Last year I accomplished my dream of playing festivals. I’ve already done four in the last year. Somehow I instinctively knew how to manage my first one. Whatever I suggest here is what worked for me as a current solo artist. Some things will work for everyone, some won't. But here are 11 ideas you can try out.
I want to tell you the truth. All the time. Sometimes I worry that my posts are too blunt and real. But, my premise is this: If I tell you the truth, then you can evaluate for yourself whether you want it bad enough to do what it takes to succeed. So, here's the truth for the day. It's HARD. It's REALLY hard. There are lots of ups and downs. And LOTS of heartache when you get SO close, but it doesn't happen. Still it's worth it.
I love guitars. I look at them online like most people look at porn. Over the years, I’ve built up a nice little collection. Acoustics from the ‘30s. Electrics from the 50s. When I’m on tour, I make a point of finding rad guitar shops (thank you, Gbase), guitar factories to tour (thank you, Collings!!) or museums with exhibits that have anything remotely guitar about them. Over the summer i was playing a show in Indianapolis, and happened to catch signs hanging around downtown for the Eiteljorg Museum’s “Guitars! Roundups to Rockers” exhibit. So I busted a move over there, not knowing what to expect.
Prior to launching a solo career, acoustic guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Aoife O'Donovan (pronounced ee-fuh) spent the better part of a decade touring and recording with the celebrated progressive string group Crooked Still. This past June, O’Donovan released Fossils, her debut LP released on Yep Roc Records. On Fossils, O’Donovan has developed a collection of bluegrass-tinged folk-rock that showcases a focused maturity in her songwriting, and a clear understanding of a deep-rooted music form.
While Don McLean was recording “American Pie,” the eight-minute-plus song that brought him stardom in late 1971, his label, Media Arts Records, went under. Understandably, the situation put a damper on any great expectations McLean had for the song. “I wasn’t thinking of releasing or editing it,” he says today. “My expectations were that I would be looking for a record company.”
Idealists are people who just never grow out of their childhood dreams. Some idealists believe that they can achieve world peace. Then there are the artistic idealists who believe that, despite massive financial obstacles, ever decreasing record sales, and a heavily saturated market, they can find a way to beat the odds and build a successful career selling and performing their own original music. My friends, that is me.
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighers discover the delights of going unplugged on their 2005 double album, In Your Honor. While he is primarily an electric guitarist, Grohl explains that an acoustic guitar has always been his main writing tool. “Most of our songs, from ‘Everlong’ to ‘Monkey Wrench,’ “ he says, “were written on acoustic. I would bring the demos into the rehearsal space and then we’d plug in and dirty them up.”
I love a great cover performance. Especially one that has a different take than the original, but remains recognizable. Sometimes I am more interested in listening to great cover than to the original! The artist took something that’s already familiar and added his or her own personality to it. Not only that, but the new performer is paying respect to another artist.
Over the last few years I’ve been noticing a trend. Traditional acoustic instruments have been popping up, well, all over the place. When I saw them earlier this year in San Francisco, alternative rockers Thao and the Get Down Stay Down grabbed a mandolin, a banjo, and if I it remember right, one or two other “traditional” instruments, to add to their punky edge. It blew me away.
Today I am thrilled to announce a new channel of Guitar World called Acoustic Nation. AN, as I like to call it for short, will focus not only on the traditional use of acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, ukulele, mandolin, acoustic bass and a few more for good measure. It will also deliver a fresh take on how acoustic instruments are being used RIGHT NOW.