Hello Stranger: Year in Review (2018)

It’s been a crazy and thrilling year for Hello Stranger. We’ve seen growth beyond my wildest dreams and produced content that I’m incredibly proud of.

In January we released our debut record: Long Division. The response has been overwhelming. Since release, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of views and streams. Much of this has been driven by the performance videos Charley Button (LDC Productions) has produced for each track on the record (with the final one, “Victorious”, due later this month).

On the back of the record release, we’ve grown our social media following by the thousands. Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube we’ve received more wonderful, generous comments than I could possibly list. It’s been truly inspiring and encouraged us to keep moving forward and write new music.

But 2018 wasn’t just about Long Division. We also self-recorded an acoustic EP that will be released early this year (2019). We played shows at a number of great venues in LA like Molly Malone’s and Bareburger Santa Monica. We were featured and interviewed for Deep Cuts Live on Pasadena Media.

All of these extraordinary experiences have given us the opportunity to hone our performances and songwriting as a group.

Which leads me to addition of Doug Slohm to Hello Stranger. Since joining, Doug has brought his incredible musical abilities  and instincts to HS as our new bassist and has contributed to the new songs we are writing for our forthcoming second album.

Like I said, it’s been a crazy year. And the event that perhaps best epitomizes this actually occurred early on in 2018 when we walked away from signing to a label. To preface, I think pretty much every musician harbors a fantasy of being signed and taking over the world. It’s admittedly an outdated dream, but one that persists in the minds of young rockers everywhere.

So when Hello Stranger was presented with just that opportunity and was forced to walk away from negotiations, the 13 year-old in me was screaming in protest. So here’s the story. Shortly after releasing Long Division, Hello Stranger entered into negotiations with a prominent indie label. They had signed some artists we admired and were familiar with and it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that both sides were looking for very different things and I made one of the hardest decisions of my life: to walk away from  a label contract.

And then, throughout the rest of the year, I watched many of my friends’ bands sign to various labels. Though they are profoundly deserving and I’m glad for them, it felt soul-crushing to not be on the same path.

But the truth is, I didn’t and don’t want to sign to something that won’t serve Hello Stranger in the long-term. I believe in this band and the music we are creating. I don’t want to sell my songs to a “Motown exec” or betray the kind of band we want to be. There’s a significant difference between making salable art and making a soulless product.

The response to Long Division has proven there are people in the world who care about what we are doing and I can’t wait to deliver LP2 to them. Yet, walking away from a dream I’ve had for over 15 years was still agonizing. I hope that this choice will pay off and I believe that 2019 will validate this belief.

So, here’s to our fans, to 2019, and to LP2 😉

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