It’s hard to find someone like Keaton Simons these days. He’s an independent musician more interested in pushing his craft and connecting to fans than twerking on stage and doing things for shock value.
A real musician is a breath of fresh air among the Miley Cyrus craziness and Robin Thicke ridiculousness today. It seems more and more that music is dying as more and more crap is pushed on the masses. That is until you find independent musicians like Simons still making music that can be called music and finding success despite shunning major labels.
His music has been everywhere of late. You may have heard it on such television shows as Sons of Anarchy or NCIS: Los Angeles or perhaps you’ve seen him on Ellen or heard him on the podcast Mohr Stories. He’s making quite a splash and doing it the hard way, and he took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Big Hollywood about what it’s like working in today’s ever-changing music industry and being an independent musician.
What are some of the hardships that come with being an independent musician in today’s music industry (Note: Simons owns his own label which is called Best Revenge Records)?
There are many of them (laughs) not the least of which is being the difficulty in finding funding. That’s the main thing in this day and age, especially when it comes to the difference between working as an independent and working as a major because the majors, they don’t really do much. They just can pay for it. They can pay other people to do it. Besides that, it’s always difficult to lead a team of people. It’s difficult to be taken seriously. Even though the days of major label dominance are over, a lot of the people holding the purse strings are stuck in the past. It can be difficult figuring our where my place is as an independent artist. But it’s been really more rewarding than it has been challenging.
What are the benefits?
Freedom in terms of artistic freedom and freedom of expression and freedom to change the game. If something is not working, go do something else, and I think the more established aspects of this industry are afraid to do anything outside of their comfort zone and they’re suffering as a result. I also make a lot more of the money, and that’s a huge thing for any artist because people just aren’t selling as many records or near as much as they used to, so the difference between getting a penny on each record versus getting 10 dollars on each record is massive when you’re talking about selling 10,000 records instead of a million.
You’ve had some huge hit songs (Unstoppable had 10,000 downloads in two days). Is that the ultimate reward, or are you counting down the days until your top 40 hit right next to the new Katy Perry song?
Of course I want that, and I’m definitely shooting for it, but my definition of my own success is constantly being redefined. As an independent artist, you’re capable of redefining your own success because the industry itself is changing so drastically and so frequently. The concept of what is a successful artist now as opposed to 10 or 20 or 30 years ago is completely different. It’s different now even than it was last year. It’s changing so quickly. So, yes I want all that stuff and I’m shooting for it and I’m continuing to go for it because the thing is you don’t have to be Katy Perry to have that kind of success. There’s some really big artists and some really huge songs that are coming out now that are becoming really successful because of the quality of the music. My goal is to put something out that people love so much that they don’t care where or who it came from.
With the headlines for the music industry today focusing on Miley Cyrus twerking and the appropriateness of Robin Thicke’s new music video, do you see the music industry and the attention the media gives it as better or worse off?
It basically balances out to always be exactly the same. I think if you examine any era of music, there’s always the bubble gum bullshit and there’s always the tabloid crap and then there’s always the real deal stuff. We’re always going to have all of that. Now we just have more of all of it. There’s more tabloid bullshit and there’s more respectable, true artists. I don’t get concerned about those headlines or anything.
Your most recent album is Beautiful Pain. For people that don’t know you, what do you want them to know about it?
That’s such a tough question. I want them to listen to it and love it and know how much I love it and how much I believe in it. Any album is just a moment in time and that’s it. The songs continue to evolve, artists evolve, sounds evolve. I’m already very heavily working on my next release and I have been for months now. It’s not about any one album or any one thing especially in this day and age. It’s about constantly getting new stuff, so I’m always creating. Plus, a big part of my love for all of this is my love for live performance. The reason I make records is in great part so people can become aware of me and come out and see me play.
David Duchovny was involved in the music video for Beautiful Pain, and you got to guest star on Californication. That seemed like a really cool fit. How did that all come together?
I’ve known Duchovny for a really long time. He and I have gotten super close in the last year or so and he is one of my partners in this record label (Best Revenge Records). He produced the video and made an appearance in it. We’ve been working on some music together, too. He’s always been passionate about music as a music lover, and he always just thought of himself as not having the ability to do it. He’s so admired and envied people that could play music. He just one day decided he’d give it a shot and picked up a guitar and he really, really loves it. He’s getting better and better and I’ve been kind of a musical guru to him over the last year or so. It’s been really wonderful because he’s got an amazing brain. He’s a very smart, very poetic person. He’s always written beautiful poetry. Now he’s evolved that into more songwriting and I’m helping to adapt that into songs. We’ve recorded some of his stuff and it’s been super cool.
Any advice for musicians trying to break into this ever changing and challenging music industry?
Follow your heart, don’t be afraid, never give up … it sounds cliched, but it really is true. This industry is so tumultuous and challenging and so heartbreaking at times. A lot of what separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the ones that have the wherewithal to just stick it out. It can become so hard that some people just can’t take it anymore or they wonder, “why am I putting myself through this agony?” I don’t blame them, but for me, my passion for music is what drives me through this. It’s not about success or celebrity or fame or fortune for me. For better or worse, I can never quite (laughs).
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Today’s arts are changing. That is for sure. The power is moving from the major industries and idiotic government bureaucracy to simple choice. People like Simons are ahead of the curve and empowering fans and his music by doing it independently, by buckling the bootstraps and fighting for his chance through hard work. It’s a nice thing to see, especially in today’s world.
He urges fans to see him play live and says he wants to connect to each and every person that comes out. You can find his tour dates and more information on his official website.