SmashMouth, the iconic band behind hit’s like “All Star” and “I’m a Believer” discussed the evolution of their career and shared some tips for emerging artists with Backtrack.
How did you decide to become a professional musician? Nobody decides to be a professional musician. We all wanted to be Rock Stars as kids so we started a band and it just happened to work. We didn’t know it then but a band is sorta like a start-up company, most don’t even get off the ground.
How did SmashMouth form? Cheating,lying and criminal activity. It was also a conscious decision,….Do we play in cover bands our whole lives or take a chance at something new&original. Maybe we can create our own hits instead of playing other peoples hits our entire lives.
How did SmashMouth develop their sound? It came naturally, half of us grew up listening to Van Halen and going to mega concerts and the other half grew up with Punk/Modern Rock hanging out on the beach surfing all day.
How did you find the right label and manager? Our Manager grew up in the same area as us and even went to the same High School with a couple of us. He started working with bands very early on. We we’re lucky enough to get a song spinning on KRoq in LA and we found ourselves in a label bidding war. Interscope Records was very aggressive and it just felt right from the start, they also came to the table with the strongest budget. Jimmy Iovine basically wouldn’t let us leave the building without signing a deal. The dude had John Lennon’s piano in his damn office, that was impressive.
If you had to start your career over today, what would you do differently? Nothing because we’re not even sure how we did it in the first place. The experiences are so amazing we couldn’t ask for anything to be different.
How did you maintain a healthy relationship with your fans throughout the years? I’m not sure we did to be honest. As our sound changed and developed so did our fans. Whenever a small punk type of band gets widely popular you lose some of the diehards along the way but gain new ones. We ended up with a lot of fans who loved our songs. They love our songs much more than us as individuals and that’s perfectly fine with us.
What is your opinion on streaming services, and do you feel as though they are a viable platform for emerging artists to distribute their music? Of course, it’s another vehicle to get your music out there. The lack of sales from streaming only affects about 1% of artists/bands in the entire biz because there’s only 1% making real revenue from sales anyways.
With such a unique sound, how were you able to find your target audience? We didn’t know anything about a “Target Audience”. We played what we loved and the audience found us. “Walkin On The Sun” was very new & fresh so younger audiences gravitated toward it but so did older folks because it reminded them of The Doors. Then we created “All Star” and at first our built-in AltRock fan base loved it but we also gained a kid type of audience because “Shrek” picked it up. The song was already charting top10 before Shrek licensed it however people think the movie broke the song. Totally not true, the film moved it to another “Target Audience” called “The Kiddie” world. Hence Radio Disney came along with it and all of a sudden we we’re on tour with NSYNC. In other words the Target Audience keeps changing at the same time staying the same.
Do you believe that new technology will allow for more opportunities for emerging artists such as finding a manager, book shows, getting signed, and finding the right audience? New technology helps bands move forward without a manager and/or label. The trick is to accomplish the most you can within the band and not even concern yourself with a manager,label or even agent. They will find you once you become attractive. When we came up we didn’t have access and transperancy like you have today. Heck the internet wasn’t even invented yet, not even email. So you had to find someone who had access to the hidden secret world of the music biz. Nowadays you can reach the masses all by yourself.
What is the most useful advice you can give to aspiring, unsigned musicians?
Bring something “Unique&Great” to the music scene and you will stir waves. Don’t try and chase trends, you will always trail those trends. Make sure you LOVE what you’re creating otherwise you will come across as a car salesman. You’re selling music but you’re also selling a lifestyle and a piece of yourself so it must be authentic. That being said pay attention to current music and trends, you must know what’s currently going on so you can follow and feel the trends as they come and go. Be on the forefront of current happeings then take your songs about 5 steps ahead. Don’t write in a vaccuum, be able to reference current topics etc,…. And you must be superhuman, you have to give 100% to your music,school,job,relationships etc,… Your music can NEVER be an excuse for anything. If you have to rehearse till 2am and get up at 8am for a class the next morning you can’t complain, put on your cape and fly. Also realize nobody in your family wants you to be a musician so don’t fight it. They will NEVER believe it’s a real job even when you earn your first million. Do not look for acceptance because it won’t happen.