Primo the Alien is the extraterrestrial alter ego of singer-songwriter/producer Laura Lee Bishop.
As an independent female producer and powerhouse vocalist, Primo the Alien is quickly building a name for herself, not only in Austin, but around the globe.
We were eager to interview Primo for Issue 21 “Be Cause,” to talk more about how the music scene is shifting in Austin, especially post-quarantine.
She had plenty to say about where she wants to see the city go and how musicians can play a part in shaping that future.
Are you from Austin?
I’m from a small farm town in East Texas called Gilmer. I went to college in New York at the Clive Davis School of Recording at NYU then went back and forth living there, Nashville and Austin.
I made the move to Austin 6 years ago to be closer to my family. I was at a point where I was traveling so much anyway so I needed a home base.
When did you start making music?
I started with lessons when I was in 3rd grade. And I wrote my first song called “We’ve Got Attitude” for my imaginary girl group, Four of a Kind. I was always a singing kid. There were always ditties in my head. I actually named my dog Ditty.
In high school, I was working with local musicians in East TX in a studio environment. In college, they taught us about all aspects of music– recording, being a studio engineer, songwriting. It gives you a dose of all of it. Then after the first year, you choose your specialty. That’s when I realized being a musician could be a job.
Who do you want to inspire?
I started this project when I was tired of other people telling me what I should do or how to sound. I had the tools at my fingertips but was under the delusion that I couldn’t do it. A lot of that is tied to being a female.
Even female producers are supposed to be rare. But pushing buttons on a computer, you can do it whether you have a dick or not.
Knowing what I can do and feeling self-sufficient changed my whole life. I hope to inspire women and anyone to know that you can take control and have autonomy. It’s a lot of work and it’s hard but you can do it.
I wanted to make a statement that I could do anything you can do and make it better. If you don’t like it, you can suck my metaphorical dick. Or proverbial, or whatever.
How does the Austin music scene compare to NY and Nashville?
Austin is a small town in a lot of ways. So the scene here can feel a lot smaller when everyone is so focused on a specific sound, listener and set of venues.
When I became Primo, I started writing and producing myself and going in the pop direction. I realized there is a whole world outside of Austin, it’s just not in the typical places you’re finding it.
“Pushing buttons on a computer, you can do it whether you have a dick or not.”
What direction would you like to see it go in?
One of my goals is to diversify the Austin music scene in general, but also in terms of genres. It can feel like everything is indie rock but there are a lot of us making different kinds of music, and we’re trying really hard to find a space for us.
The listeners are clearly out there. It’s about getting a lot of the gatekeepers of Austin to realize that people want to hear it. We need more of a diverse sound on our radio and need to support artists that make different types of music.
There’s nothing wrong with liking what you like, it’s just important to bring in new blood so you don’t hear the same sets of people playing all the time.
“When you exclude artists they leave. That’s not what we want. We want people to be included and stick around.”
Does Austin have a sound?
I think the sound we’re given is more band driven–drums, guitar, bass. It’s also very white and male centric most of the time.
I feel like I know what’s beneath the surface because I’m friends with other musicians. We’re out, we’re here and we’re making really rad music. We’ve made it our mission and talked about what we’ve seen and what we want.
Is the sound changing?
There have been some strides made, but the live scene has been delayed a bit from COVID and the new wave. We have a lot of hope for what the sound will be.
Listeners today are so eclectic. I don’t think human beings have such tunnel vision like they think we do. I’d like to see venues book shows that aren’t so specific. Combine artists on the same bill with a variety of genres. It’s giving a platform and space to artists for new fans and new listeners. We’ve got to get together.
What’s changing now?
I’ve seen bands through the pandemic learn that they can demand more. I’ve seen artists demanding guarantees that weren’t before.
Before COVID, I would say yes to everything. I thought everything was an opportunity. But I realized I could get in front of the same amount of people with my computer.
I’ve made more progress after the pandemic in terms of my career and I didn’t play a show the entire time. There’s something to be said for that. When you realize that you don’t need to be desperate for shows or play for nothing, you find other ways to benefit your career. People say value your work, but really that’s what it comes down to.
I think about it this way, if I take a show that pays nothing, I have to spend time creating the set, rent a space to practice, drive to the venue, pay for parking, and sound check. A lot goes into it that people don’t realize.
But I could also take all of that time and money and put it into something else to further my career. I ask myself which is going to feel more beneficial? Knowing this makes you feel empowered.
There’s no hard rule to never play free shows, but we need to start avoiding playing for exposure.
“I’m leaving space for what I think is worth my time instead of taking up my time with things getting me nowhere.”
What’s your advice for emerging artists?
Figure out your show. You do have to play some shitty gigs, but I have to be honest, I was always having conversations about my cut of the bar. I don’t want to ask for a guarantee that I’m not worth, but you could start out with a cut of the bar that makes sense.
I would never say play for free. There’s an area that is fair for you and for the venue. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
What other things further than your career that aren’t live shows?
Pretty much anything else. I love playing live, that’s the reason I make the music, to play it live. That’s always the end goal.
Everything you should be doing is driving people to your music online. Spotify is a way to advertise yourself.
Finding your fans and cultivating those relationships is important. Artists need to be making profiles on Patreon or OnlyFans to really talk to their fans and offer exclusive content. I also see a lot of engagement and purchases through Twitter. If you want to do it right, it’s a full time job.
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