphere that’s going to explode someday in the very near future, and it’s going to re-ignite interest in this kind of music all over again.
SMC – Can you tell us what your favorite song is off each album and why?
Robert – From ‘Transition Man’, I’d have to say that ‘Heart Break Girl’ is probably my favorite at the moment. It reminds me of the songs that I used to love and listen to from British Invasion artists. I also like ‘Transition Man’ as well. I think it’s a fun summer song. I was in a good mood when I wrote and recorded it. From ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, once again, I’d have to say that the title track, ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, is my favorite song. It’s a really old song of mine, and this is the best version of it that I’ve produced. People have come up to me and told me what they think the song is about, and it’s always different. I don’t usually tell anyone what the true meaning is. I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s a song about alienation. It’s a song about someone feeling like an outcast or a misfit in their own world.
SMC – When you create the lyrics for your music – is it based on your own personal life experiences or is it observations of the world around you?
Robert – Both. I’m a people watcher. I think I watch people so that I can figure out exactly what it means to behave correctly in social situations. I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet, however. In truth, I guess I’d have to say that a good majority of my lyrics are written from my own personal life experiences.
SMC – Can you tell us which song has received the most traction on radio to date?
Robert – ‘It’s probably Because Of Chloe’. Everybody thinks it’s a song about a particular girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s really a song about my cat.
SMC – In delving further into your music career, there were some delightful discoveries! There are songs like ‘Park Side Girl’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’…can you tell us what other gems are out there and which platforms they can be found under?
Robert – ‘I Believe In Rock & Roll’ is a decent song. I also like a song I wrote called ‘Florinda’. It has a Beatle sound to it that I like. They can only be found currently at places like Youtube and Vimeo. I’m planning on re-recording them in the very near future. I’ve actually taken a lot of material down, mainly because I want to re-record them. I think I took down about 55 songs. I rushed a lot of the earlier songs to completion, and I wasn’t always happy with the way they turned out.
SMC – Indeed you have created music under the moniker ‘Billy J Bryan and the Ax Grinders’ – tell us about the name and how that came about…
Robert – When I first started out playing guitar, I didn’t really have any kids my age that were interested in music, let alone any that could play an instrument. I was thirteen years old. Naturally I ended up gravitating towards older musicians. These guys invariably would party more than they rehearsed, and they almost never wrote any original material because they were stoned or drunk all the time, and often they couldn’t remember what day it was, let alone remember my name. They’d call me Billy, or Joey, or Brian, or any number of names, with these three being the most often used. And when it came time for me to record and get my own music out there, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do this under my own name, so I put all three names together, added a fictitious back-up band, The Ax Grinders, and that was it. I thought I had come up with a name that nobody would have ever used before. I was so wrong!
SMC – Can you give us a career timeline in terms of when you began creating your music and that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when you knew music would always be a part of your life/career path?
Robert – I don’t think I’ve ever had that “Aha” moment you are referring to. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. My grandfather used to build custom acoustic guitars for musicians in NYC way before I was even born. So I was exposed to music and musicians from a very early age. Once I heard about the music of The Beatles and Elvis, through older cousins, I was hooked. When I was 13 my mom bought me my first real guitar. I basically started writing music at about that time, and I accumulated a pretty large stockpile of songs that I’d written by the time I was eighteen years old. Nobody that I played with was writing their own music, so my music was it. If we played somewhere, anywhere, we did a bunch of cover songs, and the only originals we would play would be the ones I had written. I didn’t have a lot of confidence back then in my songwriting, but even still, people would ask to hear my songs, which always amazed me. And it wasn’t till recently that I even considered the possibility that music might someday play an even larger part of my life. Whether I could make a living at it was another thing entirely. But music will undoubtedly always be a part of my life.
SMC – You are also a prolific and esteemed writer (we will get into your work as an Author next) – have you written songs for others? Who and where can we find them?
Robert – Actually, you may come across music online that is written by me that appears to be performed by others, but it’s really just me. I have recorded under the names – Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders, Bobby Smith & the Space Machine, Jimmy Deil, The Charismatic Asthmatics, Spit Bucket Disaster, among others, but it’s all me. My goal is to write songs that others can cover, but I didn’t always have the confidence in my songwriting skills to approach other artists regarding this.
SMC – Do you consider yourself a Frontman or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?
Robert – Many times by default I ended up having to “look like” the frontman in bands that I played in, but that wasn’t my choice, and it’s not what I preferred. One of my idols was Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, and I was always amazed at how he could command the attention of everyone at his concerts by playing the guitar. He never sang a note, but all eyes were always on him and what he was doing with his guitar. His theatrics and his mastery of the instrument was mesmerizing. I always dreamed of being able to play that well, but no, I don’t consider myself a frontman and I do prefer to operate more behind the scenes.
SMC – When creating your music, where do you feel most in your element?
Robert – I am most in my element when I’m writing music on the guitar. I play a few instruments, and when you are a one-man band, you kind of have to be able to focus on what you’re doing, and I feel I do that best with the guitar.
SMC – What do you have coming musically in the next 3-6 months?
Robert – I have a lot more of my older music that I want to re-record. Many of them were done on analog machines, and many were rushed, and the sound quality wasn’t good enough, and consequently, I wasn’t always happy overall with the way they turned out. I have quite a bit of older material to convert that way, but I am always writing new material as well, and I’d like to continue doing more of that. I’d also like to collaborate with other musicians. I’ve had musicians ask me recently, and I have not had the time to do so as of yet, but it’s something I definitely would like to do.
SMC – Have you performed live? If so, where and which was your favorite venue?
Robert – Yes, I started out performing live. My very first memories were of performing informally for friends at parties and other gatherings. I played at a college once. I guess the one place that stands out, probably because it was kind of a traumatic experience was a strip club in Manhattan called West, when I was sixteen years old. I was always concerned that I was going to be found out and get arrested. I performed at a place in Queens called The Rainbow. Lots of bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies performed there. They had photos of many of the bands hanging on the walls. I think I remember a Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons photo there. I can’t remember anybody else offhand. I knew a girl that had a band and she needed a guitarist when she played at CBGB down in the Bowery, and I played with her and her band. Just about all of the clubs, bars or other places in New York City and New Jersey that I performed at are no longer in existence. They either went out of business, or have been replaced by clubs that now cater to other genres of music. And the thing about performing live is, while I enjoy it, and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else than from a live crowd, I suffer from stage fright. I’m extremely shy, and if I had my way, I’d prefer to write and record over playing live.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received to date for your music?
Robert – Without a doubt it’s the support that I’ve gotten. I’d have to say that my experiences with Internet Radio stations, like EGH Radio, Open The Door Radio and KB Radio have given me an amazing amount of support, and have been a great boost to my confidence. Your interest in my music at Starlight Music Chronicles has to easily rank up there as the best that has come my way. I don’t do very many interviews at all, but I have done a few. However, I have not yet come across an interview as indepth or as interesting as yours, and the truth is, an interesting interview can make an unknown band or artist sound even more interesting. So I appreciate this support. I’m not sure that anyone that is not an Independent musician can understand how difficult it can be to carrying on doing what you love to do without support. For many, the financial rewards are years away, if they’ll ever come, and finding support in any way you can is often the only positive feedback most of us will ever get.
SMC – I was absolutely thrilled to read your book ‘Temporary Angels’! There is a lot that I can personally relate to with regards to what was mentioned or discussed in your book. Often, there are many who won’t speak out about their ‘ability’ to see entities or even visuals such as you have! Can you tell us who or what encouraged you to step out and write this book?
Robert – I think I had gotten to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose in writing ‘Temporary Angels’. This was something that I struggled with for most of my life, and I think my main goal in writing ‘Temporary Angels’, whether a reader believes what they’re reading or not, is that I believe we should always keep an open mind to everything in this world. We all have a role to play in this life, and in being open to things, we can then be more prepared to behave the way we should when our opportunity to act as a Temporary Angel arrives. There is a lot more in this world that we never see because we close ourselves off. We refuse to see. This world is a constant source of stimulation, knowledge and wonder, and if people would just be open to it, the possibilities could be endless. And for those that already do see, being able to see should not be a point of embarrassment or shame.
SMC – There are many books you have penned. Can you tell me which one was the most enjoyable to write?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has to be up there with being one of my favorites. I actually found it more of a challenge to write a complete story in the span of 1500 words or less than if I had written a book of 150,000 words. To be able to get your message across to your target audience under these strict guidelines was more difficult than I had imagined. I also have always loved art – painting, sketching, drawing, sculpture, and more, and combining the story and the artwork in this book was an amazing experience.
SMC – Which book has received the most traction in the writing community?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has gotten a great amount of traction, perhaps the most of all my books so far. It’s been the subject of a number of book reviews. It was featured on a CBS-TV news affiliate piece on children’s picture books in St Louis. Grammar school classes have read it as part of reading initiatives. My cousin is a school teacher in Brooklyn. One time just before Christmas a few years back, she read the book to her class. She asked me to make an appearance there, and I reluctantly agreed. The kids loved the book and asked some really observant questions. For the adult romance market, I wrote a book called ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ – it’s the story about a woman that’s frustrated with her life, and one day, seemingly out of the blue, she receives an unusual inheritance, and through it she gets a second chance at life. It’s been just as popular as ‘The Christmas Mouse’.
SMC – You have also won awards for your writing. Can you tell us which ones and when?
Robert – I’ve had poetry win some awards. I don’t remember exactly which poems these actually were. I quit submitting my material for consideration when three of my poems took prizes in Vandoelecht’s Annual Poetry Contest in 1994. I was happy to win, but it felt absurd to have my poems win first, third and eleventh prizes, and I haven’t submitted my material to any contests since. Instead, my poetry has appeared in a few anthologies, including one entitled ‘Thoughts Of Christmas’ that featured poets such as Jane Yolen, Angie Monnens, and many more. I was also a regular contributor of poetry, short stories and artwork to a very influential national magazine called ‘Wicked Mystic’. Some of my poetry was a part of ‘The Poe Pulpit’, a magazine that published poetry, short stories, and artwork that was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.
SMC – Your poetry is brilliant. I have already begun reading (when I am not distracted LOL) your book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. So far, ‘Dream, The Mariner Did’ is my favorite. Can you tell us which poem is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – Thank you very much for the awesome compliment. I like that poem, too. I think most of us feel like the mariner, in search of many things in this life. I think that’s why it may appeal to readers. I have a number of favorites from that collection, but if I had to choose two, one would be ‘The Ghost Of Endale Arch’. I wrote that poem about a Revolutionary War battle that took place just blocks from where I live. It was The Battle Of Long Island, and I found it fascinating that I was walking along the same cobblestone streets that soldiers from the 1700s walked upon. The other poem is about a baby sparrow that died accidentally when it got tangled in some nesting material and never got the chance to beautify this world with its song, called, ‘Hanging By A Thread’.
SMC – Can you tell us what time of day you feel most creative?
Robert – I am constantly feeliing “inspired” to write, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do so during the daytime. I’ll be out running errands or doing something where I am away from my computer or a notebook, and I’ll have to jot things down on napkins or little pieces of paper, so that I can remember something that has come to me, or has inspired me to work on something. Usually I’m most creative towards the evening and at night when there are fewer distractions and I can focus on what I need to do.
SMC – What makes you wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I think I want to write a book!’? At least, what sparks that creativity and desire to create within you?
Robert – My compulsion to write, whether it’s poetry, lyrics, scripts, or stories is chronic rather than acute. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments yet. I just always remember wanting to read, write stories, write songs, write poetry or create artwork. I think I’ve always had the desire, and from an early age I started writing. I didn’t have any one moment when I told myself “now is the time!” I just started writing. I’ve always had lots of ideas for material. My writing was all silly to begin with, but it was ambitious. I remember writing a script about ghosts appearing at a seance when I was nine years old. In general, I try to write, no matter what I’m writing, whether it’s a short story, novel, script or a song – to write something I’d like to read, see or hear. I would have to say that obviously my writing is inspired by something, and if anything, it has to be the writings of others. I guess I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that’s what motivates me.
SMC – What projects are you currently working on?
Robert – I’m usually working on a few things at once. I’ve always worked this way. That’s why it sometimes seems as if I will suddenly come out with a lot of material all at once. I am always working on new music. I just recently got three of my books out of book contracts that they were in because I wasn’t satisfied with how they had been edited or promoted, so I re-edited those and had them re-released online. I’m currently working on new music and a script. And from time to time I am working on art, but that’s usually done these days as part of a bigger project. I don’t always have the time to do the things I want to do, so I have to pick and choose. When I need to relax and recharge, art is usually my choice of therapy.
SMC – You also write screen plays! Can you tell us which ones and what kind of interest or traction you have gotten from them?
Robert – I’ve had about a dozen scripts that have been produced. Some aired on TV. Some screened at festivals, salons, bars, and clubs. I wasn’t always happy with how they turned out, so I generally don’t talk about them, but one of my favorites was called, ‘Waiting For Eugene’. It was a romantic dramedy about a couple of late bloomers that meet and fall in love. They had been waiting to fall in love with the right person, it seems, their entire lives. But they’re also career people, and when Eugene is offered an out-of-town promotion, he feels compelled to take it, even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Dolores, behind, who also puts a good bit of emphasis on her career. It was filmed in New York, with scenes shot in Central Park, and it screened at Arlene’s Grocery, sandwiched in between short films that included cast members John Belushi and Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live. To be sandwiched in between these legends was really a highlight for me.
SMC – You had mentioned to me once about a script you were working on that was mentioned by major media – even the New York Times. Can you tell us about that project?
Robert – I was working with a New York producer that was actually focusing on several projects at the same time. I wrote a script for one of the projects that was called, ‘No Safe Haven’. It was about the “Honor Rape” of a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi or Mukhtar Mai. This producer and I actually met Mukhtaran Bibi and her handlers at Trump International Hotel and Tower the same week that she was in New York to speak at the United Nations, and the same time she had visited with President Bush in Washington. It was an amazing meeting and would have made for a really interesting and revealing story, but the project is still currently not in production after many years. Other producers became interested in developing her story, and amidst a very turbulent and violent atmosphere back in Pakistan, interest quickly faded. From what I was told, there were lots of threats made against Mukhtaran’s life, and government officials eventually made concessions, bringing electricity, a school, and fresh drinking water to Mukhtaran’s village, and the story soon disappeared from the public eye, after initially focusing a glaring eye on the practice of honor rape and honor killings in the Muslim world. The other project ended in a scandal and lawsuits, so I also tend not to mention these projects too much anymore. Producers and production companies tend to steer clear of people associated with lawsuits and certainkinds of controversy. They are all about controversy when it sells tickets and fills theaters, but when the controversy hinders production and profits, you can become industry poison.
SMC – Which ‘stories’ do you naturally gravitate toward when you write scripts?
Robert – I enjoy writing comedies and romance stories the most. But in my experiences, the demand for police dramas or police procedurals, and mob stories, far out-weigh the demand for anything else. And when you’re first starting out, you need to write what production companies are interested in, or you won’t get anything produced. I find these genres to be way too formulaic for my taste, but I have still managed to write several screenplays that bend these rules enough so that I was satisfied with what I ended up writing.
SMC – What has your writing meant to you personally?
Robert – My writing, whether it was writing songs, poetry, short stories or novels, have always been a way for me to express myself, even when I was too shy to express myself in other ways – such as in conversation. Because I was always so painfully introverted, I’d often turn to my writings in order to get my point across. And initially I was the only one that was reading my writings until I got my first poem published when I was 18 years old. The feedback I received from that made me hungry to want to express myself even more. My writing literally saved my life, in this respect. Without any sort of outlet, life would have seemed otherwise hopeless and meaningless.
SMC – What message(s) or subject(s) are you drawn to writing about?
Robert – I write about anything that fascinates me. Because I think that if a certain subject is interesting to me, that it will be interesting to others. As for messages, I leave that for the reader to find and interpret in any way they wish. I don’t specifically try to embed messages in my writing. Instead, details can be extrapolated by the reader. If they wish to see these things as messages, then that’s fine. But it’s totally up to them.
SMC – Do you get a lot of requests for ‘The Christmas Mouse’ book during the Holiday season?
Robert – I do. Most people don’t realize that I don’t actually sell the book myself. I have a publisher, yet they always write to me in order to get copies. And by the time Halloween rolls around it’s already difficult to purchase paperback copies of the book and have them delivered in time for Christmas. The publisher gets backlogged, and there is a “lag time” when people wait till the last minute to try and get a copy. The eBook version is also available, and it is delivered to a customer’s device within minutes, but the paperback version, which is the version that most people want, needs to be ordered with the time it takes for it to be printed and physically delivered in mind. I can’t tell you how many times people have turned to me to request the paperback version of the book just days before Christmas. Even I can’t get a copy that quickly.
SMC – I have read ‘Temporary Angels’ and I know that you are a gifted ‘see-er’. Is there one memory that stands out in your mind that is a positive experience that you haven’t written about in your book?
Robert – ‘Temporary Angels’ was actually twice the size it ended up being. Many powerful stories and examples were edited out. The reason they were edited out had to do with the nature of the experiences and believability. Some sections were just too personal for me to put out there at this time. And I think that other chapters would have fallen on deaf ears. I think what I ended up including was the right mix and amount of information for what I had in mind when I sought to have that material published. I think that one day soon I may release a version that includes more of what I kept out. I think the time may soon be right for that.
SMC – Which of all your publications (books) is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – That’s a tough one. I like certain things about each of my books for different reasons. There is always something about a project that endears it to me, and each one of my projects, even the ones that I’m not totally happy with have some redeeming value to me. ‘The Christmas Mouse’ and ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ are favorites. One was my first successful children’s picture book, and the other was my first successful adult novel. I like ‘Million Dollar Harry’ because it captures a lot of what it was like growing up in Brooklyn.
SMC – Who is your personal favorite Author and why? I know as a writer myself, it’s always hard to narrow it down to one, but perhaps you can tell us of a few you like from each category?
Robert – Yes, it’s very difficult for me to narrow things down to just one of anything. In writing, I’ve enjoyed reading Steinbeck. I read his books as a grammar school student – he’s full of detail, humor, local flavor, mysticism, and more. Two of my favorite short novels were ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway. With both it was as much the style of their writing as it was the subject matter. These two writers carefully chose every single word, phrase, and sentence that went into their work, and made it seem effortless and captivating. One of my all time favorite books is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. It was her one and only novel, but it has something for everybody in it. There is drama, romance and ghosts. What more could anybody want? In poetry my tastes are equally enormous. I enjoy reading everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Milton and Byron and Blake and Pope and Poe and Dickenson and TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edna St Vincent Millay and more. I’ve also read Beowulf many, many times since first reading it in the 5th grade.
SMC – Can you tell us what the support has been like in the writing community for your work?
Robert – Writing books, like writing songs in America are about the same for me personally speaking. I find the only real support I have ever gotten from the writing community in America has been from the people who actually purchased my work. Just about all of my books were first published in the traditional way, by a traditional publisher, usually smaller independent publishers. And unless you already have name recognition, they barely promote you at all. After about three months, you are usually on your own, or headed to “remainders” – which is author hell. Over time I’ve gravitated towards self publishing for a number of reasons, the greatest being creative freedom. There have been times in the past where editors were interested in my projects, but wished to change them to suit their tastes. For instance, one editor wanted me to make the protagonist in one of my true-life stories be a major auto maker from Detroit that he had a gripe with. When I refused, he lost interest in my project. ‘The Christmas Mouse‘ was originally published by a small publishing house in the Mid-west. Due to the nature of small independent publishing it got very little promotion and eventually was published by one of the first Internet interactive publishers around at the time. That didn’t last very long, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life working with the editor of Electric Bookworm. But for me that kind of pleasant experience was rare.
SMC – You have also penned two children’s books! Can you tell us why you felt inspired to write for children?
Robert – I think that writing for the children’s market can be the most fun, and the most enjoyable, creatively speaking. None of the restrictions that you encounter as a writer in the adult market exists with children’s literature. Children find wonder in everything if they are exposed to a lot, and the way they come to solutions to problems before they become cynical as adults is miraculous. It’s where dreams come from. To look at the world like a child is to see the endless possibilities. Of course children also lack the experience that’s practical and necessary to survive in the real world, but in the world of literature, especially children’s literature, to think like a child is essential. As a writer, you are limited only by your own imagination when you write for children.
SMC – What has the response been to your children’s books?
Robert – It’s been really great. I have people that have written to me from all over the world regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. I think feedback is extremely important to anyone that creates anything. Sometimes it can be the only reward, and when it’s positive, that’s what keeps you going and wanting to write the next project. And it hasn’t only been children that have written to me. I get just as many messages from adults as I do from children regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. The kids tend to write student reviews of my books, which invariably end up in some online library archive, while adults will tell me about how the book may have rekindled storytime with their children at home.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received in terms of your work as an Author?
Robert – I think the greatest compliment I have received as an Author has to undoubtedly involve the reaction I’ve gotten to ‘The Christmas Mouse’, though I have had positive reactions and positive feedback to nearly all of the things I’ve written – at least from readers, that is. People of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed reading it, and how much they enjoyed the fact that it was like none of the other Christmas books they had ever read. Everyone tends to analyze the book in their own way, and I let them interpret things as they see it.
SMC – Your book ‘Exterminance Cometh’ is a very profound book and it is spoken about in your other book ‘Temporary Angels’ – can you tell us about it a little more? I know it is somewhat of a prophetic written piece…
Robert – ‘Exterminance Cometh’ was a recurring dream I had been having that in its unedited form bore a remarkable resemblance to the attacks of 9/11 in New York City. It was originally over 300 pages long, but I cut it in half. Ironically, there was so much in the material that I removed that I didn’t think anyone would ever believe could come true. The story at the time seemed so far removed from reality that I felt forced to alter the story. The book detailed attacks and catastrophes all around the world; struggles of many kinds for people everywhere; religious turmoil; a mid-east strongman that lived in an underground bunker; New York City in rubble – with skyscrapers being vaporized, and a sort of revolution that would bring about an African-American president. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, so I edited this last detail out. The African-American character still plays a vital role in “liberating” the citizens of North America, but he doesn’t become president. I had such a strong urge to get the message in this story out, that I had it self-published a year before the 9/11 attacks. ‘Externinance’ is the book I referred to earlier that a mid-west editor was interested in publishing if I would be amenable to making the villain be a major Detroit car maker that he had a gripe with.
SMC – In addition to your career as a writer and musician, you have also delved into film. I have watched some of your videos – pretty funny some of them, and others are quite compelling! Can you tell us which way you tend to gravitate toward in terms of style?
Robert – Writing scripts is so different from everything else. There is a visual element to films and screenplays, so a lot of the time you are writing to accentuate what you are seeing on screen or on stage. Many of the times because of this, it’s not what you write, it’s what’s in the direction that works with the writing to create the overall effect, and I find that a great challenge. That having been said, many of my videos are experiments and incorporate many different styles. I’ve enjoyed the styles of everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Penny Marshall to Quentin Tarantino and more. That’s why you’ll see videos on all different subjects. If I find something interesting, then I think I can safely assume that others will find some of these videos interesting or funny, too, and everything is fair game. I am self-taught in everything that I do. I never took music lessons. I never took an art course. And I never took a course in film or animation. So these are all essentially experiments and learning experiences for me. I like learning new things. I saw these as a challenge, and I have learned quite a bit in doing them.
SMC – You have several monikers under your film credits too such as ‘The Ugly Man Revolution’ and ‘The Cat Stevenson Show’ – where can one find all of your work in film?
Robert – If they can be found at any one place, I’m not aware of it. Right now they can be found at Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I believe that a few videos are also up at other sites, such as iTunes and Amazon, but other than that, I can’t say. ‘The Ugly Guy’ and ‘Cat Stevenson’ have attracted a good amount of attention. They say things that we all want to say about life and about the world, no matter how outrageous – one through the eyes of a house cat, and the other through the eyes of a social outcast, and because they’re cartoon characters, people tend to be more forgiving, and less judgmental.
SMC – You also wrote a compelling piece called ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’. I do feel that is a pretty powerful piece. What was behind this piece and your reason/purpose for writing/creating it?
Robert – I wanted to chronicle a true story, and also make people aware of a practice that still goes on to this day around the world. There is a sort of coming of age ritual that goes on where a young boy is initiated into adulthood when still a teen by taking him to a cathouse – which is another name for a house of prostitution. Often the boys will perform awkwardly because they’re still basically kids. This practice is seen as harmless, but it can often negatively affect any later relationships that the boy will have when he becomes an adult. It all depends on the experience, but I believe that a boy of 13 years of age just doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what’s going on, or what’s expected of him, and so there can be lingering issues later on. The actual events as they unfold in my piece are true. This happened down to the last detail to someone that I know. In 2013, ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’ was part of the Sans Diego Short Film Screening at The Producer’s Club in New York City. There were a number ofgreat films screened that evening to a very receptive sold out audience. My video also screened in Mexico City and in the UK.
SMC – You also have a pretty scary short called ‘The Homecoming’. I admit, I watched through my fingers LOL. Can you tell us a little more about this film and its theme?
Robert – Thank you for such a nice compliment. My intention was to experiment with a piece where one felt compelled to watch, even if it scared the heck out of them. Judging by your question and comment, something worked. ‘The Homecoming‘ is the ultimate warped love story. It is the story of undying love, even in the face of death. The male character passes away suddenly and unexpectedly and then literally rises from the grave in order to keep his promise to his lover that he would always return to her.
SMC – What part of the film-making process would you like to have involvement in or learn more about?
Robert – I’ve contributed to many aspects that were needed in film-making regarding the projects I’ve written or been a part of. I’ve written scripts. I’ve created props. I’ve done voice-over. I’ve acted in a few. I’ve written and recorded music. That being said, I consider myself an eternal student. There is always a lot to learn, and always things that a person can just not know about any one field or subject. I’m always open to being a team player and contributing as much as I can to the successful completion of any project that I’m a part of.
SMC – Your animated series are a lot of fun – this is where we begin to delve into your work as an Artist (which we will discuss next). Can you tell us what your greatest challenge is when creating for an animated series?
Robert – The greatest challenge is bringing it all together. I can come up with the idea. I can write the scripts. I can do the animation, and I can do the voice-overs. But it takes a lot of patience to marry these elements and still keep the project fun. And when you are doing this on your own, you can receive no feedback until you upload it or screen it, and by then it may be too late.
SMC – What platform do you create your animation still on? Photoshop, Illustrator?
Robert – It varies. Some of my artwork has to be scanned if I did it by hand, and if so, it can then be worked on using Photoshop. But a good amount of my artwork that’s used in some of my animated pieces is digital and was done using a mouse and the Paint program. Working on these is similar to artwork that I did using traditional methods, except no scanning is involved.
SMC – As an Artist, can you tell us which medium is your favorite to work with?
Robert – I enjoy working with oil paints, water color, goache, pencil and acrylic. If I had to choose one, it would probably be oil paint, but I enjoy it all. I have also created “paintings” that have incorporated sculpture in it – meaning, I will create a portion of a painting that will come out at the viewer in a sort of solid 3-D fashion. I will mount a particular piece, usually some part that is made of plaster, onto a canvas, as part of the bigger piece, and tie them all together.
SMC – You have also created and sold pieces to help charities…can you tell us which ones?
Robert – I did paintings to help raise funds for a local school’s art program in Brooklyn, where I live, which was very successful. I also did artwork for the Easter Seals Society of New York, and a number of other places. I really enjoyed being a part of these programs, and I’m always open to doing more when time permits.
SMC – Is there any painting you are working on at present?
Robert – No. Art has had to take a back seat lately. I enjoy it immensely, but it can also be time consuming in comparison to writing and music. And while I find it therapeutic in helping me to relax, finding the time to work on art at this stage is difficult.
SMC – Which Artist in history is your muse?
Robert – I admire so many artists, contemporary and throughout history. If I had to choose one single artist, I would have to say Leonardo DaVinci. I also admire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Pynkham Ryder, but DaVinci stands out for me, mainly because he did so many other things, and I enjoy doing as much as possible, too. He was a writer, a sculptor, a designer, an inventor, a scientist, and so much more. Trying to imagine what kind of a mind he possessed is often as intriguing as studying his work.
SMC – What is your muse today when creating new art?
Robert – Unfortnately, I cannot seem to find enough time these days to carry out the new ideas that I’d like to have committed to canvas, or whatever medium I’m considering. From time to time I will manage to get something done, but it’s definitely not as commonplace an activity for me as it once was. But I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to return to doing artwork once again. Maybe if I hit the lottery I’ll be able to do that.
SMC – What do you feel about the kind of support in New York City that is available to Artists?
Robert – Despite the fact that New York City is home to the Metroplitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as so many other great institutions, like The Fricke, or The Cloisters – I don’t know that Art for the average undiscovered artist has ever been well supported in New York City. I’ve taken part in some exhibitions, but I’ve never felt any tangible amount of support. Just as with anything else in New York City, a creative person has to take the initiative. Nothing comes to you in New York City. Just as with any endeavor and any location, one has to aggressively seek out opportunities.
SMC – With such diversity in your talent, can you tell us how you have been able to integrate it into every aspect of your careers to date?
Robert – Some projects make it easier to incorporate more skills into a single project, while others don’t always allow it. For instance, if I decide to write a book, it will be just the book unless some other aspect comes into play. However, if I write a children’s book, especially a picture book, it may also involve artwork, sometimes poetry. If I write a song, I know that at some point I most likely will be creating a video to help promote it. So the work may involve writing, recording and producing the song, as well as creating artwork, props, graphics, sometimes recruiting acting talent, and shooting video to go along with it.
SMC – What would you like to see happen for Artists/Writers in the industry today?
Robert – I’d like to see it made easier for new artists and writers to gain a foothold in the publishing world, in music, and in writing, for TV or Hollywood. A lot really does depend on connections in the various industries, and unfortunately many really great ideas and innovative writers will never see their work produced. The industry does not welcome new talent or any talent that they’re not already acquainted with, and because of that, we see many books with themes that seem repetitious, and in film we see remakes, sequels, prequels, and endless animated movies that involve dancing penguins and talking dogs, mainly because Hollywood is so closed off to new writers and new ideas. In literature, aside from the Harry Potter series, or a very few other projects, we see just how little interest children today have in reading. In music, the airwaves are cluttered with generic and formulaic product. I don’t hear all that much that is creative or original. Much of what commercial terrestrial radio plays is fine if you’re a teen or slightly older, but in my opinion, if you want to hear anything with substance, you need to find the local oldies station or turn to Internet radio, which is just about the only place that you can hear anything new, creative, innovative, or with staying power.
SMC – Which social media platform do you feel is most effective in getting the ‘word out’ on your new projects?
Robert – Without a doubt, Twitter has worked best for me. It’s fast paced, and in my experience generally reaches a wider, larger audience quicker.
SMC – Which social media platform do you think is most effective in general?
Robert – Again, I would have to say it’s Twitter. I also use Facebook, but the potential for reaching a wide audience is hampered by the size of your “friends” network. Facebook tends to discourage users reaching out to others with whom they have no connection. Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are also good for reaching out to your audience, but with these, you also have to let your target audience know that you even have material posted if you are going to attract attention. So once again, sites like Twitter and Facebook come into play.
SMC – Your book ‘Temporary Angels’ does delve into your personal life somewhat – can you tell us which events in your life are most profound for you and which have shaped who you are today?
Robert – Easily the events where I was able to be helpful to others have been the most profound. I mention a young Australian woman in the book that had gotten all scraped up after tripping and falling in the mud while jogging in the park near my home, that seemed practically invisible to others, even though the park was packed with people that day. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get involved, and I felt that I got as much out of helping her as she did from me coming to her aid. I find this kind of balance to be essential in everything I do in my life. Though things like this rarely fall at my feet the way that this one did.
SMC – What would you give as advice to Artists trying to ‘make it’ in the industries you have delved in?
Robert – I would tell them to not give up too early. If they have true talent and a real passion for what they ‘re doing, they should never give up. They should search out every avenue. Be as nice to everyone you meet as possible, because at the very least, you never know who may end up being a contact or connection somewhere down the line. I would tell them to believe in themselves, but to always stay humble. I would tell them they should not listen to those who with envy will tell you that you’ll never make it. In general I would tell them to be practical, and to persevere. If they truly believe in what they’re doing, they should never give up.
SMC – What does ‘success’ mean to you in terms of all your careers?
Robert – Success can mean a lot of things to me. Success can mean a lot to a lot of different people. Sometimes, for myself, success can be as simple as getting a great response for something that I worked hard to get completed. Sometimes it can lead me to another project or an opportunity to do more. Ultimately, in today’s world, success means recognition and financial reward, because it’s only with funding that an artist is able to create freely, without worry. When one is forced to choose between eating and paying the rent, or being able to freely create because they do not have such worries, it can be the ideal atmosphere for new and innovative ideas.
SMC – What is your favorite thing to do in your private time?
Robert – I have not had private time in years, but when I did have private time, I used to love to be outside in nature. I used to enjoy gardening. I used to love to hike and take walks. I used to go to the theater more often. Now it’s either Netflix or nothing.
SMC – What do you feel is essential in helping you feel most creatively ‘in the flow’?
Robert – I think that for me it is time – having the time to do the things I’d like to do is essential to me. Because of this, I jot down lots of notes to myself. I am always having ideas for new songs, stories, poems, books, and scripts come to me. I just don’t always have the time to develop them the way I’d like to. Now it’s more a matter of which idea or project seems more timely than the rest.
SMC – In your book ‘Temporary Angels’ you talk about how you have ‘given back’ to less fortunate people/families. Can you tell us which charities or organizations you like to support and why?
Robert – I tend to support charities that are local. I think that when you give locally, there tends to be less of the funds spent on the salaries of those that run the charities, than when you donate to some massive organization with thousands of employees. I think the more direct approach is always best. I like to donate to a local soup kitchen near where I live. My local YMCA has drives throughout the year that I like to donate to. I like to donate to animal shelters in my area as well. Just as with people, animals tend to need similar items. They need shelter and food, and towels and clothing. And giving to these is easy, and you can see the effects more readily and know where your money is going.
SMC – You seem to talk a lot about potatoes….what is the correlation? Why the fascination with potatoes?
Robert – Hunger, starvation and malnutrition are major problems at home and around the world. I wrote a piece about potatoes a while back that showed just how important Potatoes can be in meeting the nutritional needs of the human race. My article traced the origin of the potato from its humble origin in South America, where originally it was about the size of a human thumb, but over time, through careful cultivation, developed into a food item that is the staple of many cultures around the world. Accordingto the World Health Organization, many lives can be saved with just a glass of milk and a cooked potato, and implementing such a program would be easier than most would imagine.
SMC – You seem to be so supportive of everyone on twitter as well as other social media platforms! I see you tweeting so many lovely things about your peers. Thank you! What has your experience been like by engaging in this way?
Robert – The vast majority of the time, I’ll either get a lukewarm “thank you” or a “thanks for the retweet” – but occasionally I will make a true “friend.” I think people tend to either be wary of praise, or they begin to expect it, and there are few that are comfortable enough to accept it for what it is, and graciously pay it forward. Despite this, I still try to be as supportive of everyone as I can be, because I know how difficult it was for me to get any support whatsoever.
SMC – Can you tell us what being a part of the SMC Family experience has been like for you so far?
Robert – If my memory serves me, I have only been a part of the SMC Family for about four and a half months, but already I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support for the things that I do. It’s a difficult thing to continue trying to be creative when your efforts are never acknolwedged. And often it’is in the small gestures that we are able to carry on. With SMC I truly feel as if I’m able to breathe easy. I don’t feel as if the support I am feeling will be gone in a flash. For an artist or creative person that has always had support, this sentiment will never be understood. But for the vast majority of us, just knowing that you have the support of someone who recognizes your struggle is enough to make us want to continue, and to be supportive of others in our own way.
SMC – What are you most grateful for in life?
Robert – I am grateful for my dysfunctional family. I am grateful for my good health. And most recently, I am grateful for wandering into the world of Internet Radio, and ultimately finding you and SMC, and the group of supporters that came with these. This seemed to be a total chance discovery, but it was a timely discovery. Just prior to this, I was about to give up music once again. I feel that I am always one step away from quitting the creative life. There was a period just before I began writing and recording again, around 2004, that I had not played a single note of music for about ten years. My own personal experience for so long had been, “support of any kind for new bands was impossible to come by, and it was only a fluke that I started playing guitar again.” It was around 2004 that I was working on a few film projects that needed music, and it was through that process of seeking out and locating talent that my own interest in my music was reawakened.
SMC – Okay – final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
1) My parents met while trying to pick each other’s pockets during the Christmas festival at Grand Central Station.
2) Chuck Woolery is my godfather, once removed (using a minimally invasive procedure.)
3) My real name is Wink Martindale, but since there already was a Wink Martindale, I had mine legally changed to Robert Segarra.
4) My parents named me Robert Segarra because they loved that it is an anagram for – Sara Is A Great Robot.
5) I am a huge animal lover. (I don’t mean that I’m 20 feet tall or weigh 500 lbs, or anything like that. I just mean that I’m devoted to the well-being of nature’s creatures everywhere.)
Thank you Robert!
Robert – You’re very welcome! Thank you for this opportunity!
Robert Segarra BIO
Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
He is the Author of “STILL WAITING FOR THE SUN” – a lighthearted novel
that details the difficult life of an unmotivated woman as she receives a
very bizarre inheritance. With this unexpected windfall, she will attempt to
get her second chance at life – a life that she had almost given up on.
He is the Author of “MILLION DOLLAR HARRY” – A humorous novel.
Most recently he is the Author of “TEMPORARY ANGELS” – a true-life book
about angels and the after-life.
His poem, “HEAVEN” was also recently published.
Some of his other books are “CROW HILL & OTHER POEMS“,
– as well as the illustrated children’s book and perennial favorite,
“THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE.”
Robert Segarra is the screenwriter of a number of screenplays, including
“WAITING FOR EUGENE“, “A NIGHT AT THE INN“, “A SITUATION WANTED“, “BEAT THE STREET” and “AN ANGEL COMES FOR OFELIA.”
Robert’s music can be found at Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes and a number of
other fine sites.
In the early spring 2017, I received a friend request and private message on Facebook, and much like how I discovered the magic of Fashion Art Rock band Palaye Royale, the request was simple: ‘Please check out my trainer for my show ‘DK The Gig’”. Now, it must be said that I don’t always ‘check out’ everything that is sent to me. If I did that, I would spend the whole day watching videos and not getting any work done. To be frank, not everything that is sent to me is something I would post on our site anyway. It simply MUST cut the mustard in terms of quality, content, originality, and, of course, pure talent. With this said, entering into the (like-minded, I must add) comedic mind of Philadelphia born and based Darren Keith, was like having front row seats at the premiere of a Robin Williams film: it’s funny, unpredictable, thoroughly entertaining, and leaves you always wanting more. I am referring to his trailer for his upcoming series ‘DK The Gig’, and if you saw it on his socials or even ours and it lead you to this testimonial, then you are in the right place. After the first few seconds of the trailer, I was sold and I confess, I was laughing so hard, I almost fainted. Not even joking!
We were lucky enough to capture a few moments with Darren for this exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the creative mind of this comedy genius to discover that he is not only the funny man behind the script for this series, he is also the Producer, Actor, Musician, and Director! The series focuses on the life of a Musician whose career has dead-ended leading him to the stage set in his friends’ restaurant (based in Philadelphia), not exactly the place he imagined himself. The comedic value in this film is portrayed by Keiths’ very blatant and obvious unwillingness to appreciate this ‘courtesy spot’ (expressed in his sarcastic demeanor and over inflated ego), apparent right from the get-go in the series trailer. To quote the Facebook page for this series: “”DK the gig” Is a comedy series about a Musician whose ego is much larger than the Restaurant Stage He Performs On.’ If this is your first time discovering ‘DK The Gig’, we encourage you to check out the trailer (below) and THEN read on!
Keith has a stellar cast lined up for the filming of this series such as: Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns), Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), Joseph Arthur (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne), Fred Berman (Amos Lee), Four-time Emmy Nominated TV Producer Jill Gould(JillGo Productions), and Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies – See Barrys’ Profile below). After perusing the files of each of these individuals, I am certain that this series is a recipe for success and the high caliber individuals involved are the ingredients to what will be a masterpiece.
At present, Keith has begun an Indiegogo campaign to get the series into production. He is also scouting potential investors or Networks for the series and in all honesty, if I had my own network, THIS is the series I would place my bets on. There are a lot of shows on TV and Netflix today that don’t capture my attention past the pilot episode. It takes a lot for me to be engaged enough to ‘want more’ and this series, I predict, will go the distance in the right hands. I had the chance to speak at length on the phone with Darren where we went a little further in depth on the current status of this project and there was one thing we both agreed on: we are anxious to get the production started so it can be shared with the world! This comes with your active participation SMC friends and family – if you ‘like’ what you see and want to see more like I do, click on the link on our right-side menu on the SMC Spotlight and let’s get this show (literally) in the road! For any inquiries about this series via my brilliant network of friends, please contact Darren Keith direct (located in the socials below).
Editors Note: One thing I know about the Starlight Music Chronicles family is this: we are a collective of artists and creative like-minded individuals who understand the meaning of ‘true support’. I am confident that after reading and watching this special feature on our site, there will be financial backing and very possibly, a spot on a network for this series. I am THAT confident this series has what it takes to put a smile to peoples’ faces, bring humor to this often dark world, and to become a household name.
DK The Gig. Don’t forget it folks. You heard it here first.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Darren Keith, Producer, Writer, Musician, Actor of ‘DK The Gig’
SMC – Hello Darren! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! Let’s begin with getting into your background – you are a Musician and an Actor/Creator of your series ‘DK The Gig’ now. Tell us about you. I want to know more about your early career to where you are today and what lead you here where you are now the Producer of your own series.
DK – Hello, Candice! Well…I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I started playing music professionally at 15 and have been a freelance/session drummer for most of my life, playing for countless local, national and international bands and artists. I have even done the singer/ songwriter thing from time to time as well. I’ve lived in NYC, LA, Austin (twice), and even Branson, Missouri. And even though I’ve done a lot of things musically that I’m really proud of, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with music and the drums, and have even totally stopped playing many times over the course of my career, sometimes for very long periods of time.
Regarding what led me to what I’m doing now…the majority of the time I was a musician, for 25 years or more, I had this consuming thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a musician, but should have been doing something with my sense of humor instead…and that thought gnawed away at me for most of my adult life. Then something happened to me a few years ago, which made me confront this unrealized dream that I had been carrying around for all those years, and I knew it was time to either do something about it or to finally let it go, knowing full-well that meant taking it to the grave with me.
So, with no background, training, experience or connections in any facet of this process, I wrote ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode and started the long journey of figuring out how to do something like this, at the level I wanted to do it at, when you’re starting point is at zero. And when I say zero, I mean that I had never written a script (I didn’t even know how to format a script), had never acted, and had never produced anything…actually, I really didn’t even know what a producer did…and now I was a producer!
So, skip to a few years later and I finally release ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode, and the response was incredible. It was then that I really started thinking about the future of the show…not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but up until that point, the Pilot episode signified a life achievement for me…I wasn’t thinking that it had to be this or that so it could be shopped to a Network, or that it had to have an arc, etc…the main purpose it served was making people laugh and most importantly, proving to myself that after all those many years, the voice inside my head that told me I could do it…was right.
SMC – Who are some of the people you have played with in your music career?
SMC – You have quite the stellar cast lined up for your series. Wow! How did you acquire this stellar line-up?
DK – Thanks…I’m really excited about all the amazing people involved with the show. The first person I contacted was Barry Markowitz. Barry’s a legendary Cinematographer….he’s filmed so many incredible movies, like Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses and The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies. About 20 minutes after emailing him the link to the Pilot, my phone rings and it’s Barry. He says “I just watched the Pilot…it’s not just good…it’s fucking great”. He must have watched it twice because he knew the episode every which way and was reciting lines back to me. We talked for almost an hour, really hit it off, and he told me he wanted to be involved moving forward and shoot the new episodes. So…we were off and running.
After I found my wonderful Producer, Jill Gould, we started casting and were lucky enough to find all these amazing people, both actors and musicians, who loved the show and wanted to be involved, and they’re truly all great, like the actors Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns) and Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), as well as musicians Joseph Arthur (Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne) and Fred Berman (Amos Lee). And we’re not even finished casting all the parts yet…there’s still more people coming on board.
SMC – We have shared your enthusiasm for this remarkable series on the SMC socials but we definitely want to get more involved in some way by way of supporting your series from this moment going forward by keeping you current in our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. We usually like to chronicle the journey of many of our star profiles. What are your thoughts on that?
DK – I think it’s great. And I’m sure everyone really appreciates what you are doing. 🙂
SMC – How many episodes do you have planned for this series?
DK – Well, it depends on the budget we end up with, but I really want to shoot at least 4 of these episodes, which are all somewhere in the 15 to 20 minute range, and that will be DK the gig’s “First Season”. Most web series I’ve seen shoot a lot of really short episodes, but I’m insane, so of course I’m doing much longer episodes that cost a fortune, and without a Network financing it. And it’s because I really want to develop these story lines and characters….to create this universe and drop people right into the middle of it. And I think it would do the scripts and story lines a huge disservice if I try to chop them up into shorter pieces.
SMC – Do you have a network in mind for the series to be shown on?
DK – If I had a dollar for every time someone told me this show should be on a Network…I wouldn’t need a Network! I’m not kidding though…I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that ‘DK The Gig’ should be on HBO…or NETFLIX…or AMAZON, HULU, etc….and there’s many things I like about all of them. The most important things I’ll be looking for in finding the show a good home is finding who is the most organic fit for it, and who will be the most committed to preserving the show’s integrity and making it a priority.
I LOVE this! The true perils of a man who just wants to play his music…and its f*cking funny!
– Steve Lukather (Toto/Guitar Legend)
SMC – If you could choose which network to have the show aired on, which would that be?
DK – I am a totally food-obsessed person, so I think when all is said and done, it’s going to come down to which Network takes me to the better restaurant. And yes…once you put food in front of me, all that “integrity” shit goes right out the window.
SMC – We connected on Facebook. You had sent me a friend request a while back, then somehow, we disconnected and then I remembered your promo reel and I think I was tweeting with someone about you…or maybe it was you who tweeted with me. Regardless, your video cracked me up. I think I hit replay about 10 times! Have you always had this great comedic sense of humor?
DK – Thanks. As far back as I can remember. I always knew I was funny, and have always been able to make people laugh…really laugh…whether it was friends, family, or total strangers. There have been so many times when someone has told me about something funny that I did or said that stuck with them…even if it was 20 years earlier…and sometimes I remember, and sometimes I don’t. Those are just some of the reasons that made me finally do this.
SMC – Would you say that living in New York has lent the authenticity to your performance as a comedian who delivers his humor with a punch? I heard New Yorkers can be tough!
DK – I only lived in NYC for about 8 months when I was around 20, so I don’t think NYC plays much of a role in my life at all, even though it is still one of my favorite cities. I live in Philly, which is very similar in many ways and very close…so that is probably what you’re detecting.
This is great…
– Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam)
SMC – When did the concept of ‘DK The Gig’ begin?
DK – I would always think of funny things…and since I have probably played a few thousand gigs in my life, I would think of a lot of these things while in that environment, so it seemed like a very natural progression for my first show to be about a musician.
SMC – You have some pretty amazing ‘bells and whistles’ included in your Indiegogo campaign! Can you tell us which ones you are looking forward to delivering on? I saw a ‘Birthday Party’, ‘Associate Producer’, and the ‘You Want It All’ packages which are all great!
DK – Thanks! Well, I originally wanted to offer my body for a PERK at one of the higher donation levels, but INDIEGOGO’s legal department got involved, so I’m sorry, people! Actually, it’s fine, because the shipping fee on that would have made it a bit cost-prohibitive anyway.
Yes…I have some great perks. For one PERK, I take you out for your birthday (even if it isn’t…we’ll just say it is so we can get that candle on your dessert)…and for another PERK, you can actually be an EXTRA on the set for a day and have that very unique and amazing experience of being on the real set of a series. I also have DK the gig Shirts, Mugs, and a lot of drum-related PERKS too. And of course, you can donate without taking a PERK at all.
SMC – I would LOVE to sit on set and do a behind-the-scenes take on this show. Legit. I bet you all had a blast even filming the promo video for this series. How do you keep a straight face?
DK – You just hope that you don’t break and ruin an otherwise great take. But if it happens, it happens….just have fun with it.
SMC – Ideally, when would you like to film the first season and have it aired?
DK – As soon as we reach our goal and raise the money we need to film, we’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and shoot. I can’t wait for everyone to see these episodes…but the quality is paramount to me, so I always take my time and do things the right way, even though I want it to be out as soon as possible.
DK the gig is so damn funny, smart and a little raunchy. It’s real. I know guys like this!
– David Uosikkinen (The Hooters/Sessions)
SMC – Who has been most supportive of this project so far? Who would you like to give a shout out to?
DK – My family and my good friends…they are as supportive as you could hope for and have been amazing. And, I have to say that I have some really awesome and die-hard fans who have been so supportive of everything I’m doing, and they know who they are…and I appreciate every one of them.
SMC – In terms of your own personal perseverance, what keeps you going when there are challenges? We all have them and we all deal with them differently. I am always curious how everyone in the industry powers through….
DK – The self-belief and confidence I have in myself and my abilities, the love and support I have from those that are important to me, and all the kind words and support I have received through the years from those who enjoy what I do creatively….those are the things that always keep me afloat.
SMC – I would like to keep people in the loop as to the progress of your series – what kinds of ways can we lend our support? I have a good feeling this is going to be a pretty amazing series!
DK – Thank you…the response to the show has really been unbelievable and it’s nice to hear so many people tell me they think this show is going to be big (see industry quotes below). The best possible way everyone can help right now is by donating to our INDIEGOGO campaign, and then by sharing and spreading the word about the show and our crowdfunding.
While we’re talking about the INDIEGOGO campaign, one of the things I would really want your readers to know is just how expensive these episodes are to make. I came from the music world and have been involved in not only live shows, but in the recording of many CDs, both as a sideman and on my own…and nothing could have prepared me for the unbelievable difference in budgets between music and doing something in the TV/Film/Digital Content world. Making any type of video at this level costs infinitely more money than making a CD does. The difference is staggering. So…to do what we’re doing will easily cost somewhere around $70,000 or $80,000. And that’s why every single donation to our INDIEGOGO campaign matters. Even if someone can only afford to give $5.00, that donation helps towards the goal.
Well crafted and hilarious insight into the life of a musician.
– Derek Sivers (Founder, CDbaby)
SMC – I was happy to see as I was typing this interview out that you just made one of your milestones on the fundraising process of this series. I know it’s often quite the task trying to get people to see the vision you do, but – you have marketed this project very well. What areas do you think there are strengths or areas of improvement you would like to tackle for this project?
DK – Creatively, I am 100% confident in the quality of this project. The only area of improvement I would hope for is on the marketing/social media/PR side, simply because I am not a big social media person, and given how important that is today, it’s something that I’d like to see grow with this project. If there’s any heavy social media people out there who want to be involved with the show, reach out.
SMC – What makes a person wake up one day and say, ‘I want to make a series’? I mean, there must be some form of love for the art of film making and acting. You are wearing a lot of hats for this project!
DK – Well, that “waking up one day and creating a series” took me about 25-30 years! Yes…I created the show, wrote it all myself, play the lead character “DK”, composed all of the music, am an executive producer, and even did some editing. And besides the music component, I had never done any of these things before and had to teach myself everything. I had no idea how to edit…I didn’t even know how to import media files…so I taught myself how to do it, did the final edit on the Pilot, and then made that TRAILER that you saw that everyone has loved. It’s really been crazy.
SMC – I am telling you, I think anyone who doesn’t know about this project should! I think there are a lot of people out there who have deep pockets and I think they should dig deep. I don’t say this about too many people or projects these days because there aren’t many who impress me. That’s a fact. I am very selective who we choose to be on the SMC Spotlight or a part of Starlight Music Chronicles as part of our team. What drives you to do your best and keep going?
DK – First of all, I want to thank you for all the kind words…it means a lot. Given my unusual and unconventional situation and all that I’ve been through to arrive at this point, I appreciate it all and am trying to enjoy this journey as much as possible. I am incredibly passionate about this and have always considered myself an extremely creative being…and to me, there is nothing better than being able to make people laugh. Along with family and friends, those are the things that drive me.
SMC – What are the top five things that are important to you in the quest to get this project completed?
DK – I just want to bring these new episodes to life at the highest level possible and have everyone get to see the full scope of the show…I think everything else will fall into place from there.
SMC – What are deal-breakers for you in terms of getting this series completed? Meaning: what would you NOT do to get this film completed?
DK – Well, obviously I really want to have this series completed and would do just about anything except share my doughnuts…because I loves my doughnuts. The President of Netflix could sit down in front of me and say “I’m prepared to offer you eight-figures and commit to five seasons of DK the gig…and the only thing you have to do is give me half of that Strawberry and Basil doughnut”…and I would be like “How about five-figures, a two-season commitment, and I eat this whole doughnut?”
SMC – Have you filmed anything beyond the promo video as of yet? Is there a pilot episode you have already gotten filmed?
DK – Yes…I filmed a Pilot that I released in 2016…and the Trailer you saw was made with footage from it…but given that so much has changed with the show since I released it, and in light of these amazing new people that are now involved, I thought it was best to take it down and just use the Trailer until the new episodes are released.
SMC – What is the best compliment you have received from an industry peer for this project?
DK – Well…there have been quite a few that stand out to me…but honestly, I have to say that I appreciate all of them. Especially when you do something as personal as this is to me, it means a lot when it resonates with people and they communicate that to you, whether it’s a peer or someone you don’t know who saw it on YouTube.
SMC – How long does it take for you to write the script for even one episode?
DK – With the way I write, it’s impossible to tell. I don’t even attempt to sit down and write an episode straight through or try to finish them as quickly as possible. I like to write something, then put it aside and let it be for awhile…could be days, weeks, or even months…and then come back to it with fresh eyes. We get so emotionally attached to what we create that it’s easy, and often unavoidable, to lose perspective and objectivity. And since we’re incapable of seeing our own work through someone else’s eyes, which would allow us to have a different perspective and objectivity, the way I try to achieve that to some degree is through time and distance. The more you distance yourself from a creative work, the more disassociated and objective of a lens you’ll be able to view it through. And I think that really helps, whether that creative work is a song or a script.
– John “JR” Robinson (Drum Legend)
SMC – I am new to this kind of area of the entertainment industry, but it absolutely fascinates me. Pardon my ignorance for asking this question, but I would like to know – do you have the whole seasons scripts complete? Or are you working on these as the episodes are filmed?
DK – I already have way more scripts than we’re going to be shooting, which is a good position to be in. If HBO picked up this show today and said we needed 10 episodes to start shooting tomorrow, we’d be good.
SMC – Who has mentored you or inspired you to create this project?
DK – Actually, no one…I had to teach myself everything, every step of the way. I have had no formal education, mentor, or experience doing anything like this. I have made a few really good friends along the way who I turn to if I have a question about something…but that’s it.As far as inspiration, without question, no one inspires me more than Barry Manilow. Not his music…but his hair. Actually, I get all the inspiration I need from doughnuts. And who hasn’t? I guarantee that if you could get close enough to the Mona Lisa, you’d find traces of chocolate frosting on it.
SMC – You and I have spoken in chat about how it benefits many to bring this project together – what are your thoughts on the people who have really ‘stepped up’ for you with this project?
DK – If people are helping you crystallize your vision, why not let them benefit in some way from their investment in you? There’s nothing better than having people involved that are emotionally invested and who truly care about what you’re doing and want to see it succeed. You have to seek alignment…whether it’s how your personality aligns with someone, or how your aesthetic sensibilities align…whatever it may be, you should seek out those with whom you most organically align. You may not always find them, and it often makes the process take longer, but it’s worth it.
SMC – Okay, final question: what are five things you can tell us about this project that have made you really proud of it?
DK – I have to say that I’m really proud of it all. Once again, to consider what I’ve done, coming from literally knowing nothing and having zero experience just a few years ago, to getting a pilot made, making the trailer myself, evolving the show the way I have and getting all these amazing people that are now involved….there’s a lot that I’m proud of.
SMC – Thank-you Darren! I look forward to seeing you on the tube with this because that’s where it’s going!
DK – You’re welcome, Candice…it’s my pleasure. Your support and enthusiasm for what I’m doing has been awesome, so thank you… 😉
Social Media Links for ‘DK The Gig’ or Darren Keith (click to view)
*All content below is from the Indiegogo Campaign which can be (found here)
Hello people…it’s Darren Keith here and I want to welcome you to the new INDIEGOGO campaign for my comedy series DK the gig, which is about a musician whose ego is much larger than the restaurant stage on which he performs. This is a true passion project…I created the show, wrote it, play the lead character “DK”, composed all the music, am an executive producer, and even did some of the editing. I have been a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists/bands, but creating DK the gig fulfilled a lifelong dream for me, which was to do something professionally with my sense of humor. Now, only a few years after officially starting this journey and writing my first script, I am about to shoot DK the gig’s first season of episodes with all these incredible people that are involved.
THE AWESOME AND EXCITING NEWS!
Legendary Cinematographer Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies) is filming DK the gig’s new episodes!!! Barry loved the DK the gig Pilot episode and said he wanted to be involved with the project moving forward and shoot it’s FIRST SEASON of episodes, which is incredible.
OUR AMAZING NEW CAST!!!
We are so lucky to have these incredibly talented actors, actresses and musicians (and we’re not even done! More will be coming on board in the next few months) for the new episodes:
CHARLENE AMOIA (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless)
STEPHEN GRAYBILL (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns)
BROOKE TOTMAN (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens)
JOSEPH ARTHUR (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter)
PETE DONNELLY (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne)
FRED BERMAN (Amos Lee)
And I have a wonderful new producer, Jill Gould, who is helping me make this show as good as we all know it can be.
We are going to film DK the gig’s “FIRST SEASON” of episodes, and to do that we need your help. Some incredible things have happened since my first INDIEGOGO campaign that have made this production much bigger and significantly more expensive than it previously was, which is why we are here once again. It’s been estimated that this will cost over $70,000 or $80,000, and with your help, our hope is to raise at least $30,000 of it here on INDIEGOGO. As soon as we reach our goal, we can begin the work, which includes pre-production (scheduling, rehearsals, recording the music, etc), shooting the episodes, post-production(editing, sound, etc), PR, and then releasing the episodes online for everyone to see.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So, here’s the part where you come in. It is so difficult and expensive to do what we’re doing without a major network financing it. It will cost a FORTUNE…and as I said earlier, well over $70,000 or 80,000, which has to pay for the cast, flights and hotels for the cast, location fees, equipment rentals, post-production (editing, sound, etc.), production insurance, hard drives, recording sessions…the list goes on and on. So many people think that DK the gig has a very bright future and will eventually get picked up by someone like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, etc., so it’s extremely important to me that everything is done right, and we present the show in the best possible way to make sure that happens. You can help us accomplish that right now by making a donation, however large or small, because EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS. And please don’t forget to help spread the word about this INDIEGOGO campaign.
THANK YOU SO MUCH….WE CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO SEE THE NEW EPISODES!!!
About Darren (as per the Indiegogo Campaign)
My name is Darren Keith. Before creating DK the gig, I was a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists and bands. DK the gig was inspired by the 25-plus-year dream I had (while being a musician) to do something professionally with my sense of humor. It was something that gnawed at me for well over 2 decades, so to be at this exciting stage right now is very profound for me. This is the epitome of a passion project….I created DK the gig, wrote it, play the lead character DK, composed all of the music, am the executive producer, and even did some of the editing.
In 2015, while then Artist of the Month IAMWARFACE came blasting onto the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) radar, there was another sound we heard that also caught our attention. It was the hauntingly beautiful instrumentals of Portland, Oregon Composer The Lady AnoNYMous, a pseudoNYM and alter ego of Writer and Composer anoNYMous Raven (Nym for short). I know, a mouthful, right? I assure you, once you have begun to delve into the vast library of this exceptional Composer, you will agree that there aren’t enough elaborate descriptives in the dictionary that come close to explaining the discerning and ethereal compositions he creates.
Late this summer, Nym launched his album ‘Dialectical Observations’ and the result is a peek into the magical, kaleidoscope-like world that we at SMC have come to know so well of this Artist. Throughout this interview, I have stated my thoughts on Nyms’ art in questions which are answered in depth. I have to say that this is a true work of art that I have much admiration for. The album in its entirety is not only eloquent and beautiful, it is majestic and magical too. My personal favorite is ‘Fleeting Fractals’ which, to me, represents the sounds of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Use your imagination when listening and remember my words – it will make sense. With compositions like these, it wouldn’t surprise me if this Artist is approached by the film industry – these are songs that could easily fit into the film world and I do hope to see this happen for Nym and when it does, I won’t be surprised. This is one of those Artists whose work (I predict) will one day end up in that Academy Award-winning Fantasy or Science Fiction film and you will all look back one day and think: ‘Hey, isn’t that that Artist who we first read about on the SMC Spotlight?’
Why yes, yes it was…
Editor’s Note: I would personally like to tip my hat to Nym for a beautiful work of art with this album. I think it should be in the libraries of every ambitious music collector and played on that cozy night in with the candles going and a glass of wine. It’s like audible medicine for the soul…Enjoy.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | The Lady AnoNYMous
SMC – Hello Nym! We are happy to have you back for this second Spotlight Numbered Series. We last had you on our older Spotlight platform. Can you tell us what has been happening for you career-wise since then?
Nym – Mostly I’ve been a recluse on a small farm, which has demanded a lot of physical labor, which I’m able to do after three years of having severe limitations. So, I’ve had less time for music, though I’ve been promoting online nearly every day, and in particular it paid off with landing an interview on Beyond The Dawn Radio’s Erosion Factory show. I’m now one degree of separation from some of my favorite artists in the music and film industries!
SMC – Your new music from your album ‘Dialectical Observations’ is astounding! My first listen was ‘When Anchorage Became an Island’ and I felt the emotion in the whole instrumental piece. Can you tell us what helps you create your storyboard visual when you create pieces like this?
Nym – I don’t really have visuals in mind when I write music; it comes from a purely emotional place, mostly stemming from tunes that get stuck in head that seemingly come from nowhere. There are other times when it just begins from an experimentation in sound. For that song, I developed a cello theme, and I approached the rest of the song from a feeling of grace in sadness.
SMC – Your second single from the album was spot on for ‘Man Seeking Cocoon’…I feel like these are so suited to the kinds of films that win Academy Awards…Can you tell me if you are creating a sound that is geared toward film?
Nym – It has been previously suggested to me that I work in film. When I was younger, I listened to scores from my favorite films and TV series, and now I can’t watch anything without listening closely to its soundtrack, so the experience partly feels like research!
SMC – I had also noticed that after downloading the songs from the new album there is some magnificent artwork that coincides with all your pieces. Are they the starting point for your music creations? They are incredible!
Nym – The link I sent you was for what I call an ‘Artist’s Edition,’ usually reserved for patrons of my Patreon crowdfunding campaigns. They’re usually accompanied by a lot of visual art, and I now have a trade agreement with an amazing digital artist, Cyril Rolando. We can freely use each other’s art, as long as we give credit. He’s also responsible for the cover art of many of my EPs.
SMC – Can you tell me which is your favorite score from this album and why?
Nym – I think the second half of ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ is possibly the most perfect thing I have ever achieved. It’s absolutely epic, if I do say so myself. Also, I think ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a really fun ballad with lots of experimental elements.
SMC – What has the reception been like for your music?
Nym – Well, I’ve only ever once received negative criticism, and I think that was by a troll. My songs seem to be appreciated by people who of many different musical tastes: people who otherwise prefer metal, hip-hop, techno, and Christian music. That last is a little unexpected, since I’m openly and pretty vocal about being gay and promote gender awareness Mostly, my audience is mostly made up of lovers of ambient and neoclassical music, and I’ve always been warmly received.
SMC – I know that truly unique music like yours isn’t often found in mainstream music that is created today. I feel it’s because it is so unique and eclectic. With that being said, I also feel there is most definitely a place for your music and I see it doing well with the film circuit…what are your thoughts on that?
Nym – I’m very interested in working in film, and I’ve been hoping to be approached for scoring an independent short film. I’d like to start small, but I’ve known to just jump right into things! Zoe Keating’s doing the music for the series ‘The Returned’ inspired me greatly. I’ve also occasionally seen post-rock bands credited as doing the scores for some major films.
SMC – What instrument would you say that you gravitate toward and why?
Nym – My first love is piano. I started out with a fisher price ‘Sesame Street’ toy piano when I was two years old. Then, from the age of seven I had weekly lessons for five years. When I was fifteen, I was captivated by Tori Amos, who showed me piano has a place in alternative rock. I also have a great love for cello, which I believe has a three-dimensional sound that is pretty unique.
SMC – I listened to your score ‘Fleeting Fractals’ and I almost cried. I am not kidding…this song reminds me of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Virtually all your music has this element for me, but this song was just so…happy for me to hear. What was it like to create that song? What was going on in your mind when you began to create it?
Nym – I really don’t know how that happened. I went into it drawing inspiration from How To Destroy Angels’ thick bass sound and post-metal guitars in their song ‘Keep It Together’ and accompanied it with a short, previously recorded alto piano ditty. The soprano piano sort of jumped in of its own accord, and the song became unexpectedly happy, which I just sort of ran with. I blame my meds.
SMC – ‘Signor Fancypants’ is another great score…can you tell me how you come up with the names for each song? This one is totally suited to the instrumentation heard throughout and I can’t explain why! Do you write these with a person in mind or a situation?
Nym – Sometimes I pluck song titles from the air and record them with that in mind. Other times the song just tells me its name while I’m working on it. For ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ I had to meditate on it for quite some time and followed an intricate stream of consciousness that jumped through many different associations. With ‘Signor Fancypants’ there was a swaggering, snooty quality that inspired the title. I also sometimes draw from film and television. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ and ‘Butterflies On Ganymede’ both came from the series ‘The Expanse.
SMC – Why the colors ‘black and white’ for your album? I personal love the combination, but I would like to hear what your thoughts are on this?
Nym – I was just trying to be pretentiously artsy with photos of various trees I took around our property. It’s that simple. Then I ran with it for the artwork of the Artist’s Edition of the album.
SMC – Can you tell us what you would ideally like to see happen with your music in terms of getting it heard and in which market you would best like it showcased in?
Nym – I’d love to see it performed by an orchestra. Oh, how about a traveling orchestra?! As for what market… I think I touch on every sub-genre of alternative rock, and would like to see it distributed on CD and vinyl, and some of it to be played in clubs. I would also like to hear what I’ve previously recorded in the soundtracks of film and television. That would be less intimidating than actually scoring for those mediums.
SMC – ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a very magical little number. I quite like the charm and mystical feel to it. Almost feels like something you would see in an eleven film or video…
Nym – It was inspired by fantasy author Charles De Lint, so if it was included in a movie or television adaptation, that would be awesome.
SMC – ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ again has that magical element heard throughout. I think that there is definitely a lovely theme here throughout the whole album – a story if you will…can you tell us what that might be?
Nym – I like to think of it as a ‘cinematic’ experience, when listened to all the way through. As for the story, I think that’s up to each listener. For me, it brings a lot of personal experiences to mind. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ calls to mind a past trauma that I think I’ve learned to handle with grace. But there’s also been many magical experiences in my life, and I try to approach life in general from a place of whimsy. For ‘Fistfuls,’ I wanted to express that a person who has been a ‘metal head’ in the past can appreciate and even make this kind of music.
SMC – I am personally writing my own book and can envision your music woven throughout my mind while I am writing. Would you be open to collaborating on promotional for projects like mine or others who are looking to showcase your work?
Nym – Absolutely. I think that’s an absolutely lovely idea. I think art can inspire and complement other art.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of promotion of your album to music platforms and/or radio?
Nym – As an independent artist, all promotional work walls on me (the main reason I’m always looking for a label that doesn’t repulse me). That takes up much of my energy in this field. Before and after a release always includes an intense campaign. It’s up to me to promote awareness of its availability on mainstream and independent media, and that includes distribution through an online service and sending out my music and feelers toward radio stations and hosts. It takes a lot of email and social media networking. I’ve had the pleasure to be interviewed on some radio shows and for music magazines, in particular the aforementioned Erosion Factory and of course this wonderful publication.
SMC – What do you feel is lacking in the music industry today?
Nym – With most of music being listened on free streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, there needs to be a dramatic restructuring of how royalties and ad revenue are distributed. And record labels are expecting Artists to pay dramatic sums upfront rather than investing in them.
SMC – What do you feel is abundant in the music industry today?
Nym – Definitely an awareness and availability of independent music. Unless they restructure themselves, record labels are becoming obsolete, as artists now have more tools to distribute and promote their music.
SMC – Which social media platform do you gravitate to and why?
Nym – Personally, I’m a subscriber of Apple Music. Their library is quite extensive, and with the ease it took to be a verified artist, I have the ability to connect with fans on their unique Apple Music Connect feature. Also, I already had a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone that are easy to network with each other.
SMC – Which social media platform has been best in promoting your music?
Nym – Actually, I’ve been able to draw in a larger fan base that aren’t friends and family on Google Plus. My audience is more international, and I’m able to use their Communities feature to project more awareness with ease.
SMC – Can you tell us what you feel is the best thing about social media in general?
Nym – It’s the best and most frequently used promotional tool, these days. If an artist doesn’t have social media accounts across the board, they’re most likely to be passed over or forgotten.
SMC – What do you feel are the downfalls of media platforms today who claim to be in support of all indie music?
Nym – They often prey on artists for financial gain. As independent artists, we’re usually poor and can only invest in our art as a hobby rather than a career, until we ‘make it big.
SMC – What music platform do you promote your music on mainly?
Nym – I mentioned Apple Music Connect earlier. It’s one more social media platform, but one that is specifically geared toward artists sharing with fans. But Google lets artists customize their page’s art and bio. Spotify sucks in that regard by requiring a certain number of fans before an artist can be ‘verified’ and then have any say in how they’re presented.
SMC – There are a lot of Artists who gravitate towards curated Spotify playlists these days. What are your thoughts on this?
Nym – I think it can be a useful tool. I personally don’t use Spotify much, but it’s an oft-used streaming platform, and I think playlists with a specific demographic in mind will possibly be listened to by many.
SMC – Okay, final question: if you could sum up why you chose music as a career in 140 characters or less, how would it read?
Nym – Music is a universal language. As an artist, the most rewarding thing for me is to be a part of the soundtrack for a person’s life.