It’s a story you hear often: bandmates meet at college, start writing songs and playing locally, gain post-college indie success, start touring with hot bands and even get songs licensed on TV! Just as often, we learn that a member of the band decides on releasing solo work on the side.
As fans or upcoming artists, there is little thought put into what it means to a songwriter to separate his or herself from the band that brought them to prominence, and even less thought into how they balance the two identities. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the end, but what about when songwriters really just want to maintain a different avenue of music creation?
Meet Brandon Kinder, who has fronted Austin’s The Rocketboys for over ten years. As his indie rock band matured and hit new benchmarks, Kinder found himself with the desire to create music under The Wealthy West moniker. His latest release, Long Play, drops tomorrow, February 9th (get it on iTunes Pre-Order here!), and we interviewed him about what it means to step out and focus on his solo efforts while still maintaining a balance between this and his band.
The Rocketboys formed in college – were you already writing songs and performing musically before that point?
Brandon Kinder: I had been in bands in high school, mostly just as a guitar player, but I did write a few songs – mostly goofy stuff just to make my friends laugh. It wasn’t until college that I really started thinking of myself as a writer. And really, I didn’t think of myself that way, you know, as a “songwriter.” I was just a guy who was in a band.
Austin has become solidified as an American music hub over the years. Do you feel that relocating to a city with such a ‘scene’ played a major role in The Rocketboys’ trajectory?
Austin definitely played a big part of our band’s trajectory. We moved here from our small college town, Abilene, because it was a “music city.” We’ve met all kind of wonderful amazing people that are all part of this music scene we have here. There are tons of bands here that constantly inspire me to work harder, and dream bigger.
Austin doesn’t have too much of a “music business” side, (aside from live music). But the great thing is, those people who are on the other side of the stage are the most loyal, amazing, caring people. I mean, there is an organization here called Black Fret, who, (in the past two years), has given more than a quarter of a million dollars to local bands! That is something special, and it’s just one of the great things Austin has to offer its musicians.
Austin is just an inspiring place in general.
What do you feel have been some of the most important lessons you learned early on as an artist when it comes to marketing your music?
I’m still learning, actually. When I first started playing around people were still putting together press kits made out of paper. (I think I still have some somewhere.) I think the main lesson I’ve learned is that you really have to hustle, and you can’t stop – ever.
There are so many bands right now that have so much at their fingertips, and what separates us is our work ethic. Sure, there are tons of lucky breaks happening, but for the unlucky, you just have to work hard. You have to become not only a marketer, but a graphic designer, a photographer, a videographer, a social media guru, a booking agent, a manager, and the list goes on.
You have to be able to do it all. It’s not the sexy side of being an artist, but it’s what can make you a successful one.
You’ve had the opportunity to tour/share the stage with some really well known indie artists, as well as at some larger festivals. What have these experiences meant to you as an artist, and how do you use them as motivation?
You know, every time we get to play with a bigger artist, or play a festival, it’s great because we can see what they’re doing that works and apply that to what we’re doing.
What kept you inspired to write ‘in between touring and recording’ with your band? What kind of emotions are captured on Long Play?
Songwriting is just something I do. It’s become a part of me. It’s the way I work through things. One time a friend of mine said to me that I’m always talking about trying to get somewhere in my songs. That’s still the case with some of Long Play, and I don’t think I’ve quite figured out where I’m going yet.
The song “We Painted Pictures” was actually used to propose to my wife. It’s kind of a long story, but it’s a good one.
You referred to the Wealthy West as a ‘place I go to dream, to escape’. How do you channel that energy into creating music?
I try to write a little more personally when writing songs for The Wealthy West. And it’s a beautiful thing, to get to work through life in a melody. Music has always been my therapy, even before I started making my own. It’s odd, but even though I’ve been writing songs for so long and working non-stop, when I’m stressed or tired, it still makes me want to write a song. And it’s the same for when I’m happy and feeling alive. I’m just always drawn to document my life through song these days.
What made you want to focus so heavily on the instrumentation throughout this album as opposed to using synths and samples?
I had just finished up working on an electronic instrumental record, (which probably won’t ever be heard by anyone but me), and I think I just wanted a break from that sort of workflow.
For one, I think the music on this album should be organic, but also, I just wanted to do the exact opposite of what I had just been doing. I wanted to slow things down, and make my own sounds the old fashioned way. I will admit though, the piano is fake.
But yeah, I just really wanted to get outside of my computer for a little bit. It was more of a challenge to myself than anything.
For artists who are looking to showcase their solo efforts while maintaining their band life, what kind of advice can you offer?
It’s great to get to diversify and broaden what you’re doing musically, but it is a lot of work, and it’s definitely a tough balance. It’s hard to be in two places at once. For me, I needed to do something with all these songs I’d been working on, and I’m glad I did.
You’ve operated outside the label system for awhile. How have platforms like TuneCore made it easy for you to act as an entrepreneur while handling your music career?
We’ve been working with TuneCore since 2007, and there’s not an easier way to get your music out there. You guys have made it so easy to get music up on all the different streaming sites and stores.
It’s good to know that I can trust TuneCore with my music. And if I’ve ever had an issue, (and they’re always based in my own ignorance), you guys are always super quick to respond and help me figure it out.
When I first reached out, you were on a songwriting retreat cruise – sounds amazing! Tell us about how that came to be and how the experience was.
Yeah, that was such a great experience. Something I’ll never forget. The Rocketboys are about to play on “The Rock Boat”, which is basically a 5-day music festival on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.
The people putting that on asked me and 6 other songwriters to meet up on another cruise a couple weeks before, and write and record an album while on the boat. None of us had ever met before, and in 2.5 days, the 7 of us wrote 9 songs and recorded them. It was a challenge we were all up for, and it turned out great.
We broke off into little groups, wrote the songs, and then went into the studio, (which was just a cabin on the ship), and laid down guitar, voice, and some percussion. Then the producer took it from there.
At the end of the cruise we all had a listening party and got to hear all of our songs, fully produced for the first time. It was really incredible, and I feel like we’re all family. And now, on The Rock Boat, we’re going to get back together and play a show and sell the CDs! It’s such a cool idea, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.
With Long Play being released February 9th, what additional plans do you have to support the album?
I’m working on booking a tour, and have a few things in the works already, (like my CD Release Party in Austin on 2/12). I’ve got a couple more video ideas I’d like to do as well.
I just want to stay busy. The Rocketboys are about to start recording our third LP in the next few months, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.