Music, On a Communal Level: An Interview with Bahhaj Taherzadeh (We/Or/Me)
by James David Patrick
We/Or/Me is Bahhaj Taherzadeh, a Chicago-based singer-songwriter that deserves your attention, but he’s pretty okay if he doesn’t get it. Of course, like any artist he wants to find a following that appreciates the work he’s doing, but there’s a grounded realism about his approach to writing and recording music – he understands that he’s one of many talented voices all vying for your fractured attention.
I first corresponded with Bahhaj after posting a small write-up for his first full-length LP Sleeping City on my own music-related blog in 2011. He contacted me via Twitter and thanked me directly for the support. I appreciated the note. After all, I’d been a fan since the first few notes of his debut, the Ghostwriter EP. I just wanted more people to hear this music.
I read through his bio. An Irish-born Iranian. A husband. A father of two twin girls with a modest apartment a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Employee by day, musician by the wee hours of the night. I felt a kind of kinship. This was a regular guy producing extraordinary music, being compared to legends like Leonard Cohen and Scottish folker Bert Jansch. Bahhaj became an inspiration. He was a family man that endeavored to conquer the work/family/creative balance with which many artists struggle, myself included.
But it wasn’t just the endeavor that impressed me; it was also the music. There’s a common thread among critics to describe We/Or/Me’s sound as the music of life’s quiet moments. The songs are reflective and meaningful without forcing the listener to wallow in tales of soul-crushing burden and despair. It’s in his guitar. It’s in his voice. He’s soft-sung and soulful. So when I received notice of his Kickstarter campaign in my email box, I contributed immediately. He followed up with another message of thanks. I suggested an interview based on his experience with Kickstarter, once the whole process had come to completion – the money collected, the record released, praise received. I’ve always been curious how the artist perceives the process of collecting buy-ins from fans and how it changes the creative process. Thankfully, he was enthusiastic about the idea. I began scribbling notes and questions. The first question on my mind was pretty broad. I asked Bahhaj what had attracted him to Kickstarter to help fund his latest LP, and how the experience had benefited him as an independent artist.
“I think art is at its best when it cultivates some sense of community and forges meaningful relationships between people. Some record labels have been able to cultivate that in the past, and some still do, but the vast majority of us independent musicians are just out there doing our own thing so it’s important to find ways to reach out to the people that care about what you’re doing. The crowd-funding thing creates a very direct and personal relationship with the listener because they are committing to your record before hearing it, and that implies a certain level of trust and it elevates the relationship between the artist and the audience. At its most basic, Kickstarter is about money. I need X amount to achieve my goals, please help–but I found that was not really the aspect of it that excited me. The exciting thing was the sense of community that I got from the experience. I have lived in three different countries and I know people all over the world, and thanks to the Internet my music has traveled to a lot of places I’ve never been. When we launched the Kickstarter, and I saw my inbox fill up with all these names from all over the world – some I know, and many who I’ve never met but who have continually supported my music – it was a very moving experience and it was very empowering. So, for me, Kickstarter became a tool in the community-building process, and that was the most significant aspect for me.” Continue reading Music, On a Communal Level: An Interview with Bahhaj Taherzadeh (We/Or/Me)