Singer-songwriter advises aspiring artists

Kris Gruen, a singer-songwriter from New York, gave an informative presentation on how to advance musical talents from hopeful hobby to prospective profession on Nov. 3 in the Delkin Recital Hall in the Vivian A. Bull Music Center.
Growing up in Vermont and New York, Gruen struggled to bring his poetry to the forefront until he found a way to express it through music. Through producer and friend Charles Newman, who owns the Mother West Records label in New York City, Gruen recorded and produced his finished product that eventually launched him into the media world.
“I’ve done years of live performance and studio practice to get to this point,” Gruen said. “It’s important not to get caught up and spend too much time in the creative process.”
As part of the independent scene, Gruen played at some larger venues, such as the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.
Part of his workshop was about making connections with people in the music business.
“You have to be willing to deal with people,” Gruen told the audience of approximately 30.
The audience engaged the speakers, hoping to gain insights from those in the music business.
“As an aspiring artist, it is important to listen to perspectives of other artists in the business,” sophomore pianist Collin Morris said.
The workshop offered advice on networking in the area.
Musical collectives, such as the independent scene in Portland, are changing the music culture into an unplugged, experimental sound.
At this stage in Gruen’s career, he said the studio sound and editing take over most of the creative process of the music. Gruen said, he honed his sound by using a studio.
He also played an acoustic set for everyone, with accompaniment by Newman.
Being involved in the academic world has changed his standard audience to collegiate level, which influences his work with students, he said.
“In particular when I’m looking at schools, I’m looking for an open community, a liberal arts college, like Linfield,” Gruen said.
A considerable portion of his promotion, he admitted, was because of selling songs to commercial agencies.
“I recently sold some of my music to Proctor & Gamble [Co.] to use during the Olympics,” he said.
He called this “consumer commercial success.”
“Sometimes you’re conflicted when you’re supporting a cause but don’t believe in the company,” he said.
However, Gruen said his commercial success helped to further his profession.
“There’s a real human element in the industry, and the artist is the heart,” he said, explaining that art can be a viable prospective career.
Gruen said that success with a music degree is more about time organization and strategy than massive amounts of songwriting and practice.
Mike Fite, a McMinnville musician, attended the show and agreed with Gruen.
“It’s incredibly important to manage yourself to be successful,” Fite said.
For more information about singer-songwriter Kris Gruen, visit his website at

Robin Fahy/Freelancer
Robin Fahy can be reached at

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