The Q&A returns in 2011 with the mighty Nicole Atkins, of Neptune City, New Jersey. Nicole was first featured on Fingertips way back in the Neolithic Age (that is to say, 2005), and has subsequently graced these electronic pages in 2007 and then again in the fall of 2010 with the song “Vultures.” “Vultures” was at the time an advance preview of her 2011 album Mondo Amore, which is at long last coming out, on Razor & Tie Records, in early February.
While Nicole is aurally and attitudinally something of a throwback to earlier eras, she is at the same time a thoroughly post-modern musician, with an active Twitter and Facebook presence. She is also in the process of using Kickstarter to help fund her tour—and it seems to be going very well for her so far.
All in all I’d say an excellent subject for the Fingertips Q&A questions. Without further ado……
Q: Let’s cut to the chase: how do you as a musician cope with the apparent fact that not everybody seems to want to pay for digital music? Do you think all recorded music is destined to be free, as some of the pundits insist?
A: Well it does seem that it’s inevitable. In the meantime I think it’s about trying to find new and creative ways to make something for listeners that they can collect. Whether it be packaging my music with original artwork or perhaps a comic book or limited edition screenprint. Financially for the artist it really sucks that people can now download music for free but it does open your mind to use your talents for other ways to keep music collectible.
Q: Related question: there’s a lot of talk these days that says that music in the near future will exist in the so-called “cloud”—that is, on large computer networks—and that music fans, even if paying, will not need to “own” the music they like any longer. How do you feel about this—so you see anything really good or really bad in the idea?
A: Collecting and owning a large library has always been one of my favorite things to do, as a music fan. Building my own library of records and artwork is something that is really fun and rewarding to me. There’s no better listening experience than bringing home a vinyl record and putting it on a turntable, listening to that warm sound and reading all the lyrics and looking at the artwork. Hopefully there will still be a large audience who get the same joy out of actually owning a collection of music and not just pulling it from the ether.
Q: How has your life as a musician been affected by the existence of music blogs?
A: Music blogs have always been a great way of getting my music out to new fans who have never heard about what I do. It’s also a valuable thing for when we are touring, which we do a lot. For instance, in some towns that we’ve never been to, especially in the midwest, blogs are one of the most useful ways of getting people out to our shows.
Q: What are your thoughts about the album as a musical entity—does it still strike you as a legitimate means of expression? If listeners are cherry-picking and shuffling rather than listening all the way through, how does that affect you as a musician?
A: In my opinion, the album as a whole is the best form of expression for an artist and for me as a listener. A whole album can take you out of your own head and bring you to the place where the sound exists. From beginning to end it tells you the whole story. I couldn’t even imagine music being important without full records. Pink Floyd The Wall or the Stones Exile on Main Street—it would be a sad place without those albums. There are lots of great artists today still making great full-landscape records, like Dungen and Tame Impala and the National. Those records are transportive as a whole. Even though most people nowadays might be just buying singles or shuffling, I’ll always make full albums. It’s up to them whether they want to hear the whole story or not but I still think most people would want that. I know my friends do anyway.
Q: Because basically anyone can record and distribute music now, there is way more music available for people to listen to these days than there ever used to be. How do you as a musician cope with the reality of an over-saturated market, to put it both economically and bluntly?
A: I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s way easier than ever to make music. I do however think that there is a definite quality barrier in how it’s made. Making an album on tape in a real studio is a much better making and listening experience than just making it on your laptop. But if that’s the only way for someone to make their albums, go for it. I have no problem with people making music. If it’s bad, i just won’t listen to it.