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I had the ultimate pleasure of speaking with Curtis Bergesen recently, one of the masterminds at Rootfire who brought us their new Concert Calendar. If you’re not familiar with Rootfire, you’re most likely familiar with some of the artists their members have worked with over the years:
- The Green
- The Movement
- Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
- The Holdup
- Many More
Rootfire, in addition to many other things, is responsible for the beautifully progressive idea of helping the greater reggae-rock community grow from the inside-out. By providing no-interest micro loans to artists to help with recording, producing, and marketing costs, Rootfire Cooperative enables artists to create and sell the art they work so hard to bring to the world.
I absolutely love what their company stands for. They help support and bring the music we love so much to as many people as possible. Working in partnership with Ineffable Music Group in their efforts to help positively grow the reggae-rock community, Rootfire embodies all the good vibes we love sharing with the world here at Hill Kid.
Curtis spoke with me about how he got involved with Rootfire, what’s most rewarding about the work they do, and how aspiring artists can learn from their idols.
Leave a comment if you love what Rootfire is doing!
Hill Kid (Brendan): How did you get started working in the music industry?
Curtis (Rootfire): A combination of my college radio show and the band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. One weekend in the early 2000s I traveled to Ithaca, NY to visit my best friend Mark Dubious at Ithaca College. He introduced me to James Searl (GPGDS bassist) and we instantly became friends. I became a big fan of Giant Panda, and as time went on my relationship with the band transitioned from friend/fan to online helper/volunteer. The band’s touring schedule got increasingly busy, and I helped organize and build their online presence, and mailing list.
I attended the University of Delaware and majored in Mass Communication. In the beginning of 2003 my weekly radio show Mixed Vegetables was born. I went on to do more than 100 shows in my 2+ years as a DJ on WVUD 91.3 FM. I played all kinds of music including underground and lesser known artists. My passion for spreading musical truth grew, and I eventually booked and promoted some concerts under the moniker Arugula Promotions. Proud to say I put on Giant Panda’s debut concert in the state of Delaware! In May 2007 I moved to Brooklyn, NY; shortly thereafter I founded Herbivore Publicity.
Hill Kid (Brendan): When did you start working with Rootfire?
Curtis (Rootfire): I started working with Rootfire when it was established in 2010. Seth Herman (Rootfire’s founder) contacted me in 2008 and asked if I wanted to become John Brown’s Body’s publicist. I was thrilled and said yes, and thus began our relationship working together. After a couple years Rootfire was created.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s the main focus at Rootfire?
Curtis (Rootfire): To positively contribute and participate in the progressive roots community. We seek to enjoy and inspire an active healthy lifestyle that is surrounded by great music and great friends.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s your main job at Rootfire?
Curtis (Rootfire): I handle social media and marketing.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s something unique about Rootfire most people probably don’t know?
Curtis (Rootfire): Earlier this year we launched Rootfire Cooperative.
“Artists releasing their music through Rootfire Cooperative receive money from their album sales directly from their distributor, which they use to repay their loan. Rootfire Cooperative doesn’t take any portion of an album’s profits, recouping only its invested funds, and the artists maintain 100% ownership of their music throughout the entire process.” – Billboard.com
Rootfire Cooperative was created through a joint partnership between Ineffable Music Group and Rootfire. The intention behind developing the label services program was to provide interest-free loans for the production and marketing of recorded music.
The Movement’s album Golden was our first release (April 2016), followed by albums from HIRIE, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, and The Holdup.
Hill Kid (Brendan): How did you initially get the inspiration for the Rootfire Concert Calendar?
Curtis (Rootfire): I created the website mixedveg.com shortly after starting my college radio show and I kept it going after graduating. I moved to Brooklyn in 2007 with no real direction other than knowing I wanted to work in the music business and I wanted to see tons of concerts.
Within the first month of living in New York I decided to start an NYC Concert Calendar on my website. One column listed Manhattan shows and the other column listed Brooklyn shows.
As time went on I created @NYCreggae on Twitter, and eventually @DCreggae, and then @reggaeCA (West Coast Reggae). I post about upcoming reggae shows happening in those areas.
During a recent brainstorming session Seth suggested I start a concert calendar on Rootfire’s website. And so I did! rootfire.net/calendar
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
Curtis (Rootfire): I’m an Eagle Scout. That’s something I will always be proud of.
Working with bands for years at a time and witnessing their growth has been extremely rewarding. When you listen to one of your band’s new albums or see them crush a concert, it’s an incredible feeling.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
Curtis (Rootfire): Having the ability to spread quality music, art, and content to the masses.
Working with bands, people, and companies that I am proud of. It’s easy to promote things you enjoy and genuinely believe in.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s the most challenging part about what you do?
Curtis (Rootfire): Unplugging from my laptop, phone, and work. Social media never sleeps. Neither do touring bands.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Curtis (Rootfire): Walking on the C&O Canal and hiking on the Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River (in Maryland just outside DC).
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s your go-to band for a great day?
Curtis (Rootfire): 311, Face To Face.
Hill Kid (Brendan): What’s your go-to band for a tough day?
Curtis (Rootfire): Hardcore music, punk rock, something heavy, fast, powerful. Damnation A.D., Hot Water Music, Darkest Hour, Strike Anywhere, A Wilhelm Scream to name a few.
Sometimes when I’m burning the midnight oil in the office I stream dnbradio.com (drum & bass).
Hill Kid (Brendan): We believe everyone is an artist or has the potential to be. What does “art” mean to you?
Curtis (Rootfire): Art means everything to me. I’m a fan of anything that has creative spirit behind it. Music, photography, writing, painting, acting, singing- it all deserves to be celebrated.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more passionate about paintings, concert posters, drawings, sculptures, etc. Chris O’Brian aka Chase The Art has been a big influence on me.
A few favorites in my collection include works by Yumiko Kayukawa, Tiffany Bozic, Andy Gilmore, Dellarious, Camille Rose Garcia, and my Dad.
Hill Kid (Brendan): If you could give one piece of advice to other artists and creative people who are pursuing their dreams, what would it be?
Curtis (Rootfire): Reach out to someone that inspires you and let them know.
Learn from others. If you follow a band and their Instagram posts really resonate with you, figure out what it is that they are doing right, and try and incorporate that into your own content style. Don’t steal ideas, but be inspired and let it grow.
Hill Kid (Brendan): If you could give yourself from ten years ago advice, what would it be?
Curtis (Rootfire): Get an internship / job working with an established publicity firm. I started from scratch as a publicist and had no clue what I was doing.
Also, don’t handle all of a band’s social media postings. It’s crucial to have band members involved in creating original, authentic content.
Hill Kid (Brendan): If you could give one message knowing everyone in the world would read it, what would it be?
Curtis (Rootfire): Acknowledge the hard work that others do and say thank you more often. A little appreciation goes a long way.
Treat others how you want to be treated.
Hill Kid (Brendan): Anything else you’d like to say?
Curtis (Rootfire): It’s a big world and music and technology make it smaller! I’d love to hear from any of you out there. Connect with me here on all socials: @herbivorepr.
Great speaking with you Brendan! Respect.