When I moved to Nashville from Seattle via NYC, I learned something that changed everything for me as a performing songwriter. Here it is. The power of music is exactly proportional to the community it engenders. We’ve heard it said that music is a universal language, that it has the power to heal, that it can bring people together. If truth and beauty are what we seek as human beings, these are very beautiful truths that we as artists get to play with and let transform our writing, our recording, our performances, and our very lives.
Six months ago my band, Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our new record. Partly because we wanted to create a project that would stand out amidst the myriad of record making ventures on crowdfunding sites, and partly because we really love making music videos, we decided to make a visual album. What began as a ‘visual album’ turned into a highly collaborative artistic experiment with ten filmmakers, two choreographers, two visual artists, two photographers, and one indie rock band. As the project progressed, this team of individual artists became a specially focused community within the already burgeoning arts scene in Nashville, stretching beyond to include artists in Cleveland, Seattle, NYC, Berlin, and Tel Aviv.
During our Kickstarter campaign, the importance of community became strikingly evident. We had thirty days to raise $20,000 with a relatively small fanbase. We had not yet toured together as a band. We had no idea what our reach would be, but we went to our local coffee shop everyday and saw people we knew and met people we didn’t and soon word of our project was around town and it was those people who kicked in and backed us all the way to $21,125.
Once the project got rolling, we continued to pick up collaborators along the way, which infused the whole venture with much needed momentum. We hosted production parties to introduce everyone involved, in hopes that we would all have ideas and resources we might share. This was incredibly effective and very rewarding. I’ve always preferred the impossible/probable to the possible/improbable and by coming together as a community, we made impossible things happen.
If you are an indie artist, or a small business owner, or a dreamer of dreams, you know that half of the time you’re making it up as you go along. Survival mode fast becomes a way of life and you find yourself balancing your resources or lack thereof on a daily basis. Beyond inherent talent, your three main resources are time, money, and creative energy. In our project, we used our songs as a resource, before they even existed as a revenue source. You can leverage your resources according to your own situation and increase their value exponentially by surrounding yourself in community and by inviting others to collaborate and to grow with you.
For The Shape The Color The Feel, we asked ten different filmmakers to choose a song from our album and make a music video or short film based on the song. We gave them complete creative control. This was an attractive incentive for a lot of them who are used to working with major labels or production houses that dictate what they create. In our project, if they wanted the band in the video, we were there. If they wanted a producer, I could do that. If they wanted to shoot a short film on the other side of the world with their own crew and actors, they did. These filmmakers are all at different points in their artistic journeys. Their range of experience spans winning an Academy Award to winning the Nashville 48 Hour Film Festival, but they all have unique visions and we trust them to give our songs their own shape, color, and feel.
In the folk tradition, songs are stories passed down from one generation to the next, vehicles of preservation and expression. They are meant to be sung throughout the community and they grow and change as each individual interprets them over time. As a rock band, we see every live show as an opportunity to participate in this exchange. We believe that stories are important. They teach us that we are not alone, that someone else has had a similar experience and survived it. There is a lot we can learn from one another and if we believe in the songs that we write and the music we that we play, we know these stories and songs will outlast us. They will survive the community and it’s that same community of artists, listeners, family and friends that will give them life and pass them along to others we would not have otherwise reached.
Our hometown community just released the Nashville Indie Spotlight, featuring thirty songs by thirty different artists. The Nashville Indie Spotlight is a shining example of the creative energy and collaborative potential that increases exponentially within a community. We are so grateful to be part of this inspiring independent scene and are thrilled to be featured on the Spotlight alongside some of Nashville’s finest independent artists.
Community starts with the people closest to us and extends outward. It can be as near as the next co-write or tonight’s band practice. It runs on the economy of gratitude and luckily gratitude is a plentiful resource. We are where we are as a band because of the help of so many amazing people, and yet somehow we often find those people thanking us for the opportunity to be involved. This is real life. It’s humbling and invigorating and it’s what keeps us going.