"Hey Matt…this is Tom Chester…we've recorded an album…we're going to put it on iTunes and get CDs made…we need an album cover…one that looks good…we trust you..."
When Tom told me that he and his brother Hebron were finalizing an album, I was intrigued.
When they asked me to do the album cover, I was interested.
When Tom brought the rough, unmastered songs and let me hear them, I was blown away - and all in.
It's been two months since Tom and Hebron's album Ridge Runner debuted on iTunes. I reached out to Tom with a quick interview on how he and Hebron got started and where they feel they are headed next:
M Walton: How did you and Hebron get started in recording an album?
T Chester: Hebron and I knew that if we were really going to pursue any opportunities in music, we would need to have an album to point to when someone showed interest. An album, for a musician, is really the thing that validates them as a working artist.
MW: The first time you ever do anything, it's a learning process and it takes time. How long did Ridge Runner take to produce?
TC: How should it have taken or how long did it end up taking? Ha! This was our learning album, and we made SO many mistakes in reaching the final product. From start to finish, it took us a bit over a year to launch the thing.
MW: A year? Wow. So, I guess you had to support yourselves through this. What are you guys doing professionally besides the music bit?
TC: Other than music - which should be a full-time job - I teach at Bentonville High School, and Hebron is finishing up his senior year at the University of Arkansas.
MW: How do you feel about the launch?
TC: People who know us have been super supportive, and we've been very impressed and encouraged by that. The unique look (that you helped build for us) really caught people's attention. That, plus the sound of the music, allowed us to build a fair amount of hype around it. BUT the album launch itself didn't go without its glitches. Because our distributor is on the east coast and iTunes is on the west coast, the time zones clashed and caused all of the pre-orders (which we had been pushing for in the month before the release) to be cancelled! They tried to make it up to us, but it was frustrating, and added more obstacles in reaching the Billboard charts (which was our big goal). The album ended up releasing two hours before it was supposed to, the pre-orders didn't work, and some people were being charged twice. It was something out of our control that didn't fall into place for us. In the end, as two unknowns with their first album, we did great. That day, we made the Top Rock Album charts in the U.S. on iTunes and peaked around 122.
MW: So what kind of reactions have you seen because of the album?
TC: Everyone that has listened to the album has either loved it or acknowledged that there is potential in a musical future. That's really what we needed. The oddest reactions? People having us autograph albums and posters, seeing a couple of t-shirts (not made --or even known- by us) with our logo on it, and having pictures made "for when we're famous". Haha! I hope it pays off for them!
MW: That's great! So, now that you're finished with this body of work, what's next?
TC: Tour - play everywhere we can and spread the news, get a firmer grip on media/music programs and equipment, build a larger online presence, and we are recording a second album! And now we know what we're doing!
Tom and Hebron definitely have the passion to drive them and they seem to learn quickly as well. Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing their next sonic endeavor and wish them the best of luck as they assemble their touring band and take their rock/funk/jazz/blues influence across the region, country and maybe one day, the world.
If you like music, you'll find something to love about this album, and it's hard to put them in one category. So, I'll let you form your own opinion.
Check out their album here on iTunes!