Up-and-coming indie band Darling Parade talks with Pollstar about the serious business of making music.
Focus is the key to Darling Parade’s plans for success. Lead singer and co-founder Kristin Kearns often talks about commitment when describing the group she founded with guitarist Nate McCoy. That commitment led her and McCoy along with members Dustin Lynch on bass and drummer Casey Conrad to turn to Kickstarter to finance the group’s first album – Battle Scars & Broken Hearts – scheduled for a digital release April 2.
Having already placed songs on several TV shows, Darling Parade’s music will also be featured in a Supercuts “Rock The Cut” commercial.
During their conversation with Pollstar, Kearns and McCoy talked about what a young band faces in the ever-evolving music industry and how the group needs to keep touring in order to establish itself, saying they want to be on the road “eight months out of the year.”
The story of Darling Parade begins with a 15-year-old Kristin inviting Nate’s band to play a local show in Southern Illinois. Kristin, can you clarify that? Did you buy a date from the band or was it just a friendly invite? How did that come about?
Kristin: I was in high school [and] in a separate band at the time. I was putting on a show at this community center, basically, it was a kind of a thing I was used to doing every Friday, Saturday night – putting on a bunch of local shows and getting all the local artists to come out. My guitarist in the band at the time put out a couple of names of bands that he wanted to try to book. It just so happens that Nate and Dustin were in a couple of different bands. We were playing all these shows and knew each other as musicians.
Once I moved down to Nashville … we all moved down to Nashville, we kind of ended up being in a band together. As far as finding other musicians that are as committed as you when all your high school friends decide it’s not really their thing, they just happened to be really committed and that was what was important to me.
Do you think Nashville is growing as a center for non-country music acts?
Kristin: Definitely. I think there are a lot more venues that actually book more rock bands nowadays.
Nate: I think it’s actually harder as an original country artist to make it in Nashville than an original rocker. There really aren’t a lot of venues where you can play your original country music. If you want to play country you have to go downtown and play covers at bars. Maybe you can squeeze in some of your own songs once in a while. But if you’re a rock band, there’s all kinds of different venues that book rock all the time. So, I think for a smaller level band it’s actually easier.
When funding your album – Battle Scars & Broken Hearts – via Kickstarter, did the money trickle in or did it start with a bang and then trickle out?
Nate: Kind of both. It kind of came in quick, like the first 25, 30 percent of it. I guess we did it for about a month or something. … The first week was really big and then the second couple of weeks were kind of small. Towards the end when it got close to crunch time … I would say a week before it was done, we only had 8 or 9 thousand dollars raised and we got pretty much double that in the last week.
Kristin: It’s a little scary because you’re not sure you’re going to meet your goals.
Nate: We’re lucky to have a producer that’s a really good friend of ours. We’ve been working with him forever. I guess he trusted that we would raise the money so we had already started working on the project and he knew we had no money for it at all. We got lucky there.
How are you going to distribute it?
Nate: We’re not going with any physical distribution companies right now. We’re not a really big band and don’t feel like it’s worth it. Once you are a big band, to be giving a company a percentage of all your physical CDs, they may or may not be able to get a store to pick it up because you’re not successful yet. It’s going to be mostly touring, we plan on doing a ton of touring. And, of course, all the online stuff, iTunes, Amazon. It is, physically, on Amazon. But no physical distribution right now.
How about physical CDs to sell at your shows?
Kristin: We have … over 1,000. We actually talked about ordering a round or two of vinyl to sell. But yeah, we sell physical copies at the shows.
Even though the album is your first full-length, the band has recorded EPs. So with that experience already under your belts, did you feel like you were recording your first album? Or did the sessions feel more like you were making your second album?
Kristin: We had a few songs that we kind of wanted to keep as our fresh start, but it’s definitely fresh, it feels like a first to me with a mixture of a couple of songs we used to have.
Nate: I understand what you’re saying with the second album. We already had a total of 13 songs released before this album. … I don’t have that [first album] feeling because we already had released over an album’s worth of material. I don’t think this title is completely different from the EPs. I think these songs would be pretty easy to pick out if you were to put our whole catalog together. They definitely all have a returning style, but just a little bit different from the EPs.
Darling Parade also has Dustin Lynch on bass and Casey Conrad on drums. Didn’t they join later and are not original members?
Kristin: I’ve been taking a swing at this since high school and sometimes people aren’t as committed as you would hope they are. There were a few previous members back in the days before I moved to Nashville.
Nate: I’m actually our lead guitar player right now and I was also our second bass player.
Was there ever a singular moment when you realized Darling Parade wasn’t just another local band? That is, was there a moment when you realized the band had crossed the threshold into the big leagues, so to speak?
Kristin: I feel that in a way we had become too busy to play in Nashville a lot or in the towns where we grew up. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that we spend a lot of time out of Nashville nowadays.
Nate: Yeah. We definitely play on the road way more than we do at home. Last year, when we went on tour with Cassadee Pope, which was our first tour, that really changed our minds. This is what we have to be doing. We don’t want to play spotty shows here and there. We want to be gone eight months out of the year. I would say the beginning of last year [was when] we began to have that mindset.
What did you learn from that tour?
Kristin: That there’s a lot more out there, more markets we need to be hitting all the time. There’s still people that really love to come to shows and see people play.
Nate: We also learned that sometimes out west they don’t appreciate it if you try to sleep in their parking lots. That’s been the only problem. We sleep in our van. Kristin’s dad is a metal worker and welded these amazing bunks into our van. We never sleep in hotels. Out west it became a problem because we were ran out of every parking lot we tried to park in.
Walmart wouldn’t let you stay?
Kristin: Not even Walmart. That’s the crazy part.
Nate: As soon as we pulled in there, they pulled right up to us with their lights on shining on us and asked us to leave. If you go through Nebraska and it’s about zero degrees, you want to make sure your generator has gas in it when you go to sleep. Little things like that. Getting your timing down for being at shows that are eight hours away is pretty important also.
From your own experiences, what do you think are the biggest hurdles for a young band to overcome?
Kristin: Just the constant ups and downs of starting out. Sometimes you get really good news and then some days things don’t work out the way you hope they will. As a band starting out, you’re banking on some things to really go through and sometimes they don’t. For the few things that go right, whether they’re the majority or not, those are the things you’ve got to hold on to and realize that every year you can look back and see you’ve come this far and can’t quit. That’s the thing.
Nate: I would say getting people to take a chance on you. There are so many bands out there. I’m guilty of it, too. A band has a promotion on Facebook and I didn’t have the three seconds to go to their page and check out whether or not I liked them. That happens all the time. You might be really good or maybe not, but people are just so busy to take a chance on you because there are so many bands out there. You have to be able to make yourself look different and be so far apart from all the other people.
Kristin: You also have to be willing to make yourself available for anything that comes up. We can’t pass on opportunities. We usually try to take and fit in every opportunity we get, whether it’s convenient for business or not.
What’s the creation process like? Are you two the band’s chief songwriters?
Kristin: Not really. Basically, what we do, we like to keep the idea open if two people happen to be hanging out and they come up with an idea they really like, when we’re in practice they’ll bring it up to the rest of the band and we’ll hash it out and come up with the full song.
Nate: The writing credit on the album is split four ways. I think it leads to a lot less problems, probably, down the road.
Kristin: And there’s a lot more creativity that way. People don’t hold back. If they have a good idea, they’ll say it.
In your press materials it states, “Darling Parade went through several life-changing situations through the course of a few years.” Can you expand on that? It sounds as if there was some trauma at that time.
Kristin: Well, our album does have a little bit of the heartache involved. Some of it from being away from … because we all moved away from home, pretty much, to do this, and all be together in one city, for the most part. That’s part of the turmoil that goes into it, just being gone all the time.
Nate: Like we talked about before, we’re not all original members of the band. We can’t go super far into that, but there have been some situations where we were really good friends with people and now we aren’t. That’s happened a couple of times.
Kristin: I would say … once you get into it, if you’re in business with people, you really get to know them, their true colors kind of come out.
Some of your songs have been placed on TV shows – “Stargate Universe,” “The Lying Game” – how did that come about?
Kristin: I don’t know. The “Stargate” thing happened back when [the original] MySpace was still around, doing a lot of stuff. They reached out to us.
Nate: We have our songs uploaded on websites that are constantly pitching music all the time. They take a 50-50 deal if they get you something. One of the websites has gotten us a pretty good amount.
The “Stargate” thing came from a friend our producer had. We actually do have kind of a publishing deal with a company out in LA. They’re the ones that got us the Supercuts placement. We’re going to be on the new commercials for Supercuts. We were talking about doing a deal with them [the website], and before we even signed the deal they went and got us that opportunity. We’ve been pretty lucky as far as those things go because they’re always really hard to get. For a band our size, I think we’ve done pretty well as far as getting our music on different TV shows.
Double Down Live, Gainesville, Fla.
February 23, 2012
What kind of payday do you receive for getting a song on a TV show?
Kristin: Here’s the thing. We all receive percentages. But at this time we’re putting it back into the band. The bigger ones can be anywhere from 10 to 20 grand. But that’s before whoever got you the placement takes their percentage. The smaller ones, the more normal ones, are one to three [percent] probably.
Nate: With a backend deal for anytime it plays on TV.
Kristin: With BMI or ASCAP there’s backend money.
What’s the best piece of advice each of you have received?
Kristin: I would say [it was from] John King, our producer, our friend, he manages us.
Nate: He directed our music video.
Kristin: He does above and beyond what anybody could ever ask of him. I was talking about moving to Nashville. I was still going to college for business management at the time. I grew up in a small town. The mindset of a small town is just trying to do a million things at once and see if one of them takes off. I just never really thought that if I fully committed that it would be worthwhile. So I was half music and had a day job on the side.
And John told me, “You’re going to have to basically commit everything to this, 100 percent or it’s never going to work for you. You’re going to have to decide what it is you really want and go for it 100 percent.” And not expect to fail. Not approach it with the mindset of “I’m going to kind of do this.” No, I’m going to do this and it’s going to work. And if I don’t give up, it will happen.
When I get frustrated … that’s my motto. And I have him to thank for that. He’s definitely helped me out a lot in that.
Nate: We kind of made a decision a year ago to not ever wait for anyone to do anything for us anymore. We spent a couple of years waiting for two different managers that we had to get us on tour. We were sitting there wondering when our record deal was going to come in, stuff like that. They were telling us, “Any day now. Next week.” We had people telling us week-to-week that we would have a record deal next week. We decided not to wait around for anyone anymore and go do it ourselves.
At the end of 2011 we dropped the management we had at that time. We hadn’t toured yet at all. Three days after that we booked that tour with Cassadee. … If we want to do something we can’t just ask someone to do it for us, we have to do it ourselves.
Is that something you learned from experience, or did someone actually tell you that?
Nate: We’ve had some mentors in other bands that told us the same thing, that you can’t wait around for anyone to do anything. It might have been something that we found out after doing it for a couple of years. Maybe that’s the best advice that I can give to someone.
“We kind of made a decision a year ago to not ever wait for anyone to do anything for us anymore.”
Upcoming shows include a gig in St. Paul, Minn., at the RiverCentre during the NACA Northern Plains Regional Conference April 4; Radford, Va., at Radford University April 6 and Mobile, Ala., at University Of South Alabama April 11. Visit DarlingParade.com for more information and click here to pre-order Battle Scars & Broken Hearts.