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"Um, we better use Charlie," Rob Kistler tells me when I ask how I should address him when referring to the country-rock band he fronts under the pseudonym Charlie Shooter, which just released its first CD a couple of weekends ago.
Kistler finally capitulated to the cascade of advice suggesting he change up the moniker of his outfit, long known simply as Shooter, to avoid confusion with Shooter Jennings (former Valley resident and the son of country legend Waylon Jennings), who was onstage in town recently. Good thing. A few weeks earlier, while watching the NFL and rooting against each other's teams (Kistler is a Chiefs fan, since he's from Kansas City; I like the Raiders), I'd suggested to him that to move his CDs, he'd need to switch away from Shooter.
That was but the first of many suggestions I had for Kistler, who finds himself in the same quandary as many first-time record-droppers. He's got his product in hand now, a damn decent CD of his compositions, but he doesn't seem quite sure what to do with it. Recording and manufacturing your CD may seem to be the bulk of the chores, but if you're underexposed, it won't do you any good at all. Kistler did correct the first problem, though: the name of the band.
"I'd been getting a lot of flak about this Shooter Jennings fella that I'd never heard of," Kistler acknowledges. "When I thought of the name, I thought I was the brilliant motherfucker that came up with Shooter. I thought it fit." Apparently, he wasn't the first at that, either -- he found another band on the Internet named Shooter when he Googled the name.
When you're in Kistler's situation, with the workload of promoting your band falling entirely in your own hands (all of his backing band members play in other outfits around town), you must get the band's music and name out there, whether by fliering every record store in town like a 19-year-old would, or pimping yourself on the Internet. Charlie Shooter hasn't done much of either.
At the release show for the first self-titled album at the Yucca Tap Room a couple of Saturdays ago, Kistler's backing band is a revolving door, except for the constant presence of producer and collaborator Terry Garvin hitting the skins. Mike Wolfe comes up to play pedal steel for a bit, and is followed by Steve Borick bringing the twang with his banjo.
With a curled-up cowboy hat on, a red collared shirt, a shiny black sports coat, and what look like freshly twisted Willie Nelson-style braids, Kistler and his cohorts rollick through the nine songs on the CD, throwing in a George Jones cover, "She Thinks I Still Care," "You Can't Do That," by the Beatles, and a Hank III cover, "Seven Long Months."
On the dance floor of the Yucca, where the band's played most of its shows, a few couples step up and slowly spin one another around the cramped space. It seems to me that this is what a stereotypical Arizona bar band scene should look like -- a bit more urbane than the scene shown on Da Ali G Show when Borat sang "Throw the Jew Down the Well" in Tucson.
Charlie Shooter's juxtaposition of feisty guitars with Kistler's laid-back, slightly nasally, drawling delivery is an ideal fit for country rock like this. The players get swinging on "Bumble," with Borick's banjo plucking driving the song; "Shady Lady" kicks it Southern-rock style, sounding almost grungy in a Skynyrd sort of way; "Far Away" is a subdued, tear-in-my-beer affair.
Surprisingly for a debut CD, Charlie Shooter's first foray into marketed music sounds as good as when the songs are played live, if a little jangly for my taste.
At the release show, Kistler figures he got rid of about 75 or so of the albums. That only leaves 925 to go. He tells me that he tried to get the discs into Eastside Records in Tempe, but the employees hadn't heard of the band, so they declined, referring him to Zia Record Exchange.
Getting the CD in Zia is a smart idea -- they'll likely take a few copies on consignment. Zia's always hugely supportive of local artists. But to really get those 900-plus plastic discs out of his apartment, Kistler's got to get a little more proactive. You've got to have a buzz, even if people only know your name and not the music, which means fliering like mad, playing as many different venues as you can, and taking full advantage of the tools available on the Internet.
It sounds trite to point out, but Kistler needs to get Charlie Shooter a MySpace.com page; I'm surprised he didn't have one for the band already. That's a given -- a Web site for your band to post songs for free is invaluable. But he also needs to take advantage of PureVolume.com, where erudite surfers often search for bands by region, as well as genre, to listen to the songs that the site hosts for free.
Kistler's got a Web site, www.CharlieShooter.com, which is a start, but music fans tend to stick to sites like MySpace and PureVolume, where it's easier to listen to streaming tracks than to download MP3s. And, taking Internet marketing a step further, Kistler needs to hook up with CDBaby, which can basically serve as a worldwide distributor -- even if most bands I know have only sold a handful of records on there.
Kistler's got a swell album, and great musicians playing with him as Charlie Shooter, but like anyone with a fresh CD to pimp, that doesn't do him much good unless the music is out there for people to hear.