CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Getting Free with Front Country, Marc Gunn, and More
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time with Marty Stuart’s new coffee table book, The Pilgrim: A Wall-to-Wall Odyssey, which details the recording, and resulting fallout, of Stuart’s classic 1999 concept album, a critical hit that was enough of a commercial flop that Stuart was dropped from his record label over it. It’s a great book, and if you’d like to know more, you can get a full take over at The Reading Room column from my well-read No Depression friend Henry Carrigan. While crowdfunding barely existed in 1999, in some ways The Pilgrim is the perfect example of a crowdfunded album, a project that colors just far enough outside the lines to scare away profit-driven labels but attract similarly minded people who want a break from the same. This week, I’m highlighting three projects that are just a bit outside the mainstream: a crowdfunding veteran melding the past with the speculative future, a folk-pop group who are constantly searching for their next evolution, and a project featuring some non-professional songwriters in an interesting situation.
Marc Gunn – Selcouth (click here to view project)
I’ve featured Marc Gunn in this column before, as a successful adopter of Patreon. But Gunn’s connections to crowdfunding, or at least direct-to-fan sales, go much further back. I first discovered him on the now sadly defunct MP3.com, where his old band The Brobdingnagian Bards melded traditional music and comedy in novel ways and skipped the labels to build an organic fanbase of people as weird as they were. As a solo artist, Gunn has gone even further afield. If you just listened to his autoharp, or heard one of his traditional Irish ballads live, you might think he was your run-of-the-mill purveyor of Chieftains-style Celtic music. But the next song might have lyrics about Star Wars or, more likely, Gunn’s favorite series, the short-lived Firefly. It’s why Gunn has chosen to call his new album Selcouth, a Middle English word that means both “unusual” and “marvelous.” Backer rewards for Gunn’s newest project include the album in digital and CD format, a USB stick packed with all of the music he’s ever recorded, a personalized 5-song video concert where you pick the setlist, and a podcast where he discusses moments that inspired each song.
Front Country – Untitled New Album (click here to view project)
There are tons of folk-pop bands in the world. So what make Front Country unique? It’s the willingness to go where the song takes them, genre be damned. If the song sounds best as a bluegrass song, Front Country will be a bluegrass band. Southern rock? Front Country is a Southern rock band. It’s this willingness to ignore even the basics of genre rules that has gained them an ever increasing following since their formation in 2011. The band is currently working Kickstarter to fund their as yet untitled third album. Working with producer Dan Knobler, the group also brought in guest vocalists Lindsay Lou, Maya de Vitry, and Ruth Moody. Backer rewards include the album in digital, CD, and LP formats; a backer-only T-shirt design; a $42 “Life, the Universe, & Everything” tier (who doesn’t love a Douglas Adams reference?) that includes a digital access portal with track-by-track early release of the album, stories about the inspirations behind the songs, and alternate versions; and a guided music and food tour of the band’s adopted hometown of Nashville.
Conviction: New Songs from Women in Prison (click here to view project)
In 1968, Johnny Cash recorded his album Live at Folsom Prison, which included the song “Greystone Chapel,” written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley. Sherley’s not the first person to find the isolating and dehumanizing conditions of prison a creative springboard. Songwriters Susannah Long and Michael Conner hope to find that same kind of inspiration in their new project, Conviction: New Songs from Women in Prison. After receiving a grant to hold a songwriting workshop in a women’s prison in Charlotte, the pair became impressed with the quality of music coming from the women in their charge, even helping to form Conviction Band, which performs for civic and faith organizations to humanize women in prison. Backer rewards for the project include the album in digital and CD formats, additional songs and alternative cuts, and a Conviction 2020 poster, limited to a run of 50.