Well, this is it. I’ve spent the last few years writing and recording to try and produce an album I’m proud of. I came up with a collection of 15 tracks titled A Badly Broken Code. Doomtree has spent infinite hours, and most of our finite dollars, to support this album. For the first time in our history we’re in a position to really take our music and our business to a national level. This morning Ander, our gifted 20-year-old intern, launched the pre-order on our site.
While Ander was programming at his desk, I reported to the set of my first, real music video. Britni, the Art Director, picked me up just after 7 a.m. I don’t see a lot of sunrises, but I caught one this morning as we arrived at a rented house in Saint Paul. Inside I scanned the full rooms for Maria, the director and my friend. She looked busy, in cuffed jeans and Converse, talking with two other women standing around a monitor.
I greeted Crist, the make-up artist. Then I ducked into the mudroom, determined to stay out of everyone’s way until Maria called for me. From the doorway, I watched twenty people haul gear, drink coffee, check watches, talk shop, tease each other, hoist lights, try and fail to lift a piano, and show baby pictures. I saw a few people whose names knew and a few others with familiar faces. The rest were strangers.
If you live in New York City, one month of your rent is probably more than the budget for this entire video. So who are all of these talented strangers in this house working so hard? Come to think of it, who owns this effing house? I saw the wedding pictures on the piano, they seem like a happy, sensible couple–so why let twenty people shoot a rap video in your lovely home?
At the risk of becoming unsalvageably sentimental: art can be an irrepressible force. An appetite for it moves us to act against our other interests: we go broke, sleepless, and grey for it. We memorize wine lists for it. We answer other people’s phones all day to make art at night.
Ander moved to Minnesota from California, leaving his mom and sister, to work for Doomtree. For absolutely free.
Britni, the Art Director who picked me up this morning, has been working on her feature for two years. She’s designing sound while simultaneously trying to raise money to support a film she doesn’t expect to turn a profit. Ever.
I don’t think Maria budgeted one cent to compensate herself for this video. In fact, I’m pretty sure that she’s breaking her own dinner plates in the scene we’re filming tomorrow.
I’m 28 years old. I’ve got a good job teaching music. It pays the bills and and my bartab at The Leaning Tower–the neighborhood dive. I’m don’t imagine that I’m making any epic sacrifices. Nonetheless, it’s powerful to see so many people behave in ways that confound economists. So many artists give up so much of their time, their money, and their peace of mind to do what they do independently.
These same artists benefit from working independently, or with carefully chosen partners, because they’re not beholden to anyone. For example, as an independent touring musician, I sleep on floors more often than I do in hotel beds. That’s a little harder as I near thirty. But, I can say ‘No’ to anyone. That’s important in this business. If you’re a photographer who would like me to lose twenty pounds before the next shoot, I can say, “Fuck you very much.” And I don’t have the kind of manager who’s going to tell me to apologize, get him that twenty percent, and switch to celery juice for breakfast. And if you’d like me to sing on song that says ‘faggot’ in it, I’m not interested. And if you don’t believe in my art…well, you don’t have to. That’s what Doomtree’s for.
I’m lucky enough to work with a collective of pretty fierce music-makers. I can’t think of another 8 guys I’d rather spend my nights and early mornings with. We drive each other to be better artists, we sometimes drive each other crazy, and once in a while we get to drive each other around the country in a white van with blown speakers.
So, that’s the honest story of it. It’s a hard year, if you can’t buy music this time around, I hope you’re warm and safe. If you can buy music this year, and you like what we do, I hope you’ll consider supporting us. The pre-order link is up at www.doomtree.net. Listeners are the only ones who make Doomtree possible, and we’re working hard to prove that we’ve got what it takes to make our music and our model work in the big leagues.
And to everyone else who’s made another city feel like home.