Trumpeter John Raymond, who’s been interviewed here before, has an excellent trio, Real Feels, with guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan. They released a self-titled album earlier this year (we premiered a track from it), and went on an actual tour to support it, which did pretty well. Now they’re following it up with Real Feels—Live Vol. 1, out next week. (Pre-order it from the band.)
Raymond wrote about being a DIY touring jazz artist for us:
The term “DIY” is a very interesting one to me, especially as it relates to being a jazz musician in 2016. On the one hand, I’m one of thousands of musicians today who has to manage virtually every aspect of their careers on their own, and there’s no doubt this is incredibly exhausting. I often wish I could just focus on the music. But at the same time, I’ve grown to embrace this reality as an incredible opportunity. We now have the ability to assess the current landscape of the music industry in an educated, smart and savvy way, and in having the power to make every decision for ourselves, we consequently have an incredible amount of control over the trajectory of our careers. That’s pretty exciting if you ask me.
My career thus far (albeit fairly short) has been a continual exploration into this “DIY” way of life. It’s been encouraging to sense some measure of growth over the course of releasing my last two albums in particular—Real Feels (released February 2016) and my upcoming release Real Feels—Live Vol. 1 (out October 7). And one of the main sources of that growth has been the momentum that’s come from the tours I’ve booked for the band.
There’s no denying that making a tour happen is a daunting task for any bandleader, and anyone that says otherwise is straight-up lying. There are a million reasons to avoid it, including (but not limited to) communicating with venues, figuring out backline, doing all your own marketing and promotion, being your own travel agent, etc. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to somehow figure out a way to make it happen and just do it. I can confidently say that every tour I’ve done, no matter how much work it’s been, has paid off tenfold in the end. For one, it helps you create a fan base of people that are sincerely interested in what you do. It also helps you further develop your artistic voice, and it gives you bandleader chops that you won’t be able to get otherwise. It teaches you to believe in yourself and in the reasons for why you play music in the first place, and there’s nothing I would trade for the experiences I’ve had on the road.
One of the most memorable gigs from our tours earlier this year was a gig we had in Madison, Wisconsin at a rock club called The Frequency. I intentionally tried to book us in a handful of these sort of “non-jazz” venues, simply because I felt like the music we play appealed to so many different people—old, young, jazz lover, indie rocker, etc. That night we did a double bill with a local quartet led by pianist Johannes Wallman, and while there weren’t more than about sixty people there, the energy in that room was something special. Everyone was on their feet, eagerly into every note we were played. The result was one of my favorite sets of music we had all tour, and it was definitely a sign to me that I needed to book us in these kinds of rooms more often. (I also happened to sell quite a bit of merch that night too. Bonus.)
In venues like this, people come to feel and experience something. There’s this sense of openness and trust that they give you as a performer, almost as if they’re saying, “take me on a journey!” Cultivating this connection with the audience is the essence of what I believe our responsibility is as musicians. And if we do so, the result is oftentimes a powerful shared experience—something that creates a permanent bond between us and the audience. This, I believe, is what will ultimately continue to grow the audience for this music, and it’s exactly why I have no plans to stop touring anytime soon.
We’re also premiering a video the band shot at February 20 performance at the Blue Whale in Los Angeles, for the song “Blues for C.M.” Check it out below:
John Raymond‘s Real Feels—Live, Vol. 1 is out October 7. Pre-order it now.