Hardest working DIY musicians I have met in life so far.
Music is often the best medicine, but not always. Sometimes we need something less abstract and more concrete.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to create something besides just music. Something that can be useful for my friends and acquaintances. Drawing was my very first creative outlet in life, and something I still love to do.
Thus, I’ve been making drawings of the most important things I’ve learned over the past 31 years. This includes things like...
tips for surviving uncomfortable social settings
philosophies on dating
tactics for dodging bullies
ways to channel nervous energy
strategies for coping with anxiety and depression
ideas for maximizing FUN
My goal is to find the middle ground between comedy and therapy.
People have been encouraging me to make a place online for all of this, so I finally did.
It’s called “Hard to be a Person: defeating anxiety, surviving the world, and having more fun” and you can follow it here: https://instagram.com/p/BsVqBfwl6oh/
Much love and keep trucking :)
After 40 plus shows across Europe and the US on the LIFE UPSIDE DOWN album release tour, it’s time to weigh in on the sweet victories and a few comical defeats.
And now, behold the BEST, WORST and WEIRDEST of the Life Upside Down Tour part 1...
Fight Club Dungeon (Graz, Austria)
People lose their minds in places with no windows. We played a dark dungeon venue In Downtown Graz called Guest Room. The promoters name is FABIO, which is awesome in itself. He helped us rally the town out and there were tons of singalongs and folks went absolutely mental. It was promising to see a young college crowd that never looked at their phones during the show. They were great.
There was a noise complaint from the neighbor and we played the final two songs unplugged with acoustic and snare. This inspired us to close many other shows this way on the tour.
Old Cinema - Amsterdam, NL
An old movie theatre converted into a 150 cap venue, the place was packed and we even saw fans there from Milwaukee! Our Dutch agent Pranger did a great job teeing this up. He looks like McCauley Culkin.
Reeperbahn Festival (Hamburg, Germany)
One of the toughest festivals to get into, very few American bands play this each year and there hadn’t yet been a Wisconsin band on the bill.
We played at St Pauli Museum, which is a mushroom trip of a willy wonka building with bizarre framed photos, mannequins and vintage trophies. It was at capacity. I kissed my friend Jens bald head during a guitar solo in the mosh pit. Thanks Backseat for teeing this up.
Anodyne - Milwaukee, WI
My gear fucked out during the first song and the crowd stuck with us and pretended it never happened. Nice boost to morale. My favorite midwest band Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts opened the show. Best crowd we’ve had at a Mke album release.
Oxbow Hotel - Eau Claire, WI
Mini gem of a cozy venue. Boutique Hotel with a small gallery venue attached. There was a 9-year-old punk kid in the front row ripping on me between songs. It was pretty funny.
Bowery Electric - NYC
By the time you’ve arrived in New York, payed the tolls, payed the hotel and the parking you’re down about $350...so you better sell some merch. The pressure in Nyc is enormous. The taxes on each venue are so high, there is extreme pressure to sell tickets.
Fortunately, all 3 bands on the bill pulled serious weight and the place was at capacity. Diane, the captain of the venue, was kind to us and bought me a Guinness. My favorite venue in NYC so far.
We were up against the grandest beer drinking event on European soil, Oktoberfest. Tricky night for a lil indie band to get a victory on the books.
While there were only 10 people there, those 10 folks went hard and helped us sing and bought records. My uncle Don was there to heckle me as well. I’m pretty sure he’s in the mafia.
Ice Storm - Philadelphia
The show that should’ve never happened. Philly was smashed with a brutal rain and ice storm. We loaded in heaps of gear through 5 inches of ice water. This is where most bands quit.
The local headlining band cancelled a few hours before, so we were left to our own devices. Fortunately, PA legend Pete Hill was on the bill and played amazing. Great meeting him. While the show wasn’t well attended, hats off to The Barbery for sticking with us thru the storm. Such a sweet little gritty rock club.
You can’t win em all. Cleveland has always been a black hole for us, but ya gotta keep trying. The 12 people there to see us went completely mental and knew lots of the words. One fan Bob described me as “a young jason mraz before he sucked.”
CODA was a quality classy venue and Midnight Slander was a tremendous band to play with.
GOOD N WEIRD
Old Rubber Factory - Drammen, NO
An old Norwegian rubber factory! Marten Skogmo is a DIY Norwegian promoter saint who got me started in the country. Again, he came through in my 4th visit to Drammen. This was a full little room to 40 people. An intimate solo show with Q&A and song requests. My pal Magnus flew in from Copenhagen for the show.
Police Shut Down - Munster, Germany
After the best soundcheck of tour, the police came and shut down the show 5 mins before we went on (noise ordinance). I ended up playing an unplugged set indoors. People got behind me and adapted to the weird situation. However, I really wrecked my voice without the PA and it took a few days to bounce back out of depression.
Tour kickoff near disaster - Saarbrucken, Germany
The first day of Germany tour got off to a weird start. The promoter got cold feet and wasn’t happy with our pre sale. So after we traveled across the ocean, they told us to find a new venue 5 days before the show.
Our lord and savior Alexander Ruck stepped up out of nowhere like a true DIY hero and took over the show. He moved it to a crusty neighborhood dive bar and it was perfect. The place filled out nicely with local punkers. I love Saarbrucken. I will always come here until I’m dead. It’s important we work with people like Alexander, who are in the game for the right reasons. If you came out to one of the shows, thank you. It was great to see ya.
Rolling Stone featured the song LIFE UPSIDE DOWN in their recent top 10. Check it out here: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/best-country-americana-songs-jerrod-niemann-carly-pearce-754098/
During our off day in Berlin, we shot an acoustic punk street rendition of our song “Ride” off LIFE UPSIDE DOWN. Footage by Foo.
Los Angeles, California - March 2017
Drug addicts are stepping over my body as I pretend to be asleep on the cold living room floor in Los Angeles. Strange men wander in and out of the unlocked front door, making their way to the bedroom to score. I'm grateful for a floor to sleep on, but night three in LA is proving to be a rough one. My friends have been gracious in letting me stay there, but their roommates are an angry drug dealing couple named Lizzie and Duff. They are coming down from their cocaine, whiskey, and nicotine buzz.
It's 2 am. Their fifth customer has walked in the unlocked front door and over my air mattress into their bedroom. I continue to fake sleep. Bad techno is blasting thru the walls.
Lizzie and Duffs overweight, neglected cat is attempting to sit on my face as I sleep. My pillow is covered in cat hair. Their cat, Rex, is well known around the neighborhood for peeing on guests bags. I sleep with one eye open, gripping my pillow tight. Rex is clawing at my air mattress, as if intentionally trying to pop it so I'll wake up on the cold hard floor. I push Rex off my "bed". Lizzie sees this and flips out on me. Her bloodshot eyes explode out of her head as she yells over the loud techno.
"What are you even doing here!? We don't want you here! If you don't like cats, you can leave. There are five that live here!" She walks over and kisses the cat repeatedly on the head, cuddling him like a crying baby while mean mugging me with her resting bitch face (RBF).
I hide under my blankets, praying for morning. Lizzie turns on the lights in the house and begins to wrap shipping packages as loudly as possible, the sound of packing tape screeches as it rolls off the reel. There is a computer printer next to my head. She turns it on and begins printing stuff relentlessly. It's 3 am. I pretend to find the good in this dark moment. This will make a good chapter of a book, I thought.
Lizzie slams on her keyboard, pretending to type emails.
"Please don't be mean to me", I said.
"I'm not being mean!", Lizzie scoffs. Her coked out brain in a schitzofrenic rage. I hold my tounge, afraid that some trust-fund LA druggie will pummel me with a Louisville Slugger while I sleep.
My friends had informed me that Lizzie and Duff once sprinkled low grade LSD all over a parking ticket in order to poison the government clerk who opened their mail. They had also been known to roofie each other just to get fucked up on the cheap buzz. I'd seen stuff like this only in "Trainspotting". Lizzie and Duff were major-league ass holes. They would sell any drug under the sun to keep the habit alive. I drifted off to sleep as Lizzie hammered on her keyboard and ripped thru another cigarette, the computer printer buzzing above my head.
I woke at 7am, estatic that the sun came up. Lizzie and Duff hadn't gone to sleep. Their eyes were cracked out and rabid. "I need some fuckin nails and a hammer!", Duff said at me. "We need to fuck up this city truck that makes us move our cars for street cleaning." Man, was Duff mad that he had to move his car from 8-10am on Thursdays.
I laughed nervously. Was this psychopath seriously intending to explode the tires of a government vehicle? I scrambled to get all of my stuff together and escape Duffs rat hole forever. Cheap techno was still bumping thru the walls. I gave Rex the cat a middle finger goodbye. Lizzie and Duff were hammering nails into sand paper to place all over the street. They would indeed destroy the tires on the city truck as it swept up their cocaine bags and schringes.
It's inevitable to find dangerous people along the road at some point. You cannot reason with people on drugs. It's critical to never mouth off to them, as tempting as it is. You have too much to lose. They have nothing to lose.
If you're a musician touring the DIY circuit, I recommend melatonin as a natural sleep-aid. Putting in headphones and drifting off to a podcast is a great way to escape a scary lodging situation.
Being in a nomadic arts occupation, uncertainty rules my world. I have to surrender to it. I don't understand the rooms I wake up in, I have no idea who/what will stand in my way, and I don't know what waits around the corner on the foreign streets that graciously allow me to exist upon them temporarily.
Uncertainty keeps my life fresh, but contorts my rhythm and wants to throw my brain off the tracks. Uncertainty has a rep for being "bad"...because it can feel TERRIBLE and scary. I live for it, because it is exciting. Uncertainty is a beautiful by-product of freedom.
My career is uncertain. I am operating on an indie level without a safety net or security for the future. Sometimes 21 people come to my show, sometimes 1000 people come. I play a giant festival one day, and a stank-ass dive bar the next. I am fed a delicious feast by the promoter one night, and a rotten hot dog the next. It's pretty exciting actually.
I know nothing else. A life of tour buses and cozy green rooms is a myth to me. I never want to set foot on a tour bus. You can get addicted to that shit. $1000+ bucks a day for a tour bus. That's not sustainable in my world...in most worlds.
My buddy Steve plays stadiums in a famous rock band. He doesn't have to load gear or sleep anywhere besides sweet hotels. He feasts like a king every night. He can't go back to "DIY Hell" as he calls it (I just call it reality:). Comfort is a drug. I can't get too comfortable. If I do, I won't be able to do this for a living anymore. That is certain.
A Motel 6 with boogers on the wall is a luxury to me. It's a step up from the bed of pizza boxes I slept on in Pittsburgh.
Here's the blatant reality of the modern music/arts industry. If you're selling 1000 tickets/night, you can't expect to do those numbers next year. There are too many bands and too many shows in the world. Listeners have so many options and you must be prepared for them to leave you. Every hour, a hundred bands are breaking up and 200 are starting up.
"The Toilet Bowl" circuit (a term coined by Frank Turner to reference 'small dingy clubs') is always lurking in the rear view. If you want to make art for a living, you must embrace that you'll be back on the Toilet Bowl Circuit at any moment. The truth is, It's amazing to be on any circuit at all. No one stays on top anymore. There's too much stuff.
I'm trying to embrace the rickety roller coaster. The way up is exciting. The way down is terrifying. Those clackety tracks make the car shake and it hurts my balls and my brain. If you're making art for a living (or you want to), all I can say is ride the highs and write great stuff when you're in the lows. The uncertainty is a luxury. It is fuel. It is un-tapped momentum.
I believe every "creative person" gets their golden moment. Perhaps mine has passed. Perhaps it's still coming. Fortunately, I will never know. The uncertainty keeps me doing this. It keeps me hoping.
Behold, the first ever documented band to get kicked out of Wal-Mart for playing an illegal show released official music video for "Can't Get Enough."