We had the good fortune of connecting with Orange Peel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Orange, how do you think about risk?
Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Mold your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career. On the one hand, I understood that pursuing music as a career path was incredibly ambitious and there was zero guarantee of success. But I figured that if I worked hard enough – and never gave up – that there was a chance. And I knew I could personally never settle for anything but the pursuit.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I own a boutique entertainment agency that specializes primarily in singing telegrams and stilt performance, but I’ve booked all kinds of entertainment including non-stilt circus acts and more. With singing telegrams, birthday grams are our bread and butter and Valentine’s Day is our “big dance,” but we’ve performed for myriad occasions including Admin Professionals Day, anniversaries, April Fool’s, apologies, baby showers, bachelorette parties, Boss Day, Christmas, gender reveals, graduations, sendoffs, Mother’s Day, pranks, promotions, proposals, a resignation, retirements, recoveries from illness or injury, job applications, Vet Tech Appreciation Week, St. Patrick’s, Talk like a Pirate Day, “workiversaries” and even to celebrate a successful vasectomy. Because I’ve played Cupid for at least six of our ten Valentine-related local TV news segments, a lot of people remember me that way.
Delivering singing telegrams is a niche business for sure, but we strive to be the finest in the region (and one of the best in the country). While many singing telegram artists perform a capella, we accompany nearly all performances with acoustic guitar, ukulele or hand claps. Our costuming standards are high, and we maintain a large and ever-expanding collection (and are happy to borrow, rent or even buy something whenever our in-house wardrobe can’t fulfill unique customer requests). We offer a large and ever-expanding repertoire of songs to please our incredibly diverse client base, everything from Johnny Cash to Grandmaster Flash and even Daft Punk. And I’ve been writing parody song lyrics since high school, so I’ve got tons of experience customizing and personalizing lyrics for milestone birthdays, graduations, retirements and other once-in-a-lifetime occasions. Our customer satisfaction rate is stellar and our online reviews (Yelp, Google Maps and Facebook) attest to that.
Being a successful artist or creative of any kind requires being a successful entrepreneur. Although my mother could plunk out “Chopsticks” on the piano at one point (and tried her hand at guitar briefly before injuring her back), neither of my parents had much experience in music or business. So I had to learn both through trial and error (and I’m honestly still learning). Fortunately, my mother saw to it that I studied music from a young age, which gave me a bona fide head start in one of the two realms.
Stage fright was one of the first hurdles to overcome. Finding the sweet spot between confidence and arrogance was essential. Figuring out how to start a business with minimal capital was another major challenge. Then again, the so-called starving artist period is a rite of passage for many. I almost got evicted. My car was booted several times for unpaid parking tickets (and temporarily stolen once).
Then there was the tumor. A benign mass developed on the nerve that controls my larynx (the voice doctors who treated me after neck surgery insist that half of my vocal cords are still paralyzed, and that I’ve been operating at 50% capacity ever since). I had an expensive dispute with a landlord once, one that could’ve cost me my entire costume collection.
I could certainly go on. But I’m grateful for all of the aforementioned experiences, as they shaped me into the tenacious and resilient entertainer and boutique talent agency owner that I am today.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned include:
Admit when you screw up and do your best to make it right
Cold hands don’t play guitar well
Communication is key
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be great
Procrastination is an epidemic among birthday party planners
Punctuality can be challenging for optimists, as we rarely anticipate traffic etc.
My early interest in songwriting is partially responsible for my eventual foray into singing telegram performance. I released a tune called “Butterflies” last year (on Spotify and other platforms) and am currently recording another one called “Under the Eclipse.”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love playing tour guide for visiting friends. Exploring street art in RiNo is definitely a favorite activity. Red Rocks is another staple, due both to its legendary status and the dozens of epic shows I’ve seen there since I was sixteen. As far as food goes, Vital Root is at the top of my list. For ambiance and décor, Beatrice & Woodsley is tough to beat, though extremely limited capacity has kept it mostly shuttered during the pandemic. If possible, I’d chauffeur them to an Archipelago Clubs event.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As challenging as it was, starting an entertainment business would have been infinitely more difficult if I hadn’t begun studying music at such a young age. My mother’s encouragement to study piano and then saxophone when I was young gave me a definite head start in the music department. I’m infinitely grateful to her for that. Presenting demonstrations in 4-H (kind of like YouTube how-to vids but for a live audience) probably gave me valuable early experience in front of a crowd. Kent Lambert, a Chicago-based musician who goes by Roommate, also played a crucial role in my origin story. Lambert sparked my interest in songwriting at a church camp when we were both fourteen. And Sadie, now a world-renowned belly dancer, is the one who first suggested I approach a local singing telegram agency she worked for about possible work. I got to repay the favor years later when she needed someone to play Spider-Man for her son’s birthday party. My dad was a little perplexed by my entertainment ambitions in the early open mic-hosting days, but he’s since become my most vocal supporter.
David Gaston, Gerardo Federico, Michael Hystead, Mile High Sports Radio, Paresh Rana