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Interviews: Close-Up With The ‘New’ TRADEMARK!

TRADEMARK was founded in 2005 by lead vocalist and front-man, Charles Derrick. From 2005 to now, TRADEMARK has been blessed to be able to go from a small local band to a Southeast regional band under the direction of Charles Derrick, with a little help from his mentors, strong support from TRADEMARK fans, and former members who helped build the TRADEMARK name. While there have been various line-up changes in the band through the years that TRADEMARK has been together, one thing has remained the same: the desire to grow a business and give TRADEMARK fans the very best show possible.

This desire led to finding bassist Griffin Hardy (Palo Alto, The Heartless Villains, Gary Burnside, and Cadillac Funk) in 2010 during a transitional period for the band. After Griffin joined in 2010 some major changes happened in 2011 which proved to be a trying time for TRADEMARK. Two of the members, one being a longtime member, decided to pursue a new musical direction. While it was shocking to the remaining two members of the band, their drive and determination, set them on a course to find the right people to replace the members who had left. The search for new members led to the doors of guitarist, Elijah Wegmann and Drummer, Chas Henry.

This new line-up of TRADEMARK hit the road in the summer of 2011 and has seen a steady increase of attendance at shows, all the while upping their game and making new fans along the way. The new line-up has allowed TRADEMARK to grow into a new direction in their cover material and their original music.

1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
TRADEMARK: The band, “TRADEMARK”, was initially started in 2005 by Charles Derrick (vocals). At that time, the focus was on more of the cover scene and just trying to get gigs. When Griffin, Chas, and Elijah came into the picture in 2011, it became a totally new start in a more serious musical direction along with the focus on the business side. The direction and style of original music started to take shape also.

2. Who were the first influences on your music and style?
TRADEMARK: Although every band member has a wide range of influences; the influences that draw the style and musical direction for TRADEMARK today would be a diverse mixture of hard rock groups (Tool, Motley Crue, Kid Rock) and country rock groups (Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, Eric Church).

3. How did you guys first meet up and decide to drastically change the TRADEMARK sound in 2011?
TRADEMARK: Griffin (Bass) and Charles (Vocals) were already working together and were on the search for a new drummer and guitarist. Charles found Chas and Elijah on craigslist and asked them to audition. After the musical collaboration and discussion of the business, the immediate adjustment was made to reinvent the band and its style.

4. To give fans a better idea, which famous song or sound production, ultimately describes what you’d like the new TRADEMARK to sound like?
TRADEMARK: We are not sure if there is any song that we are patterning our sound after in particular, but we do study a lot from producers Mutt Lange (Def Leppard, ACDC, Shania Twain, etc) and Michael Knox (Jason Aldean).

5. Do you consider the TRADEMARK change in style a purely business choice, or is this a natural artistic evolution?
TRADEMARK: It was definitely a natural artistic evolution, so every band member can shine in his own comfort zone. It’s was also good for the business, because the fans following TRADEMARK had welcomed the new sound with open arms.

6. How did the older die-hard fans adapt to the member changes and the new sound?
TRADEMARK: Very welcoming, most of the fans could tell something special was happening, and we thank them for being patient with us while we developed the new sound.

7. What do you think is TRADEMARK’s natural habitat, the studio or live gigging, and why?
TRADEMARK: Live gigging for sure. We were born and raised on the stage in our musical journey. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy the studio though. We have all had enough time in the studio to be professional in both the “live show” and “studio work”.

8. Give us an anticipation of what will be happening next, you’ve just released the single “Say It Ain’t So”, is there an album or anything else lined-up soon?
TRADEMARK: The single “Say It Ain’t So” is just the first single of several to be released off an upcoming album due to release this summer. The fans and everyone out there will have a good idea from the singles released in the coming months, about the sound and direction of the album before its release in the summer.

9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does now?
TRADEMARK: The complete “rawness” of the sound is the most essential. It’s not “contemporary country” artists trying to be “country rock”, it’s not “hard rock” artists trying to be “country rock”. It’s raw in-your-face country rock, no pretending.

10. Do you think video is important to your music, and do you handle your own video productions?
TRADEMARK: Video is very important to music in this day and time. Sometimes it’s easy to lose people’s attention these days, with YouTube, Facebook, etc, if you do not have video supporting your music to give people a better idea of your thoughts, live show, direction, etc. We do subcontract the video production work, but have a ton of say so in the theme, production, and editing.

11. What aspect of the music making process excites you most, and what aspect discourages you the most?
TRADEMARK: The broadening of our artistic abilities by coming up with new songs, riffs, lyrics, beats etc., is what excites us the most in our music making. We help each other as a team and feed off of each other. It’s cool to help each other come up with a “part in a song” that we never would have come up with individually. The most discouraging thing is when you have a great idea for a song and you work hard on it, but it never develops the way it should and it has to be tossed to the side.

12. How involved are you in the recording, producing, mastering and other processes needed to make and market your music, and do you outsource any part of these processes?
TRADEMARK: We are very involved in all aspects surrounding our recordings. Although, we do have a guy that does our recordings and we have a separate guy that produces and masters the tracks; we work with both of these individuals throughout the entire process. It’s always better in our opinion to make sure everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

13. Do you think the advent of internet and all the new technology, has helped your music and independent musicians in general, or do you think it just creates a mass of mediocre “bedroom artists” who flood the web, making it difficult to distinguish yourself?
TRADEMARK: Both. I think with all the avenues now available for artists on the internet it has made the process of getting the music to a wider audience more assessable and the artists can market themselves to a certain extent. We have also noticed the flooding of the “bedroom artists”, but if your product is good enough, we believe it will shine through the clutter.

14. In your experience, what is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far?  And one you didn’t follow, but now know you should have?
TRADEMARK: The best piece of advice would be to “Stay away from the women”! Just kidding! The best advice we were given was to stay as self-sufficient as possible. This has helped us in almost every angle of this business so far. One thing I (Charles) can say about the early years of TRADEMARK, we didn’t focus on the music as much as I was concentrating on the business. We now try to keep a good balance of focus on the music and business. It helps having the people that understand and want to do their part to make that happen.

15. Being an independent artist, which is the one factor you currently desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, live performances etc…)?
TRADEMARK: We are always looking to better every aspect of our business, but one thing we are currently working hard to do, is get our music to as many people as possible. We are currently working on this daily when we are not working on the music or performing a live show.

16. Are you totally self-financed or does the band have sponsors or other benefactors?
TRADEMARK: We are proud to say at the moment that we are completely self-financed. We do have a sponsorship from Peavey in which we receive “artist pricing”, but we pay for everything including, production, recordings, videos, equipment, travel, etc.

17. How do you handle criticism? Who has been your worst critic, if any?
TRADEMARK: Criticism has come at us from a couple of different ways, but we have handled it with silence and used it as motivation on the next song, show, etc. Our worst critics have been certain “bedroom artists” that troll the web and target any artist making noise. Of course, we know this just comes with the territory.

18. Is going Platinum or winning a Grammy important to you? Where would you like to see your career within 5 years?
TRADEMARK: Going Platinum or winning a Grammy would be great and would be a dream come true, but we also know that this takes people that have some major muscle in the music scene to invest in you to happen. If that day comes, we will welcome it with open arms. We would love to see our careers in the next five years have a payoff for all the hard work that is being put into it daily. Although, we do not know how much that payoff will be, we just expect this business to continue to grow.

19. What in your opinion is the biggest barrier artists like you, have to face and overcome, to gain any commercial success?
TRADEMARK: We believe, first the artist has to have the product (show, songs, etc), then we have to market the product as much as possible to get the attention of others (fans, media, etc) that may help market the product on a larger scale. Without the help of others on the marketing side of things, we know there will be little or no commercial success.

20. If you were not a music artist, what would you be doing today?
TRADEMARK: We would probably all be digging ditches. No, but seriously that is a great question!

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