Making an honest buck
SARANAC LAKE – Not every day of a musician’s life is like a music video. Like any job, plenty of days are boring and tedious. Plus, with artists, there is the extra weight of finding the next gig. It’s a grind, and singer-songwriter Cole Davidson knows that grind.
“It’s kind of just painfully normal sometimes,” he said in a phone interview.
In between booking gigs and directing film projects, Davidson works on creating honest music he can call his own.
Davidson will perform a free show at Bitters & Bones Friday night. His songs are rootsy and rhythmic with plenty of fingerpicking and percussive elements on his acoustic guitar. His most recent EP “Sleep Talking” released last year and can be found on Spotify.
Compared to a lot of musicians, Davidson got his start a little late. He played a few instruments in high school, but never saw himself as a performer. When he attended college at the University of Vermont in Burlington, he and his roommates formed the band Navytrain.
“It was a bit of a surprise to us all,” he said. “We started playing at all the Burlington clubs like Nectar’s and Higher Ground.
“We played around Vermont a bunch. Once we graduated, that fell apart as things do sometimes. Since then, I’ve been traveling around and forced myself to make music my full-time thing.”
Now, Davidson works as both a musician and a film director. He’s currently directing a sci-fi film with a studio based in Rhode Island.
“My goal was to take my favorite hobbies and make them my jobs,” he said.
When he finds time to write new music, he said there is never a normal operation.
“It’s a messy process coming up with a song,” he said. “There’s no single idea, at least for me. It’s just chaos. It’s a lot of repetition but also random thoughts and ideas. It starts off as one thing and becomes another.”
On Davidson’s first album, the song “Troubadours” highlights his struggle with potentially sounding like a run of the mill, new age singer-songwriter, copying the greats.
He sings, “Lord knows I know my sound is a dime a dozen/ another sad song from a tortured soul/ cue the eye roll/ white boy thinks he’s something/ wearing Bob Dylan’s skin like the rest of the troubadours.”
Davidson said it’s not discouraging to listen to a lot of music and have those sounds inspire your own, but there is a fair amount of copying for vanity’s sake in today’s market.
“Now we have a world where every kid at a party picks up a guitar and plays the same three chords and they all call themselves songwriters,” he said. “You look at Facebook and Instagram, and there is an abundance of self-promotion. It’s like a sea. You get lost in it, and you can’t really tell what’s legitimate and what’s not.”
Outlets such as YouTube, Facebook and Spotify are great ways to share work and promotional material, but if you want your sounds to stick with people and have an impact on a wide audience, you need to constantly bombard people with updates, photos, new songs, merch and goofy boomerang posts. That’s why all the big stars normally have a team of social media coordinators to take care of that stuff.
Davidson doesn’t care for all that.
“I’m starting to kinda hate social media,” he said. “I used to promote things on social media because I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do. It just never feels right to me. Now, I think I’m not going to participate so much in the whole social media, data, metrics side of things and focusing your attention on the numbers. I think that’s not the correct place to be putting your focus as an aspiring musician.
“I try to make music that I can put out and grow a life of its own.”
If you go …
Who: Cole Davidson
Where: Bitters & Bones, 65 Broadway, Saranac Lake
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
How much: Free