Why was that?
Well, the long and short of it was that [Marcus Eaton and the Lobby] got signed, and we released an album and nothing ever happened with it. There was no push behind it, it wasn’t advertised well, and it never made it onto the radio.
Was that album The Day the World Awoke?
Yeah. And that was really difficult for us, because not only did we have really high hopes for it, but we also really lacked the team and the firepower to keep the momentum going. And that’s really what it takes. You’ve gotta get that momentum happening and you’ve got to hit it on every front. We just really didn’t have the right management; they could have guided us a lot better. Now I don’t even have access to that album.
You know, I loved those songs. We approached that album from a jam band perspective and got a lot of comparisons to Dave Matthews Band. But we just weren’t developed enough into our own thing to take off anyway, so I’m actually happy how it worked out, because it allowed me to develop my own sound. I just wasn’t a good enough musician at the time to understand what I wanted.
When exactly did Marcus Eaton and the Lobby come together?
We started playing in 2001 and at the time there was quite the local scene in Boise – we were pulling 1000 people at every show we did. It’s remarkable to look back at that, because that’s tough to do. You gotta be doing some serious stuff to do that – you really have to hit at the right time too, because when people are ready for something, they’re ready.
So we recorded an independent album and got signed in 2002. The president of the label wanted to release this independent album we had done, but we wanted to re-record it because the quality wasn't there -- we had recorded it locally. So they agreed and we went down to L.A. to record, and our very first major label recording experience was that our master tapes got stolen by our manager. We had two managers and they had a falling out right in the middle of the week-long recording process. One of the guys said, "Well, I'm taking the master tapes with me." We paid him the $2700 we owed him, but he wouldn't give the master tapes back. So, we had to re-record the album again and that was our very first experience in the wonderful world of the music business. But we worked our asses off on that, and after the band released the album, we had an amazing run of shows. We opened for Bob Dylan.
That’s a big gig – what was it like?
We opened for him to a crowd of 5,000, but the funny thing was that we had no interaction with him or anyone in his band. I remember that we showed up for soundcheck and I went over to this road guy and said, “Hey man, do you know where I can plug my pedalboard in?” And he replied, “No, I don’t fucking know where you can plug your shit in! Why don’t you ask the stage manager?” And that was, again, my first taste of the big time.
We played a really great show and everyone enjoyed it. But when we got off stage, they were like, “Okay, guys, put your stuff down! Put everything down!” So we put it down, of course, and they said, “We’ve got an artist coming out. Just stay right there! Don’t move!”
It’s like the president walking through.
Yeah, and here comes Bob walking out. As soon as he was on stage they were like, “Okay, you can finish loading up your gear now.” It’s apparently very serious stuff [laughs].
So what eventually happened to the Lobby?
Well, we kept revisiting the same areas a lot and eventually the band just got burned out. I think some of the members lost faith in the project – that sense of, “Why aren’t we rock stars yet?” It takes a lot of hard work and I think people can become really disillusioned once they’re “signed.” That was in early 2004; shortly after I started doing my solo thing.
Is life as a solo independent musician tough?
Yeah, it’s difficult, but now I feel really confident; I feel like we have a really great team. It’s slow going of course, but I think I’m doing really well. I mean, I look at other musicians who are signed, people who have had lots of radio play, and they’re struggling too. So there’s no one thing that can propel you into super-stardom – that’s not even what I’m looking for. I’m just looking to be successful with my music and to play for as many people on a nightly basis as possible. You have to keep pushing forward and be really creative in marketing yourself.
Hasn’t the internet changed the equation for independent musicians anyway? You can connect with fans anywhere. How has it changed your approach to things?
It’s great because it gives me capabilities we should have had back in the day. In 2001-2002, the internet really started cooking; MySpace was still in its formative stages. The truth is that we could have really kept in contact with the fans much better – that’s really what we needed to do back in the beginning. People were just starting to come up with their own email addresses – it sounds funny to say now, but it’s true. People were just starting to say things like, “It’s such and such at hotmail.com.” Now you’re crazy if you don’t have a computer and the internet 24 hours a day.
So it’s great for keeping in touch with fans, but it’s not a cure-all. You’ve got to get back to their region often enough, you really have to make the fans a priority, you have to get in touch, you’ve got to be in the right places at the right times. You’ve got to have a team behind you and that’s what we’re working on.