SXSW '12 Bus Sessions: Sean Bones (Brooklyn)

Written by Aidan Rush Posted in: SXSW '12 Bus Sessions on May 10, 2012

As industry observer Bob Lefsetz reminded his followers earlier this week, there’s still no standard way to start generating buzz and “make it” in music. Plenty of musicians assume that relentless networking and appearances are what seal the deal—and they’re sometimes right—but Lefsetz’s point was that, more often than not, what breaks you is a chain of random occurrences and pleasant accidents.  This notion is reaffirmed by stories like that of Sean Bones’ Sean Sullivan.

In his piece, Lefsetz gave the example of an artist reluctantly playing for a sparsely attended charity dinner only to find out that one of the audience members was a powerful agent, and then being signed to a booking deal from there. In Sean’s case, such an unexpected occurrence would seem downright pedestrian. I say that because he started receiving label attention when he put out two reggae songs on a whim as a side project from his main band, indie rock group Sam Champion. If that isn’t peculiar enough, consider the fact that soon after, he was approached by an old Sam Champion video director who wanted to see if he’d be interested in taking the lead acting role in a movie called Wah Do Dem, filmed in Jamaica. Keep in mind Sean had zero acting experience. Did we mention Norah Jones was acting as his character’s counterpart?

Despite trying as hard as he could to find a way out, everyone he consulted encouraged him to give it a try. Even his label told him it was cool, that they could release the album later. And so it was.

Whether you believe all things happen for a reason or not, it’s pretty hard to argue that this acting role wasn't destiny for Sullivan. Not only did the trip let him dip is toe in the acting world, but it also reconfirmed his vision for Sean Bones’ reggae-tinged sound and led to a collaboration with Jones on his debut album, Rings. While in Jamaica, he listened to a lot of 60s and 70s dancehall and blues reggae, the influence of which can clearly be heard on his records, 2009’s Rings and 2012’s Buzzards Boy, the latter of which was released just two days ago.

It should also be mentioned that acting was not Sean’s first foray into a parallel artistic industry. Before any of this happened, he was in the business of creating handmade seasonal garments (mostly swim trunks and knit hats) and pairing them with music releases through his company S/S Friends. To be clear, Sean still has plenty of things left to achieve before you can say he’s “made it”, but these endeavors provided a fun and unique jumping off point. Above all, they act as a reminder that there is no predictable roadmap to success in this business, and that remaining open-minded when it comes to career moves is more important than you might think.

Even with these pivots into other artistic directions, music remains Sean’s number one priority. Make sure you’re within 10 miles of a beach, and then listen to him play surf rock tinted “Tell Me Again” off new album Buzzards Boy in the player above.

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