Making it in the music business is tough, but just how tough?
“As a businessman, you have to sell a brand,” explains musician Cameron Hood on how to become a success in music. “And as an artist, the brand you have to sell is you – your thoughts, your emotions. So when people like it, great. And when they don’t, it can be tough not to let it affect you personally.”
Without a doubt, becoming a popular musical act can be a taxing venture. There are thousands of other aspiring musicians out there, wanting to achieve their dreams as well, says Hood. And in a business in which you need inside connections to reach that next level, determination and resilience is crucial.
“Waiting is a huge factor in this game,” says Hood. “The reality is you never get to know (why you haven’t become famous). Nobody sits you down and tells you why.”
But despite of all the hardships that come with the territory, it hasn’t discouraged Hood’s duo, Ryanhood, in the least. In fact, he says musicians or bands just seeking a taste of success are in it for the wrong reasons.
“There’s not enough industry success to go around. You play music to be happy. If you’re trading your happiness for success, you have to ask yourself if you’re getting anywhere.”
Ryanhood will perform Saturday at the Main Street Coffee House, 107 S. Main St., in Independence. The concert begins at 7 p.m. The award-winning folk duo are described as an “energetic, uplifting and lyrically rich act” and has opened for popular acts like Jason Mraz and Train. If you’re partial to that folksy sound of yesteryear infused with upbeat energy, this would be the band to see.
“We have so much happening with harmony, crowd interaction and participation. You’ll feel immediately part of our family.”
The duo, comprised of guitarists Hood and Ryan Green, perform for the love of the music, and they have roots in the area. Hood grew up in Independence and Sibley and attended Osage Trail Middle School before leaving the area. He credits current principal John Schuler for giving him the encouragement to pursue the arts.
“Independence is a city we will always come back to and keep playing.”
Hood’s musical career began in a Tucson, Ariz., high school where he and his brother, Kenyon, played in a rock band called “Easy Go.” Green was in a rival band, but they respected each other’s playing, Hood says.
“A band is a mixture of a business venture and marriage,” says Hood. “Everyone has to be committed at the same level, and some members of each of our bands weren’t. He (Green) was really willing to get a band together and be committed – all while both of our bands were on the brink of breaking up.”
So in 2003, Ryanhood was formed. The group initially started playing in public venues, such as subway stations or streets on the East Coast. Eventually they got picked up by an agent that booked them college campus performances.
“The college market is actually a huge, thriving market in the music industry.”
After that, they embarked on a 46-state tour playing at various universities.
And how did they acquire their pop folk sound? Hood explained it through German philosopher, Wilhelm Hegel.
“The thesis was my dad and aunt and uncle’s influence of folk music. I heard it at home, played at night, that’s who I am. Then, I rebelled against that influence, the antithesis, by playing in louder rock and pop bands. Later and as of now, I put both the folk and rock together into a greater whole. The synthesis.”
Hood stressed that his band isn’t just some regular folk act that “strum their picks and sing story songs.” Ryanhood has a lot of harmonies and guitar interplay that you may not find in the folk genre.
But endless touring and an extended recording session brought a bout of fatigue to Ryanhood in 2009.
“It took a long, long time. Three years total to make that third album. You think once it’s done, it’s over. But the next round of work starts: The marketing phase.”
He said you have to market your musical product to various people in a thousand creative ways; not to mention the relentless touring to promote it as well. It took a toll on the two, and they decided to take a sabbatical in 2010.
“A lot of mid level bands are their own managers. We’re selling a brand where it’s your own thoughts and ideas and things that move you. After all that, you have to tour non-stop.”
Hood said it’s important not to get a bad attitude or lose faith, but instead just focus on the music – why you pursued in the first place.
Refreshed and itching to get back to playing music, Ryanhood got back together again in 2013. But this time they approached music at their own pace and terms.
“I was listening to old records of ours while doing the dishes one time. I noticed all the imperfections, like hearing the fingers on the strings. Overall I liked the people I heard on the recording and enough time passed to get energized to do it again.”
Simply put, Ryanhood went back to their roots and recorded an album reflective of their origins, “Starting Somewhere.”
“We took one thing at a time (with this album),” he said. “It was really fun and doable. We asked, ‘what about a tour of all the cities we loved playing?’”
Instead of being on the road for four consecutive months as with previous tours, Ryanhood has spaced out tour dates to accommodate their schedules. This “do it for the sake of music” approach has inadvertently earned them recognition. They were recently named the 2014 International Acoustic Music Awards Best Group/Duo.
“I think we’ve been surprised. Many people have poked their heads out to see that we’re back to the old sound.”
In the end, it’s all about the music, says Hood. He said aspiring musicians should figure out who they like musically and their sound as soon as possible...without thinking too much on how to sell.
“No matter what, play your own songs,” he adds. “Don’t play covers. When starting out, it’s difficult to transfer over to original material.”
“I love music. It is one thing I will do even if I made no money at all. I would still do it in my spare time.”
Ryanhood’s Main Street Coffee House performance this Saturday is free, but the duo requests a $10 donation.