One of the fun things about doing live sit down interviews with artists is where it goes. Like this one with Too Slim, where we sat and talked about his illness and recovery, and what it meant as an artist to be out of work so long and all of that. But in the middle of all this we hit the nugget. I had wanted to talk about ‘Anthology how an artist compiles the music for such a release. While not quite a best of, it was a double CD with new stuff as well as vaulted material.
That led to marketing and sales and turned out to be a very interesting and illuminating discussion on the current state of the genre and music in general.
So sit back and enjoy as we magically transport to the middle of a long conversation . . .
B411: Speaking of releases, your last one, Anthology, I thought that was a great idea. So many of these reflective or collections are mediocre things that people put out. Like the B tracks. But this seemed to be the perfect retrospective for your fans. It took me a bit to find you and get into you. But also for people who don’t know you, it was a great thing to do. How did you choose some of your earlier work as opposed to newer material?
Tim: I thought about it, we relocated to a different part of the country (Seattle to Nashville). I have a lot of CDs out. You go to a gig and you have 6 or 7 of them for sale. You’re at a new place and no one’s ever heard of you. And of course you want to sell them the latest one. I’m very proud of Blue Heart. It got nominated for Blues Rock album of them year, and other awards. Number 3 on billboard blues chart.
You know how it is, you can download CDs now. I figured that some of the old CDs, you don’t keep a big stock of them and we’re an independent label. Some of the older ones, I’m not going to order them until I have to. Plus I had some new songs, but our daughter had been in an accident last March and that was a serious thing. And she was in the hospital for a long time and she was living with us and we had to take care of her. That kind of put a hold on things for us. Then I had cancer. It wasn’t a good year for us.
The thinking about putting out Anthology was people were asking us if we had a greatest hits CD. Not that we had any hits.
B411: Well, you did. (Laughing)
Tim: At least the best of!
B411: You can do it with a smile on your face “Greatest hits”!
Tim: The greatest hits that I think should have been! Anyway, I started thinking about it at the end of 2013. I put these little play lists together that I thought would be good. I was on Birdside Records in the 90’s and they sold the catalog to a larger conglomerate – Allegro Media. When they bought the catalog, I had the option of buying it myself, but they made all these promises about they were going to re-generate the label and re-release new albums and put money in the catalog. Then, after they promised all that, they didn’t do a damn thing.
I regret letting those releases go without buying them. I should have just bought the masters myself. I’ve always had Underworld Records. My first couple of albums are all on Underworld Records. Then starting in 2003 with “Tales of Sin & Redemption”, I have the rights to all those albums. I didn’t want to go back further than that since I didn’t want to have to deal with those people.
So we’re talking about the last 10 or 12 years. As I said, I wanted to record some new songs. So I recorded some new songs to add to the Anthology and also included some music off my solo/acoustic albums. It’s hard to pick which ones you want to put on it. I kept changing the list. Then I thought, well let’s just a double CD. I did one Rock and Blues CD and one kind of a mellower one.
B411: Yeah, that was great!
Tim: So then I had to decide what to cut out. I think I came up with a good representation of my music.
B411: I enjoyed the songs that I was familiar with. But some of your acoustic work was pretty outstanding also! And, I must say, ‘Little Gun Motel’ is a seriously great kick-ass song.
Tim: With the new songs, I collaborated with Tom Hambridge. ‘Little Gun Motel’ was a song that Tom presented to me that he had written with Jim Suhler. I thought that was a great song. I can use this one! It’s right up my alley.
B411: That thing rocked!
Tim: It’s a fun up tempo rocker.
B411: We wound up playing that a lot on our radio chart and show. It was something new and we try to feature new music on our show. It’s the anthology album, but we wanted our listeners to hear some of your new material too. We wanted the general public to see that you’re still vital. Wow. That’s a frightening term! You’re not just sitting back on your ass playing your old stuff.
Tim: I know what you mean. In today’s world, being vital is putting out something every three months.
B411: I know, and that’s crazy!
Tim: You have to rethink the whole CD/Album thing because realistically the younger kids don’t even buy CDs. Our CDs get in stores, but we don’t have the budget for advertising like record labels or bigger labels.
B411: It’s almost like its back to the 50’s and 60’s where it was a singles market.
B411: In a strange sort of way. But they’re digital singles.
Tim: And it’s hard to come up with the money. Then you have to have songs to keep in front of the public. In the old days – 10 or 15 years ago – you put out a CD and it has shelf-life. Because people would friend you here. Or you go on a tour and meet a bunch of new fans. Now, people just go and see what’s on their phone every day.
B411: You and I both probably went to the record store to see what’s out there.
Tim: You’d flip thru all the records or you’d read something in the blues news or newspapers.
B411: Or hear from a friend, but that is pretty much gone. But it is still there, it can happen on social media, but it has to be organic. By that I mean, via ‘the people’, but yes it still can happen via record labels, or promoters, but one has to have a very good bullschitt detector.
Actually just the other day I had a conversation with someone who asked who am I really excited about these days…so it does happen in ‘real-life’…but of course we were out at an event and had social interaction – that might be the key.
B411: It does seem like it’s getting harder for the small independent artists to reach the audience. I’ve seen lately that music promoters and PR guys are taking it a step further. They’re getting involved in Facebook and twitter and all of that with their artists. You don’t have the time to do that. It’s almost getting to the point where you do need a separate arm to do that stuff. It does cost money, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job of getting that out there.
Tim: Then you do it yourself. I don’t mind going on Facebook. And I love the interaction with the fans. You can be personal. To truly market and promote in today’s environment, you need someone who really knows that stuff. A lot of the younger people really know how to work that stuff.
B411: It’s not just sticking a post on Facebook and hoping it works. You need to have content to connect with your audience.
Tim: It’s always changing. That’s the attention span part of that. Remember My Space?
B411: Yes, I do!
Tim: What’s the next MySpace? Or I had a guy telling me how Google+ was going to eclipse Facebook just a year ago. He was telling me that I needed to have a Google+ account. Then I started doing that. But then there’s not much happening there. Then you can post on Instagram and have it post at the same time on Facebook. Then you have the hash tag. That’s the big new thing. Then you have twitter. I’m trying to figure out twitter at the moment.
B411: At least we don’t have to worry about LinkedIn too much.
B411: You band has been together for quite a long time. Is that good or bad?
Tim: There is an evolutionary process with having a band that long. Most bands change band members from time to time. I was lucky for 16 or so years where I had the same guys in my band.
B411: That’s epic!
Tim: Then you burn out. Things change and you get a new guy in the band and he adds a new dynamic.
B411: Yeah, I saw Jimmy Thackery, when Mark Bumgarner was out ill. Thackery grabbed Rick Knapp, who used to play with Walter Trout before Walter got ill. This guy was knowledgeable, he adds all this stuff to the mix, and that’s got to be great for you as the lead man.
Tim: You get a new prospective and you get new input from your new band members. They play a different way or they have a certain talent that is different from the other person. So it influences your music and what your write. Plus as a song writer, you have to continually evolve and think of new angles for the music. So you don’t just put out the same sounding stuff. You don’t want people to say that it just sounds like their old records. Some people like that, but…
Tim: And then other people like ‘that one’ the best! (Laughing)
B411: It’s what you’re going thru as the artist at that time. And maybe they’re going thru the same thing. But maybe that doesn’t relate to me right now. I don’t want to hear love songs. I don’t want to hear that. I want something to kick ass with.
Tim: I think music is memories for people. If they bought one of their records at a particular time in life, then they haves really good memories. I get people telling me that one of my older albums is their favorite album because of this… Or I got married at your gig. But as a musician and a song writer you have to evolve because it’s part of the process. I like the difference influences. You can mix blues. I’m a huge fan of traditional blues. I listen to Lightening Hopkins, Muddy Walters, Howlin’ Wolf. It’s all in there. I also listen to bands like Drive-By Truckers and I listen to Led Zeppelin, John Hiatt, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Freddie King.
B411: They all have an influence on what you do.
Tim: It works its way into your fabric.
B411: The tapestry of what we are as individuals and that extends itself into ‘us’ as a community.
Thank you Too Slim. You can find all things Too Slim at the web site http://www.tooslim.org/. Including his latest tour stops. Be sure to get out and support this cat, he has made great strides coming back from cancer and the related difficulties.
I just saw him in Atlanta and he was as fresh and entertaining as ever.
You can also see some cool pics of the boys when they played at Darwins, in Atlanta. Was their second or third gig since Tim has come back on the road, he was in top form and a fun night was had by everyone. http://blues411.smugmug.com/Music-Pictures/Too-Slim-The-Taildraggers/
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411