This article was originally published on medium.com by Authority Magazine
Rising Music Stars Bethany, Wade & Trevor of ‘Stands on Sapphires’ On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry
An Interview With Edward Sylvan
“Laying the foundation is the hardest and longest part of the journey’. This is one that we don’t think enough people talk about. We love to hear “overnight success” stories, but we rarely hear about the years it took to become an “overnight success”. Laying the foundation takes time. It takes patience. But by laying a great foundation, you can be sure that when success does come, it will be built on steady ground. Nothing that comes easy lasts and nothing that lasts comes easy.”
As a part of our series about rising music stars, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Stands on Sapphires.
Stands on Sapphires is an independent hard rock band that toes the line between rock and metal. It is comprised of lead vocalist Bethany Rose, guitarist Trevor Isaac, and bassist Wade Britz. Though currently located in Vancouver, BC, Stands on Sapphires don’t consider themselves based anywhere, with their fans being worldwide and their core belief that music has no borders. Stands on Sapphires pride themselves on their entirely self-made music, from inception to production and beyond.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Bethany: Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to do something like this! I grew up in the suburbs of Portland, OR with my mom, dad, and older brother. Portland is a very interesting place and for those of you who have visited or even live there yourself, you know what I mean. I’ve since moved away, but it’s always an adventure when I go back to visit and it definitely shaped who I was when I was younger.
From an early age, I was obsessed with singing. I would memorize musicals and perform them for my whole family (most likely against their will). It didn’t matter what the song was, I just needed to sing! As I got older, I stopped singing because I didn’t think I was good enough to call myself a singer. I was terrified to let anyone hear my voice on its own. I didn’t have a good reason for being afraid, I just was. It actually took me a long time to get over that fear. Years. Ultimately I did, but the only things that helped me get past it were singing anyway while being uncomfortable singing, as well as also taking some vocal lessons. I started pushing myself to get out of my head about it and simply enjoy singing like I once did. As I felt more confident, I focused on channeling my emotion and passion into my words and performances. I think passion will always outweigh ability and so now I just enjoy the ride and don’t get too focused on perfection.
Wade: My parents are both very into music, so it was always playing in our house when I was growing up. I have pretty distinct memories of many a Sunday morning listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Green Day, Matthew Good Band, and Marilyn Manson. In high school, a lot of my friends were in the school band, so it was only natural that I’d want to participate in that as well, which brought me to pick up the bass guitar for the first time. I was in love with it right away, and pretty much all my free time at that point went into practicing just so I could play the music that my favorite bands were playing.
Trevor: Thanks so much for having us, excited to be here. I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver BC with my dad, mom, and twin sister. My household was very musical, we had it playing at all times of the day and my dad is a musician, playing many different instruments. It was never quiet. This definitely played a big part in molding me into the person I am now.
I’ve always loved listening to music but the desire to play/create it never really struck me until I hit high school, although I did try learning guitar at a very young age but gave up because I was too obsessed with Nintendo and thought music theory was boring haha.
Once high school came around, we had to take electives and one of the options was a guitar class. I took it thinking it would be easy but then I just fell in love with the instrument by learning many of the songs I had grown up listening to. I started researching my favorite bands and seeing all of these super cool guys playing guitar. I wanted to be just like them. I became obsessed, practicing endlessly every single day after school. My mom is a saint for putting up with me, constantly blaring my amp all day, running through the same finger exercises and scales over and over again haha. My dad helped foster that love by giving me at-home lessons as well and I got involved in church youth groups, playing live on Sundays and such.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Bethany: To be honest, it came out of a place of desperation. Trevor and I had quit our cushy office jobs to be self-employed. A few short months in, and a lot of headaches, sleepless nights, and frustrations later, we got to the “what are we doing?” point. We had to stop and ask ourselves “is this really what we want to be doing forever?” As you probably guessed, the answer was “no”. So we spent a day just praying, seeking, and asking God what he wanted us to do with our lives. It became very clear to both of us, independently and collectively, that he wanted us to be doing something with music. We went out, bought everything we needed to start recording our own music from home, and never looked back since. When we ran this by Wade, thankfully he was all in. That was late summer of 2019 and now, almost 3 years later, we’ve grown from 1 single to 2 full albums and a wonderfully, ever-growing supportive group of fans we call “Gems”.
Trevor: I’ve felt called to the idea of being a musician my whole life but kept running away from it because of a lack of stability. I’ve even had a Pastor who I’ve never met randomly walk up to me, prophesying that “God told me that one day you’ll play guitar for many people in his name”. It was crazy, but I just blew it off, being a teenager and not thinking anything of it.
Out of high school, I wanted to attend a music school in California but couldn’t afford it. One day a few years later, they held a competition to write and record themselves playing a song and people would vote for their favorites. The top 3 would get scholarships to attend the school and I came in 4th haha. I just took it as a sign from God that being a musician wasn’t in the cards for me and I decided to attend college for graphic design, still just always having this gut feeling that music was what I really should be doing.
Fast forward a few years, and it’s very much what Bethany wrote. We both quit our jobs, chasing after freelance graphic design work and trying to start our own business which went HORRIBLY. On that day of prayer she mentioned, I just had this thought that said, “are you finally ready to listen to me?” and I knew where it came from. Loud and clear God. So we went out and bought our studio and started learning to record and mix the next day. Interestingly, we just invested in an online business course a few weeks beforehand, right before we decided to change gears. We were able to refund the course and, crazily, the cost of the course was the exact cost needed for all of the studio gear we acquired. It was a confirmation that we had begun down the right path.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Bethany: Last year we covered a song called “Whispers in the Dark” by Skillet. When we shared the music video for it on Facebook, one of the people that commented was actually John & Korey Cooper’s neighbors (the husband and wife duo of the band). We asked him to show them our video but he never commented back. I secretly hoped that he would walk over to their house while John was mowing the lawn, show them the video, and we’d blow his mind with our cover and he’d call us up to go on tour with them haha. Maybe someday that will happen.
Wade: In preparation for filming one of our recent music videos, What I Can See, we asked our fans to send us photos of themselves that we could use in the video. I was initially apprehensive about the idea because I didn’t think we’d get a lot of people interested in the concept, but when it came time to film it I was really overwhelmed at the amount of content our fans had given us. Hanging up all those pictures was a real eye-opening moment for me.
Trevor: For me, there was this one time that the three of us were jamming some of our favorite songs, as we often did, and we had just released our first ever single “My Affliction” a few days beforehand.
Beth needed a quick break but when she came back she just started playing something on her phone and all Wade and I could hear was the audio. At first, we were just like “huh?” and suddenly we both realized that it was someone who had posted a video of themselves on IG, singing along to our song. It was MIND-BLOWING. I think we were all in shock and disbelief that someone was actually singing along to something we had created haha. I will never forget that moment.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Bethany: This is funny to me now, but at the time it definitely wasn’t. When we wrote and recorded our first 2 songs, I had NO idea how to do vocal editing (like pitch adjustments, timing, etc.). So on those first songs, particularly “My Affliction” I unintentionally “auto-tuned” the heck out of my performances. I thought they sounded great at the time, but it didn’t take long for the “OMG THIS IS SO AUTOTUNED” comments to roll in (people are so brutally honest online, aren’t they?). They were right though, I definitely overdid it.
My takeaway from it was that even if things aren’t perfect, it’s still an accomplishment to put something out there. To just START somewhere, even if it’s not where you end up. It’s all in the journey and while I wish I knew better at the time, you don’t know what you don’t know. It was an opportunity to learn and grow.
Wade: The recording of our first album, Bloom, was an interesting and frustrating experience as Trevor and Beth have both touched upon, but there’s one thing in particular that stands out to me. Getting timing and rhythm down for all the bass recordings was a lot more difficult than I had initially thought; there were dozens and dozens of takes where I was sure I was where I needed to be on the beat, only to listen back to it and find out I was way off. It was pretty humbling, but it also caused a lot of self-doubts because that wasn’t typically something I thought I had struggled with.
As it turns out we weren’t using the proper setting to compensate for the lag of the computer, and when recording our second album all we had to do was hit a little checkmark and then everything was fine. At least it’s funny in retrospect.
Trevor: Similar to Bethany’s story, I would just say our very first two singles were an absolute DISASTER. We had no idea what we were doing but we just went for it anyway. We didn’t record our best possible takes, didn’t really check tuning that often, and the list goes on and on.
They were also my first attempt at mixing and oh boy, they were a mess. I just started watching tons of YouTube tutorials and just making every mistake in the book, over EQing and compressing everything to the extreme. I thought it sounded SO GOOD, thinking nobody would ever be able to tell it was done in a home studio. Now I listen to those and I’m like “what the heck was I thinking back then”.
I would say “embrace the suck” and just start. You’re always going to be learning and growing constantly. You will never know everything you need to, but that shouldn’t stop you from making progress with what you currently do know and can accomplish. If you just wait for everything to line up perfectly, you’ll never take action. Also, enjoy the inexperience and just have fun with it, not chasing perfection. You’ll be able to look back and be amazed by just how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned. I know I am.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, we are working on three different cover songs, one that each of us chose to do. We plan to release them consecutively in the next few months. We’ve also started writing our first new single since our last album. We have no time limit to finish this but we are finally ready to get back to it and begin writing again.
Lastly, and this is the biggest project for us, we are working on and rehearsing for a fully filmed and edited live concert video. While live shows are still a bit iffy where we live and touring is currently not an option, we want to prove to our fans and everyone else that we can pull it off live just as well as in the studio. We have been all practicing together and delving into the live sound aspects and all that entails.
It’s a challenging beast but we are learning a lot as we go and cannot wait to play and film it. Once finished we will be editing the footage together and mixing the recorded audio, releasing it as a live album on all streaming platforms as well as a live concert premiere on YouTube.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Bethany: The best part about having diversity in the entertainment industry means there is something for everyone. But, admittedly, I struggle with diversity simply for diversity’s sake. It’s not enough to just “be diverse” in order to drive a certain narrative or example. I believe that in order to be truly diverse, we must be 100% authentic. By being true to ourselves in our experiences, our culture, and our values, even if those things go against the grain, I feel we will naturally exude diversity and unique qualities that will draw others in. By being our true selves, honest and raw, we empower others to do the same. The impact that honesty can have on culture and society is immeasurable.
Wade: The stagnation of the music industry is something that I worry about more than I should and probably more than most people. While the, ‘have all the good riffs been written?’ question is clearly pretty far off-base, I do often wonder about the directions rock and metal can go without sounding too similar to what’s been done before. In the past couple of decades, the answer has been to go heavier and heavier, with new equipment partially being responsible for being able to achieve those sounds. There is obviously a limit to this, however, so where does our industry go from there? Ideally, in my opinion, it’s the injection of fresh blood from a huge variety of backgrounds that can help push us all forward. It’s no surprise that rock has traditionally not had the most diverse group of performers or fans, but as more and more people from all walks of life join and, most importantly, are accepted into the fandom, they’ll all bring their own voice along with them. I think that rock and metal have such a long and bright future ahead of it as long as we don’t try and shut it out.
Trevor: I think what both Wade and Bethany said are perfect. I really think that by being 100% yourself and doing your thing, no matter what it is, that it will be the way we can keep the world of rock and metal diverse, creative, and unique. Everyone comes from a different walk of life and will bring their own preferences and influences to the music which will, in-turn, continue to create inspiring new sounds and songs.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Bethany: I do believe that a huge part of being an artist is learning by going through stuff yourself. Having said that, there are definitely things we all wish someone told us before or when we first started. If our advice can help other aspiring artists out there, that’s all we can hope for. We had to narrow this list down because we have a lot of them, so here are is our top 5:
- “Never take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.”
This one in particular REALLY helped us (and still does) through a lot of harsh comments and criticism. It’s easy to take the things people say too personally, so you have to ask yourself, “would I go to this person for specific advice?” If the answer is no, then you probably don’t want their “constructive criticism” either. A lot of well-meaning people will offer opinions to you as “constructive criticism” but that doesn’t mean you have to take it. Look to those who have gone through what you have, or have the same career goals as you. Their feedback is going to be far more valuable than the random person who drops you a less-than-kind comment on YouTube.
A great example of this is not too long ago we reached out to a thriving podcaster in our music niche to see if they would throw us a bone and feature an up-and-coming band like ourselves. They said no, which is fine, but when we asked for some feedback as to why they didn’t want to have us, we got a big list of things that 1) were totally off base from any other feedback we’ve ever gotten and 2) were completely subjective or not even constructive. We don’t want to throw this person under the bus at all, but it’s a really good example of asking for feedback from someone who probably wasn’t the right person to ask to begin with. It hurt when we got that feedback, but we reminded ourselves of the exact quote we’re talking about now.
2. This is a lot of work. WAY more than you think, and there will always be more.
You can equate being an independent musician with being self-employed and running a small business. Not a single thing is going to get done if you don’t do it, and you will have to learn FAR more skills than you think. It’s not enough to just write music. If you want to be successful, you’re going to have to learn about the business side of it too.
There is no way we can share an exhaustive list of everything we’ve had to learn, but to give you an idea, we had 0 knowledge of even writing music when we started. The fact that now EVERYTHING you see & hear from us is done between the 3 of us with the help of one of our friends (so 4 people total) should speak to how many skills we’ve had to learn. And by everything, we mean everything. Music, mixes, masters, websites, music videos, logos, graphics, band merch, emails, ads, marketing, blog posts, editing, fan clubs, you name it. If it has our name on it, it’s been done 100% within the band and hasn’t been touched by anyone else’s hand. That’s a lot of learning. And if you go the 100% Independent route like us, you’ll learn a lot of this too. If you don’t want to, be prepared to hire a lot of people.
3. “It’s better to go deep than wide”
We heard this one recently and it just makes so much sense. It means creating impactful content that will change people’s lives forever vs creating something fleeting that may make them laugh for a moment but will never think about it again. Quality over quantity. Spend time investing in meaningful connections with your fans, listening to what they have to say, and offering them a more personal look at who you are.
While we actually have been doing this from the beginning, it was nice to have it put into words. We’ve had many people say things like “You guys do more for your fans than any other band I know” and we truly try to. If it’s not for our fans, what do we have? We can’t stress this enough for other artists out there. 1000 true fans can support you forever. Throwing a million things at the wall and hoping something sticks will not.
4. “Laying the foundation is the hardest and longest part of the journey”
This is one that we don’t think enough people talk about. We love to hear “overnight success” stories, but we rarely hear about the years it took to become an “overnight success”. Laying the foundation takes time. It takes patience. But by laying a great foundation, you can be sure that when success does come, it will be built on steady ground. Nothing that comes easy lasts and nothing that lasts comes easy.
Laying the foundation means showing up time and time again, even if it feels like nothing is happening. For us it meant (and still means) learning as much as we can to make sure what we put out in the world is high quality. It means we’ve done the hard work even when we didn’t feel like it and learned to be patient while we wait for a “big break”. But we know that when the time is right, we won’t be thrown into a tailspin because we’ve spent the first years laying our foundation.
5. “There is nothing more useless than doing something with excellence when it shouldn’t be done at all”.
We are all overwhelmed with information every day and it’s easy to get distracted, thinking you have to handle so many different tasks. In reality, many of these things don’t matter and it’s about finding the things that are important, focusing on them, and doing them with excellence.
We’ve spent A LOT of our first 2 years trying to do so many things that ultimately didn’t really do anything to move our career forward. An example of that is we spent all of 2021 making and sharing 1 funny Reel/TikTok a week. It was EXHAUSTING and we can honestly say it didn’t really bring us any new true fans. We got to a place earlier this year where we had to ask ourselves “is it worth doing all these things that don’t really work? Why not spend that time on the more important things that do?”. So now we’re focusing on what we can do well and what works for us as a band and we think every creator should too.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Bethany: After personally experiencing burnout, I can tell you it’s all too real and it lasts longer than you might think. My best advice to avoid it (and also thrive) is to spend time on what matters and what works for you personally. Don’t want to make 3 TikToks a week and hope one goes viral? DON’T. You can spend a lifetime hunting down tips and tricks to “boost” your career, but at the end of the day we believe only one thing matters and that’s making your art as good as it can possibly be, something you are proud of, and doing that over and over again. Consistency is key, something I’ve heard time and time again from a lot of successful people.
While we’re still waiting for our “big break”, I’ve been around the block enough to know what matters, what doesn’t, and what works best for us. Every artist that makes a lasting impact will go on a journey of discovering what matters, what doesn’t, and just how bad they want it when things aren’t going the way they planned. Don’t give up, don’t give in. The only person you need to impress is yourself.
Wade: Give yourself time to recover. I see a lot of stuff online about how people will work themselves to death for six months and then spend a nice weekend getaway relaxing in the hopes that it will cure all their burnout, and in my experience, that’s not the case. Burnout can often take as much time getting out of as it took to get into, so the ideal situation is to not let that happen in the first place. That’s definitely not the easiest thing to do in this industry, but I think both Bethany and Trevor have outlined some things that can help (that we’ve learned the hard way).
Trevor: Amen to all of that. We live in such a go go go, never stop world and I think it can become very unhealthy. Nobody ever really stops to talk about burnout and the fact that is very real. It’s almost frowned upon that you would feel “burnt out” and that you must not be 100% passionate about what you’re doing but that’s just not the truth. Anything in excess can become the opposite.
I would say to put deadlines on yourself and set up creative “rules” for yourself on every project. It’s a lot easier to be creative within a set of constraints and under a time limit than it is to have infinite time and options. That will lead to procrastination, choice fatigue, and burnout very quickly.
Also, have a “should” free day every week. Anything you feel like you “should” do but don’t want to? Just don’t. You need to recover and rest to be able to stay creative.
You are each people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Bethany: There is no movement I want to personally start, but instead one I would like to personally perpetuate and that is the movement of love & kindness. And I don’t mean shallow, superficial love and kindness that is so prevalent nowadays. I mean the kind of love that costs you something. Truly loving one another isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. I wouldn’t consider myself a bleeding heart, I just think we can all do better in this department. I hope that by treating people with compassion, kindness, respect, and love, I can inspire others to do the same.
Aside from that, I think free Taco Tuesdays would help a lot of people. Just saying.
Wade: If I could impart one idea upon mankind’s collective consciousness in my time alive it would be to have everyone constantly remember that taste is subjective. When it comes to music, I see so many people arguing about what band/song/album is the ‘best’ or is the ‘worst’, when it should be extremely obvious that there’s no possible way to define that. I think a lot more people would be a lot more kind to each other if they reminded themselves that there’s no way to inject objectivity into art.
Trevor: I agree with both points above and I’d probably put either of those at the top of the list but if I had to pick something else, I’d like to encourage people that they are a lot stronger than they think they are and can handle more than they think they can. I think in a society based on convenience, it’s made all too easy to not be able to self-examine and know who we are/figure out things that might be making us unhappy. We are scared to do so and think we aren’t strong enough. I think it’s a big part of why there is so much hatred out there right now. “Hurting people hurt people”, but if you just step back and tell yourself that you are strong enough and you can do it, you may be surprised by how strong you really are and what you’re actually able to handle.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Bethany: That’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t know if I consider myself “successful” yet or not, but that also depends on what you measure success by. Regardless, while there are many people worthy of thanks, I think the person I have the most gratitude for is God. If it wasn’t for his grace in my life, I don’t know that I would be where I am or who I am today.
Wade: My parents have always been supportive of whatever decisions I make in my life, and for that I’m very grateful. If it weren’t for their influence in my musical taste, or their encouragement to stick with playing music for this long, there’s no way I would be where I am today.
Trevor: It may sound like a cop-out answer but I would have to say God as well. He has shown up for Beth and me in a multitude of ways since we’ve begun this journey. From providing financial support out of the blue when freelance looked rough during the beginning of COVID, to just general guidance, and helping me work on myself and the things I am trying to get better about personally. It’s been a big change and I’m not the person I was 2–3 years ago thanks to his help. He’s also been putting the right people, education opportunities, and other things in our paths to help us get to where we are and have the skills we’ve been able to build to a professional level in a very short time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Bethany: It’s hard to pick just one because I have heard so many good quotes over the years. A phrase that I always come back to though, no matter how cliche it might be, is the Golden Rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated”. If you want people to respect you, first respect them. If you want others to be understanding, try to understand them. Obviously, no one is perfect, I fail at this all the time, but I try to give what I would appreciate in return. I do feel like the golden rule has been lost a bit in modern society, but that is where leading by example comes in. There is no better time than now to start being the change you want to see.
Wade: “There is nothing so fleeting yet enduring about the way music feels when you’re 17”. While this quote is obviously related to music I like to view it through an empathetic lens as well. I’ve often found that people can be dismissive of others (especially people younger than themselves) because they ‘lack experience’ or ‘don’t really know what the world is about yet’, but that quote reminds me that while that may be true, it doesn’t make the views/pain/emotion that other people feel any less relevant. We’re all going through something, and comparing your struggles to someone else’s isn’t going to help you or them. Accepting that and being there for them, however, just might.
Trevor: There are so many options to choose from but for me, it would have to be “someday is the word that will take your dreams to the grave with you”. I read it in Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Work Week” and it was what pushed me to take the risk, leaving my full-time employment (and Bethany as well) to pursue our dream of creating music. I just always told myself that “one day” I’ll make music happen but then just constantly created barriers to entry. When I read that, it finally just clicked, it’s not gonna happen if I just sit around and wait for the “perfect time”. I hope that maybe someone reading this will decide to go after a dream they have as well. You’ve only got one life so make the most of it!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Bethany: I absolutely adore the comedian JP Sears and his sense of humor. I’ve been following him for over a decade. If I could have brunch with him and just pick his brain, I know our time together would be filled with laughs and jokes.
Wade: While I’m always tempted to answer a question like this with one of my music heroes, I think when it came time to the actual meal I wouldn’t know what to ask them at all. Instead, I’m going to say writer/comedian John Mulaney, who is one of the quickest and funniest people I can think of. That way we don’t actually have to talk about anything in particular and I know I’d still have a great time.
Trevor: Well my two biggest guitar heroes are Nuno Bettencourt and John Petrucci and I’ve been lucky enough to meet and hang out with Nuno so I’d love to have breakfast with John. I think it would be a blast to just nerd out about guitar gear, tone, and to pick his brain on everything music-related.
How can our readers follow you online?
We’d be honored if you did, we’re everywhere including all major social media platforms as well as music streaming services! Here are some links!
Listen to our music: standsonsapphires.com/listen-now
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Link to original article: https://medium.com/authority-magazine/rising-music-stars-bethany-wade-trevor-of-stands-on-sapphires-on-the-five-things-you-need-to-e559a1d88a8c
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