Independent Weekly is an interview series shining a light on some of the music scene’s talented independent musicians to discuss how it is to navigate the industry as an independent artist.
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South of France is one of the many creative projects of Jeff Cormack, a multi-instrumentalist writer, producer, designer, creative director, and founder of Staycation Records/Audiohook.io from Denver, Colorado. He’s been building his own brand of dreamy vacation rock throughout the years since dropping his first single in 2015. He’s had songs featured in TV shows BoJack Horseman and Shameless and features and performances for publications such as American Songwriter, NPR, and Rolling Stone. And with new music around the corner, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
South of France spoke to Quip about his music career and operating as an independent artist.
Nathan Miller: Firstly, can you tell us a bit about your background and journey in music so far?
South of France: My music journey really comes from my love for culture – skateboarding, snowboarding, art, photography, travel, design, and fashion. Music to me is at the center of all of that. I think a lot of artists like myself just want to be a part of the culture and hopefully add to all of the amazing creations that people are making. I’ve always just had projects. Making beats, writing songs, learning new instruments, collaborating with others, and making content. I’ve done a ton of music for film, and a lot of pop tunes for other artists, and feel like I’m finally just now becoming my own artist after having all of these projects, co-writes, collaborations, and bands throughout the last 12 years.
NM: What are the most rewarding things about being an independent artist?
S: You can do whatever you want. Independence allows you to really find your people, build your community, and try things out.
NM: What are the most challenging things about being an independent artist?
S: You can do whatever you want [laughs]. Also, time. Things take a lot longer when you’re independent. Building traction is slow, and it’s frustrating. Remembering that you love this can be challenging when things are frustrating. Not being able to make the music as well as you hear it in your head and then having no resources is hard, but all you have to do when you’re independent is get better. It’s time to just keep getting better and building your vibe.
NM: How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
S: Just remember that you love it and you’d be doing it regardless of the outcome. Don’t view it as a challenge, just view it as part of the process. Everything is challenging if your goal is to be successful.
NM: What advice would you give to other independent musicians out there?
S: The old cliche “just do you.” Treat it as a full-time job and just do the work. If you write songs, then write songs every day. Have 200 songs on the hard drive. If you produce, produce. Have 200 beats and 500 guitar loops on the hard drive, etc. I promise this makes a massive difference when the time is right.
NM: As an independent artist, what’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew back then?
S: The above [laughs]. I got involved with some labels, publishers, sync jokers, managers, and other artists thinking it would help, and the only thing it did was hold me back and distract me from doing the above. Build your business and community. It sounds untrue; however, low to mid-level music industry employees have very, very little, if anything, to offer. Their goal in working with you is to take, not give. That’s what I wish someone would have told me. Don’t get distracted. If you believe you can write a radio hit, then you probably can and no one else can help you with that. It comes from your head – no one else’s.
NM: How do you think streaming platforms can better help independent musicians?
S: Who knows? Constant evolution in favor of the listeners and creators would be ideal. Without the listeners or the creators, they wouldn’t have users or content to earn revenue from. To me, it would make sense for distributors and streaming retailers to figure out how to best serve independent needs with a lot of important components that currently don’t exist. That’s a whole entirely disheartening business problem [laughs]. It’ll hopefully get there one day.
NM: Let’s spread the love! What independent musicians are you fans of and think deserve more attention?
S: I love so much the new and independent music that I hear lately. I’m blown away by new music every day. It’s amazing. Playlists I’ve been jamming – Pollen, Fresh Finds, Bedroom Pop, Lorem, Get Turnt, etc., and then my fellow collaborators – Little Trips, CRL CRRLL, Staycation Records.
NM: You are given a $100,000 grant to invest in your music career. How are you spending it? Give us the full breakdown!
S: I’d figure out the best way to get all of the Staycation Records and Audiohook.io artists’ music out to as many ears as possible and actually have the budget for all of our 50% finished ideas that are currently strapped for resources. Back to the speed thing. We could get a lot more music out into the world with more time and money.
NM: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
S: Doing the exact same thing but on a much larger scale. More fashion collabs, more songs, shows, film scores, artist collabs, and hopefully a much bigger community of listeners.
NM: Give us the full scoop and tell us all about your latest music release?
S: I’ve got South of France music coming out in January with the album on the way. I’ve also been releasing solo music under Jeff Cormack. Some of these songs have been featured in major shows like Shameless, Better Things, Bojack Horseman, etc. So it’s been fun to build that project and give it some love. I’m just working on building the Staycation Records label projects. We’re starting to get a lot of momentum with these artists. I’m also building Audiohook.io, which is a streamlined way to pair artists with content creators for licensing and creative services. Just hopefully creating a ton of opportunities for other artists through these outlets.
NM: Bonus question! A question you’d like to answer that wasn’t asked in this interview…
S: No question, just a big thank you! Thank you to everyone who has listened, come to shows, sent a message, shared our tunes, etc. Thank you! So incredibly appreciated.
All images courtesy of the artist