Exclusive Podcast: Katie Scullin Talks About Her Latest Release, ‘Pieces’ and More…

dream awake still

Katie Scullin is a talented singer/songwriter who’s been performing around the Madison area for over a decade. She’s played countless bars and cafes throughout Wisconsin as well as a number of large festivals such as Summerfest. She’s been a part of several bands over the years, including Rivalry, a band named for her relationship with her brother and bandmate, D.J. Scullin. She’s also played with Star Persons, an electronic/hip hop group similar to The Black Eyed Peas, and currently, The Katie Scullin Band, which she jokingly calls a “revolving door band” because the members tend to come and go.

Her accolades include being nominated for and winning multiple Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAS) for her role as front woman in Star Persons, as well as “Best Alternative Artist” in 2011. She was also crowned Best Singer/Songwriter by 105.5 Triple M’s Project M Competition and Best Local Musician in the Jefferson County Daily Poll for the release of her EP “She Smiled,” in 2013.

Katie recently released an album titled, Pieces, a blend of tracks written over the last couple years that deal with personal growth, sudden life changes and deep introspection, possibly even a little frustration. She writes from the heart, making it easy to be drawn into her world: one filled with rocky roads and arduous climbs opposite still lakes and silent, snow-covered forests. Her music is a way to escape the distractions of everyday life and the disquiet of unwelcome thoughts, not only for herself, but for her audience as well. Her song titled, “Whitney,” is evidence of her desire to relate to any kindred spirits out there who share her points of view.

In this in-depth interview with Katie, we talk about her latest music video “Dream Awake,” and the story behind it. We also get her thoughts on Pieces as a whole and learn about her writing process. What’s more, she tells us about her Kickstarter campaign that raised a whopping $21,000 from supporters! She also explains her struggle as an independent artist and the challenges she has faced while raising a family and trying to make a decent living from music.

Listen to the podcast here:

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

J: How is your son (Mason) doing?

K: He’s awesome! Very good! He’s going to turn six in a couple weeks!

J: Six already?!

K: I know! He’s a lot of fun. He loves playing the drums which is very, very cool. He’s getting into singing. His dad likes metal, so for a while there he thought that singing was screaming. I’m trying to wean him down a little bit and be like, “Oh, but you also have to be good at singing like this too.”

J: I’m sure he’s you heard you sing plenty of times though right?

K: Oh yeah. Sometimes he tells me to stop singing.

*we chuckle*

J: I think the last time I saw him you were living in Stoughton.   

K: Uh-huh

J: He was just a little baby.

K: Oh was that at Joe Ramos’ (a mutual friend of ours)?

J: Yeah. He’s grown! I saw the clips in your video “Dream Awake,” from when you first had him.

K: Oh yeah.

J: That was really cool.

K: Thank you.            

J: So, tell us about “Dream Awake.” What’s your take on the song?

K: When I started writing it I was living in the basement of a couple’s home, and they lived up on a hill overlooking a lake. I had a really awesome view from up there. The weather that day was crazy. It was like Mother Nature was almost bipolar. There was a snowstorm with twisting winds and all of a sudden the clouds would part and it was sunny out, like a spring day. The water had this crazy, blue hue to it. I was at a point where I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in life. I was sort of reflecting, thinking about the turns my life took, not expecting what had happened to happen.

I think it’s really about painting a picture of your own life. You have control of your own thoughts and how you react to things, whether or not it’s going to be a cloudy, crappy, stormy day or it’s going to be sunny and beautiful. We do have some control of how we react to things.

The music video was interesting. The director took a turn with it bringing Mason into the picture. I thought it was really cool because he interpreted the story differently. His wife had a similar story to mine where she was about to go to Africa to do an anthropology project and she ended up getting pregnant. Her whole life changed at that point and she had to rebuild her life. It was neat that the director had that story in common about his wife and what she went through. I wasn’t expecting to have a child. It was amazing at first but then I realized music was going to have to sit on the back burner a bit.

J: Well, I’m glad you have stuck with it. It was exciting reading your article in Maximum Ink about your Kickstarter campaign. I can’t believe it! You raised $21,000? Tell us about that experience.

K: Yeah. It was a huge decision and really scary because I didn’t want people to know that I was struggling, but I came to the realization that I either needed to ask people to help me out or I wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. I planned a lot for it because I knew I was going to need a good chunk of change to put together a polished product. I felt like there were so many artists around me doing the same thing and all of them including myself were struggling.

Every time I would do a show I never had anything to sell because I didn’t have the money up front for it. I had this little five song demo that I put together for $1200, and we did it in like three weeks time. It was never mastered. The volumes were really low. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time on it. I just felt like I didn’t have anything to show for as many years as I had been doing music. I thought I had to do a Kickstarter and I saw a lot of people who were really successful with it, so I pushed aside those self-defeating thoughts that I might fail. I might not make it. I planned a lot and had a lot of help from my family who gave me ideas on how to reach an audience aside from online. Because a lot of people who donated were not online and wouldn’t have known it was even happening. I was a basket case for a month.   

J: Did you do any shows beforehand to get people interested in what you were doing?

K: Yes. I talked about it a lot before I even launched it. Where I bartend and at my shows I spoke about it just to let people know I was going to be doing something. I put together a little two song demo with what I had done already. I had started the album previously and realized I couldn’t finish it without financial backing, so the two songs I had already finished I gave away. I printed 200 copies. Every single person that I gave it to I asked them to check out what I was up to and if they liked it and people felt like donating, they could. So that was a way to reach people. I also had a fundraising party where we had computers set up and my band came and played.

J: Awesome! And the name of the album is Pieces? And it’s available on your website?

K: Correct.

J: Is it available anywhere else?

K: iTunes, Spotify and Google Play I believe.

J: So, you were talking about merch and how important it was to have that. Why do you feel it’s important? Do you notice a difference in response from the crowd at your shows when you do have merchandise?

K: Yes. Definitely. People are intrigued by it because I have stuff that looks good now. It looks professional. Sometimes I do shows and nobody buys anything, but then there are shows where people buy a ton of stuff. It definitely helps because people come up and look at it and it starts a conversation. People love t-shirts. I made some handmade coasters, and I’ve got stickers and stuff. It’s extra revenue on top of the performance. It helps get the word out when people have your stuff and they’re wearing it.

J: So in terms of physical CDs would you say you’ve sold more physical copies than digital?

K: Yeah, I think so. You know with streaming these days it’s hard to say. You get less than a penny per stream. With digital downloads where people have actually paid for the album, yeah, I think I have still sold more physical copies.

You know as much as people are into digital downloads and having everything on their phone… I’m old school. I think there is something cool about getting something tangible in your hands, being able to look at the artwork and read about it. A lot of other people still feel that way. They like to have something, but a lot of vehicles don’t even have CD players anymore.

J: What was your inspiration for the songs on Pieces?

K: Some of them were songs I had written in previous years. One of them was with my band Rivalry, which originated from Sibling Rivalry with my brother. Another song I had half written, and I went down to Nashville and worked with a songwriter by the name of Carey Ott. He’s really amazing at what he does. He’s like a music mentor now. I was having writer’s block and he kind of helped me finish it and pull out the good stuff. But the idea for the album came from the first song on the album which was “Whitney,” not really named for any particular reason. It was the working title, and we just left it. I felt like maybe there was some Whitney out there who might think the song was written for them and maybe it would help them in some way. But I was at a low point. I didn’t know how I was going to continue doing music as a career because it’s hard. It’s really, really hard as you know. I just felt this urge while writing the song to just keep reminding myself or reminding whoever is going to hear this song and feel inspired not to give up. You don’t have to have it all figured out right then and there. It’s a journey. You’re going to figure it out as you go, and that is what it all came down to. I didn’t have it all figured out when I started. I just knew I wanted to do something bigger than what I was doing. As things developed, “pieces” were falling into place. It was like a puzzle, picking from different parts of my life, different pieces in the song, bringing it all in and figuring out exactly what it was. It was a reflection of where I was in my life. I was in a broken place and I needed to make something of myself from that broken place.

J: Where did you record the album?

K: We started recording it up at my parent’s cabin. We did an experimental project and filmed the video “The Walrus,” which is on YouTube. We played a gig up there and used the money to rent the rest of the equipment we would need to start recording. I thought that we would record the whole album that weekend but that was not the case. It took another two years to finish. But I had all these pieces from there and then we went to DNA Music Labs with Mark Whitcomb, and I did some stuff in my kitchen. Paul Schluter, from Megatone Studios, also helped produce the album. He took all these pieces and kind of mapped it out and we recorded the rest of it there.

J: What is your writing process like? How do you go about writing a song?

K: I usually start with the guitar and I will just start humming. It’s almost like I am talking in a different language, like speaking in tongues. *laughs* I just start these melodies and then a line will come out and I will be inspired by that, and then I figure out, okay where did that come from? What is the subject right there? And then build off of that, and it kind of just develops from there. And then sometimes I will write a poem and just start singing pieces of the poem and begin rearranging it if it doesn’t quite work with the guitar, or if the melody and consonants don’t fall into place.

J: When did you start to feel comfortable being on stage?

K: Right after high school I auditioned for a play called “Tick Tick Boom,” and I got a pretty good part. I practiced and practiced. I don’t know what it was but I built up a confidence to keep those nerves at bay. It felt really good. I felt like my voice was getting stronger. I still get nervous but it’s controllable I guess. Knock on wood. I’m opening for Jay Leno on Friday (May 19th, 2017).

J: I was going to ask you about that! How did you get hooked up with that show?

K: A friend of mine is their main booking person now. He’s been helping me out with shows here and there since I got into the Madison music scene. He does the main booking for Brat Fest. Do you know Michael Alexander?

J: I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard the name.

K: Yeah, so he took over that job and asked me if I wanted to open for Jay Leno. I was like, “what?!” I think I’ll pass on that.

J: But you decided to do it anyway?

K: Oh yeah. It wasn’t for sure I was going to get it. He had to personally approve it, so I quickly went online and dolled up my website. In the top corner I put a “Hi Jay!” with a little smiley face.

J: Do you do your booking personally or do you normally have someone book for you?

K: It’s a mixture. I have two different booking agents that help me out.

J: As a singer/songwriter would you say it’s pretty easy to get shows in Madison?

K: Yeah, but I do 50/50 covers and original material. People always want to hear covers. I’m trying to get away from that and do more original stuff. I’ve been trying to get more into the listening room type venues which is more difficult than booking at a restaurant/bar and being the background music. I can do the Tracy Chapman or whatever songs people want, but then I’m not really doing my own art. It isn’t as rewarding as booking a coffeehouse where people pay $5 or $10 and are really engaging and listening to the music. Playing a bar sometimes is easier. You get paid a flat fee, but you don’t really gain as much in terms of fans.

J: So other than Star Persons and Rivalry you have the Katie Scullin Band. Who is in that band?

K: I like to call it “the revolving door band.” There have been so many people in it. My original drummer is Travis Drumm. He recently moved out to California. He was in a lot of different projects so I would have several other people fill in for him. The original bassist stepped away for awhile so Nate Wiswal took over. Nate is on 8 or 9 of the 11 songs on the album. He also got a really good job out in California and moved out there so Jacob Bare is playing bass with me again. My brother has always been my number one guitar player. He has a newborn now and is married and has a really great job, so he doesn’t do all of the shows. My boyfriend, my baby’s daddy, Darren, is also my guitar player, but sometimes it’s hard getting a babysitter so I’ve had Paul Schluter play guitar for me before. And then my new drummer, his name is Bruce Root, filling in for Travis. I don’t know how long he will be in California… You should play!

J: It would probably be good for me to play! I rarely play live, but I want to get to the point that I feel comfortable doing it. So are you thinking about writing a new album?

K: Yes I am. I worked on Pieces for so long that within the last 6 to 8 months I probably wrote a whole other album worth of songs. I learned a lot this time around and think things will go easier next time, knock on wood.

J: Well I’m down to help on production.

K: That would be awesome!

We hope you enjoyed this interview. Check out some of Katie’s other videos on her YouTube page. To purchase a copy of her latest album Pieces, click here.

Want to see Katie Scullin live? Click here for her tour schedule.

Don’t Bury Your Digital Music!

One of the questions we get here at Murfie over and over again runs along the lines of:

What happens to my music when I die?

We get the question so often that we’ve set up two FAQ items to clarify the situation for our members (and prospective members):

On average, each of our members own and store 120 compact discs at Murfie. If they purchased them all new, each such average-sized collection represents an investment of as much as $2,000. In fact, in the United States alone, consumers have purchased around 15 billion compact discs at a cost (in today’s dollars) of about a quarter-trillion dollars. WOW! Some of our biggest members have as much as $50,000 or more invested in their CD collections!

So it’s not surprising that people think of their music collections as “assets” that they may want to hand down to their family, friends, or favorite charities. News outlets such as CNet and TIME Magazine have even addressed these “digital asset” inheritance issues. At Murfie, our members own their music, and it’s their business what happens to it after they’re gone.

Shopkeep of the Week

2013_0403_featuredshop_wildwoodMike has been rockin’ the Murfie marketplace since May 2012. He’s sent in six kits all the way from sunny Georgia to lil’ ol’ Wisconsin, adding over 1700 discs to our warehouse.

Murfie: How did you originally learn about Murfie?
Mike: Truthfully, I don’t remember. I am a CD seller and have sold tens of thousands over the internet, so I was looking for an outlet for those that I get that are missing artwork.

Murfie: When did you purchase your first CD? What was it?
Mike: My first CD was the Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 1, and it was probably 10+ years ago.

Murfie: How many CDs do you own (or did you own at your peak)?
Mike: I currently own several thousand CDs, but that is because I am a seller. My personal collection is all digital so there are no CDs.

Murfie: How tall are you?
Mike: 5’10”. How tall are you?

Murfie: Tell us about your musical tastes.
Mike: Mostly classic rock and blues.

Murfie: What can folks expect to find in your store (if different than the above)?
Mike: Everything.

Murfie: If you could meet any musician or band in person, who would it be and why?
Mike: Freddie Mercury, because I believe he was greatly talented.

Murfie: What is your favorite album at the moment?
Mike: I truly don’t have a favorite. I usually just shuffle the songs in my collection.

Murfie: What do you plan to do with the millions of dollars you’re making from your Murfie shop?
Mike: Buy more music, of course.

Murfie: Which Beatle was your favorite?
Mike: Paul

Check out Mike’s shop on Murfie!

Shopkeep of the Week is a weekly feature that focuses on our most interesting Murfie shopkeepers. These are music lovers like you who have sold hundreds of pre-loved CDs on Murfie and have hundreds more at the ready to please your ears! If you’d like your Murfie Shop to be featured, or if you’d like to nominate a shop to be featured, please e-mail us at info@murfie.com and let us know.

Phonorecords: A Matter Where Matter Still Matters

 

Judge Sullivan’s decision in the recent Capitol Records versus ReDigi ruling allows for what we all know is perfectly legal; exchange and personal uses of original physical media, like the original commercial CDs that Murfie stores for an owner, providing access only to the owner.

Beyond that, the ruling was a bit of a letdown. In this modern era of digital audio delivered across high speed networks, we all wanted a profound decision about the future of ownership of our media.  We wanted a ruling that clearly let us know whether our iTunes downloads were albums we really owned versus data we’ve merely licensed. Instead, the case came down to the copying of… phonorecords. Phonorecords?

As defined by copyright law, phonorecords are the “material objects” in which the music is fixed. When the law was created in 1976, this meant vinyl records, eight-track tapes, and cassettes. The various music formats which followed over the years were also very clearly material objects. In the ReDigi case, the judge takes the definition of phonorecord to an entirely new level that now includes the physical section of magnetic bits stored on our harddrives in the case of iTunes downloads. By contrast, an album that is sold or accessed on Murfie’s platform simply is a CD phonorecord, stored for its owner’s convenience in Murfie’s disc vault.

And, this is where ReDigi ran into trouble. The instant that original, licensed download of Thriller was saved on our harddrive, that tiny section of bits on our physical drive became the material object associated with that phonorecord. Short of teleportation, it didn’t matter how fancy ReDigi’s system of transferring data was because, in the end, ownership of the concrete physical thing wasn’t conveyed to the buyer. The judge ruled that the laws of physics made it impossible to transfer a phonorecord (i.e. a material object) across a network in a manner that didn’t involve making a copy.

Extending the definition of a phonorecord to account for bits on a drive leaves open some interesting questions. The judge ruled that the first sale doctrine “still protects a lawful owner’s sale of her ‘particular’ phonorecord, be it a computer hard disk, iPod, or other memory device onto which the file was originally downloaded.” This seems to imply that we’re able to sell a harddrive containing a bundle of original mp3 downloads. But what about those mp3s that were transferred over to this harddrive when we upgraded it to a larger size? Or, even those files that were copied over to a new directory (file system specifics aside)?

In tying the case back to elements of copyright in place long before the rise of digital audio, the judge took a conservative approach and declined an opportunity to chart a path for first sale in the digital realm. He cited as much in his decision: “Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.”

In other words, congress needs to update our laws if the original copy of your iTunes download on your harddrive is going to be considered something more than a phonorecord that’s stuck with you (or whomever has your computer). So, for those of us waiting around for a digital first sale doctrine, it could be a while.

In the meantime, Murfie already provides a path forward for music ownership in a digital world. We’ll continue to maximize the value of your music within time-tested laws, but we also applaud any work entrepreneurs, legislators, and courts do to modernize those laws to reflect how our systems for transacting, storing, and accessing music, books, and movies that we own actually work. These advances are good for all parties and can hardly fail to lead to many new opportunities for creators, the various supporting media businesses, and fans alike.

Please drop in and check us out.

Last updated: 04/02/2013 at 4:22pm; a draft was posted by mistake

Popularity Contest: Murfie Downloads or Streaming?

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not trying to imply that one is objectively better than the other. I’m humbly venturing to gather intel (mind you, informal intel) on music delivery preferences and whether downloading OR streaming is more “popular” as a playback choice on Murfie.

Now, your exact preference is probably a result of many factors (specific to your lifestyle). Here at Murfie, we’d sure lurve if you shared some of those reasons in the comments section. But first, do the easy part — take the poll, please!

Now I ain’t saying you’re a gold digger…

Are you a Gold Digger yet? Er, wait, that’s not right. I mixed up my gold references. Let me rephrase. Are you a Murfie Gold Member yet?

The Murfie Gold Membership program is one of our most attractive features.

You ask

Why?

I say

A Gold Membership gives you free rips & downloads of all CD purchases & trades for a year. A whole dang year!

A flat fee of $24 gives you 12 months of membership. In addition to free downloads of all CDs you purchase or trade for on Murfie, you also get free rips and downloads of up to 25 additional CDs per month from your Murfie collection (which includes CDs you mail us). Too good to be true? Nah, it’s as good as gold.

To set up a Gold Membership, just visit this page: http://www.murfie.com/subscription

The bookshelf is dead! Long live the bookshelf!

This post belongs to Murfie Musings–a series where folks at Murfie and our guests take the time to share what Murfie is up to as well as explore issues that matter to media ecology.

I have a fascination with the ways in which people create and experience media, and the financial transactions that support these value creating activities. Lately, I spend a lot of time staring at bookshelves full of books, CDs, magazines, DVDs. I call this stuff “flatmedia” – not only because it’s basically two-dimensional, but also because my experience of it is flat relative to what I’ve come to expect from digital versions on networked devices from web browser to iPod to Android to Kindle.

This is not a niche concern – most of the owned media in the world, by an enormous margin, is flatmedia that someone purchased at some point and currently owns. Virtually all of the accrued equity in media in the world exists in flatmedia form. It’s a collective repository of our culture on shelves in homes, libraries, archives, and used book and record shops. These copies we own, plus the unique rights we have to use them as we see fit, are the very reasons why we have any say over how we experience major parts of our often copyrighted culture.

But right now, we’re on a course to give all of that up. Our flatmedia infrastructure is slowly dying, many if not most new and used book shops and record stores will close as they can’t offer the new digital services folks want. As the ecology of flatmedia is displaced, but not replaced, the world of digital media is growing. In that world, the music and book buyer has no strong legal ownership rights to the digital copy of the product they buy, if they even have a copy, and their experiences and flexibility are vendor-controlled. Often, this control is used to subject them to marketing or other manipulation. This is fine for many folks, but many are not happy with the trend, and it drives otherwise lawful people into quasi-legal and illegal niches to get legitimate needs met.

I feel that liberty of experience and the use of one’s personal property and tools is an intrinsic good. Copyright and other legal and cultural norms surrounding flatmedia give us a lot of liberty with personal copies, and this mostly happened because it creates value for the rights holder and copy owner alike. Today we have this liberty in a million little ways. One such easily accomplished liberty is that I can loan a book to Julie, who can then allow her mom to read part of it, and then give it back to me. I don’t need an account or permission or a feature to do that. I can also put some of her CDs in my car legally. Books and movies that I don’t want anymore are material property with real value, and that property can be sold or traded at used shops or online. I can get some money for new CDs while making used ones available to people who could not or would not buy full-price music.

That’s part of why, starting with CDs, Murfie seeks to upgrade our members’ flatmedia from their bookshelf to the digital world and protect both their existing rights and their material property. We’re the friendly platform for media owners with an approach that respects artists’ rights and needs and offers them services and direct access to our marketplace. We want artists to sell lots of new music on Murfie. We also respect the rights and needs of those who support and facilitate artists, like labels, publishers, distributors, and in fact new and used retail stores. These groups are not obsolete – they have all sorts of value-creating power and we’re happy to partner with them. Murfie will list and sell every new title we can find in CD format, and we’ll continue reaching out to labels to find other ways to work together.

While we do this, we’ll always respect and protect the rights, needs and desires of our members. Ultimately, it’s the music listeners, the movie watchers and the book readers who provide the revenue that makes the creative ecology tick, and Murfie’s here to help.

Suggested Reading
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/11/29/music-ownership-vs-streaming/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/10/08/music-tastes-change/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/23/its-the-hard-knock-life-for-artists-online/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/11/music-not-on-itunes/
https://blog.murfie.com/2011/06/23/the-cloud-music/