Touring Right, Fan Perspective

As any loyal concert-goer knows, there are certain things that work for artists, and others that we’d just as soon forget. Let’s be honest, this rings true even when seeing our favorite artists perform.

Now, as one of those aforementioned concert junkies, I’ve been compiling a mental list of these attributes and it’s about time I share them with music lovers and bands alike. Join us after the jump for a rundown of some of our personal DOs and DON’Ts for touring musicians, large and small.


OS @ Warped Series: Phone Calls From Home

It’s officially summer, and Warped Tour has begun! In case you haven’t heard, we’re sponsoring our own stage for twenty-two dates and bringing over twenty-three artists out to perform on it. We decided to catch up with these artists to get the scoop on their summer plans.

Over the past few years, Phone Calls from Home have become a pop rock staple in their local scene. These boys will be bringing their exciting live show to Warped Tour all month long, with hopes of bringing feel-good vibes to fans new and old. Read on to find out how the band met, what they’ve been doing this year, and what they hope to accomplish on Warped Tour.

OS: How did you guys all meet and start the band?

PCFH: Dave, Zack, and Jason met in high school and they met Danny when they were on tour and played a show in Alabama.

OS: Like OurStage, Phone Calls From Home is a Boston-bred operation.  What’s your favorite local venue to play?

PCFH: We played at the Brighton Music Hall recently with Paradise Fears and it was great! Definitely a new favorite for us.


Exclusive Q and A: Justin Moore Talks about Life as one of Country Music's Young Guns

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsJustin Moore has been called one of the latest outlaw country artists. I was relieved, in a way, when I read Moore doesn’t think of himself that way. I don’t either.

Maybe the moniker came about because he is one of country music’s up-and-coming young guns”pun intended due to Moore’s hit song Guns.” So is his buddy Josh Thompson. And Kiefer Thompson, of Thompson Square. Scotty McCreery is another. The list goes on.

I formed my impression of Moore after talking to him a few times in the past eighteen months. I found him to be straightforward, honest, down-to-earth and incredibly humble. Let’s put it this way”mama would let her babies grow up to be cowboys if they were half as genuine as Moore.

But rather than tell you about Moore, we’ll let him tell you about himself in this exclusive Q&A.

OS: So you have been on tour with Blake Shelton on the Well Lit & Amplified Tour. What is that like?

JS: It has been a blast! Miranda [Lambert, Shelton’s wife] and I are good friends. We’ve toured together a lot in the past couple of years. Blake is as down to earth as they come.

OS: What’s the biggest difference in your show these days?

JM: This tour is different than any other tour [we’ve done]. For one thing, we have got production and I never had that before this tour. We have a tractor trailer pulling gear. That all makes a huge difference. The lighting, the staging. It takes so much pressure off me as an artist. People are not only looking at you, they see the cools staging.


OurStage Q and A: Orange Avenue Gear Up for 'Small Victories'

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsIt’s no surprise that OurStage artists Orange Avenue have named their new record Small Victories. The band has had a countless number of them in their five years together, including being named Buzzworthy by MTV, opening for The All-American Rejects and Rihanna and song placements on MTV, FOX Sports and Teen Nick. Here on OurStage, they’ve been named one of the top rock bands of 2010, chosen as a Needle In the Haystack artist and won the Video Grand Prize in 2011. With the release of Small Victories just a few weeks away, we caught up with Orange Avenue to learn more about the album and what we can expect from these guys in 2012. PS:There’s a free download waiting for you at the end of the article!

OS: You had a song (“Just Refrain”) featured in the first episode of The OurStage Panel. What was it like to watch the episode and hear the panelists’ commentary?

OA: Very enlightening. It was really cool to see the different outside opinions and critiques, and it was really cool to see the other artists that we were against…it was a nice glimpse of the music industry from the inside. It was a good episode all around. It’s a phenomenal thing, what you guys are doing at OurStage. It’s awesome for independent bands, it’s a phenomenal outlet. Back in the day, we weren’t so fortunate to have this tool. We’re definitely grateful.

OS: You’ve been gearing up to release your new album, Small Victories, later this month. What is the meaning behind the title of the record?

OA: It basically means overcoming obstacles to achieve what you want to achieve. Taking things one day at a time, one battle at a time. One small victory towards winning the ultimate war [laughs].

OS: Small Victories will be your third album. How do you feel that you’ve grown as a band since the first and second albums?

OA: The album itself, if anyone’s heard our Reset EP…it’s along the same lines. We’ve definitely grown as far as writing together and individually musically. This is some of the best stuff we’ve come up with. But there was a serious elimination process that we had to undergo. We came up with around sixty songs, so you can imagine! And every song, somebody had a serious tie to each one… so we went through a process of elimination with our management and our producer. We came up with what we thought was a well-rounded album.

OS: How many songs of those sixty did you end up using for the album?

OA: We actually used nine. We actually took a couple of choice tracks from Reset because we wanted to actually push them and get them a little more exposure, “Just Refrain” being one of them… “No Goodbyes,” and “Nightwalk” actually starts off the record. We just always thought that was a great album starter. This is kind of like our dream album. If we could have had the money to do this when we were doing Reset, this is probably what we would have done [laughs]. It’s twelve tracks total, but we have a bonus track for those who are pre-ordering to offer them a little something extra.

OS: The first single, “Wondergirl,” has a very high-energy, electronic feel to it. Can we expect more of the same on Small Victories? Have you thrown any curveballs in there?

OA: It’s very moody, it’s not really all high-energy. We just like to give people something that just kind of rocks, to begin with, then get down to the deeper part of Orange Avenue, you know? [laughs] Start with a bang, first of all, and hopefully they come back for more and realize there’s more sides to the band than just the fast stuff. There’s definitely some moody stuff there.

OS: Who would you say are your biggest influences on this record?

OA: There’s tons of them, to be honest with you. The Killers, All-American Rejects, The Used, Muse, Chili Peppers, Radiohead. All of us individually have a lot of separate influences and collectively we agree and have the same as well. I can kind of hear all of that being used in all the songs, like a rollercoaster ride. You can hear those different vibes throughout the entire record.

OS: You play hundreds of shows a year. Do you have any big touring plans for 2012?

OA: Big plans! [laughs] We are in the process of trying to do a small little tour around Florida just as a kickstart to get it going and promote the new record. But every day, good things are happening! We’re getting news every day on different things that are popping in and hopefully in another couple weeks, it will be completed where we can go ahead and do everything and really make an impact. Spring break goes off in Florida, so lots of gigs here this time of year!

OS: When are you going to come to Boston? We need to see you up here!

OA: We’d love to do that! The plans are that if this tour that we’re speaking of goes well, the next plan is to do an east coast run. We’d love to be there, it’s definitely on the list.

OS: Anything else you’d like to say to your fans on OurStage?

OA: Small Victories, 2/21! Order the CD now on iTunes! [laughs] We really worked hard on this album and there’s something on the album for everyone. We think people will appreciate the sound that we’ve come to develop on this third album!

Can’t wait for February 21st? Click here to download “Wondergirl” now! And be sure to follow Orange Avenue on Facebook and Twitter for more exciting news, tour dates and future victories.

Industrial Revolution: Video Now

In my last post, I suggested that television killed the radio star. That grisly investigation is still ongoing, but meanwhile we should take a look at the previous suspect and whether or not it has been marked for death by the passage of time: the music video.

When independent artists tell people they’re making a video, the most common response, even from other artists, is Why? No one is certain that videos are a bad idea, but many wonder whether spending the time, effort and money on such a venture is worth it.

So, is there a point to making a video? The ample opportunity offered by the Internet and the changing expectations of music fans have made the answer to this question an easy yes. The doubt expressed by some comes primarily from a pre-Internet, old music biz mindset: if there are no longer television outlets that will play your video to millions of people, then making one seems futile. The diversification of MTV into primarily non-video programming has filtered down even though its sub-channels (MTV2 and the like). Though they still play blocks of videos, that time is valuable and isn’t going to feature unsigned and unknown talent. The imminent return of 120 Minutes may change this to some small degree, but there is certainly not much hope now to get your video on TV if you’re an independent artist. Yet to declare defeat is to ignore all the video outlets on the Internet, from right here on OurStage to YouTube to Vimeo to an artist’s own Web site and Facebook page.

Savvy artists understand two primary benefits of having a video to disseminate across the Web.

  1. Music fans, particularly younger listeners, now have an expectation that a band or song will be easy to find and listen to online. While strictly audio outlets exist, the number one go-to site for free streaming is YouTube. Even artists that have not made a video will frequently post a few tracks with just a still photo or slideshow accompaniment, just to have a presence there. But an interesting video is the best way to keep the interest of today’s media-bombarded attention span.
  2. Touring has become less and less financially feasible for independent artists. In place of touring, videos are a legitimately useful representation of an artist for an interested music fan. Many fans actually prefer to check out a few songs by a band in the comfort of their bedroom, rather than see the band live. They might like it so much that they are compelled to seek the live show, but mostly, fans are satisfied with what is perceived as the best possible impression an artist has to offer: their videos. (The pros and cons of this state of affairs is another issue altogether.)

As the target vehicle for videos has changed from television to the Internet, so has the artist’s intent or goal for the video. The music video that finds the most success today is not just a creative meeting of music and imagery. Going viral is pretty much the holy grail of media exposure for everyone from a 12-year-old kid with his dad’s camera to an international mega-corporation trying to promote its new product. Music videos are no different. For many bands making videos, the desired response has shifted from Oh, that’s cool to I gotta post this on Facebook. There have always been creative videos being made, though by 1986, they had arguably exhausted their potential for innovation, from the excellent extremes of Peter Gabriel’s landmark claymation video for Sledgehammer to The Replacements’ defiantly minimalist Bastards of Young clip, which pretty much focuses on a speaker the whole time.

Cool videos continued to come and go, with declining public interest and consumption. Fewer and fewer were made, making the quality videos stand out even more, which kept the genre alive. When Internet technology and home computing technology got to the point where watching a video online wasn’t a frustrating mess, things started to pick up on the video front. Then in 2006, OK Go released the carefully choreographed DIY video for their single Here It Goes Again and it exploded, with over a million hits in a week, a 2006 YouTube Award and a 2007 GRAMMY Award. Not only was it fun to watch, but it looked reasonably low-budget, thus inspiring a new generation of indie bands. Their kind of viral success is still unlikely for most bands (Rebecca Black notwithstanding) but OK Go breathed new optimism into the making of music videos.

Videos started as promo clips and that is what their primary function has always been. To perseverate on one medium” television”is understandable, because that’s where music videos found the greatest success. But that ignores their promotional value in favor of the cultural. Music videos will always serve a unique and practical purpose apart from pop culture, and now is a great time to take advantage of their usefulness.

Q&A With Foxy Shazam

You can try, but you probably can’t put an accurate label on Foxy Shazam. Their eccentric and eclectic mix of punk, soul and straight up rock ‘n’ roll has earned the band critical praise and performances at Lollapollooza, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Reading & Leeds. Following a summer tour with Hole and the release of their smash self-titled album, the band recently finished a two-month cross-country stint with Free Energy and is preparing for another huge year in 2011.

One might expect that outrageously energetic 24-year-old frontman Eric Nally lives an equally wild life. On the contrary”offstage, he is a soft-spoken, friendly father of two. We had the pleasure of speaking with Eric about touring memories, writing with Meat Loaf, modern day rock stars and what it’s like to lead a double life.

OS: You’ve just finished your fall tour with Free Energy. How were the shows and what were some of your favorite moments from the tour?

EN: We went to the UK for a week in between this tour and that was awesome. I loved that because we sold out London for the first time. It was big for me because we’re from Cincinnati, Ohio and it’s just really far from home. To sell a place out so far away is an awesome feeling; to bring your music to a different country and do that. I liked playing Montreal because Hollerado, the band that’s opening on this tour, is from there. All their crowd was out and it was just really fun.

OS: Foxy Shazam is well known for its incredible, off-the-wall performances. What inspires the band to become so theatrical on stage?

EN: I usually tell people, “that’s just the way we were born!” It’s just natural to us. We  don’t have to do any preparation or any pre-show rituals to summon these things on stage, they just come out naturally. It’s just the way we came out of our moms, I guess. When I’m on stage, I’m an entertainer…when I’m off stage, I’m a spectator. So I just kind of sit back and watch and soak everything in. When I go on stage, I let it all out.

OS: You’ve stated that Foxy Shazam are “not concerned with what category it falls into.” Do you often find that people are trying to fit you into a genre or compare you to other bands because they’re not sure where to place you?

EN: Yeah, that happens all the time. Anybody I ever meet that’s an artist…everybody wants to be themselves. But really, in the way that everything works now, it’s just what people have to do. I accept that. Everything needs to be compared to something else just so you can wrap your head around it easier, I guess. Either way, I don’t mind it, but people do try to compare or group us into a category. Every time it’s different, so it’s cool.

OS: You’ve said that you would never want to make the same record again and the evolution of the band’s music has certainly reflected that. How do you see Foxy Shazam’s music evolving in the future?

EN: I don’t know…every record we make kind of stands for where I am at that moment. I’d have to kind of be in the moment to understand, but that’s exciting for me. I really like not knowing. It’s kind of cool to not think about it and not prepare.

OS: In the song “Wannabe Angel” from your self-titled record, you sing, “For you I wear this mask, at home I take it off.” Is it difficult to transition between your life as a rock star and your life as a dad and husband?

EN: Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say with that. I feel like I’m a completely different person when I’m on stage. It’s kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type thing and that’s awesome to me. It’s like how actors do…entertainers, really. It’s just who I am. Being a dad compared to being a professional touring musician…it’s just the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I feel so different when I’m not on stage.

OS: Earlier this year, you helped write some songs for Meat Loaf’s album Hang Cool Teddy Bear. What was your role in the writing process? Would you be interested in writing for other artists again?

EN: Absolutely! I love being associated with people that have rich history in music and Meat Loaf is obviously one of those people. I just co-wrote two songs with Justin Hawkins who used to be in The Darkness”he’s one of my best friends now. It was just awesome. We went there together and we wrote together and sat with Meat Loaf. It was great, I made a lot of good friends through that whole experience.  A lot of the other writers that were there were a lot older and have done stuff like that before. That was something that I couldn’t believe I was experiencing so early in my career.

OS: Are there any artists in particular that you’d like to write for?

EN: I would love to, whether it’s writing or whatever, work with Cee-Lo Green sometime. I think he has the best voice in music right now. I think it’s just awesome, it hits me in the right spot. It’s the perfect voice for me. I’d love to work with him someday.

OS: Foxy Shazam was one of the first bands featured on ChatRoulette for album promotion, but you aren’t a huge proponent of bands using social media. Can you share your thoughts on that?

EN: I feel like the rock star is kind of a dying breed, we’re becoming extinct. You don’t seem them very much anymore. I think one of the most important things about what that persona was, was that you didn’t know them. It was almost like a mythical creature. People would gather backstage for hours just to catch a glimpse…and you don’t get that anymore. People know everything that everybody does because of Twitter and Facebook and they’re updating constantly. Everybody’s so human now, I guess, which is fine. That’s how it’s always been, everybody’s just a person. But I think there was this certain mysteriousness about the artist and that’s not really around anymore. So I kind of try to keep that going. I think it’s important to have people make their own stories about you rather than know the hard facts because chances are the hard facts are extremely boring (laughs).

OS: Foxy Shazam has recently announced some big touring plans for 2011. Can you tell us about the tours and festivals you’ll be playing next year?

EN: In January, we have a tour with Circa Survive. That will be awesome because I’ve heard their new record is great. I haven’t heard it but I’m really anxious to! I’ve heard a lot about that band and I know a lot of people who know them and they say they’re great guys and that’s really important to me, to share a tour with people that are nice. I’m really excited about that one, I think it will be awesome. Then we go to Australia [for the Soundwave Festival] in February and I’m really looking forward to it. I just love taking my music to different countries. I’ve never been to Australia, so it will be awesome. We have a bunch of days off in between the shows there so I’m going to do a lot of sight-seeing.

Check out this live video of Foxy Shazam performing “The Rocketeer” and don’t miss them on their upcoming tour dates, listed below!

Dec 16 Detroit, MI – Shelter
Dec 17 DeKalb, IL – House Cafe w/Victorian Halls & ‘Richardson’ Richardson
Dec 18 Minneapolis, MN – Popsickle Festival w/Motion City Soundtrack, Minus The Bear & more!
Dec 19 Kalamazoo, MI – The Strutt w/Their Teeth Will Be of Lions
Jan 14 Richmond, VA “ The National w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 15 Charlotte, NC “ Amos Southend w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 16 Ashville, NC “ Orange Peel w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 18 St. Louis, MO “ Pop’s w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 19 Omaha, NE “ The Slowdown w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 20 Des Moines, IA “ People’s Court w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 21 Grand Rapids, MO “ Orbit Room w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 22 Columbus, OH “ Newport Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 24 Cincinnati, OH “ Bogarts w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 26 Baltimore, MD “ Rams Head Live w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 28 Rochester, NY “ Water Street Music Hall w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 29 Albany, NY “ Northern Lights w/Circa Survive and Anberlin
Jan 30 Allentown, PA “ Crocodile Rock w/Circa Survive and Anberlin

Feb 26 Brisbane, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
Feb 27 Sydney, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 4 Melbourne, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 5 Adelaide, AU- Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!
March 7 Perth, AU – Soundwave Festival w/Iron Maiden, 30 Seconds to Mars & more!