It is funny how this musician, singer/songwriter life goes. Much of the time you are running down new roads but sometimes you find you have just circled back to a familiar road, one that you’ve traveled before. That circling back is what brought about this article. About 10 years ago, I wrote for a publication that Greg Tutwiler was involved with. Things evolve, that magazine ceased to exist but Greg and I loosely kept in touch. Then in April, at the 2017 MerleFest, Greg and I arranged to meet, he asked if I would like to climb back on this writing saddle, and I happily accepted.
We agreed I should pick up where I left off, sharing tales and lessons from many years and miles, past and present, that may help some of you on your journey. I write and perform in the vain of Americana, Roots, Country with an ocean view. I’ve owned farms and shod horses for a living until I sold it all for a floating home on a sailboat. Over the years I have logged over 30,000 bluewater miles under the keel and have based out of the US, Canada, Spain, and Antigua. Luck smiled upon me with international co-writers, five tunes reaching the Top 30 on the US Country charts and one number 1 in Europe; and a small music festival (Aiken & Friends Fest), now in it’s 12th year. Touring has run the gamut with high highs and crash and burn moments. Through it all, I love this life! I welcome this opportunity to write for Americana Rhythm and hopefully you and I can travel this particular stretch of road together.
The Road As A Metaphor
The road can be literal and metaphorical for all the paths you travel and hats you need to wear to be a modern-day Indie musician. But one thing never changes: never underestimate the impact of your music and the persona you project, who may hear your songs and what opportunities may arise as a result. This includes print media (like this paper); digital media including video, and all forms of listening. As an artist and performer, you strive to be in the public eye. You look for ways to get your name and music out there. You create content by recording songs, shooting videos, and building websites. You spread the word via press releases, spending hours engaging fans on social media, and doing interviews etc. After all the time invested and dollars spent, at some point you will wonder, am I getting anywhere? Am I reaching my goals? Are my goals the same as they were? Is my team (manager, publicist, agent) producing what I need? This is normal and valuable.
We all go through this, no matter where we are in our careers and the answers are not always easy. Results are difficult to quantify. I am not attempting to address these questions here in this article, we can do that another time. I am interested in giving you motivation to keep plugging away with a couple of things that happened to me that were completely unexpected.
A Wonderful Surprise
A few years ago my Facebook page started blowing up with congratulations. I honestly didn’t know why and thought it was a joke of some kind. Then I received a copy of Sports Illustrated Magazine where a song of mine, “Chesapeake,” was chosen as one of the Top 40 Sporting Songs of All Time! For sailing! Who knew? To say I was astounded is an understatement. Not only was this song never released as a single, it was never promoted. Neither was the CD it was on. It was one of my early CDs that I released to sell at my gigs and help make some money while sailing. But years later, unbeknownst to me, the song spoke to someone and carried it’s weight. It resonated in the ears of that listener, more than Christopher Cross or Jimmy Buffett. Consequently “Chesapeake” reached an audience I never dreamed of being in front of.
You Never Know
Similarly, I received an email asking if I was the Mike Aiken who had been written up in a certain sailing magazine three years earlier? I hardly remembered the interview and subsequent article but replied ‘yes’, that was me, ‘what can I do for you?’ This person said they had recently read the interview and would like to book me for an event, was that possible? Well, of course. Private events are always welcome. After the event we were talking and I asked him how he came across a three year-old magazine? He told me he found it in the men’s room of a marina and used it for reading material! I knew right then and there my career was on its way.
All jokes aside, never underestimate the power of your songs and the reach they may have. Make each one the best it can be because you just never know.
Until next time ….
You can reach Mike at