Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz and Journalist Ryan Spaulding on The Outlaw Roadshow
In writing about music on a daily basis, finding music which can be classified as “unique” or “new” has become an obstacle. With syndication of music on websites such as Hype Machine, a favorite of most, it’s much easier to discover new artists or tracks, yet the behind-the-scenes workings and algorithms that help to place these bands on such sites can be unexpectedly restricting.
In understanding that most independent bands must shed blood, sweat and tears just to have their music heard (as, often times, it deserves to be), Adam Duritz and journalist Ryan Spaulding began “The Outlaw Roadshow” to give voice to those artists that were otherwise struggling to make their presence known amongst the cacophony of noise flowing through the digital airwaves. And starting tonight and lasting through Saturday, the two will be taking their festival/platform to New York’s Bowery Electric. Although there is no fee, you should RSVP here to skip the line. Also, show up early as their might be some special surprises.
We got to talk to Duritz and Spaulding about how this got started, why it’s different than other features during CMJ, and the newfound community of “Outlaws.”
How did the Outlaw Roadshow come into fruition?
Spaulding: So we did an interview together, much like this one, and it kind of exploded and turned into a two hour conversation about some of the ideas we had. And then right around the same time, we were exploring different things. I mean, Counting Crows had a new record they were working on and at the same time I was getting into booking live music, and we talked about ideas that included everything from starting an online music magazine, or some kind of new website that would allow us to reach people, and we were talking about different ideas, and it became the Outlaw Road Show. So we decided to work together to bring together young acts who were deserving exposure and weren’t getting that opportunity elsewhere.
Adam, had you already had experiencing in helping to promote newer bands before starting this?
Duritz: Yeah, I’ve owned two independent record companies. I’ve spent a lot of time working with young bands. And at the same time, my band has been really proactive about finding great young bands, bringing them out on the road, and exposing people to great independent music. We’ve used a lot of our opening slots for that over the years. We’ve always tried to do that. It was always something I was very interested in.
How do you guys pick the bands that are involved?
Spaulding: We’re basically building a list of people we’d like to see, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s always based upon some kind of really cool music discovery, just like a tip from a friend, and it starts from there.
Why did you pick for this to be at a venue rather than having it be an outdoor festival?
Duritz: We’ll we’ve been doing it this kind of way from the beginning. The thing about bowery Electric is that it has two stages, so we can have two bands going on at once. The place we’ve used over the years at South by Southwest, we’ve had three stages. In our shows at South by Southwest, we’re putting on 21 bands a day. We’re doing about 12 a day here.
And it is part of the festival. CMJ is going on right now, so there’s a lot of bands coming to town. People come and stay at my house here, and they’ll get other gigs as well. We’ll find them other gigs if we can. It’s kind of like a community thing. It’s weird. It’s like, something happened after a few years. I mean, I don’t think we realized we were doing things really different. We were just trying to put out shows and naturally kind of having fun hanging out with everybody…The bands that were playing were staying in touch and talking to each other while on the road all around the country and around the world, and we all were just building this thing.
There are a number of festivals out there promoting new bands. What makes this one unique?
Spaulding: What makes the Outlaw Roadshow different is the fact that we put the fans’ experience and the artists’ experience first. I think this…you know a lot of people have different ideas and they want to bring a lot of different things to the table, and what we’re doing is we’re putting the music fans first, realizing that even the artists are music fans. And if you do that, then what happens is you get a pretty pure product. It’s good intent. Everybody plays great music. It doesn’t cost anyone to attend. It really is a place that’s safe and warm and great for everyone.
I’ve heard that bands who participate still call themselves “Outlaws” way after the fact. Where did this name come from?
Spaulding: Well it was kind of a little tongue-in-cheek. I’m really kind of trying to differentiate what we do and get the message out. Everywhere you turn, everyone is like, “We did this official show,” or “We did this unofficial show.” I look around and there are so many better unofficial shows than official, and I said, “I don’t want to call myself an unofficial show,” even though I suppose that’s ultimately what we are. I said, “Really, I want to stand out and be different. We’re an outlaw show. We’re outlaws. And so it’s kind of like this judo thing where you’re turning the issue on itself. So okay, fine, we’re not official. We’re outlaws. Perfect.
Duritz: There’s a lot of bureaucracy around being an official show at South by Southwest or CMJ, I mean everyone carries badges, it costs a lot of money. I mean, we really wanted this show to be free. We just wanted anyone to be able to get in so that we could get as much exposure as possible for the bands.
Without big record labels backing them or a ton of connections in the industry, how do you think this festival affects the bands?
Spaulding: It’s just the sense of community and the fact that you have people in your life in that are on the same page, whether you were doing music ten years ago or you’re doing music today. That brotherhood of people that are trying to make something work and be artistic and have a dream and have a vision, that gets harder and harder to sustain. We’re looking to sustain something that’s basically unsustainable in the marketplace today. People need a big exposure show, and we give them that. Maybe it’s their third time playing, or maybe it’s their first time. We try to mix in new Outlaws and old Outlaws.
And what reactions have you gotten from attendees in years past?
Spaulding: People fly across the country for this, no matter where it is.
Duritz: Yeah, they really do. It’s funny because they’re really surprised. I think it’s a lot harder to find new music nowadays because radio play is a much more limited thing…If you want to find something to listen to, that can be tough.
One of the things I’ve noticed with the Roadshow is just, it flips people out that they’ll see 10 bands in a day, and that they’ll like all of them, and they’ll LOVE seven of them. They will walk out of there with names…a lot of people don’t know anything about independent music. I think they think it’s all very experimental or esoteric, and they find out that there’s just a million bands out there, independent ones, that aren’t famous. So there’s music for everybody, really.
Spaulding: Yeah, and we have people that tell their friends, “You must attend.” You’ve been there. Somebody tells you that this is the best new band in the world, and often times they’re good but they’re not great. These people show up and they come in with a big chip on their shoulder. How good can it be? My favorite is to see someone at their first ever show. I watch them walk past me. I’ll be like, “How’s it going?” And they’re just smiling ear to ear.