There were a lot of free concerts, benefit gigs and CDs sold out of the back of Michael Glabicki’s truck in the early days, before his band Rusted Root would go on to get a major label deal and become one of the most respected jam bands touring today.
Had the group uploaded, say, a couple of demos onto Facebook and waited, Glabicki says, it just wouldn’t be the same. It was that hard work in the early 1990s, Glabicki says, relentlessly performing and promoting, that refined the Rusted Root sound — a unique blend of acoustic, rock and world music that would lead the band to sell more than 3 million albums.
“I think it’s almost too easy to make recordings now,” says Glabicki, speaking from Pittsburgh. “You can copy someone and make it really good … but now you can get away with it to where the industry just accepts it. It has changed the mentality of how people view music, and, in a way, it’s cheapened it. As listeners, we get our music marketed to us. And how much of that can you take before you get turned off to music altogether?”
Glabicki will deliver the keynote address at the 7th annual Singer-Songwriter of Cape May (known by many as SS Cape May), taking place Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29, at Congress Hall and throughout select live music venues in Cape May.
The music conference brings together more than 80 music industry professionals and 150 acts and artists, working together and performing free, live shows for the public both evenings.
The singer-songwriter weekend features two afternoons of music business panels, workshops, mentoring and two keynote speaker talks for musicians and registered guests. At night, the participating artists showcase at 16 Cape May live music venues.
Organizer John Harris describes the conference as a boutique event, catering to new and emerging artists who are trying to break through.
“We’re not trying to be South by Southwest,” Harris says. “It’s artsy, and we cater to the venues we have. (The attendees) get to meet a lot of people, and for some of them it’s a reunion. The locals love it, they pack all the bars.”
Following his Saturday keynote address, Glabicki will be the featured performer in the Grand Ballroom of Congress Hall after 8 p.m. Eight-time Boston Music Award winner Melissa Ferrick, known for her rootsy/Americana sound, will also serve as a keynote speaker, performing in the Grand Ballroom after her talk on Friday.
Rusted Root, a multi-platinum sextet out of Pittsburgh, evolved around Glabicki’s distinct sound, is perhaps best known for its radio hit “Send Me on my Way.” Glabicki also has a side project with a trio and has been working recently on a solo album.
For Glabicki, songwriting is an ever-evolving process.
“To even talk about it, I would probably need the rest of my life,” Glabicki says, laughing. “As I explain to people, it’s constantly changing, and I’m constantly changing my story. Just as life goes on, and you understand life differently through the years, that’s how I understand songwriting.”
Many attendees at SS Cape May might still be hoping for a breakthrough — armed with great material or ideas, but not sure how to put it all together. Glabicki says it’s important to put the work in, constantly getting in front of live audiences to play.
“Live music connects like nothing else,” Glabicki says. “CDs especially, or downloads, the format itself is a little weak as far as quality goes. Back in the day, when I was a little kid and listened to vinyl, that connected very differently. Recorded music nowadays … what it can convey, the layers are less. So, there is the importance of going out and playing.”
Harris, also a music promoter, knew the members of Rusted Root when they were first starting out in Pittsburgh two decades ago. The group continues to remain a fixture in the jam band scene even as the entire industry has been turned on its head, making Glabicki’s experience as a keynote speaker invaluable, Harris says.
“When they first came out, they had an album,” Harris says. “Now it’s all iTunes, it’s not the record store. The whole paradigm of the music industry has changed. And that’s what this is about. It’s an educational thing during the day. Our focus is on trying to treat your music as a small business.”