In this episode, we talk with Sawyer Auger, a singer, songwriter, and performer based out of Los Angeles, who also happens to be one of Koby’s childhood friends.
Sawyer covers everything from living in a minivan, to faking (or even lying) your way into opportunities, to serving a core group of fans with everything you’ve got. You’ll finish the episode wanting to get up and try something daring in your music career.
KOBY: [00:00:00] Welcome back for episode 18 of self signed artist. Today, we’re sitting down with Sawyer, auger and artist who shows us all that nurturing relationships with a core group of fans can open up a world of possibilities for your music career. How’s it going everybody I’m Koby Nelson. You know, me, Jake Mannix is here. You know him. But also Sawyer auger is with us. Welcome to the podcast, dude.
SAWYER: [00:00:48] You have no idea who I am.
KOBY: [00:00:52] Yeah. You don’t know who Sawyer is, but we’re going to have a good time on this podcast. And thanks for being here, man. This is gonna be cool.
SAWYER: [00:00:59] Yeah, man. Thanks for having me brother.
KOBY: [00:01:01] Of course. So I’m really excited to have Sawyer on the show today because he’s got a great story. And every time we talk, like we were just talking on the phone the other day, every single time we talk, I always end the conversation all pumped up and like, Ready to go do something, you know, like I always get inspired.
So I’m hoping that we can get everybody out there listening that same jolt of inspiration. Yeah. Through our conversation today.
SAWYER: [00:01:29] Absolutely
KOBY: [00:01:30] So I’ll give, I’ll give a little bit of your background Sawyer, and then we’ll, we’ll kind of dive into some questions and just talk about your career. Cause I think it’s super interesting.
I think people are going to learn a lot from it. So Sawyer is a singer songwriter, performer based out of Los Angeles. And the two of us actually go way, way back, like to the little village of gales ferry, Connecticut, where we both grew up.
SAWYER: [00:01:56] Crazy. It’s crazy.
KOBY: [00:01:58] Yeah. And, and I think we even played Peewee soccer on the same team when we were like four.
Do you remember that?
SAWYER: [00:02:05] Are you had a bowl? Cut. You look fantastic.
KOBY: [00:02:08] Yeah,
JAKE: [00:02:09] Koby had the
KOBY: [00:02:10] I significantly bowl ish bowl. Cut. Yeah.ko
SAWYER: [00:02:14] What’s up with that. What’s up? What was up with that look back then? Why is that a thing? Why was that a thing back when we were kids, this is like the parents just put a bowl on your head and that was the way to do it.
KOBY: [00:02:23] I don’t know, I never got my hair cut with the bowl, but I might as well have it was, it was
SAWYER: [00:02:28] That’s so bizarre. It’s like a weird haircut.
JAKE: [00:02:31] I think it should come back.
KOBY: [00:02:36] Well, the bowl cuts gone now, but those days were, were, were pretty nuts. I remember you were, you were a super good soccer player that much. I remember from like the Peewee soccer days.
SAWYER: [00:02:46] I don’t want to brag or anything, but yeah, I was fantastic.
KOBY: [00:02:49] Yeah. So anyway, there there’s, there’s history there between us. I went to a different elementary school in another town, and then I came back and in eighth grade, that’s kind of where we really got to know each other. And from then on like up through high school, like we were playing in rival bands in talent shows like singing in
SAWYER: [00:03:07] this kid, this kid decided that he was going to have a band called, uh, they was to say right.
KOBY: [00:03:13] Yep.
SAWYER: [00:03:14] Nameless to say. And they decided that I wasn’t going to be in that band. They said, Nope, sorry. I won’t be in this band. So I had to make myself a band and we, I had a call. I had to call myself the fricking pesky memos.
That’s what we were called, Phil Eric Sawyer and Kyle. And then it all, it will all went downhill because Kyle quit the band and joined the other band. Eric, quit the band and join your band. So it was me and two nerd band kids called pesky chemos. It was horrible.
KOBY: [00:03:41] That I don’t remember at all. I don’t remember that being the thing. I just remember playing in the eighth grade talent show and being like, so jealous of your song
SAWYER: [00:03:53] That’s hilarious. Oh man. It’s so good. I love that. You
KOBY: [00:03:57] we both had like the four chord, like classic pop
SAWYER: [00:04:01] Yeah. I was talking about how I’ve been through so much love in my life. I don’t even think I kissed a girl.
KOBY: [00:04:07] Yeah, so, but how did you actually get into music? So was that kind of your introduction to songwriting and all that stuff being in those bands? Or were you kind of like doing that stuff for a long time beforehand?
SAWYER: [00:04:18] I grew up with a friend. Who’s your friend as well named Eric Boles who introduced me to music. Um, that kid. Wherever I went with him. He would always listen to the weirdest music. And like, I never really was in, like, I was all like, I liked the music, but it’s like, he loved music. He was all about it all about like the whole image of music, rock and roll lifestyle.
And he was like one of my best friends. So like, I kind of just, he was like, let’s make, let’s play guitar. I was like, yeah, let’s play the guitar. And then that’s how I got into it.
KOBY: [00:04:48] Yeah. I mean, that’s a good point. Yeah. He, I think he got me like simultaneously into lamb of God and opera, like at the same time, he’s that kind of person.
SAWYER: [00:04:59] he was the dude that would come into my car when, when I was like 16, when I just got my license. And every time he would have a CD ready to go and it would always be the doors. Always. It would always be the doors and on the way to
you know, and we would just jam out all the way to school. And then that’s how I just was like, man, I like music.
KOBY: [00:05:22] Yeah. So, so how did that transition for you into actual songwriting then? Cause I mean, playing, playing guitar and stuff with friends is one thing, but like you transitioned over to, to trying to do your own thing pretty quickly. I think.
SAWYER: [00:05:36] Yeah. I remember, uh, my brother had a guitar when I was like in fifth grade and he was taking guitar lessons in middle school. So he had to buy a guitar. And I couldn’t get one yet because I didn’t have money obviously, but when he would go to bed, I would go downstairs and play the guitar in the basement.
And I just kind of just didn’t even know how to learn songs. So I just made up songs. So that’s how it wasn’t even like me, like, Oh, I’m writing a song. It’s just, I wanted to play. So I just made stuff.
KOBY: [00:06:03] from there. So like up through high school, that was kind of what you were doing. The band thing, walk us through a little bit about how this became the thing that you were doing full time, because I think that transition for you, like going from just playing music, writing your own stuff for fun in high school to actually.
Moving out to LA and doing this, like as your full time gig is a pretty interesting story. And I dunno, like it’s, it was always an inspiring story to me because it seemed like you really, really, really just like, went for it.
SAWYER: [00:06:40] I think it all started when I was younger, man, I think we’re really all I had. That thing will be daydream, no matter what, when we’re younger. Something like we just have a daydream like you, when you were six years old or seven years old and you’re daydreaming about something, it could be about anything that it is.
I truly believe is what you did daydreaming about is what you’re supposed to be doing in life. So like, I can remember when I’m six years or seven years old being on a stage, not even playing guitar, but I can just see a crowd of people in front of me. And I just saw people laughing and joking around and dancing.
And then when I was a kid, I always just was like, Trying to be the center of attention doing, putting on shows. I just knew I liked entertaining people as a way of, I always got, if I know when I was a kid, cause I was too small or I had no teeth when I was like from age three to nine years old, I had no teeth.
So I had a list and like I had speech therapy all through my, so I had a lot of ammunition for bullies to make fun of me. Like a hundred percent people could just make fun of me. I thought the best way to get rid of that is to make them. Like be like entertained by me instead of being, uh, the, the joke I will become, like I’ll become the process of the joke, if that makes sense.
So, I mean, I always had that feeling. And then in high school, um, we were in Carolina together. We used to sing, I remember in like New York and I remember that played Kara. We did, we didn’t play. We sang Carlos at this golf course and this rich guy gave us each $50. And right there in my head, I was like, man, I didn’t work at all.
And I just got paid 50 bucks. That’s like, like, and that’s the most, I remember working at like golf courses and getting paid $6 and 50 cents for like, for two hours of work. So that really kind of sparked my mind. I was like, okay, you can make money actually, like singing, like you can make money performing.
And then I did golf all through high school and then it was just a blessing in disguise, man. Um, I got in a severe, uh, accident where I was longboarding and a car hit me and shattered my ankle when I was 17. And I was better rest for a whole year. I had metal in my ankle. My leg was like up in a sling and I always did music, but I never really thought I was going to do it for like a living.
And then during that time I played music and like literally in my bed for hours and hours and hours and day. And then I was thinking to myself, I was like, man, I’m not good enough to become like a professional golfer. So like, Worst case scenario, best case scenario is going to be me selling t-shirts at like a pro golf shop.
Right. Uh, and I was like, I can’t do that. So. After I got like, like out of my bed address. I remember always just saying, like, since I was a little kid, I’m going to be rich and famous and I’m going to move to California. I know that sounds stupid and crazy, but I always said that I would always say that.
And then one day I was up by the pool. With my mom and my dad. And I was like, ah, I was kind of like in a, in a weird area where I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. Like, you know, just what I don’t want to go to college. There’s nothing to do there. Like, I’m gonna need to move to California.
And I’m a member my dad’s saying then go to California. He’s like why he’s like move to California and do it and stop talking about it. And then I was like, Alright. Cool. So, um, I got into like, you know, I started doing, I wanted to see if it was possible first, you know, if I could, I didn’t want to just move out to California without taking a leap of faith of like doing shows around town first.
So I was in a band with one of my buddies and, um, When you used to play at restaurants around town and mystic, Connecticut, and we made some money and we’re like, alright, we can make songs and looking back on it, we sucked. We were horrible. Like, I can’t even pee. I can’t even believe people, uh, booked us.
It was crazy. So, uh, we did that and then I kind of, you just got to the point. I was like, man, I’m going to be so angry at myself. If I’m like 30 years old, And I look back, I’m like, Oh man, I wish I moved to California. I like, I wish I wish they just wouldn’t. Even if I went home the next day when I moved out there, I just wish I did it.
So I said, screw it. I packed up my minivan and moves out to California and just, just thinking like sun to shine, state Hollywood, baby, like, it’s going to be the best thing in the world. And I remember the first time I drove down sunset Boulevard, dude, I legitimately thought I was in hell. Like I remember driving down and there was like people doing like crack on the side.
Like people like screaming for money. There’s those homeless people. Everywhere. Like just a city of homeless people. They say it’s a city of angels. It’s a city of homeless people. Like it’s just homeless people everywhere. And I remember looking at my bud, we both looked at each other and we’re like, dude, what did we do?
Well, like, Oh my God, I camp. I cannot believe we moved here.
JAKE: [00:11:18] Has you ever been to California before?
SAWYER: [00:11:20] no, do not. I, I, I’m not kid. I was like Hollywood baby. I seen it in the movie is that’s what it’s gotta be like, like.
KOBY: [00:11:28] I mean, that’s such like a huge leap though, where you’re just like, you talked to your dad and you say, I gotta move to California. And he says, do it. I feel like most people would be like, ah, I was just, you know, like dreaming and saying that, but like you got up and you did it.
SAWYER: [00:11:42] A lot of people don’t jump off the cliff, man. A lot of people are on that cliff looking down, always saying like, I wonder if, what would happen if I jumped. I’m a big believer in that, like when you jump off a cliff and I totally did, and I’ve totally hit the ground, I’ve totally hit rocks on the way down.
But at some point your parachute will open up. If you draw, like if you jump off the cliff, you just got to jump to make sure like. It’s like you’re jumping, right. And if you stay up on the cliff, it’s always going to be like, I wonder what happens if, if I did jump, but if you jump, you’re gonna, Oh geez, this is horrible.
This is, this is horrible. This is horrible. I, I can’t believe it. I’m doing this. And then boom, your parachute opens. Cause you get one thing that happens that you wanted to happen and slowly but surely you start floating. And then when, when you start floating, then you start soaring. And then when you start sowing, you start flying and then you freaking on your way.
KOBY: [00:12:30] So, so for you moving out to California, like you just said, there, there is. That kind of like moment of shock when you first got there, was there, what was the moment for you where you kind of realized, okay, like this might actually work like I’m I might be able to do the music thing full time out here, and this could actually be a thing.
SAWYER: [00:12:50] probably like two years after I moved out here.
KOBY: [00:12:52] It took that long.
SAWYER: [00:12:53] A hundred percent. Um, I remember moving out here and my first thought was like, I gotta get a job. I’m broke poor. Like, I am broke like $0 in my bank account. I’m talking probably negative. To be honest, I probably had a credit card that I’m a hundred. I’m not even joking.
I was broke, broken and broke. So I was like, alright, I gotta get a job. So my whole first, like six months out here, I was a telemarketer at a, uh, at a, uh, a construction company. I used to call up people and be like, Hey, this is Peter with KNS. Ecofriendly. Are you looking to do any home improvement inside or outside of your house?
We’re looking to do solar panels, then your neighborhood, like I would do that from. Eight in the morning to 4:00 PM and then I would get out. And then I would skateboard down to a restaurant out here called Togo’s and I would make sandwiches from five to 10:00 PM. And I did that for six months and an in between, I mean, I would try to play music at night time.
KOBY: [00:13:45] And that was just like local gigs at bars and restaurants like that sort of
SAWYER: [00:13:49] didn’t even didn’t even have gigs, man. I would just street perform. I would, I would go out, put, get put on like the street and like play. And then a lot of times I didn’t, I was still like perfecting my craft. I was, um, I really I’ve always had this thing. I think that helps me a lot is I always think I’m better than what I am.
Like, I always think I’m really good, but it’s like, I’m not that good. Like I look back at videos now and I’m just like, man, I was horrible. No, like it’s hilarious that someone believed in me in music when I back then. Cause I was, I was horrible. I was horrible. Absolutely. Even though I thought it was great.
KOBY: [00:14:23] But that’s, but that carried you like that, that, that sense that I it’s. So, that’s so funny that you say that because I feel like most artists are the opposite. Like they get really, really down on themselves. And because of that, they never, they never do anything. They never like make that jump, like to move out to California.
So that’s kind of an interesting mindset and that you’re also playing on the street without a gate. Like, were, were, were you making any money off of that at all at the
SAWYER: [00:14:51] Oh, pity money. People that felt sorry for me and thought I was homeless, which I was like a hundred percent like, dude, I lived in my minivan for. Three months when I moved out here, um, I used to take showers at LA fitness. I would skate to be honest though saying it right now, it was one of the best times in my life.
Like I was in LA. I was cruising. I wish I had that feeling still to this day. I can’t explain that when you move to a new spot that you’ve always wanted to move to. And then you’re finally there. There’s this sensation of. It’s like the first time you ever see a rollercoaster and you’re about to go on a roller coaster.
Imagine having that feeling for three months of just like, just, just like waking up and be like, woo, like, look at the beach. There’s Palm trees. Like Holy crap. That’s fricking Cardi be like, Oh my God, that’s Jim Carrey. Like, like, and you see these people like. It’s not it. You see these people cause you’re living where they live now.
So I remember skateboarding on, on Santa Monica pier. I would skateboard every day with my shirt off and my guitar and I would just cruise down the fricking boardwalk cause my guitar playing as loud as I can. And it was just the time of my life. It was literally, and I was broke poor, like broker than broke.
I was at nothing every time, anytime I got a dollar, I would, that would be for food.
KOBY: [00:16:11] So how did, how then did you end up doing the gigging thing? Because that’s kind of like, Where I first heard about you being out there and like, like seeing these things that you were doing and you were playing a ton of shows. Like, what was it like eight or nine shows a week at one point.
SAWYER: [00:16:31] Yeah, man. So it was it’s weird. Okay. So let me, let me backtrack a little bit. I did the telemarketing thing, right? And then I remember calling up my dad and I said, dad, My dad’s a huge supporter. Like you got to have people in your life, it’s your parents, your friends, or you gotta have someone that’s your cheerleader, like a person that literally is trying to push you to get to that next level.
If you don’t have that, you you’re screwed. Cause you can’t, you can’t, um, you can’t do it by yourself. So I remember calling up my dad I’m like, dad, dude. I was like, it’s been three months. I’ve worked like at this job, I’m quitting. I can’t play here. I didn’t move out here to be a telemarketer. And he’s like, Oh, he, I remember him saying he was like, Well, you better.
If you quit, you better do something with music and you better do it quick. And I was like, you’re right. So I remember quitting that job. And then I walked down to the whiskey, a Gogo that day, the whiskey Go-Go’s a famous venue in sunset Boulevard.
KOBY: [00:17:20] Yeah, I’m sure some people have heard of that.
SAWYER: [00:17:22] Yeah. Yeah. And I walked in with my guitar case. Cause that was something I wanted everyone to know that I was a musician.
So no matter where I went, I had my guitar case on me. I would go get gas and I would walk into the gas station with my guitar case, just so if maybe I ran, who knows who you’re going to see, maybe I run into someone that’s like, you play guitar. I’m like, I played guitar. And I just wanted them to know that I was a musician.
So I remember walking in there and they’re setting up the stage because it’s like three in the afternoon and the guy I just walk in and the guy goes, Hey, are you for the audition today? At four, I was like, yup. Noah, no idea who that was. And he was like, all right, go upstairs. Elizabeth is waiting for you.
I was like, Holy shit. Okay, here I go, walking up the stairs and I go in there and, and she goes, who are you? And I go, um, I want to play music here. And she goes, did you just walk in here? I was like, well, he said there was an audition. And I was like, I’m down to audition for a spot. And she started cracking up.
She was like, so you’re telling me. You just walked in here, said yes, that you were supposed to perform here. And now you’re playing in front of me. And I was like, yup. She’s like, all right, play me a song. I was like, okay, here’s my moment. So I played, I played a song and she was like, great, you sound great.
Do you think you could sell 30 tickets in two weeks and get 30 people here? And I was like, yup. She’s like, alright, each ticket, 10 bucks. That’s $300. You have to pay to the venue. And then anything up above that, you make the money, easy peasy. I can do that. So.
KOBY: [00:18:52] Nobody in LA.
SAWYER: [00:18:54] I don’t know a soul man. So first thing I do is go down the street with my tickets and I just said, free tickets.
That’s what I said. I said, you know what I’ll I have, I had probably had like a thousand bucks in my thing. I was like, it doesn’t matter if I make money on this. I need people to be here. Like, that’s what I need. I need people to be here so they can see that I brought a crowd and that they’ll like me. So.
Obviously, I’m going up to every hot chick I can see. And I’m like, it’s going to be a great show tonight at the whiskey goat. I didn’t even say I was performing there. I would say auger is performing there even though that’s me. I didn’t want the artist to be saying hi, I’m soy. I’m performing at a show tonight.
I, yeah, I thought. If I was talking about myself in a third person, it would seem cooler. So I, no, it was like, you gotta go see this kid. He’s crazy. Are you John believable? The show I get to the show. Zero people are there. I’m talking. No one I’m talking. It is, you could hear a pin drop on the floor and okay.
So there’s maybe like five people there, right? Some old dude, some other old guy and like maybe one girl. And I played and after I played, um, this guy came up to me and said, Hey, man, I really like your stuff. And I was like, thanks, dude. He was like, you should come into my house and record. And at first I thought he was kind of like, get it on with me to be honest.
Uh, like it was, it was a weird vibe. But I was in this whole thing where I was like, yo dude, I’m saying yes to everything. Like I’m, I am just going for it. So I, I went to his place and sure enough, dude, he’s been in the music business for while. Um, he’s he has, he’s had Grammys he’s done on TV shows. Like he’s did a lot that’s stuff and we started writing music.
But from that, it kinda made me realize. I’m sorry, I’m backtracking a little bit, but being able to go into a place and getting a show within two seconds, I’m not knowing anybody. I decided, I was like, alright, I need to play open. Mike’s like, I need to start. Anyway. The whole thing was, I just need to start playing.
Like I just need to start playing in front of people. So after that happened, I made music with him and I started street performing. And then, uh, I eventually made an album with that gentlemen and I was finally had products. I finally had something to show people when I wanted to play there. Right. That’s the main thing people are like, I’m a great musician.
The first thing they’re going to say is where can I hear your music? If you don’t have any, you know, if you don’t have anything, then you’re not a musician yet. You’re just a guy that says you play music, which is pointless. It’s you gotta have something, you know? So, uh, universal studios is right up the street from where I live and it’s a big place.
It’s like an outdoor mall, but, um, They have musicians up there and I would walk up there because to be honest, you could get free food. Sometimes there’ll be like, , they’re like donuts at the end of the night. And I would pick them, not pick them up, but like I would ask like, Hey, are you going to check those out?
Can I have them? It was straight up for a man, like poor and I saw people’s street performing. And I saw like, these crowds like really good crowds. And I was like, how, how so I went up to one of the street performer and I was like, Hey man, How do you, how do you street perform? Here you go. You got to talk to Stewart.
I’m like, okay, who’s Stewart. He’s like, he’s there. He’s the manager of like the music manager up here. Who books, everybody. I was like, alright, what’s his email? And he’s like, you just call CityWalk. So I call CityWalk. And this is how, this is the key thing. Any musician that’s listening out there right now, you are going to get told no.
A thousand times I’ve vows and times keep going until they say yes until you have a police officers at your house saying, you need to stop harassing this person. Keep going until they say yes, I can’t. I cannot breasts that enough. So I called, Hey, my name is Sawyer. Um, is Stewart there? I’m looking to do music.
Uh, he’s busy right now. You can leave a message. Okay. Next day, called same thing next day, called same thing. This went on for like. Dude, this went on for like four weeks, four weeks, and then, okay. I was like, alright, the way I’m trying to get to stew, it is not working. So I called up and I said, Hey, this is security down at the lower level at CityWalk.
I need to talk to Stewart right away. Boom. Stewart picks up the phone. And I like just like that. And I go Stewart. My name is Sawyer. I’ve been trying to contact you for the past four weeks. I’m a musician. You need to have me play there. And he started cracking up. He said, is this not security? And I go, Nope.
I said, I was security. I need, I need you to hear my music. And he goes, all right, send me an album. So I did. I sent him an album. We did a week, nothing waiting another week, nothing. The third week I get a call from CityWalk. I see it. Like, I know the number already and I pick up and he goes, Hey, this is Stewart.
Listen to your album. I love it. When can you perform here? So it wasn’t an overnight thing. It took like two months of like hard dedication and like figuring out a way to get in there for him to finally allow me. So that was my first gig street performing up at CityWalk.
KOBY: [00:24:08] That’s that’s such a good thing for listeners to you here though. I think because for all artists, like you said, you’re going to hear no, a lot and even worse. Sometimes they know it is the like silence, like you said, like you call it somewhere. You can’t get ahold of somebody seems like it’s just taking forever.
Like you’re never actually gonna be able to get ahold of somebody. You got to get creative and get your foot in the door. And I think a lot of people are, Oh, a little too, too worried about, about like making somebody angry or like, you know, I don’t know, offending somebody that they don’t, they don’t do that.
They don’t call up and pretend to be security or walk into an audition. That’s not your audition and be like, Hey, I’m here for the audition. Like I th I think that’s one of those things that a lot of people need to hear. And I think you’re a really, really good example of somebody who just like keeps going, cause, well, we’ll get to the later parts of your story and where it’s gone more recently, but I think a big part of the next parts that.
That follow after this initial gig is a lot of that, like keeping going. So let’s, let’s actually talk about that a little bit. So this was your first like big gig that you got booked for that kind of opened up the door for other kind of similar gigs. So. Tell us a little bit about after you had kind of gotten, going, getting all these gigs, playing street, performing, doing the city walk thing.
I know you played a lot in like bars and restaurants and venues like that. Like walk us through how that kind of went over time. You know what I mean?
SAWYER: [00:25:45] Yeah. Uh, so when I was street performing about city op, this gentleman came up to me named Damian Bronner, huge, huge shout out to Damien Bronner. He owns a surfboard shop in Dana point and he used to be. Book bands at whisky, go go. And like a lot of like a lot of like huge bands, like guns and roses. Um, he used to book tons of people and he was walking by and he saw me as street performing and he said, Hey, do you want to play in Dana point, play at this restaurant that my friend owns?
And I said, absolutely. And that was my first gig. I played out in Dana point. And it was for like a hundred bucks for three hours. I drove two hours there played for three and 12, two hours back, but I white, there was probably one of the happiest moments of my life because I was getting paid to play music.
And then from there it’s really just. Honing in on my craft, I just started playing so much that I got better and better. And then, you know, I was playing at one restaurant and one restaurant read to another restaurant, someone from, uh, you know, someone just said, you should play at this restaurant. And this is a huge thing too.
The first lesson I learned was about the security gig. It’s don’t ever say you need to get the, okay. So when you call a restaurant, yeah. You’re going to talk to a host. Right. So think of what a host looks like. Okay. What does a host look like? Cause usually a female or a male who’s in their young teens.
Right? They don’t know shit. Okay. They have a, they have a job they want to keep and I can guarantee you the managers, if it’s not important, do not bother me. Like, so when you call up, Hey, I know you got music there. I’m a musician. I would love to play there. Oh yes. You can give me your email and you can email this person, dude.
It’s going to take forever and you probably aren’t going to get the gig. So this is how you do it. Clearly. One of my main big, the things that have secrets of how I get gigs. I call up. I say, Hey, I’m a musician that plays there already. I play there on Friday nights. I’m a little, I think the schedule is a little messed up.
Am I supposed to be there this Sunday or not? One second. I’ll get the guy that books it to talk to you. Boom. In the door right away. I say, Hey man, I play down the street. I don’t play anywhere down the street, but I say I played down the street and they told me that I was really good and that I should call you.
So I can play here cause my music would fit perfectly for your restaurant. He says, okay, sure. Literally it’s that simple? It’s thinking outside of the box, it’s just something so simple that people are like, Oh no, I can’t do it. Just think, think completely of what anyone else is doing because what anyone else is doing is not working.
Like I hate when people are like, He was a, here’s a book with everyone’s booking agent number, and here’s a restaurant with all the restaurant names where you can play music at, well, you’re not going to get in the door. If you can’t talk to the main person and you can’t make yourself assertive enough to let them know that you are the real deal.
So that’s w huge way I just got into the restaurant. It’s just bullshitting them. Like just literally like telling them what they want to hear. And that’s fake it till you make it. That’s I can’t, I can’t stress that enough. It’s a hundred percent fake it till you make it.
KOBY: [00:28:47] And, and you completely built a solid career off of that. Like how long did you do the, the show thing? Uh, in, in restaurants and stuff?
SAWYER: [00:28:58] I did, after I got to Waterman’s gig, I probably did a year of like playing four shows a week. And then the next year I probably did like six shows a week. And then my third year I probably was doing like nine shows a week. And then my fourth year I was playing every single day three shows on Saturday, two shows on Sunday, I played over 400 shows a year.
KOBY: [00:29:15] Geez.
SAWYER: [00:29:16] It was crazy, man. It was crazy. Yeah, it was, it was, um, it was crazy. I don’t know how to actually say that. Like it was some, it was, I was working so much. I wasn’t even realizing what was happening, if that makes sense.
KOBY: [00:29:30] And like, that’s getting more up to current times, right? Where you like burning out at all at that point. Like that’s just a lot.
SAWYER: [00:29:38] I hated it. I hated it. I hated it. I would be in traffic for hours thinking to myself, Oh my God. Like I know people that are on tour right now. I’ll look at Instagram and see some of my friends killing it on like shows and doing like the voice and American idol and like just, uh, just murdering it. And I’m hearing traffic.
Driving to a place where no one wants to hear my music, I’m background music. And like, you know, I get told all the time, can you turn down your music a little bit? You know, it’s still a little bit too loud. Yeah, man. I was burnt out, but I knew, I knew I just had, I don’t know why this, but I knew I just had to keep doing what I was doing.
Even though I did feel like at a certain point after like the fifth year of my music playing, I was at a plateau and I was getting really. I was getting very anxious cause I was like, all right, I’ve been climbing this whole way. And now I’d like stopped and like camped out and I felt way too comfortable.
And I did not want to be doing what I was doing anymore.
KOBY: [00:30:32] So what, what was the thing? Cause you’re, you’re not doing that anymore. As a spoiler role, we’ll get into what you are doing now. What, what was the, the thing that. Helped you make that transition. So I guess to set the stage a little bit, right now, you’ve kind of built a career and a following around virtual shows, essentially doing the live streams for your audience and selling merch around that.
Uh, you have, you have some crowdfunding going on. So walk me through how that transition happened.
SAWYER: [00:31:09] Okay. So I’m a big believer in like putting what you want out into the universe. Like I listened to Jim Carey, talk about how he would wake up in the Hills and like, just say, I live in that house. I am a huge actor. I’m a multimillion dollar man. I’m making millions a year. And then he even wrote like a check.
Everyone knows the story. He wrote a check, but the, what people don’t Stan is that he wasn’t just saying he truly, truly, truly believed it. He said it so much that he believed it. He said it so much that when he would drive down the Hill, he thought he was it’s the biggest Hollywood actor. He thought he was the biggest actor in Hollywood.
And no one knew who he was. So I kept on saying my whole life. Since they’re out here, I would always say to myself, this is just a stepping stone. One day. I’ll be able to play music from wherever I am and I’ll make that for a living. I would say that constantly. And then I would say it’s so much that I actually felt that like of how good it would feel.
I would laugh sometimes I’d be like, Oh my God, this is amazing. And it would just be like constantly. I’m not saying, if you just say it’s going to happen, obviously you got to put work in, you got to, I played countless, countless, countless, countless shows. And then I got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore.
Cause I felt like it was out of plateau. And to be honest, it’s a blessing in disguise. I think everything happens for a reason. And I think me saying what I said kind of like, was it like for instance COVID happened, right? COVID COVID happened and right away, my shows were getting canceled left and right.
KOBY: [00:32:40] Right. Yeah. Huge blow to your whole business right there.
SAWYER: [00:32:43] Yeah. Anyone that’s a musician during COVID. We will like, Whoa, what, what are we going to do now? You know, especially if you’re like a working musician, meaning you’re playing shows every day, like that’s how you’re doing it. So it was happening left and right. And then certainly enough in April. I had no shows.
Okay. So I’m making no money complete, just nothing going on and. Right away. I was like, you know what, I’m going to make an album. This is great time to make an album. I mean, I hope everyone else is thinking that what I didn’t want to do, it was do nothing. I wanted to do something. So I was like, you know what, I’m going to create music.
And I started creating music and I started creating songs and made songs. And I was like, this is so much like, I love doing this. Like I kept on saying, I was like, I wish I wish I could do this just for a living. Like, I just want to do this for a living. And then. I was like, you know, maybe I’ll try going live on like Facebook or like Instagram, you know, and just really like, do what I do at my shows and just perform.
And I would do it and sure enough, like my mom and my dad and maybe two friends would be watching. Right. Like that’s how it happened for like two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. And then I was looking at other Facebook pages and like trying to find. Artists and musicians similar to me and groups, similar to me where there’s engagement on their videos, where people are actually getting looked at, where if you go into a live video and you see someone performing there’s comments left and right.
Going up and up and up, right. So I slowly started doing it, live videos and getting, and doing live videos in groups where I knew people would be watching and groups are like, there’s like public groups, there’s public groups anywhere you can do any there’s. Any groups on Facebook, you could have a public group, Ellen regenerous fan page, that’s a public group and you can join that group and you can go live on that page if you want to.
So I started doing that. And, um, it just, it kind of just started as the machine started to happen. Like I started building a machine, like I can’t. It was kind of a complete luck, but it was luck that I was doing. I really prepared for, it was something that I’ve been honing in on my craft for over seven years of playing live music.
Now I’m just doing it through like a telephone and people that want to hear the music are actually, they’re wanting to listen to it. So I did it, man. And within the second week I would have a thousand people watching me on my lives. It happened like that. It happened so quickly.
KOBY: [00:35:05] Yeah. I mean, is there anything that you can point to? Cause I mean, a lot of people I’m sure, especially during COVID a lot of people, maybe our listeners too, who have tried going live. On Facebook or through whatever platform, just to try and keep the concerts going, keep that same feeling of, of playing shows and everything.
Is there anything that you can point to. That you’ve done. That made a really big difference as far as like getting people there or converting fans out of that. Cause that’s one thing that I’ve seen through your live streams is that people, the people who are there are true 100%, right. Dedicated fans to you.
Like they love you.
SAWYER: [00:35:51] they are, they are the best people I’ve ever met in my whole entire life. I love my fans so freaking much. And they know I do. I say, I tell them all the time I reach out to them. I message them on the day that it takes me hours and hours, just to message people like I know that sounds crazy. And you’re like, Oh, good, good for you.
Good for you. Messaging your fans. Like if you don’t message the two fans you have right now, your stupid message. Every single fan you have. And make them feel so special because they are, they like you, they like what you’re doing. They’re your record label. They’re that person I hate when people say you need one person, you know, only one, one person needs to hear your music and your whole life can change.
What kind of fairytale we living in? Like, that’s not what what’s happening. You need a thousands of people to like your music, the one person that’s in the crowd that likes your music. That’s that special person. Now keep them and get more of them. You know, like I think it was just me being really genuine with my art, meaning trying to act like something that I’m not, if that makes sense.
When I perform, I really let it all out. Like I’m telling stories, I’m like my past life. I’m telling you things that I wouldn’t even tell, like some closest to my friends and I’m doing that because I want them to see why my music sounds like it sounds. I want, you know, I want them to feel what I’m feeling and I know people are like, okay, but how did you, if the fans and I didn’t get any fans, I just did what I was doing.
And they came like, I don’t know how else to explain
KOBY: [00:37:26] But then you were able to connect with them. I mean, that’s something that we’ve talked about on this podcast before in a few different episodes. I mean, we’ve, we’ve talked about creating a, or having, having like a cause for your brand or something like that to try and make a connection with people and then building up.
That relationship over time to where eventually fans feel like they can confide in you almost. And that’s what I see going on with your fan base. They feel like they can, they can tell you things. And, and did that just come from you telling them things? I mean, I know you have the, the, the black heart is something that has kind of become like a symbol within your fan base.
Uh, can you, can you tell us about that and how that kind of came to be.
SAWYER: [00:38:13] Yeah. So I have always had anxiety in my life. Like really I’ve always had it. Um, and especially in like my early twenties, when I moved out here, obviously I’m broke poor and I’m, uh, I’m homeless and I’m trying to be a rock star and I’ve always kind of had anxiety, but yeah. Around my friends around like people I’m always like, just like, everything’s great.
I’m living the dream. I’m the like, nothing’s wrong kind of thing. And with this, I just kinda wanted to be. Open about everything. So, and when, I mean everything, I literally mean everything. So like I would play show like a live and I’d be like, man, I just feel like I can’t focus. Like I’m just having anxiety about not having anxiety.
Like I don’t even know why. And, and I was just like, I just want this. Place or this area, the space where you’re listening to my music to be a space where if you have anxiety or any mental issues, you can feel welcomed and you can feel, I feel not alone. And if you want to talk about it, I’m down to talk about it and people wanted to talk about it.
And then it’s just. It’s the coolest thing is being able to have a fan reach out to you and say your music has saved my life. And then I’m able to reach out back to them. And I saved, no, you listening to my music has saved my life. Like it’s a crazy thing. I’m still not used to it. To be honest, this the past four months have been the best four months of my whole entire life.
And it’s so weird to say that because I’m not even playing shows in public. And I think that has a big thing to do with. If I was just a person playing show in public and you saw me, I wouldn’t be a big deal. Cause you see me right there. I’m, I’m just a person playing music, but we’re in this new era where virtual world is going to be the new thing.
I truly believe that. I think, um, what we’re doing right now is going to be way more common than going and getting coffee. Um, it’s this is what it is because of everything that’s going on and show when you see me on a cell phone or your computer or a screen. I’m somewhat kind of like an, um, I hate like, you know, like when you see like an Instagram influencer or something, and then you see them in public, it’s like, if you, if you saw them before that you wouldn’t think anything.
It’s just because
KOBY: [00:40:26] Well, it’s like you’re on TV almost.
SAWYER: [00:40:28] yeah. It’s basically like I’m running my own TV show. That’s what it is. That’s a hundred percent what it is.
KOBY: [00:40:33] So with the black heart became like a symbol of, of that kind of cause that, that
SAWYER: [00:40:39] Yeah. Oh, yeah. Sorry. Uh, yeah, I completely skipped over the Blackheart. The black car is, uh, is something I wanted them to relate. I wanted them to have something to represent what we were talking about. And I thought a black car is very, kind of just the perfect symbol for it, because it means you got love to give, but you also been through some pain and you might have.
Anxiety, but you’re still willing to go through life and still trying to live life to the fullest. And I thought the black heart was the perfect thing and yeah, we all agreed upon it. And then it kind of just happened organically.
KOBY: [00:41:12] And that’s been, that’s become a big part of. Of your business overall, too, because, and I find this is one of the things I find really, really interesting about your business model and how this has kind of all happened is that you you’ve, you’ve been able to create this like Merck brand around this black heart.
But, but the thing that I find kind of funny about it is that it didn’t really even come from you. Like it wasn’t that you put out all this merch and stuff and were hoping people were going to buy it. It’s like your fans demanded it from you.
SAWYER: [00:41:45] A hundred percent they wanted, they wanted to represent what we were talking about. I get messages on the daily. Hey, you should do cell phone cases or Hey, you should make, you should make key chains or, and I’m like, you guys want that, like, you guys want cell phones. You want, you want my name with a black art on his cell phone case?
That’s what you want. Like, yes, we knew that ASAP and I’m realizing it’s like, it’s not what I’m doing. It’s what we, it’s what it stands for. And it stands for so much more than just music. It stands for, we are making a movement where we’re trying to take away the stigma of mental illness and a way that we’re doing that is by connecting through my music.
KOBY: [00:42:24] Exactly. It becomes so much more than your music or you or them or the S the thing, the live stream it’s. Yeah, it really is. Has become, uh, a cause that people are signing up
SAWYER: [00:42:38] Yeah, and it’s, it’s unreal, man. And I love it cause I can finally like every sale of certain items on my website, a dollar of every sale goes to the J ed foundation, which is an org nonprofit organization that helps young teens and adults with mental illness. And. Yeah, it’s it’s um, I freaking love it. I love that.
I’m able to give back to something that I’m really passionate about.
KOBY: [00:43:02] And, and that’s something, I think that a lot of artists think that they need to kind of design that, you know, like, and even the way that we’ve kind of talked about it on this podcast, sometimes it, it, it, I think people get the sense that like, you need to. Sit down and think like, what are these people going to respond to so that I can make merch that I can sell to them?
You know? Like it kind of comes from that end of it. And I think one of the things that’s really key to your brand working so well is that it wasn’t about that in the first place. You know, it was about the, cause it was about the cause tied to the music and helping people through the music. And then the merge is kind of like the natural progression of that.
Like it didn’t, it’s not a contrived thing. One other thing that I do want to talk about before we finish up is the personal songs part of what you do as well, because I think that’s a really cool idea. I don’t know how, how you do it and how you sustain it. Cause it’s so much work, but I, I, I want to let people know about that because I think that’s a really cool idea.
SAWYER: [00:44:11] Um, so I do this thing on my website, um, Sawyer, agra.com, shameless plug, um, of I write personalized songs for people. Cause I always tell my stories. And before I sing a song, like if I saw a song, I wrote, I tried to tell you the story of why I’m singing this song. And then it kinda just came organically.
Um, when I was talking to my friend and he was, I was like, you know what? Like, he’s like, we both said it was like, Everyone has a story, you know, and, but not everyone’s a musician, not everyone’s a songwriter, but everyone, everyone, no matter who you are, you have a story. So I kinda just did this thing where I was like, I didn’t even put it on my web.
You said yet? I just said, Hey man, if you have a story, Um, I would love to write you a song cause I’m trying to write more music and I would love to write it. And then right after that happened, I got so many messages. Like that’s so crazy. I was just about to ask you if you could write me a song though.
And the, and you know, I’m like, Oh, okay, it’s happening? So it just happened, man. And, um, I’m up to 33 songs and I probably have to write another 24 more. At least it’s crazy. And each song I write. It’s a story that’s just on freaking believable. They think, you know, I’m doing them a favor, but they’re doing me a favor.
They’re allowing me to create, which I love doing. I love creating music. And sometimes the hardest thing of creating music is having writer’s block because you don’t have anything to write from, you know? Um, I can only write about. My life so much. It’s a, you know, I haven’t lived in my whole life yet, but some of these people have lived life.
They’ve lived hard lives and he lived happy lives and he lived sad, love so many emotions, and now I’m able to take what, they’re their story, and I’m able to bring it to life. And it’s the best thing in the world.
KOBY: [00:45:52] Yeah, it’s really cool. And you’ve been, you write these songs, record them, uh, and give them to the person who is who’s bought the song, but then you also kind of put them together into albums afterwards. And it’s a really cool thing where it’s just like everybody’s stories, all kind of compiled
SAWYER: [00:46:12] Yeah. It’s um, through my record label, their Blackheart records. Um, that’s what I called my, my, my record label. When I put out my music now I just put black heart records were Blackheart records. They’re they’re the people that are listening to my music there. That’s then it’s crazy. It’s really, it’s crazy.
KOBY: [00:46:29] And it’s so, so different from what I think most musicians are out there doing and how they’re thinking about putting out records. Cause you know, everybody’s out there thinking like, okay, how do I get on playlist? I got to make these songs and I got to get them on playlist. And that’s how people are going to find them.
And then somebody who’s going to hear this song and they’re going to connect to it. And. Enough people are going to form this emotional connection with the song that I’m going to end up with a bunch of fans, but you’ve kind of come at it. You’ve broken that rule. Like you broken a lot of the rules. I would say that that kind of come with the modern music industry, but you’re, you’re making it work because you’re, you’re coming at it from the real direction where it’s coming.
It comes from the fan. So I think that’s, uh, that’s been a really, really cool thing to watch you do. Uh, and an inspiring thing to watch you do. Too, because like you, you get a bunch of cool material from all these people’s stories that you’re able to put into your music. So.
SAWYER: [00:47:26] Yeah. Yeah. I think, uh, I think Spotify playlists and stuff like that. If you’re an independent artist, it’s really overrated. It’s something that you shouldn’t bake a song to be like, this would be perfect for this playlist. You should make a song to be like, this will be perfect for this fan or this fan or this fan.
And then if you get on playlist, cool. If you don’t cares, I could care less about being on a playlist. One note I do care about, I care if a hundred people get that song on my website because that’s a hundred percent better than any playlist.
KOBY: [00:48:00] Right. Well, I guess we’re getting close to the end of our time for the episode. What are you, what are your plans now going forward with the rest of your career? I’m curious to see, because this was kind of a, a business that was built out of COVID out of quarantine. But it’s, it’s now become, it’s kind of taken on a mind of its own and it’s, it’s got legs.
Like it’s, it’s going to continue past that. What are your plans now for expanding that into the future?
SAWYER: [00:48:30] So I would say the best thing now that I’m doing is just putting out content as much content as possible. And by content, I mean, music, so many people have music in like, Their computer that they never put out. And it makes me so angry. Like I have so many songs that I don’t think are perfect, but I put them out because people want to hear them.
And it’s like, even if you don’t think it’s perfect, it’s perfect to someone. So right now I actually just put out an album today. Um, it’s called afternoon vibes, the live Cousteau cover album. That’s on Spotify. And to be honest, it has more plays in an album that I had on for two years and one day, which is mind blowing because it’s just people.
Yeah. If people want to hear it, it’s it’s they want a, I finally got a fan base for people. Want to hear my music, so I’ve just put that out. And now we’re actually a song that me and you worked on called sweet tooth is going to be coming out September 21st. And this will be, uh, very exciting for me. Um, this is going to be the first single that I put out.
That’s an original song. That I actually have to put out to people to listen to. It’s not just like, I hope someone listens to it. No, it’s like, I know they’re going to listen to it. So I really hope they like it.
KOBY: [00:49:43] You have that, that fan base already, that is ready to, yeah. You know, they’re going to like it already.
SAWYER: [00:49:50] Yeah. Um, I’m extremely excited because after that song, I have another one that I have another one and then I have another one and then I have another one and it’s just going to be, it’s going to be like that forever. I’m just going to always put out music and cause you never know what song it’s going to be.
The one that people connect with the most.
KOBY: [00:50:09] Right. And you’re always on top of that because you’re always connecting back with your fans. Like you’re messaging people every day. A lot
SAWYER: [00:50:18] Dude during this, during this podcast, I’ve had 10 people call me on Facebook. Um, and I’ve just, I’ve just declined everyone. And it’s, um, after I’m done with this, I will be messaged on every single one. I’ll be like, how can, how can I help you? Cause you already have you already helping me.
KOBY: [00:50:34] Yeah. And I think that’s the message that a lot of our listeners need to hear. Like that’s, that is how you build and treat your fan base. Like they are.
SAWYER: [00:50:44] Your family does your
KOBY: [00:50:45] They’re family and they’re your record label and they’re they’re yeah. They’re everything to you. So treating them that way and giving your full attention to them, I think is like one of the big, big, big takeaway messages from your story and what you’ve been able to build.
So I think we’re, we’re just about out of time. I mean, there’s so much that we could continue to talk about. We’ll talk, we talk all the time, so we’ll still have to talk about a bunch of other things and maybe, maybe down the road as this kind of develops more and more and more, we can have you on again in the year update or whatever.
SAWYER: [00:51:23] I’d love to see where I’m at in four months from now.
KOBY: [00:51:26] Yeah. It’s, it’s an exciting time and I’m really, really excited for this song to come out. Uh, like you said, it’s, it’s called sweet tooth coming out on September 21st. Uh, which will just be about a week and a half after the release of this episode. So yeah. And Richard, go, go check that out.
SAWYER: [00:51:43] Spotify, Apple music, Sawyer, raga, if you’re not listening to it. Okay.
KOBY: [00:51:51] All right. So yeah. Thank you man, for doing this. Uh, you’re one of those people that always gets me amped up. So I’m really glad that our listeners have been able to get some of that today, too. And to all of our listeners out
SAWYER: [00:52:03] I would say to the listeners right now, listening, shut off this podcast right now. It’s a great podcast, but go get your shit together. Go get your music. You gotta go write music, go write a song, go find a fan. Like if you’re sitting in your house right now, thinking about what to do, you’re doing the wrong thing.
Do something. Do something like, I don’t know how to explain it enough, do something, stop listening to people. They’re trying to tell you what to do, do it, do something, make something happen. It’s so easy. I hate screaming at you, but you need to listen to this. Go do something like if you need a sign, this is the sign.
Go do something, make something happen today. Don’t wait till tomorrow. Don’t say, Oh, I’m too tired to make this song. Oh, tomorrow I can make the song. Or the next month I can do this. Like right now in this moment. I don’t care if you’re driving. I don’t care if you’re working out right now, stop what you’re doing and start the process by just putting your foot in making what you want to happen happen. I saw it. I got really excited.
KOBY: [00:52:57] You heard it from the man himself, get out there and apply some of those strategies. I mean, stories, proof that you don’t need to follow all the rules that the record industry tells you are important. You can build a career for yourself on your own terms, all the marketing release strategy and playlisting and campaigns and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
All that’s great, but it’s just tools your message. Your brand and, and everything that you build around that is what makes you valuable to your listeners, into your fans. So above all else, make sure you put in the time and work on developing those things.
JAKE: [00:53:32] If you like this episode, head on over to Apple podcasts and drop a five star rating and a written review right there that really helps us get these episodes out there to other artists who can benefit from this podcast and people like Sawyer
KOBY: [00:53:48] Yeah, go do that. We’ll catch you on the next episode of self signed artist.
JAKE: [00:53:54] peace.