April was a good month for indie pop on OurStage. Why you ask? Because Ernie Ball sponsored the Indie Pop Channel in search of one choice artist to award a year’s supply of free strings and accessories. What they got was a tidal wave of great artists and a tough call to make.
They landed on “I Roll” from California pop-folkies Buckeye Knoll. The trio is fronted by songwriter Doug Streblow—self-proclaimed James Taylor mega-fan and a sucker for hooks, harmonies and storytelling. We caught up with Streblow to chat about the win, his influences and his strategy for making it in today’s music biz. Check out the interview below and stop by Buckeye Knoll’s profile for a closer look.
OS: Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to songwriting?
DS: I was introduced to James Taylor’s music a long time before I picked up a guitar and it had a profound effect of me. My choir director growing up had the choir sing all kinds of arrangements by him, and I started taking a liking to them immediately largely due to the fact that the songs were often arranged with the tenor part being the melody which I sang. James Taylor writes well-crafted songs with accessible melodies, lyrics and a whole lot of genuine emotion. I got hooked on that, and those attributes have found their way into Buckeye Knoll songwriting. Other than that, I’m a sucker for great hooks, big harmonies and great storytelling regardless of genre or particular songwriter.
OS: If you could list the top three guitarists who’ve inspired you the most who would they be? Any particular reason why?
DS: Obviously James Taylor first and foremost. He manages to bridge an incredibly complex folk finger-picking style with pop hooks, R&B rhythms and that solid rock/blues foundation. This guy isn’t just jamming out 4 chords over a 4/4 rock beat, he’s playing melodies and harmonies and driving a rhythm section with just his acoustic guitar and voice and everyone is feeling it. I strive to bridge genres and write guitar parts that are both melodic and very rhythmic at the same time and I learned this from James Taylor’s playing style. Other than that I’d say I’m influenced by Cat Stevens and more contemporarily Brett Dennen.
Photo courtesy of Gino DePinto
OS: In your experience, what are the best new ways for artists to promote themselves online?
DS: Primarily we use Facebook to keep up to date with our fans mostly because it’s so easy for any band member to use and edit content. Second to that we use YouTube and Vimeo regularly to promote upcoming shows, tours, releases and anything else where we want to get the word out about something happening in Buckeye Knoll world. We make videos that are both fun for us to make and fun for people to watch, and hopefully will encourage people to spread the word about our band.
At the end of the day you have to have a couple of key things. Without them no amount of Internet wizardry will get you to where you want to be. In our experience we’ve found these things to be:
- Great music that people will like.
- A well developed and interesting brand (photos, videos, online media) that will attract people and keep them engaged.
- A genuine and authentic story and message.
- Determination and a kick ass work ethic.
- A huge love for what you’re doing and the music you’re making.
If you’ve got these things, you’re on the right track.
OS: How does it feel to cross guitar and bass strings off the shopping list for a whole year?
DS: Awesome! If you’re a musician, you know it costs money to maintain your instrument. For guitarists the main reoccurring cost is your strings, and if you’re playing a lot like us, you can go through them quickly which can add up on the old pocketbook. Not only are we stoked to take the cost of strings out of the equation for a year but we’re stoked to be playing Ernie Ball strings and trying out some strings we wouldn’t have bought otherwise. All around, it’s awesome.
OS: How did it feel to win the Ernie Ball grand prize?
DS: Like having a milkshake for the first time; delicious, refreshing and cool.
OS: Any shout-outs you’d like to make to the fans who helped you snag the Grand Prize?
DS: We’d like to thank Oprah, Charlie Sheen and Barack for taking time out of their busy television, drug dealing and political schedules to lay down some thick votes for Buckeye Knoll.