There's more to music than just notes
Have you ever really thought about the music that you listen to? I mean, how did you first hear of your favorite band? Or for that matter, how do you hear of any music really? There’s radio. There’s TV. There’s YouTube. There are music discovery programs and there are trusted DJ’s. And then there’s just old fashion word of mouth; great music moving from friend to friend.
But at the end of the day, if you really start to think about it, most music that you hear is the result of enormous efforts by huge teams of people. Anything put out by a major label is at least a million dollar investment (often times per track...) Getting on the radio as an independent artist has about the same odds of hitting the lottery. It’s tough. It doesn’t make any sense. And if you think about it too much, you start to wonder why people even try. It’s really tilting windmills. But that's precisely the point. That’s the human spirit; the nature of creativity. Passion and expression aren’t governed by odds or logic. And when the heart has something to say, nothing can stop it.
Which brings me to thi feature. I recently ran across a musician that is defying all odds. You probably haven’t heard of him but hopefully at the end of this article, you’ll want to take up his cause and share his music with anyone that will listen. He is the American dream; a guy and a guitar. And all he asks is that you just simply listen.
The following is an excerpt from a conversation that I had with Geron late last year. If you have ever been interested in what it takes to make it as a musician, this interview is for you...
Hi Geron, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. So in my job, I hear a lot of music. A lot of music. And to be honest, I usually only listen to new stuff for a few seconds before I form an opinion and move on. Your single, Lunatic, really grabbed my attention. It’s absolutely beautiful; incredibly heartfelt and emotional. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one who has noticed. You’ve been plugged by both Howard Stern and David Copperfield. And yet, you’re still early on in your career and you are still growing your fan base. So if it’s ok with you, I’d like to use this interview to talk more about what it’s like to be an artist rather than to just strictly talk about your music. You’re a passionate musician and I know that everyone who hears your music probably asks the same question — something like, “Wow, this is amazing. How come I haven’t heard this before. How come this isn’t on the radio?” And so maybe, just maybe, we can use this article to help better understand all the challenges that go along with making music these days. So with that, let’s start at the beginning.
Are you at the place where you can be a full-time musician or do you still need to pick up side jobs?
First off, thanks so much for this. It’s extremely rewarding to me to be interviewed and that people would like my music enough to want to know more about it. So thanks for that. I do still have to find jobs to pay the bills. I’ve done all I can to keep those bills to a minimum in my life so I can focus as much as I can on music.
That makes sense. I hear you and I know how hard this business is. It is almost impossible to get noticed and to gain traction — especially for an independent artist. And unfortunately, this doesn’t have anything to do with talent; it’s just the way the machine is set up. But so far, you’ve really been moving everything forward. Do you have a publicist or a manager to help? Or have you been doing all of this on your own?
No, I don't have a manager or a publicist as of yet. I just have zero shame. I try and capitalize on any inkling of an opportunity no matter how far fetched it might seem… I’ve just been rejected and shot down so many times nothing fazes me anymore...
What about your latest record? Was that self produced? I believe that first album Soldier was released on Jamity Records but it looks like that relationship has changed. We’d love to hear about your actual recording experiences. The more details the better.
Both albums were produced by Oliver Straus at Mission Sound in Brooklyn. Soldier was recorded in pieces and Lunatic was done in one shot. The first half of Soldier was a demo I had recorded at the same studio back in 2006, I believe. Then we went back and finished it after we did Lunatic but we chose to release it first. I have known Oliver for a long time so I felt really comfortable at the studio and knew I was in good hands. He had a lot of tricks up his sleeve during the process but specifically, for recording vocals, I remember us using a Shure SM7 for the more aggressive songs. That mic seemed to really agree with me, more so than the vintage thousand dollar ones. Then we would use a Neumann U-87 for the quieter tunes like Jar and Heart’s Like The Moon. The console he used was a Vintage Neve 8026 that he got from England, which is just incredible. Classic Neve sound.
So how do you even start the recording process if you’re not backed by a label? Isn’t it ridiculously expensive? Or do you just find people that you’d like to record with throughout your travels and then you figure out how to make it work?
I got extremely lucky. I have 2 really great friends who believed in me enough to pay for the recording of Lunatic and the finishing of Soldier. They gave me a huge push to start my career. Even though I’ve been doing this forever, I never had enough money to finish the demo that I had started; the 5 songs that are on Soldier. That’s another thing that drives me. I don't want to let them down.
Do you have a distributor for the album? Is it in physical stores throughout the country or are you going the digital route?
It’s distributed through TuneCore and it’s not in physical stores. I am not really sure how to make that happen. I know you can get the physical disc on Amazon and on BandCamp though.
And how do you market it? How do you find new fans?
I have no idea. That is an ongoing battle. I only have so many resources so I really rely on people that like the music enough to tell others and hope that more opportunities come. Like this interview.
So I’ve got to ask. How’d you get that great quote by David Copperfield? I’ve never seen a magician pitch for a singer before.
I got an email from Twitter that I had a new follower and it was David Copperfield. I was blown away. I noticed he posted a link to “Lunatic” on his Facebook page so I sent him a DM on Twitter telling him what a big fan I am of his and thanking him. My first experiences performing were doing magic at 12 years old for people in a nursing home. I grew up watching him on TV so needless to say it was extremely humbling to find out he is a fan of mine. We continued messaging a little bit so one day I got enough courage to ask him if he could say something about the album.
And Howard Stern? He posted a link to your new album to his 1.1 million twitter followers. That’s like hitting the publicity lottery. How’d you land that? You must have the luck of the Irish and the Midas touch.
Ha! Yes I got incredibly lucky. I just put myself out there at the exact right time and it happened. I always thought he would like that song so when I saw he was tweeting to people I took a chance just to see what would happen. I couldn’t believe it.
Well, whatever you are doing is working. You’ve made a beautiful album and people are listening, relating, feeling and sharing. And at the end of the day —that’s what it’s all about. We wish you all the success in the world and we can’t wait to see you when you pass by on tour. Best of luck!
Thank you so much for this! That is the goal… Hopefully I can get on the road one day.
And with that, let's listen to one more song.
Mike Dias is a huge fan of music, of telling stories, and of laughing. And lucky for him, he’s somehow managed to make somewhat of living from all of this. He designs funny and creative apps for the iPhone. He is the music supervisor for Ultimate Ears and he writes about music and the music industry. He’s always happy to talk about artists, apps, and headphones so feel free to reach out about any of those topics. Email him directly.
If you enjoyed this piece, you’ll probably like some of the other things Mike does too. Get more music recommendations at @michael_a_dias or read more industry interviews at TheInEarGuy. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, download Mike’s latest free app, Mad Lips, and make all of your photos come to life. And if you’ve ever thought about owning custom Ultimate Ears, talk to Mike first. He’ll answer all your questions in an honest and funny way.