Featured Artist Interview: Wickerbird
November 2, 2012
Welcome to the newest feature of our Blog section. Over the coming months we will be interviewing some of our favourite upcoming artists, allowing you to gain some valuable insight into how they have reached the level they are at.
Singer Songwriter Blake Cowan, performing under the moniker Wickerbird, has been exciting the media and critics both over here and in the states. New album The Crow Mother is one of the finest debuts this year. The inevitable comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver are well deserved, breathing much needed life into an increasingly stagnant alt folk genre with an absolute gem of a record.
We caught up with Blake to get his thoughts on his recent success, the current state on the industry and for any tips he might have for other artists aspiring to do the same.
- I can see that you have released your album independently. Was this a natural choice for you?
I didn't give much thought to whether I should release it independently, or try to contact established labels and hope that one of them liked it enough to pick it up. I had no idea who, if anyone, really would like the record and I had the means to release it myself, so I just did.
- What are your thoughts on the role of record labels for new, upcoming artists these days, and for yourself in the future?
The internet has provided everyone with the capacity to share their music, which is a good thing. There's been the monumental shift in all art-forms from the studio to the bedroom. Everybody now has the ability to get there work out there and listened to. There's no need to be filtered through a record label to reach a person's ear. And that's absolutely how art should be: this entirely free, open platform on which everyone has the ability to hear and be heard.
The role of the record label has naturally diminished, no longer being the necessary medium to reach mass audiences as it was, which is amazing. Imagine how many great artists will have previously gone unheard because of their inability to garner label interest.
- You were recently featured on the fantastic wearehunted blog and their Spotify app. Were you aware that you were on there? How did this come about?
I actually had no idea it was on their blog before I appeared there. They just picked it up. The press the record has gotten in the last month has absolutely blown me away. For me, there’s few greater feelings than having someone understand what I was trying to articulate.
- What advice would you give to artists trying to get their music heard by the right blogs? Is this something that you have made a conscious effort to do, or is it more of a they found you sort of thing?
No one puts anything out onto the internet if they don’t want it heard, so you have to be prepared to take this very personal thing and make it public. Tell your friends, family, use any contacts you have and email people. It’s all about getting that first person to listen.
- As an artist, how would you describe your experience with social media? Do you think that direct interaction with your listeners via mediums like Facebook and Twitter is important?
Social media is definitely a peerless tool when it comes to direct feedback on your work and interaction with fans. I think it’s more important artists to hear what people are thinking about the work, than for people to hear what I’m thinking. I believe that’s the crux of being a competent user of social media in general: trying to connect with others without becoming too self-centered.
- What direct to fan platforms have you found most useful? /i>
I think above all, Bandcamp has been invaluable asset to have. I can’t say enough about how perfect their website is for independent musicians.
- The album has a lot of natural imagery, with a very rich, warm rural soundscape. Being based in New York, where did this sound come from?
I’m not actually fully based in New York. I’ve spent most of the last four years in New York City to attend college, but every part of the record was record back in my home in Washington state near Mount Rainier. During the summer when I came back home from school, I needed a break from people and decided to sort of lock myself up in a trailer near Mount Rainier, pretty deep in the wilderness. Writing the record sort of just naturally followed while I was there. I was looking for that solitude and that natural sentiment and surrounded myself with it, which spilled over into the music I was writing.
- The album has a rich instrumentation. As a solo artist, did you record all
instrumental parts yourself? Or did you get session performers in, friends perhaps?
The entire album was recorded and performed by myself. It consists mainly of just simple guitar, sporadically banjo, tambourine and subtle synths every once and awhile. I think what I really wanted to define the sound with was with voices. I treated vocals as the most important instrument and used them for everything from melody, to sub-melody to harmony and atmosphere. That’s where I could really carve out the emotion I wanted.
- We've been listening to your album mainly on Spotify. What are your thoughts on streaming models?
I’m an enormous fan of Spotify. I think it’s provided a way to legally access music in the way most people access music: searching and discovering. We’re in this age of freedom where we theoretically have access to a nearly endless volume of music, and it seems only right that we can finally actually access that volume of work without the fear of legal retribution. Obviously, I understand the need to support artists, but to deny someone the freedom to actually experience that art freely and without payment seems a bit backwards.
- And finally, what tips do would you give for any artists starting out?
If I were to give myself advice, I’d say to above all focus on creation. The lion’s share of what I’m doing focuses on creating and improving on my work all the time. I’m of the belief that if you can do that and really put your soul into making something of real musical merit, the listeners and validation you want will come soon enough.
I would also advise to be as patient as you can. If you’ve caught the ear of one person and if your work has, for only an instant maybe, then you’ve already achieved something. Don’t allow the need for validation keep you from enjoying these moments. It’s not about over-promoting yourself to death; it’s about being heard.
The Crow Mother is out on all major download and streaming platforms now. Check it out!
Words: Follow @townsendyesmate
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