And so to the final episode of Season 1 of Best Advice! For those of you have been along for all of it, thank you for listening, and for those of you who are new to the series, well, there’s 10 eps for you to dig into. Everyone from Ashnikko talking boundaries to Jeezy talking splits; Joey Bada$$ offering his thoughts on energy and abundance, and Hayley Kiyoko on the power of emotional transparency and vulnerability. My conversation with The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan proved to be one of the most popular in the series because his experience straddles multiple decades and he was really down to talk brass tacks when it comes to business, creativity, and what it takes to succeed in an arena that’s full of artists jostling to be heard. More than that though, Billy came excited to help share his knowledge with the next gen of musicians, and this week’s guest, Laura Jane Grace, came with the same open and thoughtful energy.
Best known as the frontwoman for the excellently ragey, supremely shout-along-able Florida punk band Against Me!, she’s also put out records as Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers, and most recently, in the fall of 2020, she released a solo acoustic album Stay Alive.
Her prolific back catalogue aside, back in 2012 Laura came out to the world as trans and in 2016 she released, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, a bracingly honest memoir she wrote with journalist Dan Ozzi that pulls from Laura’s stacks and stacks of diaries. It was also with my former colleague and friend Dan when I first met Laura back in 2014: We filmed her performing a few acoustic songs in a Brooklyn tattoo shop and then she got another tattoo to add to her extensive collection.
Laura’s a straight-up badass — a parent, a poet, an upstart, someone who 100 percent tells it like it is. And she has so much advice, some great advice from storied producer and Garbage lynch-pin Butch Vig on the merit in a certain kind of indulgence, for instance, but mostly she has some great advice of her own, about work ethic, and success, and sustainability, the true applicable meaning of DIY. And then there’s all the advice about the nuts and bolts of the business and touring. Tour tips up the wazoo! Which, with the world hopefully opening up, will soon be super useful.
Listen below and check out some quick tips for LJG below.
Highlights from Laura Jane Grace’s Best Advice episode
Success is sustainability
I've never been the first week sales artist. Any label I've ever talked with, I'm like, we will sell X amount of records a year because we will continue to tour, but it's not about that first week. I'm about the long battle. If my goal is to live an artist's life, I just want to always be able to make the next record. I want to always be able to go on the next tour. I would like for all of that to grow, I would like for more and more people to be listening, and more people coming to the show, but I just want to continue to be able to do what I do because I love doing it.
Smile on stage
I get that that might sound condescending, but from a scientific standpoint this is really good advice. Neurons mirror and if you’re onstage and you’re smiling other people are going to smile and they’re going to enjoy themselves. It’s the easiest thing you can do as an artist onstage that will get the audience on your side.
Be strategic with your tour merch
It’s important to bring your own racks on tour. Get some wire racks from [insert hardware store] and you pin your shirts on there. You don't want to tape shirts to the wall. It's also worthwhile to invest in the plastic bins to carry the merch, cardboard boxes are going to get destroyed. Also I would recommend against cardstock white vinyl. Having a book that is all white as merch that's going in bays and trailers gets trashed. Don't print white merch!