When we first launched Behind the Setlist (almost a year ago!), my goal was to share stories no one else was telling—the stories best found in small clubs, cafés and neighborhood pubs where local musicians, regional artists and unsigned bands frequent.
Yes, Kendrick Lamar deserves every think piece written about him—including ours, which is really very good. And yes, Bruce Springsteen has changed more lives at his concerts than probably anyone. The big names, the icons of the mainstream, they change music with broad strokes. Jonathan Bautts, our senior writer and interviewer extraordinaire, pays attention to the mainstream better than anyone I know.
For me, however, I’ve always been more interested in the small players. The five dollar EPs. The kids busking on sidewalks. The risk takers. The dreamers.
These small artists may eventually become big players, and if so, good on them. But right now? They’re broke. They’re young. They’re inspired and struggling and poor and pure. They’re artists.
So here we are. My first three picks for the Tip Jar. Give them a listen, earn them a “Like,” go see a show. And do me a favor—if you see an actual tip jar, throw in a dollar, will ya?
Album: Gospel Hymns No. 5 (2017)
With his recently released double album, Gospel Hymns No. 5, Beland—a singer/songwriter from San Luis Obispo, California—repurposes Gospel hymns and Biblical scripture like weathered old barn wood. The result? A stunning, minimalist and meditative record that yearns to be played. Yes, this is Christian music; its subject matter won’t be for everyone. But don’t let the label scare you. This music has heart and soul.
7 Minute Martians
Single: “Hold On” (2018)
Another pop-punk band? Yes, another pop-punk band. I too suffer from the fatigue of hearing an endless amount of musicians trying to reignite the fading flame of my high school years. But the new single from the Cincinnati-based 7 Minute Martians carries an urgency with it that feels, somehow… dare I say fresh? I don’t know. Either way, you love what you love. Congrats, gentlemen. This is a fun one.
Single: “Vapors” (2018)
Listening to more pop music was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. Silly, I know. But I naturally gravitate towards acoustic, indie and rock music (see above), and like anyone, I can get stuck in my own echo chamber of genre. So when a song called “Vapors” from an artist called X. ARI was pitched to me, I don’t know, I gave it a fair shake.
“Vapors” is a mellow pop song with a catchy hook—yes, with the over-produced gloss that usually turns me off from pop music. But I love the atmosphere of it. There’s something mesmerizing about her lyrics and vocal delivery. What’s really cool, however, is the Pain Into Power Campaign she’s launched in support of mental health awareness via Jack.org. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Want to pitch an artist or song for the Tip Jar? Email Kevin.
Photo via Unsplash/Anita Peeples.