For Greg Jacks, there is no better feeling than getting on a stage in front of 60,000 screaming, adoring people.
“This is one of the reasons I keep grinding so hard,” says Jacks, these days one-half of the duo Penny Billionaires. He adds the key to a great live show is to “leave no prisoners.”
And while live shows are a musical act’s lifeblood and the energy required to put on a masterful show may seem like it’s gathered from an infinite well, Jacks warns it’s far from easy.
“People don’t realize that life on tour is not that glamorous, you have to wait all day for something,” Jacks says. “From the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed you have to wait: Wait to eat, wait to do an interview, wait for a plane, train, bus, wait for hotel check-in, wait to get to the venue, wait to do your soundcheck, wait for dinner, wait for the show, wait for the man and then wait again to do it again.
“Therefore,” continues Jacks, “when you get on stage — give it all and more. It’s like having sex with a lot of people, I mean a lot of fuckin’ people.”
And while live shows are still regaining their footing as industries abound rebound from the pandemic, it’s still easy to hear the longing and giddiness musicians — like Penny Billionaires — harbor for touring.
“You have to give it all and fuck everything else,” echoes Evan Berg, the other half of Penny Billionaires. “You’re not just playing your songs, you’re playing a show! Blood, sweat, and tears should be spilled in one way or another because every show is an opportunity to connect to the audience on an emotional level.”
ED Magazine spoke with Jacks and Berg, courtesy of Bob Chiappardi of StripJointsMusic.com, about the new reality musicians face in 2022, the unglamorous work that goes into being a successful musician, and their single “What Would You Do”.
ED: You’ve talked about how music is a career and how it takes a lot of work — what’s one aspect of musicianship you maybe couldn’t have envisioned or taken for granted when you started?
JACKS: I had envisioned that the quality of a project/music will always be the most important thing to find a home (management, label, agent, etc.). Unfortunately, nowadays, spins, likes, and “viral shit” are more important than the music itself. Sad, but true!
BERG: When I first started making music, I was an acoustic songwriter. I had this concept that I would write the songs and then a producer would put all the pieces (drums, bass, synth) together. Now when I write a song, I have to create all those elements as I go, otherwise, it doesn’t satisfy my itch. Writing songs just on an acoustic guitar kinda bores me now. It goes to show the best trait of any artist is the ability and willingness to adapt.
ED: What keeps you motivated making music and grinding after all this time?
JACKS: It’s a trip man. That’s what I/we do. I/we don’t know anything else.
BERG: I make music because I have to make music, not because I want to. It’s part of my soul and expression. If there is one thing that makes the grind worth it, it’s the music itself. Besides, if you want to make it in this industry, there are no backup plans. You have to be committed 100% because that’s what it takes out of you.
When you get on stage — give it all and more. (A live show is) like having sex with a lot of people, I mean a lot of fuckin’ people. — Greg Jacks
ED: How has the reality of being a musician compared to preconceived notions when you were starting out?
JACKS: When I started, music was the centerpiece. Today how you look, how many fake fans, fake likes and fake spins you have are more important than having great music. I understand wearing many hats but I’m a musician, I’m not a PR guy! Let us do our shit and you do yours!
BERG: I held on for way too long to the concept of “If I just get discovered, my talent will do the rest.” And while that happens to a very lucky few — and I mean very lucky — it dawned on me that I had to create my own luck. Gone are the days of an A&R discovering an artist in a club, putting them in front of some record execs, and getting a pile of cash for rights and the promise of national exposure. You have to create a buzz yourself and put the work in yourself and wear multiple hats. You’re not just a musician anymore.
When I first started making music, I was an acoustic songwriter. I had this concept that I would write the songs and then a producer would put all the pieces (drums, bass, synth) together. Now when I write a song, I have to create all those elements as I go, otherwise, it doesn’t satisfy my itch. Writing songs just on an acoustic guitar kinda bores me now. It goes to show the best trait of any artist is the ability and willingness to adapt. — Evan Berg
ED: Greg, how would you compare how European audiences consume your music to American audiences?
JACKS: I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out! One thing is for sure, Americans are a lot more present on online music platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc.
ED: What do you have planned as far as live shows for 2022?
JACKS: We are playing local shows for now. We are also reaching out to friends in bands and bigger bands to help us and give us a support slot but it looks like they are too scared of us to throw us a spot for the following reasons:
- We are better at playing live
- We have better songs
- We are definitely cuter
- We are way cooler (I’m French which is almost Italian so I’m definitely the coolest)
- Pussies go nuts for us (just to clarify I’m talking about cats)
ED: StripJoints services DJs at gentlemen’s clubs nationwide, so, in your words, why would “What Would You Do” be a good choice to play at a gentlemen’s club?
JACKS: I really think this song has the perfect tempo for it. And the chorus is very electronic, very dance music. Girls should definitely be able to use that song, make money and have fun with it. I/we would be surprised not to top the Stripjoints/Panda charts — I mean this is our objective. Because as our good friend Ricky Bobby would say: ”If you’re not first, you’re last.”