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Andy Salvanos (Chapman Stick) IndieView #10 - IndieViews Series
IndieViews

Andy Salvanos – IndieView #10

Today for the tenth IndieView of the IndieViews Series we are going to chat with a great, Composer, Chapman Stick Performer and Recording artist.

From city streets to stages and soundtracks, Andy Salvanos is internationally recognised for his unique voice on the Chapman Stick.
Born in Sweden with Greek-Russian-Irish heritage, Salvanos is a seasoned world traveller who spent a decade in Los Angeles as a session bassist, before settling in Australia. He is a respected solo performer at festivals and events and has contributed music to film soundtracks and collaborative projects.

Having released 7 solo albums since 2007, Andy’s music continues to evolve and find new listeners, showcasing an accessible, lyrical and often cinematic style which often defies categorisation.

1. Andy Salvanos – Fragments (2007)
2.Andy Salvanos – Closer (2007)
Nominated for “Best Solo Instrumental Album 2009” , Just Plain Folks (USA) – 2nd place.
3.Andy Salvanos – Morn’s landing (2010)
4. Andy Salvanos – Dream recall (2011)
5. Andy Salvanos – Reunion (2012)
6.Andy Salvanos – Transform (2016)
7.Andy Salvanos – Solar cycles (2018)

ABOUT YOU

If we cast your mind back to when you were a kid and a teenager: what are your earliest musical memories?
Sitting under my grandmother’s Blüthner grand piano with two Siamese cats listening to her play Chopin. I still have her piano.
Which was the first album you ever bought?
The Beatles “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music” compilation album (on cassette)
Which musicians do you particularly admire and which one do you think influenced your music?
I admire too many to mention, past and present. Classical music and The Beatles (which my mother loved) had a very strong early influence on me. Oddly, I discovered Zappa on Swedish radio, and a year or so later The Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen” hit the air. In between that I had phases of Swedish pop, KISS etc. There are many others, like Mike Oldfield or Kate Bush, whose “Hounds of Love” is one of my top 10 albums of all time. The one thing I completely missed the first time around was most 70’s blues-based rock music. I don’t think I’d actually heard a Led Zeppelin album until about 1990, which is quite unusual! Like many people, I felt that music had lost its way a bit by the late-90’s, but I think there is an amazing amount of good stuff happening now, mostly outside of the mainstream. These days, I listen to a lot of singer/songwriters, and also enjoy electronic music. The Chapman Stick exposed me to instrumental music I’d never paid much attention to before, including Michael Hedges and players like that. But honestly, I enjoy anything that grabs me, in any style. The most important people for my own development have been fellow musicians I’ve met and played with along the way.
Which is the best concert that you have been to?
The Cure at Dodger Stadium in LA on the “Disintegration” tour (late 80’s). They were much better live than I had expected. I rate Robert Smith as one of the great pop song writers – it was superb.
What does music mean to you?
On an emotional (and perhaps spiritual) level, music has the power to absolutely stop me in my tracks. I have memories of hearing certain songs or compositions, and just being unable to move or speak. Nothing else has ever affected me like that, except maybe the first girl I really fell in love with! On a much broader level, I have come to realise that music is actually how I connect to the outside world as an adult. I have no other real skills for survival, and not that many things that I enjoy talking about, except maybe a football match or a good meal. My natural inclination is to be alone, and enjoy my own company. Music has been the one thing that kept me connected to other people since my late teens.
You play a beautiful instrument, the Chapman Stick. Tell us more about it: 
The Chapman Stick was invented by Emmett Chapman in the late 1960’s, and amazingly he still makes all new production instruments himself. It’s a guitar-family instrument, but in terms of technique it’s designed to be played more like tuned percussion. The original Stick tuning uses bass strings tuned in inverted 5ths (starting from the middle of the fretboard) and a higher “melody” range in 4ths. The bass is kind of like an upside down cello, with a big intervallic range, but the trade-off is that it feels less fluid for traditional bass lines. All of the strings are also muted at the nut, to stop “sympathetic” vibration. So, strumming and traditional open chord guitar techniques generally don’t work. I think that’s one of the reasons it seems to appeal more to bass players (and of course, because Tony Levin plays it!). The Chapman Stick is a patented design, and only made under the Stick Enterprises name, so there’s not really any brand competition (although there are similar instruments around, most notably the Warr Guitar). Sticks are currently available in many types of wood, bamboo and aluminium, with different sizes and string configurations. My main instrument is an old-school 80’s Brazilian Ironwood (pau ferro) model. I love the feel of this instrument with it’s jumbo bass frets (new Sticks have stainless steel frets with a different profile). It’s a pretty basic 10-string as far as Sticks go.
Are you still in love with your profession as musician? How do you keep your enthusiasm always live?
Yes, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. It’s not always easy, and to be honest it can be a horrible way to make a living sometimes.
When did you decide to be a full time musician?
The commitment was made around 1987, although I left music for about 5 years in the early 2000’s.
I think it was an important part of my development actually.
How do you manage your music life with your “common” life? What is your typical day like?

I perform or do something relating to my work in music almost every day. At the moment I’m working very hard to build an audience online, more or less with a view to have a “retirement plan”. My work/life balance isn’t great, but part of the plan is to improve in that area. My wife and I were able to raise two beautiful kids, who are now surprisingly responsible young adults. I sometimes wish I could have given them more holidays and money, but in reality they had a very good life with many choices growing up.

“Highly original music…Salvanos is a virtuoso of the Chapman Stick” (Adelaide Festival Centre)
Tell us more about your latest works (album, live tour, new projects).
I’ve just released my 7th solo album and now plan to put some singles out on digital platforms leading up to Christmas, plus I’m planning an electronic side-project which is aimed directly at music streaming. I also have some really interesting offers to collaborate with other artists, which I hope to do in the coming moths. I took this year off from traveling and touring, so i have some festival applications out there for 2019, and hope to get back on the road too.
Studies

STUDIES

Are you self-taught or have you studied music? You think is important studying music to be a Pro?

I have studied music at a reasonably high level, but I actually believe that music is all about listening and playing. You don’t need to understand music in a theoretical sense to be a great musician, unless you need certain skills to work in particular professional situations. Great musicians have an open ear and an open mind more than anything else.

Did you keep on studying?
I’m always trying to progress on some level, yes. I wouldn’t necessarily call it studying, but I try to improve all of the time. And I do try to make myself play something I’m not comfortable with from time to time!
Speaking of culture, which is the last book that you read?

Bruce Cockburn’s autobiography “Rumours of Glory”.

While you are on the road did you find the time to improve your technical skills on your instrument? Do you think is it important?
I think touring is the worst time for being creative, but from a purely technical point of view, it’s a good time to improve. Last year I did several festival performances where I started incorporating new techniques on stage, and it definitely gets you in shape quicker. But I do so much performing, even on the street when I’m not gigging, that I’m constantly playing in front of people. More than 300 days/year.

ALBUM PRODUCTION

Can you describe the process you go through when you are writing a song? What inspires you to write?
I don’t have one set way of writing. Occasionally, ideas just “appear”, and you have a song almost done before you play it. But usually, I’m just noodling or even making “mistakes”, that will take me somewhere else. I’m not a real composer in a traditional sense of writing music, and almost everything I do stays semi-improvised. I record ideas on my phone now, so I don’t lose them.
Album/Ep/Singles any favorite way to release your music? and why?
I’ve always released albums, but as I mentioned before, I’m going to do a few singles and see what happens.
How do you plan an album production and his release?
In recent years, I put a lot of pressure on myself by telling people that I’m working on a new album, then wait until the last minute and almost have a nervous breakdown in the process. It’s pretty terrible haha! Another reason I’m going to just try sneaking a few singles out, and maybe try working backwards, so to speak.
Andy Salvanos - Chapman Stick
Andy Salvanos – Chapman Stick
When you release an album how much is important for you the tracklist? And the time between the tracks?
I always stress about it when I’m recording, but I find the final process usually comes together better than expected. Tracks have a natural way to sort themselves out on an album. Still, it’s always a learning process. With my latest recording, I tried a few new things, and I had some problems. But you live and learn. I’ve mentally moved on to the next thing already.
Do you produce your records by yourself or do you prefer to have some extra ears or a producer to guide you?
I produce myself, but always ask for a few opinions and borrow people’s ears along the way.
Did you record your music in a rented professional studio, home studio or in any other way?
Mostly in my home studio. The Chapman Stick records very favourably through a preamp and DI, without mics.
How did you choose the musicians for your album?
I haven’t used other musicians on any of my albums. I’d love to at some point.
Did you mix and master your album/tracks in different ways for digital and physical releases?
No.

ALBUM PROMOTION

Are your records only digital or also physically distributed?
I still release CDs. I have a small but loyal audience, many of whom have all of my albums on disc. It’s easy enough to cover costs if you can sell a few hundred copies without problems. Also, when you perform live it’s really important to have physical media available, because people like to buy souvenirs! But the general public is not buying CDs like they used to, so that change is noticeable. I was selling around 5000 CDs/ year just while busking at one point, and that’s not the case now.
What types of promotion and marketing have you found to work best for an independent artist?
Playing live a lot has been invaluable. Almost all of my gigs and albums sales are a direct result of performing for the last 11 years. Online, Facebook is the thing that’s working best for me. I’m having good results with FB Live streams.
There are some music industry analysts who argue that the CD is dying. What percentage of your sales are physical CDs and what percentage of your sales are in other forms (e.g. online)? Do you see that changing significantly in the future?
Without doubt, CD sales are becoming more for the “close” fans and collectors, more niche market. It’s not just because people don’t want to buy them any more; maybe they have a new car or computer without a CD player. Also, the whole world is in a different headspace than it was even 5-6 years ago.
“Andy Salvanos. Your music reminds me of the sound of the world. Thank you for giving us the world to listen to, because sometimes people don’t take the time…” (John Francis Downey, Canada, album review).
How do you normally promote your latest releases? Do you use only social networks or also other ways?
I used Facebook quite successfully for my new album, not much else.
Do you use Facebook/twitter/instagram sponsored post for promotion? You think could be they helpful?
I think Facebook can work if you learn about advertising and use it properly, otherwise it can be terrible. Facebook Live has better engagement and reach than anything else at the moment, I honestly think every musician wanting to reach an audience should look at it seriously.
Have you a mailing list? You think is a “must have” as most people in music business said?
Yes, although it’s not very well organised.
Have you a favorite way to distribute your album?
Bandcamp is fantastic for physical & dowloads. I haven’t seen enough return from streaming to say it’s great, yet.
Do you think that, with all the digital alternatives, radio airplay still has an effect on the success of a release? And how does an independent artist get radio airplay?
For someone like me playing instrumental music in a limited market like Australia, it makes virtually no difference. If I want to sell it, I get out on the streets and sell it myself.
What do you think about streaming services like Spotify and Pandora?
Well this could be the topic of many interviews, but in short, I think it’s still too early to tell for most of us. Sure we’ve already noticed an impact on consumer behaviour, but for most musicians only time will tell if streaming is a viable source of income. It definitely provides opportunities for some musicians and composers who have not had a similar outlet in the past. Not only can you sit in your bedroom and record music now, but you can also get it on to the world’s biggest music marketplace very quickly and cheaply. There’s also room for any style of music, because of the huge variety of users and purpose-made playlists. We’re already seeing many “non-typical” musicians succeed on these platforms. On the negative side, I can see the market being flooded by huge amounts of pretty average music. Everyone and their grandmothers will soon have songs uploaded on Spotify. I also worry about traditional performing musicians finding it hard to adapt, although the money has always been to some extent in touring and ticket sales. Ultimately, streaming still has to prove itself, both to the companies and the majority of artists. As it stands, most of them are losing money at the moment.
Listen to Andy’s Music and the other IndieViews Artists on our Spotify Playlist:

LIVE MUSIC

Did you work with booking agencies or you manage your own gigs?
I mostly get gigs by word of mouth, but sometimes through agents. I don’t perform much in typical music venues.
How do you promote a gig in a new town/country/region?
Mostly Facebook these days, or by going out busking for an hour and handing out flyers.
Organizing a tour could be really expensive especially if you travel with a band far away from your country, how do you manage everything to earn and don’t loose money?
One of the reasons I’ve been working and traveling solo for more than 10 years now. It’s so much easier, but you still have to plan well. I always make sure I have enough bookings to not lose money.
Did you sell your physical CDs, Merchandising and other?
I only sell CDs at this point.
Somebody says that House Concert are the future of live music as many club are closing. What do you think about it? Have you organized any?
I love the concept, but it’s not terribly common where I live. Small, intimate concerts are the best though.
Do you have any suggestions for somebody who would host an house concert?
Yes, do it more often!
Every time you play your music you are giving a big part of you to your crowd, do you feel tension before a concert? If yes how do you manage it?
I do some breathing exercises, avoid coffee and big meals just before a stage gig. Give yourself plenty of time and breathe well. I like to start with a piece that I can play in my sleep, even with my fingers taped together. Don’t start a show with the hardest thing in your repertoire! I also like to just play a song before I talk to the audience. Talking makes me more nervous. Also in all honesty, one glass of wine is just enough to take the nerves away without losing any control. That’s one glass, not bottle…
Which is the difference between a big audience or a small one?
Small audiences can be more confronting, they’re up close and you can see their eyes. It usually takes me a bit longer to relax, but the gigs are often better. Big stages are more detached.
Each of us has some expectations before a show, which are yours? What would you love to “have back” during a concert or what you already receive?
I try to approach every gig as a new experience, no expectations.
Andy Salvanos Chapman Stick IndieView
Andy Salvanos Chapman Stick IndieView #10

MUSIC BUSINESS

Have you a daily business routine? Checking/writing E-mail, phone calls, create new connections?
I do about an hour of Facebook in the morning, and maybe post a few things during the day, followed by Facebook live stream in the evening. I try to answer and deal with emails and gig bookings as they come in.
Which percentage of your time is dedicated to: “Creating Music”, “Promotion”, “Organizing gigs/tour”, “Studying”, “Reading”, “Listening Music”
My time is mostly about playing live, probably about 50%, with everything else just happening whenever I have time.
Do you think that the Artist status is compatible with the entrepreneurship? Do you think that an Indie artist needs to be also an Entrepreneur?
Yes, you have to be at least a part-time entrepreneur now, or have people on your side who can help you. At the same time, my best business approach has been to be myself. My “brand” is “no brand”. It kind of works.
As an artist, which are the biggest differences between being represented by a major label or being represented by yourself?
In 2018 I really don’t see any advantage of being on a major label. I believe we’ll see many major label artists going independent, with creative teams around them. They’ll make more money and have all of the control.
Which PRO (Performing Rights Organization) are you affiliated with and why did you choose that?
APRA/Amcos as they represent Australian-based artists. Their live performance royalty system is excellent, nothing better than getting royalties for playing your own music at gigs.
Did you use any other service to collect your royalties?
I’ve signed up with Sound Exchange and the Australian version PPCA, but I don’t believe I’ve received anything from them yet.
As a full-time musician, I immediately realized that I can’t only work as a musician and I should extend my expertise in different fields. So, I became a Sound Engineer, composer, producer too. Did you also develop different fields? Which one? What do you like and do not like about each one?

I teach a bit and obviously, write my own music, but mainly concentrate on performing. I used to teach a lot more, but it’s not something I enjoy as a job.

I understood that you are an old school musician, like me. But both of us are discovering more about the “new world” of streamings, playlisting etc. Can you tell us what do you think about it? 
Yes, I guess I’m an old-fashioned musician. I grew up around classical music, but my mother was also a Beatles fan. I became more interested in sport for many years, before a friend asked me to play bass more or less as a joke, and I fell in love with it. It was the beginning of a long journey (about 35 years now). I think most of us who have been around for a while have had to adjust to this very fast changing world. The age of technology is not all bad; there are many positives in terms of communication and having affordable high quality music production at our disposal. Like many musicians my age (I’m born in 1965), I was not a fan of streaming to begin with. I only started doing solo stuff in 2007 and people were still very interested in live music and buying a lot of CDs. It was like finding a gold mine for the first few years. But a few years later, a lot of things started changing quickly – the way music was consumed, the reliance on smart phones, and the whole global economical situation. It was very noticeable. I had to accept the streaming concept. People would still buy CDs and then tell me they were streaming the music on their computers, so I thought it was like getting paid twice. But I didn’t see much hope for financial rewards. Then last year, I met a lovely guitarist from Tasmania named Alan Gogoll. We both played at some of the same festivals, and were talking about probably losing money by being there. One day he said “I don’t mind, because I’m making an income from streaming royalties.” Naturally I thought he was joking! But in fact, he wasn’t. He said he’d given up on chasing gigs in Australia, and just really started pushing things online for the last 3 years or so. I had a look at his following on social media and Spotify, and it was huge. That became a turning point for me, in terms of my own approach to the streaming market. By the end of 2017 I started making a serious effort to build my listener base on streaming platforms. It definitely takes work, and a lot of staring at screens. But I feel like there’s no turning back now. I can also see that there is a large audience for instrumental music online. It’s a mass market approach, while what I’ve always done before is build a local audience by playing live. You can still do both
Have you learned any “promotional strategy” that you would share with the music community? 
I honestly think the best “strategy” is to build a real audience. There are ways to boost Facebook and Spotify numbers that can actually do more harm than good. It’s important to get on real listener playlists that are a good fit for your music. If you have a true fan base, things will work in the long run. Most of my local audiences are people who have heard me play for 10 years now. Very few things happen overnight. I also think Facebook Live is fantastic for getting listeners involved online. Music is still about two-way communication.
Do you have any suggestions for a young musician that is thinking to start with his career?
The starting point has to be love what you do. From there, it can grow and be anything you want. Play the kind of music you want to hear, don’t waste years on chops you won’t need or use. If you don’t want to gig or be a full-time musician, treat it as a hobby and work on getting your music out there anyway. You never know what can happen.

 

 


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