Meet Clay Kirchenbauer, Pt. 6 – Hurry up and wait

This was the hardest blog so far to write. When things are going great, the story is less interesting. It’s easier to relate with the struggle than it is the success. 2010 was the closest we ever got to success.

We were on our way home from Nashville. We had just found out our song Something to Hope For was being used in the new American Idol preseason campaign. We pulled over into a McDonalds somewhere near Bowling Green, Kentucky. This was 2010, so none of us had smartphones, and Wifi at restaurants was a relatively new thing. It took about 20 minutes to download, but Jim, Kyle, Brennan and I sat in a booth in the back of the restaurant and watched the commercial that would be played for millions.

Up to that point, our songs had never hit radio outside of northern Ohio. We didn’t have our record out, or even a song on iTunes. We literally only had the exposure that we had made for ourselves touring around the country with songs that weren’t yet available. The only place people could hear our songs was on Myspace, where we were seeing about 10k plays a day. This tv placement.. This was huge. The song we thought that had the biggest chance of being a hit would be played multiple times during key slots like big tv dramas and football games leading up to the Idol season. I don’t remember when I saw it for the first time, but I know it was on my DVR for a while. Shortly after things started moving. There were a few other TV placements. “One Tree Hill” was the second one, and local artist Crystal Bowersox made the American Idol finals, so we got to open for her big hometown show. We did a silly parody video that got half a million hits on youtube. We were doing interviews with big magazines and newspapers and local tv appearances. We played a show at Cedar Point on opening weekend. We got to go on a shopping spree in Nashville and have a photo shoot for our record.

Our record.

That thing we made that got us all this. I mean, we had other good qualities, like our looks and personalities, but I digress. When it comes down to it, what got us this record deal was our songs. I know that now and I knew it then. Our outlook on writing was to write something memorable that the most people possible could relate to. This was easy at times, difficult at others. There was always a vagueness to the lyrics. We wanted these songs to be for everyone. We really did think our songs could move people, and we wanted that. We also knew that the more people there were that related to it, the more cash in our pockets.  We felt like we accomplished our goal with this record. It had hit potential. The problem was our relationship with Warner was at a standstill. We were already busy writing on record #2, and we didn’t even know when record #1 was going to be released. We know there was still some negotiations going on between WB and Cause for Alarm, and that was delaying things drastically. Meanwhile, a sweet lady named Lori Feldman, who is head of TV and Film Licensing for WB got a hold of our record somehow. She flew to Nashville from NY to meet us, and was instrumental in getting our songs more television placements. Through 2010 we built momentum, but we weren’t sure for what. The tv placements were great for publicity, but in reality, they were putting money back in Warner’s pockets, and because our record wasn’t out, it didn’t really translate into sales. Every good thing seemed to have the worst timing.

Sometimes though, things just don’t go how you think they’ll go. I remember hearing about Kristina Perry’s song “Jar of Hearts”. Someone danced to it on the show “So You Think You Can Dance”. She sold forty thousand singles that night on iTunes, and signed with a major label within weeks. Our song “Something to Hope For” was finally on iTunes as a single, and it too was featured on “So You Think You Can Dance”. We sold around 700 singles that night. Idol used it again, as did some MTV shows, the Biggest Loser, and several others, but it never translated into single sales. I don’t know why the song itself didn’t take off. The lyric video did ok, but things like Shazam weren’t common yet. People would hear the song on TV and have literally no idea how to find us without googling sections of the lyrics. I remember playing a show in Lexington, KY at a giant theater. Except, we didn’t play in the theater. We played up front in the pool hall, on the floor, in front of the restrooms. People would awkwardly walk by us while we played songs that millions of people had unknowingly heard while watching their favorite tv shows. This was fairly common outside of Ohio. Warner wouldn’t always notify us of the placements, so several times our phones would blow up on a random Tuesday, when all our friends called and texted to tell us they heard our song again. We appreciated the love, but we began to realize it wasn’t actually helping us that much. We were all still working, struggling to pay the bills. Unable to take off long periods of time to tour, and trying to operate with our hands tied behind our back. The record had now been complete for 6 months, and we weren’t legally allowed to put it out. Even if we could tour, without music to promote, we were essentially driving long distances for band practice. It just wasn’t financially justifiable. Our last hope was that Tom Whalley and Kevin Law would get their stuff sorted out, and we could finally get some support from our record label.

August or September of 2010. Jon calls me.

“Tom Whalley is stepping down. There’s a new guy coming in, he’s gonna evaluate the roster and he’ll let you know what’s next.” Great. A few more months of mystery.

To Be continued…


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