How AW Came To Be and What Exactly Is This Voice of the Artist Platform?

Hello. We’ve recently had a few questions slung our way from those who are unfamiliar about the structure of Artist Waves. What do we stand for, where are we coming from, how did it all begin, why, and what exactly is going on here? All great questions – especially the last. My answer is often, “You just have to read it.” But sometimes, I understand, a little more detail would be helpful – like an extended elevator pitch.

You may have noticed over the past two-and-a-half years most of the articles featured on the site have my name attached to them. I don’t ever write or post under an alias (maybe I should?) with intent to appear as if there’s an array of personnel. Many publications in their early days do, and that’s cool, but I don’t see how that stays true to the fabric that is an “artist wave”. We do however have some amazing contributors – big shout-out to Michael Young, Brian Kelly, Gail Younts, Matt Lambert and Larry Fleisher… who have all offered their unique perspective, while without hesitation, jumping right atop the board surfing this wave.

Right now seems like a great time for a mid-year health check. We’ve tried some new things in 2019 thus far, technically year three of this mission, and we have a swell of exciting things in the pipeline. In an effort to get as close to an alias as I can without this being a page of just me rambling, I enlisted some help in an Artist Waves interviews Artist Waves style approach.

So, here’s the deal. I came up with a list of 12 questions and served them up to my young kids. I asked them to pick a few as if they are interviewing AW. They could also come up with some of their own. What I do subconsciously keep under wraps is that these kiddos do help with AW regularly – probably more than they know. They inject inspiration just by observing, being inquisitive and sometimes joining me on interviews.

Without further ado, we are now stuck in the elevator with fully prepared (sugared) youngsters. And away we go…

Why do you do this? Why do you write?

I see the world, feel the chill, which way to go? Windowsill.
And I mean that in the deepest, most optimistic way possible. The truth is I never sought out to be a writer. I have no formal degree, education or practice in writing, journalism or a creative trade. Heck, more times than not I still have no idea where to place a comma (anybody looking for an editor’s gig?). Writing found me, and I treat it as an artform – like composing a melody or a stumbling upon a blank canvas where I can arrange a picture or mirage. The common thread is that each piece is coming from a place within. Sometimes that place is a dark corner that I am exploring into and other times it’s more transparent emotions just floating atop a stream. I used to play a lot of guitar and write songs – both with a group and on my own. In many ways, I exercise the same practice here. A sentence I write may be a million words too long, but I think intently about each word I place in there. Even with interviews, or something I am transcribing, I frequently intertwine something personal that I am feeling into the bones of the narrative. It may only be noticeable to me, and that’s fine, because sometimes just the “release me” is enough. It’s like sitting alone at your piano at 3am with a glass of whiskey. It’s just me, myself and I with all the notes to design – right under my fingertips. There’s certainly a vulnerabitly and I suppose it can be like stepping up to the microphone each time I publish, and singing a song I wrote.  In short, it’s an outlet of self-expression that allows me to emote, collectively or solely, and sometimes, it’s the best way I know how.

Why did you start Artist Waves?

“Hang on, just hang on for a minute…I’ve got something to say.” That’s the opening line to my favorite Brandi Carlile song “That Wasn’t Me.”

But those last five words, that’s my answer – I have something to say.

I am myself like you somehow.

To crack that open – after writing for numerous other platforms, I wanted to continuously capture a particular voice I was not hearing enough of. I believe the arts are leading the way right now in helping to better shape and embrace cultural efforts – by being courageous and taking chances. It’s always been important to me to illuminate great art, the process behind it and its ripple effects. Where did you write that song? And why? What were you tapping into and what does it mean to you now? The role of the artist is to make people think and feel. Artist Waves is a place where you can both write from that perspective and showcase great work that exemplifies it. The ultimate goal is to inspire the person on the other side through a connecting takeaway of thinking and feeling.

Personally, I wanted to only write from a place that’s a real thing — it’s something I I’ve lived through or have seen somebody else live through. It’s more engaging that way. I wanted art on art. There didn’t appear to be many doors open that contained that platform; write and right from the heart where you can not only use all the colors on the pallet, but also invent some of your own. So, when all doors are closed sometimes you’re better off making your own building… or something like that : )

How did you come up with the name?

It was hard as hell! (I didn’t really say hell… but it emphasizes the exclamation point, adds unnecessary drama…. whatever).

In a way, arriving at the name Artist Waves was like writing the perfect article. I threw so much …. um spaghetti… on the wall at first to see what would stick, look and sound appealing. But that was only half the battle because equally as important was making sure it properly represents the mission. I knew I wanted the word “waves”. I worked backwards from the concept of capturing the ripple effect and really, a wave is the best cause of that. Underneath Your Waves was kicked around at one point – it’s a line from Chris Cornell in an Audioslave tune that I borrowed elsewhere : ) but the premise here was always about the most inspiring – Artists. So, as much as I tried to pry it off, it waited up in the dark to speak to me.

It’s funny, there’s a cliché in songwriting where the best songs just happen quickly, like in minutes. You agonize over writing something so perfect and catchy …to no avail, then one day you just pick up a busted acoustic off the floor intending only to put it back on the rack, but you strum a few chords mindlessly and the next thing you know – there’s the best song you ever wrote. The best route was to not overthink it because something tangible was right under your nose.  I guess that’s kind of what happened here.

The original logo. When I saw the stylized W, I knew this was right

What are your most memorable interviews you’ve ever done?

I love interviews. It’s probably my favorite column here. Regardless of who I am speaking with I drive off two principles – 1. Appreciation for the person’s artform and 2. Submerse myself in their catalog the week before. Not only out of respect, but to really try and get an understanding for what they are saying. From there, I can better position my opening question which is always -how are you/how are you feeling? And my last question, coming full circle – what does this moment mean to you? My intent is to always have a sitting on the porch with a drink style conversation. There’s an art to conversation, and I see the birds in the rain.

But as for my most memorable – I’ll go with some of the most unique. I’ve had some remarkable, humorous and wildly unexpected experiences that often lead to the best content. For example, one of my first interviews ever was a phoner with Nick Hexum of 311 where I took the call from an office in a bed and breakfast off the side of the road. This is a story for another time, but there was sweet old lady who worked there and allowed me to barge to do this interview. She listened to every minute and offered words of encouragement on my way out.

Citizen Cope and I went to a nice dinner together last summer on the heels of our interview and that added a different touch to my point of view writing it up.

Joseph Arthur and I did an interview in a fan’s car! We planned to meet up prior to the Arthur Buck show just to catch up. Joe wanted to go to the art store and struck up a conversation with a great dedicated fan who bought herself the concert ticket and road trip as a retirement gift. She kindly offered to drive us to the store and the next thing I know, Joe and I are talking and land on…”Do you have your recording equipment on you? Let’s do an interview right now in the car?” I did, and the interview continued in the art store. It was awesome. If you’re reading… Hi LW!.

Lastly, about 15 months ago I interviewed Brent Smith of Shinedown a few days before the release of their new record ATTENTION ATTENTION. Brent was so passionate about the concept and messaging within this album and I found out three-quarters of the way through the chat that he asked their bus driver to pull over on the side of the road to take this call. They were on tour and driving through South Dakota. The service was so bad, but Brent realized if he stayed in one particular corner of the bus and the bus stayed still, the connection would be OK. I couldn’t believe someone would do that for me. It was exactly what Artist Waves is all about.

With Judd Apatow, Gary Clark Jr.

What are your favorite events you’ve attended with AW?

As far as non-writing activity, this is my favorite part of Artist Waves. With all due respect, I am not a reporter, and I really not convinced a journalist either. It’s a privilege to be onsite as “press” and my aim is always to create and express, not report. Sometimes that’s in the form of photojournalism, (again nod to the Mike Young and co) and allowing a photo or even just one sentence tell the entire story, plus capture the emotion.

Boston Calling is always a high-water mark, I’ve had some really special moments to take with me from that festival the past few years. The same holds true for the Levitate Festival. It’s really unique and even has a skatepark onsite, placed in the middle of the grounds. The event is a diverse collection of art and spirit where I feel so comfortable. We have some exciting things in-store for next month’s Levitate.

If you know me, you know I have to mention AW earning the right to photograph Pearl Jam at Fenway Park last summer. I tortured myself on what I would write to accompany Mike’s sensational photos. It had to live up to being afforded the opportunity. I wrote it in my head for days under the umbrella of “I’ll open up” before I ever put the pen to paper. Each word reminded me of what I felt on the grounds those two nights.

What is your favorite-est concert you’ve ever ever been to in your whole entire life?

Sorry I have three.

My first Pearl Jam show – Randall’s Island, 1996. I was 15, it was my second concert ever, but really the first where I knew what was actually happening. It was over three hours, thirty-two songs and perfect.

Imagine Dragons, 2018 – The thrill of taking your kid to their first concert experience is something I can’t capture in words. It’s all wonderful wonder. You made me a believer.

Alicia Keys TBD… in the future. Because I promised I would take my little girl to see her live for her first concert the next time she tours and I can just feel it already. #GirlOnFire

With Chris Cornell, Brandi Carlile

What are your biggest challenges with AW?

Oh man. This is really good one, probably my favorite of the bunch. Challenges for AW come in all shapes and sizes. To get granular, we need a tech/WordPress guru to help with the mechanics of the operation. Then there’s also the hurdles you encounter on any daily grind. What people don’t see is there’s a ton of rejection. It’s not to be taken personally, but sometimes an artist is just not doing interviews or allowing for any collaboration. That is 100% fine and understandable, and not always a reflection upon your work. It’s just the way it goes. Over time, you earn interviews and conversations. They lead to relationships if done correctly and it makes it well-worth the wait. Like art, the word “no” has several definitions. Sometimes I pour my heart and soul into a piece, I think it’s going to be a homerun and it falls flat on its face. Nobody takes to it, and then for a second, I fall flat on my face. Not because I didn’t win a popularity contest but because I failed to connect in some way. But failure is part  what lead to the creation of Artist Waves (the other parts are – mentioned above, and Chris Cornell). So, I get up, sometimes wipe my face off and sometimes I leave it dirty. Either way… carry on.

But you know what? There are also days where I question this thing. It’s natural I suppose. Why am I doing this? What I am doing this for? Where I am going with this? Is this is a giant waste of time? Whenever I hit one of these funks the answer to all of those questions is that I should just quit. It happened a few weeks ago actually. It was the most intense of these cyclones I was ever caught in when it comes to AW. I thought maybe I’ll just quietly stop. I envisioned just easing out of it where gradually it would wind down and I can sneak out the side door without any goodbye or notice. For some reason, I then decided to go for a quick run (which is weird because I don’t particularly love running). The music I bring with me is a massive collection where there is no rhyme or reason to anything. I swear the only thing I did prior to taking my first stride was hit “shuffle” on the entire song list, which must be close to thousand songs. “Follow” by Brandi Carlile came on. Bear with me, I’m talking a lot about Carlile these days because I just saw her at Boston Calling, and it’s also because she sings straight from the heart in a way that is so authentic, relatable and inspiring. Anyway… the opening lyrics are:

“Follow your heart and see where it might take you
Don’t let the world outside there break you
They know not who you are inside
They never felt your yell
Don’t ever let them crack…your shell.”

Hmm… well, that certainly got my attention. The next song that came on was “Muse” by G.Love and Citizen Cope. That song was used in our AW year two video! It’s all about…. I just wanna follow you my muse. And then it hit me that I ain’t quittin’ for nobody (I told you sometimes my sentences don’t make sense). The point is – there are a ton of challenges. Who am I to think I can just jump into this space and throw elbows just off the power of the art alone? I spoke of the emptiness you feel when a piece strikes out, but what I have not yet mentioned is how amazing it feels when you do connect. Call me foolish but most days I could not tell you the numerical results off the top of my head that AW experienced that day, but I can recite back word-for-word each note we receive about how moving, touching or emotionally-triggering an article was.

 What’s coming up next for AW?

Levitate Festival, moe., Blues Traveler and some surprises. When I think about the future of AW it’s mostly… I’ll ride the wave where it takes me.

With Robin Wilson/Gin Blossoms