out perform // outlast // out work
It’s a funny thing knowing someone is going to make it big. Two days ago this website celebrated its second birthday, and it really took me back to the first time I met several of our biggest names. My first contact with each of these people worked in much the same way. I found their music on the internet or watched them on TV, and they stood out in contrast to their peers. They made me feel something like no one else around them could. It was in those moments that I became convinced that I was meeting the next wave, the new faces of entertainment. I saw what they could never hope to see- I saw their futures. I knew that the only thing that could stand between these people and ground-breaking success was discouragement and self doubt. They had the talent, the originality, and the drive to make names for themselves if they stuck with it. I determined that I would use every resource in my power to help them achieve their aspirations, even if it meant forming this site around their careers. Two years later my predictions are turning out exactly as I expected: the Pillars of the Out of the Woodwork network are meeting resounding success in their fields.
In 2012, just a few months after I married my wife, the two of us stood on the set of a little indie film in our new home of Charleston, South Carolina. We struck up a friendship with one of the actresses, a 15-year-old girl from Amarillo, Texas. Originally brought on as an extra, I had wormed my way into so many scenes that the director even gave me my own name and a short-lived shot at playing air guitar. Unfortunately my overzealous rocking did not make it into the film’s final cut, but it did make Soren Bryce and a gang of other young actors laugh so hard they cried. Soren put on an impromptu concert with her guitar between sets, and I was shocked. As I’ve mentioned several times before, the voice that came out of this girl was almost supernatural. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was as if her music had a personality and mind of its own, totally separate from the person I’d been laughing with before. When I went home I found myself craving more of that haunting song. To my delight, Soren’s first EP was available for sale. I bought everything she had available.
If my experience had stopped there, I don’t think I would even be drafting this post today. I put my new CD of Soren’s songs in my car and forgot about it for a little while. I went back to my job waiting tables and started settling into my new life. A little while later, I’d fallen on some hard times. I’d battled depression for most of my life and it had returned full force. One day it had gotten particularly rough. I left work late, finally escaping a night of rude customers and unsympathetic managers. I was frustrated, focusing on all the things I didn’t like about my life. I sat in my car alone in the dark as the rain poured down, not yet ready to make the drive home. Without really thinking, I reached for the CD I’d left in the car weeks before. As the first notes faded in, my mind was once again drawn to Soren’s words. Breathe in the smoke from the fire in your bedroom. As the music played on, everything else melted away. It was as if “Gone” had reached out for my hand. I was led through the scenes of the song, the aftermath of a suicide. The singer lamented the death of her friend, showing me the hole her death had left in the world. Somehow my perspective on life itself changed in that song. My focus was shifted away from myself and I began thinking about how my mood and my choices affected the people around me. I cried hard. Not because I was depressed, but because I was sorry. I was sorry for allowing my unhappiness to bring down the people around me: my new wife, my family, my coworkers. By the end of the song all I wanted was to help lift them up, just like “Gone” had lifted me up. I went home with a determination and drive like I hadn’t had in months. It was then I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Soren would make it big.
Fast forward three years. Unsurprisingly, Soren Bryce moved out to LA to pursue her acting and music careers. I maintained contact with her throughout her journey, voting for her in contests, sharing her music with the world, and even creating Out of the Woodwork to share her music and the work of other great people who had impacted my life. After showing her songs to everyone who would listen, Soren had become a household name among my various networks. When she announced that she was recording a brand new EP, I joined up with a young graphic design student from Oregon and sold T-Shirts to raise money for it. It took nearly a year for that EP to be released, but it was well worth the wait. While I spread her old music around town, Soren was busy working with famed producer David Kahne, who you may recognize for his work with Paul McCartney. Soren signed with Washington Square, and released her songs one by one through huge industry names like NPR, BULLET, Billboard, kick kick snare, and MTV. In my first year, I released a list of “14 People to Watch in 2014”. Soren made the list and moved even higher on it by my “15 in 2015” list. As she has started to gain more public recognition, I’ve sat back and read through the comments of new fans with a knowing smile. Despite her rapid rise, Soren has continued to support Out of the Woodwork through various media, and always tries to make time to stop by for a good word. I can honestly say that if there were no Soren Bryce, there would be no Out of the Woodwork.
Where Soren may have inspired us to start, Malece Miller and her vibrant community of support is responsible for really putting us on the map. Fresh from competing on So You Think You Can Dance Season 10, Malece was enjoying a huge amount of public attention. My wife and I watched the show every week, rooting for Malece to win the competition in the end. She was a dancer that really stuck out to us as we watched. In her interviews she was funny and humble, the kind of person you’d want to spend time with in real life. She was fascinating to watch, a unique little bundle of energy that lit up both stage and conversation wherever she went. Having only started this website a few months earlier, I reached out to Malece to help us with our first event: a contest for a featured spot right here on Out of the Woodwork. I never expected her to respond, much less get involved with our operation. After serving as a celebrity judge, Malece agreed to an interview and posted her public support for OOTWW on her social media pages. The day we released Malece’s interview a flood of readers visited and followed our site. They shared our posts and gave us feedback, establishing our first solid core readership. A group of people from Malece’s family and home town, including professional photographer Lisa Tucker lent us their support, changing the face of Out of the Woodwork forever. When we began raising money for Soren Bryce’s EP, Malece’s network threw their support behind our efforts, buying shirts for themselves and taking pictures in them to promote us.
At some point during this time, Malece relocated from Utah to Los Angeles to pursue her career in professional dance. She appeared on television shows like ABC’s The Fosters, films like Disney’s Teen Beach 2, music videos for Incubus and Elizaveta, among a myriad of other film projects, dance classes, and live shows. Earlier this year, Malece was hired as one of four dancers chosen to accompany internet legend Lindsey Stirling on her “Music Box Tour.” My wife and I were finally able to meet Malece in person for a few precious minutes before she once again faded into her distant, remarkable life in the public eye. We were not allowed to bring cameras to the show, but we were able to snap a quick picture with Malece before she left:
To this day, Malece and her community remain some of the most influential and active advocates for Out of the Woodwork. Near the end of last year, they even surprised us with a chance to meet the dancers from SYTYCD Season 11!
When people come to visit Out of the Woodwork, they have a certain expectation of how it should look. They want to a clean, aesthetically-pleasing reading experience. The original format of this website was… less than that. Fortunately through an old high school friend, I met a technological wizard who was able to make OOTWW everything I wanted it to be. In stepped Regan Nishikawa. Regan is the closest thing I’ve had to an actual staff member aside from myself. He has served as my adviser on all things visual: from the very design of the site to the image on the shirts we sold. While people turn to me for advise, I turn to Regan. He is the master of imagery and never backs down from a challenge. His skills in photography, editing, and web design have been the saving grace of this website since he decided to get involved with us just months after OOTWW’s conception. While somewhat less famous than some of our other friends, Regan is no less skilled. Our friendship is one that reaches beyond the practical, sometimes sparking the creation of some pretty surreal art work like the one below. Wherever we go next, whatever we end up doing down the road, I know that Regan will be a part of it.
Hovering somewhat in the background is our good friend Nathan Leach. Unlike so many of our other friends, I met Nathan in good ol’ everyday life. Remember my depressing job as a waiter? Fun fact: Nathan worked there with me! about six months after my rainy breakdown in the car, sometime during the summer of 2013, Nathan was hired as a fresh new waiter at my job. I spent a couple of days training his brother, and the newest members of the wait staff actually watched a video I had made about the job during their training. It’s pretty poor quality, no need to go back and watch it! A few weeks later, I found out that Nathan had his own YouTube music channel. At that point he had mostly done covers with other members of his family, especially his siblings. He invited me to collaborate with him on a cover of “In the End” by Linkin Park and I accepted. I was surprised at how authentic Nathan’s music was. He hardly edited his videos, offering a single, straight shot of just himself and his guitar. He didn’t edit his sound either, he didn’t need to. Nathan offered true musical skill to his audience, allowing his voice and instrument alone to be the spectacle. We kept in touch even after we both quit the serving life, and one day the inevitable happened. A video of Nathan and his sister hit the San Francisco Globe and exploded all over the internet. Celebrities like Glenn Beck, YouTube band Walk Off the Earth and TLC’s Matt Rolloff shared the video on their social media pages. In fact, it went so viral that it surpassed 13 MILLION VIEWS in just a few months. You can do a double take, that word was million. Nathan and his family continue to keep in touch with me from time to time, always making time to give advice or collaborate on projects.
Overall, this year has actually seen less internet traffic than in our first year. On the surface this may seem like a bad thing. I’m choosing to look at it positively due to the following factors. We didn’t post nearly as often this year, nor did we bring in nearly as many new names. Instead, we took the names we already had and we stuck with them. We strengthened our relationships both online and in person, collaborated on projects, and went to dozens of live performances instead of sticking behind a computer screen. I want to take a holistic approach to promotion, an idea that began this year and has been budding since. Talking someone up on the internet has become a crucial part of gaining attention as an artist, I want to continue helping out with that. But I don’t want live shows to stop being a part of the whole process. As we become increasingly tied to our desks and phones, I fear that our physical presence at these important events will decrease, and that the quality of live entertainment as a whole will suffer. It’s also important to me that the people I promote understand that I am more than just a friendly internet voice. I am a complex, red-blooded person who has genuinely been affected by their work. There’s something about actually looking into the eyes of the person you’ve connected with that will never be replicated by the digital world. I want my guests, my friends to see the aftermath of what they have worked so hard to create. From that perspective, how important is website traffic in comparison with connecting on a personal level? As I move forward with the third year of this site, I want to continue feeding what I consider to be a well-rounded approach to promotion. I want to grow up with you.
Now and always, I’m Chancy Johnson. Here to change the face of~
Out of the Woodwork.