Interview: Ariel Hyatt Discusses New Book & Offers Crowdfunding Insight

Ariel Hyatt, founder and owner of Cyber PR in New York City, has been helping artists and entrepreneurs like herself for 20 years by offering public relations, social media and content strategy services.

On top of being a entrepreneurial force in the music scene and beyond, Ariel is also an author. She’s written four books on social media, and her newest book Crowdstart: The Ultimate Guide to a Powerful and Profitable Crowdfunding Campaign drops on October 25th (get it on Amazon!).

We’ve covered campaign tips for artists in the past on this blog, but much like social media marketing, crowdfunding is an ever-evolving process and there’s a lot of insight to be gained from a professional who’s been making it happen long before it was as common as it is nowadays. Crowdstart is a must-have for any independent artist who’s looking to build or improve their crowdfunding skills.

Ariel was kind enough to answer some questions for us, going into personal experiences, advice, and takeaways from the new book, so take notes:

In the beginning of this book, you speak to the help you received (and didn’t receive) from friends/acquaintances after a homefire. What do artists who have never reached out for help need to understand about receiving it from what they thought would be ‘unlikely’ sources?

Part of the magic of asking for help (which is what a crowdfunding campaign is all about) is the element of surprise. What artists need to understand about this is the people who you thought might be huge help may not come to the table at all and when you launch a crowdfunding campaign there will be quite a few donors who will come forward that you did not expect or even know existed.

That being said, there is something else you should know: even the “unlikely sources” won’t show up without a proper plan and a solid approach to your campaign. A successful crowdfunding campaign is just as much about the planning and what happens months before as it is the execution of the 30 days while your crowdfunding campaign is live.

What do you think are some of the most important factors for an artist to consider when it comes to maintaining expectations for their crowdfunding campaigns?

The media has done a great job of making crowdfunding look easy and this expectation can skew your goal because the crowdfunding campaigns you may have read about — like the Coolest Cooler or Amanda Palmer’s epic raise of 1.2M — make it seem like everyone who tries crowdfunding has massive success.

Here are two stats to know to help set realistic expectations:

  1. The average successful crowdfunding campaign raises $7,000.
  2. Approx 60% of crowdfunding campaigns don’t reach the desired financial goal.

Now that you know this you have a healthier place from which to base your expectations….

I do want to point something else out and that is: campaigns that get to 30% of their goal within the first week are more likely to succeed. This means you need to work really hard personally asking for pledges before and at the beginning of your launch.

Do you think there are critical benchmarks an independent artist should reach before considering the start of their first crowdfunding campaign?

Yes. The first benchmark you should cross is having an engaged crowd AND parsing that crowd so that you can make a healthy guesstimate of how much you can safely ask for. The sheer number of followers you have on social media is not as important as their engagement.

You must have a  newsletter list that is professionally managed (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) and that goes out regularly and consistently with tracking enabled to monitor open rates. It’s also important to know what those open rates are. You should also be able to identify who in your crowd (friends, family, superfans) might be more than likely to contribute to your campaign before you launch so that you don’t miss very important contributors.

You write about the kind of content and content curation folks should consider when running a campaign. What do you think are some starting points for indie artists to think about?

Starting points: Research what has worked historically for others in their crowdfunding campaigns (if you read CROWDSTART you won’t have to because I already did the legwork for you,) but there is science to crowdfunding that indicate how many tiers are needed and how much each tier should be priced at. You also want to determine how long your video should be, how many days is ideal for your campaign to run and much more.

Artists might be surprised at how much content is needed to prepare for the 30 day campaign. You will need to prepare numerous emails and social posts plus blog posts and personal emails. In the book I outline exactly how many and what to do each day during a 30 day campaign.

What’s an example of a simple yet results-producing fan communication or social media tactic you’ve seen an artist perform during a crowdfunding campaign?

There are two things my clients have seen that work: Personal emails (not “blasts” through Mail Chimp, etc.) and personal Facebook messages. Direct tweets can also work, but make sure you really know the people with whom you are communicating. These are very effective in rallying support. Make sure these are personal and not “form” letters and posts.

Similarly, when it comes to social media in particular, what are some pitfalls to avoid while promoting crowdfunding campaigns across channels?

Pitfall – posting the same message over and over again. It’s important to mix up the content and make it enticing. You don’t just want to post – hey COME CONTRIBUTE! As that will get old fast. Instead, mix up your posts with questions, comments and sharing great content that is relevant to your campaign and appeals to your followers. Also remember to shine a light on key donors. This is a lovely way to show gratitude for all the energy and money coming your way.

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Explain the importance of identifying, confronting and silencing the character you refer to in your book as “Little Nasty”.

I have coached a LOT of people through crowdfunding campaigns (and I completed one myself with a large goal of 50K.) Inevitably, there will be times when you will have doubts or begin to think that your campaign is a colossal failure.

That is when the voice I refer to as little nasty will pop up. He’s the one that says: “Who do you think you are asking for money? You don’t deserve this money! Everyone is judging you!”

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Stand guard at the portal of your mind.” During your crowdfunding campaign you have to not only stand guard, but lock and bar the door against Little Nasty. That’s why I came up with not one, but seven strategies to keep you healthy and focused during your crowdfunding campaign (HINT — get a team to help you through this and get some mantras!)

When dealing with heavy loads of stress mid-campaign — be it from the project itself or the fear of missing goals — what advice can you offer an indie artist?

Don’t crowdfund on your own! You will feel very lonely if you do. If you don’t have a band to lean on, get a dear friend or family member or someone you really trust who can do some heavy lifting because you will need to heavy lift every day for all 30!

If there’s one key takeaway from your book that you hope to offer an artist contemplating their first crowdfunding campaign, what would it be?

I’m going to quote from the book here!

“Crowdfunding equals us at our highest, taking a risk, sharing ourselves, receiving, and being given the opportunity to express gratitude towards others. The ripple effect is profound, and it will resound for a long time to come.”
This is the best part of a crowdfunding campaign, even better than the money! It’s the human experience that we all go on together.

Interview: The Riverside Sticks Together Like Family

Often times bands and artists fit the image of their genre perfectly without even trying. Banjos, mandolins, upright bass, farmers market jam sessions, camping – all of these evoke thoughts of warm, comforting folk music, and that’s exactly what Santa Barbara’s The Riverside specialize in.

A five-piece indie outfit that has undergone some line-up changes, The Riverside are locked in and enjoying the momentum of their late-June 2016 release Homestead. With five albums released, bandleader Jake Jeanson talked to us about the state of folk, why house shows have been a success for the group, and how The Riverside is treated very much like a family (of course it doesn’t hurt that his wife, Lorien, plays mandolin!) Be sure to check out Homestead and learn more about the group’s happenings below:

Folk has experienced a wonderful resurgence in recent years– what do you attribute to the renewed interest among indie fans?

Jake Jeanson: I think folk has always been the secret love in the roots of a lot of peoples hearts. I think the sound that comes from this sort of music tends to connect people with each other in ways that gives a sort of nostalgia or feelings of genuineness, which is awesome.

It reminds you of where you’ve been, and makes you think of where you are going.

How does The Riverside set out to distinguish yourselves among other folk acts?

I think the one thing we do well is love each other like family and hold each other accountable; not only to band things like honest songwriting and performing, but to life outside of the band.

We know the family- group feel that emanates from our band isn’t necessarily our “own” thing that no other bands don’t have, but we really think its been something notable that continues to shape us.

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You all finalized your lineup just last year – how would you explain the way the five band members finally ‘clicked’?

Band members over the years have always “clicked” and gotten along. In fact, there isn’t an ounce of bad blood between old and new. People were part of the band for the season that life allowed them, and when that time came to a close, we all had an understanding.

However, it is very, very exciting to have people who can consistently be there, to create and grow our music. Everyone in the band right now has always had the dream of being in a full-time group, so its extremely satisfying for everyone in the band to know that we are all on the same page in life.

How would you say that The Riverside evolved in terms of songwriting and instrumentation since 2013?

Through course of five albums now we’ve learned a lot about songwriting. There’s always the struggle when songwriting to cheese out lyrics or to write about the thing that’s easiest or that “fits”.

One of the big things that we’ve focused on more than anything is growing our songwriting integrity to never settle and to keep writing on ideas and stories that mean something to us. Not to say that every song needs a serious nature; we believe that there is always room for light hearted songs as well, because sometimes, that’s just what you need to play or listen to!

What led the group to take advantage of alternative performance opportunities like house shows and farmers markets?

To us, music is community and about connecting with people. If we can brighten someones day or sympathize with peoples harder life circumstances with our music, than that to us, is living the dream. Busking in markets and playing in a natural setting also makes you better performers and tighter as a band like nothing else can. So we have the opporunity to do both these things, we go for it.

How has the way you connect with fans (before, during and after) been impacted by these types of shows?

House shows and markets are amazing because it takes you off the stage. When people are in a natural setting there isn’t any pressure. It’s just people playing music and having a good time connecting with each other. We realize that nothing we say is any more important that what someone else has to say and feel, so if people want to listen in and spent time with us, we count it as an honor.

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Your Patreon account mentioned camping during tours. Is this something you all do?

Oh yes, being a smaller independent band is kind of crazy at times. Camping is super affordable, bonding, and just all around fun to be in nature. We have tents and camping gear in our van for whenever we don’t have a friends house to stay at. People are so kind on the road, a lot of the time you’ll get offers from people to host your band for the night! It’s the kindest gesture ever!

What other creative twists have you put on the way you hit the road?

Our new album, Homestead, we home-made and hand-stamped our art to our CD sleeves, so that way, we can bring coloring supplies so people can color their own album. We thought that would be a fun thing for people to be able to do!

What can fans look forward to enjoying about the most recent release, Homestead?

Homestead portrays a sweet old-time sound about remembering the good ol’ days with those you love, and workin’ through the hard ones. It’s an album that has sort of sound that harkins back to our self-titled first album, which we love.

This is your fifth release using TuneCore! How have you used not only TuneCore, but also other artist-friendly services to build your musical career so far?

TuneCore has been great to us. It connects you to all the places where people may want to listen to your music. We’ve been working really hard touring and reaching out to people, so being on all of these sites that TuneCore connects us with has really been key to helping us grow and continue to be able to run the band!

Interview: Matthew Myers of LeetStreet Boys Breaks Down Otaku Culture & Music

An undeniable power of music is its ability to bring fans together to celebrate a likeminded song, band, or genre. For this editor, it was punk rock as a teen, and by that point, the Internet had already made it easy to connect with likeminded weirdos. For Matthew Myers, frontman of the LeetStreet Boys, it was “otaku”.

Translating to “geek”, the otaku community has evolved since the 1980s, but is most often associated with video game, Japanese culture,  animation and ‘manga’ obsessives across the globe.

Myers founded LeetStreet Boys – one part webcomic (with band members as characters), one part pop group – and uploaded the video for his single “Yuri The Only One” in 2008. From there, the group grew in popularity among the otaku crowd online, amassing over 1 million streams.

So, fantasy, comic characters with a real band behind them?” If you’re less familiar with otaku culture, LeetStreet Boys can be a lot to get your head around! Matt Myers was happy to answer some questions for us about the group, otaku culture, and how they engage with fans:

When did you become involved or invested in the otaku/anime culture personally?

Matthew Myers: In 2006 , a close friend introduced me to my first anime convention. It was like a huge crazy party with 10,000 people doing a lot of my favorite things. Video game tournaments. Dressing up in exotic costumes (cosplay). Improv skits. Rave dances.

Most people think about gamers as antisocial geeks. But here was this huge group of “otaku,” being incredibly social, and I saw it as an opportunity to reach out to an audience that most people had no idea even existed.

Were you always writing and making music before your involvement with the LeetStreet Boys?

Yes, I had already been in a few bands and started composing music professionally. But Leetstreet Boys was the first thing I had ever done that gained any kind of mass following. It was at a point that I knew I needed to come up with something really memorable if I wanted to stay in the field. And that motivated me to take more risks I had before.

For a music fan who has never heard your tunes, explain a bit about the legacy of genre and its fan base in both the U.S. and abroad.

LeetStreet Boys music is an uncanny mix of romance, epic and humor that has always engaged the “otaku” community on more than just a musical level. In English, word “otaku” translates to “geek” or “nerd,” and like those two, has changed from negative to positive in today’s cultural zeitgeist.

Over the years, otaku music has become an increasingly integral part of the anime, video game and cosplay worlds, and now represents a massive creative force on the Internet and in live fan events around the globe. Because there, in those environments, you can be anything you can want to be, and that’s the heart and soul of the otaku experience. It’s what gives life to my own formative experiences, and makes what I do possible now.

LeetStreet Boys Anime

Which came first, exactly – the webcomic known as LeetStreet Boys or the songs ultimately written by you and the actual band?

The song “Yuri The Only One” came first. There was no live “band” at that point, just myself and one other person. The song was the thing. It just sounded awesome from the get-go, and with the help of an anime-inspired animated music video, it broke very quickly.

Suddenly, LeetStreet Boys were getting a lot of attention, not just because of the song itself, but because we created LeetStreet characters in the videos and transposed them to the webcomic.

Your songs have an upbeat, pop-punk meets chiptune vibe. What were you and the rest of the band listening to growing up?

We had diverse musical backgrounds. My partner was in a ton of bands, and I’d been playing piano, writing songs and composing with MIDI for years.

Pop-punk has a high-energy simplicity that allowed me to focus on melody, chords and lyrics. But I also liked the uplifting feel of epic video game music like Final Fantasy. The chiptunes ideas grew on me later as I started writing songs about saving princesses in castles and other classic game topics.

Break down how fans in otaku culture engage  with the LeetStreet Boys both online and in real life.

The internet brings out the most polarizing reactions. LeetStreet Boys has gotten all kinds of inflammatory comments. But it’s really gratifying that there are also so many heartfelt testimonials about our music and helping teens get through some difficult times. We’ve gotten so much fan art and songs and videos over the years, as well as some silly and ridiculous hate mail I thoroughly enjoy laughing at.

And it hasn’t stopped there. A few real life fans have proposed marriage at our concerts and gotten married to our songs. I’ve seen some amazing cosplays with someone dressed up as “me” from the music videos. At one convention a vendor sold “Yuri” BDSM paddles and people bought them for me write “The Only One” on them.

How have platforms like YouTube and your licensed music in video games allowed the band and the webcomic to build a fan base?

YouTube has been enormous for LeetStreet Boys. Not everybody has the label connections to get their music played on commercial radio rotation, so having a popular YouTube video is the next best thing. I put months of planning into our animated music videos and take it very seriously.

The video games have been a cool outlet for us since there aren’t a whole lot of artists doing that.

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Matthew Myers

When did the opportunity to play live strike and how common is it for bands in this genre to garner a following in the West?

With LeetStreet Boys, it’s been about going national from day one. Six months after our debut single on YouTube, we got our first opportunity to headline a festival.

After that, we continued getting invitations to perform as a musical guest at anime conventions and events all over North America. But it was all based on songs that appealed to a dedicated audience, and you have to have that to make it in any arena.

How has using TuneCore to distribute releases allowed you to monitor the response of fans around the world?

TuneCore’s trend reports have been great, especially when it comes to choosing the right single to promote. Being able to see what fans are buying organically provides considerable insight into what tune can be most effectively promoted with an accompanying video.

What are some upcoming plans for the group that you’re excited about in 2016?

LeetStreet Boys is looking to announce an anime convention appearance this year, and eyeing opportunity to make another epic music video from our third album.

Interview: Trevor Wesley – On R&B, Chivalry and Style

Maybe it’s something about growing up in constantly amazing weather, but South California-raised Trevor Wesley can show just about anyone a good time with his music. A modern R&B/pop crooner, Wesley has produced, written with and performed alongside artists like Ne-Yo, Wale, 98 Degrees, and Joe Jonas.

Trevor has wowed the TuneCore Live goers of Los Angeles before, and we’re psyched to have him holding it down for us during our Austin Takeover this week. You can catch him at our Indie Artist Forum Day Party on Thursday, March 17th at the Vulcan Gas Co, and if you’re less familiar, get to know him in our Q&A below!

Tell us about how you started singing and performing. Who were your earliest influences?

Trevor Wesley: I started singing and performing at an early age because I just loved to do it. It wasn’t an idea I came up with, I just did it. My Mom played all kinds of jazz music like Ella fitzgerald and Nat King Cole and my Dad liked the rock side like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Singing to a girl in school was a realization in it’s self.

Similarly, what have you been digging lately for inspiration or just chilling out? (New or old!) 

I mostly always get inspiration from something older… Ain’t nothing new under the sun! (laughs) I could hear anything really and get SOMETHING I like out of it. I love taking pieces of inspiration from all different kinds of things even non-music related, like shapes and colors. Music is all patterns shapes and colors arranged in a fashion that your ears can transcribe.

I really get inspired from a lot of my friends these days… My boy Ruslan is a beast on keys…I like his playing. He has an album out and also coming out soon.  My friends in New Genesis (band) are all super talented and I’m always inspired hearing or hanging with them. BJ the Chicago Kid is a new artist I dig. Nice voice and raw sound.

Of all the genre-resurgences, new trends in R&B have been very exciting. What are your thoughts where R&B and soul are going in 2016?

Well R&B music is the true “baby makin” music lane. There are so many ways to tackle that, (no pun intended). I like to make “love making” music: music that feels like love. Right now I don’t feel too much “love” on a lot of the popular records I hear. I know there are a lot of artists who are working hard at making R&B music in hopes to bring back the love.

Your newest project is titled Chivalry Is Dead – do you think modern music is doing a good enough job covering romance realistically in the Tinder age?

This question can tie into my last answer. No, a lot of modern music aim’s on being “cool” than being a man for a lady. Guys seem like they are singing to other guys (fans). I’m singing to women. The women who don’t take sweet guys for granted and the women who value themselves.

You’ve worked with some high profile artists on the production and writing front. What have these folks taught you that you can apply to your own music career?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with very talented people. I’m always blown away when I sit back and humble myself to learn and observe the greatness in the room. Sometimes you feel the need to always want to show what you can do with your talent when the best thing you can do is be a sponge and soak up everything that’s happening.

You’re a pretty stylish dude. How important do you think image and style is when it comes to the music you’re making, as well as performing in general? 

Thanks for the compliment! We have more than one sense of hearing/listening. Got to appeal to the other senses! Visually, it’s important to entertain as well. I like to dress in ways that make me feel good and in ways that make me feel like me. What you wear says a lot about who you are.

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Since this year isn’t you first SXSW trip as an artist, how do you plan to make the most of it?

No I’ve been before. I have a feeling this trip will be a bit more official and also excited that it’s in line with my team over at Believe and they will have a chance to check me out.  I’ll make the most of it by singing my heart out and by tending to the awesome people.

What have your past experiences at SXSW taught you and how do you plan to apply that to your trip this year?

Number one is always have fun. How you feel is a reflection of how you make the crowd feel. If I put my heart in it, and hopefully the crowd will resonate with that.

What advice do you have for artists who are interested in producing, writing and performing but might have a hard time balancing and focusing their efforts?

My advice is do what’s in your heart and what you feel. Do something because you enjoy it and you want to, not because it might make you money. I haven’t made much money in the ten years I’ve been in this industry, but I do it because I love to.

The Wealthy West: Brandon Kinder on Balancing Solo & Band Life

It’s a story you hear often: bandmates meet at college, start writing songs and playing locally, gain post-college indie success, start touring with hot bands and even get songs licensed on TV! Just as often, we learn that a member of the band decides on releasing solo work on the side.

As fans or upcoming artists, there is little thought put into what it means to a songwriter to separate his or herself from the band that brought them to prominence, and even less thought into how they balance the two identities. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the end, but what about when songwriters really just want to maintain a different avenue of music creation?

Meet Brandon Kinder, who has fronted Austin’s The Rocketboys for over ten years. As his indie rock band matured and hit new benchmarks, Kinder found himself with the desire to create music under The Wealthy West moniker. His latest release, Long Play, drops tomorrow, February 9th (get it on iTunes Pre-Order here!), and we interviewed him about what it means to step out and focus on his solo efforts while still maintaining a balance between this and his band.

The Rocketboys formed in college – were you already writing songs and performing musically before that point?

Brandon Kinder: I had been in bands in high school, mostly just as a guitar player, but I did write a few songs – mostly goofy stuff just to make my friends laugh. It wasn’t until college that I really started thinking of myself as a writer. And really, I didn’t think of myself that way, you know, as a “songwriter.” I was just a guy who was in a band.

Austin has become solidified as an American music hub over the years. Do you feel that relocating to a city with such a ‘scene’ played a major role in The Rocketboys’ trajectory?

Austin definitely played a big part of our band’s trajectory. We moved here from our small college town, Abilene, because it was a “music city.” We’ve met all kind of wonderful amazing people that are all part of this music scene we have here. There are tons of bands here that constantly inspire me to work harder, and dream bigger.

Austin doesn’t have too much of a “music business” side, (aside from live music). But the great thing is, those people who are on the other side of the stage are the most loyal, amazing, caring people. I mean, there is an organization here called Black Fret, who, (in the past two years), has given more than a quarter of a million dollars to local bands! That is something special, and it’s just one of the great things Austin has to offer its musicians.

Austin is just an inspiring place in general.

What do you feel have been some of the most important lessons you learned early on as an artist when it comes to marketing your music?

I’m still learning, actually. When I first started playing around people were still putting together press kits made out of paper. (I think I still have some somewhere.) I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that you really have to hustle, and you can’t stop – ever.

There are so many bands right now that have so much at their fingertips, and what separates us is our work ethic. Sure, there are tons of lucky breaks happening, but for the unlucky, you just have to work hard. You have to become not only a marketer, but a graphic designer, a photographer, a videographer, a social media guru, a booking agent, a manager, and the list goes on.

You have to be able to do it all. It’s not the sexy side of being an artist, but it’s what can make you a successful one.

You’ve had the opportunity to tour/share the stage with some really well known indie artists, as well as at some larger festivals. What have these experiences meant to you as an artist, and how do you use them as motivation?

You know, every time we get to play with a bigger artist, or play a festival, it’s great because we can see what they’re doing that works and apply that to what we’re doing.

What kept you inspired to write ‘in between touring and recording’ with your band? What kind of emotions are captured on Long Play?

Songwriting is just something I do. It’s become a part of me. It’s the way I work through things. One time a friend of mine said to me that I’m always talking about trying to get somewhere in my songs. That’s still the case with some of Long Play, and I don’t think I’ve quite figured out where I’m going yet.

The song “We Painted Pictures” was actually used to propose to my wife. It’s kind of a long story, but it’s a good one.

You referred to the Wealthy West as a ‘place I go to dream, to escape’.  How do you channel that energy into creating music?

I try to write a little more personally when writing songs for The Wealthy West. And it’s a beautiful thing, to get to work through life in a melody. Music has always been my therapy, even before I started making my own. It’s odd, but even though I’ve been writing songs for so long and working non-stop, when I’m stressed or tired, it still makes me want to write a song. And it’s the same for when I’m happy and feeling alive. I’m just always drawn to document my life through song these days.

What made you want to focus so heavily on the instrumentation throughout this album as opposed to using synths and samples?

I had just finished up working on an electronic instrumental record, (which probably won’t ever be heard by anyone but me), and I think I just wanted a break from that sort of workflow.

For one, I think the music on this album should be organic, but also, I just wanted to do the exact opposite of what I had just been doing. I wanted to slow things down, and make my own sounds the old fashioned way. I will admit though, the piano is fake.

But yeah, I just really wanted to get outside of my computer for a little bit. It was more of a challenge to myself than anything.

For artists who are looking to showcase their solo efforts while maintaining their band life, what kind of advice can you offer?

It’s great to get to diversify and broaden what you’re doing musically, but it is a lot of work, and it’s definitely a tough balance. It’s hard to be in two places at once. For me, I needed to do something with all these songs I’d been working on, and I’m glad I did.

You’ve operated outside the label system for awhile. How have platforms like TuneCore made it easy for you to act as an entrepreneur while handling your music career?

We’ve been working with TuneCore since 2007, and there’s not an easier way to get your music out there. You guys have made it so easy to get music up on all the different streaming sites and stores.

It’s good to know that I can trust TuneCore with my music. And if I’ve ever had an issue, (and they’re always based in my own ignorance), you guys are always super quick to respond and help me figure it out.

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When I first reached out, you were on a songwriting retreat cruise – sounds amazing! Tell us about how that came to be and how the experience was.

Yeah, that was such a great experience. Something I’ll never forget. The Rocketboys are about to play on “The Rock Boat”, which is basically a 5-day music festival on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

The people putting that on asked me and 6 other songwriters to meet up on another cruise a couple weeks before, and write and record an album while on the boat. None of us had ever met before, and in 2.5 days, the 7 of us wrote 9 songs and recorded them. It was a challenge we were all up for, and it turned out great.

We broke off into little groups, wrote the songs, and then went into the studio, (which was just a cabin on the ship), and laid down guitar, voice, and some percussion. Then the producer took it from there.

At the end of the cruise we all had a listening party and got to hear all of our songs, fully produced for the first time. It was really incredible, and I feel like we’re all family. And now, on The Rock Boat, we’re going to get back together and play a show and sell the CDs! It’s such a cool idea, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

With Long Play being released February 9th, what additional plans do you have to support the album?

I’m working on booking a tour, and have a few things in the works already, (like my CD Release Party in Austin on 2/12). I’ve got a couple more video ideas I’d like to do as well.

I just want to stay busy. The Rocketboys are about to start recording our third LP in the next few months, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Interview: Eden Warsaw Chats Debut Full Length

Toronto’s Eden Warsaw creates a synth-charged, electro indie sound and isn’t afraid to dabble in pop and R&B. In Fall of last year, he released his Dream of Beaches EP, with just three songs that had the sonic capabilities to make a listener do just that – even if the cold weather was on its way.

With the help of his band, Eden Warsaw is releasing his debut full length, Searching For Someone, tomorrow, January 15th. It’s available for pre-order on iTunes, where you can snag the Instant Grat track “Lightning Touch”. Eden took some time to answer a few questions for us pertaining to the new release, his place in the Toronto music scene, and more:

There’s an undeniable sense of influence from multiple genres in your music. Who has influenced you most?

Eden Warsaw: I wish there was an easy way to answer that, it’s pretty even across the board. I like artists that are genuinely unique and own their sound. Artists and bands like Beach House, Radiohead, Lana Del Rey, and Lykke Li to name a few. I respect when someone believes more in their music and sound than what impact it could have on their success or what people ‘expect’ from them.

What do you take from each genre to make a sound of your own, and how do you keep it from veering into one particular category?

When I’m writing I try to use sounds that blend well together and draw some kind of emotional reaction. I think being solely focused on the sounds I enjoy and not being tied to the boundaries of a specific genre helps me naturally blend multiple genres.

Once I release more of the music I’ve been working on people will hear the true style I have instead of the little teaser that the Dream of Beaches EP showed.

While poppy, there’s a dreaminess to your songs. Where do you find inspiration for writing that might be considered out of the ordinary?

I wish I knew! My perspective is always that there’s something ‘more’ in a moment or experience that has an effect on life. If I go through something whether it’s positive or negative I just try to take a step back and see a bigger picture…

I guess that’s how I would describe it, but there really isn’t a formula that I have. If I feel it, I write about it. The music is about trying to evoke those emotions with lyrics explaining what they feel like.

What can you say about breaking into the Toronto indie scene? Has pop been a genre that is well represented?

[laughs] I’ll let you know when I break into the Toronto scene! On a serious note, Toronto has taken off in the last few years musically and I think my albums get to add something different to the mix. There are a lot of big artists that rep Toronto, but the best part is how different each artist is.

You have Drake, The Weeknd, and DFA 1979 for example – they all have their unique sound. I think indie-pop/alternative is where it’s at right now for me, but there aren’t too many artists or bands in that genre currently. I would say Lights is a great example of a cutting edge Toronto pop artist because she can write and perform that style really well.

Eden Warsaw 1

What have you found to be some of the most underrated marketing engagement strategies as an indie artist?

I’m honestly just getting started with promoting this music. Once my band started rehearsing – shout out to PChan on guitar, Troy on bass and Kyle on drums – they were the ones that kept telling me to start releasing these albums. After we worked out our live show we decided to release the Dream of Beaches EP just to get the social media rust off; now we’ll start playing some shows and hopefully people enjoy the debut album!

Besides TuneCore, what other tools and platforms are vital for you as an indie artist?

If I could go back in time, catching up with social media, I would have used Facebook and Twitter a lot more. I’ve never really been an avid user of social media and I don’t really use Twitter too much, but I’m growing fonder of Instagram and Facebook. It’s actually a good way to keep people connected, and for anyone that knows me they know I love just talking about the music and explaining what I’m going for.

With that said, I think word of mouth and actually talking to people about the music is almost a lost art; I don’t think everything should go fully digital, so I’m hoping any engagement I have with people is as authentic as possible.

With the forthcoming release of your debut album, how do you feel your music has evolved up to this point in time?

Well years ago, I was writing strictly acoustic songs which gave me a strong foundation for songwriting. Then I played in some bands, which ended up with me writing some alternative/pop type of solo stuff. That ended up becoming an electronic project for a bit, which was a good learning curve, but now I’m feeling really good back in my pop/alternative groove.

I like the rawness and emotion of alternative but the accessibility and catchiness of pop, so I try to blend the two. I think I’ve really found a sound that I can call my own, which is really important to me, and I love the way it translates to the live shows. From a song writing perspective, I’ve been able to really focus on what I’m trying to say in a song, making sure the lyrics are multi-dimensional, and that the music is layered enough to be exciting and fresh but not overdone.

This took me years to figure out so I’m excited about it.

What kinds of topics does your songwriting cover on Searching For Someone?

I’m lucky with the track-listing in Searching For Someone because it tells the full story of the ups and downs of relationships. I know it’s common to write about love or love lost, but I think this has a few angles that are unique, vulnerable and honest.

There’s a lot of happiness, heartbreak and hope throughout the album, and if it can give someone the soundtrack to whatever they are going through, then that will be worth it. I’m a big fan of listening to albums from start to finish so I wanted to do that with Searching For Someone as well.

What do you foresee in the near future for indie alternative/pop music? 

I hope that this genre mix grows. It was really cool to see a band like MuteMath, who were making a lot of guitar-based alternative music, naturally switch over to a more electronic sound but keep that same emotion. I think that’s a really good example of where I hope things go.

As an artist with some experience under your belt, what kind of advice can you offer to those just getting started?

Evolving in songwriting is important, which is about the only advice I can give to artists just getting started. I’m already really excited about the songs that are coming after Searching For Someone, so we’ll see what happens!