We spoke to Russell / Papaphone about performing at Glastonbury and being one of those acts who perform on some of the many other stages at the festival.
So - Glastonbury! Pretty exciting, eh? Tell us more.
Yes! I’m performing for a 3rd year at Glastonbury (with the break of 2018 notwithstanding)
I’ll be performing on Lost Horizon Stage, which is a wonderful stage with saunas there up in the tipi field. That whole area has a more retro bohemian “60s” hippie vibe about it and has been doing the whole eco thing since they started.
What’s the reaction from everyone when they find out you’re doing the big one again?
When I announce I am doing something like Glastonbury I instantly get people message me. I get asked about certain things – about the gigs I get and how I got them; or suddenly in my inbox, I’ll get a “can you put us in contact with [insert important name]”.
Now, as a glass ceiling artist I don’t mind and when it’s my friend. I really, really don’t; however this is not how it works.
What advice would you give artists that do want that “in”?
As a “glass ceiling” artist who has had those nearly moments and that pure unwavering belief from various hype you find yourself in followed by the realisation of how hard it is to “make it”
I would say make sure you are enjoying yourself and what you create, that will come across sincere and even if it is not peoples bag, they will respect it and see the value in it for others, if they truly love music. You do not have to be cool.
Above all, get your best songs record them to a decent standard.
Would you suggest that they do everything online?
With the social media artist well and truly here I wanted to give my thoughts on the whole subject.
I myself embraced social media from the get-go, it was perfect. Myspace was certainly ideal in the day, you could pop in an area code and bombard people near where you were playing….ok so stop right there, yes, “playing” - performing all over to anyone you can! THIS is what you need to do.
Is it no longer who you know, but what you do?
It’s a bit of both.
People will say it’s who you know, and for sure I know several bands and people who have made it through friends of the family and a dash of serendipity. However, for a self-promoting and self-managed artist the fact remains, it is who you know, or rather more who knows you!
That said, the only way to build that connection is by performing and meeting people promoters and other bands. Then social media is needed, where you can legitimately tag in those people and areas.
How much has social media helped you?
Social media is crazy I got retweeted by the Wutang as it was announced around the same time last year, that is something I never dreamt would happen.
I made someone laugh on twitter which lead to me being live in the studio on Talk Sport 5 times singing songs and talking football.
What was the turning point for you?
I took a break from music, as I was in a band where I basically wrote the theme tune sung the theme tune (there’s one for the kids). I would organise everything.
I can hear the agreeing moans from some people reading this already! Don’t be bitter about that, truth be known you love it and as a solo artist without them you are just a girl or a guy with an acoustic guitar, you cannot chuck a feather without hitting one now
So, we had that kind of “almost” success but other people have other priorities and that is ok.
I had a bad patch and realised when I am not making music, I am not happy. Whether that is symptom of cause, I do not know. So, I started again, with no want for any stardom. You know what? That works far better.
When you are doing something for you, that individuality comes out. When you are so transfixed on how and what to do in order to “make it” you follow more and are influenced. No one remembers the bands who copied Portishead, Rage Against The Machine, Billie Eillish - well they may but they don’t look as tidy doing it, do they? What I’m trying to say is be yourself and be happy – not an impersonation of someone else and forever be in their shadow watching them blow up.
This goes for the next echelon down of performer you want to stand out and what does that is being you!
What about PR-ing yourself?
Social media, selfies, nice pics relating to what you are doing are so important. They really are!
Artists have done that since the dawn of time, so don’t let anyone tell you not to do your nice pics. The only difference between you and a larger act is they have photographers and PR working on their behalf non-stop. You are your PR!
Make sure you don’t tailor everything, put your personality in it; be yourself, your interests and, dare I say, it even your politics. I landed up performing live on Talk Sport 5 times in the studio and talking about football from doing this.
So, you’re saying mixing politics and music works?
Well, do be a little careful on the political stuff - it is very divisive. I mean there are ready made connections out there this way. However, I lost a gig at a festival from someone who made assumptions about me from a joke with friends on my personal page. It was self-deprecating - which friends knew as they knew my past, but the person decided it was something totally different.
This being said. Do not get caught up in the online world and neglect the real one, by posting nice clips and pics and updates you will not make the kind of connections that you will from performing.
What’s the secret of your success?
Believe me there are so many better musicians with better songs out there than I, it was the gigging often most weeks that made the difference for me.
You need to play and put in the time, people will tell you that has all changed now you can be an online artist, no it has not! You will make genuine fans and followers that way, not people who click like or claim they are interested in your event. When you play live you meet people who are out to watch music, meaning that is what they do.
All about the networking, then?
You meet promoters, they have your back, you meet other artists who put you in touch with someone else, maybe they even like you as a person too. This all leads to opportunities and more importantly adventures and fun and doing what larger artists do just in a smaller way, don’t lie to yourself and enjoy where you are at, this is your best PR and it is only you that can do that.
And that’s the path that led to Glastobury? So many people want to do it.
I got the chance to play small stages at Glastonbury through touring and performing, an open mic night led to this. The kind of thing that many artists would think will not look worthy of their insta, 30 random strangers in a bar through a small PA doesn’t make you look like an aspirational star does it? But while you were sitting in the practice room taking another cool pic waiting for that one packed show at the “cool” venue; someone else was putting in time all over the place and got that chance through chance and that came from performing to smaller crowds damn to any crowd.
I wouldn’t just send out promo packs or EPK and MP3s. I mean, do do that but as you said there are so so many people wanting to play, if you are a musician reading this you will know how certain scenes work in your home town venues and that community that surrounds them. Again perform out and forge relationships with people.
What else have you got lined up?
Other than Glastonbury I have a local gig in my home town, supporting Mark Chadwick – Levellers front man with 2 other artists who are both really amazing people I met through playing one at Mr Wolfs in Bristol Kirsty Merryn and the other Luke Williams through the circuit. I met Mark some years back and this gig is all through those connections I have banged on about.
Where is it?
It is at Club 85 in Hitchin - a proper old school venue, the kind of which we hear are dying out sadly. So, blessed to have it here.
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