John Tracy on the importance of learning new things

John Tracy on the importance of learning new things

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“I think as artists, we’re always a bit insecure. We are creating something very personal for the world to see, we lay ourselves bare and seek approval of our art from the masses. We want to please, to be validated as being a great songwriter, performer (or whatever our art is). Every time someone says something positive and affirming about our art, we store it in a little locker inside of ourselves so when doubt creeps back in, we can pull those things back out and remind ourselves why we will get up tomorrow and do it all again.” -@johntracymusic

Jacqueline Jax logo photo

GETTING TO KNOW JOHN TRACY
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio

Challenging myself…
I keep learning new things, getting outside of my comfort zone and learning new techniques. For example, I went to a conference this year where I took guitar and songwriting classes. There’s always something new to be learned and that just makes you a better artist all the way around.

Biggest fear…
I think as artists, we’re always a bit insecure. We are creating something very personal for the world to see, we lay ourselves bare and seek approval of our art from the masses. We want to please, to be validated as being a great songwriter, performer (or whatever our art is). Every time someone says something positive and affirming about our art, we store it in a little locker inside of ourselves so when doubt creeps back in, we can pull those things back out and remind ourselves why we will get up tomorrow and do it all again.

Success is…
being able to support my family with the thing I love doing the most. Yes, it goes without saying that my music will be successful if it impacts people. It’s what we’re in this thing for. However, it’s great to connect with people, to know you’ve had an impact on their lives and that your music is successful in those terms, but at the end of the day, this is my career and success is measured by my ability to continue to do this and pay my bills.

Proudest moment…
I think my most recent success is that the new music video we released recently was picked up for a National retail rotation campaign for big box retailers and family-friendly restaurants in the US. It will give my music real national exposure. I’m proud of the song and the work we did on the video and am excited to have been given this opportunity.

Overall goal for life and my career…
To me those are almost two different things. My overall goal for my life is to leave a positive legacy behind for my girls built on a healthy relationship with them. My most important goal is that my wife and girls know how important they are to me and how much I love them. If I have all the money in the world but leave this world and they don’t know that, then I have been a failure. My goal for my career is to continue to do the thing I love and support my family. However, I don’t want to accomplish this goal at the sacrifice of the one above.
3 ways I challenge myself…
1) I try to get out and support other artists as I can – this allows me to develop relationships with other like-minded people and increase my circle of connections.
2) I attend conferences/seminars or do online courses that help me continue to develop as a guitar player and a songwriter. It’s always good to learn new methods to keep stretching ourselves.
3) I take time to read marketing materials or watch online video on the topic to learn new strategies for connecting with and growing my fan base.

Starting in music…
I have actually been playing acoustic guitar since I was 16 years old and wrote my first song when I was 20. I always had a passion for music, but more than just playing the music of my heroes, I wanted to make my own music. When I was 22 I recorded my first demo, made a couple of trips to Nashville and even had a publishing contract for one of my songs. But honestly, the desire to meet my soul mate and have a family burned stronger, so I decided to do what every good young professional does and join the corporate world. I still kept up with my music, but more as a hobby. My wife and I had two girls, bought the house, got a dog, etc. and 25 years later at the beginning of 2006, I woke up one morning and realized I couldn’t suppress this unfulfilled artist side of me. Underneath all of the stress of my career it bubbled to the surface. So I sat down and talked it over with my wife and kids and with a lot of prayer, ventured out into this journey as full-time performing songwriter. As it so happened, at that time I was working on my first CD project. I had done several demos, but really wanted to do a full-length CD. My wife had encouraged me to move forward and as it turns out, we finished the project and launched the CD a month after I quit my conventional job. It started what my wife likes to call “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

Happy Ever After…
I’m all about my wife and kids – they are my life. I actually wrote this song one year as an anniversary song for my wife. This has probably been seven or eight years ago now. She happened to be out of town the week of our anniversary. I kept putting off getting a card, which is a huge deal in our house – you have to at least get a card, anything else is just gravy. She was coming home on the day of our anniversary and I woke up that day to torrential rains. I just didn’t want to get out to the store for a card. I knew I’d be in the dog house. Thankfully I was working on a melody at the time and the words just came together for “Happy Ever After.” It’s the way I see us down the road. Needless to say, it got me out of the dog house that year! We just released a new music video to go along with this song. I like to think this is an anthem to all of those marriages that have survived “through the tears and laughter.”

The future…
With the release of the “Happy Ever After” music video we are also revisiting some of the songs on my previous album with a re-release sometime this Fall, probably late September. We are revisiting some of the mixes, removing some songs and adding some new ones. We are taking a great album and making it even better with a broader appeal. The new project will be titled “Happy Ever After.”

Living in Virginia…
We live in Charlottesville VA. It’s incredibly beautiful here – mountains all around, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive are an easy drive away. Charlottesville is a university town (University of VA) but also it’s an artist town. It’s actually where the Dave Matthews Band got its start. So there’s always a great live music scene. Besides that, though, Virginia is wine country with almost 300 wineries around the state. I play my music in a lot of those because my style lends itself really well to those settings. There are also tons of festivals, another great outlet for my music and for fun activities. For me, besides performing, my favorite thing to do is to eat. We moved to VA about three years ago from TX. We love it here. Besides the beauty, there are amazing restaurants all over the state and it’s been a blast not only seeing the scenery but also sampling some amazing food along the way.

The music industry…
For me it’s a love/hate relationship! I love making music, writing songs, creating new melodies, performing them and then watching people’s faces come to life as they connect with the music. But as a business, it’s one of the hardest I know. In my previous business life, we manufactured a product and we were good at it. What made us successful was that people needed our product and we stood out from the competition because of our quality and service. Several things make the music business harder. First of all, the product we are selling is ourselves and that is infinitely harder. Second, people know they need what we have to offer, but the market is flooded with music so it takes that much more work to open the doors where your music can stand out from the rest. You just have to continue to come up with new ways to provide people an opportunity to connect with your music and then support it. Thankfully the internet allows us platforms like Concert Window where we can do online concerts from our living room, enabling us to connect with fans that aren’t in a position to come support your local shows. We also have just started a page on Patreon.com, which is a new platform that allows fans to support their favorite artists by making monthly pledges. This enables us to fund the continual creation of our art rather funding large projects through sites like Kickstarter and other crowd funding sources. You just have to keep up with the constant changes in the industry and adapt.

Social media…
has the ability to connect with and make new fans all over the world. It has broadened my fan base and created bigger markets for my music. The hardest things to overcome are the constant changes as these platforms seem to be in constant flux – it’s a continual learning curve. Being active on social media is time consuming and sometimes hard to quantify the value of the results. However, I connected with AVALiveradio on social media and I might not have otherwise!

Singles vs. albums…
We have this discussion all the time and honestly I don’t have a good answer. As I mentioned before, I put a lot of effort into making an album, choosing songs that are just right. It’s very expensive to record a quality 12-song project and it takes a lot of time from beginning to end if you put out a quality album. People don’t really buy albums anymore. If you can get them to buy your music, a lot of times it’s a download of a song or two here or there. So we have a constant debate of whether we should release new songs as they are finish or wait to release a complete CD. With the completion of this newest music video, I am beginning to contemplate putting the money into recording one song and then making the corresponding music video. The visual is powerful and it makes your song more impactful. Plus it gives you greater platforms on which to market that song.

Music marketing…
critical to your success as an artist. It’s how people connect with your songs and it’s more than just radio airplay. It’s really all about building a relationship with people, connecting with them on a deeper level so they are actually willing and excited to support your creative art. We engage on marketing in a variety of ways – on social media, on our own website, through emails/newsletters and at shows.

I would love to have 5 minutes alone with…
I think I would have loved to have 5 minutes alone with John Lennon. What an amazing songwriter and musician he was. It would have been awesome to chat songwriting with him.

Music trends and their importance…
There are traditional elements of songs and music that remain the same through time. Then there are trendy elements that get added to give the music a new sound. For my style of music, which is very acoustic and organic, I do think you have to strike a balance between staying true to who you are as an artist and yet add current elements to your songs to keep them fresh and relevant to new listeners.

The creative process…
We have an in-house studio and do a lot of pre-production work ourselves. It helps the project take on direction and helps us experiment with things before we get into the studio where time is money. We also do some video production in-house, but recently have started working with an outside production company to get a higher quality result. Yes, technology is great and there are a ton of things you can now do for yourself. But the old advantage still holds true – you get what you pay for. If you allow someone trained to help you (be that in the studio, in video production, web design, etc), then your overall image and product is a better representation of your professionalism.

Social media:

Website: www.johntracymusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/johntracymusic
Twitter: www.twitter.com/johntracymusic
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JohnTracyMusic
Instagram: www.instagram.com/johntracymusic
Patreon: www.patreon.com/johntracy
ConcertWindow: www.concertwindow.com/13949-john-tracy
iTunes: www.bitly.com/JTItunes