Resurgence

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.

Kate

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4 responses

  1. west wave

    Powerful

    October 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm

  2. Drew

    Sharing your stories about the band is a neat idea. I’d like to think that what gets me to really enjoy the works of musicians is simply the music they create. That’s not always the case anymore.

    The Gruff was a country-folk quartet from Victoria, British Columbia. They’d post tour journal entries as they crossed Canada. These writings were the first ones I ever encountered regarding life on tour for a small band doing everything themselves. As a big music fan who had began (in 2006) to conveniently use the Internet often (via a desk job) as the primary resource to regularly find lots of music way, way below the radar, I also began to understand and admire the brass balls it took for DIY musicians to tour, among other things.

    This admiration adds to the affection I have for the music of the artists that I dig, generating in this affection a new color with a very dense and defined enthusiasm for the musicians as people, not just for their art.

    In those journal entries from The Gruff, I’d read of the sincerity of each member in the love of their craft and within their character as they interacted with each other, those who came to listen, and the environment on the road away from home. These parts of the context illuminated by the journal entries compelled me to enjoy their music all the more, as I began to root for them in their efforts to play this great music for a living. Shipped from a living room in Victoria, I bought their albums direct so they got a larger cut, since it didn’t seem they were likely to make it to Chicago in the near future. I bought a t-shirt a size bigger than what I typically wear because I wanted to support The Gruff as much as I could.

    This is how I’ve come to feel about the DIY music I listen to and see (even for certain bands doing particularly well, The Lumineers being one–they started entirely DIY, and if anyone ever reads or listens to what they say in interviews, their sincerity and authenticity is identical to such qualities tightly woven into each 1/5th of The Crane Wives).

    I don’t just enjoy enjoying music anymore. I love to respect the hell out of those who built it and play it. This respect is expedited and brought into bloom by those little opportunities to learn about these musicians, whether it’s an interview about the creative process; a 12.5-minute, fan-produced documentary; or anecdote between song at show in small Russian bar.

    On 12.16.11, at The Burlington (the first time I saw you guys play), I bought Safe Ship, Harbored at the show. When I saw that The Fool in Her Wedding Gown came out, I waited patiently till you fellas came back to Chicago so I could buy the album then. The transaction of acquiring an album means much more to me when it’s bought from the band (as oppose to a store), especially at a show. Like the one who invited me to my first Crane Wives show, I invite people to come with me to hear all sorts live music. It’s satisfying to be part of the effort. Without airplay, Tonight Show appearances, and plugs from Oprah, word of mouth really is the only option. Success by word of mouth defines The Crane Wives for what you are: talented, entirely self-made, and awesome live.

    I happened to be in South Haven visiting family while you guys were playing a show at Bell’s that Saturday, the first and only time thus far I’ve seen you play for your MI fan base. Returning from the set break, as the band was getting into position, from the stage, Emilee began signing to a woman who I was standing next to and happened to exchange a few words with earlier. I recalled immediately the music video for “New Colors.” In making that connection via this minor, incidental observation of a band member interacting with someone in the crowd, I thought to myself, “[Bleep]ing cool.” And it makes me respect and care about the band even more, though not single note had yet been played of the second set.

    I like to like music. I like to care about those who create what I like. I appreciate that musicians bleed saltwater, combat fatigue, endure all kinds of crazy crap on the road, and become rejuvenated by an energetic crowd, all in the effort to play their music for any who will listen, while trying to feed themselves. It’s admirable, beyond just the art. The effort means a lot, too.

    Jeez, this thing sure got long. Ug. In summary: CW 4 life. End.

    -Drew

    October 15, 2013 at 1:29 am

    • Drew,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! It’s hard to get a read on whether people actually want to hear this kind of stuff until someone tells us they like it. I’m the same way as you, as far as following musicians who are telling a story about the journey they’re on. I’ve followed Tristan Prettyman pretty religiously since I was 16 years old. I’ve always found it compelling to be in on another person’s life, whether they’re a musician, a writer, an artist, an actor, an engineer, a teacher…whomever they may be. Everyone’s got a story to tell. I figured that even if no one enjoys the posts, at least we’ll have them to look back on someday when we’re older.

      Thank you for reading and especially for interacting. You’re a peach!

      October 15, 2013 at 1:44 am

      • Drew

        People will read them. If you built it, they will come. Hope Dan feels better real soon.

        October 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm

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