For a musician who’s never released a single original song independently, asking for $30,000 out of the gate might seem like a foolhardy decision. But singer-songwriter Dylan Saunders had a digital ace up his sleeve—the legion of fans of Team StarKid, the Internet-based musical theater collective that rocked YouTube with their A Very Potter Musical in 2009.
Saunders is a key part of the group, having started out as a hippie Dumbledore and continued on in roles across several of their productions. But even with a fanbase that supported him as one kind of performer, Saunders told the Daily Dot he had no idea what to expect when he turned the future of his musical dreams over to crowdfunders in 2013.
“It was the first time I’d used any sort of crowdsourcing before, I had no idea what to expect,” Saunders explained. “We set a goal, and we thought, we could do this well with this goal. I couldn’t finance it on my own. I’m one man, so I knew if I was going to do something big like this, I would need to get as much help as I could. Kickstarter just seemed like the natural next step.”
The project reached its $30,000 goal in days, topping $50,000 in funding by the end of its run to support Confluence, his debut album.
“What was apparent to me the second it launched was how vital [Kickstarter] was,” he said. “How vital it was to see that support, and to be able to have people have a sense of ownership over the project. I’ve contributed to multiple Kickstarter campaigns, and even if it’s small, to have a sense of ownership is so fulfilling. And the goal was blown out of the water so fast, it was just a humbling experience. I never think anyone wants to hear what I’m doing! And it completely reversed on me.”
After two weeks recording in Brooklyn and more than a year since the completion of his funding campaign, Saunders is ready to unleash the finished album to the world on Sept. 30.
“I’d say it’s a collaboration in the truest sense of the word,” he explained. “I took all the musicians I’ve kind of grown up with and come of age with, and wanted to get them in a room to make a sound that we really loved. It’s changed. Initially I had this notion that it would be a throwback soul record, and there’s bits of that. But it’s also pop, it’s country, it’s rock and roll. It’s eclectic.”
Saunders has performed music in a non-theater setting in the past year, touring with fellow YouTube star George Watsky as a backing vocalist. Nonetheless, he thinks that the experience of him as a true solo artist will be a refreshing and different experience for his longtime fans.
“People aren’t necessarily used to seeing me as a solo artist,” he said. “It will be a unique experience. There’s not the frills you get from acting. I’m not playing a character. I’m myself, for the first time in a while.”
He hopes to tour the album soon, but for now he’s focused on simply getting it out into the world after working on it for so long. In the meantime, Saunders shared the debut of “Big City Breakup,” an exclusive track from the album.
Photo courtesy of Gaby Esensten