Odds are if you own a radio or have ears, you’re familiar with American Authors—especially their hits “Best Day Of My Life”, which saw enormous success after appearing in a UK Hyundai commercial, as well as the insanely catchy “Believer.” What you may not know is what’s pushed the band from struggling NYC act to the major label act they are today, along with the current challenges of being a touring band, and their advice to emerging musicians. Check out our video interview below or scroll a bit further for the transcribed version. You can also read our first interview with the band at the Orlando Warped Tour date here.
You’ve talked about how once your career took off, it presented a new set of obstacles that you perhaps hadn’t considered. Can you talk a little about that, and that shift from being a hustling emerging artist to suddenly thinking about marketing things correctly, and balancing work-family life?
Yeah, there’s this saying that you have your entire life to write your first album, which can be really frustrating because you may feel like it takes forever to get that big break and something that people don’t think about, I know I never thought about, was how do you maintain a career and keep everything going when you DO get that break? Touring or following up albums or writing more songs and the balance of keeping yourself happy, but also keeping your fans happy, but then also keeping the business happy…which is a big thing people don’t think about. They don’t think about once you get into all that stuff you have a label or management, this and that, they all have a say in what you do.
So the big thing for us has just been being strategic with what kind of opportunities we take, which ones we don’t, how much time we allow for writing, balancing with touring and all of that. Because nowadays it’s really rare that an artist can just stop, take a break, disappear for a while do whatever and come back. Nowadays they’ll be forgotten about, so quickly.
Do you struggle with that at all because you do have to give up a lot of things? Or is it a bit easier because you have more help?
No it’s not terribly difficult, we still make time for our fans we still do everything we can, we tour 200-300 days out of the year, even when it’s shows that people don’t know about, like private shows, corporate shows, whatever. I think balancing your personal life is really big. Where you place that time and how you fit all your friends and family back home into it, that’s always huge. For us the biggest difficulty is…when it was just us, we could do whatever we wanted, release whatever we wanted, but once you have such a big crew and these schedules going on it just seems like things can take forever sometimes. When a song is done I want it to come out tomorrow…we have to wait a month for it to come out. So that’s been a really big challenge, how do you strategically plan out your songs and when to release them, and how to release them.
That business side of it is quite important, especially as you’re growing.
Yeah, [asking ourselves things like] how do we do our music videos, how do we do our photos, where do we release them, how do we release them—because before it was really an easy thing where we did this video, cool let’s release it tomorrow or hey let’s do this, release it.
I think it’s really important for bands to hear about the realities that their favorite bands, and successful bands have gone through getting to the point they’re currently at. Would you be open to sharing a story from when you were just starting out that really challenged you at the time, but perhaps looking back you realize was just part of the process?
The biggest thing is just never giving up. It didn’t come overnight for us and we just kept writing and writing and planning and performing and doing everything that we could. And we also never really said no to opportunities, even if the deals didn’t seem to be the best. In the beginning, we would always just take chances and do everything we could. Take every opportunity and every piece of “no” and the big thing for us is we booked our own tours, we kept writing and writing and networking and we met our producer, Shep Goodman and Aaron Accetta we started writing with them and we were even working with them for a year or two before we [broke into the mainstream]…we just kept writing and writing. We came up with the songs “Believer” and “Best Day of my Life.” With their connections they took those and kind of sent them around to get opinions and that was it.
Yeah, it was a licensing deal right?
It was a friend of Shep’s who was in licensing, he just sent it to her to get her opinion and she was like “hey I really like this do you mind if I send it out to some companies?” and then the next week it got placed in an ad. And it was the same with “Believer.” He was sending it out and got Reagan’s input, he loved it and was like “we’ll play this next week” so that was it. It’s about having the right music at the right time and honestly yeah, the business side of having that connection was important but I think if it wasn’t for us pushing along, trucking along through the hard times, if it wasn’t for us being open to co-writing with Shep or working with a new producer and getting involved with a production deal with him…if it wasn’t for us taking every opportunity we could to go into the studio and write and also taking suggestions like “you guys have been writing such sad stuff. Everything is so sad, write something happy.” [So we went], “here’s your happy song, playing the riff to “Believer.” I think back to that and it was one random day in the studio …what if I’d have said no to going in that day? What if I’d have wanted to go to the beach instead? Sometimes you have to look at those opportunities when they come your way and say “maybe I’m tired today, or maybe I do want to go to the beach or a theme park.” [But instead] take the work seriously, especially when you’re starting out.
I know you have to go, I don’t want to keep you, is there anything else you want to add?