By Brian Tucker
Chris Bellamy, a singer-songwriter and fishing boat charter captain, released his latest album Bubbafied last year and continues have success with it. Bellamy, who resides in the area part of the year and during winter in Florida, sings about the coastal culture he knows and reaches into its history for other songs.
Bubbafied has been climbing the charts at AirPlay Direct. AirPlay is a digital delivery system developed for musicians and bands, radio programmers and industry professionals to coordinate and get music noticed. Bubbafied hit #6 last week then rose to #3. It has remained in the top ten for three weeks so far.
The album represents Bellamy’s knack for crafting Carolina-centric country music but also explores the Florida lifestyle, representing in part Bellamy’s life as a fishing boat captain. You can read Mike Voorheis’ article about Bellamy last year here.
Below Bellamy answered questions about Bubbafied, carving out a path in the music business and DIY success.
What does Bubbafied mean to you at this stage in your career?
Bellamy: That’s a big question. Bubbafied, as in the album, was born out of the life I lead, the people I know and love as well as the experiences I have. The music on this CD pretty well captures that. Even the songs I didn’t write on Bubbafied certainly fit the bill, so to speak. According to folks in the music business it is by far the most commercially viable recording I have done to date.
Does its songs and themes translate easily to listeners?
Bellamy: People seem to get the message pretty good. The ballads I wrote – “The Ballad of John Ashley” and “Queen of the Everglades” are both based on true stories. Those songs came out of a time in Florida’s history when it was still pretty much a frontier. I am amazed that so little is known about The Ashley Gang. I’ve met a number of folks that are still alive today that knew of John Ashley, most of them through their parents. To some people he was an outlaw and to others he was a friend.
I spend a lot of time in and around Fellsmere, Florida. I have come to be a trusted friend to folks that know the stories first hand. Having that close connection to an area and its people is what gives the album its fabric, woven together with time and circumstance.
Bubbafied is getting a lot of airplay.
Bellamy: It’s being played in some sixty countries now and the response is hard for me to say in just a few words. I feel incredibly happy so many folks like this album. At the same time I’m honored and humbled. Most of the time, guitar pickers at my age are winding down but I am going harder than I ever have and it certainly looks like there will be another album after this, maybe several. I’m focused. I have good people around me and I have a lot of life to write about. People definitely tie into this music. So, as far as ‘this stage of my career,’ well, I ain’t near done.
While there’s so much music out now, does the album’s attention mean even more?
Bellamy: Sure it does. In a way it is validation for a lifetime of playing and writing music – taking chances with no safety net. There are no guarantees in this business of music. You have to do it because you love it. Pure and simple. To be staying at the level Bubbafied is holding for now the third week is way more than I was thinking was going to happen.
AirPlay is very hard to get for an indie artist. I am in the NPR/college radio and internet/satellite markets, and smaller “terrestrial stations.” The cool thing about these stations is they are much more open to new music, indie music, and they can get a musician work in the form of shows. That is where I make 95% of my living.
Most musicians don’t make much money off of CD sales nowadays. The download market – iTunes, Amazon and others tells us what we are going to get paid for our music. The artist doesn’t have anything to do with that part of it. But small stations, NPR and internet radio is a huge help when it comes to making a living as a musician.
And terrestrial radio?
Bellamy: Terrestrial radio is radio broadcast over the airwaves from towers. Most of the large terrestrial radio stations in big city markets are programmed from who-knows-where. They all play the same small piece of the music pie all across the nation. That is why large terrestrial radio stations are losing the markets to better music and better programming and less commercials on smaller stations and they know it. It is virtually impossible for any artist that is not on a major record label to get rotation airplay in a major market. I doubt it will ever change.
(But) there is this – I live in a small house. I drive an old truck. I will probably never be a millionaire. But I have the gift of music that I was born with. Somehow I had the nerve to chase it. I have a happiness that money can’t buy. To me, being respected by my peers and loved by my listeners is more than I could ever ask for.
How did you get the album in AirPlay’s sights?
Bellamy: A good friend in Nashville at a record label helped me with that. We were talking one day about my catalog of nine full-length recordings. He said, you know Chris, you don’t really need a label because you are your own label by all rights (and) that I had my music in every place any label would put it. He said what I needed was marketing and airplay. So he made a call on my behalf to AirPlay Direct (and) it was a very well placed call.
I have learned tons about radio and the business of music. Fortunately, I have a few very good friends to call when I have questions. Sometimes they know the answer and sometimes it’s just trial and error. The music business is not necessarily about how good you are. A lot of it is timing. But you need to be at your best all of the time.
Is there a possibility that you’ll re-release the album on a label like Rural Rhythm Records?
Bellamy: No, it doesn’t look like it. But who knows? Maybe the next one, I really like Rural Rhythm Records.