A while back I interviewed Bob Walkenhorst (formerly of The Rainmakers) about his new solo career. That was fun, so I thought I'd do something like it again. This time it's Audra Coldiron of Audra and the Antidote.
Back before the dot-com boom fizzled, I ran a chain of Internet radio stations featuring local music from various places around the world -- London, Berlin, Tokyo, Sydney, L.A., etc. One of the stations featured Nashville artists, and through it I encountered a snappy New Wave Revival band called Audra and the Antidote. I loved the sound, and put them in heavy rotation. Since then, I've followed the band and I've been impressed with how they've developed. (Follow the link to her webpage above, and click on "Music" to hear the songs, or just click here).
I'm also impressed with how they've used the Internet to promote the band. In the interview below, Audra talks about music, the Internet, and what it's like to be an independent artist using the Web as a tool for promotion.
Glenn Reynolds: How would you describe your music?
Audra Coldiron: We always described it as female-fronted 80's influenced pop/rock.
GR: Do you have a day job? What is it?
AC: Yes! I'm a web designer. I design mostly for independent artists: rock-n-roll-design.com
I started with my own site years ago and naturally branched out to do it for other bands. We (my partner and I) keep the sites simple, search engine friendly, and attractive while offering a very artist-friendly price. We offer hosting as well with tools to allow an artist to update the content of their own site without knowing any HTML - like signing a guestbook.
GR: I first found out about Audra and the Antidote via MP3.com, the (now sadly defunct) music download site. It seems as if your band has gotten a lot of exposure via the Internet. Have you found it helpful?
AC: The internet is the ONLY thing I've found to be helpful. My first band in 1994 - 1995 had a manager and a booking agent. We played all around the southeast and even appeared on Starsearch. We had a paper mailing list and it cost about $30 (plus a lot of labor addressing and licking stamps) to send out to our list. Even then many came back undeliverable and we were out the cost of the postcard and stamp. Trust me, to a struggling musician that is no small cost. Once we stopped playing though, that was it. We had no record company or means of distribution, so once we were not playing live I had no way to continue what I had put all my heart and soul in to for almost 2 years.
With Audra & the Antidote we played out live only once or twice a month. Instead of concentrating on the live show we concentrated on recording and alternative means of promotion. In 1998 I got my first computer and began compiling a fax and email list. I found that this was MUCH more effective than the paper cards I used to send out. Not only did more people show up, but if an address or fax number was bad it was no big deal.
In 1999 I read about another local Nashville artist who was chosen from mp3.com to open a few shows of Alanis Morrisette's 9 week tour. I figured I must be missing out on something HUGE! That night I went to mp3.com having no idea what I was doing and attempted to sign up and upload my music. It took me 3 days to figure out how to convert the music properly and upload but I finally did it. Just a month later one of our songs, "Jenny's Got a Boyfriend," was featured on mp3.com and gave us a lot of exposure. Soon I began searching out other music upload sites such as iuma.com, VH1's independent music site (now defunct), besonic.com, vitaminic.com, soundclick.com, etc. We became a featured artist on almost all of them.
At the start of 2000, a new site called "farmclub.com" went up. As with mp3.com you could upload your music but since it was sponsored by Universal Music and also a TV show you got a shot at performing live in LA on their stage with a couple other national acts. This was telecast on USA Network. Our song "Jenny's Got A Boyfriend" became a featured song, then people from Farmclub called wanting to come to Nashville to see us play live and tape it. They did and sent it back to LA.
The producers apparently thought we were good for TV and invited us to LA. That was on a Tuesday. We left on a Friday. We had an awesome experience, played with Creed and Godsmack, met Jimmy Iovine (who said we looked great), and the show was aired. On the show, while they aired our segment they also had our website's URL showing at the bottom of the screen. We got quite a lot of fanmail and even some hate mail from that performance. Since then it aired one more time on USA Network and quite a few times on Canada's MuchMusic Network.
Summer of 2001 I noticed a new music contest sponsored by CMJ, Coca-Cola and The American Music Awards. The grand prize was to play live on The American Music Awards. This would be telecast. I went to the site, signed up, and uploaded 3 songs. I got a call that we were in the top 50. A little later I got a fed-ex that we were in the top 10 and would be flown to NYC to play at the Bowery Ballroom during the first day of CMJ to an industry only audience. Dick Clark himself would be presenting!
The morning before we were supposed to leave, Kim (the keyboardist) and I were busy making lattes at the coffee house where we both worked. As I was grinding coffee I got a call from our guitarist... "Audra - are you watching the news??? Terrorists just hit New York City!!!" It was Sept. 11, 2001. You know the rest of that story. Our flight the next day was canceled as were all flights throughout the country. The show - with all of CMJ - had to be rescheduled. It ended up being the day BEFORE CMJ started hence instead of playing for industry folks we played for a bunch of firemen. We didn't make it past the top 10 but had a great time despite everything.
We have fans from all over the country and the world thanks to these opportunities provided by the Internet. Our website gets a modest but respectable 1000+ unique visitors every month and we get a few CD sales here and there even though we have stopped promoting it. We still keep in touch with our fans through our mailing list on our website, www.theantidote.net.
Yesterday I just got an email that our song, "The Highschool Song" has moved to the second round of judging at Garageband.com. This morning I got an email from BeSonic.com saying Jenny's Got A Boyfriend will be featured on their music page.
GR: Do you have some Internet suggestions for other artists?
AC: Yes - have a professionally designed website. Keep an active mailing list. Update your site frequently. Get as many sites to link to your site as possible. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Don't wait.
GR: What's your fan base? Why do they like your music? How do they find out about it?
AC: It surprisingly ranges from teens to folks in their 40's. It seems that the teens are mostly girls and as the age goes up it switches to more and more males. I suppose they like the music because it's fun and different than what's on the radio. Also, who can't relate to Jenny's Got a Boyfriend or the Highschool Song? Most -if not all- find out about us through the Internet. Some have been fans since our farmclub TV appearance and subsequent reruns.
GR: On your website you have a journal that's pretty much like a blog. Do you read many weblogs?
AC: No, I don't read many blogs. My life is on the Internet practically. I'm a web designer, so surfing isn't usually a form of entertainment for me unless I'm reading rockandrollconfidential.com or theonion.com :-)
GR: On your journal you wrote about deciding to give blood. Have you done it yet?
AC: Well... not yet, but I will!!! The reason I finally found out my blood type to begin with is that I'm pregnant. :-) Baby needs all my blood right now so I'll definitely start giving once the child is born and is no longer nursing. I haven't let our fans know that this is a big reason for our lack of activity lately though.
GR: Do you think the Internet is a plus or a minus for independent artists?
AC: It's a huge plus as I think I've outlined above. I've heard that major labels are getting 2/3's less unsolicited submissions than they did 5 years ago. It used to be that was the only way to get your music "out there" and/or make any money from it. Now you can take the do-it-yourself route through the Internet.
GR: I notice that you do some drum programming on your latest CD. Are you taking more of an interest in electronica?
AC: Since I live on a computer, I think it's only natural that I would gravitate towards the electronica side of things. I do like the sound of live drums much better but much of the time you end up spending so much money and time on recording that it's more efficient to program it. Also, you can get live drum samples and if you know what you're doing you can make it sound pretty authentic (not that I know what I'm doing. ;-)
GR: One of my favorite songs on your new CD is "The Highschool Song." In the chorus you say "this was my high school." I think it was everybody's high school! Did you really hate high school? Why? How did your life change after high school?
AC: Really??? That was your high school too??? You mean I'm not the only one??? Well, that's good to know. That was my high school word for word. The only thing that wasn't 100% accurate is the "Hardees" is actually a Pizza Hut (Hardees rhymed) and the string bikini was actually a one-piece. :-)
I hated highschool so much that a recurring nightmare I have is that I have to go back to highschool for some reason. I was picked on and made to feel like an outcast until I was a senior. I was never invited to any parties. Once I went to a party anyway and when I would walk into a room everyone would go into another room. LITERALLY. Then I would follow them into their room and they would go back into the first room. Sheesh, am I glad I'm an adult now. :-)
After high school my life changed dramatically. I moved from a small town in PA to Nashville to go to college. I started my first band and toured all over the southeast. I didn't have time to worry about whether I was popular or not which I still swear I wasn't. I always wanted to be popular but never felt like I was. Thank God I'm over that now!
GR: Do you consider yourselves to be a "girl band," or are you just a band that happens to be female?
AC: I consider girl bands to be something like The Spice Girls. Bands like the Go-Go's, The Bangles, L7, etc. are just bands who happen to be all female. I feel we fall into that category. However, we don't have a permanent drummer so much of the time we are not all female.
GR: Who are your big musical influences?
AC: The Beatles! I saw "The Complete Beatles" documentary on PBS when I was 12 and ever since then I wanted to be a rock star. Damn PBS!! ;-) Soon after that I saw the Bangles on Solid Gold and my world was rocked. An all girl band!!! I'd say the early Cure, and the B-52's were big influences as well. After a point I stopped focusing on just one band and started to take everything in. I really admire Jane's Addiction and Madonna as well but I don't think they've been a musical influence.
GR: Name your three favorite bands (1) for all time; and (2) out of those performing now.
AC: All time
1. The Beatles
2. The B-52's
3. Jane's Addiction
1. No Doubt
2. Fountains of Wayne
3. Hole (though they have broken up. Do they still count?)
GR: Any advice for aspiring musicians?
AC: You have to really love it. Once you stop loving it move on to something else. You can always return.
GR: What question should I have asked that I didn't? What's the answer?
AC: Oh - I started a website called The Artist Couch Exchange. It is a place where independent artists and supporters can offer their "couch" (or bed or spare wing) to other independent artists touring through their area. It's all free and community driven. We simply offer the central location to find and be found.
My daughter and her friends have decided that they like Audra and the Antidote more than Britney or Avril. So who knows? Maybe she'll be able to get off of those couches, and get onto MTV. . . .
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This is a listing of articles and interviews done about Audra & the Antidote over the years.
Web Musician Interview