Gainesville, Florida is home to our current Evensound artist, Connor Vance. Having shifted gears from athletics to music and moving from Canada to one of the southern most states in the US, Connor is proving himself to be a more than capable singer/songwriter with a knack for writing personal lyrics with broad appeal. His first single “Run” has a deeper meaning than you’d expect after seeing the video.
Connor answered some questions for us here at Evensound so that we could get a better understanding of his inspiration and thoughts on beginning his music career.
What is your musical background? How long have you been playing and writing?
Coming from a family of superb athletes, my early life revolved around playing competitive sports. I was bound and determined to follow in the footsteps of my family. I dedicated most of my time passionately playing hockey with a mindset of one day, making it into the big leagues.
Growing up in a small town in British Columbia, Canada (Prince Rupert), you pretty much have two options: become a pro hockey player, or become a fisherman. During a tournament when I was 13 (there were scouts recruiting for pro Hockey clubs), I had received a vicious hit, which left my right leg bruised so bad I couldn’t walk. I had no choice but to return home, losing what I thought was my shot to be a pro Hockey player.
As I rehabbed, I remember hearing my older brother upstairs making some kind of terrible noise. He bought a cheap guitar and amplifier and decided to try playing the guitar. One day, bored out of my mind, I picked up that old dusty red Epiphone SG.
Basically overnight, my focus of playing sports had completely shifted to being a musician. My life long dream of being a professional hockey player had fell off its course and shifted to the rock star mentality.
I would play guitar for hours and hours; in the morning, after school, and basically whenever I could. I remember being in class completely dazing off, listening to my favored guitarists, sometimes getting in trouble for not paying attention.
My folks split when I was two years old. I never really lived with my Dad, but I knew he had a love for music. After playing guitar for only 6 months I sent him a clip of me playing a cliche Extreme song. He immediately called me afterwards and told me, This is what you’re meant to do this is your destiny.
Since that phone call, I continued to develop my guitar playing skills. I also learned how to sing and eventually wrote my own tunes. I’ll always remember my friends saying how much I sucked at singing and playing guitar; which I am grateful for. They motivated me to get better to the point where I’d be appreciated, rather than shut down.
In 2014, I had an opportunity to move down to Gainesville, Florida in the US to live with my father and pursue this dream of mine. As soon as I had graduated from high school, I packed my stuff, saved up my money, and here I am stateside following my dreams.
Who are your biggest influences?
When I first started playing guitar, I was heavily influenced by the typical guitar Gods such as: Stevie Ray, Jimi Hendrix, Zakk Wylde, John Frusciaunta, and Slash. I found that my style of lead guitar playing has slightly stemmed off of those artists, but at the same time, took its own path due to many different genres of music I listen too.
As I started singing and songwriting, my heavily influenced passion towards playing the guitar shifted. Even though I was obsessed with being great on the guitar, I began listening to more of the lyrics, structure components, and melodies of songs, rather then just the guitar.
As I became more serious as a songwriter, I started listening to artists like John Mayer, Incubus, Chris Cornell, Jack White and Coldplay. Other brilliant artists emerged like Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons, whom influenced me. I have a deep respect and appreciation for talent and the drive it takes to create catchy songs, and be able to share with millions of people around the world.
What is your song writing process?
There are many different ways I’ll write a song. I tend to fluctuate methods and strategies as much as possible, so I don’t plateau.
I’ll usually start off with a guitar in my hands and a head full of ideas. Whatever emotion I am feeling at that time I’ll apply to the guitar. I usually fool around with chords and patterns on the guitar until I have something that appeals to me.
Once I have the guitar progression, I open up my notebook and either write down initial thoughts that come to my head. It also sometimes works where I can write an entire songs lyrics and apply the guitar after.
When I had written my single “Run”, it was inspired completely from true, traumatic events taken place in my auntie Teresa’s shoes. She had been diagnosed with cancer living in Penticton, BC, Canada. When she was going through chemotherapy, she had a major life threatening surgery coming up, which put her in a position of very strong worry and fear. To say the least, she needed all the support and love she could get at this very rough stage in her life.
At this emotionally trying time, she had found out that her husband of 25 years had been having an affair on her, and was getting ready to leave her. Devastated, she wondered why he was doing this, and at such a bad time in her life. Luckily, the surgery went successful and her cancer was cleared. But when she came home from long nights and months at the hospital, she had nothing to come home to, but heart wrenching memories, anger, frustration, sadness, and so many questions as to why this was happening (the chorus ends with “I worried when things turned grey, that you’d run”).
This had me full of emotion and sadness for someone I loved so much in my family. When I started writing this song, it came through very easily and I wanted to write it in a way that people can take, listen to it, and apply whatever pain they are going through in their life, such as breakups, fights, and so on.
Once I began working with my producer/manager Ian Bentley, I realized that there is so much more involved in creating a finished track than just 4 chords and a catchy hook. From the beats, to the structure, to the ebbs and flows of a tune, there’s so much that goes into a song. Each day I write I feel I am becoming better of an artist.
How do you feel about the status of the music industry and its shifting distribution models in regards to its effect on the indie artist?
Social media is key in today’s indie landscape. Being able to connect with new fans across the world is a click away. I know that record companies are still trying to figure out how to profit from artists now that streaming sites seem to be much more dominate than the old school record stores of the past. They just can’t make the money they used to from CDs. But while the ability to distribute music independently is as easy as it’s even been, there is more competition to get the ears of a new fan. It is not as easy as just putting up flyers in your local town and get A&Rs to show up and sign you. As an independent artist, self-promotion is just as important, if not more than creating a hit song. Only the massively driven musicians who can understand that they have to go out and get it will thrive. If you think it will just come to you because you can write a good tune and publish it on Spotify, I hope you had a nice dream and you slept well.
How was your Audiokite experience?
I really had no idea what Audiokite was. My producer and manager Ian Bentley was very adamant on testing the tracks we recorded in the studio. He felt it was important to understand what tracks resonated well with what genres and age groups. This ties more into the last question on being an Indie artist… understanding who your fans are. Audiokite certainly helped in determining what track we would release first (“Run” tested in the 97% percentile), and the comments and presentation of the reports were very in-depth.
I knew we had something special when we got a response like this:
One of the best songs I’ve listened to through these HITs. I rarely give people 10s because that implies perfection, but this song deserved all the 9s I gave it. Everything is great quality. I can’t pick out a single part of the song I didn’t like. This song could easily be played on the radio and if this artist continues down this path I could see them doing quite well in their future.
We checked the reviewers average rating it was a 4.3 out of 10. Understanding that we got a 9/10 from him meant we were not getting smoke blown up our butts.
One of the cooler comments we got from a reviewer was a word that I did not sing clear on “Run”. She thought that I had sung, “When things turn Cray, that you’d run” – thinking I was trying to be like Kanye West. We then went back into the mastering session and fixed it so there is no doubt I sing “Grey”, not “Cray” LOL.
Finally, we actually used the data from Audiokite and tested our first single “Run” on ReverbNation. Because the data from Audiokite was so good, we had a feeling how it would test there and we were able to land a Crowd Picks spot (radio ready track). Yeah! one fan at a time!
What are you listening to right now?
Lately I have been listening too a lot of Chris Cornell. He has always been one of my biggest influences as not only a singer, but a songwriter as well. I particularly have always been a huge fan and respected him for the fact that his writing style fluctuates from love, to real world problems, to life struggles, and downbeat elements of life that are so real and pull so much emotion.
Besides my inner heavy rock side, I am Canadian born and have a pop feel to me as well, which is why I can’t help but respect fellow Canadian Justin Bieber’s new album Purpose. I really appreciate the acoustic stuff he’s done such as “Love Yourself” – it tells a great story and really connects people with the music and story. His other stuff including “Sorry” and “What do you mean” are also brilliantly produced and super catchy.
I’m big fan of Ed Sheeran right now, I have so much respect for how somebody with such a unique style of music can skyrocket themselves to fame with such catchy, acoustic driven songs.
If there is any modern day alt rock band I would favor, it would be Imagine Dragons. Very impressed with their latest release.
What are your plans and goals for 2016?
Honestly, my goals for 2016 are to connect with as many fans that can relate with my songs, be it lyrically, melodically or both. I just want to get out there and play my music for as many people as I can.
Anything you’d like to add?
If you are an artist that is in the writing process, or has a finished track, spend the extra loot and test it. Either you will get confirmation you have something great, or, you can get unbiased comments on what people did or didn’t like, which can only help improve a song. My tips to any artist: The first time you read anything that may be construed as negative; get sad, get mad and yell to the world they don’t know shit. Then once you have calmed down, go back a few days later and better yourself by taking the comments as way to improve yourself and your art.
Finally, Thanks for the opportunity to share my music!!!