We’re on the road to St. Louis, Missouri, by way of Chicago. We’ve got about four hours to kill, and there’s honestly not much to look at, save for flat lands, gloomy industrial parks, and layers upon layers of smoke-colored clouds. We are officially in the thick of autumn. The seasons are such a powerful reminder of the passing of time. You blink, and it’s summer; you blink, and it’s fall. The realization always evokes a deep sense of introspection and re-evaluation. The Crane Wives have spent a lot of time lately talking about our goals as a band, where we are, where we thought we would be by now, and where we hope to be.
The past year has been very humbling. We built a lot of easy momentum in our first two years as a band. And while we’re still building momentum, these days it feels a lot like we take one step back for every two steps forward. We had hoped 2013 would be the year that we would begin touring nationally. We were approached, separately, by both national management and booking. Early in the year, a manager flew in from New York to Chicago to watch us perform. We put on our best show, and at the end of the night he bought us a round of shots and emphatically declared “I want to work with you!” The feeling was euphoric. This was it. We were making it. Later, while trying to hash out the logistics of working with him, we had the not-so-sudden sinking realization that between personal student loan debt, rent, bills, and average day-to-day expenses, we would not be able to afford to both quit our jobs and pay another person. It would have been too much financial burden at once. Ultimately, we decided the timing just wasn’t right. That was heartbreak number one.
Several months later we started talking to a booking agent who had seen a video of us on Facebook. After some digging and calling around about us, he decided he wanted to take us from a regional act to a national one. We took a shining to him right away. We could just tell he would be compatible with our love-and-friendship-before-business work model, and so he started working on a touring plan for us, but after a series of events in his own life and several months of waiting on our end, he somberly confessed that he just could not take us on after all. Heartbreak number two is still fresh. It happened just last week.
So here we are, back at square one. The great thing about being a musician is that heartbreak is only a momentary setback; as artists, we process our pain by turning it into music. And ultimately, our greatest goal is make music. It all evens out in the end. Not to mention that with every minor setback, we grow closer as a band. We are in this together, through thick and thin. At the end of the day, all we want is to stand on the stage with our best friends and play our hearts out, and we’re still doing that, and we’ll keep doing that as long as the world lets us.
We’ve been brainstorming ways to revitalize the band. Right now we’re on our own, but we don’t want to be. In trying to navigate the music business, we’ve forgotten a very crucial aspect to success in music: the fans. We owe everything to you.
Just last night, we hopped in the van to drive to The Tonic Room, in Chicago. It was our first experience headlining in the city, and I don’t think any of us had very high hopes about how many people would show up. In a huge city with endless nightlife possibilities, it’s hard to convince people to come out and watch us perform. We were expecting an empty room. Before the show, we decided to have dinner at a Thai restaurant next door to the venue, where we sat out on the outdoor patio overlooking the entrance of the music venue. Several times throughout dinner, unfamiliar faces popped in to say hello to us before heading inside to wait for the show to start. After about three rounds of this, we realized that the room might not be as empty as we were expecting. After paying for our dinner and heading inside, we walked into the bar to find it brimming with people.
During the opening acts, people kept introducing themselves and telling us their stories of where or when they first heard our music. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every one of these stories starts with “my friend”. My friend brought me to a show. My friend played your CD for me in her car. My friend bought me your CD. Our fan base has been built entirely by word-of-mouth. These stories aren’t unique to Chicago. We hear them everywhere we go, and we appreciate each one. We would not be where we are without the love and support of our fans. The really cool thing about the stories that start with “my friend” is that they usually end with “my friends”–plural. I play your CD for all my friends. Do you know how excited that makes us? When everyone shares our music with friends, the growth potential is exponential. If every fan tells two or three friends about us, imagine where we will be someday.
I think it’s important to share the things you love with others. The human capacity for love is infinite. The more we love, the more capable we are of loving. So here’s my suggestion. Go out into the world and share what you love. It doesn’t have to be our music. It can be the voyeuristic love of strange biology, like Emilee (Did you know that pigs can have orgasms that last up to thirty minutes?), it can be a visual artist’s work (Rebecca Green, anyone?) Maybe, like Tom, you’re inspired by Alan Watts. Maybe, like Zito, you have a passion for SuperFreakonomics. Maybe you’re more like Dan and you love to douse your food in Ray’s Polish Fire and talk about the importance of eating whole foods. The thing is that excitement is contagious. If you’re excited about something, the fire spreads to other people. In sharing what you love, you’re helping to sustain the thing you love. Your opinions matter. And excitement matters. The world needs more passion.
As for us, we’re more passionate than ever. We’re going to keep doing this thing, one show at a time, beginning with Grovefest in St. Louis and followed by a house show, where our gracious hosts will be putting us up for the night. We can already tell today will be a good day because our server at Denny’s was an Eastern European man named Dragan, pronounced “Dragon,” and because we saw the red and blue Power Rangers at the gas station.
We’re going to make an effort to share our stories with you. There’s a lot of great stuff that happens behind the scenes in the life of a musician. We want to let you all in on it. We want to hear your stories too. One of the best parts about being a musician is getting to connect with fans and hear about their lives and what they do and what makes them tick. Consider this a re-introduction to a long and beautiful friendship. We love you guys so damn much.