Five Minutes With Jim Eno | On Spoon, Black Fret & Supporting Musicians

by Deborah Hamilton-Lynne on December 8, 2017 in Entertainment, Music, Living Texas, Austin, Nonprofit,
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The biggest obstacle to making music my career was the financial uncertainty of the music business.

You may know Jim Eno as the drummer for Austin’s favorite Indie Rock band, Spoon.  While the band has attained critical and commercial success since its initial release in 1994, and just released their ninth studio album “Hot Thoughts” in March of 2017 to wide acclaim, the Austin-based musician knows that the road to success is difficult and fraught with hurdles for aspiring musicians, especially in the Live Music Capital of the World. Jim serves on the advisory board of Black Fret, an Austin nonprofit dedicated to empowering artists to create and perform new work.

Black Fret’s fourth annual Black Ball will be held on December 9th at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, celebrating grants awarded to nominated Austin artists. Ahead of the event, we caught up with Jim to ask about his thoughts on the organization and the life of a musician.

TLM: We’ve read that you always wanted to “just make music.”  What was the biggest hurdle you faced in making that happen, and what do you see as the biggest hurdle for artists who want to create and perform new music today?
Jim Eno: I’ve always loved and dreamed about playing music. I started playing drums late in life—when I was a junior in college. I did it for fun and never thought it would be possible to have a career in music. The biggest obstacle to making music my full-time career was probably the financial uncertainty of the music business. Income can be sporadic but the bills at home are not. I would say this is also a main concern of artists trying to create music today.

You serve on the advisory board of Black Fret. What attracted you to the organization, and what role do you play?
I always thought there had to be a way for new and emerging artists to get financial help. When I discovered Black Fret I felt they had a formula that would be successful and could support musicians in the difficult task of paying the many bills associated with doing music. As an advisory board member, I am available to talk to nominees or grant recipients to offer advice on how to navigate the difficult world of the music business.

How does Black Fret help artists at critical junctures in their career development?
Through the Black Fret grant system, artists can unlock grant dollars by doing many things that need to be done to have a successful music career. Writing demos, going into the studio to record a record, playing nonprofit fundraisers, and touring are just a few examples of how an artist can get grant dollars to support their career.

Indie blues musician Jackie Venson performing at a Black Fret event in Ironwood Hall.
Photo Nicola Gell

Black Fret has a unique model.  How have you been able to stay connected with Austin’s music community and help mentor and advise artists through Black Fret?
To be honest, this year has been a bit tough. Our record came out in March and I’ve been touring most of the year so I haven’t had much time to go to the events. When I am in town I love going to the events because it allows me to interact with donors and artists. This model allows donors and members to get to know specific issues that artists face and know that they are helping to make things less difficult and more sustainable for the artists.
I look forward to seeing who the grant recipients are and am excited for the upcoming year with Black Fret.

TLM: Things in the music industry have undergone a sea change in the past 20 years.  What changes do you anticipate in the coming years, and what role can organizations like Black Fret play in helping musicians navigate those choppy waters?
JE: The music business has always been a difficult landscape to navigate. Every artist has challenges and hard times when trying to make a career in music. So while I’m not sure what the changes will be, we as artists just have to be ready for change. One way to help mitigate risk is by diversification. As an artist, there can be many ways to make money. Doing more things will help smooth things out during trying times. Black Fret will be an important component of this as it can reduce the financial burden on artists. If an artist can get assistance in making a record, video, or buying a van, that is less money out of their pocket.

Deborah Hamilton-Lynne has been in love with words her entire life.  She has been a published writer, playwright and columnist for more than four decades. In 2017 she began the adventure of a lifetime teaching social media and iPhone photography about Regent cruise ships taking her to 53 ports in 31 countries on 4 continents in just one year.
Cover photo | Jim Eno by Autumn de Wilde