The Mob’s Press Exclusive Interview with Sprout Wise & City Shamans Founder: Joshua Doerksen — Part 2
We pick up right where we left off with our amazing conversation between Mobster Curtis Morgan and Joshua Doerksen, musician, entrepreneur, producer, artist, collaborator, man of many talents. If you missed part one, click here. Now, he takes us deeper into his world where 80’s video game music awaits you, and he shares with us what inspires him.
Curtis Morgan: So, I’ve been doing some research, and I’ve been dying to ask you about this — tell me a little about Gam. Your bandcamp page describes Gam as “a collective of cybernetic beings from the future. Traveling here through space and time, their music offers us insight into the human condition.”
Joshua Doerksen: Gam is really funny. So I was actually on a website called Bunz Music Trading Zone which is a community on Facebook that is interested in trading musical gear and equipment for free — no cash exchange, just straight trade. I ended up trading old pieces of equipment for a couple of 80’s vintage keyboards and drum machines. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to create some songs on these, because I’ve always loved 8-bit video game music, retro throwback 80’s stuff, retro wave, that sort of thing, I thought it would be great to have some fun and write some silly songs on these keyboards.
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2144454406 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=208827219]
What ended up happening was within a month, I had written a full record and people were demanding it. I was showing different people within the community the singles as they were getting finished and people just fell in love with the sort of quirky, odd funniness to this sound that we had stumbled across. I ended up finishing up our first record and doing a digital distribution of it, and it’s been amazing. We’ve sold a bunch of copies and it’s been shared and it’s really just been a hilarious journey into creating a retro wave, electronica [sound]. We’re currently working on a new full length album, so we’re about four or five songs in with plans to release a new single soon.
CM: Nice. So what do you want your music to do for people?
JD: Well, one of the things that I wanted to mention was that, in general, when it comes to getting involved in musical projects, I’m really interested in finding those unique hooks, or the unique edge that any musical project or brand can have to stand out from the crowd — from over-saturation. There’s so many artists doing so many similar things, that I really like to identify unique stories and unique angles in which to stand out.
City Shamans, for example, was a very unique genre to explore, and unique model to the project — it’s not a band, it’s a collective of similar genres releasing singles together. With The Noolands, for them, it was about just very transparent marketing, these guys just like having fun, they just like writing music so making the brand key messaging was very simple: We like writing Rock & Roll for our friends. For Gam, in particular, I really wanted to go with early 50’s and 60’s sci-fi branding just to align it properly with the sound and some of the songwriting content. So, for me, what’s really important is that the music that I’m putting out grabs people. That it’s something that you’re going to dig and that you’re into. That we make it as obvious as possible for the listener to enjoy it. I don’t want them to have to try to figure it out or what the artistry is about as much as to just understand, through the marketing, through the image, through the sound, and production of content, what this artistry is about, so that they can vibe with it if they’re into it.
CM: Could you speak a bit about your musical background, in terms of how you got to this place? Also, what inspires you?
JD: I grew up in a very musical family. Both of my grandparents were musicians for their entire lives. Both of my grandfathers recorded vinyls in the 50’s and 60’s of different styles of music — Canadiana, Folk, Country, on the one side, and World, Latin, Bossanova on the other. And both my mom and dad are musical as well. When I was young, how my passion for music started was that I was recording ideas on cassette players and recorders in my bedroom, writing songs on my keyboard with the drum machine going, and bringing my high school friends over into my bedroom because I had a recording setup [and I was] producing songs that we would co-write. But it really was just me in amateur bands in high school as something fun that I was falling in love with. I eventually decided to take it up to the next level. So I said if I want to make a career out of being a producer/composer/songwriter, I need to go to school, and I need to actually be trained and develop the chops. I decided to go to the University of Guelph for Classical Composition and Vocal Performance, and it was there that I really got schooled in what being a music composer/producer was all about. I learned about Music History, both in the Classical sense, but also in Folk, Modern Music, and World Music. I think that history and theory training really influenced me in terms of what was possible.
The University of Guelph has a huge Jazz and Improvised Music culture, so I was also involved in a lot of crazy soundscape design and experimental music. And I think the combination of the Classical trajectory and Traditional approach with that sort of Modern Contemporary experimentation, has really influenced how I approach music creation, marketing and production. I like to rely on the traditional skill sets that are required to create great quality in caliber work, but I like to approach it from really open and strange forms of exploration and experimentation.
CM: I love that. So Josh, anything else you’d like us to know?
JD: Yeah, I think that, in general, in my world anything can be musical. You know, any sound you create, you can use any instrument to create a piece of music. It’s all in how you do it. And I think that something a lot of artists really get bogged down by is that they think that these traditional avenues and traditional paths are the only way to succeed or the only ways to stand out. I really want to be an advocate for emerging artists and even businesses trying to market themselves, [educating them] that you can do it your own way, you can get creative and you can find solutions, and create content that is uniquely yours and tells your story in your way, a way that stands out from the crowd. So I try to bring that sense of experimentation, curiosity, and wonder, to all the work that I do both as a musician, as a composer, and then as an entrepreneur and business owner.
That’s why I created Sprout Wise. We do professional audio and video production, web design, we create marketing plans, strategic plans, advertising, promotions, and many other tools for both artists and businesses. What I really like about our model is that the artists maintain the rights to their music, unlike a record label, we’re sort of a service-based solution for them.
They’re able to come in and work with us as if we were a record label, but at the end of the day, maintain the rights, and we’ll work with them with whatever their budget is to help them create content and develop their craft and market themselves on their own. There are so many tools that they can use on their own to build a fan base and to get themselves out there and book shows, and sell merchandise, and create content online and all these things but they just don’t know where to start. A lot of the times, we’re working with artists that are just starting out, or are already kind of doing it but need some of the gaps filled in, or professional artists that just want us to manage aspects of their career. That’s what makes us different from an Indie label.
One of the other things we’re really excited about is that Sprout Wise is building a sound library — a catalogue of original music to be sync licensed for radio, TV, film, and video games. We’re creating all original stock music recordings for businesses and creatives who need music content. We’re also creating a database of our independent artists that we network with to help them to get their music placed in radio, commercial, and film as well as online video, and video games so that they can increase their exposure and get paid through those revenue streams.
CM: That’s really exciting, Josh. Sometimes, it’s not easy understanding how to get from point A to point B, but it sounds like you’ve figured it out, man. That’s pretty sweet.
JD: There’s 1000 point A’s to point B’s, and I think as long as you figure out the next stepping stone, you can just hop from stone to stone and eventually, you’ll get to the other side. [laughs]
Spoken like a true visionary. Speaking with Josh has the potential to light fires. He is one of the few individuals who’s passion and determination can be infectious after one conversation. He literally does not believe in words like “can’t” or “impossible”. He is clearly inspired by the beauty, freedom, and moving concepts embedded within the very art he creates — practically a symbiotic relationship. There are big things coming from Joshua Doerksen and Sprout Wise. The smart money is on him.