Inspiration is cheap. You can get inspiration for a buck fifty at the local bookstore.
Talent is cheap too. The bones of countless talented-but-lazy souls are, as we speak, feeding the worms on the great dungheap of history.
But you know what isn’t cheap? What isn’t easy? Do you know what’s worth it’s weight in gold?
She Makes War is the moniker of Laura Kidd. Who is one of the hardest working, talented, inspired and successful independent artists that I know of. She’s played the Letterman show w/ Tricky, been heavily featured on Radio 6, gigged all around the world (solo and with luminaries like the Levellers) and released: 7 albums, 4 EP’s, a bunch of singles and several videos.
She literally redefines what is possible for independent artists. The woman has hustle for days and has been called: ‘a modern musical Boudica’.
I never do interviews on my blog. But I simply couldn’t pass this one up.
Read on and you’ll understand why.
For an independent artist you seem to get a AWFUL lot done. How do you manage your time?
I’m glad it seems that way, though like most artists I’m impatient and ambitious and I always want to be doing more!
This year I’m structuring my time more strictly because I have an album coming out, but it’s always a case of juggling tasks for now, plans for the future and pressing real life needs like bills needing to be paid and dogs needing to be walked.
I swear by my bullet journal – it saved me from a mess of spreadsheets and productivity apps I filled up then stopped opening. I set up a page per month with a look at the weeks ahead, goals for the month and then a daily task list. If I write something in the book it actually gets done. I read somewhere that brains are great at coming up with ideas but terrible at storing them, so everything now goes into the book.
When I’m being super organised I use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts but I don’t like the idea of using my feeds as full-on marketing channels because they’re genuinely where I hang out and chat to people. Again it’s all about balance.
As well as being ultra prolific you seem to be touring almost non stop! If you were mentoring a musician who wanted to tour a lot but didn’t know where to start and how to make it sustainable, what advice would you give them?
I play a lot of gigs, yes, and I love travelling so that suits me well. I can go and play my music to new people plus have adventures to use in the next batch of songs.
Here are some nuggets of advice for touring bands: make sure people know your name (say it on stage at least twice during your set, more if you’re playing a festival slot and people are walking in and out). Have cards with your online contact info on them to hand out after you play or take a clipboard and pass it into the audience from the stage during the show – this is way more effective than having it on the merch table. Never go over your set time, but completely own the stage when it’s yours. Always be nice to venue staff and practice your skills of charm and persuasion for the times you come across a grumpy sound engineer. You’ll thank me! Use public transport and stay with friends when you can, this makes everything way more affordable and more friendly too. Manage your expectations of fees versus your pulling power but don’t undersell yourself either. If someone is making money you should get a fair proportion of it.
What do you find most challenging about being an independent artist?
Resources – time and money. As an independent *solo* artist I don’t have anyone to share costs with, and there’s never enough time to get everything done that I’d like to so it’s always a matter of prioritising stuff and being able to let other things go sometimes. I often have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I am just one person doing my best, that’s all I can do, and that’s okay. As long as I spend my time constructively and positively the net result will always be good, if unpredictable.
So here is The Big Question for all independent artists: How do you fund your albums / life / general music making?
Through a combination of my income from music – royalties, gig fees, merch sales etc and freelance work. For the bigger things like making albums, I’m so thankful to have had incredible support from my audience via three crowdfunding campaigns for albums 2, 3 and 4.
What do you do when things get tough? What are your strategies for making it through and carrying on?
I fall apart a bit, take time off the internet to avoid the temptation to compare myself to other artists, drink lots of water and make myself do some exercise. I’ve always said my music doesn’t owe me a living, though it does give me a decent one at times, and I can only control what I make and do, not what anyone else thinks of it or does with it. I want to live a healthy, rounded, creative life, so concentrating on staying active, maintaining relationships, visiting beautiful places and remembering that the important thing is expressing myself through music and art all helps shift the focus from whatever negative stuff is in my brain.
What was playing on Letterman (in Tricky’s band) like?
I really enjoyed it! Playing on such an iconic show like that is something you never forget.
Come to think of it, how did you end up in Tricky’s band?
I had been playing as a hired bassist and singer for a few years and a friend of a friend recommended me when he heard they needed someone. We travelled all around the world playing festivals from Japan to South Korea to Australia to all around Europe, did a two week US tour in a big shiny bus then a couple of weeks around South America a little later on. I’m the person on tour who jumps out of bed at 6am to go and see the sights before lobby call at 9/10am, so I managed to pack in a lot of brilliant early morning experiences during that time.
If you were able to time travel back to your younger just-starting-out self and give her 3 pieces of advice, what would they be?
Be more selective over whose opinions and advice you take notice of.
You are good enough.
Just get on with it.
What tools / strategies / approaches have you found most helpful in building your audience?
Number one is my email list, gathered gradually over the last 9 years or so. When I had my latest website made I prioritised the signup button over all other things, because especially in this world of changing algorithms, being able to connect directly with people is so powerful. .
Other than that I use Twitter daily for my own amusement as well as to let people know I exist as an artist, so over there it’s about ensuring I post a mix of interesting stuff. Not me, me, me, me – maybe someone else, something else, me, something else.
What is something you love that would surprise people?
Figure skating and mariachi bands move me to tears.
What are 3 magic moments from your journey in music so far?
– Singing with David Bowie (on the TV show “Extras”)
– Performing my song “Stargazing” (at Hammersmith Apollo with backing from the Hackney Colliery Band, on a bill with Robin Ince, Brian Cox, Stewart Lee, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Charlotte Church and Jo Brand).
– Hearing my music played on BBC 6 Music – (Tom Robinson, Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley and Steve Lamacq all played songs off my last album, which really was magical for me, plus I got to take my band to Manchester to do a live session for Marc Riley, which I did on a knee crutch having broken my foot a week before!)
What is the most unexpected place music has taken you?
To the top of the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico. I was touring South America with Tricky and nipped off on several confusing buses on my own for half a day to marvel at the remains of this ancient city. It was incredible.
In the super hero movie of your life, who would be your arch-nemesis?
If you had one ask of the people reading this what would it be?
I’m into the last few days of funding my fourth album via Pledge Music, where people can not only pre-order the music itself on various formats (including sea blue vinyl, blood red cassette and CD), but get hold of one-off things like the actual guitars I wrote some of my best songs on!
The album is 94% funded and there are only 5 days left in the campaign. People can pick out their exclusive musical treats before 23:59 on 31st of Jan but if I don’t reach my target by then everything tumbles back to zero! This album is the best thing I’ve ever made and I want to give people the chance to hear it in the best way. Which, if they support the pledge before the 1st, they can.
Lastly: How have you found this interview?
She Makes War’s crowdfunding campaign is has now finished, and has been fully funded! And if you missed out on the campaign don’t worry, you can still use the link above to pre-order the album.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the interview? Would you like to see more of this type of thing on the blog? – For any and all thoughts the comments box is just below.
Stay safe. Be well. See you soon,