Travis Parker sits down and answers a few questions.
SmithMusic.com Artist Q&A Series.
Q: As a small business owner, you’re susceptible to the ebbs and flows of the economy. As a creative, your work makes money based on the popularity of the product. How do you balance the need to create something fresh for yourself, keep your listener base satisfied, and not alienate hard core fans if you deviate too far from previous sounds.
TP: As far as fresh creativity for myself goes, luckily, that isn’t too high on the list of “difficult things”. I would say, literally speaking, it is my lifeline. I am constantly configuring new melodies with instruments and vocals, while also jotting down lyric ideas and concepts pretty regularly. Attempting to learn new instruments (currently, an analog drum machine & piano) keeps me content and feeling productive with my creative process. As far as keeping the listeners satisfied, I probably don’t focus on that as much as I should but I try to keep the releases coming, play the songs they want to hear when they see me live as well as new songs. Some are not even finished, if the setting allows. I’ll also do social media clips of songs here and there that I think keeps them invested. Hard core fans know me best, which means they know I am still working on finding my sound so I think they are prepared for anything.
Q: As an independent artist, what steps do you take to promote your content without backing like that of a major label artist?
TP: Virtually, I don’t really use anything other than the standard free social media platforms to promote music. FB, IG, Twitter, etc. Streaming platform ‘playlists’ work pretty well also but that is mostly out of my control and up to the consumer to add me to those type things. I have paid for playlist placement before, specifically with a company called “streaming promotions” and it was to say the least, a waste of energy, money, time, and money, as well as money. Those fuckers really like money. The most effective and proven way for me to “promote” music I think is to just get out and play for people, make sure they know who you are and where to find you when they are ready to do so.
Q: Utilizing your network and what you have access to is key to building an independent artist/label. How do you build the connections and relationships that form the foundation of your network?
I think staying in touch with people has worked best for me, treating them like a friend, which in most cases they actually are. Replying to them on social media and keeping them in them loop, talking to them at shows, handwritten letters with their online merch orders thanking them for their support goes a long way. Just overall including them in the journey is the most you can really do. Lastly, I think being honest and open as you can be keeps them genuinely interested in you and what you have going.
TP: Making quality audio helps build a following, but quality audio can come from many different sources. What is your philosophy on the recording process? And how are you capturing the sound you’re proud to put your name on? Honestly, I have not yet found a recording process I believe in or like. I have yet to capture a sound I am wholeheartedly proud to put my name on. I am currently seeking that out and I do believe I will find it. When I do I will be eager to share my insight as I know this is one of the most common obstacles for the majority of novice recording artists.
Q: How are you evolving to meet the challenges of venue closures due to pandemic shutdowns?
TP: I acquired a day job when COVID-19 hit, I load trucks at an Amazon fulfillment center. I have been putting more time than ever into my craft and have been playing small house shows which has been a huge positive learning experience. I have noticed multiple silver linings from the pandemic. Looking back I was playing a lot of places I shouldn’t have been playing. I think money gigs are good if you are doing it for the money, but if you are like myself the low grade money gigs in the long run hurt you on a creative and mental level that can take a very long time to recover from. I know an unknown performer might not be able to get into a sold out silent theatre but there are places where people will listen, take you seriously, and give you a chance if you look hard enough. If you are needing to make money to survive I would recommend a day job, tons of opportunities and chances to be exposed and gain creative inspiration doing work unrelated to music. For me, I need to support and nurture the creative, not the other way around.
Q: Which venues do you miss the most about pre-Covid life as a musician?
TP: The venues I miss the most are, Downtown Music Series, Dallas. Magnolia Motor Lounge, FtWorth. What I miss most about life as a musician I think simply put would be traveling and playing music for people. Secondly, would be meeting up with musician peers, seeing them play and hearing how their journey is going.
Q: Mental health is continuous work, especially with the economic rollercoaster for self-employed creatives. What are you doing to keep your mind healthy?
TP: 2019,2020 my mental health has been at an all-time low, but I am pursuing ways to change that. I think positive self talk goes a long way along with exercise, a clean diet, minimal alcohol, and adequate amounts of vitamin D is a good start. Listening and or learning from people that have been or still are in the same boat seems to help. Talking about your mental health struggles can lift some weight also. Lastly, I have recently (August 2020) started micro-dosing psilocybin mushrooms to help rewire thinking patterns and stay focused on the better of myself.