This article was first published on Louder Than War on 10 September 2012.
When Dom Paczko decided to try and interview an unsigned indie band or label from each of the 50 US States for his blog Choose My Music he didn’t realise the random project would lead him to create a label and release the music he uncovered in order to help a London charity.
Now as the last of the State of Music compilations is finalised LTW have a chat with Dom about the State of Music project.
LTW: Why did you decide to start your original project? What spurred it?
“The whole thing started with a random spark of inspiration while doing some housework.
“I was thinking of a blog project I could do for my website (www.choosemymusic.org) and out of nowhere started to wonder if it would be possible to discover and interview one unsigned or indie label band from all 50 US States.
“Instantly the name ‘State Of Music’ popped into my head and I figured that this level of inspiration in such an instant must be worth pursuing.
“Within minutes I had a pen and notepad in front of me, writing down all 50 States and hunting out bands I would like to feature.
“After about a month I had the first ten bands and started posting interviews in August 2011, starting in Arkansas with a band called Listener.
“During the start of this project and October of the same year I was put in touch with a community group in London called Camden Calling (www.camdencalling.org) who support homeless musicians and artists. I featured a couple of their artists on the site and became quite a passionate supporter of the organisation.
“One afternoon I was having a chat with Alex, who founded Camden Calling, and it became clear they would struggle to see out the next six to 12 months.
“I soon realised I had a whole host of great bands, a resonable readership of very passionate music lovers and decided to release a series of five State Of Music compilation albums and donate all the profits to Camden Calling.”
LTW: How did Camden Calling feel about the project when you approached them? Have they been very involved?
“I think they were quite stunned. I’d only known of their existence for a few months and suddenly found someone who was willing to dedicate a good year of my life helping to not only raise money to help keep them afloat but also to help promote them to a wider audience.
“To be honest they haven’t been too involved with the project, they have enough to get on in their general day to days lives. They have been great at promoting it within their circles and have show great support and encouragement which I am very thankful for.”
LTW: What’s your favourite song / band / label that you’ve uncovered in creating the compilations?
“Oh boy, I couldn’t stick to just one. Can I give you a few?
“Listener (Arkansas) will always be close to my heart as they were band number one. Kendall Elijah (Maryland), DEERPEOPLE (Oklahoma), Junior Astronomers (North Carolina), Revolution, I Love You (Pennsylvania), Revolving Birds (Virginia), Vox & The Hound (Louisiana), L’anarchiste (Utah), Hotfox (Indiana), Flashbulb Fires (Colorado).
“To be honest, every band has been brilliant and I am honored that they have all put their faith and trust in me to look after their music.”
LTW: Who was the most fun to interview when you originally started the project for the site?
“Hmmm, Elsa Rae (Missouri) was lovely. She had just self released a wonderful EP and was utterly gracious about the whole thing.
“Also Dessa (Minnesota) – she is part of one of my favourite hip hop groups (DOOMTREE) and I just sent them an email to try my luck, they replied pretty quick and to my delight Dessa was really keen to be part of it.
“I felt like the luckiest fan boy in the world.”
LTW: What sort of feedback are you getting from featured artists?
“I still speak to some of the bands on a regular basis, and many have followed the project right though.
“Bands like DEERPEOPLE (Oklahoma), Flashbulb Fires (Colorado), Revolving Birds (Virginia), Revolution, I Love You (Pennsylvania) have found some additional fans in the UK which has been good for them.
“I would very much love to bring some of the State Of Music bands over to the UK in the future….so if anyone out there wants to help me out with that (gig promoters, tour managers etc) then by all means drop me a line.”
LTW: Do you stick to a genre?
“I guess you could call it indie – which is pretty vague I guess.
“Generally I would say indie rock, but there has been dashings of Folk, Hip Hop, Americana and everything else in-between.”
LTW: When is Vol 5 due out? Any clues as to what might be on there?
“I am putting Vol.5 together now and planning to have it out at the end of October.
“I already have the tracks, but I just need to get them in some kind of order. I spend weeks trying to get the track listings right for each album. I didn’t want them to feel like just a bunch of songs that have been thrown together, getting the flow and tone of the album is something that is very important to me.
“I must admit, putting Volume 5 together is making my heart break every time I listen to the rough version. Not only does the sheer magnitude of what I have achieved started to hit, but also this has been over a year of my life and I realise the whole thing is coming to an end.
“As for what to expect for Vol.5….well I will say this….it has the absolute perfect final track to wrap up the State Of Music project.”
LTW: Are you surprised at where the project has gone, from something that started as a random idea?
“The project has been featured on BBC 6 Music, Amazing Radio, Q Radio and various stations in the US and Canada.
“I was also asked to put together a State Of Music Showcase at SXSW in March 2012, we managed get around 25 State Of Music bands down to Austin, Texas for the show, which was pretty staggering.
“All in all, for something that just came to me in a moment of boredom has created some wonderful memories and experiences for me, which I will always be grateful for.”
LTW: What are your plans after this project is finished? Would you do something similar for other countries?
“In-between the release of Vol.3 and 4 I did a free digital album called These Hands Are Too Wide: The Music Of Guelph (http://choosemymusicrecords.bandcamp.com/album/these-arms-are-too-wide-the-music-of-guelph) – in which I have discovered and interviewed 12 bands from the small Canadian city of Guelph.
“Guelph has this amazing music scene and some truly outstanding talent. It really is only a matter of time that their music scene really blows up on a global scale. Recently the album has featured quite heavily on Amazing Radio, who absolutely love it.
“As for what is next, well I am not sure. I have has discussions with a few State Of Music bands about doing some physical releases of their next albums, but that is still a little way off.
“There has been times where I have felt The State Of Music Vol.5 will see the end of the whole label thing, but deep down I am not sure if I can turn my back on it just yet.”
LTW: And finally, what’s been the best thing / worst thing about working on this?
“There has been so many highs. The SXSW Showcase Getting a whole bunch of messages while I was on holiday in New York saying Cerys Matthews has just talked about and played a track from The State Of Music Vol.1. Being interviewed by Q Radio and Amazing Radio….so many highlights.
“Another plus is that I have made some great friends with some of the bands and its pretty awesome to know that I could visit most states in the USA and know there would be someone there to welcome me.
“The worst would be the constant struggle for promotion. The first two press releases I sent out for The State Of Music Vol.1 was to my two local newspapers, they both replied basically asking me to never email them about the project again – it was then I realised that I had taken on something much more difficult than I anticipated.
“I have found getting album reviews very difficult indeed, but I am just one of thousands of labels all scrambling for the same space…I am no more deserving than anyone else.
“The real plus point though has been that this project has made a huge difference to Camden Calling and their clients. The organisation wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for the kindness of so many people who have contributed, bought and promoted the albums. I am proud to have been able to facilitate something which has been able to help so many.”
All words by Sarah Lay.