What do you get when you combine a talented songwriter, cellist, singer, percussionist, a plethora of electronics and a loop station? A one man enigma named Billy Mickelson also known as Third Seven.
After quitting his job as a luthier with Breedlove in 2008, Billy has been a full time performer with thousands of shows under his belt in over a dozen countries. His music is hard to place in any one category, which is apparent from his gig schedule that includes everything from yoga retreats to punk rock shows. He draws from classical genres, eastern tonalities and pop sensibilities alike which create a fascinating sound that is uniquely his own. From Vigeland's mausoleum in Oslo, Norway, to a dank, dreary basement in Colorado, Billy has recorded Third Seven's albums wherever he finds inspiration.
What is your recording process?
I record most of my music in my home studio, a "lunchbox" type studio you could say. I run an RME converter, super clean Grace Design preamps. I really like Michael Jolly mics. For the live recorded concerts it is true live loops, but in the studio I prefer multi-tracking to get cleaner recordings. I start with all the percussion and bass first and then layer everything else. Usually vocals last. I don't do a lot of editing, I am one who believes in getting it right from the start / source at the best of your ability.
How many albums have you recorded?
Oh wow, so in and with many bands that I directly affiliate with… 32 officially thus far. Probably about 37 total though.
You have put on several CD release parties. What do you do in regards to promotion, booking, etc..?
For a CD release party I usually start planning months in advance. I like to book a mid size venue where I’m good friends with the owner. I prefer a donation cover charge, but sometimes I may ask for a $5 or $10 dollar cover, and the CDs are always donation based, even at my CD release shows.
I do a lot of work with local newspapers and magazines in advance to get them to write about it. I take out radio ads with local stations and hang several posters and hand out lots of flyers. Facebook posts are standard as well.
Being a full time musician isn't an easy task. Even though playing music is rewarding in itself, you have to make a living… What is your main source of income?
CD sales and show guarantees / door splits from venues.. I’ve tried shirts, vinyl and other merch, but CDs are the most sure footing in my experience as they are the most travel friendly for car touring.
During each show I make a couple of announcements from stage. My merch is normally right in front of me as I usually don't have a merch person, and my sales are donation based. I have a philosophy that art truly is priceless, so I love trusting that of people. It very much works for me and suits my philosophy on my music.
How do you book shows?
Hate to say it, but thank you Google. I find venues in a town and email them or call them. I email them again until I get a yes or a no. It can be humiliating, but it's important to not be discouraged. Venues are used to bands trying to book shows and I am a band trying to book a show. Persistence is key. A decent video link is also crucial.
Which countries have you toured and how did you set up those tours?
US, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Czech, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, UK, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium... I believe that’s all of em... And how? Thousands of emails!... :)
What is your general marketing strategy?
Performing thousands of shows. Performances truly are my best of strategies. As for online marketing I try to direct people to thirdseven.com and my youtube channel. I only have a personal Facebook account. I also utilize my personal email account a lot. To be honest I have always been a little uncomfortable with the way the marketing and advertising side of things are.
Do you make sales through your website? Downloads or physical product?
More and more I get donations for downloads and CD orders through thirdseven.com. I guess it's word of mouth fans due to the thousands of shows I have performed.
Is your music available on the major streaming services?
I have always been very uncomfortable with 3rd party companies who seem to take advantage of and puppet bands... I am more organic I guess you could say, I have more of a farm to table kinda mentality on my music.
Who are the other artists on your website?
Most every 'Band' listed on thirdseven.com are bands I have been in officially. I wanted a place to have everything I have written and released all in one convenient place, so I started thirdseven.com
How do you like being a solo artist vs. collaborating with others? Have you ever had a back up band?
It is so hard to keep a band touring - mouths to feed and struggled comforts. Touring is exhausting I admit. I have toured in many bands, but most bands don't stick with it I guess you could say. I prefer being in a band, but solo work is consistent. The band I miss the most, to be honest, was my old heavy metal band called Mr Potato. I really, really miss the energy / chemistry in that band.
Your music is rather unique... Not your average rock, pop or country act. What type of venues do you play at?
What is really unique about what I do is that I have no venue limitations. Punk Rock shows, Metal shows, Bluegrass shows, Yoga festivals / classes, Meditation, Anarchist collective villages, Squats... You name it - I have performed it. My music works very well with all genres. And the reason being, I feel, is because what is really attractive to an audience is honesty.
How would you describe your music?
The best way I describe it is Rock Cello, but really it’s just honesty. Honesty is what is most important to me in my music and in the art that inspires me as well. Music from the heart. Improvisation performance has always been an incredibly important part of my growth as an artist, so I always try to stay true to my improv roots. My latest recorded improv concert 'Asio Integrius' very much captures that important vulnerability of really taking the out-of-your-comfort-zone leap of performing off the top of your head to provide that pure honest message. I don't know if there is anything more honest than improv, its direct emotional transference.
Do you strike when the iron is hot and set up a return gig after each show?
I used to be really driven by this thought, performing 300 shows a year a few years there.. It catches up with you, at least if you are one person doing everything. I do all my own writing, recording, booking, driving, performing, website, managing... you name it.. and all that for one person makes for a wide spread. It can be exhausting and wear you down, so it's important to stay in tune with yourself and find the right balance.
So you wear a lot of hats… which is your favorite?
My favorite hat is performing and my least favorite hat is booking… I have tried to have different people help me book and the results were not as favorable... I always come back to doing it myself. I have yet to find the perfect booking agent who really gets what it is that I do and who take it to the next level. I am wanting to set up a really good show reel of sorts and a better EPK to attract the right person for the job. There is always so much to do an an indie artist… So many little things that can be improved upon. The job is never done. But that is also what makes it exciting.
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