This month, Music and Money isn't metal -- but it's interesting. Chicago artist NadNavillus released the album Forgotten Portraits on June 9, 2023, featuring lyrics written by incarcerated or recently released poets. Dan Sullivan of NadNavillus says of the collaborative work,
"I am very grateful to the poets for allowing me the use of their work for this collection of songs. The music reflects the complexity of the subject matter and is alternately tender and raucous, melodic and abrasive, brooding and playful, simplistic and intricate. It is worth noting that none of the songs celebrate the actions or consequences of the stories told."
In the spirit of helping people move forward, 50% of all proceeds from Forgotten Portraits will be donated to the Bard Prison Initiative, which “enrolls over 400 students in academically rigorous college programs, maintains a robust alumni network, and supports a growing field of college-in-prison programs across the country and the globe.”
So without further ado, see what Sullivan has to say about making music in 2023...
Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
NadNavillus is my lifelong artistic practice, primarily taking the form of music but at a younger age it encompassed visual art as well. The music is sonically and structurally diverse, sometimes instrumental or songs built around my voice. I currently have a regular band but am equally comfortable playing solo or inviting guest musicians.
What are your goals for NadNavillus?
My new album is titled Forgotten Portraits. It is a collection of songs composed around poems written by incarcerated people sourced from Poetry Magazine. My hope is the album finds an audience and opens people’s minds.
What inspired you to make an album about incarceration?
I was drawn to the poems; the stories they tell, the vulnerabilities they share, the power and resilience and importance of the messages being conveyed. Reading them, I could really sense how much was on the line for the authors. The creative impulse is a compulsion, and the challenge is to connect this particular compulsion with meaning and purpose. In these poems, and with my music, I found purpose.
What do you do for a living?
I own a custom fabrication business called Navillus Woodworks. We build furniture, commercial and residential millwork, sculptures for artists; I like keeping it diverse. I also build electric guitars. You can follow what we’re up to on IG @navillus_woodworks.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
I find time to make music on evenings, weekends, sometimes early in the morning. I’ll schedule time off if need be. Sometimes I feel spread a little thin but I’m happiest when I’m productive.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
Dedication to your craft requires an investment of time. This could mean writing, practicing, self-reflection, or seeking opportunity and outlets for your art. Persistence and seeing things through counts for a lot.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician/band?
Years ago I booked my own tours, which almost always lost money. In retrospect driving hundreds of miles across Canada and playing to hardly anyone doesn’t seem like a smart investment… but I have no regrets. Think carefully before embarking on that DIY tour if you don't have good support through sales or promotion of some kind.
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
I go see live music at least once a week. If I like a band or artist and they have an attractive and affordable piece of merch I’ll give them my money. Design and presentation matter to me, there’s a lot of ugly merch out there. So I do my best to make sure my product looks tight.
Can you share some tour budgeting tips?
If at all possible make sure you have enough cash to cover all known travel expenses before you embark. Try and book at least one or two shows that you know will pay decent to make up for the ones that don’t. Use credit cards only if you can pay them off. Stock up at the grocery store rather than buying garbage at rest stops.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
Bandcamp, Instagram, Facebook. But the best way is to support your local scene, go to shows and say hi to folks. I still flyer and text people before shows, which is necessary because there’s too much going on, and too many different places people look to see what's going on.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2023?
Making music and performance is sacred. Not that I’m chanting and lighting candles and praying on stage, but the older I get the more I am aware of what a privilege it all is. Making meaningful connections with other people through live performance and recordings is the only thing that really matters in your art. Focus on that, and at the very least you will be proud of how you represented yourself.
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