“I wanted to think of a different way of working that would inspire me and keep me motivated,” Marshall Crenshaw says of his newest endeavor: a subscription-only service that addresses the recent seismic changes in the music-industry landscape by cutting out the record-company middle man to distribute his new recordings directly to fans.
The subscription service, which the Platinum, Gold, and Silver award-winning, Grammy and Golden Globe nominated songwriter and recording artist recently launched via a successful Kickstarter funding campaign, will provide fans with a steady stream of new Marshall Crenshaw music via a series of exclusive three-song 10-inch, 45 RPM vinyl EPs on Addie-Ville Records, six of which the artist plans to release over a two-year period. In addition to the vinyl discs, subscribers will also receive a download card for digital versions of the EP tracks. These recordings are available from Crenshaw’s website.
Not only did Crenshaw develop the subscription-based EP series via Kickstarter but actually surpassed his Kickstarter goal. The subscription series has already proven a success: Half of its entire print run has been committed to distribution through Thinkindie Distribution for Record Store Day’s Back to Black Friday (November 23) — arguably the most important day of the year for vinyl connoisseurs. Add to that the loyal Marshall Crenshaw fans who have invested in the project on Kickstarter and will receive their early copy of the official January 23, 2013 release date for the debut EP, I Don’t See You Laughing Now.
Each EP consists entirely of newly recorded, never-before-released material, encompassing a new original Crenshaw composition, a classic cover tune, and a new reworking of a time-honored favorite.
“I really do think that vinyl sounds best, and that playing a vinyl record is still the optimum listening experience,” Crenshaw asserts. “And with the sound quality that you get at 45 rpm, I think that these things are going to deliver the goods, sonically.”
The first subscription EP’s A-side is the brand-new Crenshaw number “I Don’t See You Laughing Now,” recorded with longtime cohorts Andy York (John Mellencamp, Ian Hunter), and Graham Maby (Joe Jackson, They Might Be Giants). Crenshaw says, "The song is mostly based on a particular disturbing documentary that I saw a few years ago. It's pretty much a rant directed at a composite of villains; at least they're villains to me." The record’s double B-side features a memorable new reading of The Move’s 1971 post-apocalyptic anthem “No Time,” recorded with veteran New Jersey rocker and frequent Crenshaw collaborator Glen Burtnick; and a new version of “There She Goes Again,” whose original version appeared on Crenshaw’s eponymous 1982 debut album, recorded live with alt-country icons the Bottle Rockets.
The I Don’t See You Laughing Now EP will have a two-tiered release, shipping to brick and mortar retail and Kickstarter supporters on November 23, 2012, and available online on January 22, 2013.
All three tracks were mastered for maximum awesomeness by legendary engineer Greg Calbi, who will handle mastering duties on the entire EP series.
Earlier this year, fans made the subscription project a reality by pledging more than $33,000 to Crenshaw’s Kickstarter campaign, above and beyond Crenshaw’s original goal, in increments ranging from $1 to $5000.
Crenshaw is excited that his new subscription model allows him to embrace his love for singles, while allowing him to make music on his own terms, free of record-company politics and the emotional baggage that routinely accompanies the making of full-length albums.
“I’ve always put a great deal of care into the albums I’ve made,” Crenshaw states. “But as a listener, I’ve always been a singles guy and an individual-tracks guy. I’m looking forward to creating a steady output of music in small batches, rather than being stuck in a cave for months and stockpiling a whole bunch of music and dumping it out all at once. Now, when I finish something, I get to put it out, instead of having to wait until I’ve got 12 more.”
Over the course of a career that’s spanned three decades, 13 albums and hundreds of songs, Marshall Crenshaw’s musical output has maintained a consistent fidelity to the qualities of melody, craftsmanship and passion, and his efforts have been rewarded with the devotion of a broad and remarkably loyal fan base.
After an early break playing John Lennon in a touring company of the Broadway musical Beatlemania, the Michigan-bred musician began his recording career with the now-legendary indie single “Something’s Gonna Happen,” on Alan Betrock’s seminal Shake label. His growing fame in his adopted hometown of New York City helped to win Crenshaw a deal with Warner Bros. Records, which released his self-titled 1982 debut album. With such classics as “Someday, Someway” and “Cynical Girl,” that LP established Crenshaw as one of his era’s preeminent tunesmiths — a stature that was confirmed by subsequent albums Field Day, Downtown, Mary Jean & 9 Others, Good Evening, Life’s Too Short, Miracle of Science, #447, What’s in the Bag? and Jaggedland.
Along the way, Crenshaw’s compositions have been successfully covered by a broad array of performers, including Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Robert Gordon, Ronnie Spector, Marti Jones and the Gin Blossoms, with whom Crenshaw co-wrote the Top 10 single “Til I Hear It From You.” He’s also provided music for several film soundtracks, appeared in the films La Bamba (as Buddy Holly) and Peggy Sue Got Married, and was nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe award for penning the title track for the film comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Crenshaw also authored a book about rock movies entitled Hollywood Rock ’n’ Roll, and has assembled compilation albums of the music of Scott Walker and the Louvin Brothers, as well as the acclaimed country & western collection Hillbilly Music . . . Thank God! Since 2011, he has hosted his own radio show, The Bottomless Pit, on New York’s WFUV, Saturday nights at 10 p.m. ET.
But it’s writing songs and making records that remain at the center of Marshall Crenshaw’s creative life, and he’s distinctly excited about the potential of his new subscription service. “I still think that recorded music is a great art form, I still love it and believe in it, and I’m still always striving for excellence. The fact that the Kickstarter thing was a success, and that people responded so well to the concept, felt like a good validation of that.”
“This is a really inspiring situation,” Crenshaw concludes, “and I think that it’s gonna be a good way for me to proceed into the future.”
MARSHALL CRENSHAW TOUR DATES: WINTER 2012-13
Sat., Dec. 29 CAMBRIDGE, MA Club Passim
Fri., Jan. 4 NEW YORK, NY B.B. King Blues Club and Grill; with Glen Burtnik and Liberty Devitto
Fri., Jan. 18 ALEXANDRIA, VA Birchmere; with Bottle Rockets
Sun., Jan. 20 SELLERSVILLE, PA Sellersville Theater 1894
Fri., Jan. 25 PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL Ponte Vedra Concert Hall