Music artists are often placed in one of two camps: 1. signed,corporate, big money or 2. DIY, starving artist, just-trying-to-make-it. Wisconsinite indie-rocker Brett Newski identifies towards the latter, but has found a middle ground that’s allowed him to survive — maybe even thrive — on the road.
Freshly into his 30s, Newski released his debut full length in 2016, Land Air Sea Garage, following a quartet of EPs. The album’s most popular track would be “D.I.Y.”, a song in which Newski proudly proclaims, “I’m DIY, I’m punk as f**k, don’t need your money, don’t want your love.”
Although he has worked with labels before, being DIY has become a part of his nature, brand, and persona. Newski has been screwed over enough in his career that he’s found “doing it yourself” to be a much more stable career-path.
“If things don’t work out with certain agents and labels you can always self-sustain and do it on your own, just to have a solid backbone,” Newski says. “Whether you’ve got the biggest team in the world, there’s still a s**tload of hours to put into (a project). So it’s kind of across the board in all components, that D.I.Y. aspect.”
Newski’s artistic direction is best characterized by the title of his 2015 EP, HI-FI DIY.
Going solo, he doesn’t have to deal with flaky bandmates or greedy blackmailers — as detailed in this episode of his ongoing (and hilarious) tour vlog: Crusty Adventures. In 2015, he played alone in all but 10 of his 200-plus gigs.
His recordings aren’t quite so lonely. Land Air Sea Garage still utilizes a full band. And although its sound remains simple, it’s far from empty — staying in line with the indie-rocker/singer-songwriter vibe.
He used to supplement his income by officiating local youth basketball games back home — having played college ball himself before getting “totally destroyed” as the smallest player on his D-III team — but passed up his hoop dreams to focus full-time on music.
“I used to get yelled at by psycho coaches and stuff, which is actually pretty fun,” he said. “I’ll throw a coach out of the gym for money.”
Curiously, part of his decision to sacrifice part-time jobs was stability. Music has proven itself to provide a steadier flow of income. “It pays a lot better,” he says.
Part of this is a result of his worldwide devotion to touring. Newski has trekked to four continents and has a South African tour planned for the spring and summer. As the lifeblood of a troubadour, performances have become increasingly necessary.
“(Being a touring musician) is the most expensive job that I know of,” Newski says, “as far as keeping the ship afloat and keeping a publicist on board and travel costs and hotels and printing posters and records and vinyl.”
He wants to record more music soon, but is testing his patience in order to space out releases. He’s released five records in six years, so 2017 may still offer something new from Newski.
“We’ve got a couple records in the can,” he says. “Well, we’re attempting to get them into the can so we have some ammo for the next few years.”