During the heyday of major record labels, album promotion was part of the system and handled by a designated staff.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dwight Twilley remembers that era very well, but he doesn’t benefit from that kind of luxury anymore. Nowadays he has his own label, Big Oak Records, so that means the task of funding and executing the promotion of new releases goes directly through him.
Looking to raise money for the promotion of his latest album, Green Blimp, Twilley turned to the fan-funding site Kickstarter, through which he was connected with 92 backers who pledged more than $7,000.
Twilley recently checked in from his home in Oklahoma to talk about using Kickstarter, how the music business used to be, the documentary that’s being made about his career and other subjects.
Medleyville.us: You’ve talked recently about enjoying the freedom to create music on your own terms. But is there anything about the way the music industry used to be — pre-Internet — that you miss and wish was still around to help artists?
Dwight Twilley: “Well, of course, I feel fortunate I was in those days, when radio was really more music-oriented instead of money-oriented. And when there were actual record men — guys whose main important thing to them was the record, making a great record and giving the artists the freedom to make a record.
“At some point, in the late ’70s, there would be maybe the president of the label, and he would be a record man. And then when there was some business to do, they’d say, ‘Well, I guess it’s time for you to see an attorney,’ to get a contract signed or something. Then some weird thing happened along the way where the record presidents started being the attorneys, and I think that’s when things started going awry.”
It’s been five years since you released 47 Moons, your last new studio album of original material. Were you working on Green Blimp for most of that time, or did the album come together more recently and quickly?
Twilley: “Other things came out [in between] — there was the live album [2006’s All Access], and then we did a compilation package of cover songs [2009’s Out of the Box]. But in between it all, we were chipping away at Green Blimp, and I’m very sure that it won’t be five years until the next one.”
How did you learn about Kickstarter, and did you have any qualms or reservations about using it?
Twilley: “The engineer who mixed the album turned us on to it—John Schroeder. We did it spontaneously; I think the thing we enjoyed the most about it was making the video. We were all cracking up. We had a lot of fun with that.”
You reached your financial goal and then some with Kickstarter. Is it safe to say you’d use Kickstarter again?
Twilley: “We might do it again — you never know.”
Talk about the documentary on your career that’s in the works.
Twilley: “The most important thing I should tell you is I’m not doing it (laughs). It’s not under my control; [it’s being done by] some filmmakers here in Tulsa. They do interviews with me, and I make my archival video footage and photographs available to them.
“The involvement that I do have is I’m doing the soundtrack. We’re 11 songs into that now, so that’s why I’m saying you can be pretty well assured it won’t be five years before the next studio album.”
Tom Petty put out a new album earlier this year, and Leon Russell’s project with Elton John came out this fall, as did your new album. Do you ever stop to think how many years have gone by since you first crossed paths with Petty and Russell?
Twilley: “It does seem like it’s gone by fast (laughs). And I guess the important thing is that we’re still working. You certainly have to respect people who will continue to work because [the powers that be] are always in the business of trying to find a way to get rid of you, one way or the other.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Dwight Twilley from the Medleyville.us archives:
THE FIRE STILL BURNS (Feb. 1, 2005)