Evan Rowe is a local songwriter and performer best-known as Catalonia, a professor of political science and history at Broward College, and a small-d democratic strategist with no party affiliation. Each week, we surrender our space for his thoughts on the music industry and how they relate to our region.
This week, Rowe interviews Evan Mui, a singer/songwriter with a mad style -- and a performer sharing the bill with Catalonia on Sunday at the Jib Room in Fort Lauderdale. They sat down and had a discussion on music, the music business, and the local music situation.
New Times: When did you start playing music?
Evan Mui: Growing up, I had a piano and guitar around the house, so I was always messing around. By doing so on and off for such a long time, I developed a natural sense of rhythm. It wasn't till around 2002-2003 that I started getting serious about writing and recording my own music.
What do you think influenced you the most in terms of your writing style?
The Beatles, without a doubt. I was pretty much raised on the Beatles and their solo material -- John's and George's. Mostly '60s rock like the Kinks, and the Zombies, and and '90s alternative like Built to Spill, and Pavement, Pixies, Elliott Smith, Beck, I could go on for a while.
What if any musical ambitions do you have? Do you want to generate money from it or get involved with touring or things of that nature?
I think it's an extremely difficult time to be pursuing a career in music. The state of the music industry is such that unless you somehow manage to get a review from a certain website/blog, your chances at making it are pretty null. You start making music because you love it and you do it for yourself because it's a very fulfilling process; then people start taking you seriously even if you don't necessarily take yourself seriously; then you play shows and try to do all that, and it can be very discouraging for the meeker types.
And then the whole business aspect of getting signed and having a manager and making money off sales comes into play, if you're lucky enough, I suppose, and it's weird for inspiration, wouldn't you say?
Right, and even music sales are suspect these days.
It makes the creative process weird, yeah, definitely. I mean, I definitely decided on never giving up on music regardless of what may happen. It'd be like a dream to tour and do all of that; i just haven't been able to make it happen yet.
There are aspects of wanting to play to larger audiences, but the system that existed in the past is like much of the rest of our economy: The only way things happen is when there is a system of investment and profit to be made. Since profitability is being sucked out of the system, it makes no sense for the top class to invest. My instinct tells me that money is simply being moved around and that the artists are a secondary concern.
Oh, without a doubt. What's even sadder to me is the state of the music scene here in Florida. We definitely have some great guys out here making things happen, like Steve Rullman, but most of them are not trying to help artists at all. It's a completely promoter-dominated scene down here, at least for me. It seems like it has been a huge effort to try and set up gigs every now and then. Sometimes you get lucky with consistent ones and even luckier with the ones that actually pay. It's also kinda a drag to me that people here are way more interested in seeing somebody DJing or standing onstage with a computer than an actual band or person playing an instrument.
I call this the cult of the DJ. Another matter. Any closing thoughts?
I believe that good music will always prevail.
-- Evan Rowe
Evan Mui will play with Trav, Catalonia, Travalonia, and others at the Jib Room, 2104 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, this Sunday, May 31, from 8 until whenever they stop playing. Click here.