Chris Auerbach-Brown is an independent musician and Director of Programs at the Conservancy Cuyahoga National Valley Park:
This month, he takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to Indyfest about his work.
IM: What is your occupation at the Conservancy for Cuyahoga National Valley Park?
CAB: I am the Director of Programs at the Conservancy. I oversee and plan all of the Conservancy’s Cultural Arts events, which include music concerts, lectures, art gallery exhibits, and nature-focused programs.
IM: You recently received a grant for your music—can you tell us about that?
CAB: I was awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship for the year 2016 by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The CWF is a program that directly connects artists in northeast Ohio to local communities by funding community-focused proposals from a variety of artistic disciplines—music, dance, visual art, etc. Forty artists were chosen this year and given a monetary award of $15,000 to fund their proposed projects.
My proposal entailed the creation of a new music ensemble that gives concerts in community centers and incorporates audience participation into the performances. Audience members become part of the ensemble, then in turn, the concerts are opened up to a larger community dialogue by a facilitator. The musical focus will be on ‘quiet’ sounds, or on giving each sound equal importance, its own ‘voice,’ so to speak.
IM: How many concerts are generally performed at the Conservancy in a year, and what types of performances are you looking to book this year?
CAB: We book about 30–35 concerts per year, in folk, bluegrass/newgrass, Americana, Celtic, Cajun, blues, and even Texas swing styles. We’re looking to expand our offerings a bit, to possibly include Afrobeat and other genres of world music.
IM: What type(s) of venue(s) is the conservancy? Is it audio only?
CAB: We perform music concerts at our main venues, Happy Days Lodge and the Hines Hill Conference Center. We also perform outdoor concerts at Howe Meadow in the summer. These shows feature performances by local bands. We can accommodate a video presentation, but our main focus for Cultural Arts events are music concerts.
IM: You are an independent musician. How did you start in the Cleveland scene and what instruments do you play?
CAB: I came to Cleveland in 1993 to pursue my masters degree in music composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I settled down here once I graduated, I got married, and started a family. I taught music theory and composition lessons for many years, and I play in a group called Trepanning Trio. I play alto sax, musical saw, udu, and melodica, and I throat sing. My main instruments are pencil and paper, however (I’m a composer by training).
IM: What types of gigs do you play/work?
CAB: Mostly experimental music gigs, but I also have my music performed at contemporary music concerts by other musicians in the area. But honestly, I’ll play anything I’m asked to.
IM: What are your favorite genres to write and have any been published?
CAB: I like writing anything, but I’m a composer, so the more experimental strains of music appeal to me most from a creative standpoint. I am published by the American Composers Alliance. I also write electronica from time to time.
IM: Do you have any advice for independent musicians who are looking to book a gig, or have a career as a musician playing at venues?
CAB: Work on your songwriting skills! I hear bands with excellent performers regularly, but the standout groups are the ones with original songs. Regarding booking, keep asking and don’t undersell yourself. Don’t play for free either; clubs that ask bands to play for free aren’t serious about presenting great music to their patrons. Sometimes playing for free is necessary, especially at a house concert or a similar situation where there’s no door charge, no bar selling alcohol and food, etc. But in general, avoid working ‘for the exposure.’
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) was an American poet and educator who produced many literary works. He is also famous for originating the popular quote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” The truth of this statement resonates with many, including my guest this issue, Ms. Cristie Hine. She is the owner of NightShine Productions, LLC; a music production and recording studio based in Perry, Ohio. We had the pleasure of interviewing Cristie to find out more about her and the great work she’s doing at the studio.
IM: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you got started in music. CH: I am a lover of music and my family! Music is my passion and has served as a marker for wonderful memories, as an escape during rough times, and it’s given me strength when I needed it. I graduated from Full Sail University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in music production. I was the salutatorian, received the advanced achiever award, and also received three Course Director’s Awards. I’ve played a musical instrument since I was ten, and was always involved with musical productions during my younger years. Before I learned how to play an instrument, I was recording songs off the radio and listening to quite an eclectic collection of music.
IM: Who are the people that most influenced you, both in music and in your personal life? CH: When I was little, I loved to rock out with my dad and his best friend. They always connected music to usually happy, memorable times. I was hooked after that. Through listening to music with family and friends, I created an opinion of artists that I liked, as well as of genres—which expanded throughout the years. Other influences would have to be music teachers and fellow musicians that I played with during the formative years. Trent Reznor was a pretty big influence also.
IM: What drives you to create music? CH: What drives me to create music would have to be my thoughts and emotions, and a need to express a certain way of thinking in different situations in my life. It kind of feels like an overwhelming amount of energy that gets bottled up until you sit down and create a piece, then it all comes flowing out. Sometimes it’s hard for me to find a way verbally to express how I’m feeling or how I’m dealing with the situation, so I use music to speak for me and deliver the meaning.
IM: Tell us about how NightShine Productions got started? CH: I created NightShine Productions after I graduated college in order to work with local talent and start to sell my own music, at my own pace. I understand what it’s like to start out in the music industry, so I felt that creating my own music production company/recording studio would be the best way to fulfill my dreams and also give artists a professional place to record at a reasonable rate, to help them fulfill their dreams, too.
IM: Have you written any songs? Tell us about your first song and what that experience was like? CH: Yes, I have written multiple songs. The first song that I wrote was an EDM song and it was extremely long! I remember getting lost in writing it, and just focusing on the technicalities of it and how each line played with the other, and how they kind of danced along and tickled your ears and then remained in my brain long after. I fell in love with composition during that process.
IM: How many musical projects have you worked on to date, and which is your favorite? CH: I don’t think I can count the number of musical projects that I have worked on to date, because there are so many different kinds of projects in my portfolio. I have worked on commercial pieces, video game pieces, independent pieces, classical, rock, blues, rap and techno pieces, jingles, Foley, and movie scores—to name a few. Picking out a favorite is definitely a hard task to do, since a certain part of me is in love with all of them.
IM: What is your assessment of today’s independent music industry, and what do you think the industry needs? CH: I think the independent music market today has a lot more freedom for the artist to control which path they would like to go down and also get a little closer to their audience. It seems that musicians are able to really hone in on a certain genre that they love, rather than being pushed by large labels and companies to produce something that is expected of them. One thing I do think the industry needs is more of the good guys that are going to help the musician/artist achieve their goals in an honest manner, instead of trying to take advantage of them. I like to think of myself as a mentor to musicians that do not have the music business knowledge that I have. If I can help steer them in the right direction, and help them to not be taken advantage of, then I feel that one part of my job is done.
IM: In your opinion, how difficult is it for an independent musician to make a living today? CH: It depends on the route you take. In the beginning, you have to have an alternate source of income in order to take care of basic needs. I would say that it’s a tough row to hoe. However, if you love what you do and keep pursuing your passion with professionalism, then I think achieving your monetary goals via music is feasible. It will take time, persistance, patience, dedication, and a lot of work.
IM: Do you use social media and, if so, how has it helped in getting the word out about your work? CH: I have a Facebook account for my company in order to help people get an idea of what NightShine is about. I tend to be a little private about my work and what I actually put on social media. I think social media is a nice step to introduce people to me and my company. As far as getting the word out about my work, that is something that I have to do by myself, via my efforts and actual product. In my mind, my work should do the talking, which in turn, hopefully, gets the word out.
IM: What is the most important thing you hope to accomplish with your music? CH: What I’d like to accomplish with my music is to get to a level of writing/producing/recording to where it’s a recognizable style in the industry.
IM: What are your future plans and where do you see your career in the next five years? CH: That’s a hard question to answer. There are so many different avenues to take in this industry. One thing is for sure, though: in the next five years, I hope to have a thriving business that inspires and provides a place where artists can come in and record andwrite, because they know that they are in good hands at NightShine.
IM: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about having a go as an independent musician? CH: Don’t give up—ever. Sometimes the road is long. Take care of your basic needs with a regular job, but don’t lose or give up your passion. It’s in you for a reason. Also, use a professional when recording an album. You and your music are worth it! A professional producer/engineer will give you the best advice and sound for your music and money. They are an invaluable friend and knowledge base in this crazy, wonderful industry! Lastly, enjoy the ride!
Anyone can tell that Cristie’s love and passion for music are the genuine articles. With talented individuals like her at work, the indy music industry is in safe hands. We need to support her and the work she’s doing at NightShine, and we look forward to working with her to bring our readers new indy music.
ALSO IN THE ISSUE: 3 great Sneak Peek features you can only see in the actual PDF, Sepulchre #1, Bang Bang Lucita #1, and Shaman’s Destiny #1…ALSO – a listing of most recent additions to our Marketplace.