Suffering for Art – or – the Art of Suffering.

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Gramps, aka Tony Lind. Photo, as always, by Christopher Anderzon.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the notion that the only ”real” or ”good” or ”important” art is one created out of misery, pain and suffering. That concept always smacked of unchecked ego and inflated self-importance to me.
A lot of unbelievably great art was created out of sheer joy, the pleasure of the creative process and loving inspiration, and is in no way less valid than the art born out of pain and hardship. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to perceive depressed and/or depressing artists as ”honest”, an idea I find dubious at best.

I personally never trust an artist who takes themselves too seriously. They may take their art as seriously as a fucking heart attack, no problem there, but when they allow their sensitive minds, bleeding hearts and fragile little baby souls to demand that you laud them for the suffering they have endured, rather than the quality of the work they produce, fuck it, I’m outta there, faster than a paycheck.
Those ”artists” are often whiny little pricks who should have a therapist rather than an audience. They are often also dismissive of and even indifferent toward their fans, which is a cardinal sin in my book. Like when Morrissey scoffs that he doesn’t perform. ”Seals perform.” Yeah, right. If that’s the case, get off the stage, you have no place there.

When I walk onstage in front of an audience, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that these people are entertained in some way, and I feel disgusted when I see bands who obviously don’t give a shit. I was raised on artists who know how to put on a show, in their own different ways, and I took those lessons to heart (at the end of this rant I’ve put together some clips of bands who know how to treat an audience). That doesn’t mean that your act has to be all out party animal energy, that’s not what I’m saying, it would be really boring if everyone was like Angus Young all the time, but there should be an effort to communicate with the people who bought their ticket for your show, and the least you can do is to acknowledge them and let them know you appreciate them coming to hear and see you.

Michael Stipe was absolutely right when he sang that everybody hurts. Everybody does, sometimes. And just because you have the creative outlet to vent your pain, which is fantastic and beautiful, that does not mean that you hurt more, better or deeper than anyone else. I love that you have the gift of touching people in a way that allows them to understand their own struggle a little bit better, ease their pain for a moment, or just recognizing that they’re not alone. But that gift does not entitle you to be a primadonna. Art is about sharing, so don’t be so fucking precious about what you do.

A lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety, and I think it is a very positive thing that we as a society are starting to unstigmatize mental health issues, although that process is still way too slow. And in that sense, it is also a very positive thing that people create art about their struggles, to show that not only is it ok to acknowledge that you have this burden in your life, it is essential to do so in order for things to change. But that doesn’t mean that the Suffering Artist should be put on any sort of piedestal. And to perpetuate a lifestyle of misery, as some would at least like to give the impression of doing, just to make ”better” art, is stupid as shit.

/Gramps

Billy Momo on the road

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Orren. Photo by Christopher Anderzon.

We just got back from a very classic, typical Billy Momo trip. Two days and four gigs in Värmland and. Närke, Sweden.

Deje was first up. A very small town in Värmland. The venue was an old power station, turned into a gallery/bar/live music venue. Super cool place, would have fit perfectly in some up-and-coming London suburb or super trendy NYC area. This is typical for Billy Momo gigs. Small towns in rural Sweden often has one really cool venue. Not two, one. There may be several bars, but only one place to go for the real art and music lovers. And those are often quite unique.

We made a lot of new friends in Deje. Only drawback was, when the one place to go in town closes, the town goes to sleep. We are not used to going to sleep at a reasonable hour when on tour. There were invitations to various after parties, but for some reason we hesitated to follow strangers into the woods, so we ended up wandering the streets (or street, rather) and then staring at the ceiling at the hotel. Gramps, with his post-gig blues, crying himself to sleep.

Next day we started in the garden outside the power station, rehearsing our first-ever busking. We were signed up for a street music competition at a city festival in Askersund. Hotlips had made tin cones to use as unamplified megaphones and we had brought Gramps Gig Pig, a perfect weapon for small venues or accoustic sets. It’s a drum kit-in-a-box.

 

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PreacherMan and Hotlips, Askersund. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

The festival was a beautiful event. 50 something bands playing every corner. Musicians in every bar, instruments being dragged over cobblestone all over. There were fellow musicians everywhere. The whole town was out, exploring.
This is the beauty of small-town city festivals. Everyone is there. This one attracts alot of people from other areas as well. We did our busking set and two more sets later the same day. A bit out of breath after the last one, I’ll admit. But luckily for me, I don’t have a drivers license, so I didn’t have to drive all the way back. We went the same night. Billy Momo won’t waste time on sleeping.

This was a typical, ideal weekend for Billy. Perfect venues, lots of new friends and fans and strictly good vibes.

Oh! And we won that competition too!

(Orren)

A weekend to remember

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Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

It begins as soon as we step out of the cars, just before midnight this past Friday.
The smells hit us right away. A plethora of flowers and trees in bloom. Summer has arrived in Österlen, the evening air is warm, and we have come to Franskans Crêperie in Rörum to see some friends, and play a show.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

For those of you who don’t know, Österlen is an area in the very South of Sweden which is legendary for its rural beauty and easygoing bohemian atmosphere. Florida might be where Americans go when they retire, but when the Swedes do, they move to Österlen, especially the ones who have an artistic spirit. Ok, so that’s oversimplifying it a little, but you get the idea. It’s the ’get our heads together in the country’ type vibe, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller

As soon as we step inside the house, we are greeted by our lovely host Beatrice, as well as her various family members and friends, some we have met before, others are new acquaintances, but it feels like coming home. Asparagus soup is served, as well as crackers with Sardinian cheeses and amazing wine. Did Billy Momo just die and wake up in Heaven?

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Photo: Birgitta Haller

We chat for a couple of hours, the conversation increasingly slides into drunktalk, Billy-style, and then people retire one after another (well, some quite a lot later than others), knowing that we have an intense day ahead of us.

We wake up to a bright, sunny and very warm summer Saturday. Some of us are nursing the odd shrunken skull, others eat breakfast in the garden.

Then we set up our gear for the evening’s concert. We take our time doing soundcheck, rehearse a couple of tunes we are working into the setlist, all very comfortable and relaxed.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

After a terrific lunch we take a sightseeing tour of some sweet spots in the area, including lush, green beech forests and a beautiful beach by the ocean that looks and feels like it could be Zanzibar rather than Sweden.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

After this, we spread out a little, everybody doing their thing. Some going off to check out the local flee markets, others prefer to sip wine and beer in the garden while eating some crêpes with baked cinnamon apples, Calvados and ice cream on top. Oh, and coffee, we do have a show to consider later…

As the guests for the evening start to arrive, we begin our little pre-show warm up ritual backstage, we get dressed and sing a couple of songs to get our harmonies in tune.
Some old friends drop in backstage to say hello, beards are being oiled, the setlist is going through some last minute changes. One band member, who shall remain nameless, gets introduced to a particularly enchanting specimen of the female variety, and promptly falls in love. Or something. Suddenly, it’s 9:00 p.m. We are ready.It’s steaming hot onstage. We are sweating profusely before the first song is over, but the performance is really cooking as well. The people are having a good time, hollering and clapping. Lovely ladies in summer dresses dance wildly around us, and surprisingly many are singing along with our songs. It’s a beautiful sight to see.

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Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

Then suddenly, in between two songs, we are being told the sad news of Gregg Allman’s passing. As a tribute, we launch into a spirited version of ’Midnight Rider’, one of the best songs ever written by anybody.

We play a really long show, by our standards anyway, we are not Bruce Springsteen. But the people won’t allow us to end the performance, craving more and more. We fittingly end the much extended encores with ’So tired’ after almost two hours.

The post-gig blues sets in, big time. But so does the post-show party. We sign posters and CDs. We drink wine. We chat with audience members and friends. Eventually a more exclusive selection of people pour back into the private area of the house and a more laid-back party ensues. Orren and Beatrice’s daughter Lova take turns playing an acoustic guitar, and for a while we get into some drunkenly slurred renditions of Beatles tunes. The vibe is chill, although the house is still hot, and nobody’s mellow is being harshened whatsoever. Beautiful.
Just like the previous night, people retreat one by one, or in some cases twos, until only the last men standing/drinking remain. Incidentally the same two guys as the night before. It’s already light outside when the house finally is silent. Apart from snoring.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

The last day. We rehearse for a little while before we start tearing down our shit and pack it all back in the van. We eat lunch outside, and give the guests at the crêperie an acoustic performance of ’The Weekend’.
Some last social calls are made, and one band member, who shall remain nameless, realizes he has another chance to encounter one particularly enchanting specimen of the female variety, and thus takes off running in her general direction. Literally. Running. Hilarious.

We say our goodbyes to Beatrice, Lova and the rest of the staff at the crêperie, and then get in the cars. We came, we saw, we played. Beautiful. We’ll be back, Österlen. Thank you.

Love! /Gramps

Recommended listening:
Allman Brothers: Midnight Rider
Radka Toneff: Moon’s A Harsh Mistress
Billy Momo: I’ve Got You 
Van Halen: Summer Nights
Spotify: Beatles: Rocky Raccoon

Guest blog #2: Becoming big

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Birgitta Haller, management Billy Momo.

A bit simplified: there are two major ways to get a breakthrough as an artist (or at least one that will last for more than 15 minutes) – a hit on the radio or building an audience performing live. Come to think of it, I would say the only way to get a real breakthrough is performing live. (Spice that up with a hit on the radio and you’re safe.)

The radio scenario is a quick fix, it can make you big in no time. It will most probably be accompanied with anxiety, because you have to follow up on that radio hit with another one, and another. The radio listening crowd might be interested in seeing you live, performing that radio hit. I use the word ‘might’, because the radio listening crowd doesn’t always attend concerts. And if you can’t follow up on your hit, and you suck at live performance, you will lose your following just as quick as they came.

The really slow (and a bit tiresome and frustrating) way to get a breakthrough is to perform live. This is where you reach an audience who really likes music. Work, work, work! Practice, take every opportunity to try out your material on the live scene. Act out, become performers, become awesome at what you do on stage. Practice to be able to feel secure and safe on stage, work on your show, practice and play until you feel sick. And when you think you’ve nailed it – do it all over again. And: get paid for your craftsmanship – if you’re good at performing live, you should get paid. Unfortunately, this section needs a totally separate blog post…

The live show performance was the thing that made me convinced to sign Billy Momo in the first place. These guys are totally awesome live and are constantly working on their live set, making it fun to watch and, musically, a feast for the ears. And the continuously growing crowd of followers that gets to see them live, agree.
I know this band is going to make it big, but one piece is still missing. A live agency or a promoter, someone who can take them outside our native country and out where they really belong – worldwide.
Ash Pournouri, the manager of Avicii, once said that a breakthrough takes minimum 5 years. We have just entered Year Two. (Birgitta Haller, management)