Red Wanting Blue is a rock n’ roll band from Columbus, Ohio. They’ve been making waves since 1996 with a steady output of albums and tours. Their frontman Scott Terry called in to the Murfie office recently to chat about the band’s experiences, including signing with a record label, and avoiding a near-fatal car crash that inspired their new album. We cover topics in the music industry of course, like transparency in the streaming business, and the paradox of choice that comes with infinite access. Scott is definitely a fan of music ownership and collecting physical music, and in fact, he points out how physical music can be an extension of your personality. He also embraces the amazing influence computers can have in creating music and reaching fans.
Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Who: Scott Terry; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
When: Tuesday July 7th, 2015
How: via phone
S: It’s going great, it’s going great. Actually right now we are in Columbus, Ohio, and we’re just now getting ready to make a trip up to Edmonton Alberta Canada. So we’ve got kind of a long way to go and a short time to get there.
K: Well this definitely isn’t the first time you’ve gone on a tour, and it’s going through the end of August, so I was wondering if you have any tips for going on tour, for a musician who hasn’t gone before. What do you do to get through?
S: You know what, it’s funny you say that because I have literally thought of writing a book, or like a short guide, for survival tips when you’re on the road with a rock n’ roll band. I don’t want to give away too much of my book. But I would say, if I had to give some tips to some young bands: try to avoid gas station restrooms. Usually there is a hotel off that same exit. They’re in the hospitality business, so they’re not gonna question you if you’re a guest at the hotel. You can just walk in and go straight to the lobby. That’s a Scott Terry survival tip, although we haven’t had to use that one in a little while. We’re fortunate, we’ve got a bathroom on our bus now. More important tips on the road would be: try to stay active. One of the things that we do is we try to avoid fast food, because I think it makes you feel bad. Even if it tastes good going down, you usually regret it a little bit later. Or a lot, depending. We also try to stay fit while we’re on the road. You’ve got a lot of downtime sometimes between load-in and sound check, and performing. So we’ll try to go for jogs and keep ourselves in shape, and so that’s a good thing to do. Again, I don’t want to dig too much into my stash of secrets.
K: We’ll have to keep a lookout for that book. You need to have your own hashtag, #ScottTerryTourTips. Well those are definitely helpful, staying active and eating right.
S: Yeah and it sounds lame to say it like that, but the truth is that—I don’t want to sound preachy—but we run across bands who live up to the illusion and the idea that a band that’s traveling, you know—rock n’ roll band, partying every night. At this point in my career, I think that’s a difficult thing to sustain, it’s hard to maintain that lifestyle and live like that. It’s good to cut loose every now and then, but I think ultimately, you’re going to be going from town to down, driving from cold weather conditions to hot weather conditions. You’re putting your body through a lot of sleepless nights and the schedule can be rigorous and brutal, and the best thing you can be doing for yourself in order to make it through the shows so that you’re not apologizing to your fans like “Sorry I have a sore throat, sorry I got sick,” is to—because the road will run you down, I mean it is longer than you, it will definitely run you down if you open yourself up to that—so the thing you have to try to keep in mind, is: pace yourself, and always try to stay on top of your health. That’s my fatherly tip to the young bands out there.
K: Right, coming from experience. I mean that’s great to hear. and you guys have experience touring, you have experience putting out a lot of albums, so I was wondering if you look back at everything you’ve done so far—I know you have a new album out, but—considering everything, is there a certain album you’ve put out that you personally feel most connected to?
S: It’s hard to pick because they’re sort of like children. So you have to love them all a little bit. And some were easy to birth and some were really difficult. But you know, you have to love them all the same. I feel like I—and again, you go through phases—but I feel like for me, I would probably say These Magnificent Miles. I’ve got a real fondness for what was going on in my life at that time, and how we wrote that. We were a regional band and we did a couple things around the country. But it was right at that time when things started turning and getting a lot busier. I have a real fondness for that. I also have a real fondness for this latest record LIttle America. Only because we are a road band, we are an American rock n’ roll road band, so a lot of our stories are road-based stories, you know highway stories. And Little America touches on that a lot. It’s named after a place, it’s a little rest area gas station out in Wyoming called Little America. We stopped there after we had a near-fatal car crash with a semi that we were so lucky to miss. It slid out of control and came over the highway onto our side, at the top of a mountain. So there are moments that I think you tie to stories, and some are more vivid than others. And I feel maybe because that record is the most current, I feel emotionally drawn to that and tied to that. But at the same time, part of me also feels like if I had to say another one, I would say These Magnificent Miles.
K: Right, and I know what you mean, it’s hard to just pick one, but you have a certain fondness for ones at certain times. One thing that I noticed about your career is that in 2010, you signed a record deal with Fanatic Records, and that’s after fourteen years of being independent. So I was wondering how signing to a record label changed things in terms of putting out music and making money for your band.
S: Signing with Fanatic definitely brought the band to—everything is so subjective—but for me and for our band and where we were, it definitely brought us to another level of attention, where we were able to get some opportunities that we never would have gotten had we remained independent. And that’s always the hope when you sign a record label, that you guys will mutually benefit each other. And that you’ll do good by the label and the label will do good by you. And I think that we had that—because they were young and they believed in our band. I feel like you don’t hear enough of that. They put a lot of sweat equity in the band and they really tried to get our name out there and work with us, and we worked together. It was a real collaborative effort. And so to have more people there promoting your band, and creating an awareness with fans and reach that exceeds your own, it’s an awesome feeling. And so my metaphor for that is: we’re all behind the bus pushing, trying to get the band down the road, and more hands make it a lot easier. It’s not as difficult and arduous. I have a fondness for that and it definitely made a change. I think that when you’re an independent band, now more than ever, you can do so much on your own. I’ve always had a do-it-yourself approach to music and the industry of being in a band. With technology now you can make so much of this music on your computer, whereas 20 years ago it was just not a reality. But you can now, and people are making great things all the time, and I feel like you need a lot of those outside sources less and less. But I think that there still comes a point where you have to ask yourself, “Ok, I feel like I’ve gotten as far as I can get on my own, I don’t know how to get anywhere else without some additional help.” And I fought the good fight for like you said, 14 years. A long time. And that had a lot to do with the fact that we had friends who are in bands from the late nineties, early 2000s, right when the internet was getting really big and making a lot of waves for the music industry. People, labels, no one know what was coming next or what was happening next. There was so much confusion and nobody really had an answer for what was next. And we saw a lot of our friends, a lot of people in bands who were great—we heard a lot of horror stories about their experience with record labels during that time. So we never really went out of our way to look for that. So I don’t know though, I feel like like the landscape is changing all the time, and it’s a very different landscape now than it was back then. And I feel like maybe labels are re-emerging. I hope that, still as a fan of music and the popular culture of what the music industry is and music in our culture, I think that’s a great thing. I’m always impressed with how many people do things on their own now, and like PledgeMusic and Kickstarter campaigns, and things like that that people do. You can do a lot on your own. You know, but when you’re a kid in a band and you start to say “I wanna do this for a living, I want to have a career in music”, there’s just so many other sides of it that you never expected. I might be good at writing songs, or performing my music, but are you a good show promoter? Show booker? Are you a booking agent? Are you a manager? Are you a publicist? There are so many things that go into trying to do it yourself. At some point, there’s a reason why those positions exist out there. There’s a reason why there are great publishing firms, there are great booking agencies, great management—because they know how to navigate the climate of the music industry. Better than a kid in a band. I see it both ways. I feel like you have to try and do as much as you can on your own, absolutely as much as you can, and don’t try to wait for someone else to do it for you, do as much as you humanly can, and where you’re finding your inability to connect the dots, that’s where you start looking for people whose sole position and job is connecting those dots.
K: Absolutely. I’m happy to hear that your relationship with the label is good, and it’s benefiting both of you, that’s something every band can hope for when they make that type of decision. And you also pointed out how much things have been changing in the music industry, like the dynamics of putting out music, it’s easier to create it. And the way people listen to music is also changing—you know, there’s streaming services out there. So I guess what are your thoughts on the way things are changing. Are you a fan of streaming? Are you a fan of free streaming? Are artists benefiting from it the way they should?
S: As far as the way artists are benefiting from it, I wish I was more schooled at that. I wish I had more information, specifics on what people are really making, how they’re making it. You know I think that probably what they’re doing is, at least on some level, it’s probably fair. I would have to hope that. But then again saying that someone just bought your one song, so you’re going to get this much money. When I was a kid, you could do that, but the cost of a music single back like 25 years ago was still more than 99 cents or $1.29 or whatever it is. And I understand there’s no physical copy for you to deal with. I like the idea of buying albums, it’s such a hard thing, because I feel really old fashioned. I love vinyl, and I love 8-tracks, I love all forms of how music was sold since we were kids, and since my parents were kids. I still have some of my parents vinyl that they used to play. All different forms of listening to music. Streaming is a new thing, and it’s a great thing, but it’s something to have so much at your fingertips. But I think sometimes, I guess….I’ll pull it away from music, and I’ll use movies as my analogy. But I remember being a kid, and you’d walk into a video rental store, and you would walk around and see there are a few new releases. And then some were taken, some you had to get tomorrow because they’re not available, they’re already rented. So you were left with making a few choices. And I just look at that as a beautiful thing, it was life’s way of weeding it down for you. And now, there’s times when I’ll literally open Netflix, or Hulu Plus, or whatever I’m using to stream movies and television channels, and find myself scrolling, unable to make a decision, because there’s so much to choose from. There’s just so much there that you find yourself just browsing for a half hour, just looking, because you’re like “I can’t even decide on anything yet, there’s just so much.” And I sometimes feel like music can be that same way. There’s so much music out there, and now more than ever, there are so many ways to get it to people. How are people not just constantly in a panic state of being overwhelmed? I feel like that a lot. But then again, I’m gonna preface it and say I’m old fashioned, and streaming has also been a huge help. When I’m at home, I’ll have a channel on streaming, whether it’s iTunes radio or Pandora, there’s several of them that we’ll use, and a song will come up and you go “Who is this?”. I think streaming is a really amazing tool for finding new artists. Let’s say I’m on Band of Horses Radio, and I’m listening to that, I’ll be like “Oh wow, I didn’t know they had this record, I didn’t know they had a live record.” Or, “I didn’t know this other band but now I know them because they’re affiliated with this band.” So I think it’s good for the networking and getting a larger pool to draw from and say “You like this, so you might like that.” But that’s where you need to take it a step further, and say “Okay, maybe I’ll buy that artist’s whole record and listen to that.” But I feel like there’s a little less of that. I feel like a lot of people that I know don’t buy albums, they buy songs. They pick and choose.
K: I think that you hit the nail on the head there with how streaming is great for discovery, but then it’s also great if you go ahead and buy an album by that artist if you like it. And I too, I love albums. I love collecting them and hearing what songs the artist decided to put together in this collection from a certain period of time. So I think that there’s a lot of people still remaining who think like this, so we’re not alone, but there’s also people who don’t care. They sit back and listen to internet radio, and they’re not active, they don’t have the same type of active tendencies….
S: Well it really—it boils down to ownership. That I can look at and hold my Beatles White Album, and know that I own that record, and this is mine. Even though it’s their music, it’s like “I own this and I can listen to it whenever I want.” And there’s something about that, like again, take it away from music—you could rent a set of golf clubs wherever you go, you could rent a set of golf clubs at every golf course, then why are people bringing their own golf clubs? Well because they pick their own. Let’s just imagine, for the sake of argument, whatever style of club you have, that you could just rent those. You don’t need to carry them. But I think there’s some people that say “I like to have my own things.” There’s an ownership, “This is mine, it’s nobody else’s, and I get to keep it.” But I know that we’re kind of going away from that. And you still have the music, but you don’t get to hold on to it, it’s a different thing. That’s not the greatest analogy. But there is something to be said about the old days of walking into someone’s home, and you want to peruse their bookshelf. And you see those records that they have. And those records represent their taste, their style. And I think on some level, I like that. I feel like it’s an extension of your personality. It’s a physical description of your taste and your style. And when you sort of remove that and make it private, and just put it in a phone, and no one gets to see it, I don’t know—there’s something a little sad about that for me. But at the end of the day, the service itself is great. I think it’s sometimes how we use it. Because you know, I remember years ago when Netflix started doing what they’re doing, I remember thinking, “This is never gonna last.” I remember being like “I can see them sending you a DVD and it coming the next day, that’s a feature that I like”, but then you look and see even that feature has become obsolete. Nobody even does that really. It’s just all streaming now.
K: I couldn’t agree more when you bring up ownership, that’s what we’re totally about. We say here at Murfie, ownership matters, I’ll send you some articles I wrote that are exactly describing what you’re talking about. And also, my music collection defines me, I’m proud of it, it defines me, myself, who I am, and I enjoy that about collecting music, and a lot of other people do too. So something we’re trying to pioneer here is ownership in the digital age, and steaming is very convenient. But is there a way we can have streaming and still own music? So it’s interesting to see what’s gonna happen, and I couldn’t agree with your thoughts more about that. You mentioned that you like to collect physical music, like vinyl, 8-tracks, whatever those are—I’m just kidding—but that’s really cool that you come from that history of the meaning behind collecting music. I think there’s people like us still remaining out in the world.
S: Oh absolutely.
K: Is there any artist that you’ve been listening to a lot on the road?
S: We’re friends with a band named Good Old War. They just released a record called Broken Into Better Shape, so we’ve been listening to that. And I actually just got Leon Bridges’ new record that just came out, which is really cool throwback stuff. At the same time I listen to a lot of classic stuff. I was just listening to some Creedence Clearwater Revival and some Jim Croce. I think between all the guys in the group, there’s a lot of different tastes, so depending on who’s got control of the radio, we might be listening to something old or something really new.
K: That’s awesome. I love mixing it up like that. So what are your plans after the tour, do you guys have any recordings in the works, or anything like that?
S: We’re in between records, so we’ve been writing. We spent part of the winter and the spring writing and demo-ing songs, so we’re just going to continue that when we get a chance to get off the road at the end of the summer. We’re going to have a brief window before we do a fall tour. Whatever free time we have, we’re going to be putting it towards writing new songs.
K: And hopefully enjoying the summer a little bit! How are the summers in Ohio?
S: I think they can be beautiful. Unfortunately we never get to see as much of them, summer is such a popular time for touring and traveling, so we get to see it for a little bit. I’m glad we got to see as much of it as we have, but I think as of tomorrow we’re going to say goodbye to it for a little while.
K: Well it sounds like you have an exciting tour ahead, and things in the works. Good luck with everything and I really appreciate sharing your thoughts on music and everything, this has really been interesting for me!
S: Well great, I appreciate it, it’s been interesting for me too!
Albums by Red Wanting Blue
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Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.