Friday, February 25, 2011
PROFILE: Recording artist Billy Drease
By Cyrus Webb
Billy, when did you realize that you had a love of music?
I realized I had a love for music pretty early as 5 or so when I really think about it. My sister and I shared a room and my mother bought us a small Fisher-Price record player and it only played 45's if I remember correctly. One of the only records we had was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." I remember playing that thing over and over and there was a song on the flip side too, but i cant remember what it was. Along with that, my entire family were just big musical fans, almost the same as any other hip hop artist's, I came up listening to O'Jays, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire etc, while cleaning the house on the weekends. It wasn't until my mother brought home "Rapper's Delight" that I really caught-a-fire for music, more specifically Hip Hop. Thats when it all started clicking and the imagination of becoming a emcee began growing.
Looking back at it, at what point did you decide that this is something you wanted to do full-time?
I knew from that very moment when I couldn't get enough of hearing "Rapper's Delight" and I played it hundreds of times and memorized each line, rehearsing in the mirror with a hair brush in my hand. I hadn't even been to a concert or watched a rap video but I somehow imagined myself on stage performing. Actually, by the time I was finishing high school I was sure I was going to move to New York and become famous from rapping, but my mother had other plans. I actually wrote a few bars in this old song about her reaction when I told her I was going to become a rapper. "My mom laughed, cute as I was/ When I told her I was skipping out on college for the music I loved/ So i put it on hold as a sign of respect/ But now I think back kind of feeling regret." So, all through college, after college, after fully maturing as a man, working jobs and all of that, I just stayed stubbornly focused on doing this, which brings us here today. So, in short, I knew pretty early.
Billy, a great deal of your success has come from your online appeal. Can you tell our readers how you developed your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy came about as a part of survival. It's said, that limitations are an architects best friend, as it forces them to become problem solvers. So, basically, since I didn't have the money and clout of a Major record label backing me, that could also cut the red-tape and get me into magazines and on TV and such, I looked at those facts as my limitations. With those limitations, the problem-solving began. What's free? What do we have control over? What can we really and realistically get our hands on? Who can we reach directly? There it is! The internet allows for all these aspects to be approached, addressed and even accomplished. Another thing my team and I planned was to scale back on trying to do what the major artists were doing, which was trying to reach everyone. We decided to concentrate on a smaller focus group. Fans are fickle and flighty in today's market more than ever, so after reading this article that my friend Clark sent me called, "1000 True Fans," by Kevin Kelly, it made me really start to think, that as an Indie artist, that's a good number to aim for, 1000 True Fans. 1000 people that will spread the word because they really, truly believe in the product. Those are the people that are in for the long haul. So thank those people for getting me this far.
Many recording artists see themselves as messengers. Is there a certain message you want to get out through your music?
I truly believe that music should be used as a vehicle. Where one chooses to drive and navigate that vehicle is up to them, but personally I'd rather take people on a personal journey of improvement, empowerment and discovery. I'm not the artist that makes junk, sells you a lemon-car and tells you it's the best thing smoking and have you end up on the shoulder of the road asking "How'd I get here?" My message is and always will be positive. Even when it isn't, I'm only reflecting a situation I lived through or watched or witnessed, but in the end I always try to shed light and provide wisdom or words for healing and recovery, all while trying to make the experience real, authentic and enjoyable.
You are the face of your business, Billy. How do you deal with the pressure that comes from selling yourself along with your product in such a competitive field?
I don't ever really feel any pressure. Ever. Being that I'm on the middle to low-mid tier in regards to being really recognized for my craft, I always feel a sense of empowerment when I see my larger and more successful peers doing something that I already did or even sharing the same artistic view. So when I see these other guys blow up, and it's an idea I used or have in the chamber ready to let off a round, I always think to myself, "See, if I was on that level, I KNOW this would work!" What I'm most comfortable in doing is just being me. Period. There's a saying, that I'll probably screw up, but it's like "If you tell the truth you never have to remember your lie." So, being that I'm being true to myself, I'm not putting on an act and I don't ever have to feel that I have much to explain. What I share is real and that's that. That makes me unique enough given the drama and acting that goes on in the music business. The argument is, "Hey, it's entertainment!" I dig that, but most of my favorite artists entertained through music and performance not through image and facade.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who might look at you as an example of what they can accomplish?
The only advise I have is, compromise in business when you have to, meaning talking deals, money, numbers but never compromise yourself or your integrity. It's a harder lesson to recover from if you lose yourself in this nonsense. The other stuff, comes and goes.
Thanks for your time, Billy, and continued success to you. How can our readers find out more information about you and purchase your music?
Thank you for the interview. I'm actually feeling like Billy Drease is a pretty cool dude after answering these questions. All of my music is on iTunes. There are some FREE and exclusive downloads at www.billydrease.bandcamp.com as well. www.billydrease.com and of course facebook: http://www.facebook.com/billydreasewilliams