JB and the Moonshine Band Interview: JB Patterson Says Sharp Songwriting, No Music Business Savvy Are Key to Success
In three short years JB Patterson, the frontman for JB and the Moonshine Band, went from a career in advertising to playing shows across the country, including the Taste of Country Christmas Tour. Had he auditioned for some reality television show or landed one of his songs on a major movie soundtrack, this rapid ascent would make sense. But Patterson found his bandmates from a classified ad in early 2009. In an interview with Taste of Country he admits he was naive with a capital, boldfaced — underlined “N.”
A year later, his group of Texas-based bandmates had signed with Average Joes Entertainment next to a motley lineup of singers like Colt Ford, Montgomery Gentry and Corey Smith. Ford and Smith built a grassroots following as effectively as any band in country music history, and although they’ve struggled to find radio success, no one could call this label a roseate pipe dream. They sell records. Patterson says that offer was a pleasant, but not unexpected, surprise.
“I’d like to think that our songs had something to do with it, and I’d like to think that fate had something to do with it as well,” the Tyler, Texas married father says. “For whatever reason, people seem to be responding to our music and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
While he may have been short on music business savvy, his advertising background, entrepreneurial spirit and tight songwriting skill — including 14 polished, emotional and clever cuts on ‘Beer for Breakfast,’ the group’s most recent album — put JBMB on a fast track.
“I still don’t know much about the music business,” he says without irony.
ToC: So, you didn’t know you’re supposed to suffer for a decade before signing a deal?
JB Patterson: No, no. Somebody should have given me a heads up on that.
Did you do anything special or different that set you apart from other young bands so quickly?
When we first started I basically would give away CDs. We would sell some, but then I would just give away a lot of music and people seemed to respond to that, and whenever I would sell a copy of our CD — they were homemade, burned copies — I would basically encourage people to make copies for their friends and I think that helped. Of course it’s hard to do that anymore when you’re trying to survive.
How did you support yourselves financially early on when shows weren’t paying much money?
Well, we scraped by. Some of us had family members that were supporting us. Some of had saved a little bit of money. Some of us still had other jobs. Basically how anybody, anywhere makes ends meet. You just find a way.
Did you have a plan you were working towards before the Average Joes deal?
No [laughs]. We were really naive and I think it’s been to our benefit in a lot of ways, looking back. When I started this I was kind of ignorant to the whole music business and I thought, ‘Hey, write some good songs and that’s all you gotta do.’ And come to find out there’s a lot more involved than that, and it takes financial backing and it takes hard work and it takes a lot of basic drive to get ahead at all or to differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd.
Our philosophy has always been to play as many shows as you can, where at some camps they try to get the No. 1 or the Top 10 or Top 20 Billboard songs and then they put a band together and then they tour. Ours is just the opposite.
How long has it been since you got stiffed on a show?
You know, it’s only happened maybe twice that I can remember. And it’s been probably two years since that happened. It was all in our first year, and we didn’t know what we were doing anyway. We were handling everything ourselves and it was all on a handshake and a phone call and you know, sometimes some people try to get one over on you. We did our best to combat that and when it happened, you know, we took our necessary actions [laughs].
Why was Billy Bob’s such an important gig? (The band played their first show at the Texas honky-tonk on Aug. 17)
Billy Bob’s was an important gig because in the beginning, when we really didn’t know a single thing about anything, what we did know and part of what came from my having started other businesses and having entrepreneurial spirit, was goal setting. And I’ve believed in setting goals and being goal-driven and the first time we ever sat down to make goals, that was one thing that was on our list. I think another one was like: Make $500 for a show, have a venue buy our hotels and meals. Little things like that that these days seem pretty trivial.
Among the more significant ones and if not the most significant one was playing at Billy Bob’s, just because it is the highest-profile venue in Texas and that was the last goal. I think we probably had 20 or 30 goals that we set there in the beginning. You know we wanted to get our own van, because at that point we were just touring around in my F-150, six of us piled in an F-150 crew cab pulling the trailer. It’s pretty uncomfortable, especially when, you know, Texas is a big state.
We achieved all of those goals and there was one lingering goal that was just hanging there, and that was to headline Billy Bob’s or really just to play at Billy Bob’s. Then the offer came in for us to headline and, among other things, it was validation. It felt good to know we had achieved that last goal. And for that reason, I wanted to make a deal about it.