This week I (virtually) sat down with Ben Liebing from The Pub Scout to discuss Overwhelmed and it’s success in conjunction with the recent Samuel Adams commercials, royalty free music, and my life in general! You can read the full article below or head on over the The Pub Scout website for this article and more!
By Ben Liebing
Tim McMorris is a singer and songwriter who’s hit “Overwhelmed” entered living rooms across America last year as the background track to the endearing Sam Adams “For the Love of Beer” commercials. The Pub Scout recently had the chance to interview the man behind the music…
Tell us just a little bit of the beginning to the Tim McMorris music story. How did music come into your life? When did you start playing?
Music has been in my family for a long time – it goes bone deep. I was raised in a house where Motown hits were constantly being played by my father. My dad didn’t just like Motown however, he was a part of it.
Since he was 18 he was gigging and playing around Detroit and performing as a studio bass player too. My dad’s life is a whole great story in and of itself really, and I certainly would not be where I am today without such a solid musical foundation during my youth.
Later in life my dad also began producing, and I was fortunate to sit and listen in on many many studio sessions as a teenager. Being around something so much I couldn’t help but become fascinated by it.
Following in my dad’s footsteps, I began playing the bass guitar around the age of 13 too. I fiddled around on pianos and synths as well, but never took lessons or had training.
It wasn’t until my first year of high school that I picked up my first electric guitar after being exposed to “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. From then on I knew a guitar would always be close at hand for the rest of my days.
Sadly, when I was around 20 my dad was diagnosed with severe Multiple Sclerosis and his music career came to a screeching halt. The time where I could have learned the crucially important aspects of professional music production, hands on from my father, would never happen. From then on it became apparent that I would have to make my own way using what I had learned up until that point.
When did the time come to “go professional”? At what point did you say, “Okay, I’m going to do this for a living”?
I never really made a conscious decision to go “professional” really. I just kept creating music until it was good enough for someone to actually pay for it! There was a time however that I gave myself an ultimatum.
Music is a make it or break it business and for the majority of my life it had not produced any income whatsoever. I played with various individuals and bands, but nothing substantial ever came of it.
Around 2009 I promised myself that if I didn’t start making some kind of money from music within one year, I would stop indefinitely (at least trying to make a living from it that is) and go to university.
I gave it all I had in that time – I started looking for new ways to make connections and other ways to sell work I had produced. This is when I discovered the world of Royalty Free Music and my life changed forever.
The first thing one finds when they Google “Tim McMorris” or go to your site is this thing called Royalty Free Music. What’s that all about, and why Royalty Free?
“Royalty Free Music” is a term that refers to production music (or music geared towards commercial use often times) that has no additional fees to pay once the music has been bought (licensed). It is purchased or licensed once and (depending on the license or company selling it) can be either used a single or multiple times.
Since it has no additional license payments it is classed as “Royalty Free Music”. Put more simply, it’s a way for individuals and businesses to use music commercially without having to pay fees over and over again.
The plain and simple truth for me is that selling music commercially was something I had never thought about before, and at the time I was in desperate need of money.
I heard about a website called AudioJungle that helped facilitate the licensing of music. All that was required is that the content I created be original and meet their standard of quality. The site looked awesome and seemed to have great activity. Listening through the music that was already selling on the site, I thought “I could do that” – and so, I gave it a shot.
Things ended up going better than I could have ever imagined and the music just took off. Today, I am grateful to be the top selling author on AudioJungle with over 21,000 licenses sold at the time of writing this.
The income from AudioJungle in turn allowed me to shift some of my focus back to my non-commercial work as well. Today I enjoy the freedom to write music commercially as well as release work under my own name as an artist.
Your song “Overwhelmed” has gone viral since being playing as the soundtrack for the national Sam Adams commercial. When I heard that on the TV, it was immediately, “I’ve got to find out who sings this!” That seems to have been the effect on many. How has that song, the Sam Adams airtime, its popularity – the whole deal – changed things for you?
By the time the Sam Adams commercial came along things had already been going well for a little while. My music was being licensed and used all over the world, but the difference was, no one really knew it was me.
What the Sam Adams commercial really helped do was put a name and face to the music, and the greatest effect was that people became more interested in me as an artist and person.
I honestly didn’t really realize how big this was going to be at first and I found myself kind of scrambling to respond to all the sudden attention. Fans and companies were writing in by the hundreds if not thousands and it simply became impossible to respond to everyone.
It was a strange feeling at first and took a little while to realize nothing was going to be the same again, but we now have a pretty good system of doing things now!
I say “we” because my wife Khaili is a huge part of the success in running our business King’s Crown Productions (which I’ll talk about a little later).
The other quite obvious thing the Sam Adams spot did for my career was boost sales across the board. My entire non-commercial portfolio – music on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Amazon, etc. – all increased exponentially and really things continue to remain strong even today.
Lastly, I had a few major record labels get in touch after the great success of “Overwhelmed.” To keep things short, I decided to decline all offers. Though some would have jumped at the opportunity, none of the deals we right for me. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today without them, and truthfully, the future of the music business may not even involve them anyway. So for now, I continue to operate independently and enjoy every minute of it!
So what’s the relationship with Sam Adams? Their newest Summer Ale commercial also features a tune of yours, “Shape the World.” How did that relationship form and foster and progress?
I had a lot of reluctance about working with a beer company at first. There were a lot of unknowns and it was new territory. It’s very important to me how my music is used, who is using it, what it’s being used for, etc.
But I flew to Boston to meet with founder Jim Koch (and the hard working people behind the scenes as well) in person; and honestly I have never been treated better by another company since. They weren’t just trying to dazzle me either – they were truly very down to earth people. We talked about a lot of the concerns and things went incredibly well.
To date, we’ve actually worked together on more than the two spots now, but I’ll leave any more surprises for the future!
You’ve got an absolute plethora of music out there. How do you produce so quickly? Tell us just a little about the songwriting/song-making process.
For every song I release I actually have about five I haven’t. I have, literally, about 200 songs in various stages of production. Some just lyrics, others half-recorded.
Really, I don’t have as much music out there as I would like. I am definitely my harshest critic, and that unfortunately stops more from being released. I won’t release a song until I feel that it’s as close to possible as how I hear it being in my mind. Sometimes that means years go by before it ever makes it out.
As for the song creation process, years of frustrating hard work turned out to be a good thing! You see, there have been many points in my life where I needed something but didn’t have the money to pay for it or didn’t have the connections to find out where to go next. This led me to, very painstakingly, learn about each stage of the creation process, from writing and recording to mixing and mastering.
Beyond that, I taught myself to play guitar and other instruments to fill in the gaps when I didn’t have anyone to record with. Back then – being a struggling musician with very limited gear – people weren’t so good at catching the vision. This eventually led to learning piano, drums and a bunch of other instruments.
Today I complete (write, perform / record, mix and master) the vast majority of work from my own studio.
You are a Christian. Your music testifies to your faith. Do you consider your music “Christian music”? Or are you a Christian who makes music? Or is there even a difference to you?
To me, there really isn’t such a thing as “Christian music” – only Christian lyrics. I am indeed a Christian and faith is the single most important aspect of my life, however I try to live in a way that invites others to investigate what I believe rather than forcing it upon them.
When people approach me with questions about what I believe – and they actually do quite often – I am always happy to talk to them about my view of the words Jesus spoke and what I think it means to live the things He taught.
Much of my music however contains Christian themes not because I am sitting thinking, “I am going to make this a Christian-like song,” but rather, it’s just a reflection of my life and the thoughts I think. Trying to write a song beyond my chief inspiration would be like trying to live outside my own skin.
Your music is marked, almost across the board, by uplifting, bright, major melodies and themes. The lyrics are undeniably positive. Has this been a deliberate choice?
It’s true that, especially concerning my royalty free portfolio, much of my music plays to positive themes. A major reason for this is that, in my opinion, the beauty of life is greatly misrepresented in music. There are many tragedies in life, but even with all of its tragedies and mishaps, great beauty still exists in the world. I want to help people see that.
My music isn’t positive because I am trying to write positive music necessarily. However, the lyrics simply come from my own world view. One person looks at a situation and sees misfortune, while another looking at the very same situation sees opportunity.
The power of music is incredible. One thing I have noticed is that people truly need music that is going to pick them up. Should my music and words outlive my life and continue to influence people’s lives for the better I believe a great portion of my purpose here was fulfilled. I started writing music for myself, but I keep writing music for everyone else.
Do you prefer being in the studio, producing and recording, to playing live? Talk about Tim McMorris the performer.
I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, and I spend much more time producing than performing, for sure. I do still perform and play with other musicians, though sometimes I’m kinda sneaky about it and don’t announce it.
I love playing – but I don’t like being idolized. I am always concerned when people develop an unhealthy obsession with a fallible person.
I understand that fans love the performance side of things, however staying an independent musician and producer makes that very tough. It’s either create the music I want and release larger volumes of work, or sign a record deal, hit the road and become what the label makes me. The other problem with a deal is losing control of the material. These are obviously just generalities, but hopefully what I am trying to convey is clear.
I truthfully haven’t fully decided what I will do in the future, but for now it will remain a mix of producing commercial work and non-commercial artistry. This will mean music videos a little less often than others would like to see, but there will still be music videos in the future!
This a busy time in your career. How’s it look going forward? Any interesting projects in the works?
I always have something on the go. In 2012, my wife and I incorporated our production company, King’s Crown Productions. We have a lot more planned for KCP…but that’s all I can say for now! Other than running our production company I would like to work with more artists and expand work from commercial television to major motion pictures.