As solo artists and bands become increasingly disillusioned with major label record deals, they’re freed up to focus their passions entirely on the craft at hand without trying to please a third party, and the music has no where to go but up.
Indie artist Space Capone is one person embracing his unique, soulful, highly danceable musical identity, bringing Nashville his singular take on retro-throwback funk. And we’re loving it.
Capone’s vocals have been compared to Barry Gibb in the upper register and Michael McDonald in the baritone region. He holds his own with impressive vocal capabilites and a knack for finding the perfect melody to navigate the syncopated grooves and jazz-heavy orchestration of his songs.
Where does he find inspiration? “I listen to a lot of pop jazz. I listen to bebop. I listen to jazz that moves. That’s the beginning of melody. It’s really good training for my ear and for my songwriting to listen to all those different melodies. It’s kinda like melodies on crack, like they’re flying all over the place,” Capone says, laughing. “[I listen to] mostly mid-‘70s to mid-‘80s funk and R&B.”
Since releasing his first album, Volume 1: Transformation, in January 2008, Capone has developed a cult following that at first had its roots in Nashville but has quickly spread into the surrounding region. And now, after his May 2010 release, Volume II: Arrival, Arousal, Capone is selling out venues in Nashville, Chattanooga, Indianapolis and Asheville, just to name a few.
Capone performed at Lightning 100’s Live On the Green, was featured on TBS’ Sound Checkand, in 2010, Nashville voted him into a spot in the Bonnaroo lineup, which proved to be a unique experience.
“It was … hot, really warm,” he says. “It was like a refugee camp. It really was. I always told myself the only way I would go to Bonnaroo is if I was playing, and that came true. It was incredible. The tent was packed … I really couldn’t ask for a better experience. I played the same festival as Jay-Z and Stevie [Wonder].”
Currently in the studio recording what will be his third album, Capone hasn’t lost his healthy appetite for touring. He’s booking shows and hoping to play more than 100 dates this year. He travels with anywhere from six to 12 band members at any given time, with the core group comprised of Neal Dahlgren (lead guitar), Sam Farkus (guitar), Drew Wilson (bass) and Mikie Martel (horns).
Live, Space Capone is even more danceable than their grooving studio recordings. Generally shirtless or wearing a mostly unbuttoned button-up, energy-packed Capone brings the funk with his sunglassed, tattooed style that habitually involves a set of athletic wristbands and some gold chains hanging from his neck.
While Capone is seeing a steady rise in and broadening of his fanbase, he has a levelheaded method for gauging his success, attributing the longevity of his still burgeoning career to gradual popularity.
“It’s going up slowly in the way of success, which is good, as opposed to skyrocketing, because everything works in the bell curve,” he says. “So, do I get to fly to New York on a day’s notice or any of these big pop star things? No. But I see the longevity in it all.”
As Capone’s independent career continues to steamroll ahead, labels can’t help but take notice. While he hasn’t signed on any dotted lines quite yet, for now, he simply says, “We have an amazing deal coming our way.”
Capone dishes out some sensible advice to artists trying to figure out the pros and cons of a label: “I’d say, if you can line up everything that a label would get for you, try to do it on your own first,” he suggests. “If you get to that certain point with all those pieces and you need something to give it that extra push—i.e., vis-a-vis: me—then I’d say explore a record deal, but only if it’s good.”
Having spent the past three years developing his career and learning Nashville’s music industry inside and out, Capone also has some wisdom for young artists trying to make it.
“Don’t jump into being an artist until you’re ready,” he advises. “Do your research on what kind of artist you want to be. If it takes two years of working at a fast food restaurant and writing songs over and over and listening to songs over and over, take two years—take four years if you need to. Start with your tight group of friends and grow from a cell out. It’s always good to know who you are, even if you change your mind.”
One of Space Capone’s most magnetic qualities is without question his charismatic, crowd-pleasing stage presence, but the other is most certainly his humility despite the acclaim. “I’m not trying to get famous. I’m not trying to make loads of money,” he says. “I’m really just trying to play music and live.”