After fighting their way onto the popular music scene, Seattle-based hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are finally cashing in on the success that persistence, a loyal fan base, and more than 10,000 hours of logged studio time studio will get you.
Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) and Ryan Lewis have been working together as a collaborative team since 2000 and are currently in the process of ascending from their status as hometown heroes to that of national superstars, having finally found success after their recently released debut album titled “The Heist.”
“The Heist” was released on Oct. 9 and entered at No. 1 on the U.S. iTunes download charts and No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts, selling 78,000 copies in the first week.
As soon as their album was released, the duo embarked upon The Heist World Tour, which was created to promote and celebrate their debut album.
Recently, the band performed at Toad’s Place in New Haven, which was the first time either of the West Coast gentlemen had been to Connecticut.
Currently, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are not signed to a record label. According to Haggerty, this is completely by choice, as the band has been offered several contracts at this point but has turned them all down.
In a song off their album called “Jimmy Iovine,” Haggerty raps about what it’s like to be an independent artist in today’s modern music industry and how, at the end of it all, the artists themselves are the ones left with the short end of the stick.
One of the many facets of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ overwhelming success as independent artists is the fact that their music, more specifically their latest album, isn’t comprised of a bunch of similar songs. In fact, it could be argued that their diversity and variety is what’s making them so popular; it’s as if they have a song for everybody.
While some of their music is heavy and deals with serious topics such as their song “Otherside” about battling addiction, they have produced plenty of light-hearted songs such as “And We Danced,” which is a humorous song about enjoying a really great impromptu dance party.
The pair have also been applauded for producing several songs that comment on and draw attention to civil rights topics and societal issues such as gay marriage, racism and the dangers of consumerism.
Like many artists who are making it big these days, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ success is rooted in a strong Internet presence and subsequent fan base.
Known for their artistic and high quality videos, several of the band’s music videos have gone viral, including the videos for their singles “Thrift Shop,” which is played regularly on BET, and “Same Love,” a video about marriage equality that has been viewed on YouTube more than 30 million times. This latter video has also drawn the attention of well-known celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, who had the the band on her show for a live performance of the song and gave everyone in the audience a copy of their CD.
Their Nov. 18 concert at Toad’s Place, a small and relatively intimate venue, was filled with a frenetic and nearly tangible energy that can only be produced by genuine fans. Many in attendance were college students from nearby schools such as Yale University, Quinnipiac University and Fairfield University.
Fairfield sophomore Patrick Kueny who attended the concert said, “The crowd was unbelievable, absolutely amazing… that was probably my favorite part. Everyone was singing along to every single song and we all knew the lyrics.”
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gave an entertaining and lively performance that came with all the trimmings: sequin-clad dancers, multiple costume changes (including wigs) and more than a few stage dives and crowd surfs.
When the familiar beat and trumpets started blaring, introducing their most popular single “Thrift Shop,” the crowd roared and seemed to break out in dance simultaneously. Before Haggerty started rapping, he pointed to a few people in the audience who were sporting fake fur jackets and asked if he and Lewis could wear them as they performed the song.
Unsurprisingly, they said yes and crowd surfed them up to the stage.
In between sets, Haggerty and Lewis would address the crowd and talk about a variety of topics, ranging anywhere from how thankful they are for their supportive fans to how pretty they think the girls in Connecticut are.
In what most fans would consider a highlight of the night, Haggerty complimented the crowd on their enthusiasm and energy, saying that this crowd may have cracked their top three favorites of all time.
This week’s Artist of the Week is the hip hop duo know as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Hailing from their beloved hometown of Seattle, WA., the pair, who have been fighting their way onto the scene for a while now, are finally cashing in on the success that persistence, a loyal fan base, propensity for fake fur and 10,000+ hours of logged studio time studio will get you.
Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) is the band’s rapper and front man while Ryan Lewis is the band’s producer and DJ who creates and spins all of the beats. The pair met roughly “6 or 7 years ago” according to Haggerty and have been working as a collaborative team ever since.
Recently, they released their debut studio album called “The Heist” on October 9, 2012, which entered at No. 1 on the US iTunes download charts and No. 2 on the US Billboard 200 charts, selling 78,000 copies in the first week. On the night the album was released on iTunes, Haggerty kept tweeting about his disbelief, his excitement and his appreciation for his fans.
While Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are defined as a part of the rap/ hip-hop world we all know (and sometimes love), the content of their songs is what sets them apart from other artists attempting to do the same thing. Instead of rapping about strippers at the club or how many gang fights they had to get in in order to be considered street, they rap about topics that are truly personal to them and have a clearly defined message. For example, their song “Otherside” talks about how Haggerty struggled to beat drug and alcohol addiction for several years and how he’s finally sober, having made it to the “other side.” According to Haggerty, he has received a lot of feedback from fans who said they were dealing with similar issues and found strength and solace in listening to his song and story.
However, one of the many facets of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ beauty is the fact that their music, and more specifically their latest album, isn’t comprised of a bunch of the same songs. In fact, it could be argued that their diversity and variety is what’s making them so popular; they have a song for everybody. While some songs are heavy and deal with serious topics such as “Otherside”, and more recently a follow up song called “Starting Over”, they have produced plenty of light-hearted songs such as “And We Danced”, which talks about enjoying a really great impromptu dance party. The pair has also produced several songs that comment on civil rights topics and societal issues, such as racism in their song “A Wake”and the dangers of consumerism in their song “Wing$”.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are currently not signed with a label. According to Haggerty, the band has been offered several contracts at this point, but have turned them all down. In a song off their album called “Jimmy Iovine”, they talk about being independent artists, the nature of the modern music industry and how at the end of it all, the artists themselves are left with the short end of the stick. The last line of the song is, “I replied I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted/ Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked.”
Known for their artistic and high quality music videos, several of the band’s music videos have gone viral such as the one for their single “Thrift Shop” (which is played regularly on BET) and also “Same Love” (which has been viewed on YouTube more than 30 million times.) Upon noticing the stir that the “Same Love” video was generating (which is a song promoting marriage equality), Ellen DeGeneres (of the talk show “Ellen”) had the band on the show for a live performance of the song and gave everyone in the audience a copy of their CD.
I chose to make this duo the Artist of the Week because in light of all of this overnight success, they remain humble and appreciative of the fans who got them to where they are. They remain loyal to their roots in Seattle, giving shout outs left and right, and also never forget to thank every last person who made it possible. In their song “Ten Thousand Hours”, the chorus sings, “Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands,/ Ten thousand hands, they carry me.” Whether this refers to the physical hands supporting them as they crowd surfs at sold-out shows or the metaphorical hands of those who have been cheering them on from the start, the fact that they stop to say thank you in the very first track off their album speaks volumes, regardless of what sound system it happens to be playing on.
This week on MK’s Corner I was happy to have entertainment journalist Adam Bernard on the show to talk about music, pop culture, journalism, Hurricane Sandy, WVOF and anything else that happened to pop into my head. He showed up wearing a cool band t-shirt and a smile, ready to talk about anything and everything I wanted to. “It’s your show,” he kept saying. “You call the shots.”
I first met Adam during a news writing class at Fairfield University where he came in as a guest speaker to talk to journalism students about what it’s like to be an entertainment writer. He talked about a variety of things, ranging anywhere from the various artists he’s met, to the roller coaster nature of being a freelance writer, to the fun and unique lifestyle that comes with being a full-time journalist. I ended up writing an article about his thoughts on blogging and how his blog, Adam’s World, has helped him land jobs throughout his career.
Anyway, when I had Adam on the show last night I didn’t want it to be an interview (which was kind of a selfish move, because I already knew way too much about him and didn’t want to be bored.) Instead, I wanted it to be a general discussion between two people who both happen to love music and writing. When it got down to it however, we talked about way more than just music and writing.
While it would be impossible to recall every topic that came up, the ones that come to mind are bedwetting PSA’s and why they are a thing, Nick and Nora-esque NYC adventures and how everyone should have one, an upcoming event in Brooklyn that Adam’s a part of called Remixing the Fan Experience and exactly what it takes to be considered a boss on Twitter (“blue check or bust, yo”).
Unfortunately, due to my lack of technological savvy and propensity to get flustered by flashing lights and wires, I was unable to record last night’s show. That said, I’m going to try to figure it out and once I do, I’ll start posting them on these post-show write ups. That way people can enjoy MK’s Corner anytime, catch up on old episodes, listen to songs I’ve played, etc. How fun, right?! Right.
Here’s the playlist from last night’s show:
Sitting in a booth at the Levee, occasionally being interrupted by the voice over the intercom informing people that their chicken turnovers were ready, the indie-rock band The Alternate Routes sat back and enjoyed a beer as they talked about music, making it big and how it all began at Fairfield University.
Several of the band’s members have graduated from Fairfield University, including lead vocalist Tim Warren ‘03, leadguitarist Eric Donnelly ’01 and drummer Kurt Leon ‘07. It was through their connection at Fairfield that all of these musicians met each and eventually came together to form The Alternate Routes.
“You know what’s funny, Tim, I don’t think I ever even told you this… The first time I ever saw you play was actually here at the Levee,” Donnelly said.
The two officially met a few days later after a friend of Warren’s walked up to Donnelly at a townhouse party and said that she was going to give his number to Warren. While Donnelly was mostly just confused as to how the girl had his number, Warren ended up reaching out to him a few days later and the two played together for the first time at the Quick Center during the spring Pops concert.
By the time both men had graduated from Fairfield, they had plans to move to Bridgeport where they would continue making music together and work on their first EP, which was released in 2003, titled “This is When”. They have released several albums over the last decade but are convinced that the best is yet to come.
“You always think the thing you’re doing is the best thing you’ve ever done or else you wouldn’t do it,” Donnelly said.
The Alternate Routes are scheduled to play on campus at the Quick Center this coming Friday, October 19th in celebration of Alumni Weekend. Tickets are currently being sold at the Quick Center box office. Tickets are free for Fairfield University students, $20 for alumni and $25 for the general public.
The band is excited not only to revisit the very stage where it all began, but also to continue to show fans and people who have never heard of them before the hard work, dedication and genuine passion that comes standard with every song.
“We’ve bet the last 10 years of our lives on the fact that people will like it… it’s something worth seeing,” Warren said.
Currently, The Alternate Routes are working on producing several individual singles that continue to showcase the band’s hearty, homegrown sound and thoughtful lyrics. Most recently, they have released a song called “Rewind” on their official website, which they worked on and produced in Nashville, Tennessee. They hope that these various singles will eventually culminate into their next album.
In addition to producing more songs, the band is also taking a step back and assessing some of the unmusical aspects of the music business that may reveal why they are still relatively unknown.
On the subject of making it big, Warren said, “We’ve been so close to being one of the bands that everybody knows about but, you know, we aren’t. We are friends and contemporaries with a lot of bands that you do know and we’ve seen that happen.”
Donnelly said, “It’s like a puzzle. You just have to figure out how to put all these things together and what makes something click and what makes something stand out. You never know. What we’re trying to do now is just own those details a little more.”
The Alternate Routes are currently trying owning these various details by themselves, as they are currently self-managed and working independently without a label. The band is quick to qualify that both of these decisions are by choice and that they feel working independently is the best decision for them at this time.
“You don’t need a publicist to communicate directly with your fans…you don’t need a label to make the people who like you happy,” Donnelly said.
One of the ways that The Alternate Routes communicate with their fans (other than their music of course) is through their social media presence. Like many bands, The Alternate Routes appreciate the opportunities and publicity a strong identity on the Internet can yield, especially given the technological tendencies of modern music fans. Donnelly said that he is in charge of the band’s social media presence, which he manages namely through their official website, Facebook and Twitter.
Even though The Alternate Routes have yet to take off in the way that they would like, they are far from being some unknown band from Connecticut. Throughout their career thus far they have toured all over the world, performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and been interviewed on BBC radio. They have also had several songs appear on popular TV shows, such as their song “Please Don’t Let It Be” which was featured on an episode of MTV’s The Hills.
Despite the confusing and multi-faceted nature of today’s modern music industry, The Alternate Routes remain optimistic that their time is coming soon.
“I’m not a cynic,” Warren said. “Guys succeed everyday at it and it’s a weird combo of…I don’t know what yet. It’s that combination that all the people in our business are looking for.”
While The Alternate Routes keep meandering down this long winding road to success, fans are invited to tag along and enjoy the ride as the band continues to deliver the heartfelt music that has helped pave their way thus far.
Bernard informed a Fairfield University journalism class last Tuesday night that unlike many other journalists, he is not overly concerned with what his official job title is. He said that he has been introduced and described as both a journalist and a blogger before, stating that the difference in title usually has to do with the context of the situation.
When asked how he feels about the variation in his job title he said, “Most people think when you say ‘writer’ that you’re not serious anyways… It doesn’t really matter how you sugarcoat it- writer, journalist, blogger- there’s always going to be a little bit of a red line underneath it asking if that’s real.”
While many journalists today tend to shy away from the words “blog” or “blogger” due to the negative reputation they have of not earning any money, Bernard insists that blogs are one of the most effective ways that journalists can find work.
In fact, it was his blog, Adam’s World, that landed him one of his dream jobs as a columnist for the Fairfield County Weekly. After trying to get in touch with them for years, he finally got a call saying that they wanted to hire him after reading some of the stuff he’d written on his blog.
He said that this experience is a perfect example to prove that although blogs by themselves typically won’t put food on the table, the opportunities they will help you find most certainly will.
He went on to say that he believes every journalist should have a blog because they act as a great place to publish syndicated work on subjects that journalists want to write about. He said that posting on personal blogs is an easy and effective way for journalists to establish their own unique “name brand”, which is essential in the competitive world of journalism.
Adam started establishing his own brand as a music journalist shortly after he graduated from Hofstra University in 2000. This was the same year that he started his blog, which helped him gather experience and gain many opportunities as a young journalist. He has been featured in music magazines such as The Source and XXL, contributed to Substream Music Press and 101Distribution.com and is the Interviews Editor at RapReviews.com
When asked if he thinks that blogging has given him more opportunities as a journalist he said, “The blogging has definitely given me more opportunities. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s seen by more people, but more so that I have the freedom to write about what I want to write about and sometimes that connects with more people.”