Declaring Independence

About a year ago I decided to capitalize on this very American time of year and launch into a project I had been toying with for some time. A podcast about independent art from the perspective of someone who’s spent their whole life outside of the industry. A celebration of works that are wholly the vision of the artist(s) who conceived them, untainted by external investment or undue influence.

The 4th of July was, of course, the perfect time to launch such a project, if a bit on the nose. So I recorded and edited and prepared, and I hated it. It wasn’t genuine; wasn’t real. So I scrapped the episode.

A week went by and I scrapped two more.

On this went for a year, recording some dozen or so pilot episodes that all failed to meet some as-yet-undefined standard I held for the project. From what I can tell, there were a few key factors at play.

I had to avoid devolving into growth-hackery. Independent art is chock full of sleazy aspirational sales pitches about doing work you love from anywhere in the world while making six-figures. These topics might be good for clicks, but they’re not good for the soul.

I also couldn’t get too preachy. I’m a teacher, through and through, but I have never earned a full time income from my art, nor have I worked for a studio. It would be distasteful to spout from the pulpit about things on which I could only offer (well-intentioned) conjecture.

Finally, I couldn’t navel-gaze my way across the airwaves. Write what you know, only inasmuch as it’s interesting to an audience. I have no shortage of stories to tell, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for asking me why they should care.

Which led me to think...

"Maybe this just wasn’t a good concept for a podcast."

But I was still too attached to the idea to just abandon it. I was so deeply invested in this concept of discussing truly independent art that surely there must be others out there who feel the same.

At this point, I had come upon the 5 year anniversary of recording the album Three Days, my first genuine attempt at a full length album. As the title might imply, I recorded the entire thing in three days from my bedroom, then mixed and mastered it in the following week in a different bedroom.

The story is interesting, taking into account how I got to that point, how I kept myself on track, and it had some good takeaways for artists who might want to endeavor on a similar creative sprint. So I told it to a microphone, and I was amazed at how right it felt to just tell a story. The apparent missing ingredient from the concoction.

So I edited the story, placed some music, and released it before I had time to second-guess myself. At the risk of this becoming yet another project that I might abandon before it ever really got started, I had to make a second episode, and a third, and so on.

With my passion for storytelling firmly at the center of the show, I could let any other goals evolve organically from the subject matter while sticking to what I do best.

So join me as I adapt the stories of notable creators and works and share a fair number of my own. I hope we can all learn to be more fiercely independent in all that we do.

-C.J. Vickery

Christopher Vickery