James Lytle conducted this interview with Derek Jones, one of the few people in the music business from Hartford City, IN, and who is currently in Nashville chasing his dreams of playing country music. Residents will tell you that he is very friendly and loves hometown support.
JL: How did you get into the business you are in?
DJ: I’ve always wanted to be a professional musician. I grew up playing the drums and wanted to be in a rock band. So, I’ve always had a huge passion and love for music, so I decided to chase my dream and try and make it my living.
JL: What do you like most about it?
DJ: I get to do tons of cool stuff and meet some amazing people and play shows with some of the biggest names in Music! I also get messages from people saying that my music has helped them through tough times and that’s the greatest gift a singer/songwriter can get!
JL: What are you good at?
DJ: I try to be good at anything I do. If I’m gonna do something I’m gonna give it 110% of my best efforts! I love to just sit and play my guitars and it’s very important to practice as much as you can to hone in on your craft and try to be the best at it you can be.
JL: How do you use your skills?
DJ: I use my skills to pay my bills! I get to wake up every day and do what I absolutely love to do! If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. But I also love making music that people can relate to or connect with!
JL: We are promoting the Midwest music scene on our website, middletownmusic.org. What should we tell our followers about the music & entertainment scene in Nashville, coming from someone who grew up in a small Midwest town?
DJ: It’s a very tough and unforgiving town. There are thousands of people trying to make it in the music business here in Nashville. You can’t stop or even slow down because someone will pass right by ya! But I love it that way cause it keeps you on your toes!
JL: What is the most exciting part of it for you?
DJ: The most exciting part for me is about 10 minutes before I hit the stage. Hearing the crowd yelling and feeling the butterflies in my stomach! It’s an incredible feeling and I hope I never get used to it!
JL: Do you have any advice for someone that wants to take on the Nashville challenges in the music industry?
DJ: My advice to anyone wanting to move here and give it a shot, it’s not about how many shows you can play in a week. It’s not about how many songs you can write in a day. It’s about networking. It’s about meeting people and forming relationships with people that can and want to help you. As for me and my music. I will always stay true to my songs. I write what I know and believe in. I write songs that I’ve lived and to me that’s the most important part. Staying true to yourself. Don’t give up, this town WILL chew you up and spit you right back out. Just keep pushing and never take no for an answer. And good luck!
Miles Jena conducted this interview with Tony Burkhart, head engineer at Blacklite productions in Cincinnati, Ohio.
MJ: What is one advantage that you believe you have over your competition in the region?
TB: I would say the fact that we work with pretty much every genre. I would say thats a big part. We are also professional. Not to say that other studios are not professional. A majority of people that come from other studios mention that they have bad experiences with communication, engineers not showing up. We are also relatively affordable compared to other studios.
MJ: What is one thing you would like to change about your studio in the future?
TB: I would like to have more physical space. There are so many thing we could do. It would be nice to have everything under the same roof. To be able to handle full bands and large podcasts all at the same time.
MJ: What is your stance on how much sampling should be allowed in music?
TB: My stance is that samples should be allowed if they are used in a indistinguishable way. If you use it as a sound effect, mangled, distorted, etc. But if you build the song around a sample, unless you're paying the owner a copyright, it should not be used.
MJ: Would you advise an up and coming artist to try and get signed to a label, or to stay independent for as long as they can?
TB: Stay independent. Today especially, there are not a whole lot of decent labels out there. The ones that are out there, they are hurting for money and they put you on a short leash. They also control your image. It is easier and more profitable than ever to be a independent artist.
MJ: What is your favorite part of the recording process; pre-production, production, or post-production?
TB: Production in the sense of producing instrumentals; The initial songwriting process is fun (well, I guess that would be considered pre-production.) The creation and digital composition is my favorite.
MJ: Thank you so much for letting me interview you on short notice, Tony!
TB: No problem, have a good night.
Katie Helgason conducted this interview with Bryan Headrick on 2/1618 from Greenfield, Indiana.
KH:When did you start playing the guitar?
BH: I picked up the guitar when I was 14 years old.
KH:What type of music genre is most popular in Greenfield?
BH: Country music is most popular in Greenfield because Geenfield is in the country and a lot of people are farmers. There are also a few people who play classic rock.
KH: What venue do you like to play at?
BH:Griggsby's station is my favorite place to perform at. It is open late and a lot of people actually listen to the live music being played. Some people get so into it they dance along.
KH:What is your favorite genre to play?
BH: Classic Rock
KH: Thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions.
BH:No problem at all. Next time you are in Greenfield you should stop by and make it to one of my performances.
Grey Fox conducted this interview from Versailles, Ohio
GF: What got you started as being an artist, and what role do you currently play in your band?
PL: What got us (Shelby County Line) or me started as being an artist is a mutual teacher that put the three of us together at 15. We have played music together ever since then. I am the lead singer and rhythm acoustic guitar of Shelby County Line. Each one of us (Ben Tuttle as Lead Guitarist and harmonies, Mike Molaskey as Bass and rap vocals, and road drummer Will Ash on drums and harmonies) plays a part in the band's success.
GF: What are some of the difficulties that come with managing a band?
PL: Schedules and commitment are some of the main difficulties in managing a band especially when that artist/ band members/ hired musicians are located in different states and/or colleges. When on the road, our current manager is in charge of making sure everything runs as smooth as possible. There are always lots of opportunities for producers, record labels, and events to take advantage of you if you let them or don't know the wiser.
GF: Have you or do you plan to record any of your music? And if so where does that take place? If not where would be the best choice to do so?
PL: We as artist are always trying to find ways to record demos to supply our next EP or album. Our first record was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at the Java Jive Studios. Our record label at the time hired studio A Nashville musicians to help us in the week long recording process. Most of the music you hear is not recorded by the artist or the artist's band, it is all recorded by studio musicians. At this point if or when we decide to record a public released EP or LP it will most likely be recorded Nashville. This is not because Nashville has the best studios it is because it has the resources and people needed to record a potentially great selling record.
GF: For the middletownmusic.org what should we tell our followers about the music and entertainment scene in your city?
PL: Over the years, we have played several shows across the country including playing at the Fan Fest for the Buckeye Country Superfest in Columbus, The Ohio State Fair, Tequila Cowboy in Columbus, Ohio, Cowboy Up in Michigan, Firewater Saloon in Chicago, Destination Daytona Festival in Florida, and opened for Rodney Atkins, CM Award winning artist Confederate Railroad, and Grammy Award winning country artist Travis Tritt to name only a few. Through these shows we gained many loving and dedicated fans. However, if it was not for the great music influences in our area growing up we wouldn’t be where we are today. They helped us in more ways than they may ever know; starting from getting us on stage to giving us pointers. I guess we’re just lucky to grow up in a community with a large amount of great musicians.
GF: What is the best thing about making music?
PL: The best part of about music is the impact it can have on people's lives. When a person has cancer and the only thing that is holding them together is a song, that to me is pretty powerful. Even when we are performing live and our fans sing back songs to us it just lifts me up to a better place. Nothing is better than that happy buzzed feeling I get from music. Nothing.
Zemin Wang conducted this interview with Yen Chou on February 14, 2018. Yen is a musician living Shanghai who is active in spreading popular music culture.
Yen Chou was born in Chongqing which is a big city in midwest of China. He moved from Chongqing to Shanghai for more open and free music atmosphere few years ago. Now he is sometimes involved in some commercial performances, but much of his time is devoted to music teaching. He is trying his best to spread music culture and encourage more young people to pursue their musical dreams.
ZW: Yen, Happy Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day! Thank you for accepting my interview invitation.
YC: Thank you Zemin. Happy Chinese New Year! It’s my honor to be interviewed.
ZW: If you could describe Shanghai’s music scene and China’s music scene, what would you say about that?
YC: As we can see from these years’ development, the music atmosphere in Shanghai and throughout China is constantly improving. Whether the entire music industry or pop music, the future will have very good development prospects. From the year I moved to Shanghai, the state culture department began a wide range of support for the music industry, especially in Shanghai. There have been many outstanding pop singers in recent years. At the college I teach, more and more students choose music major.
ZW: Which characteristic do you think is the most important for an artist?
YC: I think adhering to do what you want is the most important characteristic for an artist. It is easier to experience failure for people who are in music industry. Compared with other industries, there are too many uncertainties in the music industry. Due to the output value of the music industry is lower than other industries, music practitioners will face greater risk of failure. Hence, keeping the faith and adhering to work hard are necessary for people in this industry.
ZW: How do you usually teach at your college?
YC: I was just a visiting professor before, but now I spend most of my time teaching music. At the beginning, I was trying to let the public fall in love with music through my performances and distribution of albums, but the entire market atmosphere was never formed. Hence now I think the best way is to teach more people to learn music and then they will spread music in their ways.
ZW: Many Chinese teenagers like music from an early age and want to chase their musical dreams. Meanwhile, however, many parents do not support this practice and want their children to receive more education in knowledge. What is your point of view on this issue?
YC: Exactly. This situation is very common in China. Many teens love music, but too many people want to work in this industry as well as too much competitive pressure. Both of them have led some people to give up their dreams. I think the key to deal with this issue is to achieve a balance between knowledge study and music. Making an objective assessment of yourself to see if you are talented in music is very necessary.
Kenneth Walton conducted this interview with Lauren Williams on 2/15/2018. Lauren is a DJ at a local night club in downtown Indianapolis Indiana. She says that she did not know much about music growing up and really did not even listen to music that much until she got older. That is when her passion came about after messing around on one of her friends DJ boards. She instantly fell in love with it and ever since has been a DJ in Indiana and has not looked back since.
KW: What services do you and your company provide to clients?
LW: At the nightclub in downtown Indianapolis we provide a music experience like no other. It is high energy and leaves you satisfied throughout the whole night.
KW: How did you get into the business that you are in? What do you like most about it?
LW: I got in the DJ business by messing around with my friends boards one day and falling in love with the music and the way you can create different sounds with it.
KW: What are you good at? How do you use your skills?
LW: I am really good at being DJ but I can also play the piano really well and I even can sing as well as rap a little too.
KW: We are promoting the Midwest music scene on our website, middletownmusic.org. What should we tell our followers about the music & entertainment scene in your city? What is the most exciting part of it for you?
LW: You should tell your followers that even though Indiana may not seem like a big play for music on the outside, once you put yourself in the heart of the city you really city how important it is to people and how the music makes them feel. The most important part about my city is that every where you go you fin
Dominic Twardowski conducted this interview with Michael Middleton on February 15, 2018. Michael Middleton works as an instrument instructor, based in Indianapolis.
DT: What services do you or your company provide to clients?
MM: Our company primarily does one-on-one music lessons. We teach guitar, bass, drums, piano mandolin, ukulele, piano, cello, violin, brass and woodwinds. I'm currently teaching a couple of group guitar classes and we also have a pre-k class. There's plenty of more information on our website at: www.IndyLessons.com
DT: How did you get into the business you are in? What would you say you like most about it?
MM: I began teaching a lot at The Noisemaker music store in Wabash, Indiana back in 2004. I had heard about a new store opening in town so I went in and I happened to had known the owner. I'd recorded in his recording studio many years earlier. Before long I was teaching there 6 days a week and was able to quit my full time job. Now I own my own music academy.
DT: With all that activity, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of your career?
MM: I sometimes have fairly advanced lead guitarists come to me who want to become better at lead improvisation. I have no problem showing them new exercises, scales, licks and teaching them new concepts for awhile, but I've had some of these students take lessons from me for a few years and it's almost exhausting trying to find new things to teach advanced students.
DT: With your long experience in this field, wow would you describe the current music/entertainment scene in Indianapolis? Is there anything you hope to see more or less of in the future?
MM: We have a lot of stuff going on here. Probably the most happening place right now is in Fountain Square near downtown. There are several bars that book touring rock bands and local bands. We have a number of other venues and neighborhood bars around town where local bands can find gigs. Back in the 80s and 90s we had dozens of bars who booked house bands. I'd like that to return because house band gigs provide steady work and are easy to do. I remember some bars having house bands 5 or 6 nights a week. I think Karaoke nights are a cheaper alternative for bars and it's possible that there aren't as many people who go out to bars nowadays.
Megan Megremis conducted this interview on February 18th with Daniel Huston, a musician from Indianapolis now studying at Belmont University in Tennessee.
MM: Describe your role in the music business and any current projects you are working on.
DH: Since moving to Nashville three years ago, I’m happy to say that I’ve found my way into many different areas of the music business. Since April of last year, I have been touring with country music artist Austin Burke. I play keys and sing BGV’s (background vocals) for our live shows and help co-write some of his new original music. Austin has had tremendous success on streaming platforms, racking up over 25+ million streams on Spotify alone. We are in the process of negotiating a record and publishing deal that will take his songs to radio and put us on a nationwide tour. For the past two years I have served as Music Director and accompanist for Off The Square Theatre Company in Franklin, TN. We have produced shows such as Peter Pan, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Marry Poppins, Oliver, and the Wizard of Oz. I am a certified accompanist at Belmont University. I work closely with the Musical Theater program playing for private lessons, seminars, recitals, and showcases. I also accompany commercial voice students in their private lessons/seminars etc, and have accompanied University Singers, our freshman mixed choir. I regularly perform, co-write, and play recording sessions with local artists in Nashville. I particularly enjoy band leading for various artists and arranging music for live shows. I’m usually too busy during the year, but I teach piano and voice over the summers. I’m also the keyboard player for a Belmont School of Music ensemble called Company. This ensemble consists of about 14 upperclassmen commercial voice majors and a six piece band. We perform a variety of songs from various genres. We have up to a two hour fully choreographed show which we perform a few times per semester. Right now we’re preparing for an east coast tour this upcoming March. Finally I am a full time student at Belmont studying commercial piano performance. In my private lessons I study jazz and essentially all other contemporary styles. I take a lot of music courses in addition to liberal arts general education courses.
MM: How did you get into the business you are in? What do you like most about it?
DH: I started studying classical piano at the age of five and never stopped. In junior high and high school I started to develop a love of improvising and commercial styles. This was the main contributing factor that led me to Belmont. I knew I wanted to play piano, but I did not want to be a classical pianist. After I came to Belmont I slowly began to develop my skills and connections. What I like most about what I do now is that I get to work with great people and make amazing music. Being paid to travel the country with some of my best buddies AND play music is unreal. It’s a dream come true.
MM: What are you good at? How do you use your skills?
DH: I have hard skills, and soft skills. My hard skills are things like my technical facility on the piano, sight reading, improvisation, knowledge of different contemporary styles, etc. My soft skills to me, however, are almost more important than any of those other things. My people skills, personality, and character are the reason why I have seen some level of success in the music industry. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re a horrible person. The business is not in music— it’s in relationships. If you want the gig, show up on time, know your stuff, and most importantly, be a good person. Give it your all ALL THE TIME. You never know who is watching, or what might happen as a result.
MM: What are some of your greatest achievements?
DH: I would say my greatest achievement is moving to Nashville not knowing a single person, to being where I am today. It’s hard work every day. Nothing about it is easy. But to me it’s totally worth it.
MM: What’s the most challenging thing about being a musician?
DH: The most challenging part about being a musician for me is time management and prioritization. Too many good things can be a bad thing. I’ve had to learn to say no. I’ve had to learn what too much looks like for me (the hard way). I’ve had to learn my limits and how to balance my day to day so I don’t literally go crazy. But at the end of the day, I like to remind myself that I am so blessed to be able to pursue this crazy career. If you have a dream work your butt off to make it happen. Set yourself up for success and go for it!
MM: Thank you so much for your time, Daniel. Good luck with all of your endeavors!
DH: My pleasure, thank you for this opportunity.
Chad Meek's interview was conducted from Tennessee on 2/15/18.
CM: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions today, I really appreciate it.
JBF: It's no problem! I'm still in college too so I still love getting curious questions from people like anyone else would.
CM: You grew up in Indiana, how does the music scene in Tennessee compare to here back home?
JBF: I think really it's just a lot more inviting and well established. You know, some of that is going to be from the success a lot of artists have had here up to the fact that Belmont is really geared to music too. I love the music scene back home too and I received a lot of local support but I had to be realistic and that meant just knowing that there would be more room to grow and probably more people interested in what I want to do down here.
CM: How do you currently try to grow your following?
JBF: Heavy social media presence is what helps keep me always sort of relevant I guess. I keep making these real connections and translating them to social media. People see how you work in person and then that makes them appreciate your work a lot more when they hear it next time. That's just what I think though.
CM: What do you like most about music production?
JBF: It's varied, you know between the absolute plethora of sounds and mixing patterns there's just so much to be done. I like hearing a sound in my head and figuring out how to replicate it as an instrumental. It's so satisfying when you finish something even if it evolves heavily from the time you first thought of it.
CM: That's a really cool way of thinking about it actually. What would be your advice to those trying to make their way into the music industry?
JBF: Don't be afraid. If you want to be successful in this industry you need to have some specific goals in mind and actually have to work towards them in a sensible manner. Don't expect overnight fame or stardom. Never stop networking and actually put effort into those relationships.
CM: How long have you been working with music production?
JBF: I've been working with music in general since elementary but it wasn't until high school that I actually began working with creating my own sounds and stuff. It's been a long process of mostly trial and error but I love it. The payoff is worth it to me. I simply love hearing the music I make.
CM: Before I wrap this up I want to ask you one more question. Do you think the overall state of the music industry is in good shape or not currently?
JBF: Tough question for sure because we all know how popular music is and how many people listen daily but the industry is also pretty much managed by three or four companies right now. It stifles creativity and the diversity of the music pool in my opinion.
CM: Ah so you believe we would see more varied artist types and musical sub-genres given the chance?
JBF: My point exactly. Soundcloud artists are a good example. On any given day there's a ton of artists with completely new sounds that fulfill the most obscure of sub-genres.
CM: Well thank you again for doing this for me. It was great catching up and getting the perspective of someone actually in the industry right now.
JBF: Anytime! As I said I'm always looking to expand and take interviews.
Andrew Madison conducted his interview with Justin Vanover on February 19th, 2018. Justin is a college student trying to go public, doing what he loves.
AM: What kind of events and/or gigs does your band currently perform at? What ideas do you have for the future regarding venues and performances?
JV: So far, we’ve been performing mostly at house shows. We’re really hoping to tour this summer though to spread our name outside Decatur. There’s a lot of opportunity in the local Fort Wayne area, including venues like Skilletunes that welcome our style. Indianapolis also has a large punk crowd right now, due to all of the local talent and social nature of the city. Performing at the Hoosier dome is definitely a goal of ours.
AM: How did you get into the music industry, and how did Honey Be Well form?
JV: I started playing guitar in high school, mostly because I was a big fan of groups like State Champs and Counterparts. I met our lead singer at a concert the summer before college, and we put up some fliers about wanting to start a band. We got a few calls in the next two weeks, and pulled together the group we have now.
AM: What talents (aside from playing the bass) do you bring to your group? How do you utilize the skills?
JV: I’m mostly our social media guy. I don’t want to use the term marketing, but I guess that best describes what I do. Pretty much I just self-promote our band by wearing our t-shirts, spreading the word about our EP, and running our merch table at house performances.
AM: What should we tell our followers on Middletown Music about the music scene in Decatur? How well is your genre/work received where you’re from? What are your thoughts about being on Middletown Music?
JV: There really isn’t much of a scene in Decatur, so we’ve had to spread out to local areas to get some recognition. Like I said earlier, Fort Wayne has a decent music scene, but our biggest chance for success is in Indy; they seem to like punk a little more. I’m excited to be on your website, the guys will probably be cool with it too. Since we’re still kind of new, we’d like to gain some news fans and people that will spend money on us.
AM: Thank you for time, keep on putting out good music!
JV: Thanks for promotion opportunity, we’ll try.