Leagues takes nothing for granted at the Satellite Tuesday
By Bliss Bowen 10/17/2013
Change is vital for any artist. Yet it risks alienating fans, whether you’re headlining arenas or driving your hatchback into the ground touring hinterland dives.
Thad Cockrell knows a thing or two about change. A critics’ darling in the Americana world for a trio of beautifully written solo albums over the past decade, he shocked onlookers three years ago when he effectively kicked all that aside to focus on his new band Leagues (Cockrell, guitarist Tyler Burkum, drummer Jeremy Lutito and, more recently, Burkum’s bassist cousin Phil Hicks). Where Cockrell’s music’s defined by his heart-rending tenor and melodic melancholy, Leagues’ harmony-layered indie rock’s more rhythmically aggressive and upbeat. The Nashville-based band’s full-length debut, last year’s “You Belong Here,” has reaped enthusiastic reviews, suggesting rewards have validated any risk.
“In order to be creative, I believe you have to do something you don’t know how to do on some level,” Cockrell acknowledges. “It’s really scary but that’s what makes it fun and rebellious, and keeps us on our edge.”
A reflective, nimble conversationalist, Cockrell cites Neil Young and novelist John Steinbeck as artists who “decide they might peak at one thing and then decide to learn a whole new skill set or explore frozen muscles.” Having survived the hardscrabble climb to niche status, his perspective on challenges confronting independent artists is clear-eyed.
“The biggest problem is that people no longer believe that music is something to be bought,” he says. “Because here’s what you need as an artist: You need time to develop. And time costs money. [Chuckles] There’s just no way around it. We’re really thankful for how well things are going for Leagues, but if people actually bought the record or if Spotify paid only half of what a radio royalty was, we’d be better for it. It’s interesting how music makes the world go ‘round, but if you show up at the gig, the last person to get paid is a musician.
“This is not a bellyache. This is something I’m very aware of and I keep doing it. …
“When my first record [2001’s “Stack of Dreams”] came out, Napster and these online piracy things were happening; I went on one site and you could actually see [that] the record was downloaded for free over 50,000 times. I was sick for the rest of the day. I was poor, barely able to pay rent, trying to find gas money to get to the next show. If a quarter of them had bought the record, or just paid a dollar, my world would be completely different. Not rich, but ...”
So he and his Leagues brothers are all the more grateful for their warm reception at shows and radio. “We don’t take for granted that any of this is happening,” he says. “It usually doesn’t.”
Leagues headlines the Satellite, 1717 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake, 9 p.m. Tuesday. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. The Dig and Busy Living open. For information, call (323) 661-4380 of visit leaguesmusic.com