Imagine an old cabin, tucked away in the woods. A storm is on the way; the sky is dark and getting darker by the minute. A lone amplifier sits connected to a generator, it’s gentle humming echoed by birds anticipating the storm. Across the barren land walk two individuals, unrecognizable at first. They slowly come into focus just as the storm breaks free from the sky and electricity fills the air. Meet the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, affectionately known as H&AM, a blues inspired duo that makes more sound than thought possible from two people using only their feet, hands and mouths.
Shawn (the Harpoonist on the blues harp) and Matt (the Axe Murderer on the guitar) approached me this past summer when they were selected as Top 20 in the Peak Performance Project. They were given the task of building their brand, and a mutual friend suggested that they look at developing their story. Hence where I come in. Shawn and Matt have been playing music their whole lives, and they have had lots of interesting experiences along the way. The trouble was that whenever they were asked to give an interview, they felt like they were giving rehearsed or memorized lines. Their story needed an injection of colour; we had to tap into the very essence of what makes their music so appealing. And so I went digging.
Part of my process is what marketers refer to as “Discovery”; I like to think of this as the ‘Getting my hands dirty’ phase, which generally means talking with dozens of people connected to my client and then sorting through the weeds, the bulbs and the flowers. People are generally timid when it comes to being interviewed, so instead I set myself up as a friend looking to chat. I don’t come in with a set of questions that have anticipated answers; rather I gently peel away the layers to reveal the essence of an experience. If I can ask just one question and for the remainder of the interview be silent, I consider myself successful.
People love to tell their stories and, even more, they love when people genuinely listen. When I started gathering stories from family members and friends, industry professionals and other musicians, including Blues legends, I was thrilled to unearth stories that revealed threads and patterns that I knew would make an enticing story. The beauty of storytelling is that we all know when it is done well; as soon as Shawn and Matt read the final story, they felt everything click. At the core of their story is a sense of historical preservation; they love and respect the origins of their music – “the blues simply poured out of them like sap from a tree” – yet there is also the desire to break free from restraints and tap into the raw emotionality of the Blues as they feel it. The story we ended up creating entices the senses and emphasizes the tactile experience of what it means to play and hear H&AM’s music.
After I developed the Brand Story, Shawn and Matt enlisted the artistic talents of Matt’s brother Ben to create a visually stunning logo that represents the story we created. The H&AM brand will continue to evolve, but the story has been planted. I can’t wait to see where they take their story next. Follow them on their journey and if you can, go see them live. You won’t regret it.