Here’s To the Obscure Artists

I have always been a person who made mixes. (I call them “mixies.”) When I was a kid, I made mixtapes on cassettes–often recording over an old mixy with a new one. When I discovered Napster and CD burners, I made mix CDs. Now, I primarily make playlists on Spotify, Amazon Music, or YouTube.

These mixies are in some cases better than photographs or journals for documenting times in my life. At some points, I made mixies almost every day. The titles went from thoughtful titles like “The Scent of Autumn” to things like “How I Feel Today” or simply the date.

I recently grabbed a bunch of these CDs from my parents’ garage, and I’ve been listening to them periodically in the car. I was listening to the “Wooh! Yeah! Alright!” mixy (I still can’t remember why it’s titled that) the other day when the song “Cigarette” by Splendor came on. I hadn’t heard this song in so long, but it automatically brought me back to the optimism of youth when anything is possible.

This made me think about Splendor. They were a band that had a semi-hit (i.e. a song that was played on the alternative radio station and I’m pretty sure was in an episode of Dawson’s Creek) in the early 2000s. They were big enough to play a show at Centennial Olympic Park here in Atlanta, and my friends and I got to meet them. I remember I didn’t have their CD on me for them to sign and they signed a dollar.

I was driving around the other day–over 15 years later–and I started to wonder where the guys in Splendor are today. When we look back on the artists who have made a big impact on our lives, it’s easy to see the big icons like David Bowie and Bjork, but we often forget the more obscure artists. The barely one-hit wonders, the local bands, the openers.

As I’ve been searching through my old CDs, I’ve found so many from artists I completely forgot about. Local bands I happened to see, bands I played with, bands I stumbled across on indie music websites. These are artists who didn’t become Bjork or David Bowie, but many of them still had a great impact on me. It may have only been for a moment, a song, a season, but they were still significant.

And then there are tons of obscure artists I haven’t forgotten. There’s the Swedish band, Kent, who are huge in Sweden but only have two albums in English and are hardly known in the US. I happened to see them at Music Midtown in 1998. There’s a band from Chattanooga, Tennessee called Moonlight Bride who are mentioned quite a lot in the first two books of The Muse Chronicles. They were pretty active in Atlanta from 2010 to 2012. There’s a band called The Veils who had an amazing album in 2004 that I absolutely fell in love with. I still listen to all three of those bands today.

I often imagine the artists who didn’t become famous. What are they doing now? Are they working in offices? Are they working as freelancers? Are they still full-time creators and I just don’t know about it? I often wonder if they have any idea that some chick in Georgia is singing along to their songs as she drives to the grocery store. (Sometimes that makes me wonder if anyone is driving around listening to Pocket the Moon or Unsent Letters.) 

No matter what they’re doing, I hope they are still creating in some capacity. I hope they never stop. And if you’re an artist of any kind reading this, I hope you never stop either. Because even if you never become famous or even get to quit your day job, you never know whose life was touched by your art. And I bet somewhere, someone is driving around listening to your songs.

 

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