acoustic alternative folk guitar indie interview music singer songwriter whispers of the plains

Whispers of the Plains – Jeremy Facknitz

jeremyfacknitzJeremy Facknitz is a singer/songwriter who independently released his latest album “Music From the Original Motion Picture”.  Here he talks about his latest release, home studios and how the internet and the recording industry is changing over the years…

For those whom are new to your music, tell us about your music style.

It’s so tough to describe your own work.  Acoustic/pop/rock/blues with a smattering of jazz stylings.  Personal, story-telling lyrics (usually told in first person) that require an attentive ear.  Like Harry Chapin but in 4 minutes or less, like Jason Mraz but much more cynnical, like John Mayer but with less actress girlfriends.

And tell us about your latest album “Music From the Original Motion Picture” and the influences behind that

I had just finished the tour for “What A Day!”, my second release.  I hadn’t written a song in almost a full year, which was a wonderful sabbatical but a little scary, since you reach a point where you wonder if you have anything left to say.  I was sitting in a park here in Colorado Springs and started humming and penning this tune with a Burt Bacharach, Sufjan Stevens vibe, which ended up being the first track to the new CD, “Winter Jackets and Past Due Salutations,” and thought it would be nice to hear with an upright bass, french horn arrangements and light drums.

When I was leaving the park, a fox came up to me.   Fox are all over the place in Colorado Springs, but I had never seen one before – we had just moved here a month before.  I didn’t know what to think.  “Does he think I’m going to feed him?  Is he going to attack me?” but he just looked at me and strolled on by.  In the weeks after more songs came to me that fit the bass and horns arrangement and I decided to record an entire album of songs with that band line-up behind me.

Maybe the fox was my spirit animal telling me I was on the right track, I don’t know.  Maybe he was looking for a dead bird.

You have a home studio now. Did that make life easier or change any aspect of your album recording?

It was great.  “What A Day!” was recorded in Ferndale, Michigan and in Boston, Massachusettes at top-notch studios.  I was flying back and forth, plus spending $60-$70 per hour on studio rates, as if I could afford it.  Sonically speaking, that album is better… but as an artist I just wasn’t ready to pull off what I wanted to pull off, so I was a bit let down.  I guess I thought I could “buy” a great album, and you really can’t.

Recording from home in your pajamas is where it’s at.  This entire album was recorded on a Boss BR1200, one track at a time, in my apartment and Tom Park’s (french horn) grandmother’s house in Woodland Park, Colorado.  At times, the sonic quality of this new album may not be what you’d get out of an expensive studio, but when I listen through my favorite albums… it’s all about the content!  It’s all about the content.

Are there any instruments or gadgets you’d like to get to play or learn?

I’d like to learn how to finger-pick.  Not as well as I currently finger-pick, but really finger-pick.  Chet Atkins style.  I’d also like to dive into piano and use that as a songwriting tool more often.  I love anything that makes music.

You’ve been making music for 10 years. Describe how you feel the music industry has changed over time.

When I started to take this more seriously with my band “The Ottomans” back in 1998, our main goal was to score a record deal.  That might have been due to the fact that we were just young, green and didn’t have a clue, because we didn’t… but that was our end-all dream.  We thought if we signed a deal, we’d get clear channel radio airplay and live happily ever after.

Today, you can honestly take them or leave them (labels).  There are so many more options for musicians, different avenues and ways to market and distribute yourself.  CDbaby is a perfect example.  Good recording equipment is now relatively cheap.  The countless social networking sites: myspace, facebook, garageband, jamwave, etc.  The ball is in the artists’ court.  If a label is interested in the artist, they are forced to offer the artist something better than what the artist can give themselves… and that really wasn’t the case before.  WE have the power!

The down side of all this is that every Tom Dick and Harry (and Sally) with a guitar and an internet connection is releasing albums and thinks they’re a singer songwriter, so there’s a lot of shite to weed through to find the good stuff and I think that daunting task turns a lot prospective listeners off.  But I’ll take that trade.  I’m not a fan of labels.

The internet is a great medium for getting new artists out there. How instrumental has it been to garnering your fanbase?

It’s hard to say.  In my experience, someone who may like your music on myspace or facebook and might even buy a CD may not come to your show because they can’t leave their computer behind.  You might have 10,000 friends on myspace but 8,000 of them might be web-addicted agoraphobics, or bands themselves – who won’t show when you come through town.  Also, we have so much “entertainment” at our fingertips.  A dude with a guitar in a coffee shop has a lot of competition on any given night.

I think the web is a fantastic tool for introducing yourself to people all over the world, but I believe the only way most of us are gonna ever win a fan for life is through the personal experience of a live performance.  Getting the people to show up and see your show… that’s the tricky part.

When you perform live as a solo artist, do you arrange your songs differently?

I have to.  I love producing my songs with a full band on my albums, yet I almost always perform solo.  I compensate for electric leads by singing them.  I play harder, add more rhythm to compensate for the lack of drums and I always stand throughout my performances.  I try my best to keep my show as high energy as I possibly can.  That probably stems from playing in a rock band the first part of my career.

You say that your latest release is your best to date. What particular aspects of “Music from the Original Motion Picture” are you most proud of?

All artists say their latest work is their best, so I might just be full of it.

I think I’m excited that I let the creative process “flow” for a change.  On my last album I would write short stories, six drafts of lyrics and spend upwards of six months writing one song, whereas on this album, I relaxed and sort of let it be.  Nothing took longer than a day or two to complete.  “We’re Those Fortunate Ones” was written in 20 minutes, and while it could probably be more poetic, it works as is.  This may sound bad, or make me sound lazy, but before I was always striving to write the best song in the world, obviously I didn’t achieve that… so, why not just write a “song” and save myself the pain and anguish?  That’s what I did on this album.   It’s easier, sunnier, happier… and I hope that shows through to the listener.

What were the hardest challenges for you when going for the self-releasing route for the album?

The cost.  “What A Day!” cost me $10,000.  This album cost considerably less (around $3,000) but it’s still a large number when you’re only pulling in $20,000 per year before taxes, and all the other annoying expenses of life pop up like eating, rent, car, guitar strings, beer, etc.
What will the rest of 2009 hold for Jeremy Facknitz?

U.S. touring.  I’ve just signed with Two Sides Music Management here in Colorado and a summer tour of the west coast is being planned as well as a tour of the southeastern states in November.  I’d like to get over to Europe, I’ll be across the pond next spring but that will be while on my honeymoon, sans guitar.  Of course, if anyone wants to book me and loan me an acoustic, I’ll play.  May not make the wife too happy, but I’ll play.

Check out Jeremy Facknitz at his website:

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