We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Meade and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, why did you pursue a creative career?
I think that there’s a distinction between why people start a creative career and why they continue to pursue it, People (including me) usually start for social reasons – they want to look cool, or get approval, or stand out from the crowd, etc. That’s a fine reason to start, but people who stay there usually don’t last long, once you realize how much rejection is part of the process, and the fact that most people, even people close to you, don’t care as much about your creative pursuits as you think they should. They will either burn out and quit, or become bitter and try to tear down others.
The threshold point for continuing occurs when the other group of people find satisfaction in the doing of their craft itself. As a songwriter, it’s the joy of finding an inspiring chord progression or melody, or finishing a lyric, or getting a new song demoed that I can share. Those are the people who stick around. I was saying to a studio owner that if you reach 30 or 35 and you still want to make music, you’re probably doing it for the right reasons.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In the beginning, all I wanted to do was to be a singer. Not to play an instrument, and not necessarily to write songs, just to sing. What I quickly discovered along the way is how many other skills I needed to learn in order to do that. I learned to play guitar so that I could accompany myself. I got a degree in recording so that I could record my own music, as well as to have skills that would help me work in the music industry in general. I learned to play bass and keys and drums and so on because I needed to be able to make records on my own, without outside musicians. This doesn’t even count all the other skills required of an independent musician these days, from creative skills like web design, photography, and videography, to marketing, social media, and sales. All this so that you can have that moment to sing in front of people.
As a songwriter, there are two things that I’ve always aimed for: one, to write songs that are memorable and well-crafted (in other words, “catchy”), and two, to make music that is timeless, meaning that it not feel dated or locking into any particular decade. Though, I’m primarily influenced by indie and classic British rock, I enjoy incorporating different and unexpected elements, like country or jazz or dance music. I can’t stand the idea of stagnation or doing the same thing over and over, but more than anything, I want my music to represent me in the way I want to see myself. I have known many artists who are really talented players and performers, but who never really rise above their influences. It’s always been important for me to search for my own voice, while still acknowledging the music that got me here.
Sometimes I’m surprised to realize how much I’ve done as a recording artist entirely on my own, with me playing nearly all the instruments, as well as recording, producing, and mixing/mastering it all myself. Three albums, a massive 18-song Christmas album, a bunch of standalone singles, with more of all those still on the way. I have plans for at least three albums and one EP in the works, as well as a side project into electronic music. While I’ve gotten better over the past two years at delegating and bringing in other people with particular skills, there’s still a part of me that enjoys both the struggle and satisfaction of being a one-man army in the studio.
My biggest struggle, and I think that this is typical, is trying to learn the “business” part of the music business. Most creatives are great at the art, but terrible at selling it, and I’m no exception. It’s a process to learn, and in the past, this was usually handled by professionals in those areas at labels, if you were lucky enough to be signed. These days, the barriers to entry for artists are much lower, but the responsibilities are much greater. I think I’ve made progress, though.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m definitely more of a cultural and educational guy than a socialite, so my inclination would be to take them to many of our great museums, like DMNS, the art museum, zoo, etc. I would also make a trip up to Red Rocks.
Another overlooked thing we have here is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife refuge. It’s amazing to be able to drive through it for free on any day and get up close and personal with buffalo, deer, and so on. That’s an unusual privilege..
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
He’ll probably never see this, but I had a friend in the Army named Eric Groves. He was a regular soldier just like me at the time, but he also played guitar and sang and wrote songs. I had only just started singing, and I didn’t think I could ever be a songwriter or performer, but getting to know Eric made it possible for me in a weird way. He was just like me, so if he could do that, so could I. That started me down the path I’m still on.
I also have a long-distance friend named Jennifer Goodman who lives in rural Florida, who has become like an adopted little sister to me, and she has been like a rock through many years of my creative journey. Always willing to listen, to encourage, and to support me even though she herself is not a musician. She’s just simply a good person who cares.
All photos by Tony Meade