By Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
It’s back! After a few-month hiatus, I’m thrilled to resurrect the one, the only Beat Converses, where I sit down with incredible musicians far cooler than I am to talk art, writing, and all that awesome stuff.
On all levels, January 2015 Beat Drew Tabor is certainly no stranger to music. And -- with nearly 200,000 subscribers following her YouTube account, and more than 23,000,000 video views under her belt -- it’s safe to say that music is no stranger to her, either.
Peter LaBerge, Founder & Editor-in-Chief: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! In October, I chatted with fellow YouTuber Louisa Wendorff, and I began by asking her to summarize the aim and content of her EP Arrow; now I’ll do the same to you! I’ve obviously listened to the EP a few times (#understatement), but can you give our audience -- and yours! -- a two or three-minute description of your EP In The Garden, its contents, and the ambition behind it?
Drew Tabor, Musician: In The Garden is the first project I've done that I feel really represents who I want to be as an artist. I wrote all of the songs based on personal experiences that I had during a very important time in my life. They not only tell the story of falling in and out of love but also of finding and losing yourself within love. I am so incredibly excited for people to hear the EP and see this new chapter of myself.
PL: Let’s move back in time for a second. How did you get involved with YouTube in the first place? What’s ‘the story,’ as it were?
DT: I started posting YouTube videos pretty much out of boredom. I began uploading during high school at a time where I found myself spending a lot of Friday nights alone in my room. I honestly thought that creating videos might give me something to do with my time. When I first started, I never had any intentions of becoming a "YouTuber", or even a musician at all. It was simply a hobby and a creative outlet -- it wasn't until I had been making videos for about a year that I realized how much I really loved it. Any success I've been lucky enough to have on YouTube didn't happen overnight. I've been making videos for five and a half years, and I still feel like I'm learning and trying to get the hang of things. There have been a lot of ups and downs over my time on YouTube, but I'm excited nonetheless to see what the future holds.
PL: I can imagine initially it was very difficult to distinguish yourself from other artists on YouTube. At what point did it go from “recording covers and uploading them to the black hole that is YouTube” to “recording covers for viewers (in addition to, of course, for yourself)”? How do you think your music developed in the process, if at all?
DT: I feel like distinguishing and establishing yourself as a unique artist in an ongoing process. Of course, as a musician there are some specific things you can do if you want to get more views on YouTube: you can sing popular songs, use a good camera and post content regularly. That's a start... but I think if you really want to be successful and make an impression on people you need to be memorable.
My most viewed videos are acoustic covers of "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj and "Friday" by Rebecca Black. I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to sing Rebecca Black songs in order to be successful; I just mean that sometimes you need to do things that people don't expect. I don't believe in gimmicks or cheapening your work for people to like it, but I don't think you can expect people to just like you and care about your music right off the bat. Also, while singing covers can be a great way to build an audience on YouTube, I think it is so, SO important to have original music if you really want to be an artist. As much as you can be creative with your song choices and put your own spin on the covers you do, I think if you want to truly touch and connect with people you need to give them something that is purely you.
I don't know if the development of my music was necessarily a result of any one specific thing, but there has been a lot of trial and error as I try to gauge people's reactions to the different things I post. I was sixteen when I began making videos (and am now twenty-one) so I've been through a lot and certainly grown as a person over that period of time. I just consider myself lucky to have an audience so accepting, loving, and supportive of me no matter when I am.
PL: Wow, it sounds like you’ve undeniably collected quite a bit of insight throughout the whole process! Any other good advice, particularly for aspiring artists (of all sorts, for that matter) who haven’t yet hit that point where they feel the sense of obligation that comes with a following?
DT: This might sound cheesy, but I think the most important thing is to stay positive and stay motivated. Being an artist is very difficult as a career path. If you love what you're doing then it's worth it… but no matter what, you're bound to face some rejection and frustration. There have been so many times when I go to bed saying that I'm done being a singer and that it's too difficult, but then wake up the next morning ready to do it all again with a smile on my face.
I think it's especially easy to feel unmotivated if you don't necessarily have the obligation of a following but it's important to not get discouraged and to keep pushing through the tough times in order to get to where you want to be.
PL: You, of course, just came back from a tour of the West Coast a couple of months ago! How was that experience? Any funny experiences or anecdotes to share?
DT: Being on tour was such a great experience! I had never done anything like it before, so it was great to get a taste of what it's like to be a touring musician. I was so inspired by the many great musicians and just all-round cool people I met along the way, but my favorite part was definitely meeting some of my viewers and YouTube followers.
It was a pretty small-scale tour, as it basically consisted of my friend/tour manager Shab and I driving up the coast in my car. Spending so much time in the car meant that we had tons of time to listen to music. While we usually went for indie bands or folksy-singer-songwriters, we insisted on listening to “Jealous” by Nick Jonas every day, first thing in the morning.
Overall, none of us really knew what we were doing at the beginning of the tour, but by the end we had all learned so much.
PL: Here’s a rather zany question I love to ask: if you could have coffee (or tea, etc.) with three musical or vocal artists -- from past or present -- who would they be, and why?
DT: First, Lana Del Rey because I am borderline obsessed with her would just want to soak up some of her coolness. Also, Frank Sinatra because he is one of my all time favorite artists/vocalists, and I would love to just chat about music and life with him; I feel like he's got an old soul and would probably give really wise advice. And finally Adele because she's hilarious. I would also try to do some kind of sorcery to steal her voice. It would be great.
PL: On a similar note, how do you get inspired? It might just be me, but I feel like there’s a sort of universal artistic language spoken through emotion, memory, and feeling that all artists -- regardless of medium -- are able to interpret and speak.
DT: I'm very nostalgic. I rarely write about things that are happening in my life in the present moment, and instead take a more retrospective approach. I love looking at old photographs, reading old journals, and talking to childhood friends, as well as talking to older relatives. I'm inspired by a lot of music from past decades and even by the music, images and aesthetic in a lot of old movies. I have a fixation on the way things were. It's probably not the greatest mindset to be in for regular day-to-day life, but it's how I get a lot of my inspiration.
PL: Okay, and one last question! What’s next for Drew?
DT: I'm honestly still trying to figure that out. There are so many things that I want to accomplish and that I want to do with not only with my career, but also my life in general. I'd love to travel and tour different parts of the world. At some point this year, I'm really hoping to make trips to Nashville and the UK to write and perform. I'll probably spend the next couple months pushing and promoting my new EP In The Garden (shameless plug), and then get back to writing new material to put out into the world. I really just want to continue to create, share and be inspired.
Thanks so much again to Drew! Be sure to show your support by ordering her EP online here, and by checking out one of her newest stunning covers:
Peter LaBerge is author of the chapbook Hook (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Recent work appears in Beloit Poetry Journal, Redivider, Copper Nickel, Best New Poets 2014, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review, among others. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. For more information, visit his website here.