By Big George Webley - BBC London radio presenter on daily from 2am - 6am!
Funding a globe trotting musical act these days is no easy task. It’s okay if you’re the latest in the long languid line of reality show winners, you’ll get a few 1st class transatlantic flights to promote your short, week long break in the limelight. You’ll also end up paying for the privilege of the entourage foist upon you for the rest of your career. Of course the likes of Madonna, U2, Kylie and the Stones can make millions traveling like Gods, packing out the largest venues on the planet, but only, it seems, with the help of fizzy drinks and junk food company support. So, when it’s almost impossible to get a gig at your local pub on a Tuesday night, how is it possible to fly round the world to do club gigs without multinational support?
In the case of singer-songwriter John Romano, it was a simple matter of betting on what you believe in. It all started four years ago when he was preparing to record his first solo CD "Delicious". He’d saved some money to go into a small studio for a few days, but it was nowhere near enough, and the prognosis for a low budget self produced/promoted album is always bleak. For reasons probably connected to the turmoil the industry had suffered regarding Napster, he’d been following the rise of the download phenomena avidly and noticed that the stock in Apple was low. This didn’t make sense to him, considering how the iTunes bubble was about to inflate out of control (and billions of downloadable songs later, still shows no sign of bursting). You see, vision, whether it’s in business or music, is bestowed on only the few, and it takes balls of steel to act on an unsubstantiated hunch. So instead of recording an album, he put all the cash into Apple Call Options (which is basically a "bet" that the stock will rise at a particular point in the future). They say timing is everything and no sooner had he bought the stocks, he made an instant $6,500 profit! This he used to do the job properly, in both the studio and with (the most overlooked aspect of ALL self promoted ventures) marketing. He also started his own podcast radio show and set up: Avant Garde A Clue Records to help other bands realise their dreams. Mr. Romano has now surrounded himself with a permanent band: The Sugarmen (comprising of virtuoso bassist George Nakonechny, guitar wizard Todd McCool and drum scholar Clark Becker). And whilst they strut their stuff in the latest LA hobo threads, John (a dead ringer for the Beach Boys Maestro Brian Wilson, only without the meds) can be seen sporting a sensible jumper and a pudding basin haircut. And the comparison doesn’t stop there. Along with his business savvy, it’s his sonic vision that marks him out as one to watch/listen to. His life hasn’t always been West Coast luxurama living, he was born deaf to a family of nine in a New Jersey flat and it wasn’t until he was three that he was diagnosed as being deaf. Well, with six other siblings making enough racket to drive the most patient of parents crazy who would’ve notice the quiet one? Luckily it was a bad case of water on the ears and on hearing the wonders of sound, there was no stopping his quest for aural excitement. After the obligatory teenage domestic turmoil's his first break was at 22 years old, when he wrote the lyrics to a hit dance record, whilst struggling to make ends meet as an artist and a stand up comic. It’s a funny old world eh?
The Sugarmen are touring the UK 15-25 October and their debut CD "Love Thang" is available now. But you can always try before you buy, by going to their website:
The Sugarmen website
Catch Big George daily on BBC London 94.9fm from 2am and 6am for open and frank debates!