Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
We are downright blessed to have a Ford Transit these days, through the generosity of a community member. We got help from them, having heard of our numerous breakdowns in Clifford (our ruby red 15 passenger Dodge modified for a touring bike team). We had broken down in Idaho, Nebraska, Iowa, and more, which for a Wisconsin band, was certainly not ideal. But gone are the days of no AC, in our boxers treks to shows. We’re thankful to have what we have now.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
Tortillas are the lifeblood of this band. The ability to contain just about anything we put in them makes tortillas ideal for on the road snacks, and believe me, we put ANYTHING in them. We have learned to never turn down a meal, and to grab everything from the green room we can. We have cheap covered. Eating healthily is an entirely different story.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
This used to be a bigger problem with our lesser equipment, when we would regularly break 5-6 strings a night leading to hundreds over the year. I remember having to carry a box of 25 sets of strings with me on stage just in case. But since we’ve gotten better equipment and adjustments, I personally go through about 14-15 sets a year, costing about $200.
Where do you rehearse?
Our rehearsal space is part of this incredible studio called Artisan Forge here in Eau Claire, WI. We share the space with metal workers, painters, chocolatiers, and luthiers. It makes for an interesting spot to write and rehearse. The craziest experience we had in that space was when we were raising money for our Kickstarter, and held a hot wing eating contest. I sincerely doubt that space had ever had so many grown men crying in the same small space. But hey! It funded this record. We can’t complain.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
The first song we ever wrote as Them Coulee Boys is called “Big Slough” named after the road I grew up on in the country in the Coulee region of Wisconsin. One lyric that isn’t cringe inducing these days is:
But each time/I try to leave/the road that takes me back/is the only one I see
Describe your first gig.
Our first gig was booked by my dad, Bryan, at the ski hill where he was a ski instructor. We tucked ourselves back into a corner of the chalet and the three of us sat down on chairs and played acoustically. We played 2 original songs, paired with some Merle Haggard, CCR, and about 7 or 8 Avett brothers tunes. If I recall correctly, they let us use the tube hill as payment afterward. All in all, a pretty fruitful evening.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
Currently we are all holding other jobs outside of music, be it teachers, day care providers, maintenance men, or store managers. The reality of being a touring musician is that unless you’re at the top, you have to do something else.
Our favorite day job for 3 of us probably would be the 4-5 summers we spent as camp counselors at a Bible camp in northern Wisconsin. That’s where Beau and I first became friends, where Beau met his wife, and where we started the band that became Them Coulee Boys. We would play in front of middle schoolers 4 times a day, 6 days a week, for 10 weeks a summer. I mean it when I say we cut our teeth as a band trying to keep 13 year olds entertained.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
We went from playing 4 hour shows for $100 to now employing 5 band members, a manager, an agent, PR, and advertising people. It’s still not enough to make a living on, but it’s really incredible to look at now compared to then. We expect (or at least hope) that we see continued growth so we can make music our full time pursuit and support the people we love.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
I wish I had known how important it is to take care of your health, both physically and emotionally. It’s easy to think “I love creating and performing music, why would I ever get sick of that?”. I know now that you can still love something and have it hurt you. Once I started taking care of myself, we became a better band, I became a better musician, and I became a better person.