The Journey of Backhand Sally

Is Anybody Listening?  

Hey all! Another week, another blog! We hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and have a great week in store. We just finished our radio interview on 89.3 KNON this morning (9-16-19) and it spurred the thoughts for this week's blog about our musical journey.

Is Anybody Listening? (To Our Music)

Ideally, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! The reality is probably more like, well, maybe(shoulder shrug emoji) According to Spotify and a few other tracking sources, yes people are listening, but maybe not at the rate or as much as we'd like.  Who doesn't want their song to sell thousands or more as soon as it's published? Perhaps there are some musicians, but those are musicians are not us. We would love for our album to be on all sorts of charts and trending and streamed again and again and again, but we're just not quite there yet. We're pushing and there are new listeners every day which we are very grateful for. 

Maybe Nobody Is Listening, So What? 

There is a possibility that when you release an album as a completely independent artist, that nobody or very few people will ever hear it.  This is why you can't think of music as money, you must think of it as the art it is. Does not selling millions of copies=failure, does selling millions=success? To the latter, yes, financially (obviously) selling millions is some sort of success. But for the many, many albums that never sell more than a few copies a month or just a few to a few hundred downloads, success is viewed differently. For starters, writing an entire album, recording it, producing it and publishing it is a form of success. Even if the album sucks, you still created it and there is merit in that. Putting an album out completely independent of a label or financial backer is a form of success. Getting radio stations, any of them, to play the songs is a form of success and being able to play venues that encourage original music is also a form of success. So, if you knew that not very many people would ever listen to the music you spent so much time and effort on, would you still do it? I certainly hope so; after all, music is art, and it should be shared with the world, even if the world isn't listening. 

No Is A Four- Letter Word

When we decided to put an album out, we really had no idea what we were doing. We spend a lot of time researching and connecting with promoters and radio stations, blogs, etc... and in general, we have received nothing but positive reviews, but we've also received a lot of no(s) too. No(s) from radio stations, promoters, venues, bloggers, etc... if it's an avenue to release or perform independent, original music, we have had our fair share of no(s) from it. To the softer or new artist, no can be a four-letter word that slaps you across the face like a wet towel. For us, it's a reason to look at why there was a no. Sometimes we're not the right fit or style of music, sometimes we just aren't established enough in the area, sometimes you have to be a pest to get a yes, and sometimes, for whatever reason, the station, blogger, venue, just doesn't like us. All of the reasons kind of suck, the last reason the most, but you have to learn from the sometimes(read last week's post) and move on from it, or that wet stinging slap sinks into a resolve of failure. 

Staying Power

Do we have what it takes to stick around, or to make it really big? We think we do, but maybe we don't, who knows. Who knows what the music cosmos have in store for us. Regardless of how well the album does or doesn't do, we're not going anywhere anytime soon. We're going to keep playing, keep writing and keep putting out albums, even if we're the only ones listening. We hope we're not, but if we are then we're going to make sure we're making the best music we've ever heard! 

Stay Groovy Friends(oh and buy a copy of the album today!)

-Backhand Sally

So It Wasn't The Best Performance; Now What?  

Part of our blog journey is to share all aspects of our musical journey, the good, the awesome and even the bad. Today's blog is some bad, that in fairness we hesitate to share, but feel that sharing this experience might help other musicians in similar situations. 

THE BUILDUP:  We made it a goal for 2019 to play no less than 6 shows a month and try to work our way up to 12-15(to make an actual full-time living playing) Fortunately we have met or exceeded our goal nearly every month and we now play an average of 10 shows per month. That number might seem low or high depending on what type of musician you are, but considering Ginger works a full-time job and Brock a few part-time ones, this number works well for us, currently. Recently, we released an album(shameless plug here) and have ramped up playing, even more, to promote said album. Things have been gowing great and playing so often has done wonders to increase our fanbase, it's also taught us a few lessons on areas that we could improve and make even better. 

YOU SHOULD KNOW: We only recently became what we'd like to consider completely original artists. That being said most of the shows that we had on the books or venues we still book in between all original shows require covers, and lots of them. If you're unfamiliar with the playing expectations of most cover bands it's to play 3-4 hours of music with a mixed variety of your chosen genre. Our genre happens to be all of them. We are considered a variety group (even our album is a variety of genres, that's just how we identify as musicians,) and that means we play a mix of top 40 hits from rock, country, pop, blues, R&B, funk, etc... Different types of music require different vocal and playing styles and you switch every 3-4 minutes. We are seasoned and use to doing this at 2-4 shows a week for between 3-4 hours at a time with at least an 8-hour rest in between (because vocal cords and finger muscles do get tired believe it or not,) and we usually never have an issue, usually. 

WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS: Remember the album and playing lots to promote it? Well, we have been fortunate to book back to back shows for the last few weeks including a few dates on the beautiful island of Islas Mujeres, Mexico.  We were stoked to go back and play on an island that we have played a few times and share our new music with our island friends. Right before we left, like literally the hours before we got on the plane, we played three 4 hour shows back to back, a Friday night, and two 4 hour Saturday shows, leaving no time for rest before hopping on a plane and playing in Mexico.  We played our first show with success and only a few hiccups that mostly revolved around having to tape a microphone to a broken mike stand and a keyboard stand with a missing leg (that's another blog in itself) but we played through, and although tired we did a great job. Cut to our next show just a few days later with meet and greets and other things in between that left little time for much-needed rest and well, let's just say, if that were your first ever Backhand Sally show, you probably wouldn't come back for a second. 

THE LET DOWN: The show was two hours- and it was pretty clear to both of us after the first set we weren't going to be able to do much in the second set. The keyboard stand was proving an issue this time because the keyboard kept sliding off, making it difficult to play because it had to be held by hand, which made some songs just not sound good. That was a technical issue, but the biggest hurdle that we simply couldn't overcome was that we both lost our voices. Now myself, Ginger, I have lost mine before, it happens, especially after singing for 8 straight hours; however, Brock never loses his and fortunately can take up the slack when mine is gone, so...we never considered what would happen if we both lost our voices because it had never happened. Yet, there we were in the middle of a second set and neither of us could sing. We did the best we could, talking our way through the tough parts and altering melody structures to fit the limited abilities of our vocal cords, but the results were written on the few patrons faces, we were no bueno and we knew it. We finished the last set with apologies and tails tucked between our very tired, overworked, under-rested vocal cords and bodies and called it quits for the next few days. We canceled our remaining shows knowing that trying to perform would be a bad decision and as disappointed as people were at having no performance, they would have been more disappointed at another bad performance. 

THE DAY(S) AFTER: So what to do after not so great performance? Our opinion is to address it head-on, which we did when it happened and why we are posting this blog. We were much more disappointed in ourselves than anyone else was, I assure you. The day after was a day spent resting and making a plan to not have something like that happen in the future. First thing first, admit we weren't at our best and apologize, which we did right away. We think making excuses or trying to blame something other than ourselves is bad form, so we admit we only had ourselves to blame. Frankly, we overestimated our stamina and underestimated how much we needed a break, along with a few other elements, and we won't in the future. Then we set about to fix it. We waited until the night before we left, and a few days rest, and went back to the establishment and played again, and we nailed it. We didn't make an excuse we just promised to be the band we are and brought our A-game plus some. We felt that it was important to leave on a good note and re-establish the trust and belief that we can perform what we promise. We did it for free and with no expectations because we are professionals and we believe in providing the best entertainment experience possible. It was the right choice as we left the island on a positive note and with future bookings! 

THE LESSON: We could have approached our not so great performance differently. We could have placed blame everywhere but ourselves, and we could have left and never looked back. We could have complained, we could have pointed fingers and made excuses that weren't valid or important, and all of that probably would have been easier. Instead, we just took the bump and decided to learn from it. Sometimes you don't play your best, for any number of reasons. Sometimes, even when you're really good at you do, you deliver a crappy performance. Sometimes, you must admit failure and that perhaps you can't do as much as you think you can. The sometimes are the lesson times, and we learned an important one. Yes, the show must go on, but not at the detriment to self, health or performance ability. If you have a bad show, admit it, learn from it, grow from it, and become better from it. That's what we took away from ours and we hope that our story will help if a similar situation should ever happen to anyone else. 

Peace and Chicken Grease, 

Backhand Sally


                                                                        View from the tip of the island at Punta Sur in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. 

What Makes an Independent Musician? 

Unless you've been hiding in a soundproof music free cave for the last 10 years, you are familiar with Independent Musicians, or more commonly, "Indie Artists." Years ago the term was used to describe the type of singer/songwriter you found in coffee shops and street corners. Busking musicians with a gritty, unrefined sound that played for tips or barely above. Now, independent artists seemingly run the music world. You can't open a music blog on social media without being hit by some "Indie artist" that are making "big waves" and "creating a buzz" in the music biz. When you read the article you probably think to yourself, "wow that's amazing look how much that unknown person's talent  has done for them, so good that after one YouTube video they are an overnight sensation." Sometimes that's actually the case, a musician posts a song, it goes viral, and bam overnight success. More often than not it's years of hard work and in the past, the goal was usually a record deal, but now, you really can have success as an independent artist, even without overnight fame. 

Pretty cool right? Making your own rules and making it on your all your own. Being independent means you don't have to work under the constraints of a label or investor, and you can just "focus on the music," super cool you get to just play music for a living, and it is. But, what if I were to tell you that truly independent artists work so hard at the business of music that often the last thing they usually get to focus on is the actual music part of being a musician.  Are you shocked? If you're a business owner you might not be, but if you're a music lover you might be. When you go to a live show or listen to your favorite local artist's album, you might never consider all of the work that went into making that album or putting on that live show.  I'm sure you've put some thought into how much practice went into learning the songs or how long writing a song might have taken, but have you considered how that a musician that isn't signed to a label or backed by an investor gets their music to you all by themselves? Whether you have or you haven't that's the definition of a truly independent artist, or at least my definition, a musician that does IT ALL BY THEMSELVES; no label, no manager, just themselves, sheer talent and determination.  (Note, themselves could be a solo artist, duo, trio, 9 piece band, but still doing it without an outside monetary or management team, aside from the occasional sponsor that might help with some merch or incidentals.)

The artist that has a small, "indie" label backing them? Not a truly independent artist. The artist that has an investor, not a truly independent artist. The artist that works a full-time job while playing 10-20 shows a month and spending every extra penny on studio time or home studio software/equipment, paying for musicians, gear, mixing, mastering, promotion, website, advertising, etc..., that artist is truly independent. That artist is doing it all on their own because regardless of their situation they believe in their music so much they are willing to do anything to create it, perform it, record it, and share it with the listener. 

We are completely independent artists. We work other jobs to pay for the things playing shows won't pay for. We cover the costs of putting an album out from our own pockets. We pay for the instruments, merch, advertising, the band, we book our own gigs, and we spend most of our free time putting the hours into the business side of the music business so that we can get our music to you. We are passionate about our music and believe that the listener will be too, so until we don't have to do it on our own, we believe in what we're doing so much (just like so many other independent artists) that we are going to do it ourselves until maybe one do we don't have to anymore. Even though you might not realize it, independent artists, like ourselves are doing the work of a record label, management, PR, etc... to bring you our singles, EP's, albums and live shows. 

Now that you know a little more about what a truly independent artist is you might better understand how important your support is to keep the musicians you love playing. So buy the album, buy the t-shirts, attend the show, share the show, add to the tip jar, follow on Spotify or Pandora, etc...and share, share, share every video and song. As independent as all "indie" musicians are, it still takes a village, so become the mayor of your favorite musician's village and keep the music alive!