Singer/songwriter Justin Klump found his love of music as a teenager and applied his work ethic toward making it his life ever since. He’s got three independently released albums (distributed via TuneCore!) under his belt and his self-titled fourth coming this Friday, May 13th.
With success on SiriusXM’s The Coffeehouse, iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter Charts, and over 100,000 miles of touring across America in less than five years, we invited Justin to perform at our second-ever Indie Artist Forum in Nashville back in February. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about what it takes to make your drive pay off and how he’s navigated Nashville as an independent artist who moved in from across the country:
When did you discover your love of songwriting?
Justin Klump: I was 15, and a friend gave me Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash by Dave Matthews Band. I picked up the guitar a few weeks later, and started writing songs six months after that. At that point in my life, I was having trouble making sense of the world, and writing songs gave me an outlet to try and figure stuff out. I’ve always spent a lot of time in my head, and writing songs forced me to get what was circling around inside out into the world – for better, or worse.
What is the Vancouver, WA scene like in terms of budding singer/songwriter support? What ultimately prompted the move to Nashville?
Vancouver has some cool stuff going on – especially recently. The community there loves local music, and is very supportive of it. And, being as close to Portland as it is, a lot of the scene blends into what’s going on in Portland. Portland, Oregon has a great live music scene.
I wanted to move because I felt like I needed to get out of my comfort zone in order to grow as an artist, songwriter, and person. I was considering LA & New York as well, because I wanted to be in a big music town, but Nashville won me over because the emphasis on songwriting is next to none. I grew up in the northwest, and wasn’t quite sure how to take the next step in my career in such a familiar place with people who’ve known me for years. I needed to get uncomfortable, and be inspired around new people and fresh ideas.
What do you consider to be some of the most important steps in marketing and promoting yourself as an artist in a town like Nashville?
Figure out what you do that makes you unique, and develop that every day. Don’t chase what’s hot at the time, and try to adapt what you’re doing to fit that mold. It’s already been done, and chances are, when you get to market, it’s not going to be hot anymore. You could spend your career being a step behind, and not giving the world something that only you can provide.
It’s also important to take an organic approach to getting your name out. Build relationships, not contacts, and recognize that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t subscribe to the belief that you have one shot – there’s no “one big break” – it’s a succession of small successes that help you from one patch of concrete to the next. You have to be pro-active, but you have to be realistic in your timeline. Many people refer to Nashville as a “ten year town”, and I think that timeline sets up more realistic expectations than believing you’re going to be an overnight sensation.
What kind of advice would you offer to a new artist looking to relocate to a more music-friendly city?
Get out and meet people. Go to shows, mixers, and happy hours, and introduce yourself to people. Figure out who the players are, and say hi without being overly eager. Be nice. Work harder than you think you should have to. You’ll meet people further along than you, and hear things that are really, really great, and you can either choose to be inspired, or let it get you down – choose to be inspired.
You can write songs from anywhere, but if you move to a music city, make the most of it by getting off your couch.
We’re obviously psyched you’ve chosen TuneCore for distribution, and we’d love to hear about your experience at our Nashville Indie Artist Forum!
TuneCore’s a great home!
The Forum was a great experience, both as an artist and as an attendee. There were a ton of inspiring interviews that gave me new ideas throughout the day. I thought Craig Wiseman was hilarious, inspiring, and informative. His energy filled the room, and was a highlight, for sure!
As an artist, it was an honor to perform in a room full of other artists and songwriters, but also terrifying.
I saw a few people that I hadn’t seen in a number of years, so it was cool to re-connect with them. And, it was great to meet some of the TuneCore staff!
As you prepare to release your fourth independent album, tell us about how both your process have evolved, both from the creative and business standpoints?
I was much more intentional with this release, and spent more time with the songs, and the songwriting before pressing record. I wanted to sit with the songs longer to make sure they resonated with me months after they’d been written, and I played most of the songs out before we recorded to see how other people reacted. I wrote more songs than I can remember before narrowing it down to the ten that ended up on the album.
I knew I wanted to invest more into this album, and that was part of why I took my time. I recorded and mixed my last few releases on my own, and so the budget was bigger on this one because I worked with a producer here in Nashville, Andy Hunt.
I guess taking my time and being intentional was both a creative, and a business decision. I wanted to record songs that connected because I wanted to increase my chances of people hearing the songs, and increase my chances of recouping my investment.
Between your first single off of the new album and previous releases, how has your success on radio impacted the way you reach new fans in this day and age?
It’s allowed me to connect with new listeners – who may not have heard my music otherwise – and helped me build a bigger audience. I’ve been able to develop relationships through email or social media with people who heard a song on The Coffee House, for example, and sent an email saying my song spoke to them. It’s been very cool to see the reach that radio has, and even cooler to hear from someone that they heard my song on X station a thousand miles away.
Also, I use the reporting tools in the TuneCore back-end to see if airplay is correlating with sales, and to see how much action is taking place in a particular market. From there, I try to identify new markets that I could perform in to further connect with new fans.
What kind of story are you hoping to tell on Justin Klump?
I think the main theme of the album is holding onto hope through whatever struggle you’re up against. For me, life hasn’t always been a straight shot to where I’ve wanted to end up, but the detours have taught me some of the most important lessons I’ve learned. I want these songs to be anthems for the underdog – for the people who aren’t sure they can keep going, but just need a little bump to take the next step and keep going.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016 in terms of keeping the momentum?
I’m headed to the west coast to start album release dates next week, and the lead single, “Loved You Good”, impacts AAA radio on May 16th. I’ll be continuing the release dates this summer, and then circling back to my primary markets, and expanding into new ones in late September, October and early November. We’ll be releasing the songs from the album in various mediums throughout the remainder of the year as well.
Outside of touring and the new album, I’ve started writing for my next album, and plan to spend a good amount of time in my studio flushing out ideas.