Brad Skistimas better known as Five Times August is an independent musician who has really set the bar for independent artists of his caliber. Not only is he a singer, he also writes all of his own music as well. From being featured on MTV hits like “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” his music still resonates with many people across the world. His use of deep lyrics mixed with a perfect melody is just one of the main reasons why his music has become so popular over the past decade.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask him as a few questions about his career, song writing style, and his plans when it comes to maybe one day signing for a big label. It is very clear that what is most important to him is connecting with fans and producing quality music.
Make sure you follow him on Twitter @FiveTimesAugust and be sure to check out his newest album entitled ‘The Very Best of Five Times August’ available now on amazonMP3, Itunes, and Spotify! He has also been featured on Itunes for the cover song series where he performs ‘You Are So Beautiful’ originally performed by Joe Cocker. He is an artist that deserves your support.
Me: I guess the main question you are probably asked is why go with Five Times August rather than stick to Brad Skistimas?
FTA: When I recorded my very first songs and collected them for an album I didn’t want to promote “Brad Skistimas.” I thought my last name would confuse people or they would forget how to spell the name later. I thought of the band name as an alternative, which came from my birthday August 5th.
Me: What inspired the name Five Times August?
FTA: So, because it was a one-man band kind of project I started playing with different names based on my birthday, keeping it personal. I had different titles written out like “The August Five” but ultimately went with Five Times August. I had written a song a long time ago called “Four Times November” and took that idea and reapplied it.
Me: A lot of your music was featured on MTV shows like Laguna Beach, The Real World, and The Hills, how did your relationship with them come about?
FTA: The music supervisor for Laguna Beach came across my music on the website CDBaby.com and asked me to send in a copy of the Something Clever E.P. I had out at that time. He used the song “Better With You” for an episode which was a huge break for me. Once I had finished a full album I took a chance and submitted it for more licensing consideration. In the second season of Laguna Beach they ended up using four or five more songs which boosted the music’s exposure even more. Once I was sort of in the MTV database they used literally every song off the album “Fry Street” which was later rereleased as “The Independent.”
Me: Do you think that much of your fan base came from your exposure from those shows or did you have a significant fanbase before those shows?
FTA: I had been pushing a career in music seriously for about three years at that point and was doing okay locally. After the MTV exposure it really helped launch a national presence, especially online. It’s really commonplace for up and coming artists to network with their fans via youtube and twitter these days but it was a totally new thing back then and that’s what I was doing. This was when Myspace was new and giving artists an opportunity to really connect with their fans. My very first tour was very successful and lucrative and I don’t think it would have been as easy if it weren’t for the music getting that kind of audience and having a forum to communicate with them.
Me: Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? Do you have a specific place that you go to in order to write your music?
FTA: Well, it doesn’t matter where I write, I just have to be alone! I’ve been married for 7 years now and I still can’t write if my wife is around. It’s a very personal process for me. I used to sit in my room and write a song in about 3 hours and be done with it. Being married and having two little boys now, my process has spread out significantly. I write a piece of a song here and there and sometimes it can take me months to get a song finished. I actually kind of like that though because it gives the song so much time to meld and become what it needs to be. It’s become more like painting and working on the canvas a bit, letting it dry, and coming back to it for improvements until you have things just the way you want. There are still times, however, that I’ll just sit and write and it will flow quickly and those are also magic moments. Some of my favorite songs were written very quickly.
Me: How did it feel selling all your belongings and traveling across the country in an RV to connect with your fans?
FTA: It was scary but quite an adventure. It also taught me a lot about materialism. It was hard to sell things off at first but the more we sold the easier it got and then it was actually exciting. We sold most of our furniture and really went through a process of learning how to “leave it all behind” to pursue a dream. It became very liberating. We saw so much of the country and felt so free. I’m glad we did it.
Me: You are one of the first acts in history to be unsigned and have an album release in a big chain store like Best Buy, Walmart, just to name a few, what does that mean to you?
FTA: To me it means if you put your mind to a specific goal or purpose and keep at it you can accomplish anything. Getting the album in Walmart took us two years to do. A lot of Google searching and writing emails to try and find the right person until one day we got the email response we were hoping for. I was touring a ton at the time and every time we stopped by a Walmart or a Target store I would look at all the CDs and see what label different artists were on. I kept having a vision of my CD being in those stores without any label being involved and that really drove me. “How cool would that be? To know you got yourself here without any help from a label!?” Sure enough, it eventually happened! But, I had to really work at it. After Walmart took the album it became easier to get the other stores interested.
Me: What is your hope for future unsigned artists in the industry?
FTA: I hope the industry figures its self out and I hope a path clears for indie and unsigned artists to get a solid stream of income again. With streaming being “the thing” right now, there are so many great artists struggling, who actually have strong fanbases, who aren’t making enough from album sales and the royalties from online streaming via sites like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube are not nearly enough for even the biggest artists to live off of. If that trend keeps up a lot of great artists will be out of work and unable to keep creating and grow their craft in music.
Me: Are there any songs that you are getting tired of playing?
FTA: I don’t really get tired of playing any particular song(s), but I do eventually feel like I’ve grown out of them. Some of my really early stuff I hardly ever perform in my sets anymore because I have much stronger material now. However, if someone requests a particular “oldie” it’s always exciting to see if I can get through it after forgetting about it for so long!
Me: What made you want to step away from Five Times August and pursue a more blues and jazz type of sound?
FTA: A lot of it was just the desire to try out something new, different and challenging. I love music from the 50s and 60s so I thought it would be fun to do something inspired by those eras with my own modern touch. It was a good project to focus on. It was nice to step away from the identity as “acoustic pop guy” and do something that wasn’t expected. I’m really proud of the music that came out of it and I think it’s some of my best work. I actually have enough material to do another batch of tunes like that so hopefully I’ll get to do that again soon.
Me: How come never signed to a major label? Was there no opportunity or were you nervous they would try and conform your image to a certain image?
FTA: I talked with a ton of major labels between 2006 and 2007. I had spent the majority of my career working toward the “big label deal” but by the time I reached a point where I was talking with them the industry had changed so much and I had accomplished enough on my own that it didn’t seem completely necessary. I was and always have been interested in talking to record labels and still hope to one day find a home at one, but it has to be the right one. I’ve had friends who have signed and were essentially shelved for the entire duration of their contract, eventually celebrating getting dropped so they could create again. I’ve been well educated on what label life is like and although it’s much harder and time consuming to pursue things on my own I’m okay with it. There’s much more freedom and luckily we live in a time where an artist can make things happen on their own if they’re willing to work towards it and take advantage of technology. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a home on a label one day. I guess we’ll see!
Me: Who are your musical influences?
FTA: I grew up listening to The Beatles, Billy Joel, and Michael Jackson. They have been in constant rotation my entire life. When I picked up a guitar and started writing my own songs I was heavily influences by John Mayer, Dave Matthews, and Jason Mraz. These days I love and listen to everything for inspiration, literally everything. My music library covers all kinds of genres from every decade since the 1920s. I get into phases where all I listen to for weeks on end is a certain thing. Right now it’s 80s and 90s pop R&B music with a lot of synthetic instrumentation. In contrast, I’ve had weeks where all I listen to are delta blues or bebop jazz from the 60s like Wes Montgomery. I love music so much and it all influences me in some way or another.
Me: If you could have a collaboration with one artist living or dead who would it be?
FTA: Without hesitation it’d be Paul McCartney
I would just like to say thank you to Five Times August for being so willing to do an interview for Celebrities are Tragic and supporting the blog! Here is my all time favorite song by him, hope you all enjoy and make sure to check out more of his music!