Monday Motivation: Shovels & Rope

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

I think the biggest fear anyone working in music has, aside from the knowledge that the industry is in a constant state of disarray where no one is really sure what will happen next, is the idea they may one day wake up to find they no longer feel as passionate about music as they once did. And make no mistake – passion is an absolute necessity in order to make it in this business. Passion is the fuel that keeps the hunger in your stomach at bay when you spend whatever meager living you’re able to earn while working for free to get your foot in the door of the industry on things related to your pursuit of a career in music. Passion is the energy that allows you to work from dawn until long after the sun has gone down in order to pen the perfect business plan, form the best release strategy, write your best album review, and so on. Passion is what makes finding any form of success in music possible, and without it you are as good as dead from a professional standpoint. If you cannot find excitement for your work and the artists you support how can you expect anyone else to?

While I am sure there are people who will tell you they have never once questioned the passion that initially lead them to pursue the music business I will confess to having feared for my future and my passion to chase after it on more than one occasion. This business is a grind, and when you begin to make any kind of progress you realize just how much more work must be done in order to have a meaningful impact on the industry as a whole. You could toil away your entire life working to promote artists who never make it big, just like you could write 10,000 blog posts no one ever reads. There is a chance of failure in everything anyone attempts in this business, and before you can begin to find lasting success you have to accept that failure will eventually find you. It may be a big setback or it may be small, but in those moments when things are not going as planned you will feel that flame within start to fade. This might scare you, but you need to know that we all feel that way from time to time, and the only solution is to find a way to reignite that flame so it inspire you to fight for the industry you want to see once more.

My most recent battle with self-doubt and the fear of never achieving the goals I have set for myself began earlier this year. After almost a decade spent working on a music blog with all my closest friends we came to the realization that not one of us had the time needed to keep the site going. Around the same time a record label I had started with another friend went under due largely to the same reasons. I still had one job in music, and that is the job that allows me to write this blog you are reading now, but for the first time in many years I had no projects that I could honestly call my own. That feeling lead me to question whether I was doing what I really wanted to or just what was easiest, and from there I spiraled into a dark place where I had to ask myself if there were still artists that made me feel the way I felt when I first decided to pursue a career in music. My love of alternative music has gotten me pretty far in life, but many of the artists that initially inspired me have either broken up or gone on hiatus, and those who remain are working far less often than they did when I first began down this path.

I cannot tell you how I came to discover Shovels & Rope, but I can tell you that the first time I heard their music was shortly after I began to question my passion. The American folk duo from Charleston, South Carolina composed of husband and wife Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst initially entered my life through a song called “Birmingham,” which I have embedded below to help those unfamiliar with their music know what it is that I am talking about:

While I have no idea how this song will sound to you or impact your life I can say that something in this song struck a chord deep inside my soul that has only be played a few times in my existence. Before that first stream was over I already had another internet tab open in order to find and consume everything the duo had ever released. It was as if “Birmingham” was the free hit of a substance a drug dealer gave me in order to ensure I would get hooked, and by the time it was over you could have labeled me a full-blown addict. I bought all the group’s albums that same week, on vinyl, and I also purchased tickets to see them in concert months later. All this because of one song that just so happened to enter my life at precisely the time I needed to hear it.

In the days and weeks after that first encounter I found myself feeling a renewed passion for the ever-turbulent world of music business. Knowing that a band like Shovels & Rope were traveling the world to spread a sound and message that connect with me on such a deeply personal level inspired me to chase after my goals in music once more. For the first time in what may have been years I felt the way I did the first time I discovered Blink-182 as an 11-year-old tween whose plans for the future had been undecided before that band entered his life. The fire that propelled me into music was not only lit, but burning like a five-alarm blaze that threatened to engulf all the doubt and uncertainty I had regarding my chosen profession, and i welcomed the flames with open arms. I became consumed by that fire, and I continue to feel that way today.


James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records (RIP). Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.