Recently I read something that summed up the modern reality for independent artists. It said something along the lines of, “being a musician in 2021 involves a small amount of playing music but a full time job in social media and promotion.” And if you ask any independent musician I’m certain they’d agree. You have to climb a giant building to find success as a musician, and without a major record label to provide a ladder, indie artists have to climb that building themselves, navigating social media like Tom Cruise on the Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible 4.
One of these incredible artists is Jordan Kenny, a Sydney musician with an alluring aesthetic and poetic knack for songwriting. For Jordan, 2021 has included a run of melodically enchanting singles including his latest release “Sleep (Is Good)”, an ode to slumber written at 3am when his longing for sleep wasn’t being fulfilled.
Jordan: “I wrote sleep is good years ago actually, so it took a while for the vision to actually come to where it is now. I was up at 3 in the morning, as you do, and I wasn’t sleeping. So I thought to myself, ‘why not write a song about not sleeping, to try and get to sleep?’
I think with this particular song, it came really quickly. I was playing with my guitar in a different tuning, and when you’re in a different tuning, I find it’s like you’re back to the basics. You don’t know anything about what you’re playing so things can come to you really quickly so I was just playing around with that and the words came really quickly.
I was laughing the whole time I wrote it. It was such a cheerful feeling and I think throughout the years where “Sleep (Is Good)” has come to where it is now, the challenge was maintaining that cheerfulness and making sure the production had that cheerful quality to it as well.
I like that it can be read, “Sleep is good hum hum hum/ When you get some hum hum hum” but also it has a bit of a deeper meaning to it as well. Sleep is like a metaphor for enlightenment and you’re craving that sleep or that completeness but you can’t get it, so you find other avenues to go down to get that fulfilment.”
If you’re reading this (which you are), you’re probably a music fan. And if that’s the case, there’s a high chance that you watched a few live streamed concerts during the pandemic. You would have seen a dairy-milk stained sweater or two, playing some really incredible music with a backdrop of bedroom curtains. And to expect anything more would be ludicrous. These are artists receiving little to no government support, often performing for free, without the resources needed to curate their desired visual production. But there’s an amazing bunch of people striving to provide a solution.
Mad Studio Sessions are a Sydney based artistic studio, dedicated to bringing the subliminal visions of musicians to life. All the while providing opportunities for emerging film makers, photographers, set designers and painters to work on the production of the studio’s visual episodes that accompany the performances of talented musicians.
So now we’ve come full circle because Mad Studios’ first episode features a performance by Jordan Kenny and his band. Specifically for Jordan’s performance, the Studio’s crew built a flamboyant tangerine set with cardboard cut-outs of pagan-ish sun and moon symbols the size of a rich person’s clock (very big) and a gorgeous Persian rug to top off the look.
The only time I’ve had a really memorable telepathic experience was back in high school. It was during a double period of History and the friend I was sitting with got called down to the office. Over 45 minutes later I started to wonder what he was called down for and about 10 minutes after that I said to the people sitting around me, “I’m going to walk over to the door and when I open it, he’s going to be there.” So I walked over to the door and I grabbed the handle to open it and I felt someone grabbing the other side of the handle. Sure enough, it was the guy that got called down to the office and the whole class clapped for ten minutes straight*.
*not true but someone did gasp.
Anywho, that’s kind of how Jordan felt when he walked into Mad Studios and saw the set. The world they created was almost a carbon copy of what Jordan had imagined while writing the song. “It’s a vibrant and colourful song. I always see it very yellow, in some sunshiny world.” Jordan remembers the entire band being in a bouncy mood when they laid eyes on the set – the visuals alone were enough to get them feeling a little bit giddy.
Like Mad Studios, some radio stations bring bands in for a studio performance. However, most of the stations that support independent musicians don’t have the budget for it, and the ones that do couldn’t rival the personalised experience Mad Studios provides.
Now back to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 4. If you’ve seen the film, there’s no doubt you’d remember the famous scene where Tommy-babes is climbing the tallest biilding in the world with nothing but these hi-tech gloves that can lock on to surfaces. Metaphorically speaking, Mad Studios are gearing up emerging artists with those hi-tech gloves in the form of professional produced videos they can use to promote their music, plus sharing their music with followers of Mad Studios. Not a bad initiative hey?
Even though concerts are starting to recommence, it’s hard to doubt that the pandemic has shaken up the music industry for the long term. Sure, now we can head to Oxford Art Factory or The Chippo for a gig, but the norm of live streaming concerts has provided major record labels with a market to sell tickets to anyone who can’t make a show – literally anyone in a different city, state or country. For that exact reason, Mad Studios’ utilisation of streaming could be intrinsic to the careers of independent artists.
You can watch Jordan Kenny’s Mad Studios performance of “Sleep (Is Good)” below & if you’re keen to support Mad Studios, you can donate to their kickstarter campaign right here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aaronhg/mad-studio-sessions-2021