I’ve been a reader of this blog, Ari’s Take, for a couple years now.
He’s a successful full-time independent musician who made a thorough search of the internet (about a year or so before our own lovely Pyragraph launched) but couldn’t find any helpful info for independent musicians that was written by independent musicians. (What a novel idea, right?) So he started his own practical, no-bullshit blog based on his own experiences taking over the music scenes in Minneapolis and L.A.
He’s a whiz at the biz side of things, so when I sent him an email with our five “What’s Your Deal?” questions, he shot me a totally rad response back right away.
1. What’s your act?
I’m a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter who specializes in live looping the trumpet, guitar, keys, vocals and beat boxing. I’ve played over 600 shows around the country and have toured with Ron Pope and the Milk Carton Kids as well as opened for Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson and Joshua Radin. I’ve had about 30 TV placements including One Tree Hill, The Real World, Friendzone, Hard Times of RJ Berger, I’m Married To A…, Teen Wolf. I’m the creator of Ari’s Take—a music business advice blog geared towards helping independent musicians succeed in the music industry.
2. Tell me about your background as an artist/performer.
There’s a photo of me at one year old standing on the piano bench at my grandpa’s in Detroit plunking away at the keys. That’s about the time I started playing piano. I begged my mom for piano lessons when I was in 2nd grade. I know it usually goes the other way around—the parent forcing the kid to take lessons, but I had a natural gravitation towards the piano and wanted to get better. I chose the trumpet in 5th grade band class because it was loud and awesome. My freshman year of high school when my girlfriend swooned a little too hard for my best friend who played a song on guitar at a party, I knew that I had to learn guitar.
I debated bodysurfing back to the dudes, but decided to politely give a “Fuck you very much,” to the crowd and get off stage.
I was in a ska/funk band in high school where I played trumpet and guitar and was the lead skanker. My freshman year of college at the University of Minnesota I started writing songs on acoustic guitar and played my first coffee house show. After that show I realized that I wanted to pursue a singer/songwriter career.
3. What was the worst gig you ever played? Dish all the juicy bits.
I once got an opening gig for the Country star Phil Vassar at a college in Minnesota. I had a 6 piece band with me, but Phil’s stage setup took up 95% of the stage. The 6 of us basically had to setup in a straight line at the front of the stage in front of the curtain. 2,000 drunk college kids in cowboy hats, cowboy boots and Tommy Hillfiger cologne piled into the Field House.
We were told we were going to play a 45 minute set. 10 minutes before showtime the college kid in charge of the event, Sarah, told us that we they were going to push back the start time and cut our set by 15 minutes. As we stood in the wings waiting to go on Sarah then asked us if we could cut our set even shorter, “like, 20 minutes?”
House lights went off. Crowd started cheering and chanting. “Phil! Phil! Phil! Phil!”
Sarah went out to the front of the stage. “Thank you all for coming to my event. I’m Sarah and the chair of the campus entertainment committee—”
“Phil! Phil! Phil!”
“Oh, yup, Phil is coming—”
“Phil! Phil! Phil!”
“But first I want you to welcome the guy who’s going to open the show—”
“Phil! Phil! Phil!”
“Please welcome Ari Herstand!”
They legitimately were booing as the band and I walked on stage.
It didn’t get much better from there.
During my last song I saw some drunk frat boys in the back joking around and whispering to each other. I knew something was up. There were 2,000 people between me and them so I wasn’t too worried. But just then, one of the dudes cocked his arm back and chucked something up over the 2,000 people and it hit me square in the chest. I debated
Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen for you.
bodysurfing back to the dudes, but decided to just finish the song, politely give a “Fuck you very much,” to the crowd and get off stage. The ice cube didn’t hurt too much and luckily missed my guitar.
When we got up to our green room 2 hour old, dried out burgers were waiting with a big sign that said: “Thanks Airie!”
4. Who are your favorite performers at the moment?
Hotel Cinema. Here’s a great song of theirs: “Better Run.”
5. What’s the most helpful tip you could share with aspiring performers?
Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen for you. If you want to succeed you have to MAKE things happen. Don’t wait for people to come to you. When you’re making your own success they’ll come when you least expect it.
Photo courtesy of Ari Herstand.