A Joshua Tree musician is receiving some much-deserved national exposure.
For those of you who are unfamiliar … ladies and gentlemen, meet Gene Evaro Jr.
After going on a national tour with Grammy Award-winning band Blues Traveler, and headlining a tour of his own, Gene Jr. and his band will be playing a hometown show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Aug. 5.
During a recent interview in Yucca Valley, Evaro said his recent tour experience was “great.”
“It started in San Diego, and we went as far as Vermont,” he said. “It was our own tour, which meant we weren’t opening for anyone. It was a lot of driving. The shows were excellent. We did the Firefly Music Festival; the High Sierra Music Festival; and we played in Nashville at the High Watt. It doesn’t end until Pappy’s.”
Evaro is one of a handful of local musicians who has successfully made a living by making music his full-time job.
“I was at a point where I had a job and was working a lot, and I thought I could work and do the music thing. But then I figured out that wasn’t how it wasn’t going to go down, at least for me,” he said. “The job I was in didn’t want me to grow as a musician, and that makes sense. People don’t care about your music if you’re a dishwasher. You’re probably a nice guy, and your music is good, but it doesn’t mean anything (to an employer), though. I thought, ‘I can’t succeed unless I surround myself with people exactly like me.’ Once I took that leap of faith and quit my job, that’s when things started gaining momentum.
“I’m not a financial adviser, and I would never tell anyone, ‘Quit your job and go do this full time.’ For some people, it’s harder than others. … Once the hustle kicks in, and you don’t have that comfort, that’s when you really start to open yourself up for opportunity.”
Evaro has been successful in selling his own music; he explained how.
“There is some trickery involved: The trick is that honest people have to feel like the music is real. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “If I can hear a great song and feel no emotion, I can almost see past it and say, ‘It just needs somebody to deliver the song.’ A good song has to have a connection and be real. It’s got to sell. It’s 2017, and we’re here to be relative, especially when you’re talking about the radio and shit like that. But if you want to be an avant-garde musician for the rest of your life, don’t listen to anything I’m saying. If you want to be relative and influence people in a relative way, you have to pick up what’s around you and be a sponge.
“When it comes to the recordings, it’s so easy to get the tools. Everything I record with is at my house. I grew up in the studio my whole life. My dad, who I was with all the time, was going from Reba McEntire’s studio in Nashville to tons of studios all over. In terms of quality away from the emotional stuff, it has to be good—and sound like everything else. That is where you can’t have any shame in copying people. Led Zeppelin came out with the best drum sound ever, and people were saying, ‘I don’t want to copy it.’ What the fuck kind of world would we be in if every drummer wasn’t like, ‘Wait a minute: They’re on to something, and I want a little bit of that’? Don’t be afraid to be inspired and take the colors of what’s relative and relevant.”
Being from Joshua Tree heavily influences Evaro, he said.
“I love the vibe. Being in the desert feels special to me,” he said. “… I can still say the vibe in Joshua Tree is much different than any other spot. My family has a lot to do with it; I have a lot of family out here. My actual native roots come from my grandmother, who is a Native American from Arizona and Mexico. Her family has been here for at least 150 years. My family is Native American, and this is our spot.”
While Pappy’s may mark the end of his current tour, Evaro plans on keeping busy.
“I have a music video coming out, as well as a new EP. After the EP release, we’re going to promote that a lot, and we’ll be touring again in the fall,” he said. “I’m also trying to work on some licensing and sync stuff. I’m trying to get stuff in some commercials so I can tour better. … You go on tour and see a band that’s been touring for 15 years, and they sound like it and they’re good—but they have 100 people in a crowd. You have someone who has a song in a commercial, and you have 2,000 people in the crowd and have only been touring for a month. Licensing is just filling in that gap—it’s called publicity. That’s what I’m trying to get more of. I’m just trying to get more songs in the public arena versus, ‘Oh, let’s play 300 shows a year and hope someone in the industry likes it.’”
I asked Evaro about the ethical side of licensing music to businesses and commercials.
“Morals always have to come into question. You always have to wonder, ‘Do I want my song to be played in a machine gun ad?’ Hell no; don’t do it!” he said with a laugh. “You have that option. My only experience is I had a song on the Discovery Channel. I was working with the music supervisor at the time, and they said, ‘Hey, I need a song that sounds like this. Rip the song off; make it your own; and the song needs to sound like this.’ I did that, and it got placed on something on the Discovery Channel. I got something like 30,000 to 40,000 views in one night on a YouTube video, and I was making money off the single online. The whole world saw it, and I get royalty checks from that still—not enough to buy a house, but it’s a good foot in the door. That’s easy, and it’s awesome, but it’s a lottery thing, and you need to have the right people around you who will recognize your talent and push your song. It’s just as rare as anything else. There are a million songwriters, and only 500 of them will be good enough to have a song in a commercial. Ads are a niche, and when you craft songs for ads, they say, ‘This is how it has to be.’ It requires a lot of effort and creativity, and it’s a visual thing. Some people say it’s selling out, but you can sell out arenas doing that.”
Evaro said he has one manta for everything he does in life.
“Put your heart into it,” he said. “If you’re making food, put your heart into it. No matter what you do, put your heart into it; it’s not just music that it applies to. Be a good person, and be an authentic person; otherwise, what the fuck are you doing?”
Gene Evaro Jr. will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 to $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.