DIY Music Career

New artist Andrew Kavanagh writes, records, and releases an album from his bedroom

By Rebecca Winterburn

“Do it yourself.” When said like a command, those three words sound pretty hostile. In practice, however, DIY is being embraced. From authors to soccer moms, people have taken to creating things on their own. Self-publishing has exploded as a way for writers to get work published without facing endless numbers of rejection letters. Homemade goods can be found everywhere, with sites like Etsy functioning as virtual craft fairs.

So what happens when you apply the DIY attitude to music? Well, you get artists like singer/songwriter Andrew Kavanagh, who just released his first album on iTunes and Bandcamp. Kavanagh wrote, recorded, produced, and is currently selling his 12-track, self-titled album without any help or outside input.

Kavanagh, who works as a music therapist, has been writing the songs on this album for two years and considers the album to be an autobiography, of sorts. “Each song bleeds into the next to mark the passage of time and movement through that part of my life. It practically wrote itself. All I had to do was find a way to organize these experiences,” he explained. 

Kavanagh’s organizational style of blending one song into the next may stem from his creative process. He stated that, when he writes, he works simultaneously on music and lyrics. He rationalized that if the music and lyrics have to work together in order to form a cohesive finished product, he might as well write them together.

Writing the album was the easy part; Kavanagh described it as a routine part of his day. It’s a thing that he already does on his own. The recording, however, is a completely different animal.

“I’m not very computer savvy, so everything besides putting a mic to an instrument and finding the sweet spot was foreign to me,” Kavanagh admitted.

Recording an album is a big step to take, especially for an artist who is so new to the process. So why would anyone undertake such a big project on his own? Part of the decision for Kavanagh was just a matter of convenience. While recording, he worked two jobs, attended two different schools, and worked at an internship, so most of his recording happened spontaneously and at odd hours of the night, making it difficult to work with others.

“I also just wanted to have complete control over these sounds as well, honestly. I wanted to create something that’s intimate, that you can feel. No sound goes without a purpose and each one you hear on this record is there for a reason.”

Once the album was recorded, it was simply a matter of making it available to the public, a process that Kavanagh says is not as difficult as most people assume. While he originally released it exclusively through his site on bandcamp.com, Andrew decided to sign up with a distribution site called TuneCore. Kavanagh finds that this method works best for him, as the music is out and available to the masses.

Unlike those who’ve signed with a label, Kavanagh’s publicity is almost entirely word-of-mouth and social media, but he likes it that way. “I personally like keeping it to the ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality. I’m not doing this to get famous. I’m doing it because I love making music and I love sharing it with people who are willing to listen.”

Kavanagh is one of many who feel this way about their art. TuneCore’s artists make up approximately ten percent of the 20 million songs available on iTunes.

“It’s both much easier and much more difficult to be heard in this day and age. With social media being such a prominent part of our world anymore… the person searching for music is practically bombarded with ‘this new singer’ and ‘this great new DIY indie band’. To actually gain listeners and develop a fan base you still have to cut through the mud and get down to the roots. It hasn’t really changed. Play kickass shows and people will pay attention to you,” Kavanagh explained.

Kavanagh will be playing at the Ghost Ghang Holiday Charity Show at the Trocadero Theatre on December 27th, 2013. All proceeds will be donated to the Philadelphia school district, which has been forced to close the doors of a number of schools all over the city. Kavanagh will be performing alongside friends Nick Andaloro, on bass, and Jake Wyble, on percussion. Other acts include P64, Mason, and Champs. Kavanagh’s album is available at andrewkavanagh.bandcamp.com and on iTunes.

Published December 8th, 2013


Rebecca is a recent graduate of Washington College with a B.A. in English and a passion for Young Adult literature. She works as a photographer and writes fiction in her spare time. She is also a musician, having played the tenor sax for over 14 years. She currently lives in North Fort Myers, FL with her cat, Mercutio.