By Emmanuel Smith
Finding themselves in a creative bungle, the eclectic rock band Shotgun Soul has decided to take a break from live performances to concentrate more on the original building of their music. The band’s situation mirrors a national trend.
“There comes a time when [performing] becomes your priority and then the writing and the creative process of recording get pushed to the side,” said 26-year-old lead singer and Ferndale resident Liz Girard. “We want to take the time for ourselves to get back to creating and making more music and kind of getting back to the roots of why we started doing it in the first place.”
Hundreds of local Detroit musicians perform all across Michigan every year, looking to show off their own brand of music for fans, other musicians and labels looking to sign new artists.
According to a study by the US Department of Labor, there are 41 percent fewer paid musicians than in 1999. But Paul Resinikoff, the editor of Digitalmusicnews.com, who presented the findings on his site, said there is even more music being made than in 1999.
“There’s more music being created than ever before, but paradoxically, musicians are making less. Which means there are also fewer musicians and music professionals enjoying gainful employment, thanks to a deflated ecosystem once primed by major labels and marked-up CDs.”
On Musicianswages.com, writer Cameron Mizell declared: “I don’t believe that we can simply blame the decline in album sales, and to do so would be shortsighted for the musician industry.”
In his article “Why Are There Fewer Working Musicians in 2012 Than There Were in 1999,” Mizell blamed music technology, the rise of DJ’s, the economy and people’s shifting taste into more electronic music as behind the decline. But in the end he asked: “What can musicians do?”
“Understand what is in your control, and what is not in your control. The biggest lesson we can learn from the recording industry and the digital music revolution is that you cannot fight change,” he said.
Jeff Mayhem, 30, a Detroit rapper and frequent collaborator with Shotgun Soul, believes the way music will continue to grow and artists will get jobs is if they market to youth.
“You’ve got to find a younger audience. I think trying to appeal to a younger audience is the only way to develop and cultivate,” he said. “People in their late 20s and 30s, they’re too busy with their lives. If you can win over the young adults, you have people who’ll be dedicated for years.”
Shotgun Soul started in 2009, performing soul, funk and rock covers at Dooley’s Tavern in Utica and other bars throughout the Detroit suburbs. They have released only one album, but have rocked the stages of more than 20 bars and other venues. They can be found on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but they haven’t been signed to any major label.
Girard said she would like to get the glitz and the glamour that is afforded to many musicians signed to big deals, but she’s willing to settle for a life of steady performing and frequent albums.
“I personally have no desire to be super-famous, but I would like to make a living as a musician, a good living,” Girard said.
Shotgun Soul members, who use soul, funk, punk and hip-hop to infuse their sound, notice what separates them from the more commercial-sounding bands around town, and acknowledge that makes it harder for them to believe they can make it big in Michigan.
According to 29-year-old lead guitarist Jason Mossburger, artists have to leave the confines of Michigan’s music scene before being truly appreciated.
“Any artist that has ever come out of Detroit, Kid Rock, Eminem, they left to make it,” he said.
But Shotgun Soul is now looking away from the pursuit of deals and fame and has decided to just go back to concentrating on making their sound their best.
“Whatever your decided profession is, you want to consistently grow and be better at it, all of your life,” said Girard. “And the minute we stop learning and continuing to try to be better, is when we should stop. Because then you’re not doing yourself any justice and you’re not doing your fans any justice.”
Emmanuel Smith is a guest writer for the Ferndale Patch.