Artist Spotlight: Alex R. Kopp (With Friends)

Setting things straight.

Marmoset artist, Alex R. Kopp (aka With Friends), is here to clear up some common misconceptions about being a working artist -- one of them being that it's all carefree and Netflix. Drawing from his rich and diverse experience as a touring musician and keyboardist for the likes of Third Eye Blind, he's developed a science in his approach of balancing life on the road and life as a composer. The key? It's all about discipline.

Often in the freelance world, there's an urgency to maintain your own schedule and daily regiment. Creating your own daily work structure is far more difficult than working within an pre-existing one. Discipline is the element that keeps things in motion and moving forward rather than drifting off and becoming overwhelmed. According to Kopp, the life of a working musician is all about finding a daily rhythm -- and it often requires more focus than people might think. Here's more from Kopp in his own words. Enjoy.

M: When did you start writing music? Why music over other things?

Alex Kopp: I started playing and writing in bands when I was about 14. Writing music solo and such came a bit later. But, I think it all stems from the same thing. I can remember every first band I had when I was younger, and honestly most of them still. There's something about being in a room with people creating something from nothing, and feeling how it effects you. Nothing can really touch that for me. Then after, taking that to a stage or releasing a song and getting feedback on it (positive or negative). The idea of creating something and sharing it is what I love, and music is my venture for that.

M: What is your favorite instrument? Why?

AK: I'm not sure I have a favorite specific instrument. But drums have a special spot in my life, and I love the way drums/a beat can move someone. But, I also love the piano and keyboards. My dad is an amazing pianist and I grew up listening to him play in the house, which is something that always stuck with me. Taking the knowledge of piano and applying that to keyboards and all the crazy sounds you can create these days with a computer -- that's super inspiring to me.

M: Would you say it was your dream job to become a musician?

AK: Not at first. When I was really young, I wanted to Ride BMX professionally. But, that did eventually shift into wanting to be a musician. I think once I got out of my basement and started playing shows and getting an emotional return from what I was putting so much time into, it all really clicked into place.

 M: What’s a common misconception of your profession?

AK: What isn't? Ha! People think it's a lot of glam, a party, a walk in the park. Some of those things do have their moments, but it's a profession, a job, a career at the core of it, no matter how you spin it. It's ALL about the work you put in. It's about living it day in and out. Waking up with no schedule somedays and making yourself create, or practice, or network, rather than watch Netflix all day. Having a laid back schedule -- or some of the time, no schedule at all -- is the absolute hardest work environment in my mind (for some people). It's also quite lonely at times. Having free time, but all of your friends are occupied with work, families or school can be a bit strange.

M: Let’s say someone’s just kicking off their career in music. Do you have any advice?

AK: It's hard to give advice that isn't just cliche advice -- but, honestly, most of that advice is quite good. Put into it what you want out of it. If you procrastinate (in away way), you're one step behind the next guy. Never stop believing -- a lot of really talented people give up or don't get to where they want to go because at some point rejection/failure becomes too hard and they give up. If you give up, you'll never know when the next huge opportunity can present it self. Take criticism well, and always. Rejection can be your strongest tool. Good people will tell you something isn't working and why -- listen to them. Take a 30 minute break, and try again. 

M: What instrument(s) would you suggest one learn to play first? Why?

AK: Piano and drums. I grew up a drummer and am glad I did. In today's world of music, rhythm is super important. Drums work independently of your limbs in ways nothing else out there can. It's a challenge for your brain, which is great. Piano in my mind is the building block of all scale-based instruments. I think with a core foundation in piano, you can take that to a lot of places. Another thing is Music Theory. Having a basic understanding of music theory will help you create, solve musical problems in songs and walk into a studio and be able to jump right into a session that's already happening.

M: Tell us about your first time performing on stage while on tour? How did you feel? What was it like?

AK: I have been performing on stage for a good chunk of my life now and it's always incredible -- even when the shows suck, which happens, it's still pretty awesome. It can be nerve-wracking at first, but I always play games with my mind. If you just don't show that you mess up (in your face or movements, etc.), most of the time the average person won't know, and that always helped me at first. Once more people become familiar with the songs, that changes a bit. But, there's nothing better than the lights going out and walking on stage to cheers of any size. It's exhilarating. 

M: What’s your most memorable experience while on tour?

AK: It's hard to pin it down to one experience -- they are all pretty amazing. But, the first time or so of playing in front of more than a couple hundred people was pretty amazing. It's really something you can't explain. Seeing faces sing your songs and react emotionally to them is what it's all about. Also, the people I have met touring and working with on the road are some of my best friends today, and that's one of the things that will always stay with me.

M: How did you get connected with Third Eye Blind? Did you ever think that’d be something you had the opportunity to do?

AK: I had toured with a couple other bands doing various things right after high school and happened to tour with someone who would go on tour for Third Eye. That's kind of how touring works -- it's just about making connections and staying in touch. I really happened to be in the right place at the right time when the potential opportunity to play in Third Eye opened up, and it grew from there. I never expected nor planned to end up in this band. I don't think I could have planned or seen that coming. It was always my goal to end up doing something of the sort. This happened kind of naturally and slightly random, but I am grateful for it. It has been an amazing experience so far.

M: Where do you call home? 

AK: I currently have a place right outside of Washington D.C. But, Canton, Ohio will always be home to me. I spend most of my time traveling, so having my hometown to go to is always relaxing.

M: Where do you see yourself in the future? 

AK: In the future, I hope to be moving in the same direction -- touring, producing my own music, scoring/composing. Just keep growing it and pushing myself to get better. I hope to start working on more artist's records and collaborating a bit more, and that's kind of where I am pushing to go right now. But only time can tell -- a new random crazy opportunity is always right around the corner!

Posted on May 13, 2016 and filed under Music.