24 hours from landing in Anchorage, Watsky shares his excitement.
Chris DesOrmeaux | TDL | June 8, 2015
Hitting it big in the music industry can happen in many different ways these days. Countless bands got into the scene from Myspace, back in the day. There are a number of television musical audition competitions you can try your hand at. You can opt to go out and get noticed by a label, while your band is working at McDonalds and barely scrapping by. You may just get lucky or born into the business. The other way that has helped many artists, is sharing your love of your art on YouTube. This social video sharing site is the #1 in the world. What that means to artists, is it is the quickest and cheapest way to get your music to the masses.
I was able to talk to an artist who used this platform to help him get the fan base he has now. George Watsky, or simply Watsky, took some time; before he sat down to watch the NBA finals, to talk. This San Francisco native has a lot going on. At 28, he has a lot of ways he expresses his love of art. Starting off with slam poetry and going full force into his rapping career, Watsky is sharing his love for the craft with his fans.
The Daily Ledge: First off, thank you for taking a few minutes to chat.
Watsky: It’s my pleasure.
Can you tell me a little bit on how you got started in the music business?
Watsky: The first thing that got me into wanting to write music was this old TV show, Def Poetry Jam. It was a spoken word show case, on HBO, but it was also a theater show. When I was 15 years old I went to see it live on stage. It had a really, really big impact on me. It just sort was the “ah ha” moment. From then on I just tried to find every opportunity to get my poetry and music out there and I’ve been doing them side by side ever since.
What is some current music that’s in your playlist right now?
Watsky: I really like that new song that has Rod Stewart and Miguel, Everyday. I listen to classic stuff over and over again. I always listen to Beatles. It’s my staple stuff.
How did the internet era with YouTube help boost you?
Watsky: It’s hard to figure out what I’d be doing if I didn’t have the social media that I did. I don’t think I would be at this big of a scale. In 2011, I had a video go viral and before that there was a big event and that was being on Def Poetry Jam. I was 20 years. For the next 4 years after that, I was riding it out, playing college gigs. I got much more of a following. I do think I’d have a career, but probably not the fan base. The Internet allowed me to reach people, who like my stuff, directly. For someone like me, an artist that’s a little quirky, who may not fit into a major label roster, the internet is everything. It allows artists to be ourselves.
What do you got going on for the rest of the year?
Watsky: I’m going on a tour from the middle of July to the middle of August. After that, I’m working on a new album. I also have a new book project. I have a book of essays that’s supposed to come out in 2016. It’s very different than anything I’ve ever done before. I’m almost done with that. 2016 should be a really big year for me. I’m gonna have a new album and a book coming out at the same time, and then touring my ass off.
I know you’re going camping when you are coming up here. What’s the plan?
Watsky: Well I got some different advice on where to go. I really am open. I’m gonna meat up with my drummer and keys player and go for four days. We are talking about going to Homer. We haven’t really settled on what to do. We are going to rent a tent and rent a car and probably do some tent camping.
I’m landing in Anchorage tomorrow night and we are purposely not really planning anything. We are leaving everything pretty blank. We aren’t afraid to go off the beaten path at all. My drummer wants to go fly fishing.
What are you expecting from the crowd when you get on stage this week?
Watsky: I’m hoping that it’s a rowdy crowd. For us, we are just going to put on an energetic show no matter what. I think my fans that are up there are excited. I want people to know that this is as fun for me as it is for them. I don’t know what to expect. I know it will be fun.
How is it hanging with the crowd before and after your shows? How is it being able to connect with your fans on a personal level?
Watsky: It’s a tradition for me. I started out by doing these spoken word gigs, where there might be 12 or 15 people there. So, it’s just natural. I had a box of CDs that I would carry under my arms and would just stick around sold my CDs afterwards to anyone that wanted to stick around. I just chatted with anyone that felt like chatting. I’ve never stopped that tradition. The shows got bigger and bigger, and I could just never stop staying afterwards. Honestly, I found out, people get fed up with waiting around more than I do. Usually people won’t stick around for more than two hours. I usually stick around for 2 hours and do a casual meet and great. I don’t plan on stopping that. I think it shows that I am grateful for their support, and I know as an artist and people pay for my shit. I don’t take that for granted. I’m not a pop artist. I’m not looking to make all my money in my 20’s. I’m expecting to be a working artist for as long as I am alive. I know I’m gonna have my ups and downs. So if I show my support for my fans now and that I give a fuck, then I know that they’ll stick around if I’m not hip or on the radio.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Watsky: Do it for the right reason and try to live a balanced life. And for the right reasons, I mean, just enjoy the craft. Don’t become an artist if you don’t enjoy creating art. If it’s a chore and you’re just in it to become rich then you are just going to end up becoming unhappy. Even if you become famous and rich you will just never be satisfied. Even though you’re an artist, you’re still a human being. The most important thing is still your family and friends, who care about you and who you have relationships with. Somebody I really admire, the other day said If you have a room full of trophy’s and you don’t have anybody that cares about you, then at the end of the day you have nothing. I truly believe that.
Be sure to catch Watsky at The Seriously Fun Fest on June 13th at Kincaid Park.