Steve Balsamo personified Jesus for the 1996 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and now is one half of ‘Balsamo Deighton’ an Americana flavored songwriting duo.
Their debut album was a runaway crowd funding success, Steve explains how it’s done and shares the perks of being independent.
You are releasing your album via the label earMUSIC – was it difficult or easy to get signed?
We came to the attention earMUSIC when I sang at The Albert Hall where I did a duet with the great Sandi Thom. I think unless you’ve created a lot of online heat yourself or have come through a TV talent show, the chances of getting a major record deal are pretty slim these days. I had a solo deal with Sony Records and they spent a fortune, but I was still dropped when sales didn’t match the spend. I think a label will only get involved if you can show there is a legitimate reward for them coming in on a project. Of course, money helps but ultimately it really comes down to the songs. The song IS the king!
Do you think labels provide support that independent artists struggle without?
If you are a ‘Top 40’ pop act, generally you’ll need money to set that up properly. If you’re a singer-songwriter, less so. We’re doing a licencing deal so we retain the ultimate ownership of the album and we get financial support and distribution. Rosalie and I made the album ourselves, with co-producers. We put our own money in and then set up a Pledge Music campaign to help fund the mastering and finishing up recording costs.
You are giving away some amazing, personal prizes to your funders (studio time, writing sessions and musical instruments) – are you keen to nurture and connect with the next generation of artists?
We have some very cool items: artwork, Rosie’s amazing cakes, ghost hunts and tarot readings by me. I love connecting and encouraging younger artists. I always learn so much about singing and writing from them, and there are genres of music I had no idea about.
How does crowd funding affect your relationship with your fans?
It always amazes me that we can write a song on a guitar in my front room, hear it on a radio, and then hear people sing the words back to us at a gig. It’s a strange, beautiful alchemy. Fans can give us early feedback on songs which shape the album directly.
How long have you been preparing for this album release? Was the song writing and rehearsal period spontaneous or mulled over?
We are aware that a lot of people don’t listen to albums as a whole anymore…
We have been nearly four years writing and making this album. The process of gently exploring writing with Rosalie was very cathartic and healing. The songs that stirred our soul stayed, the others were put away for another time.
We are aware that a lot of people don’t listen to albums as a whole anymore, preferring to cherry pick songs which is cool, but we wanted Unfolding to be unashamedly old fashioned and to have a beginning, middle and an end. We even have a two side arc, as we are releasing the album on vinyl.
Have you ever had a moment where you thought “Wow, I’ve made it”?
There have been lots of moments where I’ve thought, ‘this will be one of those memories that flashes up on my deathbed’ – Elton calling me up and singing one of our songs at me down the phone, Andrew Lloyd Webber crying after I sang one of his songs (in a good way!), giving Robert Plant a singing lesson, hearing our song on the radio for the first time. Personally, respect for my ability by my heroes or peers is making it.
Do you have any advice for bands or artists that are struggling to get themselves noticed?
I think it’s all about the song. Co-write with the best people to craft the best song in whatever genre you’re in. Get some good management you can trust implicitly. Get a good lawyer. Get seen – make sure all social networks are working and get out and play live as much as you can. You have to believe it and believe in yourself…or nobody else will. Stay focused and remember, it’s always nice to be nice!
Steve Balsamo is a self-confessed student of the voice. He is currently working with Rosalie Deighton as Balsamo Deighton. The debut Americana/singer songwriter influenced album ‘Unfolding’ is released February 5th, 2016. www.stevebalsamo.co.uk | www.balsamodeighton.com