Singer-Songwriter Conner Cherland Proves That Grassroots Efforts Can Still Triumph In The Digital Age

For an aspiring artist, tapping into the forces of social media seems like a no-brainer. In today’s digital age, we’ve been taught that having these resources at our fingertips is an essential tool for success. However, in an oversaturated market based on algorithms, where advancement is measured in likes and followers, how does someone stand out from the masses?

Live for Today

Santa Barbara-based singer-songwriter Conner Cherland may have an answer. While he does have a social media presence, a lot of his milestones have been reached thanks to his own grassroots efforts.

Cherland began writing songs back in 2016. Following in the footsteps of Ed Sheeran, he challenged himself to write 40 songs in six months. From there, he took the best six songs and put them in an EP. People liked what Cherland put out. So, he continued with that same process. So far, he has released an album every 13 months. Another one followed the first in 2017, then 2018, and now he’s working on releasing his forthcoming EP, “Toad Boy! And Other Related Parables.”Advertisement

Instead of following along with social media trends, Cherland locked in his first paying gig as an artist by walking into a local burger joint. From there, he was invited to play other venues. Eventually, as his demand increased, his need to work multiple jobs decreased. So, Cherland took a leap. He’s been making a living as a full-time musician for the past three years. He now also considers himself to be a business owner. He gets to negotiate his own wages and even has the ability to hire subcontractors. Cherland says that, actually, he gets very little business by way of social media.

“Generous offers happen a lot more frequently when I’m out in the real world, and people see my personality,” Cherland tells The Burn-In.

Play that Funky Music

While Cherland isn’t working too hard on his “Instagram smolder,” he is diligent when it comes to his music. “Toad Boy! And Other Related Parables” is Cherland’s fourth EP and is filled with a folk/blues/alternative rock medley of beautifully written tracks.

Image: Josie Farrior

“I wrote ‘Toad Boy’ as another way for me to be silly because sometimes I take myself way too seriously. A good cure for that is to go into writing a song with a silly attitude,” Cherland said. “That’s my goal—is to have a good time.”

As Cherland goes on to explain, his subconscious took over throughout the songwriting process, turning the whole thing into a toad metaphor. “It holds a lot of the emotions I feel,” he says. “It’s fun and melancholy at the same time somehow. And I think that I’m both of those things. It matched really well with what I was going through. So, I started building out this EP based on whatever songs fit in within the morals of stuff I’ve learned in the music industry. Hard lessons I’ve learned within the last couple of years.”

End of the Line

“The last song is called ‘Men Do Whatever They Want,’ which is a song that I wrote after reading ‘Animal Farm,’” Cherland says. “After that, I read ‘1984.’ Between that, and personal experiences, I knew I wanted to write a song about this very tragic thing that happens with people in power; specifically, grown adult men.”

Cherland thought that releasing “Toad Boy” on the opposite side of “Men Do Whatever They Want” would make for a cool contrast. In between, he’s got songs such as “Let My Body Be,” “Sides,” “If You Want It” (out on October 25), and “Bootlickin Betty” (out on November 8). Each song is penned with thought-provoking lyrics and paired with catchy beats seemingly crafted for the intelligent music listener.

While Cherland channels his energy into creating meaningful songs—and a lot of them—he says that keeping the pace of an album a year might be a bit too much in the future. “I think at the start of your career is the time to work the hardest. So, I’ll probably stick to this grind for a while,” he explained. As he pondered what next year’s album might look like, should he stick to his timing, he came to the conclusion that a Christmas album is up next. “I don’t know how I feel about that,” he laughed. “I’m interested in it. I do have one Christmas song about an elf. But I don’t know if I want to make five more.”

Try a Little Tenderness

As Cherland works hard to hone his style and solidify who he is as a writer, he questions whether or not he even wants to stick with the genre he’s in now. “I would like to continue developing relationships with other musicians and songwriters,” the artist described as his long-term goal. It’s the idea of collaborating with others and growing as a singer-songwriter that excites him most about this journey.

Image: Josie Farrior

He envisions that, in the future, he’ll be traveling around, playing to crowds of people who came out specifically to hear his music. Does that mean he’ll have to give up his grassroots ways and move to leverage the many digital platforms to his advantage?

While he’s not opposed to growing his social media presence, Cherland understands that real human interaction is the best way to achieve any goal. It comes down to working hard, being kind, and of course, making good music.

Get a listen of Conner Cherland on Spotify here.

Published on The Burn-In.