Acoustic Duo Jackopierce: “Our platform was FUN”

Over the past few weeks we’ve been lucky enough to feature a few posts written by Cary Pierce, who along with Jack O’Neill, makes up the acoustic duo Jackopierce.  (If you missed Cary’s posts, you can check them out here and here!) After a decade playing together, the group broke up in 2002 and stayed apart for 5 years before reuniting to pick up where their music left off. They’ve got a new album in stores, “Everywhere All The Time,” and lots of great insight into how independent musicians can get out there.  Read on as we talked to Cary about what’s working for Jackopierce, what it’s like to play together again after a 5 year split, and what kind of team they believe an artist needs in order to find success.

Many bands experience a break up and reunion, like Jackopierce. What was it like getting back together in 2002?
It was AWESOME. I truly thought I’d never talk to the guy, let alone play music with him. We ended up selling out two shows at the Gypsy Tea Room. It was Mayhem. People were SO happy and grateful to have us back. It was really moving and emotional to realize that we were REALLY part of people’s lives and they were REALLY glad to have us back.

Did you immediately find your groove?
I think we did. I think most musicians will understand this: once the song is “in your fingers” it really never comes out. Sure you have to brush up every once in a while, but once it’s in there, it’s in there for a LONG time.

How has your music evolved over the years?
I’m a total product of the 80’s, which not only means artists like U2, the Smiths, New Order, Police, Peter Gabriel and Tears for Fears, but it also means Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Smithereens and the Clash. I somehow came out of the 80’s completely unaffected by Iron Maiden, Scorpions & G&R and though I LOVED Duran Duran’s Rio album, I steered clear of most of the eyeliner bands like Wham, etc. It was just never my bag. I was the weirdo rockin’ to English Beat, Steel Pulse, the Fixx, Flock of Seagulls. Songs like “I Ran” (FOS) or “Shout” (TFF) or “How Soon is Now” (Smiths) were just SO BIG. Such big sound and emotion. I feel like with some of our songs (especially “Around Me Now”) we’re finally getting closer to that sound I loved so much growing up. But with all my 80’s love, I am also VERY much a product of the Beatles, Beach Boys. Fleetwood Mac, John Denver and James Taylor.

You’ve got a new album in stores, Everywhere All The Time.  What kind of promotion did you do leading up to the album release?
Four years ago we came out with “Promise of Summer.” We did not send it to ONE radio station. We were so jaded and thought there’s no way we could make a dent that we didn’t even bother. Well, thus far we’ve sent it to several. It’s literally me calling up the MD/PD and letting them know. I think we all think that they are inundated and don’t want to hear from us, but EVERYONE has been receptive thus far and we’re getting some spins.

I’ve started to tweet pretty vigorously—3-5 per day. Honestly I do it more for the Cary Pierce Music and Jackopierce Facebook pages. It posts directly to our FB pages so it keeps it very alive and current. As we all know, when you go to someone’s FB and the last post is from 3 months ago, you move on. You just assume they don’t care, so why should we care…ya know?

I read that you play “Destination Shows,” described as “a vacation and concert in one.”  What a cool idea!  How did that idea come about?
We were in San Francisco, one of the most culturally and naturally exciting and beautiful parts of the world. We were backstage on a cold dreary night. The ceiling was leaking from several places, the threadbare couch was soaked so we sat on office chairs under fluorescent lights. The vibe was awful and not unlike a LOT of clubs we’ve played over the years. It just kinda came to a head that night. “Here were are in this AMAZING city that people travel to from all over the world to visit… We spent all this time, money, and energy to get here tonight, and THIS is what we got?? There’s GOT to be a better way…. What if we spent a little more time, money, and energy and created something that people would WANT to go to?”

The idea was planted and we knew the first one had to be in Texas. I spent an entire day with one of my best friends looking at 9 different venues from San Marcos up to Marble Falls. We found a magical site that is often used for movie sets, weddings and corporate events. It was 55 acres of PRIME Austin Hill Country real estate. The owner, a UT grad and architect, collected turn-of-the-century buildings from all over Texas and assembled a “downtown main street,” complete with a school house, saloon, banquet halls, even a little chapel. I KNEW we had to do it there. So we hired a BBQ caterer, bartenders, and assembled about 300 people from all over the country for “Jackopierce at Star Hill Ranch.” It was a BLAST and I was hooked.

We were TERRIFIED to charge $99 a ticket. What would people say? What would they do? Well…what they said was “YES” and what they did was buy 300+ tickets and come in from 16 states and all over Texas.

And so the Destination Show was born. We’ve since played at 3 different wineries in Sonoma, at 12,000 ft atop Aspen Mountain, and in a 160-year-old Whaling Church on Martha’s Vineyard (with a Clambake on the water during the day).

Even then I could see that people liked to be around like-minded folks. They had JP, the love for music and the love of travel in common. We all ate together family-style and Jack and I got to hang out with everybody before and after the show. It was like family, and that family has been growing steadily. We have Santa Barbara on June 8, 2013, Martha’s Vineyard on Aug 17, 2013 and talks of taking thing international to Canada and Mexico.

There is a more in depth description of Destination shows on my blog HERE.

Are there any marketing techniques or platforms you’d recommend to other independent artists?
I have written extensively on this subject and I would recommend perusing my blog as there are millions of dollars waiting for you in there IF you have what it takes AND you are willing to work.

Our platform was FUN. We saw a guy playing guitar at a bar singing covers and thought “that looks a whole lot more fun that standing here trying to get a beer.” It seemed FUN to play NY, LA, and Chicago. It seemed FUN to play for this party or that one. Then it really started to get fun when we realized we could actually make money, grow a brand, see the world, meet ALL kinds of interesting people. Signing to a major label did not seem fun early on so we never thought about it or focused on it. We were too busy having FUN making our first, second and third CDs. We were having so much FUN we didn’t realize that we had sold 45,000 copies of them. We were having so much FUN in Nashville at the Exit/In because it was oversold and the attorney that wanted to to meet us and get us a record deal could not even get in the door. We met him in the alley in our RV. Getting flown to LA by MCA, A&M, Giant and others was FUN and we decided to sign a deal to A&M. I think you get the point. If it’s not FUN for you, STOP and START doing what is. If you are wondering why your “ship has not come in yet,” read this.

What kind of “team” do you think an artist/band needs to be successful?
You and your songs, that’s it. Everyone else is ICING and AWESOME when you and your career warrants them. We had a kid open for us in Chicago. He was bitching about his booking agent. “He won’t get me the gigs I want… He doesn’t know what to do with me…I wanna play out more but he says wait for the bigger shows…whine whine whine.” I asked him straight to his face, “you’re from this town, right?” He nodded. “So on a Saturday night 6 months from now, you’ve pulled out all the stops, begged every friend, family member, and fan you’ve ever had to come to this special show. You’ve made fliers, posters, you’ve gone nuts on social media, you’ve hit up local radio, college campuses…how many people are gonna show up?”

His answer? “Maybe like 50 or 60.” At what ticket price—”probably like ten bucks.” $600 gross. Maybe he gets $400 of that. His agent gets $40. FORTY BUCKS.

YOU DON’T NEED AN AGENT. You need to read this.

YOU NEED TO PLAY AND GIVE GIVE GIVE. I see this ALL THE TIME. People waiting for their ship to come in but they’ve sent no ships out. I literally used to gauge my days by how many packages I would send out. One day was TWENTY SIX! You want to know why a no-name acoustic duo from SMU got booked in the LEGENDARY Troubadour in LA WAY before they had a record deal? I sent a CD to the booking agent, and in the package I included a T-Shirt. In all his years of booking he’d never received a shirt in the mail. That shirt was a DOOR STOP. It kept the door open long enough for him to pop in our CD. He liked it, realized we were from his home state of TX and booked us. Read more here about sending ships out.

Why is important to you to release music independently?
It’s just important to me to WORK. It’s important to write and to grow and to learn and to hit rock bottom and come back up. It’s important to swing the bat and take the shots. It’s important to CREATE—we are designed to work and create. Rest? Yes… 1/7th of the time. The other 6, make it happen. the majority of folks are going to release independently, and when and if they are able or want to sign to a bigger machine, they will have to weigh what they are giving up next to what they are gaining. A lot of artists build their thing up so big that they can STILL be independent and do whatever they want inside their major label deal.

So what can we look forward to next?
Our upcoming Destination shows on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC on Oct 19/20 2012 are looking to be our biggest thus far. We also have Destination shows in Santa Barbara on the books for June 8, 2013, and on Martha’s Vineyard, August 17, 2013 (both at www.jackopierce.bigcartel.com).

Also looking forward to Boston, DC, NY, Atlanta, etc. this Fall. Check out www.jackopierce.com for deets.

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