Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with BellJar

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with BellJarMy good friend Mary Baker introduced me to this band. I hadn’t heard the name, and was confused with the name at first. Then I met the band, and it all made sense. I bet you would never guess where the name comes from. I was immediately impressed with their personalities, and how professional they handled themselves both on and off stage. The first time I saw them perform was at the Chatham Tap in Fishers, Indiana and even though the sound wasn’t that great (blame the venue, not the band) I was still pumped to see a performance. I liked them so much I asked them to play on the next presents six bands for six bucks. We are still a few months out from that, and I can already tell you I made a good decision by asking them to be on that show. Anyway, the band is fairly new but is serous about making things happen. They have a ton of talent and before long they will be a household name. It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to BellJar.

Let’s start with the name… bells and jars don’t really go together. Is there a meaning behind that? Where did the name come from?

BellJar is actually a Sylvia Plath reference. We had to read it as an English AP project. I don’t know if you know much about her, but it was released under a pseudonym. It talked about struggles and depression that a lot of novelists hadn’t dealt with. Her novel changed the landscape of literature. I hated that novel. I hated reading it. It was very depressing; it was hard for me to stick with.

What I walked away with, years later, was what she accomplished and what she was doing. It was our expression of our struggles and us succeeding and failing… what we have been through. We are just trying to connect with people just like she did with her readers. We want people to relate to that and understand that they are not alone. BellJar just seemed like a fitting title.

Did you need her permission to use that name?

The book is The Bell Jar; they are separate. I just took bell and jar and put them together. From what I have seen, bands have used song titles and sections for years. Godsmack stole Alice in Chains. It wasn’t trying to be infringement.

I haven’t seen you guys live before… really looking forward to it. For those out there who have yet to see a show, what can fans (or potential fans) expect from a live performance?

I think they should expect a lively show with sound that drives people to dance. We have a similar sound in all our songs, but they are all in a different style. It’s very upbeat. It’s not real heavy, but it’s not soft either.

We take a lot of pride picking our setlist. We don’t just pick a song to do it. We like to give it some flavor and not take away from the original writer, but try to give our interpretation of what it means to us. We put our own spin on it. We took Dansik’s song Mother and turned it into a guitar piece with a fiddle behind it. That’s one of the covers that we have done that people have raved about. It makes our originals stand out; we take a lot of pride in what we are putting forth. We want to be playing songs for ourselves, but for the people.

So do you need permission when you cover a song?

You are ASCAP certified as musicians. They cover that. Most places cover that too. Playing out and doing a cover song, you pay forth a certain amount and that gives you the right to use their music. There is protection for the artist.

What is your favorite cover song to play?

Can’t You See is a great jam. It sounds great with the drums and the fiddle. It’s a fun song that a lot of people do know. It’s a great jam song you can progress eight measures easily and not know where time goes.

We also like doing Billie Jean, the Chris Cornell track. It’s a great cover. We love Far Behind too. We like it because it’s old school. It makes me nostalgic and a state of euphoria kicks in. We really do spend a lot of time picking our covers. We figure it out and what we can do with it as the artist. They are fun, but our favorite songs are the originals.

SOPA is a big issue in Washington right now. What are your thoughts on all that? Should we #killSOPA?

Speaking as one who has material out there, I think the idea of the act is valid and good. My concern is having them force it without creating a freedom of speech and a freedom on information. There needs to be a way that we can search for information that we need, yet those of us who have a collection of material are protected.

I think the enforcement will be a problem.

Your name is Brandon Cannon. There is a Benjamin Cannon in Indy too. Are you guys related? (He’s also in a band.)

I do have a brother. My full name is Brandon Benjamin Cannon. BBC! My brother is Nathan. I started Facebook in college. I don’t know what year, but I was in college. Everyone was doing it! I did it the wrong way. I added everyone as a friend… half the people I didn’t know. Most I didn’t talk to. Then I had all these friends, but it never added up to anything. I got to a point where it was easier for me to just delete the FB page and go about my own life. I really didn’t need to.

I was required over a year ago, from a job, to open a FB page. I liked the way the company used FB to market their brand and their name to reach out to a community to make themselves known. I found a new way to use it. It allowed me to stay friends with the friends I do see and do talk to. It provides the ability to promote my music and my band. I wanted to strengthen what seems to be an ever-shifting platform. So my Facebook page is more of a business.

Do you have a job outside of music?

Yes, I do.

I dig your logo… who designed that?

Justin Foxworth. He did our logo, and our shirts. He is doing the album cover too. I can’t speak more highly of him. None of this happens without him and his support. To be a staple in a community, we can’t do it without his talents. He is helping our image and is helping get us out there.

We talked a little bit about Facebook… and I see you are also using Twitter to promote the band. What others ways do you promote BellJar?

Right now, Facebook and Twitter. We are using our friends, family, and other musicians to help spread the word. We are building a website and getting into other areas of networking. They take more time and a lot of effort. I know a lot of bands see a positive thing on MySpace. I don’t think there is anything wrong there, but now there is the ability to put music on Facebook. I would rather build a website more than anything. That’s the goal.

Our focus is our EP due out early in 2012. Our focus is on that, and everything that we have going into that. We could have a nice website and a great FB page… but without a good EP that doesn’t help me push my music and book shows. The strength is putting out a quality album. The best marketing tool is word of mouth… and it’s free.

Are you originally from the Circle City?

He’s from Kokomo. Holly is from Fortville. Hancock County boys… represent!

(Brandon) I’m from Bloomington. My folks went to IU.

Where do you guys practice?

In the pink room. We started practicing in a room that was ALL pink. Now we have evolved. Now we practice downstairs at Keith’s house. A lot of coffee and a lot of good music is what it is. And a lot of laughter. We laugh a lot.

In your opinion, how has the Internet changed the way people absorb music?

In the beginning, it became so much more accessible… all of it was at the tip of your fingers. It’s gotten back to where bands are playing more shows; go see the live atmosphere. Maybe on some level we got tired of being able to download so fast, we forgot the originality of a live show.

(Keith) I think it’s amazing. When you had to buy a CD, you couldn’t just run out and buy a CD from some local band. You can just jump online and check them out. That makes me want to see the bands more than anything. I want to hear them before we see them.

(Holly) I love the ability to connect with people and make more songs accessible. There is something to be said with sharing an experience, and if you can share it with music… it makes it even better.

Your friend Mary Baker first introduced us. From the start I was impressed. How do you know Mary? Is she your biggest fan?

She is most definitely one of our biggest fans. She is an inspiration to some of our songs. I met Mary a few years ago. I was doing some DJ spot at the Fox and Hound, and her and her friends go to the one on 82nd street all the time. We became good friends, and I ended up hanging out with her group of friends. We became close, had similar tastes, and inspirations. We felt like we both looked through a similar set of glasses.

There are a lot of bands out there. Who are you listening to these days? What is your favorite genre of music?

(Brandon) Wow… I grew up listening to the band Cream… Neil Young and today I find myself unable to put down a Ray Lamontagne. I am impressed with bands like 30 Seconds To Mars and Chevelle… they impress me with every album. I just really enjoy music that I can relate to, no matter the style.

(Keith) I don’t know who any of those bands are. Literally… I know one. But I think that’s what plays into our sound. I have Sevendust in my car.

(Holly) Bruce Cobern, Marty Jones, Joni Mitchell… I love 80’s alternative and 80’s pop. How can you not? I love Megadeth… Aretha Franklin. My spectrum is very broad as far as music goes.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

Birdy’s Bar & Grill… 300+. We opened for Parabelle. The majority of the crowd was our first big outing as a band.

The smallest?

Locals Only… we did a pickup gig. I feel so bad but this band had a show at Locals Only. It was 9 hours before the show and we went and did it anyway. We had our immediate family there to support us. There were no more than 20 people there, if that. It was a fun night, nonetheless. It was a good stage experience. We got a chance to work on our set!

Who writes all of the lyrics?

We share that responsibility. I came in with a few songs; stuff I had been working on. It was the original concept I was working on. Now that I have the musicians to work with, we had three or four of mine. Keith added a few of his. We pretty much write our songs together now. Holly, when she comes to our practice, she adds as well. She helps us stand out. We are really trying to reach our full potential.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

Holly has played on stage more than me. But at Locals Only, my guitar didn’t work. I left my tuner on. That was pretty embarrassing. I plugged in, and wasn’t getting sound. They setup a microphone for me to play into. It was pretty embarrassing.

I bet you are a beer guy. What’s your favorite beer?

Smithwicks. But I’m actually a scotch man. Glenlivet 18 years is my favorite scotch. I can afford the 10-year Laphroaig, but the nicer stuff I can’t afford. The 18 is about as high as I can go.

You went to IU? I went to Purdue. Can we still be friends?


Well… it’s a New Year. What does 2012 have in store for you?

We have our EP coming out. We are finishing up with the recordings, and early next year we are going to release it. We have a few shows already booked. We are doing the USO event on April 18th downtown. We have some shows down in Bloomington… and we can’t forget about six4six. It’s going to be a big year for us. I see us playing out a lot, and playing to a bigger fan base with that EP.

When it’s all said and done, what do you want to be remembered for? What’s the legacy of BellJar?

That’s a good question. We have come so far… I want to know that the day we walk away that we connected with someone. We want to make a difference, and that everything we put into these lyrics… these lyrics, these shows… that it was built into something bigger for someone else. That’s what it should be about on any level.

What’s a typical Friday night look like for you?

Holly, what do you do on Friday night?

(Holly) May through October I am usually playing music. Right now is a slow season.

(Keith) Putting my kids to bed. Drinking. That’s what I do.

(Brandon) I like to spend my Friday nights with friends and family. Whether dinner or game night, even having a couple of cocktails I want to surround myself with the people that I love. They are the reason I am here today and the weekend is a good time for that.

I feel like I could ask you questions all day long. Thank you so much for doing this. I should stop… you have a show to play! In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

My mom told me something years ago that has stuck with me, and I think the best way that I can live my life. We are here for one reason. It is to be loved and to love. This band is founded on that. Our music is inspired by it… and it’s definitely what we would like to leave behind. We want everyone to know that they were loved, and that’s the most important thing.

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