Chris Kroeze is a singer and songwriter who won 2nd place on the NBC singing competition show “The Voice” in 2018. In the years prior, Chris played 200+ shows a year, sometimes 6-7 nights a week.
That’s one heck of a work ethic. I had to know: how does one develop that sort of dedication and perseverance even during the times when it feels more like a job than what you love to do?
In this episode we chat about:
- Where Chris Kroeze develops the work ethic to play more than 200 shows a year, several nights a week
- Why he gets more paid work from playing free charity events than anything else
- His techniques for booking 200+ shows a year all by himself
- Why he is ok with being told no and the ratio he uses to push past rejection
- The importance of keeping perspective and keeping your head straight
- How his small hometown’s perception of him changed after he was on “The Voice”
- The biggest lesson he learns from booking his own shows
- His advice for turning your passion into a career
- Why it’s important to learn to learn and where to find opportunities for that
- The bittersweet last times for everything we have with our children
Transcript with Chris Kroeze
Hi, I’m Tim. Welcome to We’re Only Human. This is a podcast celebrating the resiliency of the human spirit. By exploring journeys of people from all walks of life. There are often little nuggets of wisdom we can find in another person’s story, that we can then apply to our own lives. We’re not perfect, we’re not alone, we’re only human. Today I’m joined by Chris Kroeze. He’s a husband, father, a son, a brother. He was the second place winner on the 15th season of NBCs hit singing competition show “The Voice” back in 2018.
Chris, I think that’s probably where so many people know you from. I know you’re from small town in northern Wisconsin. Always been playing, but I’m sure that put you kind of on the map. I’m looking at your story, though. And I was like, he’s not an overnight success. You were playing 220 to 250 bar shows a year 567 nights a week before you ever got on the voice actor in the world. That work ethic come I’m trying to calculate this in my head. And that’s got to be well, I mean, 567 nights a week. Did you ever rest?
Chris Kroeze 1:55
You know, it was a, it was pretty crazy. I mean, I would play You know, as much as I could, and I guess at the time, I didn’t even think much of it looking back. I’m like, I don’t know if I could do that again. But I mean, it just kind of like I started playing when I was really young, like six years old, and I played some talent shows through school and stuff. And, you know, once I got into college, you know, I was I was, I was I went to college for a private audio production school in Minneapolis.
And I’d come home on the weekends to northern Wisconsin, and I’d play bars, and I would, you know, just make my money for rent to stay in the cities and after I graduated college, and like student loans kicked in and stuff and I’m like, man, I need to I need to step this up. So I just sat down and, like, bought one of those big I’m doing hand motions. People can’t see me but I bought one of those huge calendars that like covers your whole desk, you know? Oh, I remember having one of those on my desk like growing up in my room. Yeah, always wanted one. I thought it was super cool.
Went to Office Max and got one and just started cold calling bars. I mean, cuz i was i was playing plenty, you know, like, I mean, at least once a weekend prior to that, but I knew I had to step it up. So I just started cold calling places, and I would just like Google search, live music Wisconsin Wednesday night just to find bars that would have bands on Wednesday nights. And, you know, just started filling those gaps. And so I mean, it got to the point where I was playing. I mean, June through August, I would play Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to show Saturday afternoon show on Sunday.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Chris Kroeze 3:37
And yeah, it just kind of got crazy. So I would sit down and book my entire year in a three week period. And so, you know, that it usually be in the spring, probably March or April. And I’d sit down and all of a sudden, like, my calendar was full, you know, and I just, I just look at the visual of the calendar and see the open spots and stuff. commonplaces and try to fill those in. Once I got that filled, I’d move to the next open spot.
And then, like the downside of that is you get to August after you’ve booked yourself like that, and you’re like, what was I thinking? This is way too much. Like, don’t commit to Yeah, no days off. And if I did, it’d be like a Monday and I’d sleep all day and then back to it Tuesday. I wouldn’t I don’t regret it. It’s, it’s a great way to get your chops up and kind of cut your teeth, if you will. I know that’s an overused term.
Sure. Did you…I think about every time like this podcast, for example, I will reach out to guests that I’m super excited about. And I think oh my gosh, I would love to talk to them. It’d be great story to tell. And I sent them an email, or you know, whatever, a tweet or a DM and I think to myself, they’re just gonna say no, like, they’re not gonna want to talk to me, did you? I mean, you’re calling all these bars. Did you have any self doubt or any? Where you kind of like, Oh, no, this is this is not gonna happen or were you like confident like I’m gonna do it?
Chris Kroeze 5:01
I had both definitely like confidence were like, I mean, it took a little while but I mean you have to get used to I mean you you probably know firsthand. I mean you’re in any kind of business like this where you’re trying to book appointments with people that you want to talk to or book you know book a show with a venue I mean, you’re gonna get told no a lot.
And you know for me it’s it’s it started out as you know, I would it was probably like a three to one no to yes ratio. And it can be disheartening, but at the same time, you can either sell covert or just move on to the next one and, you know, get it Yes. Yeah, I mean, that’s that’s a huge part of this business was getting told no, homie, we still get told no, you know, I mean, it’s not gonna true. Yeah.
I like that. I can, I can see your face. Like you’re not worried about that, like you’re not. It’s part of the territory. And I’m just going to keep going until I get my next yes and that’s part of the game. Yeah, definitely. That’s a good I definitely I would imagine that’s a great skill to have in this business.
Chris Kroeze 6:06
Yeah, you gotta you got to kind of, I think it’s important to be able to step back and look at it from an outside perspective from what it is, you know, because if, like, I could, I could go on, you know, I was playing bars and all that stuff. And then all of a sudden, I’m on TV, and I’ve got, you know, 70,000 more followers than I used to have. And like, so you could either look at that and be like, Oh, I am. I’m on top of the world right now.
And I could do anything I want to or you could be like, you know, I mean, if you can step back and look at it for what it is, use those use those tools that you’ve gained to better your career and everything but I mean, I don’t know just I think that’s just in a roundabout way saying keep your head on straight and not get too full of yourself. And I mean, I don’t know.
I guess he, I think it’s pretty humbling having like a wife and kids at home too, you know, because I mean, it didn’t matter. Here I was on TV, I was home for like four days. That summer. I was Cuz I mean, the voice is like a six month period. Like for filming and stuff. It’s a long time. And my son was one. And so I was gone for like almost six months of his life.
Oh gosh, that had to have been hard on you.
Chris Kroeze 7:11
Yeah, not super fun. But you know, I’d be all this stuff we’d go out in public when I was home and it’d be all this craziness and what people want to pictures and stuff and then we get home and buy some poop in his diaper and it’s like, well, I still got to change poopy diapers. So it’s not that different.
That’s a great way to keep perspective.
Chris Kroeze 7:30
I don’t know it’s I don’t know, it’s, uh…I hope I don’t think it went to my head or anything. And I’ve tried really hard to not not let anything I mean, because any level of success I guess is great. It depends on you know, but I’m not, you know, it’s not like I went. It wasn’t like it was definitely life changing but it wasn’t like I went from being this small town bar ban guy to, you know, being Dirks Bentley. You know,
When you were doing The Voice then and your son is just just a year old, were you struggling with kind of like pursuing? You know, I mean, that’s a huge opportunity for what you’ve worked for. But were you kind of struggling with oh my gosh, my son’s at home, I’m gonna be away for months. I mean, this is like the, the very, the golden years of you know, their their development and stuff.
Chris Kroeze 8:25
Yeah, absolutely. That was tough. But, you know, before I even went out there, I talked to my wife and I said, Look, if you’d if this isn’t good for both of us that I won’t do it. And she, she really wanted me to go for it. And so, and luckily we live in. Like, I grew up in Barron, Wisconsin and all of our families here. I mean, we live a mile from her mom, a couple miles from my brother, five miles from my parents.
You know, I mean, there’s a ton of family around to help so that helped. That was made a big difference, but you know, it’s not the same talking to your kids through FaceTime. It’s stuff for that long but I we just had to remind ourselves it was temporary and it was going to better us for the rest of our lives hopefully so
That’s a great way to look at it and having the family nearby to what a blessing.
Chris Kroeze 9:11
That’s huge. Yeah not possible without them I don’t think.
Yeah it’s interesting to think about that too. I mean, the amount of hard work you put in and near a talent and all that but then thinking about that supporting cast around you and how important that is to you know everything you’re you’re working for your I was reading that so when you got out of college you headed to Nashville to record I think we shouldn’t go to college but yeah, Surely your first single but your town that your your fellow neighbors and Baron there helped you raise money to do this. I was really curious like,
Chris Kroeze 9:47
Was this a case of everyone knows each other so well, that you’re like, Hey, this is a dream. You know, it was just like a local, almost like kind of a GoFundMe nowadays type thing.
Chris Kroeze 9:57
Basically. Yeah, it was like It was it was even more old school than that it was. I mean, I so my manager now I’ve been friends with him forever and he’s worked with a ton of bands in the Middle East and stuff and books, entertainment for the troops and all that cool stuff. And he had booked this guy who was a songwriter out of Nashville and the sky just like randomly sent him a song and said, hey, I’ve got this song that I wrote and looking for a good voice for it and want to want to have someone record it and said, Do you have any anyone that you can think of?
That might sound good on this and he sent it to me I and I sent back a demo and he said yeah, that guy’s voice sounds great. Let’s Let’s Let’s have him record the song and so I was all jacked up you know? I’m gonna get to go to Nashville and any musician I mean, for me anyway, like growing up like Nashville is always the spot you want to you want to get to Nashville and record. So I was just super pumped and then it was gonna be like, quite a bit of money. And I was like, I don’t know. Have any money? So I’m like, I don’t know.
I called my dad and I was just like, yeah, I have this cool opportunity to go record and I don’t know how I’m gonna pay for it. He said, Well, we’ll figure it out, you know, we’ll just plan the trip. And we’ll, we’ll figure it out. So he called the local the VFW bar that we used to play it all the time. We just he helped me put an event together. And we had a couple of different musicians come in and play and they did like a potluck for donations. They did like, like they did a meat raffle. Oh, wow, they did. Like the 5050 pot drawing thing. And, you know, we raised all the money, we needed to go to Nashville and record the song and yeah, so it was pretty cool.
What a sense of community, everyone. I mean, I imagine you were so excited to be able to go there and record that but also knowing that all of these people supported you, I mean, both financially, but with their talents with their time with their love and support. That’s true community right there.
Chris Kroeze 11:58
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. We’re fortunate to be from here. There’s definitely some cool, some cool benefits to growing up in a small town.
Yeah. Speaking of your dad, I read a quote that you once your dad gave you some wisdom, he said even a bad day fishing is still better than a good day at home.
Chris Kroeze 12:19
I like that. What was he? What did he mean by that?
Chris Kroeze 12:24
Oh, I mean, it’s it’s a pretty common saying, here anyway, I’ve said it now. But I mean, I don’t know if you love you love fish. And it could be anything. I mean, I don’t. We don’t know each other personally. Super well, but I mean, like, if you have a hobby that you love to do, even if it’s not a great day for that hobby. Still better than not doing it. You know, it’s kind of like, sitting at home doing nothing.
Yeah. Yeah. Did you and your dad fish a lot together all the time?
Chris Kroeze 12:53
Yep. We still do. We get together with guys once a week and we go fishing every Tuesday night.
Well that’s fun. Is that just locally on the lake in town or something?
Chris Kroeze 13:05
Yeah, there’s, you know, a bunch of lakes around. So we just kind of hop around and see what we can find.
Yeah. Oh, that’s awesome. I’ve fished a couple times in my life very, not. I want to say very small Lee. That’s not even a word. But yeah, like when I was a kid and stuff is Cub Scouts in like, October.
Chris Kroeze 13:23
Oh I’m no pro. Not at all.
Okay, I didn’t know for title a big sport fishing or just, you know,
Chris Kroeze 13:30
Just go out there and catch some blue gills and stuff.
Gotcha. Oh, it’s fun. So the town you live in? What about 3,000 people or so?
Chris Kroeze 13:38
Yup, 3,000. That’s the town. Yeah. I actually never lived in the town. But that’s where I went to school. The area. Yeah, yep. The area.
So you go. So first of all, The Voice calls you which I found amazing.
Chris Kroeze 13:51
Yeah. kind of crazy.
Yeah. So they call you and say, Hey, come out for an audition. And you do I mean, you end up going through this whole process. You end up placing second in that season. When you come back to town. I gotta imagine every single person in town now views you as somebody a little bit different. I mean, I imagine TV does that to people’s perception?
Chris Kroeze 14:14
Yeah. Yeah, to a point I’m part of it was really weird because I couldn’t for the first like, so I went out there June 3 of, would have been 2018. And, geez, that’s almost two years ago. Wow.
Chris Kroeze 14:32
Yeah, I know it. So I went out there June 3, and the show didn’t start airing until like, mid to late September. So we couldn’t tell anyone until it aired.
So you disappeared for like three months and no one knew where you were.
Chris Kroeze 14:45
Yeah, and I mean, people kind of figured it out because I had, you know, I had, like, I think I had to cancel like 115 shows. Somewhere in there. 110 hundred and 15. And so I mean, all of a sudden, I’m just not playing anymore. I’m not around and Just kind of silent on social media. Yeah, people kind of figured it out. My dad’s got some good stories of people coming up coming up to him in the gas station in town there be like, I know he’s gonna be on American Idol. I know it.
So that kind of stuff was funny. But once once the word did get out. Yeah, it was pretty crazy. It just it varies. I mean, even still, like I went and picked my son up from daycare 40 minutes ago, and you know, I stopped at the gas station, and there’s, there’s, sometimes there’s people that are just like, Oh, are you Chris Kroeze I’m like, Yeah, I Yeah, I am. And then there’ll be someone else like that might work at the gas station or something. They’ll just be like, well, it’s just Chris like, you know, cuz I know he’s people my whole life. So it goes both ways.
It’s gotta be such a weird dichotomy to be in, especially that example, like someone who, again, their perception has totally changed and someone else’s like, well, it’s just my buddy. Chris Yeah, well, you’re all excited about Yeah. So when you were booking all the bar shows, was that what you were doing full time? Or were you like doing something during the day to kind of stay afloat and then booking the shows, you know, as to kind of get ahead in the career?
Chris Kroeze 16:18
Well, when I graduated from college and knew that I had those student loans coming in, I did I got a part I got Well, it was full time, I guess. But it was, um, just a short stint, I think for like six months that worked for a local guy doing concrete, just like as a laborer, and I was awful at it. But I had to I had to do something and then, you know, that was good motivation for me to kick that kick the music stuff into gear. So I mean, I graduated college in 2011. So I mean, pretty much since 2012. And on I’ve been full time musician.
So were you doing I’m trying to think here so 2018 is your voice was it six years then of that? The volume of bar shows I mean, oh, yeah. Wow, I just I really admire your your hustle. And I mean, that’s a, a high level a high pace to keep up for I mean, a year, but six years. Did you ever have a moment? You know, I think so much of the secret to success, so to speak in creative fields is just determination and not stopping no matter what. Yeah. Did you ever have a moment in those six years where you’re like, I don’t know if I can keep doing this.
Chris Kroeze 17:30
Yeah, several. I mean, it was almost like every year around August, because I’d just be so burnt out from the, you know, I mean, it’s northern Wisconsin, we’re known for, I mean, not much different climates than Chicago. Surely, you know, we’re known for like brutal winters and stuff people don’t realize it gets I mean, it’s like 95 close to 100 degrees, and we’re playing outdoor shows all you know, six, seven days a week and like it’s just exhausting.
You get burnt out and, you know, but by the time August and August rolls around, sometimes That’d be going on stage just in a blur. You know, it’s just like. So yeah, there was definitely moments where I was just like, I don’t know if I can do this anymore. And then I’d always take like, a week off in September, and then I’d be like, Alright, I’m ready to go back and do it.
Just a little bit of rest. And you’re ready. Yeah. It’s funny how that works. I noticed that with myself just, especially when you’re burnt out just even the smallest amount of rest. Yeah, completely reset you.
Chris Kroeze 18:24
It’s like, it’s like the same concept. Is that like, 15 minute power nap versus sleeping for three hours? You know?
Oh, yeah. I never thought about that. For a power nap person. But now, now I get it.
Chris Kroeze 18:34
Yeah, now you’re gonna start power napping every.
When you I mean, I imagine when you were called by the voice to say, Hey, we think you should come audition and you were probably ecstatic and thought, Oh my gosh, this is huge opportunity. Yeah. Then you advance in the show. You know, you’re actually on the show. Now. That’s got to be oh my gosh, this is a huge opportunity.
And then I mean, you get to Almost the very end of the show, I think second place in this scenario is probably just as good as first place. I mean, there’s Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah. So at that point, you must have been like, Wow, this is amazing. Was this at that point? life changing your mind? And I don’t mean like your lifestyle change, but in your mind Did you think you know what I did this I accomplished this. I can accomplish anything like I can do this.
Chris Kroeze 19:27
Yeah, there was some of that. I mean, it was, you know, it’s a it’s a grueling process to go through and do those shows. I mean, it’s, you know, it starts out we started out with 150 potential contestants set the blind auditions and then it whittles down to 48. And then it’s, I can’t remember exactly how it went. But I mean, you know, you get to a point when you’re looking around and there’s like, 10 people left and you’re like, Oh, crap, I’m still here. Like, I got to be buddies with a lot of the guys that were at like the blind auditions and some people that didn’t even make it on the show.
Getting to see that thing from a different perspective was super cool because it’s honestly some of the some of the best singers I’ve ever heard like some of the best singers that were out there for the contestants didn’t make the show. And it’s just I think it just kind of depends on what what they’re specifically looking for. And you know, there’s, there’s several people that could sing me under the table any day. That didn’t make the show.
But yeah, I don’t know how that works, I guess. I don’t know, I got off topic, but I was gonna say like, when you keep advancing in the show everyone at the blind auditions, they’re like, man, if I can just if I can just have the opportunity to do a blind because not everybody’s going to get a chance to even sing for the blinds because there’s only 48 spots. Once those spots fill up, they’re done.
And so I mean, there was probably 40 people that didn’t get to sing. And so that’s that’s pretty disheartening. But so we were all at before the blinds we were saying, if we can just get a chance to sing to sing in front other coaches, you know, then we’ll be, we’ll be we’ll feel like we got our money’s worth out of this. After you make a team, you’re like, man, if I could just make it to the next round, I’ll be happy. And then you made it.
You’re like, man, just one, just if I could just make this next round. I mean, you keep, you know, the competition keeps going. I just honestly, I was just kind of baffled that I kept getting through. It was crazy. You know, I’m from this town in Wisconsin that no one’s ever heard of from three with 3000 people and, you know, the whole state kind of rallied.
Without that, you know, I had some really good friends in Minneapolis to that got got a bunch of like news coverage for me and stuff when I was doing interviews from LA with, with like, big news stations out of Minneapolis and stuff. I mean, they would do like press press conferences or whatever with all the contestants. And, you know, it’s not it’s not necessarily everybody gets the same amount of interviews. It depends on what how many networks are interested in talking to you and I was fortunate A lot of people would be in and out of there in five minutes.
Sometimes I would do interviews for three hours. Oh my gosh, is getting that stuff out there just because there was, you know, so many of these local little stations and then some of the bigger ones. And so yeah, that was I don’t know, I got way off topic. I was rambling there. Sorry.
No, I think I don’t think so at all You say, like you mentioned, you’re, you know, kind of baffled, and you’re amazed that you got that far. And there are people that may be even some, you know, better than you But yeah, you know, I think, I mean, if it were me, judging, you know, seeing someone like yourself, who has this work ethic and this determination and this humility.
I think that probably played a large part in it because talent is super important. But if you’re a really talented singer, who can’t take rejection, who can’t handle the workload, who can’t handle, you know, those obstacles that are coming. You know, that’s not going to work out I would think, so I want wonder, you know, if they just saw that in you, that’d be my hunch.
Chris Kroeze 23:03
It could be. Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends on. I mean, like, Luke Combs tried out for the voice and didn’t even get a blind audition because he wasn’t interesting enough. And, I mean, you know, he’s he can’t stop that drive. Yeah, exactly. A guy that didn’t make it. If whoever’s listening, go check out Mitchell Ferguson type out, Mitchell Ferguson on YouTube, and so Mitchell Ferguson cry. dude’s an incredible singer and songwriter. And he tried out and didn’t make it. Which blew my mind. He’s just unbelievable.
Mitchell Ferguson I’ll have to check him out.
Chris Kroeze 23:41
Yeah, he’s crazy good.
What would you say? So I like I said, You’re I think you’ve worked so hard. Just calling up you know, cold calling bars and booking shows like that. I I really admire that and I share that kind of mentality. Were there any like big mistakes you made along the way where you were like, Alright, I learned a lesson here. I’m gonna shift gears and try this now.
Chris Kroeze 24:05
Yeah, one of the one of the biggest things I learned was, you know, not to over saturate a market because I would, you know, this town right by us, this Chetek, Wisconsin, it’s kind of a tourist attraction. It’s just as a big chain of lakes and Lake bars all over the lakes. So there’s tiki bars everywhere with live bands and stuff.
It’s really fun. So I mean, the summertime comes in a town of 2,500 turns into 50,000 because everyone’s got Lake cabins and stuff and so I would, you know, I would play there was times when I would play Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all inch attack.
And you know, you can get to a point where you burn out and you play too much. And then people don’t you know, they’ve like, well, he’s gonna be here next week, too. So why don’t we go check out this other one. And so I mean, I think not necessarily making yourself sparse but don’t overspend. That’s right. You know, don’t do too much in one area. That was one of the biggest things.
I could see where that, did you adjust that in terms of like ensuring you didn’t play a certain number of shows in a certain time in the market or something?
Chris Kroeze 25:14
Yeah, I just I just started paying attention. You know, I’m going to be insurtech this night. I should probably at least give it a couple days. You know, I mean, you could still get away with a lot because there’s so many people around but yeah, I mean, just trying, just being more conscious of that.
How did you like what’s the when you are playing a bar show? I imagine you’re doing a lot of covers, right? Because Yeah, people don’t really know. Yeah. So what’s the feedback loop like there for you like when you leave the bar that night? What signals to you that was a good show? I I’m making progress here. Is it people singing along with all the hits?
Chris Kroeze 25:49
Definitely, that that’s a big part of it. Especially playing bars. You know, I mean, there is there was times when I could go up there and play in You could say, you know, talking on the mic like, hey, how’s everybody doing tonight? And you literally get nothing back from the crowd.
Oh, that’s gotta be so disheartening. I mean, oh, yeah, letting all the air out of the balloon right away.
Chris Kroeze 26:12
Yeah, so those nights you leave feeling like what am I doing? What am I doing? Yeah, but there’s other times when you, you just don’t know, if you connect, you know, you, I would play these four hour shows by myself. And you know, so four hours of cover songs and trying to pull from you know, I’d always like right away the first set.
I’d always like test I’d play some like classic country and stuff and I’d play classic rock and some more modern stuff and just see kind of what the crowd is into. For the most part and you know, sometimes you just hit that on the head and get it get it right all night and people love everything and sometimes you’d miss um, it’s just it’s so hard to judge.
I never thought about that kind of feeling out different crowds and what Yeah, what might resonate. That’s, that’s smart. So you’re doing this for like we said, maybe six years or so. Yeah, you’re we were you were married during that time. Yeah. So I, I imagine someone like yourself, I mean, any person in relationship pursuing their dream is going to need the support of the other person in the relationship. Oh, yeah. Was your wife You know, behind in this kind of like I’m going you know, balls to the wall here like Excuse My French but 200 shows a year I mean, you know your wife I would imagine had to be on board what what was that kind of support looking like for you?
Chris Kroeze 27:38
Oh, well there’s kind of two part. I mean, she’s always been, you know, I was doing I was doing this stuff even before we got together. So I mean, it’s just kind of all you know, it’s all I’ve ever done in our relationship. And another like another side of it. She was, we’re super lucky she works for the school.
And so she’s off all summer. Oh, and So, I mean, wintertime would always be slower, I’d still do, you know, three to four shows a week, but not like summer when it was literally every day you’re gone. Luckily, in the summertime, she was off works, she’d come hang out, you know, and have some freedom to. So that was pretty fortunate. But yeah, I mean, if you’re not on the same page, you can’t sign work.
Yeah. Did you ever either individually yourself or as a couple, did you ever kind of set goals like, Alright, um, you know, I’ve been pursuing this and now we’re together and I’m pursuing this and, you know, if I don’t see this kind of progress in seven years, then you know, I’ll make this decision or something, or was it always just kind of we believe in it?
Chris Kroeze 28:40
Yeah, we kind of just, I don’t even know, I don’t really know even. I never really, we never really sat down and had those talks or anything. It was just kind of just what I did. And you know, we were always, I mean, little little things would be like, man, it’d be nice if he could take one weekend off in July.
And that didn’t always happen. But I mean, once in a while, I’d be Go. I’ve got a Monday through Wednesday off, should we go do something? Which is where that comes in handy that she worked for the school because normally you wouldn’t be able to do that, you know, it would have to be on a weekend and I just couldn’t afford to take a weekend off.
Yeah. I bet that Monday to Wednesday, you both probably really enjoyed that time together more than ever, because, you know, it didn’t happen as much.
Chris Kroeze 29:25
Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure.
That’s…wow, I can’t imagine seven shows a week or that’s just, it’s amazing.
Chris Kroeze 29:34
It’s too much.
It’s too much?
Chris Kroeze 29:36
You’re kind of reflecting now?
Chris Kroeze 29:38
If anybody’s playing bars right now and wants to book themselves seven, seven days a week. It’s too much do like for four or five. Have a couple days.
So you you mentioned that you realized over saturating a market might be a problem. And that’s, you know, something you were able to kind of course correct. Were there any throughout your journey up until then where Any decisions you made that you’re like, you know what this was? This was a lesson I learned that I something good. I did. And I’m glad I did this, and I’m gonna do more of this.
Chris Kroeze 30:09
Yeah, it’s kind of it’s still it’s still true too. And I don’t know if it translates to any other businesses outside of music, because I don’t just don’t have any experience with anything else. But honestly, like charity charity work. And I mean, I’ve done I’ve played so many benefits and stuff, and I’m always happy to play benefits. And I don’t know what it is.
But I’ve gotten more work from connections that I’ve made with people at charity events than anything. And I don’t understand why I guess but I’ve gotten more paid work out of doing free free, you know, charity work than anything. And so I don’t know what that is, but
Chris Kroeze 30:56
Yeah, I’ve just kind of been true for a long time.
That’s great, though, I wonder if that’s just there’s something to someone like yourself doing a charity event and you simply being there contributing your talents for free speaks highly of, you know, you as a person. And that’s the type of person that we’d want to hire. You know, that’s the music acts we want to we want to have,
Chris Kroeze 31:17
I think there’s some of that, and then there’s probably some that, you know, people that go to charity events, some people that go to charity events probably aren’t at the bar shows, so I would never get in front of those people. And, you know, a lot of times that’s, that’s corporate corporate companies and yeah, I don’t know. I wish I knew.
That’s good, though, that, I mean, it’s got to be a great feeling to devote your talent, contribute your talents like that. And then you know, it’s also be sort of rewarded and be able to do both, you know, be able to contribute in that way and help others and then also be able to make a living from doing that kind of work.
Chris Kroeze 31:56
Yeah, and I bet I’ve been on both ends of that, you know, I mean with that fundraiser That my dad helped put together to go do that song in Nashville and you know, being on the receiving end of that charity work basically. And it’s it can be pretty impact impactful, and it can help people out a lot. So it’s, it’s fun to be able to be on the other side of that and, you know, help you out.
Yeah, I imagine it means that much more because you know, the effect of it. Yeah. Are you still doing that many shows a year then or are you…?
Chris Kroeze 32:29
No, not quite. I think last year we probably did. Close to 150.
Okay, which is still a lot but yes, maybe a third or Yeah, that’s what you were doing?
Chris Kroeze 32:40
Yeah. Yep. In it’s in it’s a it’s honestly, it’s probably the same amount of days gone. Because now, you know, there’s we did, you know, let’s just for an example we do a night in Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and then Memphis and then like, Arkansas or something, you know, so I mean, you’re Still, you might be playing four shows a week, but you might be traveling seven days. So I mean, it’s it’s different. But it’s also a mean now, it’s also gives you the flexibility to be like, you know what we’re gonna take July 4 weekend off and go do something with a family and not have to worry about not having any shows that we can’t. So that’s that’s kind of nice.
That’s got to be one of the best things. It’s gotta be one of the best feelings that you’ve achieved that you can now because we were just talking about how you know you wished or your wife and I wished you could take a weekend off in July in the past and it was a little bit more of a hard decision. And now it’s like, Alright, we could take the Fourth of July. Oh,
Chris Kroeze 33:41
Yeah. And then now currently, it’s like I’m pretty much free to I don’t know. I don’t know.
Oh my gosh. Yeah, this whole COVID situation folks like yourself and everyone in the creative industry I feel for and I hope that we’re able to get everything.
Chris Kroeze 33:54
Yeah, it’ll come back. It might take some time. But yeah, there’s a there’s a right way to do it. I’m not I’m not educated in what that right way is. So I’m gonna have to trust the professionals.
That’s a great way to look at it.
Chris Kroeze 34:07
Those 150 shows you’re doing now. I imagine those are no longer in the tiki bars.
Chris Kroeze 34:14
No, no, we did a ton of festivals and a lot of corporate events. You know, some some really big gala has a lot of we still did like some some like beer tent stuff. And I still love that. That’s a ton of fun. You know what I was starting like playing bars. That’s that was like where I wanted to get to where I could go play those beer tents every weekend. Like that was the thing for me. And so that’s always gonna be fun to me. I think. Even I don’t care if it’s a town of 500 people if they’ve got a beer tent, and they shut down Main Street for it. I mean,
Did it feel good once you got to that first beer tent?
Chris Kroeze 34:52
Oh, yeah, it was awesome. Yeah. And that first, that first beer 10th show that we got here was the original unfair original in Wisconsin. Like 15 minutes from Baron, and that was like my, like my senior year of high school. We played their first time. And so this last year after I was on the voice, it was super fun. We went back and played that same, that same little fair was awesome. A ton of fun.
Oh my gosh, I imagine. Corporate events. I remember. I was at, I was in Toronto, last year, the year before, but I was at a conference for e commerce company. Shopify, they let you make stores online.
Chris Kroeze 35:37
We use Shopify.
Okay, Shopify. I don’t know why I don’t just say the name? Yeah, Shopify. So they, their annual conference where people that make apps in the platform come and you know, learn what they’re going to be making next year that you can build on and they had a musical act. They throw a big party at the you know, during this conference, and everyone thought I was gonna be Drake, cuz he’s from Canada. I guess I’m not familiar with Drake.
And then it ends up being this act which I had never seen which and i’m not i’m not barest whatever we know things we know, Lupe Fiasco was okay. And he was, you know, a similar type artists like Drake and I remember me he was they through the you know big venue and everything was great. But he just the way he kind of started the performance was very much like he was acknowledging This is a corporate event.
I don’t know if everyone’s like into this and we’re gonna have fun and like, So ever since that I always thought like, do artists like yourself enjoy doing an event like that? Or is it just like for the money or is it awkward? Or you see it as maybe there’s an opportunity here?
Chris Kroeze 36:38
I feel like I feel like sometimes those those corporate events, even if they’re like black tie by the time that we always play like the after party. And so then by that time, I mean, I think people forget, it doesn’t matter if to whoever, you know, the, let’s say, just for an example like the CEO of Shopify, you know, he’s probably got a they’ve probably got to be you know, well dressed and You know, have their have their wits about them all the time, you know, but there’s gonna be a certain there’s a certain point where they gotta just let loose and be a human being too.
You know, so so I feel like we’ve I’ve only really experienced that that side of it. I mean, we’ve done some stuff where it’s like, you know, you you’re gonna start at 805. And you’re done at 830 to, like, no wiggle room like this is find out you’re set and rigid. Yeah, very. So I’ve seen kind of both sides of it. But most of the time, it’s pretty fun.
There was a kind of a turning point with those we did one early last year. And everyone was kind of sitting down, you know, you could tell they were having fun, but they were pretty reserved. And we were going to play Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks. I don’t know if you’re familiar, I think great song, big fiddle song and kind of gets the crowd going usually.
And before we started it, we kind of had like the vamp going with the band and I just said, I don’t know if you guys have have rules about if you have to stay in your seats and stay calm. I’m like, but I don’t. So if you want to party, let’s let’s do it and then we song off and it was like it was like, someone flipped a switch and it was just a party for the rest of the night.
That is my favorite thing about I am such a huge fan of music. I do like country music. So I know Garth Brooks for sure. Yeah, and live music. But my favorite thing about music is that ability to connect, I mean humans connecting with humans through this. I love calling the universal language as cliche as that is but I mean, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, ie those chills running down your spine. You can’t deny the feeling you’re having of joy of you know, nostalgia or whatever. Do you feel that when you’re on stage, I can’t imagine that just rushes through your veins.
Chris Kroeze 38:45
Yeah, I mean, it’s if you’ve got if you’re if you’re on and like playing well and feeling good and you know, the crowds into it. There’s nothing like it. It’s my favorite thing that I’ve ever done, it’s just an adrenaline rush. It’s addicting.
Maybe that’s what keeps you go What kept you going, though six years at the bars is just like I can’t stop this. This is this one. Yeah.
Chris Kroeze 39:08
Yeah. I mean, it was it was another another point of that, too was like this is this is the only thing I’m good at. This is the only thing that I have really spent any time perfecting. And so this is what I’m doing. I mean, I didn’t have a safety net. I didn’t have a, you know, a trade trade school degree or anything like where I could go get a good good paying job outside of music. So I didn’t really have any, anything to fall back on.
Concrete was not going to be working out for you.
Chris Kroeze 39:36
No, that wasn’t it.
At least you were aware of it.
Chris Kroeze 39:40
Oh, yeah. I was terrible at it. Yeah. And actually, when I when I was done, I just went to my boss and I said, Look, I said it’s no secret. I suck at this. And he just kind of laughed and he was just I was just like, I’ll work for you as long as you need me, but I’m not going to feel bad if you don’t need me anymore. It ended it ended fine. It was good. I didn’t get fired or anything it was, you know, I still still friends with the guy and stuff. So, yeah it was just funny.
Yeah. Oh, I imagine. I just remembered when you said something about humans. I was listening to Spotify. Oh my gosh, sometime in the past. And I think I was listening one of their playlists that just starts playing stuff I think you’re gonna be into. Yeah. And you’re single Human came on and I think this was a singly recorded as part of the voice or near the end of your tenure on the voice. Yeah. I was listening to it, yeah. It just kind of caught my ear.
I had to stopm go to Spotify look, because I had never heard it, I had not heard your music before. I had to say who is this and so I that’s how I dove into the the Chris world call and it was a it was a beautiful song especially I mean, the whole concept of this podcast and just my beliefs and I mean, I love just human, the human psychology and you know how we are as people it’s a fascinating, we’re a fascinating species. Did you write that song then or was that like to do they write it for you. And then like?
Chris Kroeze 41:08
That one is actually kind of funny. So everyone else recorded those songs in LA as a part of the voice, but I had the I had my record done before I went on the voice. So that was, that was gonna be the single off the record anyway. And so when I when I got to the finale week where you can do an original song, we pitched that song to them. It was the first time in the history of the show, that they’ve that they’ve taken a song that was recorded outside of their studios. Yeah, it was it was just we already had it done and ready. I recorded that in Nashville, you know, a few months prior to going out to LA.
Oh, okay, so this was your song for your album anyway, that you just happened to be able to use it. Okay, so this wasn’t made for the voice. Oh, I don’t realize that.
Chris Kroeze 41:54
I know it was they didn’t they even we even shot like a segment of the show where it was me and the producers and Blake Shelton sitting in the studio recording the song pretend no one Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was funny because like, I’d go in there and like I’m singing on a mic like this and the songs already done and we went back into the control room and Blake Blake was just screwing around. And he’s like, Man, you really knocked it out on that first take. It sounds like a record that’s already done.
Was this the that when you went when you raise the money from your town, and you all banded together there to send you off to Nashville for that single was that the beginning of this album, or was that? No, that was
That was a single. That was in, I think that was in 2014. And there’s that Human we recorded that that record that I put out when I got off of the show, we recorded that in 2018.
So you recorded that record before you knew the voice was even happening?
Yeah, yeah. We just we wanted to put a record out. Yeah, it just worked out that we had a big, huge commercial for six months is
I was gonna say, what? What better marketing could you ask for for the album that you’re ready to start? You know, getting people hooked on?
That’s amazing. Does it feel this day and age? Like I said, I discovered you on Spotify. I’m a pretty imagine average listener, you know, I no longer own CDs or anything and right. So when you hear something like that, you know, do you feel like pretty comfortable with this new digital age? And the Spotify streams and Apple Music streams? Or, you know, do you? Like, I’m just trying to think, like, so many people had the dream of, you know, selling a million CDs and getting platinum and that’s all different now.
Yeah. And, you know, it’s, you know, everybody wishes they could go back to where it was, but at the same time, it’s, there’s nothing I can do about that. So I mean, I still want to put music out. I mean, we put the record out. We put it on YouTube, too, because I mean, I agree Get it in front of as many people as I can even if they didn’t buy it, you know, if they really liked it and they want to support it, they might buy it. But, yeah, I mean, I don’t know, the streaming thing you don’t get paid great for it, you don’t get, you know, nothing’s nothing’s great about it.
But one thing that’s cool about it as you can get your music out really fast and really easy. And, you know, just the ability to share it. I mean, you can, you know, someone can take, I mean, you could make a Spotify playlist and if the right person sees it and shares it, it can snowball into all of a sudden you’re like a Spotify influencer and you have you’ve got a powerful playlist that people are gonna pay you to put their songs on and you know, there’s a there’s some there’s some cool stuff about it, too.
Yeah, you hear all those or you read all those articles about artists saying that it’s not the most artist friendly with the royalties and all that so yeah, I always was curious.
Yeah, I’m sure it’s not I know it’s not I mean, I know like Garth Brooks. For example. Didn’t He doesn’t. I don’t think he can find him on Spotify.
Yeah, he had his own streaming service for a while. Ghost Tunes?
I love Garth Brooks, but I gotta. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting.
That guy’s not human. No, I mean, who can take a 14 year hiatus and then just be like, you know what? I’m gonna do an arena tour.
Yeah, that’s a good point. Did he also have an alter ego for like a year? He recorded an album like somebody else.
That’s right Chris Gaines!
It was pretty sweet. It got so like everyone was like, oh, Garth Brooks is a freak. He’s a weirdo. And but they were supposed to make a movie about this character, Chris Gaines, and the records for the movie and the movie never happens. So he said screw it. I’m gonna put the record out anyway. Oh, and so that’s what yeah, there was it was supposed to be like a movie character that had a record and then they were gonna have a record for the movie. But without a movie. It looks weird.
That’s so interesting now because he was thinking about this like true immersive multimedia experience. They’re like, bringing the character out of the movie and into him. Yes. Yeah, it’s music. Interesting. Yeah, I agree with you who goes on a 14 year hiatus and shows up?
Yeah, it’s what is that? I mean, not only like gonna go play arenas, but he booked like, two shows in Minneapolis and turned into like, 12 because they kept selling out 50,000 people a night. That’s insane. I was one of them. I was on that wagon.
Sure. I mean, it’s like the definition of a legend right? I mean, oh, yeah. Go away for as long as you want and come right back and you’re still legend. What do you see your legacy as like, what are you what is the North Star for you?
You know, I honestly don’t know. You know, I’ve thought about like the, you know, the classic Where do you see yourself in five years a bunch? And I honestly don’t know, I’m going to keep doing everything I can and you know, try to keep pursuing that. Next. level of the music industry, whatever that looks like. But I mean, if it boils down to one thing, if I can play music and make make a good living for my family, then I’m good. Whether that be in Wisconsin regional, tri state or nationally. I mean, it’s a if I can play music and take care of my family and stuff, then I’m happy.
Which it sounds like you’ve been able to do so far. So I think you’re, you’re, you’re capable of that.
Yeah, yeah. I’m fortunate I get to do something that I like for a living. Not that it’s easy. Anyone that’ll do something, you know, that they like, I mean, I’m sure you enjoy doing podcasts. But I mean, there’s days when it feels like work too. You know?
I know exactly. I mean, I feel like creative endeavors. That’s part of the baggage that gets carried along is that yeah, it’s that delicate balance between how do I continue to find creative fulfillment of this but at the same time, do all the grunt work to keep it going?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, anybody’s that As a passion, I mean, you’re gonna if you want to turn that passion into a, you know, a career, it’s you’re gonna, I don’t think there’s any like, pretty way to say it, you’re gonna have to do it until you don’t enjoy it anymore and then find a way to enjoy it still.
That’s a great way to put it. I love that.
You know, I mean, you gotta it’s gonna be hard work. But yeah,
Yeah, I love that. Five years, man, this whole COVID situation has made time operate on a different scale, I think click Yes. And you know, you’re not thinking about what you can necessarily be doing five years from now. And I thought to myself five years from now, who feels like 25 years.
I saw a funny meme. I don’t know who made it. But it was. It was like five years ago. Everyone was wrong. It’s a build out of Where do you see yourself in five years? Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what to think it’s so weird. So crazy.
You mentioned you have two kids, right?
They’re pretty young.
Ah, yeah. So what Well, I have so I’ve got a stepdaughter who’s 10. And my son is three.
Okay. I have a nine and a five, soon to be ten and six. So I know both ages. But I don’t know…
Boys or girls?
Oldest is a boy. Youngest girl. Nice. But yeah, he’ll be 10 in a couple months. I feel like I think about myself and how I was with my father as a teenager in high school. The clashing we did and, you know, the relationship we had, and we we have a great relationship now. And I think I did that and it was probably typical teenager, I’m sure and stuff. Yeah. But I think is that like, foreshadowing of like what I’m in for because I, I’m gonna approach this differently than
I know, I know. I have those same thoughts, I was a terrible student in school. You know, I didn’t do homework was just not paying attention. And I was not into school at all. I wanted to do music and that was the only thing that mattered. In hindsight, I wish I would have paid attention in certain things. And but
Oh yeah, like what?
I mean, well, maybe not so much, but I wish I would have taken like, there was like an economics class available, you know, like some real life stuff. Like the best class I ever took, like, what got me through college and was able to afford to actually go to college. It was the cooking classes in high school.
Yeah, cuz I mean, I couldn’t afford to buy food in college. So I was fortunate. I knew how to cook.
That’s awesome. Yeah, practical. And the economic side do you wish you had to take more economics just for like maybe more the business side of music?
Yeah, that and I mean, any of it. A friend of mine put it in good perspective for me. He was like, yeah, you may not have you may not need any of those things that they taught you in high school. But if you look at Got it in a different angle. You were kind of learning how to learn. Does that make sense?
Oh, it makes perfect sense. I share a similar sentiment, I look back at my college years and I wanted so desperately to get out of college. I was ready for the real world. Yeah. And like you said, there are all these opportunities to both learn things and learn to learn things. Yeah, and I’m not sure I took advantage. I absolutely resonate with that.
Yeah, yeah. So I don’t I hope I don’t know. My son is a lot like me already at three. So at three, yeah.
I was feeling that. He might have this love of music or this amazing exposure to music.
Yeah, he he’s definitely interested. He always wants to play my guitars and stuff and I let him play. There’s certain ones that I’ll let him play certain ones that I put up I Oh, yeah.
There’s a hierarchy of what he’s allowed at this age, then. Sure,
Yeah. Because you know, he might play him with his fingers. He might hit him with a hammer so well. There’s certain ones I’m cool with that certain ones I’m not.
Oh, that’s fun to do they I think of my kids and just one of the beautiful things about having children as they just refreshed your perspective on everything in your life that you’ve done that you want to do have a kind of reshaped or refreshed, you know, your mission to just continue to, you know, spread your music around the world. Have they affected how you feel about that?
Yeah, I mean, there’s there’s a lot of things that, you know, changed, changed with having kids and I think it just, it’s a good reminder of what’s important and, you know, a career is absolutely important. It’s vital for you know, the financial health of your family and everything and making sure you have a house and then income On the table and all that reliable vehicles but but, you know, you’ve got to find a balance and I think it’s kind of a pendulum from what I’ve found in my life anyway.
It’s there’s never truly a balanced but I mean, you’ve got to let that pendulum swing both ways you know sometimes I’m super focused and just straight up working all the time. Like this week’s a good example I’m, I’m going to go to Nashville next week to record a new record. So I mean, I’ve been we’ve been diving through songs, we’ve wrote a ton of songs just last year, and we’ve gotten a ton of songs pitched to us from other writers, and, you know, just diving through that learning all of them and finding out what suits suits this record best. And so, I mean, I’ve been locked in my little studio here all week.
You know, so there’s never a perfect balance. But you know, once this record is done, then I’ll take a week and it’ll be like all family stuff. And you know, I wish that there was a way that I could, I could say, I’m going to do music stuff from 10am to three and then I’m done, but it’s just doesn’t work. That way. Yeah, yeah, I don’t know. Yeah, the family time stuff is really important. I mean, but he’s never gonna be this age again. So it’s important to get as much of that in this weekend.
I’m always reminded of that. I don’t know if you’re a Brad Paisley fan, but he has a song called Last Time For everything.
I don’t think I know that one. I know a lot of Brad Paisley but I don’t know that one.
It’s on a relatively recent record, you know, he’s gotten how many million records now, but one in the past at more recent times, but just you know about how you don’t realize you know, and I think about this all the time having children now I realize this my son, you know, I don’t pick him up anymore. Really? I mean, he’s like 10 and he’s getting bigger and you know, my daughter I still hold on to and carry and stuff and I I’m very aware of this now I think oh my gosh, there’s gonna be a day or I just don’t pick her up anymore. Yep. So yeah, I think about that.
Or like you could want you to rock them to sleep. You know, that’s gonna go you know, it’s the you you’re probably done with that, you know, or close to it. You have our sons, our son is three and it’s like, at night sometimes it’s like, you know, you’re putting them to bed and you’re like, Oh my God just go to bed. But then there’s also he’ll be like, I want a rock. And I’m like, Yeah, okay, that’s Yeah. And then I’m thinking like, okay, so there’s gonna be a last time that I do that. Yeah. And so,
It’s one of those…
But then there will be new experiences to replace up to.
Yeah, yeah, it’s the same with my daughter, like reading her book before bed. I try and always think, you know, maybe it’s a long book or whatever. And it’s like, she wants to read the longest book in the world. Like you said, there’s going to be a day. Like, I think about my son. Now. He’s such a voracious reader. He’s been reading by himself for years. Like, I can’t think the last time I read him a bad night, you know, a story before bed. Yeah, like it just disappeared one day.
Yeah, I remember even when I was, you know, probably close to your son’s age 910. My brother was a year and a half older than me and almost two years older than me, and my I’m with my mom. She always read, you know, we had this big book of bedtime stories and she would always come and read. Like he got to the point where we’d be like, oh, mom’s coming. She wants to read. We’re just like, Alright, well, it won’t take long.
Yeah. So I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know what the point of that is. But, kids grow up.
Yeah, I think that’s the point of it. They’re gonna grow up. We grew up. We got to just accept it. Yeah.
Although when I was like, 10, I thought I was growing up.
That’s kind of how my son is like, he’s just been an old soul. And, um, you know, I think he’s matured so quickly. And yeah, sometimes I look at him and I think you have grown up, please stop.
Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. I’ve so enjoyed our conversation and I’m so happy that Spotify randomly gave me your song and sent me on this rabbit hole to I saw I can no, you know, be a part of the Chris Kroeze fan. I was gonna say fan dome. I couldn’t think of a better word. Fan circle!
Well, if you want to shoot me an email or something after this, and I’ll send you a new record when we get done and love to do it again, and we could talk about new music and stuff.
Oh my gosh, absolutely. Yeah, that’d be great. I hope you know, I’m glad to hear that you’re able to go record a record coming up here and continue to progress. I hope that, you know, like you said, the professionals who know more than us, hopefully we’ll be able to be back you’ll be able to be back on the road soon. Then folks like me can come see you. And yeah, I don’t care what anyone says you will never be able to replace live music. I’ve now really enjoyed all these Instagram lives from folks. But Gosh, I cannot wait to get back to hear someone on stage.
Yeah, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be you know, it sucks right now, but I think honestly, when we come back, I think it’s gonna come back with a vengeance. People are hungry for it and me as well. performer and other performers to like we’re hungry for to like. So I think that it’ll be no one’s gonna be burnt out when they when we when we start playing again.
So it’s gonna be better than ever.
I hope so. I think it will.