Unsigned Artist Spotlight:
by Mark E. Waterbury
Instrumental acoustic guitar (new age, classical, light jazz, world, rock, etc.)
Neptune, New Jersey
YEARS IN MUSIC BIZ:
NUMBER OF CDs SOLD:
SIZE OF FAN BASE:
9,000 on mailing list
MM: Why did you decide to go into music?
DG: It was the only thing I found I wanted to do twenty-four hours a day, all the time. Once I started playing guitar, that is all I wanted to do. Even in school I just wanted to go home and practice, and in a couple of years I knew that music was the only thing I wanted to do. I just couldn't put down the guitar.
MM: What made you want to go into the solo acoustic instrumental guitar realm?
DG: In 1987, I was lead guitarist with a band called Saboteur in Atlanta. We were a cross between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Iron Maiden; we were very heavy and very funky and our roots were all early 80's heavy metal. When we broke up in 1990, I thought that we were going to be a band that would tour the world and become famous, and at first I didn't know what I was going to do because I had already quit school. So I went back to school and took about four years off of playing guitar and went into the corporate world. I worked at a couple of different companies and only picked up the guitar occasionally. Then in 1995, I bought this (motivational) tape series by Anthony Robbins, and as crazy as it may seem, that really turned me around. I started playing guitar again, just playing my twelve string and no electric guitar. I found myself believing that I really had something going with the acoustic guitar, and I came up with almost a whole album worth of songs. After I read Anthony Robbins' books and got some videos and tapes of other self-help gurus like Wayne Beyer, I gave my two week notice at my job and I've never looked back. I worked for a health food store company for a while, and with the connections I had there, I earned fifty dollars a show playing at their outlets. So I started making a living, not a good one at first, but all I was doing was playing music.
MM: Did you perform anywhere else other than the health food stores before you released your first CD?
DG: Other than those stores, I was playing at coffeehouses like Starbucks. I would call their regional managers throughout the country and then I would hop into my car and go do all of these shows. I would do up to three different Starbucks a day for about thirty dollars each. I would just play and play and play; I played so many shows that it was like practicing with my twelve string pieces. And then after about a year, I realized I needed a product to sell because I was getting so many requests for a CD at the shows. So I put a tape together and sold that at my shows, and a few months later, I recorded a CD in my living room. It took me about three days. I did it on a four track recorder, and that became my first CD, "Where I Stand."
MM: How did you market that first CD - by just continuing to get out and perform?
DG: I didn't market it at all. I just sold it at my performances. And I did that for two years which led to recording my second CD "Acoustic Captivity". Then more things started to happen, like playing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
MM: How did you hook up with the Olympics?
DG: One of the scouts that was booking local entertainment for the Olympics came out to one of my shows at a Borders store and she really liked it. I ended up getting two performances at the Olympic Village, and that whole thing helped start the ball rolling for me by getting something more substantial to put in my bio so I could get better shows. That's really when everything started happening for me as far as performances are concerned.
MM: So in each step of your career you were looking for something to help it grow?
DG: That was the only way I knew how to do it. I never really relied on getting a manager or having that "big break". I knew that if something big would happen, it would come from me plugging away and performing and getting out and playing anywhere; book stores, coffee shops, wherever. I'd get on the phone making calls and doing follow-ups to colleges that I send my card out to. That's a better way to make a living - playing the colleges because they do pay better.
MM: Your music has different styles and facets to it, and you've shared the bill with people as diverse as Pat Benatar, Kip Winger, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Acoustic Alchemy. Do you feel you have the ability to feel out a crowd as to what type of music they may want to hear, considering the different types of places you perform at?
DG: Until recently, I would just play my songs no matter who the audience was. But I have found that as of late I have been catering a bit more to what my judgment is of the crowd. At the Pat Benatar show, I kept the music more rhythmic and upbeat and kind of rocking, and I never really thought it out because I never make a song list before I play. I just get out there and play what I feel is appropriate. When I open for Acoustic Alchemy, I try to play jazzier songs, so more and more I'm learning to do that.
MM: What kind of feedback have you received from the varied performers that you have shared the stage with?
DG: I have received excellent feedback from everyone I have performed with. I got off the stage at the Pat Benatar show and the dressing rooms are way in the back. She came out all the way to the stage to say how much she liked it. Kip Winger and I hung out for a while and talked. He was a great guy and he really liked my music, and I really liked his as well. All the feedback has been great and I'm really happy with it. When I get to open for a big name, it's always a boost for me.
MM: You've sold around 11,000 total copies of your three CDs. What is your marketing secret as to selling so many CDs almost exclusively at your live shows?
DG: Of course, one of the reasons is I play a LOT of shows. I wouldn't sell any if I wasn't out playing places like the Borders stores. I probably play more Borders around the country than any other musician, and I get paid next to nothing for it but I sell so many CDs that it is still worth it. And the more personal I am with an audience, the more CDs I can sell. That can be difficult because you have to learn how to be out and about and not come off as a salesman because I know that turns me off, so I think that can turn others off as well.
MM: Are you still handling your business affairs independently or do you have other persons or companies assisting you?
DG: I'm primarily independent, but I'm trying to move away from that more because I want to focus more on the creating and performing of my music. I have been working with an independent company for the past year that I am really happy with and I can see myself with them for the long haul.
MM: What is your plan to take your success to the next level?
DG: I want to work at getting more exposure for myself in the acoustic guitar world. To do that I am going to have to get into the acoustic guitar magazines, whether it would be with write-ups or me just buying ad space. That way I can reach more people and make them more aware of me. Right now, I get a lot of people who tell me they like the feel of the music, and that's a good compliment for me because I do this because of the feel for playing the music. If you have the passion for something, it is going to shine through no matter what style it is. :->