An interview with Monika Bullette

Why did you release “The Secrets” online? How much did Wilco play an influence in that decision?

“The Secrets” was released for free and legal and distributable download online because I had weighed 1.) the financial aspects of duplicating the music, then packaging it as I had envisioned, then mailing it out to only potentially interested parties, and then waiting for some response – against 2.) a free release which could take advantage of the explosion of digital music demand and instantaneous access. iPods, podcasts, MP3 blogs, and world wide access via the Internet all have collided to make this a very receptive environment for my songs. Wilco’s story is much different from my story: They already had a contract with a big label who didn’t know what to do with their record – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco persevered with a boutique label. The film “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart” was illuminating in a way that every rock documentary is from “Some Kind of Monster” to “The Ramones – End of the Century” to “Gimme Shelter”.You get a glimpse into the mysterious workings of the thing called a band – in a “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” way.

But to answer the question – Wilco played no part in the decision – I hadn’t thought of the Internet connection until you asked the question.

How did you manage to combine your influences into “The Secrets”? Additionally, how did you manage to capture a sound much older than you are?

There isn’t a conscious effort to combine influences. I find that these just are the songs that I can write. Forcing yourself to fit into an expectation will give you just that – a forced sounding song. I’m not a musical discriminator – I have hundreds of records and cds and music files ranging from Harry James to Danzig to Hank Williams. I like to trace my favorite songwriters’/bands’ favorites. I also take breaks away from any music whatsoever.

The sound that is captured is a result of the recording process at my co-conspirator Hangnail Phillips’ home studio The Control Room – perhaps the layering of instruments principally played by me, from drums to guitars to vocals to accordion to violin, isn’t a shiny new homogenized Top 40 radio sound.

What separates you from the masses of singer-songwriters? (besides your obviously different style, of course.)

I want to have a new song – not a re-hash of someone else’s? I am Bullette, hear me roar??

What was your favorite instrument to play on the album?

I particularly enjoyed the physicality of the drum set – the guitar parts were all written in the process of the song writing and the drum parts were fleshed out later in the recording process, which was fun and spontaneous.

How do you think you will fare in the long run, having jump-started your own career through your own means and terms?

As you said, any progress so far has been on my own terms and means so I have no one to blame/praise but myself for the songs’ reception. At this point all options are still open. I already thought the songs were a success but having people listening to my songs in Thailand, Iceland, and Australia, etc. is icing. It has really been cool to shout into the abyss and have the abyss shout back “You’re A-OK!”.

Career is the operative word in your question – if you mean it in a bread-winning sense I wouldn’t discount this possibility but I would rather Career mean “a life-work chosen by a person to use personal talent to contribute to society”. Of course this sounds stilted but with that definition I think I can have a Career – reach people with these songs and my next – and provide a provocation, an escape, some enjoyment, a few answered questions, and many questions asked.

In the future, will you be releasing your music online, or will you pursue a more traditional route — finding a record label, maybe?

Things are changing rapidly – CDBaby is an option for sale of the next album and it’s rapidly becoming the indie artist’s retailer of choice for physical (and digital distribution via Apple iTunes). Here’s an optimistic interview of CD Baby founder Derek Sivers – Distribution in brick and mortar stores is also a hurdle to cross.

The short answer is “I haven’t decided” – the story is still unfolding. I’m learning more everyday about business, the Internet, what I want and don’t want, how incredibly varied and huge the world is and its hungers are, and my place in it all.

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