“Spread the word, free the bird” 7 Questions & Answers with Albatross
Every time Adam Stockdale (who goes by the musical name Albatross) sends a message to his fans he ends it with the phrase “Spread the word, free the bird.” Being a fan of his for some time now, I have seen that message enough to ponder its meaning. What bird? Where is it trapped? Is it trapped like Skynyrd’s “Freebird"? Is he freeing himself? Is there an environmental problem with plastics in the ocean? And why Albatross?
I needed to get some answers so I emailed him. Because that is what you do…..to get connected with a bird.
Originally from England, Stockdale travelled the world as a guitar tech for a big named band (go look it up) and in the process collected many talented friends to help play on his new album Desperate Times Best Forgotten. Not that he needed them. The music is flat out enchanting and the collaborative effect increases that enchantment rather than compensates for a lack of originality that sometimes leads to the “bring in the guest artist to help this song out of the tank” kind of feel.
In a music industry seemingly trapped in transition, Albatross’ cutting edge Word of Mouth (WOM) Project breaks all the normal rules. Unlike Kickstarter or Pledge Music that allows fans to contribute a set amount for autographs, albums and house show packages, the WOM project allows you to invest. That’s right, he makes money, you make money. Going beyond the swag element (although that is part of it), the fan makes personal investment and is therefore incentivized to become an advocate to friends, family and twitter followers. It is a collaborative effort that makes the musician, and somehow the music process, more accessible for fans. Breaking down the wall between artist and consumer. Reduction of ego, elimination of entitlement.
”Spread the word, free the bird” …or maybe feed the bird, enjoy the music and make some cash off that bird. Could this be the future for music? Maybe. At a minimum it makes sense for Stockdale because this bird is talented.
You have obviously traveled extensively and seen bands at various levels of success. How did that experience shape the way you make music?
Travel is a never ending source of inspiration. I wouldn't really consider myself an academic, I have always learned from experiences and observations. Travel gives you an opportunity to do this first hand, meeting and seeing people and sights all over the world. It influences all that you do and are. Having been close to other bands of various levels of success, hasn't had any affect on my music. I don't write to achieve anything other enjoyment and expression in the music. Success, is just a word to describe something tangible in an art where everything is subjective. I don't think it means anything.
Sting felt like “An Englishman in New York.” Do you feel the same about Nashville? What made you move there besides the music scene. What can you get there that you can’t get in New York or London?
I have never been a big fan of NYC, its fun for a weekend, but then I'm ready to leave. London was nice, but impossible to sustain a good quality of life on a struggling musicians income. I wanted to be in the US as I have experienced a better response here to my music than anywhere else. Nashville, is cheap, conveniently located for touring by road. I already had friends and contacts here. It all just fell into place. And obviously, it has the best musicians, for me, of anywhere I have been.
You appear to be very collaborative in the way you make music whether it is guest appearing with other bands, or having guest artist accompany you. Is that collaboration important to you when you write or is it something you use after to flush out a song?
I tend to do most of my writing alone, but love playing with whoever is available whenever, its always nice to embellish the music when you can, and much more interesting if its always in a different way. I think both come from having spent so much time touring. You never know where you are gonna be and who with, and writing wise, you just get used to finding privacy or a way getting all your ideas down on the run. Its kinda a necessity when you are always on the run. (credit - Lenny Kravitz)
The Word of Mouth project is a completely unique way of getting your music to the masses. You actually invite fans to make money with you. Are you crazy? What made you go in your own direction versus sites like Bandcamp, Kickstarter or Pledge Music?
The concept of "giving back" and wanting to have my audience share in the rewards of my music, was set early on. This was really important to me, and I felt the best way to grow my audience organically, through "Word Of Mouth". Whats the point in having a great record if no-one knows its there. Its all about growth. Sharing was a way to access that without money. Funnily enough I did contact a few different Crowdfunding options. Although I'll be honest I'm not a huge fan of it, and really didn't want the WOM to come under that umbrella. Regardless, It would never have worked out as NONE of them allow you to offer equity. This was disappointing, I felt it was short sighted.
In an artistic profession, is it possible to set concrete, measurable goals or does that take away from the artistic pursuit? Do you set goals?
You can set yourself goals, in terms of; Im gonna make a record or; I'm gonna play a show. But in terms of tangible goals i think its impossible. I think a musicians goal should always be to make good music. If you can do that the rest will eventually follow. Hopefully. But its important to remember there are no guarantees. Why are you doing it?
As a working musician living in Nashville, is it possible to go to a show and enjoy it?
I do go and see music pretty regularly. I have so many friends who play here. We always try to support one another. Although I do try to avoid talking too much about it.
Can you share three bands that you think people should know about?
My favourite record of the year, without a doubt is Leonardo Marques, Curvas, Lados, Linhas Tortas, Sujes e Discretas. I discovered him in March when I was on tour in Brazil. I am also loving Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, I've been a fan of his stuff for a good while. One of my favourite in Nashville is Jill Andrews.