I recently had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite singer/songwriters in Sarasota, Justin Layman. Justin has provided us some insight into one of the most artistic communities in the state. Here is a Q&A about the Sarasota Music scene. This interview provides some beneficial information for both original and cover musicians.
With Sarasota being a tourist destination would you say that the town has a healthy balance of original and cover gigs?
Yes, I would. But I believe the cover scene is driven by the venues, (bars, restaurants, etc.) which I am extremely grateful for. I think the original scene is driven by the fans, and Sarasota has some great music fans. The one thing I know is that Sarasota is a rare place where a musician can perform and make a living.
What is your favorite original venue in Sarasota?
I really like playing at the Cock & Bull. It’s Sarasota’s Little Skipper’s. The owners are real music fans who book all types of genres. My wife and I got married there this past year, so it’s special for many reasons.
What is your favorite cover gig venue in Sarasota?
Siesta Key Oyster Bar (S.K.O.B.). I’ve been coming to this place for over 10 years and the musicians are all great who play there. It’s located near the tourist side of town so you can have a different crowd every time. Great for exposure.
Sarasota has a prominent art scene, has this transpired into the original music scene?
Yes. The art scene here is something I discovered by going to Growler’s Pub in Sarasota and meeting some of the local art students from Ringling Art School. These students are the real deal. They would come to shows and do live art and pass it out for people in the crowd to see. It really opened my eyes to what a musical experience could be by simply introducing other types of art into the mix. The other benefit to photos or drawings is that they can break through the “it’s to loud” or the “the music is not for me” crowd and can connect the musician and the artist to a whole new audience that wasn’t possible before.
You recently moved back from the Big Apple. How would you compare and contrast New York City music scene to Sarasota?
Night and day. Growing up in Sarasota I just thought every town had a music scene, or at least a cover scene. New York City opened my eyes to a world where the only cover songs you are playing are jazz. Everyone played original music and they played for free. They just passed the tip jar around at the end. I booked a few shows, and the most I ever walked away with was $20. The worst part was walking home through the subway stations seeing buskers making more. A lot more than I ever did playing in a venue. The songwriting is strong in the city. People have things to write about, and they are all so good. I would leave every open mic feeling like I have to step up my writing game if I was ever going to impress that crowd. NYC is a great master’s program for a musician, but most successful musicians in the city have to tour most of the year because they can’t make a living there.
Are there any media outlets or publications that have played a big role in the development of the music scene?
Sarasota music scene has played the largest role in putting the music on the map for a lot of musicians in this town. Recently, Independent Jones has really put our neighboring town of Bradenton on the map as well. For a music scene to take off, it needs so much more than the musicians. I can’t thank the people out there enough for everything they have done in the past years to help this town become a music scene again.
Who is your favorite local musician? And, have you had a chance to jam with them?
I have two. I hope that’s ok. First, I would have to say Mike Tozier, because he plays like the way I want to. I used to live out on Siesta Key in a house full of musicians and Mike would come by sometimes after his gig and we would sit in a room and just play our original songs for each other. He’s the type of musician who is about the truth of music…no bull shit. Second is Kristopher James. He writes some of the best songs and plays them with such precision. It’s that effortless emotion we all constantly try to reach but struggle to. It’s one thing to write great lyrics, but Kristopher also writes guitar parts that are equally stunning. We have not had the chance to jam but we have already talked about writing together.
What in store for 2017? Will you be releasing any new tunes?
Yes. Well at least live. I have been writing bits and pieces of lyrics for many years, and I’m just about finished. These songs are very meaningful to me, and I want the finished product something I will be proud of for many years. Songs about my wedding, losing my friend to heroin, drinking whiskey from mason jars and songs about being held up at gun point. I am really excited and feel as focused as I’ve ever been about making music.
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