Interview with Connor Eko

Conner Eko is an emerging indie synth pop singer-songwriter located in the Bay Area, California. Returning in 2021 after years in hiatus from music, Eko has returned with his poignant sophomore release ‘Christmas Morning Goodbye’.

If you could change about the music industry, what would it be?

There is so much that needs to change. Hunter S. Thompson has been quoted to say: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” 

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change it, but it takes us to stand up. It also takes the education and awareness to the largest group of people in the music industry, the fans and listeners, to know. That’s always the first step–education. 

I think most musicians and songwriters would agree to have a more fair cut of the revenue their music generates. There are many wonderful things about our current information age and streaming music state of the industry. However, the songwriters and artists that make the music are being cut out of even more of the revenue that should be theirs. It’s always been this way–big business taking advantage of the little people that do most of the work, but it’s gotten worse and I think it’s time for artists and songwriters to take a stand and say no more. 

Labels should not own the masters of someone else’s creation. Yes, they have to make the money back that they are investing in us, but there are more ethical ways to do this. I just don’t understand how the people that are actually creating the things we love so much are getting the least amount of pay, the smallest chunk of the pie. Why is this and why do we allow it? Luckily, with today’s music business, things are getting better in some ways and many artists are able to run their own careers without the need for a label, however, they are still being taken advantage of getting cheated out of money that should be theirs for their creations. It is still very unbalanced and unfair. 

There are also a lot of music promoters and promotion teams that prey on and take advantage of new upcoming indie artists. A lot of us (artists) are working so hard to get our music heard and investing a lot of money into our projects, and there are so many people out there contacting us saying they can do all these wonderful things for us, but then we have to pay them a lot of money. Of course there are a lot of good people and teams out there trying really hard to help us indie artists, and as indie artists we do have to invest in our business and build a team just like any entrepreneur needs to, but there are a lot of people out there that are really just taking advantage of us. I wish there was some sort of non-profit organization like BMI, ASCAP, or SoundExchange, whose sole responsibility was to be the “Better Business Bureau (BBB)” of these type of organizations so we could just go their site, sign up and report people are who are taking advantage of us and also promoters and businesses that are actually trying to be ethical can be vetted and and we would have an easier time of knowing who and who not to work with. 

I’d also like to see artists working with each other and promoting each other more. There is this vibe you get from some indie artists that they will only promote their own music and don’t return the favor when another artist gives them a shoutout. We’re all in this together and it benefits us all to share and help each other, especially against the odds we’re up against. I hope artists can be a little less afraid to help promote other artists. A lot do, and that is great, but there are still a lot of artists that have their guards up and will not. I don’t understand this need to be so guarded against working as a team and community with other artists at your same level, and especially those that need your help that are at a lower level than you are. The pretentiousness needs to stop. 

Lastly, I have to say there are a lot of great people out there trying to help us get out of this “long plastic hallway”. People like Ari Herstand and his “Ari’s Take Academy”, indie artists like TAY, and DIY indie playlist innovators “PlaylistSupply”, who really are trying to help us independents know the industry today and how to navigate and be successful. Thank you to you and everyone else out there who has our best interest at heart! 

What’s the best advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t let anyone or anything else change your mind about what your heart wants. When I was younger and after my father died, I was inspired by the shortness and fragility of life and I decided I wanted to follow my real passion and dream of becoming a professional singer-songwriter. I applied to one of the best music schools in the world, Berklee College of Music, in Boston, MA. I actually got accepted there to major in songwriting and this was one of the most exciting days of my life. The stars were aligning. 

However, I let some people in my life, as well as my own internal fears and doubts takeover what I really wanted to do and I ended up not going to Berklee. This decision cut deep and in a lot of ways I gave up and was on a lost path for many years. It took many years for me to circle back, but I am happy to share that this year for the first time since, I have forgiven myself, others, and am shelving my regrets and diving back into my dream of becoming a successful singer-songwriter. 

So my advice to my younger self is don’t waste that fire inside or let it go out. Don’t let anything else redirect you or take you away from feeding that fire. You are amazing. You are talented and you can accomplish anything you desire against any adversity. Others may not agree, but that’s okay, they’ll come around and if not maybe that’s a good thing for you to know, but don’t let that stop you. Prove them wrong. Prove yourself to yourself. You can do it and don’t give up! I believe in you! 

Give our listeners some music recommendations that we should check out!

Grizfolk is one of my favorite bands lately. Their album, Waking Up the Giants, is one of my favorites in the past 5-6 years. One of their newer albums, Rarest of Birds, is also quite awesome. I would also recommend you check out Corre Diablo and Balloon Ride Fantasy–they are all good friends of mine and make some great music too. Some other emerging artists that I just found out about this past year that you should give a listen to are Teddy Grossman, Em Beihold, Parker Millsap, Jonah Kagen, and Local Nomad. 

What’s in store for you for the rest of the year?

I had a traumatic brain injury back in March 2021, which developed into post-concussion syndrome. This caused me to have to take a leave of absence from my PhD in astrophysics program and my research job at the SETI Institute. Since March, I’ve made a lot of progress health-wise, but still have a ways to go. The biggest goal for me now is to get healthy so I can return to my PhD and research job, but also continue releasing music and playing shows–something I’ve now made a commitment to myself to never leave behind again. 

One of the biggest silver linings of my injury this year is that it did bring me back to my singing and songwriting. It also helped me to confront my inner demons of giving up on my music so many years ago, as well as take a more serious step in confronting and overcoming my lifelong battle with depression. Since my injury, I have never felt more creative and have a lot I want to say to the world with my music. 

My work in astronomy and astronomy education is also important to me. This next year, I plan to get back to my PhD and research, but also continue to release music, find balance in my life, say no to things that don’t align with my goals and quality of life, and to be true to myself and others, work on internal and external forgiveness, and to commit to prioritizing my and my family’s happiness. 

Follow Connor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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