Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart are hard-working songwriters and musicians from Tennessee. They tour extensively, bringing their polished songwriting and personal warmth to their audiences with just their voices and acoustic guitars.
I interviewed Stacey and Mark via email about their work as musicians and life on the road. You can read more about them and purchase their music at their website.
How do you see your distinct personalities complementing each other in your
MS: When we met in 1992 I was spending more time with musicians (although I was also a songwriter). Stacey led me down a path where I was putting more time in to songwriting circles, most of them not being strong players. This helped me to emphasize the writing more in my career. Stacey did a stint as a staff writer, so, we were in that camp for several years. I probably helped steer her in to being a stronger musician.
How do you approach practicing? Do you take a spontaneous approach, or do you use scales, exercises, warm-ups in a more systematic way?
SE: We are onstage most of the year and that is our practice! But, it is a natural thing to pick up a guitar when we are home.
MS: I play when not on tour, but, other music and other instruments. I never really played scales as a practice method, just songs.
What is the most fun part of touring? What is the most fun part about
finally getting back home?
SE: The fun part is everything we see, persons we meet, and moments we experience from point A to B (show to show). When I get home I am playing “house” and gardening.
Where’s the best food in the U. S.? Europe?
SE: My favorite is San Antonio, TX (carne gasada!). In Europe it is Spain.
Have you experienced creative block or other obstacles? Where do you find
creative renewal during down times?
SE: I have for the first time in my life as a result of the loss of my dad. The renewal? I don’t know-I guess it will come with time.
MS: Booking dates, driving to them, and performing so much has taken up a lot of my creative space. I will have to fight my way out of it.
What went into the decision to sell your entire catalog with unreleased
tracks on the flash drive? How’s the reception been for the new medium?
MS: We had a lot of material that had never been heard by our audience. We thought it would be a great idea to couple that batch of songs with all of our CDs. And, this is seemingly the new age we are in.
SE: The reception has been great. It has brought an MP3 option to our merch table (vs. folks going home after a show and purchasing it on Itunes!). Where downloads are a great store, it has hurt merch sales at shows. This is money artists need for tour support.
What advice would you give to someone who admires your music and wants to build a musician’s career?
SE: Be prepared to give it 100%. That means you live on the road, away from your family and friends. And, you quit the security of your day job. It is all a great risk for the love of music.
MS: All of what Stacey said is true. You will not likely be a good plumber if you spend all of your time as a banker. This is a business, not a hobby, and has to be treated that way. The first time I went on tour at age 18 it was so liberating to be in a van all day and at a hotel and venue at night with several other people who were full-time musicians. We talked about it all of the time and did not have other influences pulling our energy away from our dream. There is no room for me to do this part-time because there are thousands of others doing it 24/7. I cannot compete with them unless I am serious about my career.
It’s been great having you come through northern VA the past few years.
Hope to see and hear you again very soon. Thanks!