Have you ever wanted to be a musician? Have you ever looked at your favourite band or artist and thought it would be great to live that life? Be honest - of course you have! The life of a musician is great isn't it? Not like a real job? Well, being a full time musician is without doubt a fabulous life to live but it's not without its pitfalls. For every superstar there are thousands of super talented musicians who 'nearly made it' or who are doing well and just on the cusp of moving onto the next level.
One such band is New York based Wakey Wakey aka Michael Grubbs, who is shortly to release a single written in response to the frustrations of, in his words "trying to exist in the world of musicians". Titled Homeless Poets, taken from the forthcoming EP of the same name, the song is about the kind of bravery that causes musicians (and other creatives) to put themselves out there in what is often a challenging environment. Released on 25 September, the video has a tongue in cheek look at the concept of bravery:
I recently caught up with Michael and amongst other things I asked him why the superhero in the video is not him (he's played by an actor friend, Drew, who also happens to be the younger brother of Michael's best man). Although Michael is happy for his dog, Buster, to take a starring role, it turns out that Michael much prefers to remain focussed on the music; to be in front of the camera is a distraction that he just doesn't enjoy. This then led on to the reason why Michael chose to be the band Wakey Wakey rather than Michael Grubbs. Interestingly, this was a conscious decision based on the desire to let the music speak for itself and to be part of a collective experience. Michael's live shows (he will be visiting London for a one off show at The Courtyard Theatre in October) have a lof of people on stage with him and he feels that it's more honest and reflective of the music to be on stage as a band rather than a solo artist. The name Wakey Wakey itself came from a cycle of politically aware songs that masqueraded as love songs. Fans initially embraced the songs as love songs before eventually waking up to the political message within, hence Wakey Wakey.
Although the life of an indie musician is challenging (Michael described the desire to keep going as "either brave or stupid"), it seems to be looking up for Wakey Wakey. Homeless Poets will be released on indie label The End Records rather than being crowdfunded in the manner of the previous two albums. Michael says that working with the label is "super cool" as they are based in his neighbourhood (Bushwick Park, featured in the video) and have a similar outlook and style that complements the music perfectly.
Time and again when interviewing musicians signed to indie labels, the reason they are there is because of the greater creative freedoms enjoyed by indie artists. While he wouldn't be averse to signing with a major label in the future, Michael agrees that with indie labels, the music comes first and that empowers musicians to create the music they, rather than the label, want. It all comes back to what constitues bravery and how far this goes. Sticking to your guns and being able to produce the music you want is one thing but there are practical considerations too; not least if providing for a family comes into play.
Happily, this balance between creative bravery and practical considerations seems to be working out for Wakey Wakey. As well as the Homeless Poets EP and the one off Show at The Courtyard in October, a new album, Overreactivist, is scheduled for 2016 - all the years of sticking with the music are paying off.
Homeless Poets is released on The End Records on 25 September and Wakey Wakey will appear at The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton on 30 September.