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Sunday, June 01, 2008 

GoGirls Elite Interview with Elke Robitaille

by Annette Warner

Editor's Note:

There are a few musicians I can name that turn me on with good attitudes, hard and honest work ethics, and organic efforts at maintaining their independent careers. Elke Robitaille does those things for herself..and in turn sets a great example for others. I appreciated the time she spent with me during this interview, especially with her hectic touring schedule and limited computer access. Her music is without mercy in a music lovers ears, and you just need to go hear for yourself. She’ll be coming to my town soon..and I’ll be front row Juggling Gypsy Hookah Bar to catch her. Hmmph. You should be so lucky :-) Enjoy! Annette Warner - Editor

You have a really wide range of musical style. I'm impressed! Where are you most comfortable style-wise?

I am influenced by many different artists and various styles of music. My most comfortable styles for writing/playing are Acoustic, and Folk-Rock. I like to play music that tells a story that listeners can relate to and I love acoustic guitar.

Self-management as an artist is very challenging with all that needs to be done. How do you juggle these responsibilities efficiently? Any advice for the masses?

It's true... there is a lot to juggle when you have the career of a DIY musician. There is so much to be done from booking shows, getting press, maintaining websites, and that is just the business end of things. That doesn't even include the creative side like writing. Basically, I just like to stay organized by writing everything down. I create "To Do Lists" and "Short/Long Term Goals" as well. I find that when things are written down, it's easier to see the big picture and get items accomplished off the list. It can be as simple as writing things in a note book, or in excel.

Who are you listening to these days?

Lately I have been listening to a lot of Beck, DMB, Ani, The Weepies, and Rufus, to name a few. Driving in the van we have our ipod on shuffle... so we listen to everything that comes up.

Who are your inspirations and why?

There are a lot of different people I could mention here, but I will just name my main one. I am greatly inspired by Ani Difranco. It's hard not to admire her career as a fearless DIY artist. It's inspiring to see how much she has accomplished on her own, and through her own record label. To me, she's a perfect example of great musical talent combined with hard work, ambition and drive.

Describe your best gig ever!

Well, I play out a lot, so I've definitely had my share of good and 'not so good' gigs. The one that stands out to me though is a show we played a few years back at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. My husband and I perform together (we've always played together since the first day we met) and it happened to be our Anniversary so we wanted to play a big show to celebrate. We asked some of our friends bands to play on the bill with us, and we made a great night out of it. I remember it was such a great show because the energy in the room was amazing, everyone played great sets, and it was a full house.

Tell us about your first performance in public?

I started out my musical career at a very young age. I began with voice lessons and choir around the age of 5, so I did a lot of recitals and choir concerts. However, I didn't pick up the guitar until I was 16, and then started writing my own songs shortly thereafter. So, my experience with choir and voice lessons really helped to prepare me for performing on stage. But, it's a completely different experience to get up on stage by yourself with only a guitar and playing an original composition. I remember being very nervous, despite my training, but the show was great and people responded very well to my original music. Since that show, I've barely ever played without my guitar!

How do you attempt to stay healthy and energetic on tour?

That is such a great question. And somewhat funny to me right now because I'm just getting over a 24 hour Flu. Staying healthy on the road is so important for a traveling musician. It can be hard when you are on the go all the time and diet and exercise can be tough to balance. Basically, there are a few things I never leave without: Multi Vitamins, Airborne, Emergen-C and lots of Water. These are great items to boost your body with the vitamins and minerals that are easy to lack on the road. Also, it's a great idea to try and skip Fast Food. I know this can be hard for a lot of musicians because it is fast and easy, they are everywhere, and it's in a traveling musician’s budget. But trust me... it's no good. It will just make you feel gross and bogged down. I like to pick up groceries along the way. We have a cooler and a small propane camping stove. This makes things cheaper and healthier too. It's great to pick up fresh fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas at the grocery store. And then of course there is the exercise part. After driving in the van for 4-8 hours, your body can feel stiff and tired. I like to go for long walks (which are great because there is so much to explore in a new town or city) and I have a yoga mat for doing daily stretches. And of course, try to stay rested and get a full night of sleep.

Do you have any pet peeves?

I suppose I have a few. Most of them would apply to live shows. It bothers me when bands perform and leave right when their set is done. I think it's important to support the other bands that are sharing a bill with you. It just looks tacky to leave without supporting your fellow musicians. Also, running over time or taking way too long to set up or break down is something I see people do a lot. That cuts into all the other performers set times and causes things to run late. Finally, (although I'm sure I could think of a few more) one of my biggest pet peeves is out of tune guitars. Be professional. Tune before you play and have a tuner on stage throughout the set.

How do you feel about today's independent music arena?

I personally think it's great. There are so many things like Myspace, iTunes, CD Baby, GoGirls, and all the other countless websites and organizations that focus on helping independent artists. If you are willing to put in the time and energy to focus on furthering your career... there are many resources out there that can help. I'm not sure how independent artists did things 10-15 years ago without the help of the Internet (unless they were on a major label.) I think this is a great time for DIY musicians.

Want to plug a couple websites that are useful to you?

Sure! Well of course there is GoGirls. But I'll talk about that more in the next question. Then there are the obvious that are helpful to all musicians: Myspace, Facebook, ReverbNation, CD Baby, and YouTube. I personally really like OpenMikes.org, Coffeehousetour.com, and onlinegigs.com too.

On GoGirlsMusic.com

I have been a GoGirls Elite member for quite a few years now. When I first joined, I had my recent CD reviewed which was a great feature. The emails that Madalyn sends out with helpful tips, news, and advice are great. These emails can be packed with so much info, so I always save them in a folder to keep on hand. Madalyn/GoGirls offers many great opportunities from networking, show promo, reviews, contests, festivals, personal support and motivation, and so much more. I remember reading something that Madalyn once sent out in an email. Basically, she said that GoGirls is here to help those willing to help themselves. The resources are there... but nothing can magically happen. You have to utilize the things that GoGirls has to offer. I've been doing this a lot lately, and I must say, the benefits have been tremendous. I have booked shows in different cities/states through networking with fellow GoGirls. It's very exciting.

Elke Robitaille - Musician

Big Thanks to Madalyn and Annette for hosting this interview and continuously supporting independent musicians everywhere. Looking forward to seeing you ladies on the road this summer.

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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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