As Bronze Radio Return's bio simply states...odds are pretty good that you have already heard Bronze Radio Return, even if you may not realize it. Since 2008, the Hartford, CT six-piece (Chris Henderson - Guitar/Vocals; Patrick Fetkowitz - Guitar; Matt Warner - Keys/Vocals; Rob Griffith - Drums/Vocals; Bob Tanen - Bass/Vocals; Craig Struble - Harmonica/Guitar/Banjo) has independently sold nearly 200,000 singles, racked up over 30 million streams on Spotify, and, with songs such as "Light Me Up", "Further On", "Shake, Shake, Shake", and "Before I Get There", they have impressively notched nearly 100 high-profile sync licensing song placements ranging from the 2014 film "St. Vincent", to commercials for Nissan, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, ESPN, and HBO, to numerous television shows. Along the way, their hyper-charged and hypnotic stage presence has turned bystanders into believers at festivals including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Hangout, and Firefly. Armed with a sound that's one part indie dance party and another part roots rock laced with a pop sensibility, the music of Bronze Radio Return is begging to be blared with the windows rolled down. These boys stand primed for impact in a big way.
Impacting music in a big way is indeed what Bronze Radio Return is doing. The Band is one of the leading independent musical artists successfully working in a new model of the music business... sort of blazing a trail or paving the way for others to follow. They have enjoyed great success with sync license song placements with over one hundred syncs in motion picture, commercials, and television; and over thirty million YouTube and Spotify Streams. It is interesting, that just coincidentally, Bronze Radio Return performs in concert at Lincoln Hall on Thursday, September 29th, and beginning Friday, September 30th and running through Sunday, October 2nd, the 2nd Annual CD Baby's DIY Musician Conference is being held at Congress Plaza Hotel presenting sessions and panels on exactly what Bronze Radio Return are putting into practice and quite effectively.
I recently had the great privilege of chatting with Chris Henderson, vocalist and guitarist in Bronze Radio Return, via phone just before the start of their US tour. With all of the success Bronze Radio Return has been enjoying, it was instantly apparent that Chris has a sincere love of his profession and a complete dedication to and passion for his craft…and it shows! I'm thinking Bronze Radio Return will be one of Chicago Music Magazine's 'SPOTLIGHT' artists for October 2016!
William Kelly Milionis: Congratulations on all of your career success to date! Thank you so very much for this interview opportunity. I am truly honored and privileged to chat with you.
Chris Henderson: Oh gosh, thank you so much.
Kelly: Bronze Radio Return will be on tour beginning this Wednesday, September 27th in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and you'll be in Chicago on the 2nd day of your tour, which is Thursday, September 29th, at Lincoln Hall.
Chris: That's correct, yep. That's our second show. Our show is on Thursday.
Kelly: You have been enjoying success since Bronze Radio Return began in 2008. Were you raised in a musical family? How did Bronze Radio Return actually get its start?
Chris: You know, I wasn't raised in an overly musical family, but my dad is an artist and plays guitar as well. But, I got a lot of creative inspiration from being around a household where art and creativity were valued. So I think that was a big part of my upbringing. From there I went to music school and was lucky enough to go and follow my passion and study music production and technology at the Hart School of Music in Hartford CT. From there, a friend introduced me to a friend who lived on Long Island. I started playing with a guitar player, Patrick [Fetkowitz], in the band. And from there we went back to the Hart School and started talking to some guys that we didn't know as well during the time when we were in school that I just thought were really awesome players. We started this band called Bronze Radio Return and our goal was to avoid the 9 to 5 runaround and see if we could put together a band that could get on the road and see a bunch of places that we've always wanted to see. And, 8 years later...here we are. It's our full-time job and we're very fortunate to be able to travel around and see all these really cool places.
Kelly: Bronze Radio Return is a really cool name...
Chris: ...thank you
Kelly: Could you explain where the band name originated?
Chris: Yea, as I mentioned before, my dad is an artist and I grew up in the great state of Maine. In the studio he had this old bronze colored radio that I spent a lot of time listening to music coming out of the radio. It's funny, as I tell you this story, I am currently looking at the Bronze Radio in front of me and happens to be my writing spot. So, my dad had this radio and I learned a lot about folk music and country and rock and how we've had different forms of music out of this radio. It served as a symbol of my early influence and when the band got together, it turns out we all have some form of a Bronze Radio; something that we spent a lot of time listening to music out of. So, the return of the Bronze Radio is the return of our early influences on how we approach music now.
Kelly: Fascinating. That's unique. That's really cool. You mentioned you are sitting in front of it at this moment, and it gives you inspiration, I am sure the rest of the band, in their own way, receive inspiration from it. How is the songwriting achieved through the band?
Chris: Well, it generally starts with me planting some seeds, starting a foundation. I go between here, which is Hartford, Connecticut and Maine, where I grew up and where my parents still live. I bounce back and forth between there when I am working on material. I get some song shapes and some forms together. I start getting some lyrics together. I start putting together something that would resemble a song, at least a starting point. From there, I get a collection of these things together and then I present them to the band, more or less, right when get to the studio to start recording them. Our idea behind that is that there is something cool about capturing the fresh takes on things. Some bands do a great job of going out and playing the songs live for a while, and then they go and record them, which I think is cool. But for us, there is a certain energy that I think comes along with hearing the song, certainly internalizing it for a little bit, but then what's your reaction to it, what's your part. During that time is when we work as a band to talk about parts. What parts do we like, what parts can be better. We kind of push and pull on this thing that I started and it gets turned into a Bronze Radio Return song.
Kelly: That is so cool. When it comes to songwriting, do you get your ideas through actual words and lyrics, or do you have a melody with the guitar, or is it a combination of both?
Chris: I would say for an actual song, when I start working on a song, it will come from a melody, or a sound. I grew up playing drums, so sometimes I will hear a groove idea first. I think it typically starts with that. One thing I've been working on more, that's been helpful, as far as getting lyrics together, because I think the lyrics are the hardest part, they take the longest time, I always stress out over lyrics more, but I found that as I get ideas, I collect them in my phone, and then the next step of it that has been helpful is how I organize, how I organize certain lines, how I organize certain phrases that I put in. I started developing some systems, not quite a spreadsheet, but ways for me to always be able to tap into spontaneous ideas I had at one point.
Kelly: You just explained your ability to capture your ideas on your phone electronically. The music industry has seen so many different technologies throughout the years; especially now when you are on the road you have all these opportunities to capture an idea on the move when you are on the tour bus, or in the hotel, or wherever. Your performance at Lincoln Hall is on Thursday, just a day before the 2nd Annual CD Baby's DIY Musician Conference begins on Friday, and runs through Sunday. I mention this because you and Bronze Radio Return are truly one of the leading musical artists successfully working in the new model of the music business. You have enjoyed great success with sync licenses, YouTube and Spotify Streams. You are gaining a greater fan base using technology to your advantage. This particular CD Baby Conference has some of the leading music supervisors in the business, so to have you performing at Lincoln Hall on Thursday and for me to have this opportunity to interview you offers a great set-up or a great segue into my next question. You are highly successful with sync licenses. How did your first sync license come about? And, what did you need to do to maintain your success at obtaining sync licenses?
Chris: Yeah, first of all thank you for the kind words. We have been very fortunate in the world of licenses and syncs and really being able to use them as a vehicle for greater exposure of the band and what we are doing. I think that's one of the biggest things you can take away from it is certainly nice to make sure your landlord gets paid for the month and the money's a nice part of it, but the bigger part is using it as a way for people to find your music who would have never found it before. I often say, if it goes on a commercial or in a movie or something that lets say a million people see, and then only of that million about a thousand people go and take the time to say, "I heard this cool little snippet in the background, I'm gonna go check that out", that's still a thousand more people that just took the time to find their music and are potential fans. As far as us getting into it, we got really lucky with working with people off the bat. We've found that as we've gotten these placements, you kind of start putting together a little placement resume of things you've done and I think it possibly helps you get on to the next one, then on to the next one. But, for us, we found that working with as many people as possible, that we trusted and felt like they wanted to really work with us, was beneficial and to stay away from, if we could, any kind of exclusive contracts. So, getting our music out and following up with emails and having a great manager helped us initially forge these relationships with companies like Music Dealers or Audiosocket. There are a handful of really great ones. Being able to work with some of these folks and working on these relationships and trying to get to know them as people and working together was beneficial for us. Honestly, a lot of it was just luck that we just happened to meet wonderful people that worked our music so well. It put us in a fortunate spot of getting attached to this vehicle that helps spread our music around a little bit.
Kelly: You are going to be at Lincoln Hall, one of the best concert venues in Chicago. The mark and measure of a band and their success, is not only showcasing your strong musical material and having a lot of these sync licenses, but it’s holding a place on the Billboard Chart....
Chris: Yeah, you know, they have all these different charts. They have the Heatseekers, and different metrics that they use. I know we have been fortunate enough to be on there a couple of times which is cool.
Kelly: You are with a record company out of Nashville, DigSin. They are one of the new breed of record companies. How did that happen?
Chris: It's a label called DigSin. They are based out of Nashville and led by Jay Frank who has a history in music analytics as well and was just kind of one of those smart music industry dudes. To be honest, I forget how we got linked up, maybe he heard some music and reached out, or possibly our manager [Chris Maltese | Maltese Management] reached out, this was several years back. He had an idea for a different kind of record deal, a different model for things that was focusing more on structures around singles, so it didn't typically tie up a whole record. We were able to work together. And, between Jay, and his team, and our management, that really helped us push the ball along.
Kelly: Thank you again for this interview opportunity. I wish you and your bandmates a FUN time during your stay in Chicago.
Chris: We love playing Chicago! It's our third time playing Chicago and one of our favorite markets. I feel like it's been a while since we’ve been there. It's certainly one of the places that I'm looking forward to performing at the most on this tour. I appreciate the inquisitive questions Kelly, and thank you for all the kind words and I hope that our paths cross down the line and I am sure we could talk for a while over a couple of beers.
Kelly: ...definitely looking forward to it! Thank you again and much continued success.
Don't miss Chris Henderson and his Bronze Radio Return at Lincoln Hall on Thursday, September 29th, 2016.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
101 WKQX-FM Welcomes
BRONZE RADIO RETURN
Air Traffic Controller
2424 North Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
This is an 18+ show.
Tickets: Lincoln Hall website
Bronze Radio Return photo credit Zackery Michael