Yo! Last week I was talking about the fleeting moments of being a new artist and about how crucial a time in your career that may be. I was reflecting on those times after I wrote the post.
Man, my head was completely up my ass when it came to playing the game. I thought y'all might enjoy a classic music-business slip-up I made then out of the goodness and purity of my muse.
After we dropped our debut record in '94, we got a raving and highly coveted four-star review in Rolling Stone. This was a pretty big deal and, of course, at that time, Rolling Stone reviews could help sell records. Shoot, at that time people even bought records . . . remember that?!
So we were off to a good start with the critics. Honestly, it was really quite an honor to get a review, let alone a four-star review, and I had always been a huge fan of Rolling Stone magazine. Thank you!
As our tour progressed, the crowds got bigger, the shows were heavier and shit was rolling.Rolling Stone wanted to do another piece on the band. This time it was some sort of fashion-based shoot featuring an up-and-coming band. They wanted G. Love and Special Sauce.
We were all very excited about this great opportunity and a call was set up with the stylist to discuss the look. Now, at the time, I was very specific and hardcore in the way I presented myself. Everything had to be vintage. To match the music we played, we used old vintage instruments, I wore old polyester leisure suits I would find at thrift stores across the country. I wore Bluesman leather boots with metal taps so my foot stomping was loud. The whole visual presentation was dialed in and precise. We cared a lot about it and respected our stage. The stage was our church and we dressed the part.
On the call, the Rolling Stone stylist said she liked the look. During our conversation we agreed to slick shoes, sharkskin suits, bluesmen looks. Done and done.
Everything was lined up and we were headed to Seattle to play the legendary Crocodile Cafe. We were shooting with RS that day before the show. The four-star review was an honor but now I was getting a highly coveted feature. I was jazzed. We showed up at the shoot and the shit hit the fan.
In the clothing racks were all jeans and trendy skate boarding clothes — Converse Chucks for shoes, T-shirts and basically none of the wardrobe we had talked about. I was pissed. I had worked my ass off to get to this spot. The way I looked and the music I played was important. I finally had the honor of being in Rolling Stone and now I had to look like someone that was not me. I wasn’t having it!
Now I'm a pretty easy-going dude and I don't like to stir up trouble or be a pain in the ass, but here I was putting my foot down. I'm not wearing this shit. Period. It's not me. If I'm finally making Rolling Stone! I wanna be me!
All hell broke loose. The stylists were aggravated and the famous photographer was pissed. Management was calling the labels. PR was calling the magazine. It was classic. In the end there was a compromise. I could wear one of my pieces with one of their pieces. Great compromise, guys! A mismatched look. It was a fucking debacle. We spent all day shooting this BS for RS and guess what? After the shoot they canned the feature. I lost my shot.
By putting so much love and value in the way I was presented for a magazine I loved, I wasn't presented at all. And guess what? Since then we haven't had a favorable RS review, we have had no features and almost every time we make print it's in a negative context. They give us no love. Jeff my drummer thinks we are blacklisted at RS, like we are on some kind of fucking no-fly list. He says the mag has RS "darlings," bands that they write about all the time. I bet they do pick their favorites, no doubt. I'm not sure about the black list, though.
Well, that was the deal. I just wanted it to be perfect. I was honored and wanted to be presented as me. They wanted me to be someone else. I said fuck it. They said fuck you. I guess I lost but at least I didn't sell out. And now what? What's the point?
Well, it comes down to knowing who you are and what kind of world you want to create. What kind of experience and authenticity are you bringing to the stage. It's really important as a new artist to cease the moment and to know where you stand. What kind of compromises can you afford to make without selling yourself short. What type of exposure and how much money are you willing to pass up to "keep it real". Credibility is key to long-term successes. When you piss off your fans by selling out your cred you lose them. People want something real. The people are what count. They will come for the shows if they believe in you. Once you lose that trust it's over. It's way hard to win it back.
So anyways, Jeff is like, "Hey why don't you write a letter to the editor at Rolling Stone. Tell them you're sorry about the Seattle shoot and if you wouldn’t mind we’ve been in the no fly list since '98 can you pull us off." I told him, "Shit I really don't think there's a blacklist. When we make something undeniable they'll come around. They won’t have a choice. We will have our time again and they'll be writing us up." Until then, the hell with them. RS isn't even important anymore. What's important is playing great shows and making consistently great records. That's the mission and I'm on it.
I'm not so much down with the phrase "keep it real," so I'm gonna leave you with this: Be yourself. Always. Know who you are and be yourself.
Thanks for stopping by.
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron™ pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.