Interview With DIY Rocker and Coder, Scott Andrew

Scott Andrew, DIY rocker and web designerOnce again, I am inspired by DIY greatness.  Scott Andrew is both creator and coder, rocker and designer, lyricist and melodist. (I think that’s a word, right?)

Seriously, the guy’s got skills.  Musicians and music fans will dig his beautifully written and played songs, web designers will appreciate his website’s elegant design, and new media junkies will apprciate his creative use of viral marketing to promote his stuff.

With several mini-CDs under his belt, 100s of fans subscribed to his blog, a video contest currently under way, a newly opened music store with multiple file formats available, several articles in different media, and an active demo club where fans get access to locked SA content and goodies, Scott’s got it goin on.

I had a chance to throw some questions his way the other day.  Check it: 

GARAGESPIN: Since posting your music online, you’ve amassed quite a following.  What was the first song you ever posted online?

SCOTT ANDREW: That would probably be the Walkingbirds stuff. I had a CDR of the original ADAT tapes, and I ripped them to MP3 somehow — I don’t remember the program I used, I was a newbie — and put them up sometime in 2001 or 2002. I’m pretty sure it was shortly after September 11th — as with lot of people, existential dread forced my hand ๐Ÿ™‚

GARAGESPIN: When you start a new song, what hits you first?  A lyric, a melody, a chord progression, a solo lick?

SCOTT ANDREW: Probably a little of each, although I would say interesting chord progressions. It’s different every time. Recently I’ve been messing around with different guitar tunings; that seems to spark new ideas.

For me, lyrics are the worst. I usually write the chorus first, then everything else is a struggle. I know people who can fill notebook after notebook with lyrics — I secretly hate them. It can take me months to finish the lyrics of a song.

GARAGESPIN: Your tagline, "scruffy, lo-fi DIY pop" is wrong, wrong, wrong — your music just sounds too darn good.  What software and hardware do you use?  Do you record/mix/master everything yourself?

SCOTT ANDREW: Most of my stuff is self-recorded, although I’ve got Jim Santanella working with me on the next record. He’s got a home ProTools studio, a Mac-based setup, excellent, expensive mics, and the patience of a saint. We have a blast and IMO it sounds WAY better than most of my own recordings.

At home, I use Cakewalk Home Studio with Windows, with Shure and AKG mics running into a Behringer mixer. I have some nice multiband compressor and EQ plugins for mastering, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m into doing songs fast and cheap.

GARAGESPIN: Who are the Walking Birds, and why aren’t they flying?

SCOTT ANDREW: The Walkingbirds were an acoustic duo founded by myself and Laurie Hallal, back in Cleveland in the late 90s. Laurie’s an excellent songwriter and used to be in the Waynes, a super-popular, almost-got-signed band. It was actually her idea to start jamming and co-writing.

We recorded a cassette EP of six songs and played a few shows around the Cleveland area, but it was for fun and we weren’t all that serious about it. We’d routinely skip out on rehearsing to go drinking instead. Eventually I moved to San Francisco so it had to end. I held onto the Walkingbirds name for awhile because I felt weird just putting my own name out there.

Actually, it was Laurie to encouraged me to look into a dot-com job, which led me to the career I have now. So I owe her I huge debt of gratitude.

GARAGESPIN: You both give away and sell music.  What’s your philosophy on price tags vs. free tracks?

SCOTT ANDREW: I’ll always have free tracks. I’m not as militant as I once was, but I still stand by the idea that obscurity, not piracy, is the real enemy. People no longer have to pay anything for a track if they don’t want to, so they might as well get it from the artist. Fans are more important than dollars.

I like experimental pricing. I sold my second CD on a sliding-scale and it did pretty well. I like the way Amie Street does their pricing (the price goes up based on demand) and Magnatune’s choose-your-price model. I might do that someday with my own website.

GARAGESPIN: Have you been approached by any labels?


GARAGESPIN: You seem to be doing fairly well already — what performs better for you, physical CD sales or digital album/single downloads?

SCOTT ANDREW: I tried to figure it out once, but gave up. They’re probably neck-in-neck. I sell more downloads than physical CDs, but the CDs bring in more money so it’s probably a wash. Actually, last year I started selling mini-CDs that had MP3 tracks on them, and those sold surprisingly well. I promoted them as disposable — drag the files to your desktop, eject, discard!

That said, it’s still not a lot of money, and all of it gets put right back into guitar strings and mic cords. It’s not putting food in the fridge. But it’s still more than I ever made doing music in the 90s, when the only way to be heard was to get on the radio or be seen playing live. So I’m glad for that.

GARAGESPIN: And how has that changed with your new download store?

SCOTT ANDREW: Too early to tell, really. We’ll see what happens with my next release.

GARAGESPIN: So you’re an…why can’t I find your CD on their site?

SCOTT ANDREW: Good question ๐Ÿ™‚ My CDs are there though:  Scott’s Music on Amazon

GARAGESPIN: You wrote the article "Productivity for Practicing Musicians". Please sum it up in 10 words or more.  What have you learned about productivity since you started writing?  Besides your blog and your songs, what other writing are you involved in?

SCOTT ANDREW: Merlin Mann asked me to write up a little something about how I keep on top of all the tasks that go with being a performing songwriter. What I’ve learned since then is that it’s really easy to drop the ball, and just as easy to pick it up again. To paraphrase Merlin, I think about this stuff not because I’m some sort of guru, but because I really, really suck at it — I want to be a better practitioner.

GARAGESPIN: Looking up in Alexa, I noticed a huge traffic peak in October of last year — what the heck happened?

SCOTT ANDREW: I have no clue. I don’t monitor my traffic all that closely.

GARAGESPIN: Your web design skillz are top notch, and now you’re offering your services to other bands.  What’s your primary motivation?  Wealth?  Fame? Altruism?  Code-monkeying addiction?

SCOTT ANDREW: Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, it ain’t wealth, because I know what it’s like to be a broke-ass musician. Mostly it’s because I enjoy messing around with the intersection of art, commerce and the web. Put an image here, CD sales go up. Move this text here, mailing list subscriptions go up. It’s like a puzzle, flipping levers and tweaking things and seeing what engages people.

I haven’t exactly hung a shingle out yet. But I do try to help people with technical stuff and grapple with copyleft-ish ideas. Sometimes they just need help sorting out what they *want* the site to do vs. what they *need* the site to do, and how to get there.

GARAGESPIN: What’s the biggest web design tip you’d offer to new bands?

SCOTT ANDREW: Please include a donation link to my Paypal account on your site. That is all.

GARAGESPIN: What would you say is’s worst flaw (i.e. help!)?  ๐Ÿ™‚

SCOTT ANDREW: Well, it’s missing a donation link to my Paypal site…

GARAGESPIN: You’ve played a ton around Seattle.  Are there any cross-country in your radar?

SCOTT ANDREW: It will happen some day. I have no idea when or how. If anyone reading this would like to book me in their living room or backyard, please email me and we’ll talk ๐Ÿ™‚

GARAGESPIN: What other new projects are on the horizon?

SCOTT ANDREW: Oh yeah, I’ve got lots! An EP of b-sides (stuff that didn’t get chosen for the new record) and a live-in-studio EP with Creeping Time. Plus, I’m already working on songs for the *next* release after the one Jim and I are working on. And I have all kinds of crazy ideas for online apps and projects, most of which I’ll never build, but it’s fun to think about. Always lots of stuff in the pipeline.

GARAGESPIN: Awesome, Scott.  Thanks for sharing the love!


Be sure to check out Scott’s music, when you have the chance.  He’s got both free and paid versions of all of his songs available.  Enjoy! 




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