This article is about a month overdue. I’m writing most of it in first person, due to the personal, internal conflicts I’ve had while pursuing this story. I want to be open about it. As our readers know, THE BOMBER JACKET went on a mission during CMJ to discover and meet new projects from all over. The week ended up being very busy because of work-related activities outside of TBJ endeavors, but we narrowed things down and met with a few musicians in different parts of New York City.
One act I met with was D A W N S: A project led by the talented Montana-based songwriter, David Boone. Boone is one of those guys who has been trying to succeed in his music-related pursuits for years and years. When I met him, I was immediately impressed by his humility and his clear passion for music.
That is however, where my “conflict” began. Boone is what people call a “raw” talent. He’s been storing up his potential in music for years, until now, when he was recently scooped up by some industry heavyweights after sending emails upon emails, reaching out to people with his demos. Well-known British producer Danton Supple (known for his work with Coldplay and Morrisey) was the first one who was drawn to the D A W N S sound. Supple replied to one of Boone’s emails and the conversation led to Supple producing the debut D A W N S EP (released this past summer), and the forthcoming D A W N S full-length record, which the two are finishing up now.
At some point amid all of the D A W N S work this past summer, Boone decided to work with a PR company that emailed me about setting up an interview during CMJ. The company was Tijuana Gift Shop. They had pitched many of their artists who were visiting for CMJ but Boone stuck out to me, with his country/folk sound that seemed to blur the lines between indie and mainstream tastes. I liked that he was visiting New York all the way from Montana and the personal quality of his posts on the D A W N S social media pages intrigued me.
But Tijuana Giftshop was not what I expected. I commuted down to Manhattan’s Financial District to meet Boone at the PR company’s headquarters, which also happened to house the recording studio where 50 Cent spits his rhymes. It was an odd thing, walking around Wall Street in a sea of black business suits, all at the same time knowing I would be shortly interviewing an apparent “unknown,” under-the-radar act. Surrounded by money, I couldn’t help but think about the state of the music industry and how bands today have serious problems acquiring any kind of disposable income.
The Gift Shop was on the 22nd floor of the massive 42 Broadway building. When I arrived, I was told to wait for the man in charge of the PR company who I had previously been in touch with via email. He greeted me a few minutes later and made it clear that there were a number of press people at their office interviewing all of their bands, and that they were all switching around and taking turns, like some sort of big-time press junket. It made things feel less significant; I had just gone completely out of my way to pursue this interview and it felt like we were playing musical chairs with the PR company’s artists.
The thing is, it is completely okay that Tijuana Gift Shop functions that way. I get it. I can easily be blamed for my lack of knowledge that they operate in such a manner. It can easily be said that I did not fit in with the atmosphere that day–that my expectations and standards were simply on a different plane. And that’s true.
But it was a real waking struggle for me–someone who vehemently believes in the D.I.Y. scene and is very much against the severely capitalist structure of the wavering mainstream music market. As I walked around the maze-like hallways of the offices surrounding the Tijuana Gift Shop, all wood-paneled, oozing of dollars, I didn’t get how an up-and-coming artist could afford such a company (many musicians I know today struggle to pay their PR companies) and why he would even want to afford such a company. It felt unnecessarily extravagant.
Once I met Boone we were guided to the roof of the building for our interview. It was a gorgeous roof deck in the Financial District with a view of the Statue of Liberty and neighboring sky-scraping buildings.
The setting for our interview, before my camera starting malfunctioning:
It all just felt out of place. Again, Boone’s humble presence was incredibly endearing and it was so nice to meet him and hear his story, but our surroundings unfortunately overwhelmed that moment. His awesome songwriter capabilities were overshadowed by the glitz encompassing him. I felt as if the PR guy was going to push me off the roof in 20 minutes in order to prep for the next press person.
Boone and I spoke for a while about his trek from Montana–more specifically what it was like driving across the country with a wife and a newborn baby while playing shows every night (yes, that is how his career works right now). He was graceful and thoughtful in his answers, and when he spoke about his music and his plans to release his full-length record, his eyes lit up with hope and enthusiasm.
And then my camera stopped working. It was supposed to be a video interview and I had purposely cleared my memory card enough to include an hour of video, but the camera kept shutting off. I tried a number of impromptu fixes and even deleted old family photos and things I didn’t want to touch, but it didn’t matter. My camera was going crazy and would not allow me to film any of the D A W N S interview. And it is really too bad because our conversation was very fluid and pleasant, and I was excited to share Boone’s story with the world, even though his PR company was impersonal and uninspiring.
But my camera refused to cooperate, so I apologized to Boone and thanked him for his time. I got to meet his affable wife and adorable child. His wife took a photo of us while I was asking questions and my camera was failing. I can’t describe how awkward I felt, knowing that the video would probably not turn out but that they were so kind and so thankful for my time.
That interview was a big deal for me because it made me think a lot about the musicians I work with and come across on a daily basis, personally and professionally. I hadn’t been around the “major label scene” in a long time and I had forgotten why it was so unattractive to me. It was a confusing moment, where I felt so torn because I could relate to Boone, but I despised the setting of the interview and what seemed like plastic people pumping money behind him. But then I still liked those people because they supported him and his work.
I left the Financial District with a lump in my throat, not wanting to write anything. The biggest thing that bothered me was that the PR company seemed to not care much about Boone, appearing as if they were all about business and hype. Well, that’s cool and all, but that’s really old and that part of the music industry pisses me off today, more than anything else. Haven’t we all learned that the major label methods of the past have run their courses? That in order to succeed in the business, heart does indeed help? Shoving musicians through an assembly line will not yield reliable results. In this particular case I was especially frustrated because Boone had told me how hardened he was by his long path in his career and how many of his best songs were indeed about his professional struggles.
In the end, the reality of the situation is that Boone, as a person, fits a website like THE BOMBER JACKET. But his team of people and their ideals do not. And I’ve come to realize, after ruminating on these feelings for a handful of weeks, all of this is entirely okay. These are the exact differences that divide the music industry today, and I just happened to witness them firsthand. Looks like I just need to be more careful with my cards in the future, and steer clear of places that are affiliated with 50 Cent.