Early yesterday afternoon, I reached out to Raleigh singer-songwriter and former Six String Drag leader Kenny Roby with a few questions about his Kickstarter campaign, which he'd launched just a few hours before. I'm a proponent of artists funding projects through Kickstarter, but still, I sometimes get flustered by artists who ask for and promise the moon in exchange for a little financial boost. Roby's campaign was especially intriguing, then, as he was asking for a mere $2,000 and offering actually interesting content (like the download of an unheard song) for as little as $2. His most expensive offering, at $500, included a house concert. Going with Kickstarter and staying humble often don't go hand in hand, but Roby managed it.
The strategy worked, too: In less than 24 hours, fans had funded the recording of Roby's next album in full. With more than 13 days left on the clock, Roby and his new band are already $127 past their goal. And that's a good thing: The one finished track I've heard is a keeper, pairing Roby's familiar sense for strong images and his comfortably polished country tone with the more impressionistic side of current indie rock acts. Think The National, but more delicate. Below, Roby talks about his Kickstarter strategy and the shift required for a songwriter once funded by big labels to ask his fans for help.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What’s your plan for release?
KENNY ROBY: We hope to be done sometime in February and have it available in April or May.
Where are you recording these tracks, and who all is playing on them and producing?
We are working out of a few places including Overdub Lane in Durham, Jason Merritt’s home studio and my home studio. Also Scott McCall has recorded a few tracks at his home studio. Jason, Scott and I are playing on the tracks, and soon David Kim and Shawn Lynch from Charlotte will play drums and bass and possibly other instruments on some tracks. David was the drummer on The Mercy Filter record, and Shawn played guitar and keys on a few of those tracks. Eventually there will be others who play on the record, I’m sure—hopefully, a small string section on a few songs too. Some of the arrangements and sounds are still in the early stages. We'd like to use Overdub Lane as much as possible due to the nice room sounds, great console and the nice piano they have. We will be using two-inch tape for as much of the record as we can.
Tell me about the differences in this material from your previous work.
I’d like to think I am doing something different on every record. It is probably not as radically different than it feels. Maybe that comes from the mindset. There is plenty of space musically, maybe lyrically as well. The last record I did, The Mercy Filter, was a bit frantic as far as the recording process went. This one, not quite as much. On The Mercy Filter, we created tension by adding certain instruments to the songs. There was also more urgency in that record. This one seems to have tension through the space in the songs. The characters in these songs seem to be dark and quiet for the most part. This record could almost be the story of a small town or a collection of character portraits of the people who live there. But it could take place anywhere.
As an artist, what's the psychological adjustment between once asking a label for money to help finish an LP versus people who are fans?
I haven’t quite been in the situation to have a full-time record label hand me money in quite a while, not since Six String Drag was on E-Squared or Glitterhouse put out Mercury’s Blues in Europe. The last three projects we funded with the help of a few very generous friends and music business partners, not people who ran record labels full time. So the difference between raising funds for this record and those, psychologically, is that now I feel less pressure to repay one or two people. Now I will finish the record and deliver the rewards I promised through Kickstarter. Everyone hopefully goes home happy. For me, one of the hardest parts of being an artist is feeling I let someone down on the financial side who has put their time, energy and hard-earned money towards my project.
Your project seems humble compared to some requests for 20,000 and such. Did you want to test the waters of this sort of project first before going for more?
Honestly I just wanted to raise enough money to help the recording phase of the LP in the more immediate future. We would love to do as many days as possible in a neutral studio (Overdub Lane), but at the same time, we have already started the recording process and didn’t want to lose some of the momentum we had. That is why we decided to do Phase 1 of the campaign. If we raise more for the record than we intended to raise initially, we would do more days in the studio or put the money towards mixing and mastering time. If we need to raise more for manufacturing, etc., we can do a campaign for Phase 2. Some of the record is coming out of pocket. I am also doing a handful of shows over the next month or two and will put any money I make from playing them towards the record. One benefit we have is being able to do recording at our home studios so we can keep costs somewhat low.