by Aaron Kinney
EU Jacksonville: So, you’ve been performing locally for how long now?
Rebecca Day: I’ve been performing local for about two years, but I took it professional a little over a year ago. I decided to take the plunge into the live music business here in town. EU: Where was your first show?
RD: I started out at open mikes here in town because I’d met amazing people. My first open mike night I played was over at New Orleans Café in Mandarin. It’s a great place right on the Julington Creek area. The waterfront. It’s a really great place, and they do an open mike night every Thursday. I started going up there and performing. I just met really great supporters of music and musicians, and through a contact I have there I booked my first professional gig with a great wine bar over in Fruit Cove called Cork & Keg… then went on to play professionally at New Orleans Café and a few other places. But I got my first taste of performing live here in town at open mike nights, especially at New Orleans Café.
EU: What area has your touring covered so far?
RD: Pretty much every area in Northeast Florida. The ones, most recently, that I frequent a lot are actually on the beach. I get out to the beach often at places like Nippers, The Wine Bar, Sakana. When I first started out in Mandarin, which is actually where I’m living… I started out there in different places like Aw Shucks, Speckled Hen, New Orleans Café, Cork & Keg—those kind of places. I just kind of slowly branched out more and more.
One of my best and biggest clients is Mellow Mushroom out in Fleming Island. I get out there quite a bit and actually held the CD release for my debut CD out there back in February. So, I’ve covered a lot of different bases over the course of several months.
EU: And what does touring locally involve? How do you get your name out there? Do you trade shows with other bands?
RD: What has worked for me the best—and I touch on it quite a bit in the book I’m working on… because one thing that greatly surprised me when I first started doing this was I got musicians contacting me, asking, “How are you doing this? How are you getting booked? ‘Cause I have no idea.” A couple things that have always worked really great for me are from the promotion side of things. I’m huge into marketing, huge into promotion and branding. Anywhere from cold calls (which is like when you go out to a venue and drop of a demo), sending out really great press kits, you know, and open mike nights as well. Those three facets really help to establish a good relationship with the venue.
In the beginning I had a couple musicians who said, “Come out to the show. You can sit in, gain some experience, and it’s a really good time and a great venue.” And I would do that, then that venue would see me and book me as well, thanks to the good graces of whatever musician allowed me to sit in with them. The thing that’s been the most successful for me has been the promotion side of things. Like I said, cold calling, sending out press kits and just getting out to open mike nights.
EU: It’s not exactly going on the road, but there’ve gotta be some difficulties involved. Have you ever had to couch surf?
RD: Not yet. I’ve been really lucky. I have a lot of family in South Carolina, so when I go play there… I have family there that I stay with. Haven’t had to couch surf. I would say some of the difficulties I’ve faced would be—That’s kind of a hard question because there are difficult things, but they aren’t anything I’ve ever really sat down and been like, “Hmm, that’s very difficult.”
I would say the equipment aspect of things can be difficult. When I first bought a vehicle, I didn’t think I was ever going to be going to a bunch of different venues and playing. I have a Mustang convertible, so I have very limited trunk space. So, for me, one of the things that I’ve run into is with… getting things to and from the area.
The weather in Florida can be a bit crazy, so you can never really plan, especially with the outside beach gigs. You can’t really plan out when it’s gonna rain, when a hurricane’s gonna come into town. I’ve played through lightning storms, 30-degree weather, rain—just craziness like that. I think that’s been one of the biggest difficulties is, how does my equipment not get messed up from weather, and how do I get it to and from where I need to go?
I guess the second difficulty would be scheduling. You know, just trying to fit in all the places and keeping track of everything, and making sure you’re on time, and that you play for the allotted time, and that all those business details are worked out. When I started doing this, I knew I was going to treat it like a business because you kind of have to these days, with the way the music industry’s shifting. You kind of have to be a lot of different people, not just a musician. But the business side of things has been a huge surprise, from W9s, to taxes, to filling out different forms and keeping track of all the financials. That can be a little bit tricky when you don’t have too much experience—which I didn’t. It’s kind of a learning process as you go along.
EU: Performing in lightning storms and 30-degree weather, huh?
RD: Yeah, one of my first shows I did, it was at New Orleans Café… You know, the weather called to be partly cloudy, but it was in the summer, so it’s pretty unpredictable. I did check the weather and it said partly cloudy. So, I went and set up, and about an hour into performing… this huge lightning storm came up. I had a lot of supporters there and God bless them, they didn’t leave. They braved the sudden, like, monsoon that was happening. I just kind of kept playing because I didn’t really know what to do. I was just like, “OK, I’ll just keep going with this and finish the song and figure out my plan of action.”
I have a video of it. I like to get a lot of media at each performance—photos, videos and stuff like that—to post on my different sites. I have a video, and in the background you can hear thunder and lightning and rain. The people who work at New Orleans Café are behind me, desperately hanging up side awnings so the rain is not pummeling people anymore. It’s a pretty hilarious video. That’s a really funny memory.
In the 30-degree weather I was… Sometimes those places will have you come out and audition. “Can you come out and play some songs? We’ll see if we like you.” One place asked me to do that, and I think it was in March, so I wasn’t expecting it to be too terribly cold. I got there, and it was, like, 7, and I was in a huge coat. I was in a scarf, jeans, boots… I think I did a 2-hour audition, and it was 30 degrees, and my fingers were really numb. Once again, my supporters were right there with me, braving the cold weather.
The great thing is that I have friends, family and supporters along the way who are so loyal, who will come out in crazy conditions and brave it right there with me. It’s really great to have that loyalty.
EU: And performing in weather like that takes quite a bit of dedication. I don’t know of many musicians who would do that.
RD: That’s yet another thing I didn’t… account for when I first started. I know in Florida, if you’re outside during the summer it’s pretty hot. Sometimes you’ll have an outside gig and there’s supposed to be a tropical storm coming. You’ll get there with crazy winds happening. But maybe the moment that it’s happening, you kind of have a little self-doubt, like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to get through this.” But then you do, and then you look back on it and you can’t help but laugh and tell the story. It’s just hilarious. Even five years down the road… I still will go out to a gig and know it’s probably gonna storm. I’ll still go out… and play. Sure enough, it does storm. I still don’t necessarily do anything, ‘cause you don’t really have any way to say, “OK, well, it’s gonna storm, so.” Sometimes they’ll cancel the gig. Sometimes you have to cancel them. Sometimes you can move them inside. But there’s just points when playing outside that you have to go with the conditions. It’s just kind of part of the job. For me, it’s way better than being stuck in an office. Nine to five in a cubicle? I would much prefer playing in a rainstorm.
EU: And you’ll of course be performing at Jack Rabbits next month. Is that familiar territory?
RD: I’ve never played there. I’ve been there before to see other people play. I was on Facebook one day and saw that a trio, Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, were coming. They were inquiring as to an opening act. If there was anyone out there who wanted to open for them. So, I sent them my info. I said, “I’m solo acoustic… This is my brand. This is what I do.” I look for a lot of opportunities to play my originals. I play originals at every single performance. They go over really well and they get really positive feedback. That’s one thing. Everything I do is for the songwriter in me, so I’m always looking for shows and opportunities to play my originals. So, I contacted them and we ended up working it out and… getting all the details going. That was a few weeks ago.
I’m really excited to play there. It’s a huge staple in the area, and even outside the area. When I first started out in this journey, and even now, I set goals for myself. “I want to play in this area of town now,” or, “I want to play this specific place,” or, “I want to get my songs on iHeartRadio.” One of them was to start playing at places like Jack Rabbits, that support original music and allow an opportunity for you to bring yourself and your supporters out to have a really cool experience.
Lauren Mann, who fronts the trio I’m opening for—their music, my music really all fits together. It’s cohesive. I think it’s gonna be a great opportunity to expose people to, not only her music, but my music as well. When I’m looking for these opportunities, I wait for an opportunity that would fit my music. I’m not going to play for a hard rock band… When I listened to Lauren Mann’s music, I jumped at the opportunity. I heard her music and I was really moved by it.
EU: You’ve also working on a music video and a book lately. That must be pretty busy.
RD: When I first started out, I was in school as well. I didn’t really know what I was gonna do… I didn’t know what bachelor’s degree I was gonna pursue. I was kind of starting to build up that foundation of my business. I was performing occasionally and doing some recording. Kind of working on honing… my performing skills.
Once I got my AA degree, I was so deep into the business of my music—writing, and recording, and branding, and promotion—that I just didn’t really see the need to go pursue a bachelor’s degree that I wasn’t really all that passionate about.
At this point I’m working on a music video that I’m really excited about. I’m writing a book that’s kind of a culmination of all these different aspects of what I do that I have a lot of thoughts on. I’m also in pre-production for another recording project. And I have a full live music schedule. So, I didn’t really mean to take on all these things at once, but I just get so excited about an idea I’ll have. Then I’ll run with it, and it works really well, and people get excited… So, I have to follow through. I don’t really mean to have all these things going in all these different directions, but it all kind of ties in together.
It’s a full-time job, and I never expected that. I expected to do it on top of something else, and it just turned into this. Six days a week, I’m dedicated 24/7 to it. It’s about balance. The hardest thing I’ve faced so far—the absolute hardest—is keeping up a social life… Because I get so wrapped up in everything and want to do such a good job with every single aspect of the business. It can get daunting, balancing a social life with it. I miss events because sometimes I’m performing during a birthday or… during a party or get-together. Just because there’s a party or whatever, I can’t cancel.
I’m kind of swept away from people I really care about, even though they support the brand so much. I think that’s actually the most difficult thing I face. Because I have such an amazing support group. Balancing everything, from family, to friends, to being self-employed and an independent musician. That can be very tricky, especially with all the deadlines I’m trying to get.
I’m getting the book and the CD out at the same time, and that’s gonna be during next summer. Most likely exactly at the same time. All while continuing to perform and expand that live music… So, it’s getting more tricky to balance every aspect of my life. And I’ve talked to so many musicians that have the same issues. That’s an issue across the board.
EU: So, this is your job now. Not something you do on the side.
RD: Yes. I just got so wrapped up in it, and I got so much positive feedback. This town embraced me to a degree I could have never imagined. I work with such amazing venue-owners and managers. They’re such amazing supporters. As hard as the work I put into this is, they’re a huge reason as to why I’m able to excel and expand. They come out to shows, they spread the word, they buy CDs, they promote with me… So, I just received such positive feedback that I thought, “Why not see if I can take this as far as I want to?”
I have a very close relationship with my parents. I kind of involve them in every aspect of my business because they have a lot of experience in it. So, I’ll bounce ideas off of them and consult with them. They’re obviously huge advocates of continuing education and going to college. I was talking to my mom one day and I was like, “Mom, I’m gonna be graduating with an AA soon. I know you guys want me to get a BA. Would it be OK if I maybe waited on that BA and… did this whole music thing?” And as soon as she gave me permission to do that… I mean, it was like a light switch. It was an incredible turning point in my life.
EU: So, this has been getting bigger and bigger.
RD: I started out doing open mike nights here and there, and I just kept increasing clientele relationships. I just kept networking. I can’t stress marketing and branding enough. I’ve reaped the rewards of sitting down and doing press kits, of packaging up CDs professionally.
Social media is an incredible thing. Anywhere from YouTube, to Facebook, to having your own website. Being able to reach people on a personal level, not just saying, “Hey, I do music! Look at me!” You get to connect with everybody you meet. That’s been a huge asset. It took me a while to get a CD out. The recording process—I will always enjoy performing live way more than recording. I’ve always performed live, so recording took some time to get used to. But after I got that CD out, it gave me a product that I was proud of: All original music. I could say, “I am a songwriter. Here’s my product.”
Especially in regards to the book I’m writing and the music video, it’s very supporter-based. I like to include everyone that gives so much of their time to me. I want to include them in the video, so it’s not just me performing. It’s kind of like a dedication to them. And in the book there are constant themes. It’s all these amazing stories of people who I’ve known since I moved to Jacksonville or who I’ve met along the way. It’s very touching. It’s incredible. They’ve really helped me reach new heights.
I think one of the biggest things I’m excited about is, I’m heading out to Nashville this fall to meet with a few people out there. I’ve never been to Nashville. It’s always been a little dream to be able to go there and experience it. It’s kind of like a business trip, but it’s also almost a tourist trip. It’s gonna be overwhelming, and I’m really excited.
EU: We’ve touched a little on the book already. What is it going to be about?
RD: The book was just kind of an idea I came up with one day at a show. It started with this little kernel of an idea of making a book because I have a lot of creative writing background. I went to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts for high school. My mom’s a writer, so I grew up with a writer around. There’s a big part of me that wants to explore that, so why not do a book as a sort of dedication to all the support I’ve received along the way?
It kind of evolved into me telling my story of this whole musical journey. Because it’s a little bit different than other people’s. I got a lot of advice when I first started. I still do. Some of it is amazing. A lot of it I did run with. I got a lot of, “Oh, you’re gonna start performing live? Well, these people perform this way, so you should, too! These people perform these songs, so you should perform these songs. This is the kind of music people are gonna want to hear. This is the next step you should take.”
Sometimes it just plain did not fit what I wanted to do, so I said, “OK, thank you!” and then I did what I wanted to do. And it turned out better. So, I thought about that, and I thought, “Why not put that in the book as well?”
I get a lot of questions from young people—I’m young as well—but I mean… teen girls, who come up to me at shows, and they ask me questions like, “Well, how long have you been playing? How’d you get started?” Just all these questions. I thought, “Why not include how I did it? And maybe that will help them reach the dream they want.”
One thing I’m doing with the book is that it’s not just a bunch of pages of monotonous writing that goes on and on. It has a ton of pictures that are really sentimental… because every show I have people that are taking pictures or video. So, I have a lot of really great pictures of supporters and musicians. Those are gonna be after each chapter. I’m gonna also include lyrics to the songs I write, with notes on the writing process. I’m also including blog posts in there that have been really well-received by readers. It’s gonna be… kind of a dedication to every person that’s been a part of it, whether I met them for five minutes or I’ve know them for five years. So many people have had a huge impact on my life at this point.
So, it’s gonna be a culmination of all those things. It’s gonna be like, “I meet a lot of you guys who want to do this. This is how I did it. It could really work for you.” I love connecting with people on a more personal level—not just business—and the book is really gonna help me do that.
EU: You also perform a lot of cover versions of different songs, don’t you? What artists?
RD: Yes, I do. I perform a large variety of covers. Anywhere from reggae, to country to, pop and classics. I’m a country music songwriter, and not by the definition that everyone may think. It’s not necessarily mainstream country, but I’m a huge country music fan. I definitely wanted to sit down when I first started out and find country music to add to the repertoire.
I’m from South Carolina. I’m a country girl at heart. So, I really wanted to add that in. And I kind of took a chance with it. You know, not many solo acoustic people are performing country, but I really wanted to. So, I took a chance with it and everyone loved it. I get a ton of requests for country songs. The number one request I get for country is Taylor Swift. From guys, girls, middle-aged people, 8-year-old girls. I will get a request for her at any of my shows.
But anywhere from Bob Marley to Train. Adele is an artist people really like hearing. Some country artists are Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Sugarland. I perform some ‘90s stuff by Incubus because I grew up in the ‘90s, so that’s a huge part of stuff I listened to. Matchbox 20, Colbie Caillat, Lady Antebellum… I mean, there’s a ton. One thing I wanted to do when I started recording was to have a diverse set list. I don’t have every artist, but one thing I try to do is vary the genres as much as possible.
Also, when I first started out, people were saying, “Play the most popular songs.” And while I do play a ton of really popular songs, what I also wanted to do was play some songs that really spoke to me, by artists that weren’t necessarily their biggest hits, but that really spoke to me. I sang them with a lot of conviction or with a lot of emotion, and I felt that that emotion would sustain the song and people would respond to it. So, I did that, too, and it’s worked out really great. Performing not necessarily obscure songs, but songs that weren’t the biggest singles. People responded great to it because it’s not something they hear every day. It’s a little something different, so I try to do that as well.
EU: What about Bon Jovi?
RD: I haven’t done Bon Jovi. That’s a good band to cover. I haven’t learned a Bon Jovi tune.
EU: You could do Wanted. That’d be a hit.
RD: Yeah! I actually heard that song earlier on a commercial today and I was thinking, “I love that song. I forgot about that song. That’s a good song!” So, I should add that to the set list.
EU: Can’t hurt.
RD: Exactly. I’m always looking on the Internet and asking people new songs to learn. And that’s an ongoing thing, always adding new songs to the set list. I mean, every month.
EU: So, you kind of have a mountain of stuff to get through. You’ve got the show, you’ve got the CD, you’ve got the book, the video and obviously more shows. What happens after that? Do you do it all again, or are you kind of branching out?
RD: I take it kind of a step at a time, at the risk of saying a cliché kind of thing. I’m gonna go ahead and get the music video out in September, and I’m doing a release party for that. I always like to do events. I’m always looking for a reason to do an event. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the party-planner in me. I’m gonna go ahead and get that out. And that’s gonna be a great branding tool. That’s something that I haven’t been able to do yet, and I was presented with an opportunity once once my friend Stephanie Till started her video production company. She’s like, “I need to build my repertoire. Will you collaborate and do a music video and let me film it and produce it?” So, I think that’s gonna be a great branding thing. It’s really gonna help drive Now Here, which is the CD I released in February. In the midst of that, I’m writing a book. I’ll be getting that edited and published and everything, and recording a full album. And I’m gonna release both of those at the same time. And I’m heading up to Nashville this fall, which I’m really excited about. That’ll really branch me out… And, you know, just continue booking new shows, looking for new opportunities, ways to connect with new people.
I think that’s gonna kind of… build the brand. You know, outside of Northeast Florida and… just keep getting things bigger and bigger. Because, you know, obviously the core purpose of everything is to get my original music out and really market that. At heart, I’m a songwriter. I love performing. Like I said, I love it more than recording. I love singing. I love everything music. But at my core, I’m a songwriter. I’ll sit down and try and work on guitar technique for an hour and end up writing a song. It’s just what I do. I’ll always continue making music and releasing music, and I’ll always perform. Hopefully with all that I’ll be able to perform more so across the country and do more traveling and get to more places. So, that’s always the goal.
EU: Looking forward to seeing more from you. Thanks very much for your time.
RD: I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you so much.
REBECCA DAY @ Jack Rabbits July 17
by Aaron Kinney