Adam Schatz is a musician, writer, record producer and human being. His band Landlady has three records out and another on the way. He most recently produced Allegra Krieger’s album The Joys of Forgetting and has successfully cooked pad thai, soup dumplings and bagels since the pandemic began. He has a monthly Patreon page and that is currently his only monthly income, isn’t that cool? His favorite new hobby is getting emailed by coffee shops he’s been to once. Find him on Twitter here and hear Landlady here.
(Photo credit: Sasha Arutyunova.)
So you have an album coming out and you’ve got to write your own bio again for the fifth time? Boy oh boy, have I been there. Well, look no further and fret no longer, simply read on to discover all the guidance you could ever wish to have grumbled at you across a day-old muffin after you’ve asked to “pick my brain.” Behold — the contents of my brain!
Let’s start with where you’re from. Everyone will want to know where you’re from, right? Wrong! You fool! Nobody wants to read “DJ Doctor Mario MD is from Albuquerque.” Hear that? That’s the sound of them leaving… Earth! Out of boredom. Your bio has got to make an impact, and if it’s going to make an impact, then it’s gotta have flair. Nobody cares where you’re from, but they will positively gobble up where you HAIL from.
Now that you’ve laid the legend of the land from which ye hail, your next step is to present to the court of public opinion proof of where you currently reside. The place you live now will be framed as your current musical community, even if nobody else in town cares about you one bit, even if you’ve been banned from a majority of the venues for taking advantage of their “free cocktail napkin” policy. It’s important to remember that if you live in a rural area, your safest bet is to say you live in the closest city, unless you live in one of those cool middle-of-nowhere type creative hubs like Marfa, TX or The Grover Cleveland Service Area. So, if you’re from Aurora, IL, say that you live in Chicago. Nobody will check in too closely, and if the people of Chicago ever find out that you’ve lied about being a resident, don’t worry — they are a kind folk who don’t mind a little bit of gentle fibbing for the benefit of your career. If you’re from New York City, also say you’re from Chicago. Chicago is pretty hot right now, and being from New York City is largely reserved for Patti Smith, Jerry Seinfeld, and the forthcoming side projects of the children of the Strokes.
Before we get to lying about what your music sounds like, we need to establish your back-story. Chances are, you’re boring. I should know, I’m boring too. But this is another wonderful opportunity for some gentle fibbing. Memory is subjective and unreliable, as referenced in the film Minority Report or any music documentary where Eric Clapton is speaking and doesn’t come off as a jerkwad. Therefore, if you can convince yourself that a piece of your history is true, you can include it in your bio to fuel a much needed narrative boost. Perhaps you’ve just remembered that you were raised in an Appalachian near-death cult that didn’t believe in vowels, and that’s the reason you sing so weird and also named your new album Sometimes, Why?. Maybe you’ve just remembered that as the child of divorced crossing guards, your unique relationship with rules and regulations has made it that much more challenging to commit to constantly playing your guitar out of tune? And let’s not forget you’ve just remembered that every day is a blessing since you’ve come to terms with your self-diagnosis of “Doesn’t Need To Listen When Others Are Talking Syndrome.”
Great. With your personal history sorted, we can now dive into the narrative of the recording. Yes, you likely saved up some money from remedial day jobs in order to pay for this album, and sure, you could include that in your bio — but, oh, do you hear that? That’s the sound of every person who hasn’t yet left Earth deciding to leave Earth too. You’re the only one remaining! Good luck getting any good press now that you’re the sole editor and sole subscriber of The Abandoned Earth Conservative Gazette! Just a bit of demonstrative humor there, but please leave any and all humor out of your self-authored bio. Humor is largely reserved for Mac Demarco, Father John Misty, and Jerry Seinfeld. But don’t worry, you can still be sad! More on that in a minute.
Back to the recording. Nobody cares that you rented a quality recording studio with a professional engineer who worked their entire life to learn a craft. Boring and tiresome. Here’s a little trick to spice things up: Look around you and focus on the first item you see. Now add the word “factory” at the end and “old” at the beginning. There! Now you have the spiffed up location of where the album was recorded. Let’s try it out.
OK, looking around… Looking around… I see a doorknob. My album was recorded in an old doorknob factory. See? It’s easy! Now you try.
Good! Now I’m hooked, and I’d gladly press play on a new track from an artist who made due with the unusual conditions that go with recording in an old pencil sharpener factory.
So, how were you feeling when you wrote this album? Trick question, all roads lead to sad! Sadness implies conflict and conflict is a hop, skip, and a jump away from a good story about overcoming deep challenges in order to make this record happen, even in the face of such adversities as getting your prime guitar tuning finger caught in a pre-war pencil sharpener on the first day of recording. Besides, everyone’s favorite artists are sad, and also everyone is a little bit sad all of the time, so this will make you that much more relatable. Plus, because you’re actually a little bit more sadder than you’re willing to admit, this won’t even fall into the category of “gentle fibbing.” You’re telling the truth! Pretty cool, huh?
Now we’re cooking with gas! But I must remind you, at this stage of writing your own bio, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure that you’ve been writing in the third person this whole time. Even so much as one instance of “and that’s when I decided rock & roll was the life for me!” and you’ll be thrown clean out of town. There’s only one Chicago, baby, good luck finding a new town to take you in. All of this hard work will have been for nothing. Don’t make the same mistakes I have. I mean…don’t make the same mistakes he has.
Confused? Good! The best bios keep people guessing. Which brings us to the final, impossible task of describing the music that you make. “Don’t make me describe my music,” you say, “I am a one-of-a-kind gemstone and you must view me as such,” you say, and to that the rest of the world says, “Hogwash!” But don’t worry, I have you covered. Quick, pick a timeless artist. Pick another. Pick a mode of transportation. Pick a place. Pick a time period. BOOM! That’s your sound.
Freddie Mercury and Vincent Van Gogh riding a tandem surfboard across the Dead Sea during the fall of Rome.
Billie Eilish driving a backhoe over Jason Mraz’s geodesic dome in Attleboro, MA during the rise of the Third Wave of Ska.
George Clinton shoving Bill Clinton into a locker on the Goodyear Blimp circling over Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.
You’ll have enough meaty points of reference to practically force every reader of your bio to listen to your music, just to hear what the hell your “biographer” is talking about. Success!
Finally, you’ll need some “eye candy.” Singular bite-size qualifiers from your life that will help you stand out from the pack. Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever performed with? OK, then… who’s the most famous person you’ve ever seen in a grocery store? Did they nod at you? Let’s say that they did, and not just because you asked them if they’d prefer it if you would stop staring at them without blinking. So, we’ve got Helen Mirren, in the cereal aisle, with the Corn Pops. Maybe you slipped on some black ice in front of David Byrne’s West Village bike rack? Any sort of extra-curricular validation from a higher power is going to go a long way here, so get creative. But not in the way you were creative with your music — that type of creativity is meaningless here, and possibly detrimental.
In conclusion, be yourself, except actually be someone else writing about the version of yourself you think other people would really want to know more about.
In conclusion, don’t be yourself.
Landlady’s new album Landlady comes out on March 19. If you can write a bio better than the one Adam wrote for his band, send it into Talkhouse HQ for a cash prize. [Ed. note: There is no cash prize.]