San Francisco - Greetings From The San Francisco Chapter Board: Kylee Swenson Gordon

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Kylee Swenson Gordon – Songwriter/Instrumentalist/Producer/Editor

San Francisco Governor

What was one of the coolest experiences you’ve had while working?

A few years ago, my band Loquat played at the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco. After our performance, we were hanging out in our green room when a guy named Ernesto, dressed in black with a black cowboy hat, appeared at our door. He was the VJ for Nortec Collective, an awesome norteño-meets-techno group from Tijuana, and it turns out he was a fan of our music. Ernesto brought Bostich and Fussible from the band over to meet us, and we hit it off. Nortec Collective has played in front of 60,000-plus people, and yet they were hanging out with little old us. Since then, I co-wrote and sang on the song “I Count the Ways” from their last album, Bulevar 2000, which was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2011. It just goes to show that you never know who is going to “get” your music when you put it out there. It might just be a Mexican cowboy VJ!

What is your favorite piece of equipment and why?

I have a Millennia TD-1 preamp that I use in my home studio for vocal collaborations. I love it because it bumps up the quality of the sound, which enables me to work remotely with producers anywhere in the world.

Growing up, which artists inspired you the most?

There are soooo many: Steely Dan, Roy Orbison, Joao Gilberto, The Cure, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, The Cardigans, The Sundays, Sade, Anita Baker, New Order, Gerry Rafferty, The Pretenders, Mary J Blige, The Stone Roses…. My taste is all over the map. I’ll listen to Kool Keith in the same hour that I’ll listen to Dolly Parton and The Smiths. I had Cure posters plastered all over my walls as a teenager, but the artist who influenced me the most is probably Björk. I fell in love with The Sugarcubes and then with Björk’s solo albums. I’m just amazed at what she can do with her voice.

What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out in the music business?

Some days you will take a step forward, and sometimes it will feel like two steps back. Revel in those days when you have a big win. Do a victory lap and remember that feeling every time you have a bad day. Not everyone will love what you do, but you’re not making music for those people. You’re doing it for yourself and the people who appreciate you.

My motto has been to leave no stone unturned. You don’t have to take every offer that comes your way, but be open to them because you never know where they will lead. You could play a show in front of 10 people, but one person in the audience might like what you do and want to work with you, so try to make the most out of every situation. There are a lot of ways to market your music online that didn’t exist a year or two ago, but you still need to play live and build your audience by playing out of town. I asked a popular band’s manager how often they perform shows that he considers great, and he said, “One out of every 20.” And that’s a band that travels all over the world. You won’t knock every show out of the park, but enjoy the times when you do.

The music industry is not for the faint of heart. I believe that the true test of finding out if you’re cut out for it is if you become depressed when you’re not making music. If you’re doing it for money or fame, it’s not a real passion and you’d be better served doing something else.  

What are your favorite performance venues in San Francisco?

The Independent, Bottom of the Hill, Great American Music Hall, The Fillmore, Café du Nord, Rickshaw Stop, Slim’s…San Francisco is blessed to have some pretty great venues.