Few people in the music industry have a grasp of both its business and creative sides, but Nick Loss-Eaton is one of those people. For the past six years, Loss-Eaton has worked as a publicist in the prestigious New York firm Shore Fire Media, assisting high-profile artists with promotion and tour support. But Loss-Eaton has also established a second career as an artist and fronts Leland Sundries, a project that gives a fresh take on American roots music. I ask Loss-Eaton how his position as a publicist affects his artistic side.
“I think it definitely helps me in terms of being able to get my music out there,” he offers, speaking by phone from Brooklyn, N.Y. “On the creative side, it’s been incredibly inspirational to work with some heroes of mine and to get to see them up close. Getting to work with Levon Helm and Ry Cooder—who I think are both the best of the best—has been awe-inspiring and has given me new ideas when I write my own music.”
Given Loss-Eaton works with artists on a daily basis, do his clients know about his creative leanings as well?
“Some of the artists I work with are aware of it and some of them aren’t,” he says. “Some have been really supportive. Chuck Prophet, for example, said some really nice things about my music and was kind enough to let me open for him on a date in Philly. Those that I’ve been open about my music with generally recognize that it helps me as a publicist because I can speak their language and I know where they’re coming from.”
On Sunday, October 31, Leland Sundries will perform with Birmingham’s Taylor Hollingsworth at Rojo’s Halloween celebration. Showtime is 7 p.m. The show kicks off a run of dates for the two artists that will take them north with the ending show in Brooklyn. Though Loss-Eaton and Hollingsworth are separated geographically, the two have formed a friendship while sharing common musical ground.
“I met Nick when I was playing in New York at Union Hall, the same venue we’ll be playing at this time in Brooklyn,” Hollingsworth says. “He came out to the show and we had some mutual friends.”
A native of the Boston area and a current New York resident, Loss-Eaton has firsthand experience with life in the South and even found the inspiration for his band’s moniker in the region.
“I took a semester off from college and I spent a couple of months in Anniston working with Habitat for Humanity and being a fish out of water,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a huge blues fan and I’ve gone down and traced the roots of the blues a couple of times. The band name itself comes from a couple of experiences I had a little west of you guys. I saw the word ‘sundries’ at a couple of places in Memphis and a couple of days later I spent a wonderful afternoon with Eddie Cusic, a blues musician that taught Little Milton how to play. That was in Leland, Miss., so it was one of those magical afternoons and it seemed appropriate.”
On October 5, Leland Sundries released The Apothecary EP, a 5-track disc that reinforces Loss-Eaton’s affection for no-frills, honest music that doesn’t dip too far into nostalgia.
“I looked at the repertoire we were playing around New York and chose songs that I thought hung together thematically,” Loss-Eaton explains. “I went into the studio with the idea that I wanted to make a record with one foot in the Americana world and one foot in the indie world. A lot of the stuff that I listen to and informs my songwriting are traditional blues, country and folk performers like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Son House and other timeless music from the past.”
As Loss-Eaton tours with Leland Sundries— a project that is sometimes a full-band setup and sometimes a solo venture—Hollingsworth is focused on Dead Fingers, his musical venture with his girlfriend, vocalist Kate Taylor. As each looks to forward their respective projects, Loss- Eaton and Hollingsworth are both keenly aware that the music industry’s model has changed in the era of YouTube, iTunes and satellite radio. Still, despite frustrations they encounter as indie artists seeking exposure, both remain motivated to garnering listeners and making connections that will never be affected by technology.
“My favorite music isn’t necessarily big or the focus point of music culture at the moment,” Hollingsworth says. “A lot of the time it takes a while for people to really appreciate it. You do it because you love it. If you believe in it, then it should be enough for the world.”
Loss-Eaton echoes Hollingsworth’s sentiments, offering, “I’ve found that some of the most fulfilling experiences in music are playing concerts and concerts haven’t really changed that much in terms of that immediate connection.”
Rojo is located at 2921 Highland Avenue South. For ticket information, call (205) 328-4733.
Brent Thompson writes about popular music for Birmingham Weekly. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.